s.k. interview
(19th July 2003)

“Eeyar.” Boogie Dave sticks a pint down on the table. We’re in The Rainbow. In Digbeth. In Birmingham. I haven’t been here for years. I’m back home to talk to S.K., Shaun Kelly, on the basis of a one-track demo, Geezer Style. Sample lyric: “Dog’s name’s Bluenose, not Rover/ Name’s S Kelly, not R/ Geezer Style/ Eeyar, we’ll have a Stella Artois.” Delivered in thick, processed Brummie, S.K.’s rap is a tale of tanked-up fuck-ups hoping things start looking up. The beats are simple and hard, which is how it should be, and the whole thing kicks off with a belch. When we sorted this interview out, it was the only track I’d heard.


“Eeyar.” Dave’s dishing out drinks to the rest of the Tumbledown Crew. They’re releasing Geezer Style and the album that’ll follow. Since the interview I’ve had a five track LP sampler on repeat. Geezer Style is immediate – from the first beat, the first time Shaun slurs “Drop the mic and prop the bar/ Eeyar, we’ll have a Stella Artois,” the first vocal break, the first time you realise there’s some clever wordplay going on behind the bravado and innuendo, the first time you hit rewind, you’re hooked. Tongue In Cheek is the same. It’s one for the ladies, played for laughs, a dirty Carry On peek up the skirts and under the sheets set to a Bentley Rhythm Ace pinging, parping, chirping melody beat.

“Eeyar, say something or other into that.” I’m putting the microphone in the middle of the table. Shaun’s saying something or other and Rick Shaw is asking me about Gutted on the sampler. Not so immediate, Gutted is heart on sleeve, it’s piano and strings, it’s a down tempo break and a down tempered lyric – “Feelin’ stick mentally/ Stuck in poverty/ Still geezers wanna try and hurt me/ No-one to nurse me/ Pray to God and ask him why you curse me/ Bastard never answers.” What’s Left follows Gutted with haunting hip hop and an angry, an almost pleading, chorus “If you’ve lost trust in everything you trust/ Tell me what’s left to push?” How D’Ya Like Me Now (nothing to do with the old Spyder D cut) rounds things off with a defiant fuck-you wrapped in metal riffing.

“Eeyar.” Somebody’s passing Shaun a pint. Before I start recording you need to know two things. First, Shaun used to be in a band, Uniq, with Mike Skinner who became The Streets. They started rapping over garage beats before Skinner split, taking Shaun’s ideas and words with him. There is a lot of bad blood. Surprisingly, you can read about it on The Streets’ website (www.the-streets.co.uk) written by another pissed-off MC, Crispy:

“..Garage came out, sean and the boys were loving it loving it loving it, but we all agreed the emcees were shit, and it would be nice to drop a rhyme on garage beats with a rap style. now I'll clarify this for you all, this was DEFINATELY SHAUN'S IDEA, and we all loved it. .. [Mike Skinner] gives me a call and says that he's been talking to shaun, and he likes the ideas he's got ... so i wrote what is still the best track I have done to this day, and shaun wrote to has it come to this. as far as I know, no-one else worked on the strrets project. Mike wasn't too keen on what either me or shaun did, so he wrote something using parts of our verses and a few ideas of his own to demonstrate as a template the type of style he wanted to go for. this track was "has it come to this”.. He then told us that he planned to send has it come to this to locked-on, as they were the premier garage label of the time and he wanted them to be aware of what we were doing. at this point no-one expected a deal. a week later mike calls me and says locked on are interested in releasing has it come to this, and did we mind if he put it out under the streets name, we said we didn't mind cos i would be cool if we gradually intrduced each member, the idea was that I had the second single, and shaun the third, andf that he was signing as an affiliate label of locked on, and that he would give us seperate contracts with his label. We trusted mike so we felt no need to mail things to ourselves or copyright them as we were all mates and he would sort us out. once he got signed, the second single became the second album and we gradually began to realise that he was just fobbing us off as he had no real use for us anymore..”

 Second, eeyar – it means here you are.

So is that a pint of Stella?

S: It is. It has to be don’t it? I gotta keep it real. That’s what it’s all about.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

S: Recently, in the last ten months, we’ve been building up the label, Tumbledown. We’re going to go with Geezer Style for the first release. We’re doing remixes, working on the album, doing gigs. That’s about it for now. We’ve all come together to get the album together.

So you’re part of Tumbledown as well, not just on the label?

S: Yeah. Dave got in contact with me cos Dave had my old music and that, and Dave had linked up with you [Nedos] hadn’t he?

Nedos: Yeah, we’d started Tumbledown as an event, just DJ-ing with Dave. I showed him some of what I’d been doing. He’d been working with Shaun a bit before, with The Streets, and he brought the two of us together.

Dave: What had happened, Shaun was working with Mike – Mike Skinner – and I was touting the Uniq demo around. That was the first contact. I hadn’t even met Shaun then. After that, we were doing Tumbledown and I heard about what happened with Mike and Shaun and I put the version of Gutted that I’d got that Mike and Shaun did together..

S: ..Mike produced that one..

D: I put it on the internet, on getoutthere.com and it won. So there was a prize and I was trying to get hold of Shaun who I’d never met before. From that point, when we got together, and I gave him the prize – some software and a book about electronic music. I said you two [Nedos and Shaun] should get together. And then they did.

S: I’m the artist. Nedos produces the beats, Rick’s the DJ. We’ve got a guitarist and a drummer as well. We use the band to get the music and we use the band for live gigs.

Are you the only artist on Tumbledown?

S: At the moment, but we’ll branch out.

D: The priority is to deal with Shaun first, make sure this works and then whatever comes after that.. It’s in the back of our minds that that’s the long-term objective but at the moment it’s Shaun.


But Geezer Style’s been delayed?

D: We’ve just had.. We said all along the music industry is full of sharks and shysters and we’ve had this bloke from America who’s just delayed us in what we want to do. We had to put releasing it ourselves on hold when this bloke got involved and he was promising us the world and just delaying and delaying. He’s flown over to see us about three times and then the last time he came over he got his solicitors involved in London and then the proposal they sent through to us after months of negotiations was totally different, completely different. We were like, “that’s not what we said,” and we wouldn’t sign it – they just wanted to rip us off.

N: It was meant to be a promo release but it’s just been put back..

D: So it’ll be about four weeks. We’ll get 1000 white labels.

There’s nothing like having it on vinyl is there?

Rick: I just can’t wait.. to be able to hold it.

D: We’re really excited. Then it’s the whole thing about traipsing around and.. There’s people we know in the breakbeat scene from different record shops we’ve got contact with and they’re all supporting us. Atomic Hooligan have done a remix for the b-side called the Atomic Hooligan Wreck Your Club mix.

And the album?

N: It’s 14 tracks now. Not all finished but there’s an album.

S: But we’re looking for 18, and we’re doing six in the live set at the moment.

N: Yeah, about half an hour. We’ve got mad stuff planned, haven’t we?

S: Yeah, hopefully every track will be the other side of the penny to the one that’s just been heard. So I won’t be doing the numbers just to put that many tracks on there. With everything that’s been going on there’s so much to be said on the album. I don’t know what people are expecting from the album so I’m just going to do it.

D: One of the things we’ve got to be careful about as well, is the link to Mike Skinner and The Streets. Like that interview in the NME. Although it was a good interview – it was Shaun, Audio Bullys, Just Jack and LSK – they were talking about the current breed of post-Original Pirate Material artists. We were kind of like, yeah, it’s a good interview, it’s a good piece for us, but we also don’t want to be pigeonholed with those other people because those other people are trying to be The Streets, and Shaun’s not.

S: I won’t be coming after the geezer, will I? Cos I know the geezer.


Are you bitter about what happened?

S: It’s like, OK, there’s a few things being said. I know that Skinner’s record label have said “Shaun is just bitter.” Bitter? I can’t sit here and say I’m not bitter. I won’t lie. I’m only bitter because I was stabbed in the back. Who wouldn’t be bitter? If you’ve got a little dream and you work towards it and then the next thing you know, you wake up and someone’s run off with it, nobody’s going to be happy about it. Everyone’s like, “Shaun’s a bit bitter” and this and that. But I’m not really because it’s give me a good kick up the arse. Nah, I’m not bitter. Well, yeah I am.. I’m just pissed off, not bitter. I hate that word now. 

D: I don’t think it’s bitter. I think it’s anger.

S: It’s pissed off.

D: When you see the way the record company’s put it across, when you see the things Mike Skinner says in his interviews, they put it across like there was almost two years between when Mike stopped working with Shaun and when he got his deal..

S: That’s blag, it was months.

D: Weeks.

S: I read a lot of the interviews and I do do my homework and there’s things being said through Skinner’s mouth and through Skinner’s label.. That I’m bitter, that I’m the accuser, throwing accusations around. But I’m not. People are asking me about The Streets and I’m telling them my point of view. And then I’m being bombarded with the bitterness thing. But if people are asking about it, what answer do you give? Skinner’s still talking about it all time, but I’m supposed to keep quiet? It’s a bit mad. I know the interviews are going about and people are coming to conclusions about me but I don’t feel anyone can say anything until the album’s out there. Then they can judge what they like. Until then, they’re judging me on something they don’t even know. They haven’t heard everything.

D: They haven’t heard anything.

S: It’s just Chinese whispers.

Have you spoken to Mike Skinner?

S: I used to speak to him, but I just ended up arguing on the phone and stuff and I was in Birmingham and he was somewhere else and it just wasn’t getting me nowhere. And he knows that. So I didn’t speak to him any more. It was just a case of.. He knows the law. He quoted something to me.. “in the eyes of the law, I haven’t done nothing wrong.” Straight away, it’s like he’s covered himself, sweet. So I’ll go away and do my music and then people can judge it.

Have you read the thing by Crispy on The Streets’ website?

S: I read that. The story of The Streets?

Yeah, and it says in capital letters: this was definitely Shaun’s idea. Is there some respect for Mike Skinner for having that on the site?

D: No, ‘cos at the top of that Skinner says “this is what someone I grew up with wrote about me, I didn’t know he was thinking all of this until he wrote it. It’s mostly true, except for the bit about it not being my idea.”

S: All of it’s true. But I didn’t put that stuff on the website. Other people are saying things but it’s all coming back to me. I know the stuff’s out there, so I’ll just let it carry on and answer it back the only way I know how.

I don’t think anyone’s going to be able to say you’re trying to rip The Streets off. For a start, the beats don’t sound like The Streets; the vocals don’t sound like The Streets..

S: It’s not two-step Garage. There’s a Cockney twang in The Streets as well, isn’t there?

So it’s only the lazy journalists you’ll have to worry about.

N: Like The Sun.

You’ve been in The Sun? That’s some kind of small thrill.

S: Streets Songs Row Hits Streets.

D: They made it up. They took it from a story in the Sunday Mercury [the local paper], phoned the Sunday Mercury reporter up and said “Is Shaun pursuing legal action?” And the girl from the Sunday Mercury said “No, he’s not.” And they were like, “OK.” And then out came the story. And then that just went all over the world. It was all over the website and everywhere.

OK, I don’t want to talk about The Streets. What I want to know is have you really got a dog called Bluenose?

S: Yeah, of course.

You’re a Blues [Birmingham City] fan?

S: Yeah, of course. He’s a Rottweiler, about eight years old. I’ve had him since he was nine months.

That’s a terrible name for a Rottweiler, it’s too cuddly.

S: I’m a bluenose and somebody else had the dog when he was a pup and I just took him away from where he was because he wasn’t being looked after. He lives with my uncle and he’s got a massive garden and he’s a massive old dog now, Bluenose. It’s on his papers and everything. His official name, on the pedigree papers, is Bluenose something something. His dad’s name was Dark Dutch. Ask me another.

I wanted to know if you really called what you were doing with Uniq Geezer Rap.

S: Yeah. When I was growing up and listening to hip hop. It was all Gangsta Rap and where I come from it was like, everyone’s a geezer and it was like, “what’re you doing, listening to that rap crap?” And I don’t do Gangsta Rap, ‘cos I’m not a gangster, so it was just Geezer Rap. And then “Geezer Style, eeyar” came about. Everywhere you go you see somebody and everybody goes “eeyar, sweet.” Or somebody passes you something and they go “eeyar.”

N: And instead of “yo.”

S: I didn’t like “yo” ever. Standing in a room full of geezers going “yo, yo.” It’s not healthy man. So I’d go “eee-ooo-aaa-eeyar.” And it worked. It was in my face all the time and I just found it and it worked.

So you’re a geezer then?

S: I dunno. Growing up, you’d see all the older geezers, and all the geezers in the pub. They’re the big hard geezers, aren’t they? And growing up I’d have my little troubles or whatever and everybody’d go “Eeyar Shaun, you’re a geezer aren’t ya?” And it just came. And now I’m older.. Yeah, I’m a bit of a geezer when I’ve had a beer. Everybody’s a bit of a geezer after a beer.

So I’ve heard five tracks now and they’re varied, but there’s no garage. Are there going to be garage beats on the album?

S: There won’t be any garage tracks on the album. But there will be – have you heard How D’ya Like Me Now? – like hip hop lyrics and a rock beat. Tongue In Cheek’s got drum and bass. My thing was just do whatever track feels good. I was angry with How D’ya Like Me Now, so we got the guitarist and done the rock beat. Gutted was, well, it’s a gutted track, and we wanted strings on it. There’s other tracks coming that we’re working on like one with just an acoustic guitar called Ecstasy Next To Me and I might be messing with some other beats as well, but they won’t be on the album, we might just leak them out onto the internet, with a two-step garage beat just to take the piss. But I won’t put them on the album.

Because you don’t want comparisons to The Streets?

S: When the garage came up it just looked like an easy way to make money. It was selling and I don’t think it’s hard to do because it’s just dah-dah-dah. At that time, I was saying “we’ll do this just to get our foot in the door.” But now it’s a different year and I’m not feeling the same as I did last year, for whatever reasons. So now I’m just doing whatever I feel. But I can safely say there’s not a garage beat on the album.

Were you always into hip hop?

S: Always hip hop. Or jungle and hip hop. Or metal and hip hop. I mean I can get off on Oasis or Paul Weller and that. I can have a little twang on the guitar but there’s always hip hop at the back of it. That’s my love of music, hip hop.

One of the things I liked about Geezer Style was it’s just a beat and a rhyme, and there’s a beat behind everything on the 5-tracker.

S: Some times we’ll do a beat and put lyrics to it and other times I’ll have lyrics and Nedos’ll sort a beat for the lyrics.

N: But a tempo’s the first thing. Get a tempo you like.

S: Set a mood.

N: Some beats are put together and all the rhythm of the sounds around it, particularly Belief in the live set at the moment, I could hear Shaun rapping aound it. I’m really happy with that tune.

S: That’s a real hip hop tune.

Did I hear that you’re working with Fuzz Townshend?

N: Fuzz drums with the live side of things.

R: This is Fuzz’s bar.

I always liked him with Pop Will Eat Itself and Bentleys.

N: Bentleys played here a few weeks ago. Their first gig for three years.

I read that Richard’s working at Halesowen College now, teaching music.

D: Yeah, I think what they’re teaching is the pitfalls of the music business, about what to watch out for. About how much crap there is out there.

S: Everyone could do with a little book on that.

You wouldn’t believe it though, would you? You think it’ll never happen to you.

S: I thought that all through life.

D: We were talking to Michael Grant the keyboard player from Musical Youth. He was round the studio the other week, and he’s doing stuff like that. He’s hooked up with Pato Banton to try to show people what’s what. He was a millionaire by the time he was 14 and got totally ripped off by all the people around him. And you don’t. There’s absolutely nothing in the national curriculum about the music industry.

S: It’s all so new when you’re going into it.

When someone says “here’s a million quid” you don’t think that it’s only an advance, that’s it’s really your money.

S: But you should.

What are you doing next?

D: We’ve already been around loads of record shops and just on the basis of the story they’ve said they’ll take copies. We’ll send out copies to DJs as promo and through the network of DJs that we know we’ll get vinyl out to them. The only people buying them will be people who’re going to put them on a turntable and play them.

N: As soon as that’s done, we’ll go for a major release and perhaps get a helping hand to do it.  If you want to put it in a genre, I called it Urban Breakbeat Metal.

[Everybody laughs.]

R: They’ll have to have a new sign for that in HMV.

They’ll need two racks to fit the name across. Will the album be on Tumbledown as well?

N: Under Tumbledown but there’ll be someone else to help us get it the whole way.

Another label? Is there a label you’d like to model yourself on?

D: Fierce Panda.

N: Warp. Ninja Tune.

D: I’m saying Fierce Panda from their philosophical point of view. When they started up it was all done on handshakes. They had no business plan, no contracts, nothing. They just did what they did.

Fierce Panda had the advantage of having someone who wrote for the music press on board.

S: It’s all about who you know.. But it’s all just being born now, innit? We’re birthing it and then bring it up nicely.

Like a little baby boy?

S: Yeah, we’re gonna nurture it nicely and feed it all the music it needs.

Eeyar Baby Tumbledown, have some beats and rhymes and you’ll grow up to be big and strong and one day you can drink all the Stella you want, just like your dad. Contact Tumbledown on tumbledowncrew@aol.com or at www.tumbledown.org.uk.

  (Photos by  Emma Lambert: www.emmalambert.co.uk)

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