No nonsense from the Birmingham spoken-word MC.
PolarBear is Steven Camden, hip-hop artist and spoken word poet. Camden embraces a wonderfully plain style of spoken word poetry that's often more like no-nonsense hip-hop. His minimal style and unsettlingly straightforward and blunt lyricism make him shine out of the dross of a lot of spoken word. PolarBear is still unsigned – "There ain't no-one pressing spoken word" – but you can buy his work from his Myspace. For now, though, check out "Fingers".
Dazed Digital: How long have you been making music and why did you start?
Steven Camden: I've been writing lyrics since I was at school just because most of my ideas came in words but I first started messing around with actual tracks when my best mate put Reason on his computer. We started making tracks, working out guitar and keys parts and rhyming just because we could. We didn't really think about taking it anywhere, it was just more fun than getting hammered and fighting. Then about four years ago we started thinking about trying to get stuff put out. Then by accident I fell into spoken word.
DD: Describe your style.
SC: It really depends on the project I'm working on. I guess the influence of hip hop is evident because that's a part of who I am. I'm obsessive about the rhythms of speech and patterns and I like painting pictures. If we're looking for a tag I'd go with 'no-nonsense'. I really hate wasting words.
DD: Favourite piece of equipment?
SC: Doing what I do I'm happy with my trusty Shure SM58 and something to plug it into. There's so much crazy gear nowadays to play with in the studio and on the live thing, but I'm a pretty simple person.
DD: Musical hero?
SC: I like anyone who does what they want regardless, so there are loads of people I respect. I don't really have heroes except maybe Maradona but lyrically I'm a big fan of Neil Young, Aesop Rock, Pharoahe Monch, Nick Drake, Carole King. I guess creatively you can't really mess with Bjork either. I'll stop there.
DD: 2007 Personal highlight?
SC: I'd say finishing and performing my hour-long story "If I cover my nose you can't see me". It's the biggest thing I've done so far, writing- and performance-wise, and doing it to a full house in my hometown was quality. Looking forward to it touring later this year.
DD: What do you want to achieve in 2008?
SC: Sounds lame but I just want to get better. I don't like doing what I've already done. This year that means finishing my new music project, which is a filmic EP told in word and musical chapters. Excited about finishing that. Finally getting some Afrobear material out which is my long coming hip-hop project. Touring "If I cover my nose you can't see me" to some high profile venues. Basically it's been a couple of years now doing stuff and this year things will hopefully come to light.
DD: Favourite musical experience?
SC: From a punter point of view I'd have to say the Roni Size and Reprazent gig I went to in Leeds back in 1997. It was their first tour and they'd just won the Mercury Music Prize and it went off. Properly. All of them at their computers, in a square with a live band and vocals and Dynamite tearing it up. I had a bad back the next day. Quality. In terms of performing, being part of the OneTaste collective that rocked a sold-out Jazz Café last year was pretty nice.
DD: What do you want the world to know about you?
SC: That I'm good at what I do and that I do what I want. Oh, and that I'm from Birmingham
DD: To make music, what do you need to do?
SC: Listen. Ideas aren't always loud. And trust your gut. Make it for you first and hopefully a couple other people will feel it too.