DATE OF INTERVIEW:
THE BAD SHEPHERDS
8th July 2013
METAL DISCOVERY: I thought the inclusion of a bit of Madness was also a bit of a surprise so was ‘Our House’ always your first choice for a Madness song?
ADE: We’ve been playing that live for a long time and it’s just kind of sat in there. It’s always been very popular live. It makes sense as a song to sing. I mean, all these songs have to make sense coming out of my mouth as it were. You think of Madness as a poppy band but it has a kind of melancholy to it, that song, I think.
(Ade Edmondson on living the dream)
"The best gigs I’ve ever had in my life, in any kind of art form, have been with The Bad Shepherds."
The Bad Shepherds - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2009 Uncredited
Interview by Mark Holmes
Official The Bad Shepherds website:
THE BAD SHEPHERDS DISCOGRAPHY
Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera! (2009)
Thanks to Michael Eccleshall for arranging the interview.
Official The Bad Shepherds Facebook:
Official Adrian Edmondson Twitter:
Official Adrian Edmondson Facebook:
Official Adrian Edmondson website:
By Hook or By Crook (2010)
Mud, Blood & Beer (2013)
MD: Yeah, kind of a latent melancholy. That particular track, as well, is quite a radical rearrangement so did that one take quite a while before you arrived at something you were happy with?
ADE: It’s been through several stages, yeah. All the best songs have, really. We just keep trying to find things that fit that make it work.
MD: On the intro and first verse of that one, you’ve made it quite punky as well with the palm-muted riff, albeit in an acoustic context…
ADE: There’s a 4/4 rhythm going there which we don’t play very often!
MD: Then it turns into this massive, full-on folk thing…
ADE: Yeah, it works well live, though, because people who come to us aren’t generally folk aficionados… but we make them into folk aficionados! And that one just surprises them and we like surprise. Surprise is good!
MD: Definitely! And ‘Shipbuilding’ as well… for me, that’s probably the most sublime moment on the album because there’s a really nice haunting melancholy you’ve captured in the song that’s kind of befitting of the subject matter.
ADE: I really like The Unthanks and they’ve done a version of it recently. Although I really like them, I really hated their version of it because it was just far too maudlin; far too kind of “uhhhhh, we’re all dying”… [laughs] And, I thought, it just needs to be slightly angry because the lyrics are pissed off about this; it just needs a little bit more bite. So that kind of brought that about.
MD: I think you’ve captured the essence of that perfectly and your vocals sound noticeably heartfelt in that song so is that a subject you felt particularly passionate about?
ADE: I’m an easy blubberer. I can empathise with things quite easily.
MD: I’ve read Elvis Costello describe his lyrics as more of a warning sign than a protest song. Do you think of it in that sense as well?
ADE: Yeah, I think so too. I love the Robert Wyatt version but it’s slightly self-obsessed. And I think it is more of a protest song – it’s saying, “we don’t have to do this, we could do something else”.
MD: That’s the song that could’ve been the soundtrack to Thatcher’s funeral rather than ‘…The Witch is Dead’!
MD: That would’ve been apt on many levels, actually.
ADE: True, yeah!
MD: Some of the social commentary in the lyrics of the songs you’re doing is surprisingly still pertinent today. You know, you can apply that to so much of what’s going on politically today…
MD: So apart from obviously having fun with the music, do you feel you’re spreading the messages anew?
ADE: It was a phenomenal era of songwriting, I think. I can’t think of anyone who’s writing lyrics anything like that anymore. I really can’t. It just seems to have gone. I mean, everything’s so kind of solipsistic; everything’s obsessed with “I”. You know, we sing very few songs with the word “I” in because it’s just boring, listening to what people think about themselves!
ADE: That’s what’s wrong with so much music is just people moaning on about themselves.
ADE: Talk about the world. Talk about our world because this belongs to us all.
MD: I think you do still find that but you have to go to the underground and the more marginal subgenres of music. But, in terms of popular music, or what becomes popular, you’re right.
ADE: I think you have to go to folk music. Folk music’s full of it, you know.
MD: Well, indeed. I have to ask, in the press blurb I had through, you’re quoted as saying: “I’m embarrassed by our first album now – we’re much better than that.” Out of interest, what do you find embarrassing about an album that was pretty damn good?!
ADE: There’s some really bad playing on it. The arrangements are not too bad… I like the arrangements; we play quite a lot of those arrangements still. But there’s a guy who used to be in the band we got rid of because we hated him and I can hear his fucking shit 12-string all over it. You’re thinking, “ohhh, please, stop it!” There’s some horrible boingy boinging going on of someone trying to pretend they can play… and it’s just boring… [laughs]
MD: Never good.
ADE: I think we’re gonna delete that album as soon as we…
MD: [laughs] Delete it?! What, from history?!
ADE: Well, we’ll just not sell it anymore and then we’re gonna do live versions of the tracks we like.
MD: The three of you, before you got together, were already incredibly talented musicians… obviously, Troy and Andy are virtuosos at what they do and you’re pretty damn nifty yourself as well… but would you say you’ve grown in confidence as a band over the last five years?
ADE: Yeah. Well, I think I’m the one who’s moved the most. I mean, they’ve always been brilliant but I think I’ve got a lot better at what I do, and understand what I do, and contribute properly musically these days.
MD: So you can be more daring with your rearrangements of songs?
ADE: Yeah, but I just think I play better. I play a hundred per cent better and that makes the soundscape a lot more interesting.
MD: Back in 2010, you received quite a prestigious nomination for ‘Best Live Act’ at the BBC Folk Awards so was that kind of serious recognition and acceptance from the folk community really important to you and the band?
ADE: Well, it was very flattering. We did enjoy that because, you know, every genre’s little clique is troublesome! [laughs] And you can tread on people’s toes very easily. So that was heartening.
MD: Last time we spoke you said that, for you, working is about having as much fun as you can and when something stops being fun then you usually stop doing it. Is that ethos and sentiment behind the decision to abandon the new series of ‘Bottom’ and resume The Bad Shepherds?
ADE: It was, yeah. ‘Maximum joy’, that’s my motto!
MD: You’re embarking on another lengthy UK tour in November/December this year and you described the whole touring experience to me before as “romance” and even when you get, to quote you, “the really shit dressing rooms.” So does it still feel like you’re living the dream when you hit the road?
ADE: I’m afraid it does!
ADE: I still feel like a schoolboy! I do. I absolutely adore it. And we’ve got so much better at it as well and that just fills you with glee. I just love going on tour. The best gigs I’ve ever had in my life, in any kind of art form, have been with The Bad Shepherds.
MD: So that’s where your heart lies?
ADE: It’s just where it works. It’s just extraordinary.
MD: You can hear that kind of passion on the new album too. The final thing I wanted to ask – on all your travels, have you ever met a bad shepherd?!
MD: Or a good shepherd?!
ADE: [laughs] I am a shepherd myself; I used to have sheep. The Bad Shepherds name came about from… I’ve always liked the word ‘bad’, like Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds and I used to have my own band, Bad News. So that was just to sort of carry on from that and ‘bad’ seemed to represent punk and ‘shepherds’ seemed to represent folk so it’s just kind of worked for us. We’re also very lucky that when it started out, if you plugged ‘Bad Shepherds’ into a search engine, you got…
MD: …naughty vicars!
MD: We had that conversation before.
ADE: It’s a shame you don’t get that anymore.
MD: If you type that into Google now, the top 100 matches or whatever are all about your band so…
ADE: … obviously naughty vicars are not as important anymore!
MD: Okay, right, thank you so much for your time.
ADE: Okay. Cheers, man. Thank you very much.
MD: And good luck with the album once it’s out, and the tour.