Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Q & A with Michael Redmond

Very few stand up comedians have made me laugh till it hurts. Michael Redmond is a bit of a legend so I was delighted he was up for answering some questions...
Harry Pye: What are your fondest memories of the late Sean Hughes? Did you have much contact with him in recent years? Michael Redmond: "Sean and I arrived in London around the same time, by arrangement, to try our luck on the comedy circuit in 1987. We shared a grim bedsit together in Turnpike Lane for over a year. We were both on a quest to make a mark on the London comedy circuit. I remember it as an exciting, largely happy time.I didn't have a lot of contact with Sean in recent years as I've been living in Scotland for nearly twenty years. However, I did meet him at this years' Edinburgh festival where I was performing my show, coincidentally entitled, " I WROTE A JOKE IN 1987 " but he seemed a bit poorly."
In the late 1980s when I was a teenager I used to see you perform at clubs in South London such as Deptford's Albany Empire. Does South London have a place in your heart? "I have huge affection for London in general. It was the place that gave me an opportunity to perform comedy as there were quite a few great comedy clubs around then, Deptfords Albany Empire being one, which I think was run by the late Addison Cresswell. There were also Malcolm Hardee's Tunnel Club, The Red Rose in Finsbury Park and of course The Comedy Store. Great times!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RnrHaMa4xnE Who have been your favourite M.C.s and comperes? Who was always fun to work with? What qualities should a good compere have? "I would have to say Arthur Smith was/is the doyen of comperes and always good fun. Ivor Dembina always did a great job at the Red Rose Club as well. I think the job of a compere is to make the audience relax and get them focused for the acts, as well as being funny. I think it's probably the hardest job in comedy and hugely under-rated."
What's your idea of a perfect day or brilliant evening? "Beautiful wine, beautiful food, and if there's a beautiful woman available as an added bonus."
Are there any politicians alive today that you admire or would like to meet? "Frankly...NO!"
Did you ever get into the plays of Harold Pinter? "I remember occasionally people saying that my stage act was similar to a character in a Harold Pinter play, but the truth is I have never seen any of his plays. I haven't made a point of avoiding them in particular but I rarely go to the theatre. I don't know if it's because you're sitting in the dark but anytime I've gone, I've usually ended up falling asleep."
Do you like the line "But I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now" from Bob Dylan's My Back Pages - do you relate to Dylan / own any of his albums? "I do love that line and had never heard it before. I realise Dylan wrote some great lyrics but the if I'm honest, the sound of his singing voice always grated on me. It always reminded me of a vacuum cleaner. When I was growing up, my icons were comedians rather than musicians. My hero is Peter Cook..." If dolphins are supposed to be as clever as humans, then name me a fucking dolphin who's ever written a decent stage Play "...or words to that effect."
What kind of comedy films or radio shows did your parents enjoy? Was your home a happy one? "My father loved the Marx brothers films, Groucho in particular, and I think that was my first introduction to comedy films. I loved the madness and chaos of them and some of Groucho's one liners were fantastic. I also loved The Goon Show on radio. It was genius and totally ground breaking. My childhood wasn't particularly unhappy, shall we say!"
Is there a stand-up comedian around now that you feel inferior to? Is there anyone you would just refuse to go on stage after they'd done their act? "I wouldn't say that I feel inferior to anyone else as such, but I can stand back and admire other comedians with a degree of healthy envy . I have yet to meet any comedian whom I wouldn't follow on stage."
What are you working on at the moment? Do you have any big 5 year plans? "I was recently commissioned by Channel 4 to write a sitcom pilot and I just submitted the final draft this week. It's set in a small town in Ireland and centres around the somewhat dysfunctional characters that can inhabit small towns."
What's the punchline to your favourite joke? "Which came as a bit of a shock to my parents who were both Protestants."
Have you been lucky in love? "At times lucky, at times extremely unlucky!"
I've attached 3 j-pegs. One is a painting by George Stubbs
("A Gentleman Upon A Grey Hunter" 1781), the second is a painting from 1967 by Bridget Riley called "Cataract",
the third is a painting Philip Guston made in 1969 called "The Studio" - which of these three impresses you most and which do you have the least time for? "I like the one called " The Studio ". ..not sure why. Good colours and big hands!. I don't like the one of the hunter on the horse, fair too formal for my taste."
What is your idea of beauty in nature? "When the sun shines on everything. I live in Glasgow and love the place but the sky is very often grey and gloomy."
Michael Redmond's Sunday Service takes place at 9pm on the 22nd October at 333 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, Glasgow, G3 6NG For more info: http://www.thestand.co.uk

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Extricate Blogspot

Olly Beck, Humphrey Fordham, Rebecca Hughes, Stephanie Moran and Ben Willmott have all contributed excellent reviews to http://theextricate.blogspot.co.uk/ If you have a few words to say about a book, a concert, an exhibition, film or show or if you want to write an obituary or tribute to an artist drop me a line at: harry_pye@hotmail.com
So far Extricate has featured reviews of the photographs of Terrance Donnovan, a play by Lorca, an exhibition by Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun, Roy Orbison's Black and white Night, and Victor Lewis Smith's documentary on Peter Cook.
What films, records, shows would you like to spread the world about?

Saturday, 14 October 2017

10 paintings by Harry Pye and Rowland Smith

In no particular order here are 10 paintings Harry Pye made in collaboration with Rowland Smith.
TEN: "Let's Get It On" (2017)
NINE: "Weird Nightmare" (2016)
EIGHT: "Whose Go Is It Again?" (2009)
SEVEN: "Sleepless in South London" (2006)
SIX: "Dial P for Pablo" (2016)
FIVE: "Angel of Death" (2015)
FOUR: "let's Make a Better World" (2016).
THREE:"The Power of Suggestion" (2011)
TWO: "Breakfast in Bed" (2008)
ONE: "There's Nothing Weird or Creepy about John Travolta" (2017)

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Q & A with Pete Astor

It seems hard to believe 30 years have passed since Pete Astor and his band The Weather Prophets released their classic L.P "Mayflower." (Above photo of Pete by Sussanne Ballhausen)
Lately I've enjoyed rediscovering The Weather Prophets and recommend "Mayflower" plus the Temperance Hotel compilation and the live album "87". I like Pete's songs in which he questions why the rain always falls on him and his desire to sing like Frankie Lymon. I also like the fact he can record covers of songs by Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen that are slightly better than the originals. Since 1990 Astor has released a plethora of solo albums such as "Submarine" and "Spilt Milk" that music critics have raved about. He is now signed to Tapete Records. Here is a recent e-mail interview... (the photo below was taken by Pat Graham).
Harry Pye: Do you listen a lot to the radio and read most music magazines to find out about new bands? What was the last great thing (by a contemporary act) that you heard and thought was brilliant? Pete Astor: "I listen to 6Music lots, also NTS. There are so many good things, it’s hard to know where to begin. Music always keeps surprising me in how it manages to get under my skin. Some current and absolute favourites: M. Ward, Cat Power, Baxter Dury, Wilco, Hamilton Leithauser, Devendra Banhart."
I recently got a bit addicted to a song you wrote many years ago called Almost Prayed. I was wondering do you personally rate that particular song, is it a song you still include on your set list when you play live? "Yes, I’m proud of that song. It still makes sense. And so, I still play it when I do shows."
You wrote a book about Richard Hell's debut album Blank Generation - which other classic albums do you hold in high regard? "Always changing, but this afternoon, the essentials are… Bob Dylan – Love and Theft, Michael Nesmith – And the Hits Just Keep On Coming,M. Ward – The Transfiguration of Vincent, The Velvet Underground – VU, The Grateful Dead – Cornell 5/8/77 (Live), Cat Power - Sun,Beck – Sea Change, Townes Van Zandt – For the Sake of the Song, Jerry Lee Lewis – Live at the Star Club, Iggy and the Stooges – Raw Power."
You were signed to Creation records for some time. Were the Creation years the happiest days of your life? Which other labels have you enjoyed being signed to? Who are the good guys in the music business? "I definitely don’t ever think of the past via any kind of historical filter – it was what it was – as ever, there were always good days and bad days, worse times and better times. My experiences with record companies has been actually always been pretty much good. Whether by luck of judgement, the main labels I’ve worked with have been decent and good people, lovers of music first and foremost. So, that started with Creation, continued with Matador and Heavenly and more recently with Fortuna Pop. I’ve now signed with Tapete – home of Robert Forster, The Cleintele, Lloyd Cole and many interesting others. And they have exactly the same feel and passion as the others I’ve worked with: the music comes first."
Have you ever had any regrets about sharing as much as you do in your lyrics? What percentage of the songs you've released do you wish you could change or delete? "I grew up inspired by people like Iggy, where the central part of what he did was giving all emotionally. It soon became clear that I was not going to be able to perform or write like that, the idea of opening up in songs remained as being key. If I’m going to make something worthwhile, useful and valuable, then I have to access real feeling to make the songs. This doesn’t mean everything is biographically true, but it does me that it’s true to experience."
Do you have any ideas where your ideas come from? Do some of your songs feel like gifts that came from another place? "I think what I do comes from an immersion in a particular musical culture and a whole load of work. Both these things happen without too much conscious effort – the immersion has always been there; the work on songs, and playing and singing is something that is a basic and fundamental pleasure and need, along with breathing and eating and sleeping."
The artist Paul Klee said that he thought genius was childhood regained - do you think your best work involves you becoming childlike in some way? "Maybe. But I think the best work (including Paul Klee’s) comes from the adult mind, perhaps accessing some of the openness that you have as a child, but it’s the adult understanding that makes the genius work happen."
Are you the kind of song writer who is always writing something? What's the longest you've gone without writing a song? "Writing songs is just something that is always in my head. Moving words, tunes and ideas around in my brain is something I’ve done ever since I was a teenager. However, you can choose to make a song out of it, or let it coalesce over time. So, it’s not really a clear border between writing a song or not writing a song. Having said that, in the last few years it works out at around 40-50 finished songs of which I chose a small percentage of the best to put out and play." (Photo below by Sussanne Ballhausen)
Do you have a favourite comedian or comedy film? Do you have any favourite jokes? "Tony Hancock would be the comedian; the Out of Towners would be the film. Buddha had a brilliant joke once, although I’m not sure it’s that funny: ‘The mistake we make is we think we have time.’
What are you working on at the moment? And what will be your next release? "I’ve got a new single, Water Tower, out on Tapete in November, with James Hoare (Ultimate Painting, Proper Ornaments and Veronica Falls) who made Spilt Milk with me, on guitar. And I’ve got the The Wave Pictures’ rhythm section of Franic Rozycki and Jonny Helm on the bass and drums. Here’s a preview link: https://soundcloud.com/tapete-records/sets/pete-astor-water-tower-preview I’m also finishing a new album with the same line-up. It’s called One for the Ghost, and will be out on Tapete in the new year."
Which singers, musicians, songwriters or producers would you most like to work with? "I’ m afraid I’m going to say the people I’ve been recording with – it’s hard to imagine a band that works and feels better. Working with James, Franic and Jonny I can get the songs together really quickly and capture those early magic moments. And I’m doing it at Soup Studios with Simon Trought and Giles Barrett who I’ve done lots of recording with and are a pleasure to record with. The studio also doesn’t have the traditional hospital/ sound lab feel which is great for working in and getting the right feel." There's a line from "Up The Hill Down The Slope" that inspired a book title and recent song by Saint Etienne. Can you remember coming up with the line about being hungry for the prize / did you nick it of someone else? "It came from going to the fair in Alexandra Park and conflating the hunger for everything – especially attention - that you have at 23, with the fairground games. Not that I ever won the massive teddy bear or anything else."
The Weather Prophets got on the cover of NME, championed by Janice Long and featured on Whistle Test etc., but what aspect of being in the band gave you the most satisfaction? What felt like success? "It was great just doing it, making music, being creative, hanging out. And, although it was hard to see that at the time, we made strong connections with people because of the music we made. And, we can now see many of those connections still holding strong." For more info visit: http://peteastor.com/

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Down to Margate to see Howard Dyke

(With a little help from KCC Artist Investment Fund)The splendid Bon Volks studio in Margate were in the position of being able to offer free studio space, free accommodation and the chance to exhibit to half a dozen great artists. Last week I was delighted to catch up with the wonderful Howard Dyke and see his latest work. For more info visit: www.bonvolks.com
Above: Howard's back
Above: Detail number one
Above: Detail number two
Above: A side to Howard we don't normally see
Above: Detail number three
Above: Another close-up
Above: Me in a good mood. Find out more about Howard's work by visiting here: http://howarddyke.com/