Archive Feature: An Interview With Lupen Crook, by Rob Flood

Lupen Crook by Sara Norling

Music contributor Rob Flood spoke to Lupen Crook ahead of the 2012 release of his album British Folk Tales. This interview originally appeared as The Lone Wolf at the Back of the Pack in the October 2012 issue of WOW Magazine.

If you’re a regular on the Medway music scene the name Lupen Crook won’t be new to you. Growing up in Chatham, Crook’s first major impact nationally came when he was feted by the NME and appeared on their 2005 Cool List. Seven years down the line, he has released four albums and numerous singles and EPs. October 2012 sees the release of his album ‘British Folk Tales’ on Medway label The Preservation Society Presents.

He’s been critically acclaimed by many, and the NME hate him.

Rob Flood went to meet him.

What made you choose The Preservation Society Presents label for your next release?

‘I met Neil (Burrow) about a year ago and he said he’d be interested in putting something out. It’s a good deal for me – basically it’s a licensing thing. Which is nice as it’s not a scary contract.’

You seem to divide the critics as you’re difficult to pigeonhole. Is that intentional on your part?

‘It’s not intentional. I got put into the anti-folk bracket… but I fell off that shelf as quickly as I got put on it. With the Tap ‘n’ Tin [label], to be fair, whatever criticisms and problems went on with that, they were never “You’ve got to sort your shit out!” I was given absolutely free reign. .. but by the time my relationship with the Tap ‘n’ Tin ended, arguably within the music industry my reputation was in total tatters. Mainly through my own actions. Basically no one was gonna touch me.

So that’s when I started self releasing. I’ve always been, “Well I want to make it – I’ve got a four track and one microphone – do it.” And then it’s gone on and I’ve been releasing through Beast Reality [Crook’s own label] up until last years’ ‘Waiting for the Post-Man’, which was a totally DIY album recorded in my house. I think the production suffers a bit for that but then all my albums arguably suffer from some quirks.’

Do you think you confused the NME then? They looked in their box for you and you’d gone?

‘They hate me now. Since their six months of love. I think one of the most pleasing quotes I ever got from them was a negative: “Too weird for the folk fan, too folk for the urchins, the lone wolf at the back of the pack”. But I think it’s just beautiful and I think it’s well done for summing me up.’

Were you already working on material for ‘British Folk Tales’ when TPSP first spoke to you?

‘When Neil spoke to me, I’d spent two days in with Jim [Riley from Ranscombe Studios in Rochester]. We’d done the vocals, drums and guitar for 13 songs. Then done the rest at home under front room conditions. By January it was turning me mental and quite depressed and I dumped the album.’

I’m surprised by your description of the recording. Every track on the album seems to have so many different elements to it in terms of the instrumentation and arrangements. It sounds like a much more controlled process.

‘When I went back to it, I thought, well this is gonna be lo-fi. I was getting bits of violin and hurdygurdy recorded around my house and about 1am one morning, one of the musicians, who shall remain nameless, said “Lupen, this isn’t the way to record an album!” But I was thinking, well, I’ve got the structure for the songs, the mic’s in the room, I’m just gonna press play.

How do you write? Do the lyrics come first or is it the melody?

‘Ninety-nine percent of what I write is just acoustic guitar and vocal. I might have a melody pop in my head or a lyric or a riff or a picking. An idea gives chase. Like a little lightning bolt. That’s why I’ve always been terrible at any sort of job. That idea hits you and it won’t wait around until you’ve finished your shift. You’ve got to chase it and hunt it down.

What’s your plan for playing the ‘British Folk Tales’ live?

‘I’m not really interested in having a set band to perform this stuff. So I’ve got members of some of Medway’s finest live bands joining me on stage including Chris from UpCDownC on drums – he played on the album – Brendan from Theatre Royal on bass, Jimmy from UpCDownC hopefully playing a bit of Moog and synth, Chris from Pity Party on guitar and John Whitaker likely providing some trumpet… They all play because they love it. Some of them put stuff out on small labels but they all get on and do what they do. And if something gives way, great. But if not, they’re not going to stop. Do it because you want to, there’s no other reason.’

‘British Folk Tales’ is available for download from iTunes and Amazon. CD & Vinyl from lupencrook.com

Photograph of Lupen Crook by Sara Norling