INTERVIEW | ROGER ROBINSON SPEAKS TO US AHEAD OF THE (@PoetintheCityUK) ‘POETRY & LYRICS FESTIVAL’

roger robinsonRoger Robin­son is a dozen men. Or more. He was born in Hack­ney, lived in Trin­id­ad, but spent most of his adult life in Lon­don. He is a writer, poet, sing­er, and musi­cian. And he is so much more. A teach­er, a schol­ar, a thinker, an act­iv­ist, a man of let­ters. He is one of the few unre­lent­ing and con­stant observers of life in Brix­ton, of post-riot/pre-Brexit Bri­tain. He is a ser­i­ous man with a great sense of humour.

Roger Robin­son released an album with Dis­rupt on every reg­gae lov­ers favour­ite label Jahtari in 2015 and is a found­ing mem­ber of King Midas Sound. He has per­formed world­wide and is an exper­i­enced work­shop lead­er and lec­turer on poetry. He was chosen by Decibel as one of 50 writers who have influ­enced the black-Brit­ish writ­ing can­on. He received com­mis­sions from The Nation­al Trust, Lon­don Open House, The V&A and Theatre Roy­al Strat­ford East where he also was Asso­ci­ate Artist.

On June 9th 2018 Roger Robin­son will be gra­cing us with a per­form­ance at the Col­lege Dro­pout R.A.P party as a part of Poet In The City’s ‘Poetry & Lyr­ics’ fest­ival. We catch up with Roger ahead of this per­form­ance to find out more.

Hi Roger, a pleas­ure to have a chance to inter­view you. Your pro­duc­tion has a lot of resemb­lance of old school dub like that of Sci­ent­ist but there is also a fresh, crisis sound that fits in with the mod­ern era. How do you find this unique bal­ance?

That’s Dis­rupt, the pro­du­cer who I work with. They seem like solo albums, but they’re not — Dis­rupt does all the pro­duc­tion. I think there’s a bal­ance between old skool vocal­isa­tion and exper­i­ment­al elec­tron­ic music and digi-dub with polit­ic­al under­tones. I don’t know how we came to that, but some­how we just settled in that as a sound for both the albums.

 Which dub and reg­gae artists are your influ­ences?

Gregory Isaacs, Den­nis Brown, Jac­ob Miller, Rhythm and Sound, Wack­ies.

Your social com­ment­ary deliv­ery is some­thing unique, with some tracks such as Swastika, more of a spoken word form­at. Do you draw any inspir­a­tion from artists from oth­er gen­res?

I come from spoken word ori­gin­ally so that will always be an influ­ence. I’m inspired by everything — per­form­ance art, hip hop, metal, folk, soul, jungle, but mostly by art and artists in any field. People who are try­ing to push new bound­ar­ies and in that push make a human con­nec­tion.

 How did your time in Trin­id­ad shape your music­al jour­ney?

I was ori­gin­ally inter­ested when I began music in rapso which is the poetry of calypso — a sort of loc­al strain of rap poetry. Trin­id­ad is a very artist­ic place and it allowed me to express the total­ity of who I might be in my art, good and bad.

What are your thoughts on the cur­rent Brit­ish music scene?

The Brit­ish music scene suf­fers a lot from being co-opted by the world of pop, so move­ments don’t get to develop in authen­tic and genu­ine ways. But the good thing is there’s always a lot of rein­ven­tion and the ser­i­ous music always comes from the ground up as opposed to top down telling us what to like.

 How import­ant is dub and reg­gae in the polit­ic­al cli­mate of the world today? 

It’s import­ant in this time because it’s suf­fer­ers’ music and there are a lot of people suf­fer­ing.

There are a lot of mater­i­al­ist­ic men­tions in the out­ro of Dog Heart City. From iPhone accessor­ies to spe­cial brew. What inspired the con­cept of the album?

That a city is a char­ac­ter and can have a heart­less per­son­al­ity and that the city can cause need­less suf­fer­ing.

You will be per­form­ing at the Poetry & Lyr­ics Fest­ival R.A.P party, what can we expect?

A poem about breath­ing in and out. Breath­ing in is life, breath­ing out is death, but we need both sides.

What pro­jects can we look for­ward to soon?

I’m on tour with a poet­ic theatre show call Mix­tape about the exper­i­ences of your life being a mix­tape. My folk monik­er Horsedream­er with Piers Fac­cini is out in July 29. The new ep is called Hear My Voice.

Grab your tick­ets to see Roger Robin­son per­form at the Poet In The City R.A.P party along­side a line-up of oth­er suc­cess­ful poets on 9th June at Kings Place, Kings Cross Lon­don. Click here for tick­ets. 

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Sumit Rehal

Sumit Rehal

Sum­it is a music and art journ­al­ist from South Lon­don. His mis­sion to pro­gress cul­ture by high­light­ing tal­ent. His three vices are hip hop, trav­el­ling and sam­osas, which he has had the pleas­ure of cov­er­ing across the world.

About Sumit Rehal

Sumit Rehal
Sumit is a music and art journalist from South London. His mission to progress culture by highlighting talent. His three vices are hip hop, travelling and samosas, which he has had the pleasure of covering across the world.