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Interview with Leicester's Great Imitation

Date: Oct 12th, 2010 2:50:33 pm - Subscribe
Mood: stunned

By J Appleby
They hail from Leicester and last month, they won the coveted Surface Unsigned Festival by representing the Midlands with a mashup of rap and indie sprinkled with OTT posing and a lot of tongue in cheek. But in between a busy schedule of radio appearances and a new rousing gig schedule. Lead singer and middle-class rap boy, James Scott-Howes, answers a few questions J Appleby was dying to ask including the origins of their incredible genre, his thoughts on the competition and ultimately why he acts the way he does on stage.

JA: How long you guys been together?
JSH: Ryan Albutt (guitarist and co-singer) and I formed the band as a dastardly two piece about 18 months ago. The rhythm section; Mark Conrad and Joe 'the bollocks' Lambden, or as they're affectionately known within the band as 'the least important members', were both fans who joined us last year at various times of despair.

JA: Why choose this combo of indie rock and raunchy rap? And how did you learn to rap like Dizzie?
JSH: We didn't really choose the style, it just sort of, um, happened. Neither Ryan nor I listen to Hip-Hop exclusively so what you hear in Great Imitation is influenced by everything from Norah Jones to Godspeed You! With a bit of Black Emperor visiting Slick Rick, Beyonce and The Harmonicas along the way. Rapping is something that I had to learn. Ever since I first got into Michael Jackson when I were 6, I've always wanted to be in a band yet I am utterly tone-deaf. When I sing it sounds like an old woman being minced by a threshing machine and I am far too lazy to learn how to play an instrument. So rapping was the only option open to me.

JA: So I got it wrong in the original review, your songs aren't mashups of existing tracks. So what kind of stuff are you rapping about?
JSH: When I first learnt to rap, I were listening to a lot of Old Skool stuff like NWA and Ice Cube. So my first attempts at writing where these skin crawlingly awful, faux ghetto, abominations - complete with fake Californian accent. Thankfully no evidence of them, other than my sense of shame, still exists. Over the last 15 years of writing lyrics, I've developed a style which is influenced more by Morrissey than anyone else. The songs tend to be either quite personal, where the emphasis is on times that I've made myself look like a contemptible moron or they're observational, 'Far From the Madding Crowd' for example is about Melton Mowbray where I grew up and 'Poisoned Kisses at the Village Fete' is about going out to a terrible club, failing to pull and gibbering away to defenceless, uninterested women.

JA: Why did you choose to enter Surface Unsigned? And did you honestly think you had a chance of winning?
JSH: The other three chose it. I didn't want to enter it in the first place, but they were really taken with the idea so I went along with it. The idea was to play in front of some people who usually wouldn't have heard us and hopefully make a few contacts for further shows. I honestly didn't think we'd get through the first round. Great Imitation's live show is a real love it or hate it experience, so we were incredibly lucky that the judges we played in front of were open minded and saw the humour in what we do.

JA: During the Surface Midlands final, you divided the crowd and got a lot of heckling. How does that compare to normal gigs?
JSH: I was in the mood to wind people up. The Birmingham O2 has way too many places for people to hide. People were looking bored and lazy so I thought that they needed waking up. I were quite aggressive with them from pretty much the moment we walked on. I believe that I called the entire crowd c**** within the first minute or so. Because I didn't think we had a chance of getting any further, I just functioned on pure animal instinct and did whatever I felt like - which I think ultimately worked in our favour. Live music should never be asinine or safe. Without a sense of danger and unpredictability, it all becomes one protracted Snow Patrol concert where everyone simply shrugs politely at the end. I'd rather be hated than ignored and I'm assuming that this attitude translated through to the judges, either that or they were proving that Surface is an equal opportunities unsigned festival by putting us through.

JA: What was the reaction to you guys like in London?
JSH: London was an entirely different thing. There was an awesome sense of camaraderie between all 16 bands. Everyone was nervous and unable to believe that they were actually playing the IndigO2 in the first place, so the competitiveness and slight animosity that there was in other rounds had completely disappeared by then. We had an amazingly supportive room to play to and lots of members of other bands - who we'd become friends with either on the day or during the festival - danced and moshed while we played. It were quite touching really that people were more interested in enjoying themselves than their own egos. It were a truly awesome day.

JA: So you're getting all these cool prizes, help with PR, etc...where do you honestly see Great Imitation in a couple of years? You want to make it big?
JSH: Without any sense of irony, I genuinely expect Great Imitation to be f*****g huge! We might not have the dedication, talent, musical ability, songwriting ability, looks, intellect, basic grasp of arithmetic or vigour of other bands but we're quite good at attention seeking and have no sense of shame whatsoever. I want to be thought of as the rap Nelson Mandella and every time I approach the stage it's considered to be a short walk of freedom.

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