INTERVIEW: JaZZ RiOT | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s a struggle to come up with anything to compare JaZZ RiOT to, as they are unlike anything I’ve ever heard. Imagine Sex Pistols-era John Lydon’s compelling cynicism, accompanied by the powerful guitar instrumentals of Billy Bragg, and I’d say you’re almost halfway to beginning to imagine the sheer intensity of Ettrick Scott and Stephen Glendinning’s sound.

Ettrick is a northern punk poet with a taste for socialism and speaking out against the Tory government. “People just seem downtrodden nowadays,” he says, “when I was 16 or 17, I used to be down the west end of Newcastle selling Militant magazine door-to-door, but there doesn’t seem to be that political interest anymore. There just seems to be a general air of ‘ugh’ around the country, but at the same time you’ve got to talk about it! People are dying because of our government!”

JaZZ RiOT may have been described as a comedy act by the BBC (they even played at Jesterval comedy festival) but Ettrick doesn’t see the duo as a comedy pairing.

“I honestly prefer it when someone comes up to me after a gig and tells me that what I said really made them think, rather than it just made them laugh. When people go away and think about stuff…that’s when things really happen.”

Even from a young age, Ettrick was told that it was painfully obvious that he would never be the sort to grow up to live an orthodox 9 to 5 lifestyle; reading his mother’s books about feminist issues, he was taught to question and see the world from a different perspective. “My mate who’s known me since I was six years old said to me ‘your fucking middle name has always been ‘disagree’, you’ll always see the opposite side.’ I mean, it’s healthy in some ways, but it’s also knowing when to keep your gob shut.” So would he consider himself a feminist? “I think you have to be to get your leg over a decent lass…obviously I’m kidding, of course I consider myself a feminist. It’s difficult to not be one, especially in this day and age.”

His second book entitled POETTRiCK LiCENCE is released on 11th December along with a new JaZZ RiOT album. The book consists of 23 poems that cover a broad spectrum of everything and anything that’ll pop into his head, from lyrics that praise the genius of dry shampoo to questioning the suspicious elements of Lady Diana’s death. “There’s nothing that dictates what the next poem will be about. In a couple of years’ time, I won’t even like some of these ones.”

It made a lot of sense to me when Ettrick noted Leonard Cohen as one of his main influences, how the two both use rhyme to project raw passion and emotion. “When I was a kid, me dad used to sing Leonard Cohen songs in the car. It was the whole rhyming scheme with him that always got to me.” Ettrick sums up the album as a whole: “It expresses a wide range of emotions. It’s vulgar and bawdy in many places, but there are also moments that are turbo-poignant and loaded with pathos when you least expect it. And the guitar work is a thing of marvel, it proper is.”

JaZZ RiOT launch the album and book at The White Swan in Ovingham on Friday 11th and The Cluny in Newcastle on Saturday 12th December.

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