Watch Stewart Lee front Asian Dub Foundation for ‘Comin’ Over Here’ video

The comedian and the band's Steven Savale tell NME about their collaboration on the anti-racism anthem

Asian Dub Foundation have shared a new video for ‘Comin’ Over Here’, featuring comedian Stewart Lee taking on the role of frontman – check it out on NME first below.

The political Hackney band first shared the track back in September, featuring Lee’s words from his now legendary UKIP sketch from his Comedy Vehicle show. His skit lampoons the words of former party leader Paul Nuttall, and the old xenophobic cliche of different nationalities “coming over here”. In his surrealist bit, he traces it back to Anglo-Saxon immigrants and even recites the poem ‘The Wanderer’ from the era.

“Around 2013, I was listening to the radio one morning and Paul Nuttall came on,” Lee told NME of the sketch’s inspiration. “He was talking about how he wanted to leave the EU so that the most talented Bulgarians would stay in Bulgaria and help Bulgarians prosper, rather than coming to Britain to work here. Everything he said was slightly disingenuous and didn’t make a lot of sense historically. I was laughing at it as he was saying it, so I went home and transcribed it and just wrote an increasingly exaggerated version of it until it ended up with him not wanting anything to exist at all and hating all matter in the physical world!”

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Lee continued: “A lot of people feel very alienated by a lot of the political discourse at the moment and a lot of people have been told they don’t belong, so it’s a routine that allows people to laugh at that idea. There’s a bit in the middle that’s from an Anglo-Saxon poem that’s over 1,000-years-old and no one knows who wrote it. I love the fact that it’s ended up on a record in the year 2020, in a way that whoever wrote it could never have dreamed of.”

The comedian added that now was a fitting time to release the track, with the UK a month away from the end of the Brexit transition period.

“Every time Brexit is in the news, violence against racial minorities and people from the EU who are working here increases. One of my Polish friends has told her kids not to sit on the top deck of the bus any more. While I have made the joke that everyone who voted for Brexit were racists and cunts, for a lot of people even on the left it was a political thing about not being part of the federation.”

He added: “For a lot of people it’s not about racism. However, whatever happens in Brexit, it won’t change what’s happening in this song. You know, what’s the definition of Britishness? A lot of Asian Dub Foundation are Black and British, they’ve watched that argument play out in front of them and they’d have been at the sharp end of it when things were very different in the ‘70s and ‘80s.”

Describing his role as temporary frontman in the video, Lee said that he “looks like one of these old guys who used to be in a punk band in 1982, but now just plays the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool every year after being dragged out of retirement for a reunion tour”. Steven “Chandrasonic” Savale from the band however, agreed with his French record label that Lee actually “looks like a classy Johnny Rotten”.

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“We’re really about this meeting of worlds,” Savale told NME. “Stewart had to work to record the vocal in that way. He’s a standup, so he doesn’t have this very metronomic, powerful breakbeat when he’s normally on stage – but it turned out great. In times like this, it felt like the right thing to do.”

Speaking of why he chose Lee’s sketch for the track in the first place, Savale said:“It’s something that every Black and Asian person from my generation and beyond heard growing up – this mantra of ‘coming over here, taking our jobs, coming over here, taking our birds’. When I was a child, if you turned on the TV after 7pm, you’d just get all these comedians on ITV going, ‘…coming over here with their turbans and their stupid shoes’.

“I don’t think Stewart quite realised what he had clicked into right there. He saw all the UKIP pontificators banging on about all this kind of stuff, and he found a way to throw it back in their faces. Every person I know who’s heard it thinks it’s the best comedy sketch they’ve ever seen, even those who have never heard of Stewart.”

The Anglo-Saxon poem read by Lee also proved to be a moment of serendipity. “That poem is about a wanderer coming to a society who doesn’t understand him,” said Savale. When ADF was first formed, I remember us going into a museum in Dover and someone asking, ‘Why aren’t Anglo-Saxons considered immigrants or invaders?’ That’s another fantastic meeting of references.”

Savale added that he sadly believes the track and its message will long endure past the upcoming Brexit transition period.

“It’s very timely. None of us know what life’s going to be like in a month’s time,” he said. ” Let’s not forget about the attitudes that led to this situation, with misinformation about immigration spread by those with a vested interest. I never thought when I was growing up that the ‘coming over here’ mantra would still be being applied, but to a whole new set of people. Xenophobia has always been a tool that be used to misdirect people’s anger. It’s part of a longstanding tradition, unfortunately.”

Asian Dub Foundation’s new album ‘Access Denied’ is out now. Check back at NME for more of our interview with Stewart Lee.

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