Friday, 21 June 2013

Q & A with Phill Jupitus

I first became aware of Phill Jupitus in the mid 1980s around the time of Red Wedge and The Housemartins and things like that. (As you probably know already) Mr Jupitus is a key member of the splendid Idiot Bastard Band, he has directed great pop videos for artists such as Billy Bragg, he's a decent cartoonist, he's been an honorary member of two of the best British music acts of all time (The Bonzos, and The Blockheads), he's written brilliant sleevenotes for Ian Dury compilations, he's penned the forwards of books about The Specials, he's been a DJ, a performance poet, a stand-up, he's performed in the hit musical Hairspray and he's been a regular of TV shows like Never Mind The Buzzcocks and Q.I. and he's been on loads of radio things too blah blah blah. There are worse people in the world than Phill Jupitus...
The Rebel: How are things going for you at the moment - are you a happy man? Phill Jupitus: "Very much so. I'm taking more chances with the work these days. Stand up appears to be in a quite inflexible state, so I'm messing with my own work. I do a lot more improvisational stuff now. Basically that's what I do on the panel shows is mess around in the room, so I've recently been working on ways of doing the same thing in a live setting." When you're touring which places do you most look forward to visiting and why? "Its definitely the places I've never been before. I try to spend time in towns and actually have a look around. In the early days of touring I referred to the gigs as 'muggings' because you arrive, do the show and leave. I'm trying to be a bit more laid back now. I like to arrive early or stay later and take a look around. I finally got to see more of Lincoln and Durham this year, and Monmouth and Hay-on-wye looked amazing and I was only sorry I didn't have more time there… I'm at a level now where I'm never going to do the O2, so why not as a solo performer do small gigs?"
I loved the interview you did with Ian Dury (I think it was the last interview he ever gave). I often think about things Dury said, particularly comments to do with not feeling sorry for yourself such as: "Just go out there and be wonderful" are there any particular things he said to you personally that are often on your mind? "It wasn't anything he said to me directly, but after he died, the late Charlie Gillett once said to me "Ian really liked you. He loved your enthusiasm." I was taken aback by that, and it genuinely made me worry a lot less about decisions I made in life. I try to embrace the positives."
What were the highlights of being a member of the Bonzo Dog band and what are your fave tracks on the For The Love Of Dogs album? "That was a very surreal experience, to end up touring with a band you listened to as a child. Me and Ade (Edmondson) would stand in the wings pinching each other and giggling like naughty schoolboys saying "OH MY GOD WE'RE IN THE BONZOS." There was one utterly beautiful moment when we were travelling north up the A1 and passing Gateshead. The old timers were all at the front of the bus and we suddenly heard this murmuring amongst them "It's round here somewhere…" "I think it's coming up soon…" Then suddenly "THERE SHE IS!" As The Angel Of The North hove into view, and the second it did, all of the Bonzos rose to their feet to applaud the art. It was insanely moving."
(Above Image: Phill on stage with Rodney Slater from The Bonzo Dog band) What's a typical day for you at the moment - how often do you get to relax and do nothing? "There's a lot of stuff going on at the moment. I have three shows at The Edinburgh Fringe which I am gearing up for. I'm filming a kids TV show. If I ever do have moments of free time there's stuff I want to be doing. I have an idea for an art project I want to do. I need to write more poetry. My remaining time is limited and there's stuff to do. I saw Richard DeMarco speak at The University Of Southampton when he was receiving an honorary degree two years aground he spoke about how we owe it to ourselves and others to be creative and make art. That really hit home with me, and it helped me to shift the emphasis on a lot of stuff I do. I don't read enough. I feel bad about that. On the upside, I barely watch television any more."
Which of your characters is more easy to slip in and out of (Kurt Schiffer or Vernon Herschel Harley?) "The character thing is interesting because they very much take over your personality when you're onstage. But also I'm kind of at the mercy of the nature of the questions. When I did Hull Truck, someone at the theatre came up to me and said, that a lot of comedy promoters put shows on in Hull in order to find out what a bad night will be like as the audiences aren't very enthusiastic. Hand on heart, I had the best and most imaginative questions from the Hull crowd. Vernon I find easier because he's like a posh version of me on 11 with better anecdotes."
Does the music of Elvis Costello mean more to you than the music of Elvis Presley - in your eyes, which Elvis is king? "Unfair question. Presley has the weight of history. But Costello wins out because he's been along with me for the ride. Also he writes all his own stuff, so that really speaks to me." You collaborate with Rhoda (of The Bodysnatchers/Special AKA)on the new Specialized 2 album sold in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. What's Rhoda like to work with / would you like to collaborate more? "That would be nice but it was a bit of a one off thing, and to be brutally honest I'm a shit bass player. Rhoda's a very old friend and it was absurd fun working with her and I'd do it again in a heartbeat, but I sense that my diary will stymie the idea..."
You work with Stephen Fry on Q.I are you shocked when you read about him in the press talking about his bipolar - do you ever discuss comments he makes in the press or do you see your job on Q.I as being there to make jokes and not interfere? "I'm certainly not shocked, as he's always been incredibly forthright all his life about his nature, and such tragedies are part of the territory. I try not to pry with Stephen as enough people want a piece of him and it's a queue that I don't want to join. He is one of the loveliest people I've ever worked with but that's all we do, meet in the QI studio a couple of times a year. I worry about the silly old sod from time to time and wish I was closer, but like I say, he's got friends and is loved. So I'll take what I have."
The whole Go Disc records years (directing Billy Bragg videos, helping promote The Housemartins etc) looked like fun. Do you look back with joy at those days or was it just hard work? Are you happier now? "Its a bit of a double edged sword is the Go! experience. Some of the best and worst times of my working life. Billy Bragg was apprehensive about me working there and four years later I understood why. I didn't buy a record for two years after leaving. I was put off music. That said some of the people I worked with at GO! are some of my closest friends today. I'm a different bloke than the lad who was at Go! Discs, but I'd say happier yeah." (Notes... Phil Jupitus is currently on tour with his show "You're Probably Wondering Why I've Asked You Here" in which he plays 3 characters: Veron Herschel Harley, Kurt Schiffer and a deceased version of himself). The Scotsman described the show as a "huge amount of fun". As mentioned P.J. also appears on the track "Too Nice To Talk To" on the new Specialized compilation...
The Double CD costs just £17.50 (which includes price n P+P)all money goes to the Teenage Cancer Trust. Find out more by visiting:

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