Interview: Edward Scissortongue

The UK hip-hop doyen chats about his new collaborative EP Chavassian Striking Distance

Interview: Edward Scissortongue Edward Scissortongue is one of the most forward thinking and intelligent artists working in UK hip-hop today, and is signed to the formidable High Focus Records. He's released some very insightful projects, filled with his unique brand of detailed lyricism, and has recently released the EP Chavassian Striking Distance, with frequent collaborator Lamplighter. In the midst of car trouble and heavy rain, Scissor took the time out to chat with Bearded.

'I'm trying to get this car to start but it won't, I think maybe because of the extreme wet weather, it's pissing me off though that's for sure.' says Edward Scissortongue. 'It's been super chubby raindrops all day, it's really depressing. Anyway, never mind'.

We move on from the weather, and conversation turns to his new EP. 'Lamplighter and I wanted to do a precursory EP to the forthcoming LP that we've got coming out later this year, and this is the result' says Scissor about the new 8-track project. Following their debut album Better.Luck.Next.Life., the two have already established a prolific and effective working relationship. 'Lamplighter is a gifted producer. He tells stories through his own instrumental music, he doesn't need a rapper on top. We really wanted to showcase that in-between showcasing what we could do together. The result is this 8-tracker. It's always great working with Lamplighter, he's always very on the ball and very open about what he wants to achieve'.

'There are a lot of producers out there that don't really think that objectively, they just make beats. I appreciate his opinion and I value his work, and we work really well together because I tell him what I think and he tells me what he thinks, and that's probably the most important thing in music; be brutally honest.'

Better.Luck.Next.Life. is an incredible album, and listeners were instantly hooked by Lamplighter's expert production and Edward's complex and layered lyricism. 'On paper this next LP will be a follow up' says Scissor about the upcoming full length project the pair are working on, 'but it's pretty far removed. It's a million miles away from where we were then to where we find ourselves now. That album started as an EP as well, it seems like everything starts as an EP and then the seed is sown and the results are quite strong, you'd be dumb to just sit on a four or five track thing. This new one is a beautiful record, I'm really proud of it. It's scheduled for a November release, and it's called 'Tell Them It's Winter', and Lamplighter and I both love it!'

You don't get your standard rap experience when listening to Scissortongue's music. The layered, metaphorical storytelling he explores in his music is something very distinctive, and is something that is definitely present on the new EP. 'I enjoy existing within those realms of complete imaginary scenes and imaginary scenarios and imaginary characters that take on a life of their own through the writing process. I'm just approaching those feelings that everyone's felt, and transforming that into a song that I want people to feel universally. I think they're stories that everyone can associate with. That's my ultimate aim when I write these songs that wind off down this strange narrative path, to have one or two things in there for everyone to associate with, because that's what makes a good story in my opinion.'

The structure and detail of Edward Scissortongue's music is so much more thoughtful than most hip-hop music in today's market. When asked about his creative process, he says 'I can't get out of the grip of writing songs, it's something that dominates my thoughts day in day out, whether I'm out for dinner with my parents or in a rave. Wherever I'm at I'm always thinking along those lines. You have to have faith in what your brain says and how it says it, and you need to be impulsive and believe in what your songwriting brain is telling you, because if you dwell on 'will this work?' there's every chance you'll miss the boat on some brilliant songs.'

The partnership with Lamplighter certainly seems to bring out the best in his music. Their debut album is so cohesive, and this new EP also sounds like a genuine collaboration. 'Working with one producer is like going to the cinema with one person.' says Scissor. 'You go to the cinema, you get the popcorn, you sit down and watch the film. Then after the film you leave and have a conversation about what you saw. Working with a bunch of producers is like them spending an 8th of the film fucking off and you don't have that camaraderie.'

I ask where Scissor draws for inspiration from. 'I tend to travel quite a lot. You don't even realize what you're taking from places but you do take shit from them. I was in Morocco years ago, and I was sitting on this sand dune and said to myself, right you're gonna write a song because you're gonna be massively inspired by all this sand and these camels and shit, and nothing came out. I was just in awe of where I was, and raps could fuck off for a bit. Then when I was back home writing to some new stuff, Marrakesh came flying out into the song that I was writing. It took a little while for that Moroccan influence to come alive, and it wasn't even the bit that I was anticipating it to be.'

Something else that High Focus Records have locked down is the art of the music video, and Edward Scissortongue's concepts are amongst the most memorable of their roster. The video for 'The Calculator', from 2014s Theremin EP springs to mind, where we observe Scissor in a seemingly deserted city. 'The key to getting any of those shots is getting up at the crack of dawn. I was meeting the director Robert Cobbina at like 4.20 AM when it was still pitch black outside, trying to catch that footage that gave the impression that London was completely empty, and trust me it's not easy. Saturday mornings it's just impossible. There's always a car or a bike or a jogger or a gaggle of MDMA'd up ravers heading home. There are shots in that video where the millisecond that it cuts someone comes into shot, so credit to Rob for the clever editing and putting that together. We worked hard on that one.'

I ask Scissor about how he finds the process of coming up with concepts for the videos. 'You rarely get a huge return on the work you put in. There's no tessellation between hits on a video and downloads or record sales. They can be super frustrating and they're fucking hard to do. Coming up with concepts for videos I find a million times harder than writing a song but when you hit the nail on the head it's the ideal compliment.' That can certainly be said for Scissor's new video for 'Same In The Dark', from Chavassian Striking Distance, which is also directed by Robert Cobbina. 'The thing that track said to me sonically was that it was graceful. It represented a fluid motion, whether it was a dancer, a ballerina or something, or a skateboarder. If you recruit a skater who has that elegant style, and shout out to Billy Wells for being that skater, then if shot correctly it can be super graceful and that's exactly what we were going for, and I think we pulled it off.'

One of the first tracks I ever heard from Edward Scissortongue is 'Coma', from his and Lamplighter's first album, and it's still a track I play to this day. 'The process was long to say the least' says Scissor about recording the tune. 'It was really rewarding getting it all together. Nailing the production with Lamplighter, I mean there's posse cut after posse cut where the beat doesn't even change. It's triumphant on his part, and then fitting everyone in and getting it altogether, and then obviously nailing the video. That was before one of the High Focus birthday parties so everyone was in town and I'll never forget that day. We shot the video and then we went to play the Contact Play show and it was fucking ridiculous, that entire day was legendary, that entire weekend was legendary, I'll never forget that. It's got a fond place in my heart!'

High Focus not only keep their name buzzing through a formidable, high quality musical output, but also through relentless touring. I've seen Edward Scissortongue live twice before, the most recent of which was in February at Leeds University. His one man stage show was very memorable, and it's obvious he puts a lot of thought into his showmanship. 'It's hugely important to have a distinctive stage show if you have any aspirations of playing concerts that could potentially take you to another level. If you feel that your music has that extra dimension and you can add an extra dimension to the way you showcase it by experimenting then that's the way to go. I really adore working with DJ Sammy B-Side on stage, and the dynamic is at times brilliant, but if you can do the same thing on your own, nothing can beat that in my opinion. If I play a great show on my own, using Ableton, hitting those buttons and it works, then I can't think of a better feeling from a live performance.'

There's still a lot in the pipeline for Edward Scissortongue. We talk about the upcoming Laminated Cakes project, comprised of Scissor, Jam Baxter and Ghost Town. 'It started with the song Pipe Smoke. A couple of summers ago we were having a lot of studio sessions at Baxter and Ghost Town's old house in Holloway. I think the key thing to expect is Ghost Town's signature sound throughout, and from Baxter and myself it's all very gothic, dark, unrelenting, savage, horrible, moody, angry grimy disgustingness. It's not a happy record, it's driven by morbid shit, that's what you can expect (laughs).'

We also chat about the heavily anticipated Contact Play sophomore record, something UK hip-hop fans have been fiending after for years. 'It will happen 100%. Fuck knows when it's gonna come. I actually recorded my first bar for that album about a month ago, and I know that Baxter, Dike and Bosh have been spending quite a lot of time in the studio, we've just got to get Mr. Key back. He's in Spain working on an amazing commune as a teacher, that's the kind of cool shit he gets up to. I'm a firm believer that things happen when they're supposed to, and you don't want to force something like that. We've got a some money saved up from the last album which we intend to spend on a getaway somewhere where we can bash our heads on what we might rap about. The chances are we'll just spend it all on cocktails and go-karting, but it's gonna happen.'

As we come to the end of our conversation, Scissor drops some news about an upcoming project he's working on with Slugabed, a producer on the heavyweight Ninja Tune label. 'He's like a futuristic, mega producer. He's up there with the very best of his genre and I've pestered him for ages to get some music off him, and he eventually came through. I'm really excited. It's completely different from anything I've ever done before. I'm basically writing rap songs about going nuts in raves with your mates trying to pull chavvy girls when you're 18. It's inspired by that rave culture that I was so passionate about as a teenager. I write songs about things that I don't really do anymore, it's kind of like my catharsis. I reminisce by writing songs because I wish I could go to raves and spend 15 hours up going nuts, but I can't do that anymore, I'm too old.'

Chavassian Striking Distance is out now on High Focus Records
Available to buy from here