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Idris Elba talks music, 'Luther' and living in a caravan

Forget Bond – we just wanted to ask renaissance man Idris Elba about remixing Skepta’s ‘Shutdown’ (and John Luther’s big woolly coat)

Idris Elba by Rob Greig

How did you end up remixing Skepta’s ‘Shutdown?
‘I really loved the tune and wrote to Skepta on Twitter and said “Let me on the remix!” and before you know it they sent me an instrumental. I did it, sent it in to them and they loved it. I didn’t know Skep before, not at all, and I haven’t met him since – we talked on the phone.’

Why has grime been so massive this year?
‘I think it was bound to blow, because it has such exciting new artists and there’s a real culture of it. Real superstars are being formed.’

But it’s always been around – it just feels as though the world has suddenly noticed.
‘Yeah, but things like that take time to permeate. There’s a book called ‘Outliers’ by Malcolm Gladwell and it talks about how everything that is really good takes about 10,000 hours to form. So any great artist, from Skepta to Ed Sheeran, has put in so many hours before it actually pops. That’s probably why grime has come into fruition now, because it’s been there for ages: it’s been real and it’s been alive and it’s been building.’


‘Not to sound pompous or anything, but I don’t really care what people think’

How did your new album come about?
‘To be honest, I just wanted to continue making music around characters. Luther is a character that I loved and I felt that I could get away with expressing what it’s like to be him. It’s quite an ambitious concept: not a soundtrack but a piece of Luther. My thoughts on Luther are all in those eight tracks, one way or another.’

Do you find that people are hostile to the idea of the musician-slash-actor?
‘Not to sound pompous or anything Miriam, but I don’t really care what people think.’

What’s your favourite music to play in the car?
‘I actually like playing reggae in my car. The doors rattle with the bass and it makes me very happy. It reminds me of driving with my dad.’

You grew up in Hackney. How have you seen 
it change?
‘It’s just grown, hasn’t it? I think it has still got some culture left behind, but it’s definitely growing into a bigger, trendier metropolis. If I was the mayor of Hackney, I would be happy, but a lot of people aren’t happy.’

How important is London 
to ‘Luther’?
‘London is built into the fabric of “Luther”. We make sure that the city and the character of the city come across in the film, so it definitely feels like a London show.’

Is Hackney where you’re based now?
‘I’m actually sort of in a caravan if I’m honest. I’m not really based anywhere. Really nomadic.’ 

John Luther's woollen coat has become an iconic piece of clothing - even my mum is into it - but at the end of season three he threw it in the Thames. What’s going on?
‘Miriam, you’re asking all of the deep, deep, deep questions. All I can say is that Luther is like a superhero, and most superheroes never change their clothes. If they do it’s a really interesting moment – but as all superheroes do, they come back… and what do they come back in? No spoilers! You have to watch the show.’

Luther’s physical presence is crucial. He fills every scene he appears in. Is the set deliberately a little bit small?‘
Let me get this straight. Are you asking me if the build smaller sets on “Luther” to make me look bigger? The answer is no, darling. I am all that. All that brawn.’

Idris Elba drops ‘Murdah Loves John’ on Dec 15.

Read an interview with Dizzee Rascal

Dizzee Rascal talks grime in 2015

Dizzee Rascal has been weirdly absent from the dialogue around grime in 2015 – until now. The east London MC talks candidly about the grime resurgence and going pop.

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By: Jon Cook

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