Monday, 7 September 2015

Edinburgh Festival Fringe cabaret review: Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Kate Copstick 25 August 2015.
The room is sunk in Stygian gloom. The sound of Gregorian chant comes as something of a surprise to the two rows of happy “relaxed” young men from Bishop Auckland who had stumbled in en masse and probably by mistake. I worry for Twonkey, a gentle, other-worldly man whose shows generally require the kind of willing suspension of disbelief that would hold up the Forth Bridge. But oddity by oddity, song by song, Twonkey draws them in.
It is a wonderful thing to watch a “lad” reclaim his daft. Comedy needs Twonkey, a performer who has not so much ploughed his own metaphorical furrow but woven it from sweet silly songs, ridiculous props, meandering, mesmerising stories that make absolutely no sense other than here in the dark with Twonkey. From the moment the first song starts – “From a fountain in the sea, I found a memory” – you know you have entered another comedy dimension. Yes there are references to things in this dimension – like Hugh Grant and Foxes Glacier Mints – but even they cannot anchor us to any kind of reality but Twonkey’s. Some things are eternal – like the Evil Conjurer and the Travel Sexy Ship’s Wheel. As we giggled our way through the Wheel’s portion of the hour, Twonkey, in full TV game show host mode – with his catchphrase “pull my knickers off” – had some little problem with the prop knickers. “Must remember to memorise the colours,” he chides himself, “Makes the act look that bit more slick.” Twonkey is to slick what deep fried pizza is to health food. But he is unique and he creates wonderlands of weird. Whether squashing toy pigs between two rounds of cheese, conjuring images of a hunchback with an unscrewable hump in rural Dordogne or singing one of his glorious ditties, he will always put a little wonderful into your day.
NEWS FLASH! Team Twonkey filmed couple of things for a new N.B.C series:
coming your way January 2016.See pic of Chris on the telly opposite.
Twonkey's Stinking Bishop reviewed by FringeGuru Richard Stamp.
Another year, another outing for Edinburgh's favourite Dadaist: the unmatchable, indescribable Mr Twonkey. You don't so much watch a Twonkey show as bob gently through it – adrift on a sea of surrealism, trying to maintain some semblance of your bearings through occasional glimpses of solid ground. But if that sounds a bit pretentious, think again. This is also a genuinely laugh-aloud show, a joyous experience shared between a pleasantly bemused audience and an immensely personable performer.
Mr Twonkey – real name Paul Vickers – is something of a Fringe institution these days, known for his flight-of-fancy stories and offbeat, nonsensical songs. If you're a fan of Vickers' past outings, then I'm delighted to confirm that the psychic sex-crazed ship's wheel does still feature – whereas, if you're a Twonkey virgin, that sentence will give you a reasonable idea of what lies in store. Compared to previous offerings however, Vickers has dialled down the surrealism just a tad; the universe he inhabits is still a bizarre one, but it's a little more accessible than before.
It's almost pointless to list the topics Twonkey's rambling journey visits (being sacked from Looney Tunes, getting into trouble in the Dordogne, and the undead roaming Skipton are just a few), but each song has an elusive sense of coherence, a feeling that it makes a kind of sense you can't quite put into words. Some are fairly straightforward, like the concluding number about "the drop" performers experience once they come off-stage; others are complex and multi-layered, and a few are performed by puppets. The only real link is the loveable personality of Mr Twonkey himself, who radiates a kind of affable shyness that would warm the stoniest of hearts.
There's less darkness to the stories than in previous years, and I confess I missed the undertone of pathos which have previously defined Mr Twonkey's tales. In its place, though, we got some low-key, slow-burn, but ultimately-hilarious physical comedy, built around the inherent entertainment value of a big man blundering around on a bijou stage. It's hard to know how much of this was scripted, and how much was down to genuine mistakes which he had the skill to run with; but either way, the result was an engaging hour-long visual gag, which saw Vickers get increasingly entangled with his costumes, props and microphone stand.
Search too hard for a meaning to Vickers' act, and you might leave deeply frustrated. But embrace it for what it is – charming, seductive nonsense – and it has the capacity to be one of the most memorable shows of your Fringe. At the end, I bobbed out onto the Grassmarket unsure of where I'd travelled – but knowing, above all else, that I'd enjoyed the ride.
Twonkey's Stinking Bishop reviewed by Donald Hutera from The Times.
★★★★ August 20 2015
“Will somebody tell me what I’m supposed to do?” These were the first words uttered by Paul Vickers, aka Mr Twonkey, on the night I treated myself to his latest Fringe outing. A founding member of the now-dormant Scottish indie rock quintet Dawn of the Replicants, Vickers is a rumpled, fuzzy-haired and middle-aged man of many parts and a completely bonkers charm.
For the solo shows devised for his on-stage alter ego he stitches together pun-filled, rib-tickling and mind-bending little fables and gently barbed cultural commentary; belts out rhythmically catchy, self-composed songs in a comfortably raspy yowl (think Ivor Cutler meets Tom Waits) to taped accompaniment; manipulates home-made puppets and others objects; and functions as his own technician and stage manager. He is also endearingly fond of taking the mickey out of his own humble, DIY status. Hence, I think, the line quoted above. Being in his presence for an hour is delightful.
Anyone even vaguely on the same weirdly wonderful wavelength as Vickers will likely agree. Named after a high-fat, washed-rind cheese, his newest show is being presented in a tiny, non-descript room in a hotel. And with a top ticket price of £6, it’s a hole-in-the-wall bargain. Although his work is not cheesy, cheese does make a guest appearance in the form of a large wheel under which Vickers — dressed, for the record, like a ship’s captain, but in many ways functioning like a fallible magician — secretes a mechanical grunting pig.
There is also, memorably, a haunted cable car with an attendant off-the-wall back story and a faux competition involving Dracula and a putative trip to the Yorkshire market town of Skipton. Note that the vampire reference allows Vickers to indulge in what he calls a “Transylvanian Finger Fantasy.” As he reminds us, “The mistakes are real in this show.” What’s not to like or, dare I say it, even love?
Twonkey's Stinking Bishop reviewed by Paul Levy from Fringe Review.
Mr Twonkey has a brand new show and this is the very first night. Over the following hour, many of the audience were in hysterics and others looked on, suppressing smiles and laughter that might just reveal their own inner affinity with the absurdity of the human condition.
Songs, set pieces, banter and even psychic brandy tasting fill the time. This is anti-showbiz, punkish musical surrealism. Running through it is a thread of more rational banter as our host and his crazy puppets comment, tell a gag or two and sing with an energy that nearly pops buttons and smashes Quadrant windows.
Twonkey has built up a loyal following over the years, and many fans were in evidence tonight. The show isn’t there yet, which is a big relief all round. It feels rough because it is meant to be rough. Twonkey is like an abstract painter who really knows how to classically paint but has ditched those genres for something more playful and unhinged. It works. The audience love it. It is a spectacle and a cabaret in equal measure. Songs, banter, backing tracks, tricks and puppets; stories and one liners all combine to create sense overload, too much happening at one time, then everything grinding hilariously to a halt at another.
Old favourite characters plucked from the zany repertoire alongside new material and changes of mood from mad to intense, emotional to throaway, this is the skill of the man and his arrant inventiveness. He gives himself permission to spin at the edges of normality and that gives us permission to indulge a bit of escapism from the mediocre normal. Simply staged, plenty of props, bemusement mixed with delight, the audience lean forward to see what will happen next.
Not all of the songs were as clear as I’d have liked them as there are words I wanted to hear. It will settle in the right ways as the show develops but I hope that the material will not completely settle, keeping its offbeat and reality-popping cleverness.
You won’t enjoy it if you are seeking a beginning, middle and end (in that order. You won’t enjoy it if you can’t induldge your own propensity towards the unhinged. But if you go with Twonkey he’ll take you all over the shop, but you’ll be happily, crappily, mad-cappily glad of the journey.
The Mumble's Paul Rivers had this to say which means ★★★★★
“I am you, I am you, I am yooooo,” sings Mr. Twonkey in one of the many bizarre but brilliant songs that punctuate the show. There were many lines from the songs that stuck in my brain but the refrain above made me think: this is comedy—if that that’s the correct word (it may not do the show justice)—that lies in a tradition of eccentric/absurdist /subversive art that from time to time manages to rise up from the deeps and defamiliarize your world—off the top of my head: Michael Bentine, Spike Milligan, The Goons, John Lennon, Ken Dodd, Tommy Cooper, The Mighty Boosh, Victor Spinetti, some 70’s children’s shows/cartoons. This stuff makes you feel different.
This is no nostalgia trip, mind. The audience responded intensely, but the laughter wasn’t corporate laughter, it was probably best described as nervous laughter: but who can explain? We all laughed hysterically as Mr. Twonkey squeezed a plastic pig between two wheels of Stinking Bishop cheese, wrapped it in a plastic chain and announced: “He’ll never get out of that!” I had my 16 year old son with me and to his great joy he won a ticket for an individual performance of a Transylvanian Finger Fantasy: Mr Twonkey clambered over the seating and gave the performance—a paper puppet on each finger. My son loved it. The only criticism here mind is that Mr. Twonkey didn’t let him keep the winning ticket, claiming that it took him 2 hours to make—tight! We left the theatre as we arrived with Mr. Twonkey prone on the floor his head under the curtain. I suppose this might not be for everybody, but we loved it. And in the words of another one Mr. Twonkey’s songs—quickly to become a mass singalong—“Take a dip, dip, dip, dip, dip, dip, dip, dippppppppppp!”
Michael Brunstrom
Richard Gadd
The Story Beast
Mr Twonkey
And the winner well....Michael Brunstrom still always good to be in the running for these things. Maybe they heard about my Battle of the Super Villains performance as Spring Heeled Jack the picture below tells that story.Horribly funny ;-)

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Twonkey's Stinking Bishop
“An energy that nearly pops buttons and smashes windows”
Fringe Review Highly Recommended Show.
@ Edinburgh Fringe. 21:00 hours
Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18)
6th to the 30th of August (apart from Tuesdays)
★★★★ The Scotsman “A Sublime cloud of nonsense”
★★★★ Time Out “a dog's dinner of unexpected, absurd, even offensive content. It’s also a classic”
Paul Vickers AKA Mr.Twonkey is a wild British eccentric in the mould of Vivian Stanshall or Ivor Cutler. Fast becoming an Edinburgh Fringe institution. Mr.Twonkey is fresh from runs at the Soho Theatre, Prague and Brighton fringe so he means business. Warning: This is a full-bodied show with a powerful character. Featuring puppets and all kinds of crap handled majestically. Performed by “Edinburgh’s premier gentleman psychedelic polymath” (The Scotsman). It’s not for the faint hearted “A voice flipping from abrasive gargle to sneering panto-dame witch on a journey through the looking glass” The Herald.
★★★★ Fringe Guru “Oddly entertaining and utterly bizarre.”
★★★★ Broadway Baby “Mind-boggling from start to finish”
Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop is a new show about been sacked from Looney Tunes during a purple patch. Mr.Twonkey runs the cheese and drinks counter at the log flume centre but the catchment area is bonkers. The Stinking Bishop cheese is loaded with Dadaist dynamite and it’s going to blow.
Restaurant Logo: Allan Corbett.
One M-peg 4 of the full Twonkey’s Private Restaurant show filmed by Michael Kidd in Technicolor. PLUS an M-peg 4 of King Newt with Animation and Music by John Callaghan, Story by Twonkey.
Hooks, Vine and Sinister. Twonkey Hits: Paul Vickers and Friends.
1.Lon Chaney Revisited
Written and performed with Pierre Chandeze.
2.This Is Showbiz
Written and performed with Hamish Hawk. Special Guest Steven Vickers.
3.Hand’s Off Mussolini!
Written and performed with Hamish Hawk and Massimiliano Puddu. Special Guest Steven Vickers.
4.Goat Girl
Written and performed with Roger Simian.
5.Lily Vumper
Written and performed with Steven Vickers.
6.Pissed as a Postman
Written and performed with Pierre Chandeze.
7.Giddy World
Written and performed with Keith Baxter.
8.The Flying Tailor
Written and performed with Grant Pringle.
9.Sophie The Aeronaut
Written and performed with Pierre Chandeze.
10.Mother Shipton
Written and performed with Steven Vickers.
11.Mugulvery’s Farm
Written and performed with Grant Pringle.
12.The Rasberry 2014
Written and performed with Andy Currie.
13.The Cat Shop Catastrophe
Written and performed with Steven Vickers.
14.Pencils Like a Broom (Looney Tunes)
Written and performed with Keith Baxter.
15.The Architect
Written and performed with Massimiliano Puddu.
16.Hot Beryl
Written and performed with Hamish Hawk. Special Guest Steven Vickers.
Itchy Grumble –The Talking Book:
Recorded by: Dan Mutch.
Narrator: Paul Vickers.
Plus The Greengrocer by Paul Vickers and The Leg Free Sample featuring 3 tracks: My Trifle, Polynesian Snuff and Straggler On The Run. Full album available on vinyl record with download codes.
Make sure you have the latest version of Windows Media Player/Quicktime or Flash to play the Video Content on this U.S.B.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Jennifer’s Robot Arm Opening Night Overview By Paul Twonkey Vickers.
I had a quirky dream the other night that a gentleman friend of mine had set up a new social club called… wait for it…. The Titty Club (its not what you think). It seemed to be a club where people could discuss illuminating ideas and you had to have on your person a walking cane and a prepared subject to talk about. If the other persons subject/ideas seemed preposterous you would respond by saying "you're a tit "and then they would say, "no, you’re a tit"…. hence the name. One of the subjects discussed was the new play I have written called Jennifer’s Robot Arm which reminded me I really need to update my blog about my feelings on the opening night at the Bread and Roses theatre in Clapham.
Before hand there was some high jinks back stage as the actors prepared to perform, with me being the writer and present, it felt like I was making them a little nervous. However I had no intension of sitting at the back with a copy of the script tracking every line and making sure none was missed, I trusted them I had watched the video of the rehearsed reading at the White Bear theatre and knew the show was in safe hands. It was odd for me to sit and watch something I had written and not be part of the performing but the same time a strange joy. I wish I could have seen all three nights that would have been a luxury I would have dearly enjoyed.
The opening scene in the garden was delightful. Conner Jones dolled up in white face paint acted excited with panache. He was full of hope about his fitness and his high sex drive. Conner’s performance throughout surprised me the most as he’d taken his character a lot further since the reading. My favourite part of the whole show was when a red light descended on him when he talked about fixing Jennifer’s arm using wheat to jam the locks. It was as if this was a warning of something he does often but should be avoided at all costs. It’s these little twists that really bring the writing to life.
Conner’s performance had a Dennis Potter Blue Remembered Hills feel to it, which was also echoed in Miranda's performance as Jennifer. Jennifer was the powerhouse at the centre of the show. Miranda Shrapnell made her so believable you really worried for her. I imagined the show being acted out in a slightly wooden and camp manner. Miranda took on Jennifer much further then I imagined. So you really felt for Jennifer as we all travelled the roller coaster of emotions that she of course would be going through as the horrendous circumstances of the show unfolded. The physicality of her performance gave the show energy the rest of the cast played off especially Conner. They’re such a great double act. Jennifer in a way became the straight actor that made you invest in the story whole-heartedly.
John Rushton’s take on Pam, Jennifer’s mother was dry and suicidal but thoroughly confident. A little more vulnerability came through at times as Pam does have moments of agonised tenderness especially towards her daughter Jennifer. Pam marched on and off with a casual flick of the hair and sexy pout that always sent a mutter of chuckles in her wake but never tears as mummy doesn’t like tears. The old music hall panto feel of the Pam character was coming through loud and clear with that little twist of Nuts in May.
So then to Simon Jay the director, producer and performer. He presented this show in the manner of a Bauhaus art show it had a whiff of The Tiger Lilies about it, which was delightful. His own performance was high camp and sinister and so it should be. The Inventor is the mad hatter playing with the rest of the cast to fulfil his own boredom and not worried of the consequences of his actions. He also gave the show an otherworldly quality like a Doctor Who villain turning up in a kitchen sink drama.Perfect.
I was pleased that the new ending worked giving the audience the satisfaction of a happy ending after such a strange journey only seems fair. Now where do we go next? I’ll have to munch down some driving biscuits with Simon and company and come up with a plan. I am so pleased we have a wonderful cast and show.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Twonkey's Acid House Circus Tour 2015:
Twonkey's Stinking Bishop
Brighton Fringe@The Quadrant
12-13 North Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 3GJ
Fri 01 May 2015 19:00 - 20:00
Sat 02 May 2015 19:00 - 20:00
Twonkey’s Private Restaurant
@Soho Theatre
21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE
Fri 22 May 2015 19:00 - 20:00
Sat 23 May 2015 19:00 - 20:00
Twonkey’s Private Restaurant
@Prague Fringe
Divadlo Na Prádle - Kavárna, Besední 3, Malá Strana, Prague 1
Tues 26 May 18:15 - 19:15
Wed 27 May 18:15 - 19:15
Thurs 28 May 18:15 – 19:15
Fri 29 May 18:15 – 19:15
Sat 30 May 18:15 – 19:15
SHOW ONE: Twonkey’s Stinking Bishop is a new show for 2015 about how things have moved on for Mr. Twonkey he now works in a sleepy hamlet Cow Shit How Shit. It’s not easy living like an 18th century farmhand sometimes the long winter nights can be painstaking pointless. In this parish everyone buys their own, it’s a hamlet of wallflowers. Mr.Twonkey now operates the cheese and drinks counter at the log flume centre. Cow Shit How Shit may only be a sleepy hamlet but the log flume’s catchment area is bonkers. Stinking Bishop Taco Tray with a pint? Part of the fun is watching them spill it all down themselves when they hit the Santa’s Mountain waterfall.
SHOW TWO: Mr.Twonkey says : "Twonkey’s Private Restaurant was inspired by my childhood pillowcase of Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti. The 2014 show had one hell of a good run at the Edinburgh Fringe. It does not feature any real food, which caused some controversy with a number of angry hungry people. Due to low blood sugar levels perhaps this lead a Keystone Kops style bust up during one show. So please eat before the show Its only set in a Restaurant its not an actual Restaurant".
Pictures: Jane Barlow

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Stage Two is a short run of the full show details below:
AT 7.30PM-Tickets £8. 75 minutes (including interval)
In an attempt to prove she's the sister of Pinocchio, Jennifer cuts through her supposed wooden arm with a circular saw, but this is to no avail. An inventor seizes Jennifer's dreams and then her stump to proffer a robotic appendage, holding her and her family's lives and emotions hostage.
The Progress so far…
It’s still very much in development but not arrested development. So far so good for Jennifer's Robot Arm, I’ve written a new ending and opening since the reading at the White Bear theatre, London. This is a big challenge and it’s wonderful to have Simon Jay taking the ship by the funnel and steering the wheel down south. My plan originally was to produce a B-movie comedy based on one of my most popular short fairytales. I planed to put it on at the Edinburgh Fringe with local talent.
Real Shoebox Theater with teapots for lights and a stage set made from orange boxes. Pity and daft theatrics played out in a drunken dockyard fashion somewhere in Auld Reekie.
However it makes more sense to develop it down south in old London town. The Budget (kindly supplied by the Tom McGrath Award) did not include a ticket on the mega bus gold for myself to get down to London for the rehearsed reading. I was waiting for the video evidence to hit my email box with some relish. It was heart breaking for me not to be there. I felt like Charles Dickens writing in a hovel on a diet of bread and maggots. I imagined pushing my ideas into cracks in the wall, all in the hope that one day they would be discovered by Kevin Spacey.
The cast did a super job by all accounts lead by the dominating presence of the glamorous and dry Myra Dubois. Conner Jones played a sympathetic and rather jolly father. The brilliant actress Miranda Shrapnel played an acrobatic and hugely convincing Jennifer. As for Simon Jay he performed a contorted master class with his Lon Chaney-esque hunchback. Nathan Cross punched in the scenes with the regal poise of an ageing king. However it was clear from the lo-fi video I would need to write more as the tale has more powder in its gun.Pete Harvey has written a Theme tune too. So on with the show…….. and this time Mr. Twonkey will be coming to the ball; I’ve booked my train.
WONDERFUL PICS-ANTONY OUDOT. Look out for his new book Shooting Kylie.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

A Potted Guide to The Greengrocer.
(Or: The Curious Tale of Paul Vickers and The Leg).
Starring: Paul Vickers, Pete Harvey, Dan Mutch, King Creosote.
Apologies: Alun Thomas (in moustachioed absentia), Louis XIV of France (deceased).
Quizzed and chronicled herein by: The Cast of Dynasty.
“During the 1600s, Louis XIV, King of France, took great interest in impressing diners at his royal table with exciting new plant foods, and was the first in his country to introduce eggplant – that is to say, aubergine – into his garden. Eggplant did not enrapture the King's guests at first. Indeed, the fruit was often discouraged, and burdened with the following description: 'fruits as large as pears, but with bad qualities'. Prevailing folklore counselled that ingesting the eggplant invoked fever, psychosis and sexual deviance, and the bell(end)-shaped object also transpired to contain vertiginous quantities of nicotine. And so it was that, by the 17th century, the aubergine had become renowned as 'The Mad Apple'”.
(Source: Mrs Fubbs' Vegetarian's Almanac, 2014)
Perhaps you have espied the glistening aubergine that bedecks the rear of the new long-player from Paul Vickers and The Leg. It is stuffed with a bomb and has carrots for dynamite which, as we will glean anon, is a visual metaphor for life. Said album is entitled The Greengrocer, it's the wired-unpop deviants' third album together, and it is a mind-melding skiffle-punk opus whose chamber-jazz, folk-rock 'n' roll and gonzo, banjo-fuelled chorales are guaranteed to invoke perversion, hallucinations and fits of the vapours.
Or, as Paul Vickers himself would have it: “One chorus on The Greengrocer is so musically ludicrous that when I first heard it, I lost consciousness.” Well, quite.
The Greengrocer's organic, orphic (other)world is mapped out on the album's sepia-pencilled front cover, as charted by Vickers, ere of Dawn of the Replicants: observe the psychotropic alpine vibe; the rudimentary magickal chaos; the kamikaze bridges and anvils; the weeping, sloganeering clouds; the teetering seven floors of pleasure. And yes, that is a frog pissing a rainbow.
Scrutinise the record's back cover, and 'neath the aforesaid, explosive “Mad Apple”, you will note some playing card insignia, heralding the royal seal of King Creosote's Alter Ego Trading Company (think of it, if you will, as The Fence Collective's phantom limb). And lo, King Creosote, Paul Vickers and The Leg have been loosely embroiled for myriad years: Pete Harvey is an integral player on KC's From Scotland With Love (they also collaborated on Song, By Toad's 2009 Cold Seeds album); The Leg's drum-miscreant, Alun Thomas, is also Withered Hand's debonair sticksman; KC admired Dan Mutch from behind when he played at a Withered Hand gig a few years back – and KC stocked Dawn of the Replicants records in his St Andrews fence shop in the 1990s.
There are parallels, too, betwixt the grassroots art-mayhem conjured by The Fence Collective in Fife, and by Dawn of the Replicants from their Galashiels HQ: in addition to making twisted, Peel-endorsed, rock 'n' roll records, Vickers et al ran a fanzine (Sun Zoom Spark) and a local lifestyle magazine that specialised in knitting, ceramics, neighbourhood UFO reports (Borders X-Files!) and Syphilis investigations.
Latterly, Vickers has turned his hand to stand-up comedy (see: surrealist beefcake Mr Twonkey), while his ongoing rampant musical charms provoked one typically amorous fan to recently describe him thus: “Susan Boyle with a cock”.
But we have an album to discuss.
Let us repair to rural Perthshire.
You join us huddled on orange bean-bags, surrounded by fermenting apples, in Pete Harvey's agrarian pop Shangri-la, known and loved as Pumpkinfield Studios.
King Creosote: Pete Harvey made a spectacularly bad job – which in my mind is a spectacularly good job – of selling me this record. It was like, 'I'll let you hear it, but it won't be your thing'. He had all these caveats. And I was like, 'Okay, I've heard The Leg, and I remember Dawn of the Replicants, because we sold their stuff in the fence shop way back when, and that was madder than a box of frogs...'
So I thought, 'Well, this could be an almighty clash of weird'. But when I played it, there was a real skiffle element that was pretty surprising – it's got a harder-edged Skuobhie Dubh Orchestra thing going on. I didn't see that coming. And for the album to be so tuneful as well. I was like, 'This is great – what's Pete on about?' But then of course, if he'd said, 'You're going to love this record', I'd have been instantly suspicious. So it was a spectacular bit of selling; of anti-marketing. I'm all for that.
Paul Vickers [The Leg: lyrics, vocals]: What did Pete actually say? Was he like, 'Listen to this, it's a load of shit?'
KC: Yeah, I was like, 'I suppose I better trawl through this thing...' [Laughs] And then – wow.
PV: This album's a bit like going on holiday. 'Polynesian Snuff' is a peak because you're in the mountains there, and then the last one, [Benny Hill honky tonk orgy] 'Straggler On The Run', is like a knees-up-in-the-ski-lodge kind of thing. Also, it sounds like I'm being a total wanker when I say this, because it's the sort of thing that Sting would say, but I wrote some of the lyrics when I was on holiday in Tuscany. [Hilarity]
What's the significance of the dynamite-packed “Mad Apple” on the artwork, other than the literal greengrocer / vegetable reading?
PV: What came first, the aubergine or the bomb? Well, I suppose there's a weird bit of a concept on The Greengrocer, because I seemed to be writing about food quite a lot – there's a lot of that going on in the record. I think it's about getting older, actually. You go through different stages, don't you? There was a point, when I was younger, that I felt more insect. More insect-y. Whereas now, I'm starting to feel more like, you know. A cabbage.
You're biodegrading as we speak?
PV: Exactly. And it also reminds me that on Dan's CV, if he has any blank spaces, he always puts that he worked at The Laughing Cabbage. It's an imaginary place. That sounds like a good place to work. So yeah, The Greengrocer feels a bit like a shop, and you can buy stuff there, and it's good hardy stuff. But it feeds into the idea of the mundaneness of work and having to work again, after a long life of fannying around. Because that's quite a shock, and I think that's sort of affected me, so I'm obsessed with the idea. I think our second album, Itchy Grumble [SL, 2010] was partly about that as well – 'Just get down the hole and work', you know? Get down the mine. Of course, it's still all going on in your head, all the creative stuff, but you're confined to a shop, or a place. You have to sell vegetables. You can't just have fun.
That's life in a nutshell. Well, in an aubergine.
PV: Exactly.
Your albums are fairly – well, wayward. How do you all write, and rein in ideas?
PV: We did the first couple of Paul Vickers and The Leg albums quite close together, in quite an intensive period, and for me that was pretty nerve-wracking – after so many years working with the Replicants, to sort of suddenly work with a completely different band – but it was really exciting. I'd say that Tropical Favourites [2008] is probably one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had making a record actually, because it was totally fresh and good to work with new people.
Dan Mutch [The Leg: guitar, vocals]: And we had quite a lot of fun making demos.
PV: Yeah, I'd go round to Dan's house, and we'd go up to the top room – that sounds really sinister – it was the smallest room in the house. Then he'd play me something and say, 'Well, what have you got?' Next minute I was plugged in, and I had to deliver. As part of Dan's writing process, he produces what could be described as … mood boards. [Laughter]
You know, you have a bit of banjo, or a shrill distorted sound of a loop – they're always very exotic sounds – and then I'll freestyle some lyrical thing over that. Then that'll get chopped up because there are some bits that'll work and some bits that'll be left hanging there to infinity. Then we'll practice it as a band, and Pete'll come in with his armoury. That's how we work.
DM: Well, that was the process for Tropical Favourites, but for Itchy Grumble ... that was a very different process. For that one, we just booked some gigs without having any songs.
[Hilarity ensues]
DM: We were literally at the sound-check without any songs, suddenly going, 'Maybe this wasn't such a good idea ...' But it actually turned out quite well. What did we do? Well, we just sort of improvised.
PV: God, it was painful. I think it was painful for our audience as well. And that was a shame in a way, because at that point we were doing well in Edinburgh, our home town – we sort of had a local following. I'd never had that before. The Replicants were from Galashiels, but we only played in Galashiels once, and even that was an absolute disaster. I ended up sleeping in a bin.
So it was nice with The Leg, to feel that we were doing really well in Edinburgh, as an Edinburgh band. And then we sort of committed self-destruct by writing our next album on-stage. It's an amazing album, but I remember being at that sound-check at [Edinburgh's] Cabaret Voltaire, and thinking, 'Oh my God, this is absolutely awful'. Really awful. It felt like I was singing over completely random noise. Which I was.
Pete Harvey [The Leg: cello, piano]: By about the fourth gig it was fine.
PV: Yeah, by then it had started to come together. Itchy Grumble had more of a painful birth, but looking back on it, I'm really proud of it. There was a story to it, it was a concept album, because at the end of the process of Tropical Favourites, Dan said, 'I'll do another album with you, but it has to be something that excites me.' And I'd been thinking about a concept album because that was something I'd never done before. I ended up writing a book about it [Itchy Grumble and Collected Miniatures, 2013] which fills in all the gaps in the story, and remarkably it turned out quite well. People actually bought it.
So then we started working on a new record – The Greengrocer – which in a way is the follow-up to Tropical Favourites, in that it's not so much of a concept album. Tropical Favourites was recorded with a lot of fun – it's an exciting record, but it'd be fair to say it's a bit rough round the edges – whereas The Greengrocer is like Tropical Favourites deluxe. It's fine-tuned a bit more, that's how I see it. But it took a while.
DM: The writing process was different for The Greengrocer. We just sat in a room and played acoustic guitar, I guess it's based around that.
PV: There were a couple of chopped up mood boards – like 'Straggler On The Run', that was a short mood board and then we just looped it. We wrote most of the songs on The Greengrocer in the top room in Dan's flat – a different top room, it's always the top room.
There was an incident as well. When Dan proposed the chorus for 'The Greengrocer' – for the song itself – the chorus so musically ludicrous to me that I physically lost consciousness. I just couldn't cope with it. It was too much. It was a really floaty thing, and it did need something to me, I can't explain what it was, but at the time it was really hard to take. Of course, it's the best bit in it, I realise that now – it's like a Django Reinhardt skiffle-y thing, into Iron Maiden. I wasn't expecting that. I slept for about six hours when I heard it. And when I woke up, I realised it was amazing.
'Polynesian Snuff', is an epic, phantasmogoric monologue – where do you start with a trip like that?
PV: Again, there was a mood board involved with 'Polynesian Snuff', that was the central thing. Dan had started experimenting with loop pedals – it was a bit like Wounded Knee, but it has a Jaws feel too. And then in the practice we started playing Balkan music – you know A Hawk and a Hacksaw? Well, we wanted to do something a bit like that. Basically, we stole ideas from other people. We had this little song called 'Crackpots', and we put it at the centre of 'Polynesian Snuff' – I can't remember exactly how or when that happened, but it seemed the right thing to do, even though it has been the subject of much controversy.
KC: This must be an Art School thing, because that's exactly what Gordon [Anderson, aka KC's brother The Lone Pigeon] does. I wonder if it's to do with collage? I've noticed artists can be very wasteful in a way – like, Gordon doesn't think twice about having oodles and oodles of bits just lying doing nothing, whereas I'm like, 'I can't waste that'. And that idea of taking something and chucking it in where you least expect it, I think that's a very Art School approach too.
PV: Yeah, there seems to be that kind of aspect to the record, because it's there with 'Polynesian Snuff' going into 'Crackpots', and on 'The Greengrocer', there's this sudden change to skiffle. I like it when you have an unexpected change on a record – I've always liked Mother Upduff by Can for that. I really love how a story evolves and the music goes with it. And I like doing spoken word. I did some of that on Tropical Favourites, with 'Powerful Soup'. I had stuff like that when we were doing Dawn of the Replicants too, but the A&R people always, said, 'Do less of the Hans Christian Andersen stuff, we're not as into that.' You know, all politely. They liked the dirty rock 'n' roll stuff, so we went more into that area.
What brought you together with The Leg, Paul, after your time in Dawn of the Replicants?
PV: I think it was Ed Pybus, at SL Records (ballboy, Withered Hand) who first got me together with The Leg. It was his kind of idea in some respects, although various things were whispered into my ear in nightclubs – you know ...
What like, 'Hey Paul, you're really handsome'?
PV: It was more like, 'Hey, we could maybe do something with you, you weird bastard'. But yeah, Ed suggested I do a solo album and work with different musicians, because the Dawn of the Replicants thing had been going for 10 years, and it had weathered several storms – of having certain success, and not being as successful – and it was getting hard to keep going. The first people Ed suggested for this solo album were The Leg, and we worked on a couple of songs, and that went well. So we just thought, 'Well let's just do the whole album like this'. It made sense at that point.
The tale of Paul Vickers, and The Leg, and King Creosote, goes back to very early fence, and there's a resonance between KC's DIY derring-do in Fife and Dawn of the Replicants' antics in the Borders...
PV: Yeah, we tried to do as much as we could from Galashiels, which I suppose is similar to The Fence Collective: you know, 'Let's take on the world from where we are'. That said, I don't ever want to go back to there.
Do you remember when you all first met?
KC: Pete and I met when we did the Cold Seeds album – I'd heard about him before through Withered Hand and a few folk, they all said, 'You should work with him'. And I think I first saw Dan doing something at the Art College, was that a Withered Hand night too maybe?
DM: I think I remember the one you mean actually, yeah, I think I played four songs.
KC: Did you sit with your back to the audience throughout?
DM: I think so, yeah. Probably.
KC: That was the one.
How do you know when you've finished a Paul Vickers and The Leg album? (Discounting the one you hadn't written before you launched it, of course...)
PV: I don't know if an album's ever finished. We sat on this record for quite a while and then added a few extra bits, they were subtle, but they were in there. We added quite a bit. Extra vocals.
DM: That's one thing for me – I wish we'd done more backing vocals on it.
KC: I always think it's quite good to have something your band aspires to play, and then betters, though. That's the point of playing live, in many ways.
PV: Withered Hand must be experiencing that just now, because he's got this set of songs that almost belong to the audience – they just sing every single line. It's almost like they've passed over. They belong to the audience as much as they do to him.
Is that connection something you'd aspire you? Did that ever drive you?
PV: I can't remember what drove me when I was younger – whether I wanted to be famous, or make money, or whatever – but you get to a point when you're over that. I'm 40 now, and I feel – I'm sick. [Laughs] I'm an artist. I'm not doing this for money or whatever any more.
But I'm still doing it. It's just part of who I am. And it's still good and exciting. My mindset nowadays is, 'Well, at least I'm getting out and about a bit...'
[Vickers eyeballs the cider press outside; pulls on his overcoat; heads for work]
* The Greengrocer is an unhinged rock 'n' roll emporium, abundant with mad apples and tulips; with cobwebs and mouldering riddles and carrot seeds. You can clock in any time you like, but you can never leave.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Jennifer’s Robot Arm
An absurdist comedy in two short acts
by Paul Vickers
Scene 2
We are inside Jennifer’s dream. Fairground music is heard.
dreamlike lights inside a carriage of a train. Jennifer, adorned with a robot arm sits happily on a seat as landscapes flit past the window.
I’m on the train. Pretzels. I love Pretzels and they wrap so neatly round my robot arm. A giant silohette of ’The Inventor’ hovers over Jennifer.
The train whistles
You’re going to be a star Jennifer; this is it you’ve arrived. Anywhere I can plant our tepee the freaks will perform. I would dearly love you to rehearse the black forest steam train routine with me. You will pretend to be the piston pulling a train of clowns through the idyllic German countryside....toot toot puff puff toot toot.
I just love hot butter on Pretzels.
Are you listening to me darling?
Yes yes toot tooot puff puff.
Good. I also have an arm wrestling challenge for you to partake in. We ask the strongest men and most able lad’s in the village to challenge you to an arm wrestle. You will win hands down the power of your new arm is like a hundred metal fists punching through the steam clouds on a factory floor.
Toot puff toot puff.
Helped along by the mysterious Svengali Simon Jay
Twonkey in the royal box before inspiration struck: