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  tasty 19 interviews

- Pipas
- Rob Newman



Can you give me a history of Pipas. How did the two of you meet? 
We met in a suburban Philly hardcore-type of setting, somewhere between Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr, both of which are very tame, collegiate locales, maybe 8 years ago? Mark worked at a record shop and Lupe was in school but also worked at a cool bakery in downtown Philadelphia (a crucial fact). At some point, we met through our friend Xana, who lived like 10 blocks from the bakery, and started a band. Mark on bass, Xana on mini accordion, and Lupe on drums. We coulda been big, but we«ve never ! been people happy in the rehearsal studio, so perhaps we had 2, 3 practices, then we all moved to different cities. Until 3 years ago, when Mark and Lupe found themselves living in the same city again and felt the time had come. 

What sort of musical heritage do you share? What brings you together musically? 
No name dropping  now, but we like funky stuff, a lot of heroin rock, as well as a nice dose of folklore etc. hip hop glam; psychodelia will be a palpable reference point in what's to come of pipas. Mark's never owned a record by the Smiths and is proud of it! Lupe'd never heard of Talulah Gosh until she moved to New Cross Gate in 2000. Of course, no pride there.. 

Was it intentional to use both a more synth based and guitar sound when you started Pipas, or has this happened more 'organically?' 
Actually a lot of the time the guitar is placed as a base track to be later deleted, but sometimes it just insists on hanging on, or proves indelible (in the quieter more melancholy songs). We write songs and record them pretty much at the same time, perhaps that's organic by definition? Maybe cause sessions are fuelled by organic dark chocolate with black currants, the good stuff. As technology progresses so has Pipas, but then again we've regressed and progressed at the same time.

Can you explain the inspiration behind the songs on 'A Cat Escaped'? 
The title refers rather blatantly to a film by Robert Bresson called 'Un condamnŽ ˆ mort s'est ŽchappŽ', best known to English audiences as 'A man escaped', which we've sort of been obsessed with at times, along with his entire filmography. A Cat Escaped is... a 'celebration' of those who leave, those who are left behind, and, foremost, of stationary. And of leaving the extra luggage back at home. btw Bouncer was a nice cat we befriended during that time. Or did he befriend us???  

Who else makes music as enjoyable as Pipas at the moment would you say? 
We are humbled in the presence of: Lali Puna, Aerospace, Harper Lee, Out Hud, Free Loan Investments, The Scientist, Milkyway, Buck65, Airliner, the Ultra Chick kru of course esp. France Gall, Funday Mornings, Paco de Lucia, Dwight Twilley (yes, even now), the all girl summer fun band (live - particularly awesome drummer!), the Pines, Sun Ra, Sage Francis, et al.  

Why do make music? And why does Pipas exist? 
For the peeps. Pipas has no raison d'etre other than changing the world. 

Do you think that the sort of music that Pipas produce is valued enough in the UK? Do you get a better response from abroad? What frustrates you about the UK? 
We've had nice emails from very sweet people! Some of whom live in the U.K., so the country as a whole hasn't been cruel to us, No. All great. We had an amazing time in Spain and Sweden and the States last summer and autumn, met amazing people, fell in love with it all. U.K. frustrations: carpet in the bathroom, plus no caffs open after 8pm. oh man, don't get us started... It's the little things that matter most you know?


What next for Pipas? 
Finishing a new album for Annika in Spain, playing some louder gigs with Rudee, our new live drummer/button pusher, and possibly some more friends, eating lots of olives, going to the north pole before we die.

Rob Newman
Direct Action Man  

Can you tell me a bit more about your new stage show/venture/thingy - from the caliban to the taliban? How did it come about?
I was reading about when the British army burnt the White House to the ground in 1812 and was wondering whether this might have been justified at the time as a humanitarian intervention. That was the first little spark.

The full title of the show is "From Caliban to the Taliban - 500 Years of Humanitarian Intervention".  The title borrows from Eduardo Galleano's 'Open Veins of Latin America - 500 Years of The Pillage Of A Continent'.  By any objective, honest standard of recording of  the sum of human misery on this planet, Britain, the US  were and are the axis of evil. And it's upon the irony that it's these two powers that now shamelessly present themselves as humanitarian that the show is hooked. That and the corporate media's dogmatic obedience to the official line.

Do you miss the exposure you enjoyed in the early 90s?
I have painted a cardboard box and cut an oblong out of the front panel  so that it  looks like a television. Every day I put the box on my head and take photographs of myself in the mirror so that I can still pretend to myself that i'm on the telly. Some days when I'm 'on the telly'  like this I photograph myself wearing a number of different 'comedy' disguises. Other times, it's more sober attire so that I can pretend that I've been asked onto a serious panel discussion show and I talk knowledgeably about world affairs and impress everyone.
What do you think of the rest of the mary whitehouse people these days? Where you thrown together, or was it a conscious choice to work together?
I don't own a telly so I don't know.  When that show transferred from radio to telly the producer made a decision (which I should've resisted) to get rid of most of the cast members who'd made it a hit on radio. In their wisdom the BBC Tv bosses decided  that Mark Thomas and Jack Dee had no TV careers in front of them, that Jo Brand wouldn't appeal to women, and that the rest of us would be able to match the excellent Skint Video for tapping a rich, seemingly inexhaustible seam of comedy songs.
Ben Elton - how much of a wanker is he?
The fact that this question merits no reply is its answer.  It's somehow rude even to mention him, isn't it? Like ghoulish voyeurs at a train crash. The humane and decent thing is just to avert one's eyes. Some people get a kick out of others losing their last scrap of dignity. But not me. Because it's  bad for humanity as a whole.  
Music-wise - what do you listen to these days? Still imitating the Cure?
I listen to dub reggae and The Clash same as ever.

Are you a member of any political party/group? If so why? If not, why not?
All political parties disempower people. Why should we hand over the control of our own lives over to self-appointed, know-nothing 'experts' whose only expertise is in looking after their own careers. Nor are we allowed to vote out of office the political parties who really have power such as the International Chamber of Commerce, The CBI, the WTO.
I'm interested in direct action groups ad grassroots organising.
Voting won't do it. if you look at history rights are never granted they are taken they are won.
Do you think that ordinary working class people can stop or influence Bush and Blair's war on Iraq?
They are the only power on earth which can. Direct action can stop this war. This is a war being fought for the transnational oil corporations, a war to maintain the corporate status quo and to keep the public subsidies to the arms trade and high-tech industries a-coming.
On March 21 there's big non-violent action against US listening post at USAF air base on Menwith Hill, England. It should be really big. And we may if we succeed save actual lives of the odd Iraqi twelve year old travelling from their homes to the see if any leukaemia drugs have arrived in the paediatric clinic before the Oil Air Force's bombs land on her bald head.  
Does the North Korea situation scare you as much as the cold war stand off in the 80s?
The US situation, the RAF situation, the Israeli nuclear build-up (for blowing the whistle on which Mordechai Vanunu is still incarcerated in Israel) all these things are scarey situations. Why are the U'wa indians and West Papuans routinely killed by hired guns of London-based oil and copper companies not a scarey situation? It is for them, of course, but not for us. The reason for this, of course is because Britain shares a common border with North Korea. The fact that Pnon Yang is only a thirty minute bus-ride away is why we're not talking about the Israeli situation - which scares me more.
What do you hope to achieve with your work?
Presenting my own prime-time quiz show, ideally with a pets/ babies theme. I've did a pilot version of the how last night with the cardboard box on my head and I thought it made all the other quiz shows on telly look shit!