For the past 26 years, Green Gartside suffered from stage fright so severe, it kept him from attempting a single performance. But the angelic-voiced leader of British pop provocateurs Scritti Politti has a new band and a newfound confidence. The group’s new album, “White Bread Black Beer,” arrives tomorrow (July 25) in North America via Nonesuch.
The latest version of Scritti Politti, filled with amateur musicians Gartside recruited from his local pub in East London, recently finished a U.K. tour, and Gartside tells Billboard.com he’s not dreading his first-ever live dates in Japan and the United States.
“The ecstasy is slightly starting to outweigh the agony,” says the 50-year-old Gartside. “I’m just an incredibly lucky man. After trying so many times to sabotage my career — not that you can call what I’ve had a career — it’s amazing that people are still interested.”
Interest in Scritti Politti has, at times, seemed heightened by Gartside’s long absences from the music business. “White Bread Black Beer,” which was home-recorded entirely by Gartside and jokingly named in honor of his “frankly appalling diet,” breaks his latest, six-year sabbatical.
The disc downplays the hip-hop bent of 2000’s “Anomie and Bomhomie,” which featured rapper Mos Def. Instead, it reveals a looser and more experimental side of Gartside’s pop, with “Dr. Abernathy” and “Mrs. Hughes” even referencing the traditional English folk music he loved as a teenager.
“I think it’s a more personal record than I’ve ever made,” says Gartside. “I just gave my interior policeman the year off. I did whatever popped into my head.”
But returning to live performance was still out of the question until recently. “Everyone [at the local pub] knew, ‘You do not talk to this man about his past — ever’,” says Gartside with a chuckle. However, he soon felt comfortable enough to invite some of the aspiring musicians to his flat to rehearse his new material. The group played a few secret gigs in England earlier this year, billed as Double G and the Traitorous Three, and Gartside found his stage fright surprisingly manageable.
Details of Scritti’s first American shows are still being worked out for this fall. However, with a setlist that ranges from the 1984 hit “Wood Beez” to a cover of rapper Jeru The Damaja’s “Come Clean,” Gartside sounds almost excited to tour with his youthful bandmates. “Now,” he jokes, “it’s time to play havoc with their day jobs.”