One last thing… Graham Fellows

The Guardian’s The Guide’s great, lost, back-page interview from 2009! This interview was dumped when the newspaper’s cultural diary was overhauled – but now, here it is!

It’s fantastic to see your character John Shuttleworth back on telly, the first time since Europigeon (1) in 1998.
I’ve just made some TV and radio ads for Yorkshire Tea with my old pal Willy Smax, who shot 500 Bus Stops (2). John might have preferred to promote a quality tile grout or travel mints, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the perfect marriage of two trusted niche brands.

What are you working on at the moment?
The final edit of my new [John Shuttleworth] movie Southern Softies, set in the Channel Islands. It’s the follow-up to It’s Nice Up North, set in the Shetlands. Southern Softies nearly bit the dust when I inadvertently plugged the AC adaptor for my laptop into the hard drive, blowing it up and its contents. I’m a careless sod, but a persistent one, so it’s all back on course and I’m very excited about the world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe on August 18th.

You’re from Sheffield, but before you were famous, did you have a Sheffield claim to fame?
My sister, Sally, claims she used to deliver Tony Christie’s mother’s newspaper in Sheffield in the early ’70s. I reminded Tony of this when I met him in Leeds a few years ago when we were guests on Richard Whiteley’s (3) short-lived TV series Friday Whiteley.

John likes a pair of fawn slacks, nothing wrong with that, but have you had any fashion disasters in the past?
My mother made me a pair of bell-bottom trousers for a Christmas party in [school class] J4. I thought they were cool until someone laughed and said they looked homemade. I said, ‘Well yes, they are,’ and this kid laughed even harder. So I kicked him and split my trousers.

John Shuttleworth is eco-minded – but are you?
Earlier this year I bought an electric G-Wiz (4) car in an attempt to reduce my carbon footprint. Having now left London and moved back up north, the car is parked permanently in a West End car park. I make frequent trips down south to recharge it, trips which increase my carbon footprint. I realise this irony must not be left unchecked, so I plan an epic voyage in my G-Wiz from London to Orkney, where I have an old church (5) which I’m planning to restore and convert into an eco-friendly recording studio. The car will be there to ferry Bono and the Arctic Monkeys, etc, around the island. Anyway, it might take a while, this trip, as a single charge of the car’s battery will only take it 30 miles, so I’ll be looking for a few power sockets en route. Look out for me!

What issue outrages you?
Cruelty to farm animals. It amazes me how worked up we get because a whippet is malnourished, cruel as that is, but no-one cares that thousands of sheep, cows, pigs and chickens live miserable lives before suffering even more miserable deaths. Check out PETA [www.peta.org.uk] and you’ll learn all about how Australian sheep farmers still carry out ‘mulesing’ (6), a barbaric practice that is maiming thousands of defenceless lambs for no logical reason. Am I a vegetarian? Not quite, so yes, I’m a hypocrite. But I’m beginning to realise that vegetarianism is the way forward – not just for the sake of the animals, but the planet too.

None of us are getting any younger, are we?
I recently hit 50 and death is suddenly on the agenda. I’m noticing a lot more people around me are dying. My father, Derek, recently observed that he used to be invited to lots of funerals but gradually the invites are tailing off. I used to want to be cremated, but a good old-fashioned burial is more eco-friendly. I’d miss the ashes routine, so perhaps the compost that I eventually become could be sprinkled on my vegetable patch.

Where would you want to be buried?
Well, I wouldn’t want to be planted anywhere near noisy traffic, or where disaffected youths congregate, or next to one of those chavvy headstones with a drawing of a footballer doing a bodyswerve. That’d start me turning, that would.

1 Shuttleworth’s Eurovision push; 2 Trans-Peak District tour; 3 C, U, N, T came out on Countdown, but cut; 4 Made in India; 5 wwwthespaceorkney.com; 6 Removal of buttock skin.

Southern Softies is at Pleasance Above, Pleasance, Edinburgh, August 18, 9.15pm, www.pleasance.co.uk

Get it in the mixer! Fatboy Slim on DJing at the Amex

After phenomenally successful Big Beach Boutique shows on the pebbles of Brighton seafront, Fatboy Slim makes a hometown comeback with Big Beach Bootique 5, two nights of DJ goal-lagging at Brighton & Hove Albion’s Amex Stadium

GQ.co.uk, 2011

Slashing rain, and Brighton & Hove Albion in their new Amex Stadium are running out of viable ideas against a determined West Ham side whose average height seems to be that of King Friedrich Wilhelm I’s Prussian Infantry Regiment No 6 – the “Potsdam Giants”. Nil-one and an electronic indicator reveals to the assembled 20,686 that there will be eight minutes of injury time. West Ham manager Sam Allardyce has sworn at the fourth official at every juncture during the 90 minutes – world-class foulmouths can be entertaining ogres – and he swears again: “F*** that!” Brighton boss Gus Poyet, who had earlier blown a raspberry at the fourth official, now applauds and begins whistling at his players like they are obedient working dogs. But Brighton haven’t the rufty-tuftiness to break down that great, claret, Sbobet-sponsored wall. West Ham are impenetrable, a Thames Barrier across the seasider’s turf.

Continue reading Get it in the mixer! Fatboy Slim on DJing at the Amex

Ohm is where the heart is: Karl Bartos on life post-Kraftwerk

GQ.co.uk, 2013

“Rick Waller? Fat fella on Pop Idol? Yeah, he was great. Kraftwerk? Never heard of them. Were they dancers on Britain’s Got Talent?” It’s easy to say there’s no hope for civilisation when educated people in top jobs speak this way. The ideal solution would be to take these ne’er-do-wells into a study, reach for a cane, and, while striking that sorry rump, repeat, “’Numbers’, ‘The Model’, ‘Pocket Calculator’, ‘Tour De France’, ‘Home Computer’,” hoping that a physical chastising in the quiet of your low-lit cultural headmaster’s office might open minds to music away from the ongoing Opportunity Knocks-plus karaoke pap of ITV1.

But you can’t lay hands on people these days, not in the workplace. All you can say is, “You want to get yourself on iTunes and open those big, flappy ears of yours.”

Continue reading Ohm is where the heart is: Karl Bartos on life post-Kraftwerk

Joy divided: an interview with Peter Hook

Feuds, addiction and beautiful bass lines – muscle-bound Salfordian Peter Hook discusses his new Joy Division memoir Unknown Pleasures, his plans for a New Order book and how his lawn-raking technique mirrors his low-slung playing style 

GQ.co.uk, 2012

For 32 years, there has been an otherworldly mist shrouding Joy Division, a lingering pall blanketing the memory of one of Britain’s most innovative bands. Various informed writers and film-makers have positioned gigantic wind machines by this immovable bank of fog but have invariably failed to give a true indication of what life in Joy Division was actually like. Much has been made of the elegiac soundscapes created by the foursome, of Martin Hannett’s insane production techniques and Ian Curtis’ deeply troubled lyrics, but until now the minutiae of band life, like the inability of drummer Stephen Morris to maintain a safe driving distance behind other vehicles and the semi-submerged bath-time dining habits of guitarist Bernard Sumner, have remained a prisoner of time. What was needed was a band member’s memoir – and now one has arrived.

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An ideal for reliving: an interview with New Order’s Stephen Morris

GQ.co.uk, 2012

Snow is falling Christmas-card style in Kensington, an apt real-time video if you’re listening to the icy tinkles of an ARP Omni 2 synthesizer on one of Joy Division’s more elegiac compositions. Sickeningly, the sullenness is shattered as that ode to sad ski holidays, “Last Christmas” by Wham!, thumps through the flurry. Beyond the reach of Michael and Ridgeley’s mulled-wine mitherings sit the toasty Warner Bros offices, where, surrounded by biscuits and Peter Saville artwork, rests Joy Division, New Order and Bad Lieutenant drummer/keyboardist Stephen Morris. He’s wearing chunky Caterpillar boots, hardly surprising as Macclesfield resembles Lapland right now.

“You’ll never guess where Bernard Sumner [Morris’ bandmate] is at the moment,” says a black T-shirted music exec. “Going round the world on a yacht.” It’s in stark contrast to Morris, who is meeting GQ.com to discuss +-, a boxset of Joy Division seven-inch records he’s remastered with Frank Arkwright – a sound engineer notable for his work with Warp Records. It’s a must for serious collectors, but will Santa decipher the peculiar positive/negative symbols on Christmas lists?

That’s the elves’ problem, not yours.

Continue reading An ideal for reliving: an interview with New Order’s Stephen Morris

Old school: an interview with International Teachers Of Pop

By Lee Gale

British Ideas Corporation, 2018

Sheffield is a city of pioneers. The first football club in the world were Sheffield FC, formed in 1857 and still in existence today. They beat Stocksbridge Park Steels last week 3-1. Hallam FC are the second-oldest club in the world, founded in 1860 to give Sheffield FC an opponent. Hallam’s Sandygate Road base in Crosspool is the oldest football ground in the world. They thumped Harworth Colliery 5-1 on Saturday in front of 204 people.

We also have Sheffield to thank for stainless steel, which was invented by Harry Brearley at Brown-Firth Research Laboratories just before the First World War. Brearly left in a huff due to a disagreement about patent rights but his successor, WH Hatfield, ran with the idea and in 1924 presented the world with 18/8 stainless steel, 18 per cent chromium, eight per cent nickel – the most common stainless steel used today. Unless you’re Lord Fauntleroy or Lady Docker, your cutlery will be made of this, as are those drippy teapots at motorway services.

Britain’s first astronaut was Sheffield’s Helen Sharman, who hitched a ride aboard the Soviet Soyuz TM-12 mission in May 1991, spending a few days growing protein crystals on the Mir space station. Sharman may have been adjusting to Earth’s gravity two months later when she famously went ass ovver tip at the 1991 World Student Games at the newly opened Don Valley Stadium. During the opening ceremony she tripped while holding the games torch and completely extinguished the flame. Thankfully on Worksop Road there were enough newsagents nearby that sold boxes of matches. Incredibly, Don Valley Stadium was demolished in 2013.

More than space travel, football or metallurgical breakthroughs, the city is perhaps best known for its influential musicians. Sheffield, as you’ll be aware, is synonymous with synthpop and electronic trickery.  Cabaret Voltaire, The Human League, ABC, Pulp, Heaven 17, Clock DVA, Warp Records, the Bleep scene and Fat Truckers (who?! Check out “Teenage Daughter”) have all helped place Sheffield firmly on the global musical map. Slow Club are pretty good, too.

Now, on the strength of two singles, we can add International Teachers Of Pop to the long list of Sheffield greats. “Age Of The Train” and “After Dark”, both released this year, carry the baton for Sheffield synthpop in a way that Phil Oakey, Jarvis Cocker and Martin Fry would appreciate. Prior to a UK tour, we catch up with International Teachers Of Pop’s Adrian Flanagan to discuss wonky electronic music and the state of Britain’s railways.

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Happy soul with a hook: an interview with Moss from Craig Charles favourites Daytoner

By Lee Gale

British Ideas Corporation, 2018

Some of us have a love/hate relationship with BBC 6 Music. For instance, you get the feeling that Cerys Catatonia’s eclecticism on Sundays is simply the result of her entering the BBC’s vaults, selecting 20 or so CDs at random with her eyes closed, then playing track 6 on all of them. When a 1911 sea shanty recorded on the Outer Hebrides to celebrate the construction of a jetty is followed by mid-Fifties Alaskan swing jazz, you have to wonder.

Then you’ve got the Craig Charles Funk And Soul Show. The longest-running programme on 6 Music – it started in 2002, in the first week of the station’s existence – has become an essential element of Saturdays. Craig Charles’ soul weekly is where you’ll most likely have come across Daytoner’s northern soul-injected beats. In fact, Charles stated via Twitter, “Daytoner are my new favourite band – fact.” For a man with his track record, this is some claim.

Continue reading Happy soul with a hook: an interview with Moss from Craig Charles favourites Daytoner

What a wonderful Wold: an interview with artist Peter Watson

By Lee Gale

British Ideas Corporation, 2018

The power of Rotherham. In the Seventies, young Beverley-born artist Peter Watson was a frequent visitor to the industrial heartland of South Yorkshire and found himself enthused. All around him stood steelworks, slag heaps and cooling towers but instead of revulsion, Watson liked what he saw and set about recording the scenery with oil on canvas.

Continue reading What a wonderful Wold: an interview with artist Peter Watson

A 2003 interview with Tony Iveson, Lancaster pilot with 617 Squadron

By Lee Gale

A long time ago, I used to work for Jack magazine which, at the time, was by far the finest men’s title money could buy. Sadly, not many people agreed with that statement and Jack closed in 2004. Nevertheless, each issue would have articles that were lovingly crafted by writers with massive interests in male culture – namely football, World War II, decent comedy, obscure music and old-men’s pubs. You’d come in with an idea and it would be given the green light without question. It was an incredible environment to work in. I loved the Avro Lancaster and set about writing a long-form magazine article about its history as soon as I’d got my feet under the desk. This inevitably led to interviews with wartime RAF bomber crews.

I visited squadron leader Tony Iveson of 617 Squadron at his home in Tunbridge Wells in summer 2003. On the walls of his spotless home were paintings of Lancasters on various missions, and I seem to recall one was of 617 Squadron’s successful raid sinking the Tirpitz in 1944. Iveson was involved in three missions to sink the bothersome German battleship. I’ll put a few of my other interviews on British Ideas Corporation over the next few weeks. I’ve just read that Iveson died in November 2013 at the age of 94, so he would have been 83 when I interviewed him. He was perfectly lucid and a riveting storyteller.

Continue reading A 2003 interview with Tony Iveson, Lancaster pilot with 617 Squadron

Home-made Jam: the very English poetry of Paul Weller

By Lee Gale

Writer and musician Simon Wells knows a thing or two about cool British culture. His previous books have covered The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and homegrown cult films, and he’s also co-curated a Sixties film season at London’s National Film Theatre. Perhaps, though, his latest project falls closest to his heart. His new book, In Echoed Steps: The Jam And A Vision Of The Albion, is an investigation into the poetry and literary influences of Jam frontman Paul Weller.

To Wells, the Modfather is more than mere pop legend. He’s on a par with Percy Bysshe Shelley, John Keats and Lord Byron, albeit with a distinct talent for distilling his thoughts into three-minute psychedelic compositions. So take off your green parka, dust down a copy of Geoffrey Ashe’s 1971 tome Camelot And The Vision Of Albion and butter some crumpets using the blade of Excalibur. As you are about to discover, Weller’s words have a lineage that can be traced back to King Arthur.

Continue reading Home-made Jam: the very English poetry of Paul Weller