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10th October 2012
We enjoy a little light relief here at Metal Discovery and what better way to indulge such a proclivity than with the medium of the comedy song. Cue The Idiot Bastard Band. Idiots? Bastards? Far from it. The men behind this attention-grabbing moniker are none other than esteemed comedy performers Ade Edmondson, Phil Jupitus, Rowland Rivron and Neil Innes. And beyond their comic personas, each of them have become well renowned for their adept musical talents with careers as varied as the eclectic repertoire of original compositions and cover songs they've forged within the context of this exciting new venture. Commencing life as a sporadic collective in the back of a London pub two years ago where their somewhat informal shows were billed as "live rehearsals", it seems The Idiot Bastards are about to become a little more serious (in intention, that is, not aesthetic) with a twenty date UK tour as 2012 winds to a close. Ahead of the shows, Rowland spoke to Metal Discovery about the band and their imminent tour as well as random divergences into tales of scaling hotel exteriors, jumping from balconies, his rather impressive 'Weapon of Choice' winning routine on BBC's 'Let's Dance for Sport Relief' just a few months ago and, of course, drumming...
METAL DISCOVERY: So then, The Idiot Bastard Band, that’s quite an attention grabbing name – was that the intention there?
ROWLAND: I don’t think so. Originally, we were just getting together, just to try out some original numbers that Ade Edmondson had written and Phil Jupitus had written and Neil Innes has got a slew of about six hundred songs he’s written! So it wasn’t intended to be anything other than just getting together and air some numbers in front of some people and it sort of gradually gained momentum. And we’ve saddled ourselves with that name now so that’s how it’s gonna be. And it also means that we do very little mainstream publicity on television and radio!
(Rowland Rivron on his "ridiculous tribute to the drummer Sandy Nelson")
"...Sandy’s classic surf song, ‘Let There Be Drums’...we do our version of it. When Sandy did it, he had a sort of twenty eight tom drum kit. I’m doing it on two congas!"
The Idiot Bastard Band - promo shot
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2012 Martin Black
MD: It’s not supposed to be self-reflective in any way I presume?!
ROWLAND: I don’t think so. I wouldn’t like to think so! The poster’s got a picture of four monkeys and it’s called The Idiot Bastard Band… absolutely nothing to do with us!
MD: Of course! I gather you formed in 2010 and you originally had a Monday night residency in the back of a London pub?
ROWLAND: Yeah, it was, it was exactly that. We had a month of Mondays in The Wilmington Arms on Rosebery Avenue in Islington which is just down from the Sadler’s Wells Theatre. They’ve got a really nice size room in the back of the pub and they’ve got a bar in the room so we just charged a fiver to get in and people could come and have a drink and sit with us while we tried to work out these numbers. It was literally that… we were rehearsing in front of a live audience.
MD: And you played a few shows at the Water Rats in Kings Cross as well?
ROWLAND: Well, we did a month of Mondays at the Wilmington and then, about six months later, we did a month of Mondays at the Water Rats because it was a slightly more muso-orientated venue and I think they could get us a few more people in. So that was stage two; we were taking it to the next level… sort of. Everything was being done on the back foot really; we weren’t chomping at the bit to get anywhere. It was a tentative thing.
MD: Now you’re making the transition into a full-on touring band, how did that come about? Was there a lot of promoter interest that prompted you to do that?
ROWLAND: The guy that promotes Ade’s The Bad Shepherds band, there was a lot of interest in us doing stuff out of London because we’d only ever performed in London, literally within the congestion charge, so small was it! And what that was, he said, “look, what about if I put a tour together and you say whether you fancy it or not and then I’ll go ahead.” So he put these dates together and we sort of liked the idea of it because it wasn’t too long and everyone knew the venues. In the meantime, we got about three or four festivals over the summer so we bowled up to these festivals. So we were getting together every four or six weeks and we just realised that what we needed to do was get some momentum going; you know, play every night for a period of time where you can actually hone the tunes and get ‘em locked down. We were turning up to festivals, soundchecking for ten minutes and then just launching into these numbers that we hadn’t played together for six weeks. So it was quite hairy!
MD: So a little element of blagging it…
ROWLAND: Yeah, yeah…
MD: For want of a better phrase!
ROWLAND: But, what we did realise is that we are sufficiently musically proficient to pull it off.
MD: Of course, definitely.
ROWLAND: So that was good. But we are really looking forward to playing every night and really getting stuck into these numbers because if you do one gig and then you don’t do anything for six weeks, you lose the gist of it and everything.
MD: It’s almost like several mini-tours because it’s Thursday to Sunday batches of dates…
ROWLAND: Yeah, it’s four on and three off.
MD: So I guess that fits in with people’s schedules if they’re doing other stuff?
ROWLAND: Yeah, exactly. And, also, I think Neil didn’t like to be away… he didn’t want to do a two week run without getting home sort of thing. So it’s all worked out very well and this is a bit of a tester. If this works out okay and people like what we do, that means we’ve got places to go back to.
MD: Definitely.
ROWLAND: The guys are writing songs constantly; every week there’s one or two new songs. So the plan is to do this tour, if that works… because we were supposed to be going to Australia straight after Christmas to do a load of gigs down there but Ade’s committed to doing another series of ‘Bottom’ with Rik Mayall so that’s been pushed back. So, hopefully, we’ll be going in the spring or the summer. And then there’s the round of festivals again because we quite like doing them. We were well received.
MD: Ah yeah, you can’t beat a good festival.
ROWLAND: No, exactly. We’re still very much enjoying playing the songs and doing the gigs. Ade, particularly, really loves it because when he was doing The Bad Shepherds, every song he was singing and he was fronting everything. And not me so much but Neil, Ade and Phil go out pretty much on their own and are responsible for the whole evening and, with this, it’s nice to be in a band where you can throw the focus and support somebody else rather than be the centre of attention for the whole evening.
MD: I think I read that Southampton’s sold out so I gather pre-sales are pretty good for the tour?
ROWLAND: Yeah, we’re getting there. We’re not doing too well in Cardiff and Scotland… I think I might have to fabricate some Scottish ancestry!
MD: It’s been said that you never play the same set twice – will that be the case on tour or will it all be a little more structured?
ROWLAND: It’s not so much the same set; we’ve never played the same set of songs the same way twice! With six week intervals between gigs, a lot of us sort of vaguely remember the songs so we always do our version of each song. But, I think, once we’re gigging we’re gonna be honing that down to a regular thing, to a regular set, but introducing new numbers that the guys have written over the summer. What Ade wants to do is do a new number every night but I don’t know if we’ll be able to pull that off. So every night will be a different set in as much as we’ll have a new number. But what we quite like is that idea the audience come with us on a journey while we discover whether we can do this number or not.
MD: Definitely, that’s part of what’s expected, I guess, so that’s cool.
MD: I’ve seen some footage online of your shows and there seems to be quite a bit of heckling going on from the audience…
ROWLAND: Oh yes!
MD: What’s the most inventive or best heckle you remember receiving?
ROWLAND: Oh, I don’t know. I’m useless with heckles and all of those are fielded expertly by Phil, a past master. Whenever somebody shouts, it usually boils down to: “Shut up, go home!” Or the other one is: “If we wanted you to contribute we’d have called you in at the soundcheck!”
MD: [laughs] Marvellous! You seem to heckle each other as well on stage and, as well as drums, you’re credited with “rude shouting”!
ROWLAND: I’m finding that difficult to come to terms with! I do have a song with a few rude words but I’m not so sure if there’s rude shouting. There may be. Whoever cited that was maybe at a gig where there was a particular evening of vulgarity going on! But it’s not the norm.
MD: That was billed on your own website!
ROWLAND: Oh really?! Maybe I need to brush up on some Old English obscenities!
MD: Of course, yeah, more subtle kind of heckling!
ROWLAND: Yeah, exactly!
MD: Is there a pretty relaxed vibe in the band about what songs you do, like is there always unanimous agreement when someone wants to do a particular song?
ROWLAND: No, what we’re doing is, at the moment, because we really haven’t played that much together, we’re still trying numbers in different orders and trying to fashion a set that flows well. With humorous numbers, you’ve got to be careful which type of numbers you put together. So there is a little bit of an art to getting the momentum, and the fast and slow, and getting that worked out. We are still honing that, if you will, but I’m sure once we get half a dozen gigs under our belt within a week…
MD: …ah, then you’ll be on a roll.
ROWLAND: Yeah, that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking forward to being on a roll and on a couple of local barrels of fine ale!
MD: [laughs] Always good! I gather you do a version of Pink Floyd’s ‘Bike’…
MD: Maybe the more obvious Syd Barrett number you could be doing is ‘Effervescing Elephant’ – I don’t know if you know that old tune from his short-lived solo career?
ROWLAND: No, I don’t know. I’ve got a friend who’s a mad keen fan of it who played in The Bootleg Beatles – he played that on my show once and I only vaguely remember it.
MD: It’s a good comedy number.
ROWLAND: Yeah, it’s a tongue-twister, isn’t it.
MD: You’ve written what’s been described as “a ridiculous tribute to the drummer Sandy Nelson.” What’s that song all about?
ROWLAND: That’s Sandy’s classic surf song, ‘Let There Be Drums’, which I pay tribute to Sandy. Adrian and I… Ade on bass and myself on drums, we do our version of it. When Sandy did it, he had a sort of twenty eight tom drum kit. I’m doing it on two congas!
MD: [laughs] A minimalist version!
ROWLAND: A minimalist version that, yeah, goes awry! You have to see it to believe it!
MD: Fitting for the aesthetic of The Idiot Bastard Band no doubt.
ROWLAND: Yeah, yeah, exactly.