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Interview: Paper Tiger discuss comedy in music, escapism, and Brexit...

After the release of their new album Rogue Planet, read our review here, we caught up with UK hip hop and electronic jazz collective Paper Tiger.

There are jazz, funk, and soulful styles throughout the album, and you’ve talked about bringing humour along (always important), do you think groovier music styles and comedy compliment each other?

It's a difficult balance to strike. There's a snobbery about humour sometimes, as if music can only be good if it's 'serious'. We take our music very seriously, but we want it to be fun to listen to! Maybe there's a link between dancing/partying and humour in there somewhere - a lot of the P-Funk stuff is laugh-out-loud funny as well as being incredible musically.

What has influenced this sound and your approach to writing? Be that musically or other life experiences.

We all grew up playing a lot of jazz and jazz-influenced music, but also listening to hip-hop, electronic music and going to clubs. This band was always meant to be a way of finding a middle ground between those ideas - musical adventure but always rooted in the groove, live playing with the sonic attributes of what we were hearing on sound systems. Most of us went to music school and found it a bit stifling: too many solos!

You’ve collaborated with the likes of Shafiq Husayn and have all played around the British/London music scene, including in Nubiyan Twist (see TLG's interview), what do you enjoy most about collaboration and who would you love to work with?

Collaboration brings variety, and pushes you towards ideas that it's impossible to come up with alone. We've been really lucky with guest vocalists and who has ended up saying yes, Steve Spacek on the new album was a big ambition achieved. Our list of dream guests is pretty extensive, some more realistic than others, but let's throw a few out there into the universe: Anderson .Paak, Little Simz, Dam Funk, Kendrick, Jamie Lidell, Open Mike Eagle, Kano, Fatima, Roisin Murphy, Janelle Monae...

In mixing live recording with improvisation, such as on Rogue Planet, do you feel that this is when you are at your most creative and what is it about this organic approach that appeals to you all?

Like I said, we all have a jazz background so improvisation comes naturally. There don't seem to be many bands improvising in a dance music or hip-hop context. It's really fun to try and be as economical as people when jamming, and sometimes a fully-fledged 3 minute song just comes out first time. All our favourite music has that organic, human element to it - and for us the easiest way to achieve that is by playing our instruments.

Many artists are creatively flourishing thanks to technology (growing fan bases on social media, YouTube and online in general). You are also embracing a futuristic and cosmic sound, so how do you think future scientific developments could enhance or transform the music medium?

An interesting question - I can think of plenty of ways in which it's made things worse/more difficult! It's great that music-making tools have become cheaper and more accessible thanks to technology. There was the Second Life music festival thing recently, although I'm not sure that will move much beyond novelty for now. Maybe bigger/better lasers at EDM shows?

You talk about how important it is to engage and not opt for the easy route in life, despite this challenging world, how do you think music as optimistic escapism can help people to do that?

For us the whole existence of this band is an extended metaphor for that really - there have been plenty of opportunities for us to simplify it or make it more accessible for the sake of short-term success, but we just make what we want to make. All the best music creates its own world to get lost in, whether it's Wu-Tang Clan, Talking Heads or Fela Kuti. Yes it's partly about escapism and forgetting what's going on, but it's also about creating a connection with each other and the audience, which is more important than ever.

Within this challenging world, are there any particular topics you are passionate about discussing, or continuing to discuss, in your future work?

Definitely - the next record is shaping up to be a 4-hour concept album about Brexit.

Listen to Paper Tiger's 'Rogue Planet' on Spotify, Apple Music, or YouTube, released on Wah Wah 45s.

Read Trouve la Groove's album review here.

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