Interview: Lee Scott

Storied UK rapper Lee Scott chats about his recent collaborative LP Butter Fly

Posted on Jun 20th, 2015 in Features and Interviews, Lee Scott, High Focus / By Sam Bennett
Interview: Lee Scott Lee Scott is a veteran. He's been releasing music since the early 2000s, when hip-hop in Britain was a different landscape compared to its current standing. He made his name as part of Children of the Damned, who specialised in witty lyricism with jazzy boom bap production, and has since established a formidable solo discography, as well as success with Blah Records as a wider entity. A day before the fourth annual Boom-Bap festival, held in Mildenhall where Lee performed as part of Cult Mountain, Lee Scott chatted with Bearded.

'I guess I've met Dike about, here and there at shows' says Lee about how his and Dirty Dike's collaboration album Butter Fly, which was recently released through the High Focus powerhouse, came into being. ' I just met him a few times out and about, and he sent me a bunch of new beats. I made a few tracks, like really quickly, then we just kept talking over the internet and got to like three or four tracks. There was no point just having those, so we thought we may as well keep going. There's no deep story to it. He just sent me a load of beats that were perfect for me at that moment in time.'

'I always say it, when it comes to writing, if the shit doesn't write itself I just don't do it, I just put it to one side' says Scott when we discuss his method of creating. 'I never force anything; I just do my own thing. Sometimes I'll have one or two projects in the making at once, maybe more. With the Tin Foil Fronts album I stopped halfway through and made Stupid Poignant Shit in like about three months. The Tin Foil Fronts album took me a few years to get it how I wanted it. I don't really have a method, my method is being me.' Butter Fly is a really great album, it's a project I've found myself coming back to time and time again, not only because of Lee's observant, entertaining writing, but also due to Dirty Dike's jazzy production. 'I always prefer those slow tempos to rap to, and I think some of them are like 74 BPM. About two percent was me saying make the beats slow and jazzy and the rest of it I just left to him. Pretty much all the beats were just perfect. Only like two of the beats were from the vault as well, pretty much everything was made specifically for this project.'

'I've known Molotov for years man, shout outs to Molotov' says Lee as we talk about how 'So Cactus, So Owl' from his Cactus Owl Moon Goat album, a track produced by Dirty Dike and Molotov. 'Dike actually sent me the beat within the ones he sent for Butter Fly. It was produced by Molotov as well as Dike I just said let's put this on my solo project, as like a little introduction into what we're gonna drop. I was making Cactus Owl Moon Goat at the same time I was making Butter Fly.' I ask Lee how long it usually takes him to write, and how much thought goes into his concepts. 'Certain things will take no time at all, it depends on the situation. I actually started writing 'Watch TV' years ago, I just didn't really have a beat for it. I had a thing in my head, and Dike just happened to send me the beat. I swear to God man, it was the actual beat I had in my head. Sell Drugs is basically a glorified chorus, like I didn't write it, I just done it, chilling in the studio. It just depends man.'

Lee's writing style is charismatic and recognisable, with a sarcastic swagger amidst a vast range of references and substantial concepts. This is just as present on his new release as his past work. Butter Fly is littered with a broad spectrum of references, including Howard The Duck and Rezso Seress' 'Gloomy Sunday', better known as the Hungarian Suicide Song. 'I just pick things out the hat. I haven't watched Howard the Duck since the nineties to be honest, but it's just something that's always stuck with me, it's a trip. It's fucking weird man, it's shit but it's one of them where it's good because it's shit. The bar, that sums up the film man; 'It's an accident I'm on this planet like Howard The Duck.' That's just literally what the movie is, he's just watching telly, and something happens and he ends up on Earth basically for no reason. References man, they come from many things, something that's just stuck with me, or a certain train of thought. It's not really even an intentional or conscious thing, they're just things that pop out my mind. You just hear these random little snippets of bullshit that just stay in your brain.'

'Out of all the people in the world, all the preachers the revolutionaries and all this shit, who gets the point across the best?' says Lee when I ask about the humorous nature of some of his lyrics. 'In my opinion it's stand-up comedians, They're dropping the deepest shit but without preaching at you. Don't get me wrong some comics are borderline preaching, but because it's comedic and put out in an art-form it's way more interesting. Those are the guys that I've always looked up to more than anything else, maybe a little bit of the influence comes from certain stand up comedy, something profound but also has a bit of sarcasm. Plus I'm a fucking sarcastic bastard too man. It's important to have a balance. I'll wake up one day feeling one way and different the next. I'm not a very consistent person in life and the music usually reflects that.'

Lee Scott first started gaining attention with Children Of The Damned, a group made up of a selection of tight spitters. 'The whole first album just sounded like a cypher. It was like, what you got man? Go and drop! With that one everyone just wanted to rap.' In more recent times however he is setting the scene alight with Cult Mountain, which consists of Scott, Sheffield MC Trellion, Milkavelli (formerly known as Monster Under The Bed, who was a part of COTD) and Sumgii on production. Their super slow, menacing brand of UK hip-hop is distinctive and incredibly entertaining. 'Basically, Sumgii did a remix of 'Puta'. I was like, yo this is so ill, and I wanted to make a project with that sort of sound; real melancholy, banging type shit. So I recorded a verse and I was talking to Trellion, and was like, let's do a little project with this different production from Sumgii, then we did maybe one or two songs. I was saying to Sumgii that when Milk came into the studio and heard them he'd just wanna jump on them. Then he heard it and it just went from there. We've all been planning to work with each other, we'd planned on doing it eventually, and that was just the spark, it just happened to be the sound we were all searching for at that very moment. The follow up is coming man, it's done, it's ready. It's crazy as fuck man, I can tell you that.'

Conversation turns to the difference in the scope for UK hip-hop nowadays compared to when Children Of The Damned were active. 'YouTube and all this shit has just gone through the roof. I think all you had back then was like a MySpace artist page, everything else was just word of mouth. It appears to me that there are a lot of young kids into it, and they just weren't there; they didn't have access to it or didn't know about it. There's a lot more fans in general. I think with MC's in general, the standard is a little bit lower. When we were doing it, you had to be ridiculously ill otherwise people would just laugh at you, whereas now I don't think that matters so much. It's more about the vibe, and people are more sociable; it appeals to hippie kids or whatever, not that that's a bad thing. I think they're the main differences, as well as more exposure to like rural areas, I think that is actually a major difference. Rural communities are just loving it. I mean I remember being a bit younger man and that didn't really exist you know. Or maybe it did, it just seemed more of an inner city thing.'

I ask whether Lee feels his own music has changed much along with the growing exposure the genre has found. 'The spine of the whole thing is pretty much the same. I don't sit about and analyse what I do too much. I think the main thing is like being able to control my voice better. For years I felt like every project didn't really sound how I wanted them to. With a lot of the early stuff the vibe was a bit more shouty, but I never liked the way I sounded on anything, it just wasn't really me. In recent years I've just found my voice a little bit more. The general personality behind it is all the things you mentioned earlier, the sarcasm and all that shit. That's been there for the whole time. I'm still pretty much the same person.'

There's a lot of material to track the journey with too. 'There was a time when I was just procrastinating, and it was harder to create' says Lee about his productivity. 'One day something just clicked in my brain and I was like I need to create every fucking day. I'd always been like that but I used to find it a bit harder to finish projects. There was tons of stuff that should have come out, years before even Children Of The Damned; I just wasn't as focussed. So yeah, I'm very productive, not just music man, sometimes I'll make a cover and then make an album to fit the cover. Whatever inspires me. I pretty much write everyday, or do something, come up with a name for a project, whatever man! I don't really do much else.' Blah Records continue the theme, with a steady release of quality releases, including the fantastic Danny Lover album, My Best Friends Keep Dying, amidst an array of other dope artists. 'I started Blah with Molotov, and originally it was just a thing to put out Children Of The Damned stuff' says Lee. 'The original plan was that we would all go and do little offshoots and collaborative projects, solo projects what have you. We started but it never really progressed. After a while Molotov had to go back to Switzerland, and then it sort of started fizzling out. I met Reklews through Tony Broke, and when me and Reklews got together, we did a couple of tracks. I was so used to hearing my own DIY production and shitty mixes, then when Reklews sent me his mix I went home and listened to it like a hundred times. I'd never heard myself mixed like that before. I lived like literally walking distance from his house, so I just used to go to his like every day, recording loads of tracks, pissing his mum off shouting in his room. He's more organized than me, so he started taking on a lot more of the Blah stuff, not even purposefully at first.'

I've seen Lee play live twice now, and as our conversation draws to a close, I ask him what he enjoys about performing as opposed to recording. 'I like both. Years ago I didn't do much apart from recording and making beats, living in my own fucking world. I guess years later I started enjoying performing a lot more. I've been performing since I was old enough to go to clubs, I was doing a lot of shows, and don't get me wrong I enjoyed it, I was just more into making music at that point. If I don't perform for a little while now, I get a bit pissed off and angsty, like I need to go and fucking perform. The same goes for making music as well. I get that same feeling if I haven't managed to make anything. I love it all man, for different reasons.'

Butter Fly is out now through High Focus