Fancy a conspiracy theory? There are some folk who subscribe to the view that musical venture “The Streets” is a huge post modern prank and that the project is in fact fronted by a rather well to do young Thespian called Raphe Dupree. Total nonsense? Or a well kept industry secret? Well folks, for the first time I can expose the shocking truth behind “The Streets,” as revealed to me in a “spirit walk” induced by ingesting a family sized bag of “Haribo Sour Mix.” Raphe, was indeed approached, to take on the role of fictional character, “Mike Skinner,” a Burberry clad people’s poet who’s no-nonsense world view, would, it was hoped, strike a chord with the nation’s disaffected youth. This elaborate scheme was concocted by two ageing singer songwriters whose rubescent features were regular fixtures in the pubs and clubs of east end London. Sadly Charles Hodges and David Peacock’s musical star was fading fast, their career had reached something of a crossroads, a musical cul-de-sac if you will, they’d been derailed, it was the end of the line, they were about to hit the buffers and were left clutching a one way ticket to Palookaville …. It was decided, in order to continue making music together, a radical change of direction was needed, they therefore resolved to write something of substance with a contemporary, edgy, streetwise vibe. Dave explains their reasoning behind such a bold move: “We wanted to prove there was more to us as artists than “The Sideboard Song” and “Snooker Loopy”, that we could reach a younger demographic, move and inspire people, and more importantly take the p*ss out of the NME”
The project, tentatively named “Lumme, It’s Original Pirate Material,Guv” inspired by Chas’s love of Douglas Fairbanks movies, took many, many minutes to write, and the results looked promising, however there was a rather large fly in the ointment, namely that Messers Chas and David were a little too long in the tooth to connect with their target audience. They decided they needed a suitably hip front man to do their record justice. They were looking for an “urban everymen”, somebody literate yet street-wise who was “down with the kids” and somebody who looked just “a little Council Estate- a street punk with a poet’s heart.” In essence your average Guardian readers wet dream…… Enter classically trained ac-tor Mr Raphe Dupree, who was faced with the ultimate test of his theatrical abilities, to convince the public that Mike “The Streets” Skinner was for real! “It was a huge challenge dear boy,” says Dupree with the deep, rich fruity tones of one who has stuffed far too many plumbs in his mouth “but I was drawn to the characters humanity and indeed his commonness. The greatest trick I ever pulled was convincing the world Mike Skinner existed ….the rest as they say is history…..” As you can see here
Personally I never took to The Streets, it just never quite clicked. Although I could appreciate Mike Skinners talent, and occasional bouts of genius, I found his vocal delivery rather monotonous. It was all a tad uninspiring, it seemed imbued with a whining quality which I’m afraid just set my nerves on edge and made my teeth hurt. However I do like the clever use of language, so it’s no surprise that Matt Abbot who performs under the name Skint and Demoralised, has caught the ever attentive ears of The VPME. Whereas I often find Mr Skinners delivery as inspiring as John Major giving a three hour power-point presentation on the merits of garden peas- on a wet Tuesday-in Spalding, 19-year-old Matt from Wakefield is a veritable Barack Obama!
2008 has been a year to remember for Matt. One in which Skint and Demoralised have signed to a major label, released a limited run debut single, and recorded a debut album which also involved working with with the Dap Kings – (“Rather than faffing around, Phil Spector would get the best group in the world and we thought we’d do the same today. The Dap Kings are the best group in the world at the moment,” he says). Matt began recording his poetry and posting it on MySpace, which was chanced upon by mysterious Sheffield musician Mini Dog. “Mini Dog saw the Skint & Demoralised name and was intrigued. He’d been looking for singers. He’d approached Kate Nash and Adele and they’d said no, so he approached me.” Soon the pair began recording Matt’s rhymes to Mini Dog’s Northern Soul-inspired tunes. . “It all happened so quickly,” he says. “We did the demos in November and were signed by the spring!!!”
We jumped aboard the Skint and Demoralised rollercoaster and had a chat with Matt who, endearingly, still gives the impression he’s still rubbing his eyes in disbelief…
VP: Who is skint and who’s demoralised and how did the project/band come together?
MATT: In literal terms I think almost everyone in Britain is skint and demoralised! The name is more of an idea, a concept and a state of being than anything else really. The project started with me doing spoken word poetry on my own, and then I met MiNI dOG and we turned the poems into songs, and it’s grown from there. As well as all of the people working behind the scenes we now have a live band, but essentially “Skint & Demoralised” is the inspiration for where everything began.
VP: How would you describe your music?
MATT: Due to the fact that we started-out with spoken word poetry, the songs still have a spoken word element and are very much lyric-based. The grooves are Northern Soul-inspired, which is why we chose to record with The Dap-Kings (Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson) on the album and we’re also very keen on melodies and catchy-choruses. The jangly Johnny Marr guitars show our influence from The Smiths but overall I think we have quite a unique sound in the current climate.
VP: Obviously, as mentioned, your lyrics do play a very important role, where do your ideas come from and who would you say has influenced you?
MATT: Every single lyric that I write is a true story and something that I have personally experienced. I’m a very honest, open and emotional person and I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve, and I think this definitely comes through in my lyrics. The golden rule for lyricists is to write about what you know and that’s exactly what I do. When I started with the spoken word, my main influence was John Cooper Clarke, but musically I would say Morrissey, Alex Turner, Mike Skinner and then classic British story-tellers like Chris Difford and Glen Tilbrook from Squeeze and also Paul Weller of The Jam.
VP: What have you released so far?
MATT: Our debut release was on 17th November this year, which was a limited 7″ vinyl of ‘”The Thrill of Thirty Seconds” There were only five hundred copies, but when these sold out in the week of release we decided to add the track onto iTunes. It was nice to get some radio plays under our belt and spread our name around before we launch the next single in the new year. We didn’t want to leave 2008 without having a platform and without having something to show for all of the hard work that we’ve done recording the album this summer. It’s been a very nice way to round-off the year.
VP: How did you enjoy recording the debut album and when’s the release date?
MATT: It’s been very interesting to say the least! We started in New York with The Dap-Kings at the Daptone Studios in Brooklyn , which was an incredible opportunity for MiNI dOG and myself. It was stressful and overwhelming, but we felt confident when we returned to London for the second recording session and slowly but surely we’ve produced a record that we’re very proud of. MiNI dOG produced the album and also mixed two-thirds of the tracks, so we’ve been able to stay true to our sound and maintain the rough edge that we had on the demos. It’s due out at the start of May and we’re very excited to release it to the public and see how it’s received.
VP: Will you be gigging next year?
MATT: Hopefully non-stop! We’re doing a nine date tour in February to promote our next single, which will no doubt be followed by an extensive tour of the UK & Ireland in April/May to promote the following single and indeed the album. After that, it’s festival season, so who knows! Either way, we’ll be spending plenty of time on the road and I can’t wait to bring our music to all corners of the country and share the experience with the fans.. It’s definitely one of the best things about being in a band!
VP: Which bands have caught your ear this year?
MATT: Looking back, my favourite has definitely been The Last Shadow Puppets. Their album is incredible. Quite a few people criticise them because there aren’t really any original ideas from start to finish, but the writing is very intelligent and the production from James Ford is very impressive as well. It’s always an album that makes me smile, and I have quite a passion for strings, so when I saw them play live with the full orchestra it was a very memorable experience indeed. When I was in New York I met a band called Amazing Baby that I’ve also fallen in love with, and there are some lads from Northern Ireland called General Fiasco that will definitely be something to look out for next year.
VP: What have been your most memorable moments of 2008?
MATT : Well it’s certainly been the most memorable year of my life so far! Obviously signing the record deal is something that I’ll never forget. It’s probably the most surreal moment of my life so far. Hearing The Dap-Kings play our songs in their studio in New York was a thrilling experience, and receiving our first day-time play from Sara Cox on BBC Radio 1 was a very proud moment as well. No matter what happens with my career, even if it’s over in six months, I’ll always be able to look back on 2008 with a smile on my face and say “at least I gave it a shot and had a bloody good time along the way”. That’s pretty-much all I can ask for to be honest.
VP: Would you say these days it’s very important for musicians to be “net savvy?”
MATT: It certainly makes a huge impact. After the Arctic Monkeys story, I think everyone suddenly became glued to their monitors and spend a lot more time surfing the web. Even as far back as September last year, when we hadn’t even been going for six months, I had a fully functional website and forum as well as the obligatory MySpace page, Facebook group and Bebo page. We made all of our demos available for free download and when we signed we’d had just short of ten thousand downloads. Communicating with fans, keeping them updated and giving the band an online platform is an essential part of developing your career. The vast majority of people that hear your song on the radio or see you on the television will go straight to the MySpace page if they like it. Physical sales pale into insignificance in comparison to digital sales nowadays, so I can’t see this changing any time in the near future.
VP: With Xmas just around the corner what would you hope Santa leaves in your stocking this year?
MATT: Well I’ve been eyeing-up the new box set of Smiths vinyl online recently, so hopefully I’ll drop enough hints to be opening that on Christmas day! I’m looking forward to spending some time with my family, though, because 2009 is going to be a hectic year, so I think I’ll make the most of everything whilst I can. Oh, and I wouldn’t mind the new Football Manager game either…
“Red Lipstick” (Demo Video) By Skint And Demoralised
“The Thrill Of Thirty Seconds” By Skint And Demoralised