Cornershop Interview

worldbeatcanada radio – INTERVIEW


Urban Turban


Urban Turban

(Ample Records)



Today's children are living a childhood of firsts. They are the first daycare generation; the first truly multicultural generation; the first generation to grow up in the electronic bubble, the environment defined by computers and new forms of television; the first post-sexual revolution generation; the first generation for which nature is more abstraction than reality; the first generation to grow up in new kinds of dispersed, deconcentrated cities, not quite urban, rural, or suburban.


Richard Louv (20th century), U.S. journalist, author. Childhood's Future, introduction (1991).


worldbeatcanada radio: Urban Turban - great Indian take-away or latest long play from Cornershop. Considering we don't do food reviews on this program, you can assume the latter and Cornershop cornerstone, Tjinder Singh is on the line to tell us about it. Thanks for all the fun listening of late, Tjinder! We were still thoroughly enjoying The Double O Groove Of.


Tjinder Singh: Thank you. That's very good of you.


WBC: Vancouver has gone food cart crazy downtown. You can get everything from Korean burritos to Japanese hotdogs. I bet there's one or two South Asian themed street vendors steamed that they didn't think of the name Urban Turban first. You have a real way with words. Has that always been the case?


TS: I've never really thought about it. If some ideas have to come up then I generally just think about them and they come. A lot of the times it's a bit over people's heads. In the past I think some of the album titles may have gone over people's heads like Handcream For A Generation or Disco and the Halfway to Discontent. This one because of its simplicity and its rhyming I suppose it seems to have stuck with people and they've gone for it. It's very strange. It’s quite possibly the most throw-away album title I've every done.


WBC: You confessed upon the release of The Double O Groove Of that it was the kind of record you had wanted to make for 20 years. Urban Turban seems an extension of that disc. Where did this new creative direction come from?


TS: I started working with Cornershop songs and lots of other songs and some of them I couldn't really envisage myself singing, so I got some other people to sing them. I've also been working a lot with other artists and all of a sudden there were more than enough songs for an album so we decided to put them together. And, when they were put together, even though they were very different and done for very different reasons at very different times, they seemed to come together quite nicely and I think the thing that has sown them together is probably the production with is about the only sort of consistency. 


WBC: The first track, What Did The Hippie Have In His Bag really harkens back to Brimful of Asha on the 45 if only in cadence. Was that intentional?


TS: Not at all. In fact, I'm quite surprised to hear people say that. It's a very simple song because it's a children's song and it was done with the view that children would be singing with it at some stage. It was actually created for the Manchester International Festival and it was created with a video that went with it and also there was a big box that children went to and got creative with lyrical ideas and video ideas and at the end of the session they went away with their own DVD. I think most of the songs are very much removed from anything that might have happened to them or what people might think about them after they're done; including myself. Songs seem to take on a life of their own.


WBC: So, I have to ask; were these young innocents of the Castle Hill Primary School unwitting participants in your master plan and how are being compensated? Inquiring minds want to know.


TS: For us, we went in and spent three days there. To start with we needed one of them to get lyrical ideas and hey were just copying each other. So it was a case of seeing what they did and then ask them to hide their answers and think inside their minds and sort of meditate and close their eyes and think about something so they didn't copy each other. And, by the end of it they not only got ideas for coming up with something creative, they also got the skills that could help them to put a CD together, and be used for the rest of their lives. It was very good for them and for us it was just lovely to be with them and to see this process gel together over the three days. In terms of them getting things back from it, I think they have the enjoyment of the whole process. And, they also got their names and their school's name on it as well.


WBC: Ya, I would have been thrilled as a kid! Tjinder Singh is on the phone to talk Urban Turban, the latest release from Cornershop. Shop the Cornershop for one of kind playful items. You can even get a Cornershop shopping bag to put it all in. That's Tjinder, your output of video clips has been staggering ever since the last album. Tell me about that work.



TS: Well, people don't pay for videos anymore, and it's very much sort of a side salad to any sort of song. But, we've always thought the video was right for 'The Hippie'. The songs are quite visual and they have lyrics in them that sort of pop out and videos can wrap themselves around them quite nicely. So, we've always wanted to use videos. And, we've been lucky enough to work with people who want to work with us, and budgets have always been a problem and generally there has been no budgets. Again, people get something out of it but it's not necessarily money. It's the old idea of using it as a platform to express themselves and hopefully using it a step to move on and do other things. A lot of the people we have worked with are already doing that or it's helped them in some ways to move on to bigger and better things. I don't really like being in videos myself, so it's a great way to get other people to do things and not being in it yourself.


WBC: You touched on this earlier. On the Double O Groove Of we were introduced to the voice wonderfully named Bubbley Kaur, on Urban Turban you've drawn on the talents of many vocal collaborators. Can you ell us a little bit more about that?


TS: Well it's quite a few just random sorts of people. Some people I new, like my wife's on there; she's one of the collaborators. Other people I've met; like Izzy Lindqwister who I met at the local record shop down the road. And so, we went to see her perform at a festival down in Brighton and we ended up just hanging around, promenading around Brighton for the rest of the day. That sort of led to her doing something with us. you know, we sing a lot about different things and it's only a snapshot, just of a few of the songs that could have been on the album, but to have Izzy's Swedish-born and French and Punjabi people; males and females; there's a whole sort of mixture of people. I mean, looking back on it now it looks quite daring. There's a philosophy going and it's good to see that philosophy come through and it's not been left behind.


WBC: It makes for an incredibly interesting listen. Which track does your wife sing?


TS: I'm not going to tell you! (laughs) It's a pseudonym.


WBC: Ok. Thanks for your time, Tjinder. I'd like to take this home with one of my favorites from Urban Turban. Can you tell us the story of Inspector Bamba Singh's Lament?


TS: Ah well, that was done with a lady called Amar. I think when she first heard what I had done to the backdrop for her vocals, she was quite shocked. I'm certain it was the same for Bubbley Kaur (on the previous album) because these ladies sing in Punjabi and the music background in Punjabi folk songs would be. So, to take the vocals out and put hem somewhere else is sometimes unpalatable to some people. Again, it takes a little bit of time and they got used to it. There are elements of Punjabi folk I tried to keep in with the keyboards, but essentially it's spank funk and Punjabi folk vocals.

Tjinder Singh was interviewed by phone on May 8th, 2012