Doncaster musician Skinny Pelembe spoke to SJM editor Charlie Anderson.
Tell us about your influences.
The first thing that I was really into was hip hop. My brothers are, like, ten years older than me so they have massive heads for that, they’re really into it, properly. So I got that second-hand, even though my dad hated it. They’d blast it and I’d hide in their room and listening to Redman and Onyx and stuff like that. When I got a little bit older I started listening to just everything that they listened to. Me and all my mates were like wannabe mods so it was all the Motown and Northern Soul compilations and all the bands associated with that. Then I got into deeper stuff, Mos Def, The Biker Boyz soundtrack is a Mahavishnu Orchestra sample, so I found out about it through that.
How did the collaborations come about on your EP Sleep More, Make More Friends?
We finished the solo EP, then I started doing the album and we had a bit of time in between, so I thought we might as well do another EP.
I took four tracks that I’d written and gave them to four other people that I’d met since moving to London: Hejira, Yazmin Lacey, Sonia Bernardo and Emma-Jean Thackray.
Hejira are fronted by Rahel who used to run the music collective along with Wayne from United Vibrations and Steam Down. It was a little bit of a dream to have her on the track, and I really like her band Hejira. We just took one of those tracks and jammed it out in their studio.
Yazmin Lacey was in the first year of Future Bubblers so I met her through that when I started doing it. We just get on. She’s like a bit of a big sis. I’m really chuffed to just be her mate so it was really good to do a track with her.
I think I met Sonia Bernardo through Instagram and we just started hanging out. She’s well into John Logan podcast as well, so we talked about that for ages and then had a little jam. That’s how we did Live From the High as a Kite.
The Emma-Jean Thackray one, I met her just through the scene. She’s from Leeds so it’s good to keep it a bit Yorkshire, which is good.
When you sit down to do a track, what process do you go through?
It depends, but mostly my favourite thing to do is digging for samples. So I’ll start off making beats with samples and then the next thing to do is play guitar on it. Normally I’ll sample something, make a beat, not necessarily a hip hop thing, just something, and then have that on repeat for ages. Put it on before I go to bed and then sleep with it and hope I’ll wake up and have an idea. Then I’ll play some guitar or some keys, play some chords then get rid of the sample so there’s a bit more space (also because I can’t really afford the sample). Then I just keep building from there.
How does it work when you play live?
When we play live it’s kind of a different thing. I would get a little bit bored with just doing an Ableton set or a laptop controller kind of thing. You can’t really beat having a live band. They’re all proper jazzers, they’re all really good so there’s no point in me telling them exactly what to do. We’ll just jam it out and they’ll do a great job so I’m not going to interfere, apart from the overall structure.
The live stuff tends to be quite different, sometimes quite similar but other times it’ll just veer off. You’ve got the record anyway so there’s no point in listening to a carbon copy when you come to see it live. You might as well do something different.
Skinny Pelembe performs at The Green Door Store, Brighton on Wednesday 26th September, 2018.
(Photo: Auriane Defert)