A cooler blend of culture

Interview with Tjinder Singh of Cornershop

“Brimful of asha on the 45, well it’s a brimful of asha on the 45…” Nobody quite knew what Cornership were singing on their hit single Brimful Of Asha but we eventually figured it was about a 45rpm vinyl record that had been caught in the middle of a house party and somehow gotten warped and taken on the form of an ashtray… but who’s to know? Megan Lees chats with singer Tjinder Singh about his band’s new LP. And it’s brimful of eclectic sounds!


Congratulations on the new album, Urban Turban. How did the name come about?

Normally we sort of think about them and this time I didn’t and it just sort of came out quite quickly. I think it sort of emanated from the name of a Singles club.

Were there any particular musical inspirations behind Urban Turban?

You know ’cause we run our own label now and have done production from the start, the only inspiration is to do something that we’re very happy with and anything after that is an advantage of having a group that’s been around for two decades. It’s really a struggle for people to understand what were about and every inch of what we’ve done. There are a lot of positive things happening at the moment. We put a lot into our songs and we put a lot into what we do, we’re not just being in a group. It’s more about not being in a group especially when we started ’cause we were never that enamoured with what proper musicians did.

Your music is a combination of traditional Indian, Britpop and electronic dance. How do you describe it, especially in your new album?

Well I’ve never tried to describe it. I mean again that’s probably where we fall short at really getting what we do [across to people]. Everyone’s trying to describe it but we’re doing everything but describe it. But we do like all music; we’re big record collectors. I don’t think any one song, certainly on this album or certainly on the eight albums we’ve done, can be termed. There’s not one song that can be one element. There are always a few dimensions, so we can’t really describe it. 

There are some obvious cultural influences on the new album whilst still boasting a modern vibe. Do you feel your Indian heritage has helped shape the way you create music?

I think it’s had an influence, certainly. Punjabi folk music was the first music I was into. I’ve never learnt an instrument in my life and so I used to play a drum but I self-taught myself Asian drums. When I was about 10, I got into western music so that has been to my benefit as well because I didn’t have that catalogue of records my parents had.

Are there any Indian/Asian musical instruments used on Urban Turban?

No there isn’t. People seem to think that we’ve got sitar in every song we’ve ever done but we certainly have used it and we certainly like it.

It’s only been a year since Cornershop’s last album Cornershop And The Double ‘O’ Groove Of. Obviously a lot of hard work and effort has been put in to make Urban Turban in such a short amount of time…

Actually, it was probably the easiest album that we’ve done whereas the Double O album was gruelling. Not that there was bad animosity towards anyone; it’s just that it took very long. This album came together with no effort; we didn’t really think about it.

Your song Brimful Of Asha is the most well-known over here in Australia, do you get many requests to play it live?

Yeah, we can’t get away from that song. It’s on when the sun’s out and when the sun’s not out. It’s on all the time. We are expected to play it most times and we do. We’re very happy that something like that has done so well but we feel that’s what a lot of people have got their focus on. A lot of people stereotype us and say things like “Yeah, love the sitar in that song” but there’s no sitar in it. But I love the song; it’s very political. But if people are only expecting Brimful, they’ve got a very rude awakening coming! This album’s very different.


Cornershop’s Urban Turban is out now through Ample Play Records.

View the video for the first single Milkin’ It here.


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