“Just keep going” – An Interview with Pete & Bas

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Pete & Bas discuss their musical origins, their love for Frank Sinatra and Stormzy, and their tour.

After a particularly long day of seminars, partaking in the pure chaotic escapism of a Pete & Bas concert is one of the best things one could possibly do, along with sleep for nine hours. After getting through a queue primarily made up with teenagers in tracksuits, the sounds of Nas’ hip-hop classic ‘NY State of Mind’ blasted through the venue and the bass from that track thumped inside my chest as I was escorted upstairs and into a room with Pete, Bas and their special guest for that night, Norman Pain, who was impressively calm and subdued, sitting quietly in the background as I sat down, hands lightly shaking from a mix of the cold and pre-interview nerves (made worse by my strong familiarity with the artists’ work).

The leaner, taller Bas lounged back in his chair wearing his trademark suit with a thick gold chain covering half of his chest whilst Pete laid across another sofa and exclaimed about how surprisingly comfortable it was – they both sipped at beers, looking rather pleased with their positions in life at the moment – no two people have ever appeared so relaxed. No pre-show nerves for them, certainly, only an excitement for what was to come. And so, with a phone placed on a table between us, we had a short half-hour discussion about their tour, their musical backgrounds, their friendship and their plans for the future, the bass from their DJ’s pre-show set still shaking the ground beneath us.

First of all, how is the first tour going? Is it as good as you’d expected?

Bas: It’s a sell-out so far. I think tonight there’s 400 coming…

Pete: Yeah, about 99% of the tickets are sold out, but every day we are working and working on it to make people aware. I think if we can just make them aware, then they’re gonna come and see us. They’ll talk to their friends, they’re gonna find out what we are, what we do and then they’ll come and see us. Especially if they talk to anyone who has been to one of our shows already, because they have been *manic*.

What led you into actually starting music – obviously most people start a lot younger than you guys, and the main question that people seem to have is ‘Why now?’

P: Why we’re doing this is my granddaughter once was in my car, playing with the radio stations. And I put it back, then she put it back and in the end I gave up. Bas heard it in the car and he said ‘We could do something with this.’ He just went away and wrote ‘Shut Ya Mouth’, and that is basically how we got into this.

We were both musicians anyway, I was doing ska and Bas-

B: I do piano. I played piano for years as well, yeah.

P: So we’re not really into it late, we’re more into this [rap/grime scene] late and we’re just enjoying it so much more than we used to enjoy our other stuff.

It’s always surprising, I feel like the main thing that people tend to come out with in the comments on your videos are comments of confusion, asking ‘What is going on?’, because I think people approach your work as if it’s – not a joke – but as if they can’t fully believe what they’re seeing.

B: They think it’s a send up. And then when they find out that it actually isn’t, I think it’s a bit of a shock.

P: What was one of our favourite comments that we got, Bas? I like the ones that say ‘Would you adopt me?’!

B: We get that one a lot, yeah. A lot of people say ‘Oh, I wish you were my grandpa.’, it’s nice really, init? Nice.

What is your favourite song that you have made to date?

B: Well, we like all of them really. I mean, ‘Dents in a Peugeot’  has a nice beat to it, some of them have got some really good words in it and we always like going for the long ones.

P: I mean, Fumez [the Engineer]has done us some tremendous stuff. You’ve always gotta love your first one, which was ‘Shut Ya Mouth’ but ‘Dents’ is really, really… we just like that one.

B: Yeah, we like that one a lot. ‘Shut Ya Mouth’ is a very good number anyway. You’ll hear it tonight, with the speakers.

What about the freestyle [Plugged In] with Fumez that just took off online?

B: That was very big. That was big, big because he [Fumez] is very big himself, and when we did it we just didn’t know he was as big as he is. He’s pretty… famous, in his own right. And of course, it was him really that got us into the Leeds festival. That, that was nice you know, we did a couple of numbers at Leeds for about five minutes… and it took us about 14 hours to get there.

P: And he presented us with that double disc.

B: But yeah, so we only did one and a half songs, so it was quite a long way to go but it was pretty manic with 10,000 people there.

P: Absolutely. I absolutely loved it. And then we did Bristol.

B: Bristol was about 5000. That was pretty good, eh? That was good fun. We enjoyed that a lot.

P: The open-air festival was brilliant. That was a different kettle of fish, that one was just so warm. It was lovely.

Do you think that it’s the bigger the crowd, the better? Or sometimes is it better to have something smaller?

P: That’s an interesting question.

B: Well, actually, that Guildhall one was good wasn’t it? Because that was a small club and that just turned out to be very nice.

P: A bit more intimate. And then with a bigger crowd you can be a bit more wild!

B: But now I don’t know if we’ll be doing too many more small clubs like this one anymore, because we’re getting so well known now. Which is a shame really, but I don’t think we’re gonna do the small clubs. The reason that we’re doing them at the moment is to keep the fans happy who bought the tickets two years ago! Because you’ve just gotta do that, haven’t you?

P: It’s only right that we do these shows.

B: We had Warsaw come up the other day, now that would be nice as that would be a big club. A very big, big party.

P: Not Walsall in England, Warsaw in Poland!

B: Not Walsall, no!! Of course not bloody Walsall. Warsaw in Poland, init? We did Manchester last week. A good university place – that was good as they were very, very enthusiastic. The nice thing is is that we’re not a support act tonight, they’ve specifically come to see us. So with the Leeds festival and with the Tokyo World, they didn’t know… Well, they did know us, didn’t they? Because when we went on there were 5000-

P: Tokyo knew us. Tokyo knew us.

B: Yeah, they were going ‘Pete & Bas! Pete & Bas!’ just as we were coming on the stage, weren’t they?

P: We were known at Tokyo, weren’t we? Tokyo knew us, but Leeds didn’t know we were there. They caught us out – they caught us as we were getting ready to go in, the auditorium caught us didn’t they? And this sort of roar just went up.

B: Leeds Festival is just… so big! We got to the car park and were told ‘you can walk to the stage if you want’, and we didn’t even know which direction!

P: It was about a mile, weren’t it?!

B: ‘Walk to the stage’ – we were saying, ‘yeah, okay, but where is it?!’. They said, ‘Well, the best idea is if you get in your car and follow me’ so we drove through the woods for about a mile.

P: In his [Bas’] brand new car!

Do you guys have any kind of ultimate goal with music? Or is your approach more so just taking it as it comes?

B: We’re taking it as it comes, really. Because, you never know people might get fed up but for now they don’t seem to be, they seem to be growing, all the time! The more we do, the more we’ll do, I suppose.

P: I think that that’s a double edged sword, really. Yes, I want to take it as it comes, but I also want to be remembered, after. I want to put my footprint on… on history. And I think we are certainly doing that.

B: I think a film would be quite nice, wouldn’t it? A bit of travel though… be nice to get out. Be a lot of fans in Japan…

P: What, in Bristol? [laughs]

B: No, in Tokyo! I dunno what they’d make of us in Tokyo, but they do seem to like us don’t they?

Any specific favourite artists? I know you guys said that you just started off hearing things on the radio and thinking ‘we could do that!’, but does anyone stand out?

P: In any genre? I like the Rat Pack. Sinatra is really class. Going back to ska, I like the young lady who unfortunately killed herself… Amy Winehouse.

B: Yeah, very, very talented…

P: Yeah, she used to play in a really special way.

B: The thing with the old Rat Pack though is that all these old guys, they seem to just go on for too long so I suppose we had better don’t do the same! You know, you’ve gotta know when to chuck it! That’s not now though, that’s not now.

P: Now with music, for people doing it now… I like Stormzy, he’s great.

B: He’s a neighbour of mine, you know?! Well, not at the moment, but he’s moving into the area!

P: Youngboy… saw him in Brighton, he’s quite good.

B: Aitch. Aitch is very intelligent. Who else we got down here? We got Bugzy! Got a thing going on with him at the minute… we called him out the other day!

P: Anyway, anyway that’s another kettle of fish that is.

How long have you two known each other? Is this more of a recent friendship, because your chemistry within the music is always very strong!

B: We do get on very well, yeah.

P: Lifelong friends… for the past six years. I’ve often said to other people that if we had met one another when we were 40 years younger… we would’ve cause havoc!

B: We’re naughty boys but we don’t go with all of that sort of thing, you know?

Was there any specifically memorable moment when you realised that you could make a career out of grime?

P: I think for a memorable moment, the first time I really saw the smiles on the audience’s faces and the cheers-

B: Yeah, they all just light up. When we go out there tonight, you’ll see it and we just love it.

P: And when you can’t get through ‘em cause people want so many selfies or autographs, that is always thrilling!

I know that you said earlier that you have tried other genres before and have a preference for the grime you’re doing currently, but is there any other genre that you still have interest in experimenting with in the future?

P: He [Bas] did try and teach me the piano, but I gave up. In the end, he taught me how to play the triangle. But the triangle, I gave that up! I had about three goes at that. It was just one *ting* after the other!

B: You’ve got to try to approach the triangle from a different angle! The piano is a very tricky thing to learn. I’ve been playing pubs and things like that, that’s where I got started.

Is there a go to line you have for people who criticise your work or show no interest in it?

B: There’s quite a bit, yeah, but we don’t like to swear a lot in our music. We try to keep it nice, and jokey sort of, because we’ve done a lot of sort of naughty things in our time but we don’t want to just harp on about that. It’s best to keep it nice and clean, because a lot of our audience is young – we had a guy a few days ago who I think was 14, I’m not sure how he got in actually!

P: We do keep it clean-ish, now that we know that about our audience.

B: And tonight’s show is much earlier than we normally do, we don’t even normally start ’til about two in the morning!

P: But again, we are committed to this because of Covid. These shows would have been done two years ago.

Do you feel like Covid held you up?

B: Yeah, I think it sort of buggered up everything, didn’t it? Just made it all a rotten mess. It was horrible.

P: I’m quite surprised that we came out of the other side of it, to be honest. It could’ve completely destroyed everything we were working together to try to do. But we’re a good group of people working well together.

Do you wish that more people your age were getting involved in grime and rap?

B: Ooh, we don’t want too much competition!

P: No! We want the uniqueness.

B: Well, they’re welcome to try if they want, but I mean, it’s pretty unique isn’t it, for somebody our age to be doing this?

P: I heard that there is also an older woman doing it, called Angry Nelly or something like that.

B: Yeah. I think a lot of the old people I know wish they would do something stupid. They look at us and they think ‘Oh, we should do something like that’. It’s just taking that initial jump.

P: I think you’re right, just get up and jump. Don’t care what you look like, don’t care what the result is, just go for it, for fun. And if it’s good, then people will love it.

Do you guys change DJ often, or stick to the same?

B: No, we have kind of got a formulae. He knows what we’re doing, he is great at getting everyone excited before we come out.

Did it take some time to find the right DJ initially?

B: I think he’s getting better all the time, just as we are. We all get more polished as we go.

P: We struck very lucky, really.

Any plans for another album or EP?

B: Always plans for that – always.

P: Always! And we are working on our own platform. Once we get that sorted out, we’ve got a few songs ready to release.

B: Because if you put it on Spotify, you know, everybody under the sun could hear it but the payment never reflects that.

P: Once we sort our own platform, we’ll put new songs out, and then they’ll mainly be accessible via that platform.

Why should people listen to Pete & Bas?

P: Why should they listen to us? … ‘Cause if they don’t, there’ll be trouble!

B: You’ve just got to believe that you can get anything in this life that you want, but also make sure that other people get what they want.

P: Work hard, work hard, work hard!

B: Yeah, that’s become our motto, really.

Any advice to anyone who wants to get involved in an artistic career, like you guys?

P: It’s like… learning to run a marathon. And there are walls. When you run into a wall, you’ve just gotta get through it. Get through that wall, then you’re gonna hit another wall, get through that wall and eventually you’ll find you’re on the finish line. It’s just a question of hitting wall after wall, and just keep going for it. If you’ve got a good product, people will listen to it. Full stop. The other side of that coin is that if it’s bad, people will tell you, so you have to learn to take that on the chin too. And maybe change what you’re doing, but just keep going. And don’t take any of our sales.

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To conclude, it seems that the single from comedy-rap group Kurupt FM released in 2021, ‘Your Mum Loves Garage’, was only partially true. It turns out, in fact, that your grandparents not only love garage, but they also love Sinatra, and hiphop, and Amy Winehouse, and grime, and have taken to performing it to sold out crowds touring the country. Best of all of this is the fact that, they’re probably more talented lyricists and performers than you are, and many grime artists ever will be.

You can hear Pete & Bas’ most famous track to date, ‘Plugged In W/ Fumez the Engineer’ on YouTube below:

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Second year film student - film, music and poetry fan!

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