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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