Eddie Piller passed me on to Matt Berry, having first furnished me with a copy of Matt’s album Witchazel.  The album is a trip, alternately beautiful and odd, with lyrics that are sometimes profound and other times surreal (‘Your penguin’s in the bath, it was put there by your Mum’ on ‘Song for Rosie’).  Musically, there is a broad spectrum of influences; psychedelic, folky, some of it sounds like it could soundtrack cult 60s and 70s film or TV.  There is funk and there is the lovely, sweeping ‘Take My Hand’ which also boasts a strangely moving video  (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rdqu-HObUbo).  Here’s an amazing thing about Witchazel: Matt gave it away as a free download before Acid Jazz picked it up.  If you listen to it, you’ll be amazed that he gave all that creativity away for nish once upon a time.

And I have to admit, apart from that I didn’t know anything about him.  Which goes a long way to proving that I always miss all the good stuff on telly.  I didn’t know about Matt playing Douglas Reynholm in the IT Crowd, nor him being in Garth Merenghi’s Dark Place or Snuff Box on BBC3.  I didn’t know about ‘Sugar Tits’, I didn’t know about him being in a few episodes of the Mighty Boosh, about him being Vangelis on Shooting Stars, any of that. Even though I’d seen those last two.  He was even in the film ‘Moon’ which was class. It’s like I’ve been living in a televisual black hole for the last eight years, only using the goggle box for the weather (have you seen it?  It’s AMAZING), football matches, Family Guy and any number of movies on Film 4 that I’d either seen before or got sucked into thinking they’d be good before finding out that they weren’t.  Good job I did my research before I talked to him.  All Matt’s stuff is worth checking out on Youtube or 4OD or wherever you can find it by the way as pretty much all of it is really funny.  Hell, buy some of it even, then Matt can get some money for all this stuff he’s done.  Matt Berry’s work ethic will put you (and me come to that) to SHAME.  And it all stemmed from being told off for eating a Double Decker when he worked in a call centre.  Read on to find out why.

PMO – So how do you know Eddie Piller?

MB – Eddie released an album I did called Witchazel last March.  I met him through a mutual friend and I thought he might take a single but then he said he wanted to do the whole album, which was great.

PMO – I ask everyone to state their name, age and what they do for a living.

MB – My name is Matt Berry, I’m 37 and I don’t know…I get away with it.

PMO –  People will know you are are a writer, actor and a musician.  Of those things do you consider you’re one more than the other?

MB – I don’t.  I try not to consider myself at all.  Once you start doing that you’re in a bit of trouble.  I’m just kind of lucky to be able to do all of those things.

PMO – I saw an interview with you where  you said you’d had a job in a call centre and hated it.  You got sacked and that was kind of a pivotal moment for you, you decided that you didn’t want to do anything like that again.  What happened next?

MB – I was eating a double decker at my workspace and then was told to stand up in front of everyone.  I was told there was no eating at your workspace so I just got up and left.  Like you say, I was fired and then decided I wouldn’t do anything like that again and I would try and make sure that I didn’t ever have to do anything like that again.  I went from there to to the London Dungeon, which I loved.  From there I did a thing called Garth Merenghi’s Darkplace on Channel 4.

PMO – How does someone go from one moment working in a call centre to suddenly being on Channel 4?

MB – I was playing rude songs in town before The Mighty Boosh were doing their gigs.  I knew Noel Fielding and was doing stuff with him.  Matt Holness and Richard Ayoade were doing stuff at that same time and they wanted me to play one of the characters in the televised version of their Edinburgh show.  I wasn’t doing anything, I was in the Dungeon so that was it.

PMO – And has it been a springboard from then on?

MB – Pretty much.

PMO – Were you writing comedy before that?

MB – I was writing music and wasting time with bits of shit but never thinking that it would be taken seriously or that I would end up doing it for a living.

PMO – How did you know Noel Fielding and Richard Ayoade?

MB – This was the year 2000.  There was no interest in the Boosh then. It was because Noel and I shared an interest in art, we were very art school.  We had mutual friends who were at our art schools.  That was the only reason why I was playing songs before their show.

PMO – Do you think it’s true what people say then, that it’s who you know rather than what you know?

MB – Well if you’re shit then you go nowhere so there’s got to be something there.

PMO – Working in the arts can be notoriously difficult, did you ever consider doing anything else because you were completely skint?

MB – I’ve made sure that I haven’t stopped doing things.  Whether that’s doing music, voiceovers, TV comedy or making films.  I’m always working on something or about to work on something.  I think you’ve got to find your own thing.  The biggest truism I’ve found is no one is going to do anything for you. No one is going to write anything for you, you can’t sit back and wait for someone to write something around you so you have to do it yourself.

PMO – It sounds like you’re also saying that you need a few strings to your bow, that you can’t rely on one.

MB – Possibly. I was lucky with the voiceover stuff.

PMO – You’ve used that word a couple of times now.  Do you consider yourself lucky?

MB – Totally, yeah.  I think with things like voiceovers…there’s not much skill in that.  I just happen to speak like this and that’s done me a favour. That is luck.

PMO – How ambitious are you, would you want to end up where Russell Brand is now for example?

MB – I’m not sure because once you’re everyones property its very difficult to do stuff.  I’m more of a private person.  I don’t need to be in newspapers or spoken about.  I don’t really care about any of that, its just about doing decent work.

PMO – Do you think your work ethic has come from a fear of never wanting to be back in that call centre?

MB – I don’t think so.  I love the stuff that I do and I don’t think of it as being work.  Every album that I’ve made or show that I’ve been involved with…I’ve loved every minute of.  That’s why you spend all day and all night doing it, because it doesn’t feel like work.

PMO – I told a few people I know that I was going to be talking to you and one of their questions was have you ever used any of the phrases that you’re famous for, such as ‘Fuck You’ from Snuff Box or ‘Sugar Tits’ from the IT Crowd in real life?

MB – No.

Matt as Douglas Reynholm

PMO – Can you conceive of a situation where you might get away with that?

MB – I don’t think so.  The thing is, once I’ve said them in the show I totally forget about them because its a work thing.  When people come up to me and say those things I don’t know if its me that’s said them or another character.  It kind of disappoints them because a lot of the time I don’t know what they mean.

PMO – So do you get people coming up to you and saying your catchphrases to you?

MB – People do, yeah.  Thats all part of it.  I don’t mind it, it’s my fault, I did it.  You can’t get too shitty about it.

PMO – You’re working on something called Toast.

MB – Toast of London is a pilot for Channel 4 that goes out in August.  It’s written by myself and Arthur Matthews who co-wrote Father Ted.  I’ve worked with him on quite a few things before – he was the script editor on Snuff Box.  It’s a sitcom about an actor who is on his way to the theatre each night and it’s about the things that happen to him on the way there.

PMO – So you’re doing the pilot – what happens after that?  The suits look at that and decide if they’re going to commission you for six episodes?

MB – That’s basically it.  They might make a decision before.  There’s no firm offer from Channel 4.  They can say yes or no at any time.

PMO – Have you had stuff turned down before that you’ve pitched?

MB – No I haven’t.

PMO – So you’ve never known disappointment?

MB – There’s been things like Snuff Box not being recommissioned.

PMO – So how do you deal with that?

MB – I didn’t really mind so much because we didn’t have any more ideas for that situation.  I think we’d said all we had to say. At the time I wasn’t too pissed off.  It was a bit too mean.  I liked it, but I wouldn’t make a show like that now.

PMO – A lot of the stuff you produce seems to have a bit of a sentimental nod to the 70s.  I’m thinking of some of the deliberately wooden acting in Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, Douglas Reynholm being a bit of a throwback boss, misogynistic, bit vague, never seems to do any real work.  Even things like the piano intro to ‘Take My Hand’ smack of 70’s Abba or Elton John.  Do you have a particular love for that decade?

MB – Yeah.  With Darkplace that was more of an 80s horror pastiche.  I’m not sure if Reynholm is 70s.  My personal thing is stuff that makes me feel warm and it’s all analogue whether it’s audio production or visual effects.  I much prefer that.

PMO – I’ve listened to Witchazel quite a lot since I met Eddie and I think its quite a psychedelic album.  Is it an album to take drugs to?

MB – It wasn’t done with that in mind.  It was made without expecting anyone else to hear it.  I didn’t expect it to get picked up.

PMO – But it sounds like it was made with love, it doesn’t sound like it was just thrown together…

MB – It was absolutely made with a lot of love.  But it was made with love because no one had asked for it.  It was done just for me.  I didn’t expect anyone like yourself to have heard it.   It’s just the kind of album I would want to listen to.

PMO – If you spend all that time writing songs, getting the musicians together, the studio time…

MB – There wasn’t any studio time, I recorded it all myself.  Apart from the drums I played all the instruments.

PMO – You would have been happy for that to stay as a kind of a gift to people as a free download?

MB – Yep.

PMO – There’s a lyric on the track ‘So Low’ on the album that goes ‘Got to get me to the top, but it’s a million to one shot.  I guess I should be happy with my life, but I guess that I am not.’  You’re known for being a funny man so should we take that as a comment about yourself or is it ironic?

MB – It wasn’t about myself, it was about another comic I know who is so ambitious that it makes him unhappy and I’ve never understood that.  It’s not about me, I’m more than happy with my lot.

PMO – I wondered how you would feel if you hadn’t had the success that you’ve had and you were still writing and performing, playing music and it wasn’t going anywhere.

MB – Something would have happened.

PMO – You sound confident…

MB – If you give a shit and you look at the detail and you spend time and you deliver pretty good quality, someone down the line is going to appreciate it at some point.

PMO – That comic that you’re talking about in ‘So Low’, do you feel like he’s going to get some success?

MB – It’s never enough.  He’s not alone, there’s a whole bunch of actors like that.  They’ll get to a certain point…they’ll be the biggest thing in England and then they’ll get to be the biggest thing in the States and then they’re not the biggest thing anymore and that gets them down.  That constant striving…it never ends.  And he’s really good.  I do want to move on and do other things but at the same time I don’t want to be constantly pissed off that I haven’t achieved this or that.

PMO –  You seem to have a bit of a fascination for, the only term I can come up with is, country vermin.  You’ve got a song on your album about badgers and you’ve posted a couple of Twitter pictures of foxes.

MB – These are just woodland creatures.

PMO – True but those two do get a bit of a bad rap…you haven’t chosen something cute like a deer.

MB – I’ve always just been very fond of woodland creatures.  They would appear in whatever I did.

PMO – Of all the things you’ve done, is there one that you’re most proud of?

MB – I’m most proud of Witchazel.  That wasn’t with anyone else, it was exactly what was in my head.

PMO – You seem very calm and relaxed about the thing that you do and life in general.  We’ve also spoken about the person that ‘So Low’ is about.  If someone was a bit lost or frustrated about their life what advice would you offer them?

MB – I’d try and help anyone but I’m not very good at giving advice because I can’t really take it.  I don’t know the right answers.  I’ve got here through a mixture of hard work and luck. There is no right or specific kind of path to take or if there is, I don’t know about it.

Eddie Piller

Posted: April 19, 2012 in DJ
Tags: , , , ,

Norman Jay passed me onto Eddie Piller, the boss of Acid Jazz records.  He runs the label from the back of an antiques shop in the East End, in a room that is plastered with a million things to tantalise your eyes. On the walls are vintage gig posters, pictures of mods old and new, snapshots of Eddie out DJing, often pictured with famous faces who’ve come to see what gems he’s going to educate their ears with.  Talking to him, I got a sense that he’s kind of an Encyclopedia Pilleria about a certain kind of music, as he says ‘black or black influenced music from America up until 1985’ but it was also clear his tastes are very broad.  Metalheadz ran Sunday nights at his club the Blue Note and if you have a listen to his latest signing The Janice Graham Band, who he is wildly enthusiastic about – they seem a long way on the musical spectrum from Jamiroquai, who he discovered.  I promised him I wouldn’t but I almost wanted to post this as an audio interview as he’s a great teller of stories in a wonderful East End gravelly tone.  In any case you can hear him (and expose yourself to some musical treasures) on his Modcast.

PMO – So how do you know Norman Jay?

EP – Before I set up the Acid Jazz label with Gilles Peterson, Norman Jay was one of the pioneering UK warehouse party DJs. He mixed soul and funk and jazz in a way that directly led to the rare groove explosion (he even coined the term) – I was initially a fan, then a friend and eventually a contemporary.

PMO – Introduce yourself.

EP – I’m 48 yrs old and I’m a broadcaster, writer and record producer.

PMO – What are you first and foremost?

EP – It goes in waves.  I was a record producer until the mid 90s and I found that life was very hard, 18 hour days, then I discovered a slight talent for broadcasting.  Since then I’ve broadcasted on stations like 6Music, Q Radio, Jazz FM and currently I do a podcast which is a chat show.  I also DJ all over the world.

PMO – Is there one of those things that you prefer over the others?

EP- No I like writing; I’ve written an eight part series on youth culture for ITV.  I suppose what I enjoy most is broadcasting, working as a presenter.

PMO – Have you got a family?

EP – Yep, I’m married with two children.

PMO – So, how do you fit it all in?

EP – It’s very difficult.  I’ve got an understanding partner.  I’ve always done this for a job, since I was 16 years old, my wife is more than used to that fact.   She’s heard me DJ before so she doesn’t particularly want to come every time! Occasionally she comes.  This is what I do for a job and it’s what I’ve always done and she knows that.  Is that a bad thing?

PMO – Not at all.  I think if you meet someone and they’ve got a passion for something, that can be quite attractive.  Do you have to spend a lot of time away?  You mentioned travelling with the DJing.

EP – I’m winding it down now.  For the last 15 years, I DJ’ed all over Europe most weekends but I’ve found the travelling hard.

PMO – Do you end up doing a six day week then, what with running the label during the week?

EP – It depends.  When I get bookings I want to do, for example, I did Pele’s birthday party in February, I’m not going to turn that down!  On the other hand I don’t want to DJ in North Germany on a Friday night, I can’t be arsed.

PMO – To rewind a bit, you were born into, as you describe it, an East End mod family.  Your Mum ran the Small Faces fan club.  Given that, do you think you would ever have done anything else but work in the music business?

EP – No, although I don’t know how much it had to do with my Mum and her job. I grew up in a family that liked music but just like everyone else’s parents, my parents gave up on youth culture early and got a proper job.  So I didn’t necessarily develop my love of music from that.  I think I got it from John Peel, from listening to the radio as a kid, and then getting into punk as a 15 year old. Then moving from punk into Mod, 1978, 1979, The Jam, all that kind of stuff.

PMO – How does that connect up?  What I know of punk is it’s all quite fast, angry music and you could argue the black soul the Mods were into is almost all about love in a way.

EP – Yeah but Mod has been going since 1958.  My path into Mod was the Mod revival, bands like The Jam, The Chords, Secret Affair.  That way of life, going to see bands all the time.  Gradually the mod scene developed, R&B, Jazz, Soul music.  DJs on the radio like Peter Young, who was on Capital, he made us listen to different kinds of music and you grow and you evolve and you realise that the best music that’s ever been made is from black America or black influenced music from 1959 to about 1985.

PMO – It’s interesting that you came full circle then from your Mum being with a mod band, you heading away from that into punk and then coming back to Mod.

EP – But what were the Faces doing?  They were doing Marvin Gaye covers. The whole Mod thing is a constant…it’s a part of British culture, it’s been through five or six generations, from when the Mods were into jazz, people like Tubby Hayes in 1958 at the Flamingo (a Soho club 1950s/1960s) or The Jam in 1979 or Oasis in 1994.   It’s constantly evolving.

PMO – So can you define it then?  What is Mod?

EP – There’s a much better person than me who gave the answer.  Peter Meaden, who was the first manager of The Who, he was pretty much the only person to distill the Mod ethos – expressionism as art as commercialism as youth culture as money.  Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever was rumoured to be based on Peter Meaden because Nik Cohn’s story (which became SNF) drew on memories of going out in Shepherd’s Bush, where Meaden was a ‘face’.  Jimmy in Quadrophenia is also supposed to be him.   So, two of the most important films about youth culture featured Peter Meaden as the hero.  Meaden said, when interviewed by the NME, that ‘Mod living is an aphorism for clean living under difficult circumstances’.  Now that means nothing on one level, but it’s also the totality of Mod.  You can’t define it, but you what it is if you know what it is.

The Who do Mod.

PMO – How did you make your first wage?

EP – I started a fanzine in 1980 when I was still at school and by 1982, issue 10, we were selling 10000 copies at 30p each.  I’d negotiated with a friend of my Dad’s for an office in Dagenham on an industrial estate and I used to drive there every day on my Lambretta with a bloke called Terry Rawlings who became an author.  We ran the fanzine together for a few years until I got spotted by Stiff Records.  Stiff wanted me for my ideas and they were the holy grail of indie labels at the time.  (Ian Dury, Elvis Costello and Madness were some of the artists on Stiff back then).

PMO – Have you never been in the position where you’ve had to consider a regular 9 to 5?

EP- My first 9 to 5 was for a record label in the West End for a year and a half in 1980. I was a motorcycle messenger and finished as head of promotions and that taught me everything I needed to know about music.  That was the only real job I’ve ever had. I’ve consulted for labels; I did work for MCA for a month but I didn’t like the ‘major’ structure so I left straight away.  They gave me my own label at Stiff and I worked for them until they closed.

PMO – Acid Jazz had it’s zenith in the mid 90s. From that are you now financially secure?  Do you have to work?

EP – I made money, but I didn’t make  a lot of money.  A lot of other people made a lot more money than me!  But I live in a nice house and everything’s fine.

PMO – You want to keep working or you need to keep working?

EP – I need to keep working.  It’s very difficult for an independent record label to make any money in a time when 75% of music is stolen from the internet.  I have a label thats been going 25 years with a catalogue of 6000 songs which is a fantastic UK indie label but it’s very difficult to make money.  I will work as a DJ or a consultant or whatever because it promotes the brand and the label that is Acid Jazz.  We’ve had our best year for 15 years!  I don’t know why…there’s a focus on British things at the moment in retail and in quality terms and we are one of the few British indies thats never done a deal with a major.   Maybe people are realising that they value things that are genuine and I feel that we  do that, whether  people get the music off the internet for nothing or not.

PMO – How do you feel about people stealing your stuff from the net?

EP – What can you feel?  There’s nothing I can do about it. All I can do if offer quality product – heavyweight vinyl, nice packaging, 16 page booklets and hope that people will want the real thing.  I can’t stop someone in Russia selling my product for 10 cents.  I don’t earn that way, the band don’t earn and 75% of the industry doesn’t earn that way.  In three years time if this continues there might not be an industry…if there is it’ll be a cottage industry. The sad thing is that EMI, the last great British record label is just about to be bought by a French company so we will have no British majors anymore.  The Beatles record label!

PMO – Why do you think they’ve all been sold?

EP – Everyone wants to cash in!  You’ve got shares, you’ve got ownership, you want to sell it, get your money, get out.

PMO – Do you think record labels were too slow to get with download culture?

EP – Yeah!  Not the indies, the corporates.  They could have done a deal with Napster which could have saved the industry at the time but instead they prosecuted and stopped it.  You’ll have to check this but I think that Napster were  prepared to work with this business model but the industry turned their backs on it  and the next thing we know is if you can’t buy it online from EMI, you’re going to get it from Russia and then everyone’s doing it!  It’s a generational thing.  My son is 19.  He listens to music on Youtube and then buys it.  My daughter is 16.  She listens to music and sees no reason why she shouldn’t just download it for free.  She doesn’t see why she has to pay for it even with the job I do.

PMO – She must have met people that depend on that money.

EP – Yes but she doesn’t see it.  Click here, get that is what she sees.  My son is like, ‘I’ll look at that, I like that, I’ll buy it’.  It must have happened in that gap between 19 and 16.   When was that?  Eight years ago?  I don’t know.   It’s tough.  Anyway, I’m ranting now…

PMO – Acid Jazz was most on my radar during the mid 90s.  Are those bands still with you now?

EP – We still have the catalogue of some of them but with all bands you have a window.  That window can be one record or it can be five records; five records takes six or seven years. The period you’re talking about is 20 years ago so we have  a constant turnover of bands.  We have a fantastic band at the moment called The Janice Graham Band, they’re like The Specials meets The Happy Mondays, the biggest thing I’ve signed since Jamiroquai, they’re going to be enormous.  I love it, all their songs are about murder, growing up on a council estate, going to prison.  They’re all 18 years old and there’s no one called Janice Graham in the name , it’s an anti fame name.

PMO – What I was going to ask you about the older bands is, when they’ve had their moment in the sun, is that a kick in the teeth for them?  How do they cope when their fame dwindles, when their record sales dwindle?

EP – We’re in the ego business.  I’ve had to put up with ten years of the most insane unfashionability but we like what we do and when you become massive worldwide, which Acid Jazz was, there’s a period when you’re untouchable.  Over the last ten years I’ve seen things build up again as people are becoming bored of (A) manufactured pop, which is dominating the charts at the moment and (B) the inaccessible nature of British urban music which to the fan base of kids who like Acid Jazz, black and white kids who are into funk and soul, they’re finding it difficult to get into. So gradually the pendulum has swung back in favour of what we do, which is a mixture of jazz, funk, soul and mod stuff.   It’s been a long time for us, but it’s the same for bands.  The Brand New Heavies – they’re still going, they still get X amount of money for a gig.  It’s terrible when everyone goes ‘You’re shit’ but that’s life!

PMO – A lot of people would have given up.  What kept you going?

EP –  Why would I give up?  I had a successful business.  I’m in the business of selling copyright, exploiting copyright in any way possible which means adverts, it means music on the radio, it means selling records…whatever.   We’ve had a very steady business to our core market.  Every several years there is an increase in the core market when it becomes fashionable.    The core market has never fallen to the point where it’s a waste of time.  We cater to those people who are into us and five years later we do something that’s really big and everyone goes ‘Fuck me! I forgot about them.’

PMO – To change tack, it could be said that when you opened your club The Blue Note in 1993, you changed a part of London.  At that time in Hoxton you could have got a one bedroom flat for £50K…

EP – No you could have got it for £30K!  My parents are from Bethnal Green Road.  When I phoned my Dad in 1992 and said, ‘I’m going to buy a club in Hoxton’ he told me not to do it.  He thought it the most dangerous area of London.  He said ‘It’s bomb sites, it’s fucked, do not go there’.

PMO – Because people were getting mugged?

EP – It was a horrible nasty racist area. The last white working class ghetto like (mentions another part of London).  We bought the club, spent a million pounds on it and it brought in black, white and Asian all together for the first time, it was very successful.  There was no trouble, but there was trouble with the residents.  Almost immediately the council wanted us to close because they preferred emptiness, nothing, whereas we’d bought this art thing in and then people started to move into the area and then gradually the whole square got gentrified.  The council were terrified about people coming in at night.  We had the first 5am licence in London, were massively successful, playing non house music to people who wanted to go out.  It was a ground breaking thing that won ‘Best Club of the Millennium’ in the Time Out Awards.  It was the best thing I ever did, but the council didn’t like it.  As the area got more gentrified, the new gentry started to complain about the people queueing up.  Now look!  They got rid of us. They took us to court and lost but changed the by-law in the square which put the Blue Note in a residential area.  The 333 survived because it was outside the square.

PMO – I asked Norman Jay this question: do you ever want a day off from listening to music?

EP – Yeah, I have many.  I don’t listen to music in my spare time.  I listen to Talk Radio…

PMO – But you’re still listening to something.  You don’t ever have a day off where you don’t want to hear anything?

EP – I read a lot, about two books a week.  I have a bit of a fetish with a particular type of book.  I read historical military fiction…not necessarily military but y’know, Flashman was my big introduction to reading and I try and read things in the style of George MacDonald Fraser or C S Forester (who wrote ‘The African Queen’).  It’s massive escapism from my life.  The floating world of the captain who is the dictator on his ship, I find it fascinating.  And archaeology.  

PMO – Doing that yourself?

EP – I have tried to be an archaeologist.  I haven’t got ‘A’ levels and the foundation course I did wasn’t sufficient enough for me to be able to do archaeology so I didn’t do it.  But I’m fascinated by ancient history and comparative religion.

PMO – Would you say you’re happier now, running Acid Jazz at the level it is now, or when it was at it’s zenith?

EP – Fucking now! Yeah, come on…

PMO – Because?

EP – My life was insane back then.  I was producing five or six days a week for 16 hours a day which was next to my office.  I had 60 staff, four premises, a nightclub, two studios, a magazine…it was insane.  We were turning over six or seven million pounds a year but I had no time for myself and it probably made me ill towards the end.  I got to the stage in 1998 when The Blue Note closed when I said ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. I stopped it all, continued with the label in a much smaller way, got focused and started doing other things like consulting for other people, doing radio.  I did 6Music for three years, which was really enjoyable.   I enjoyed presenting, did a bit for TV.

PMO – What kind of illness did you get?

EP – I had a type of pneumonia called mycoplasma pneumonia which is infectious.  I caught it because I moved to a very old house and I was doing renovations and a load of bird shit fell onto me and I nearly died through that but it was alright in the end.

PMO – Were you scared?

EP – I never thought for one moment I was going to die!  You always woke up thinking ‘Oh I’ll be alright….ooh,hang on, it’s hard breathing.’

PMO – This brings me nicely to my last question – what would you want written on your gravestone?

EP – I have a Latin motto.  Recently I have decided that I am East End aristocracy…no, not really.  I wanted a latin motto I could stick on the top of headed paper.  The one I’ve chosen is In Adversis Puritas, which  means purity through adversity.  A friend of mine from school is now a professor of Latin and I wrote to him asking him to translate ‘clean living under difficult circumstances’.

Norman Jay MBE

Posted: October 17, 2011 in DJ

Jazzie B passed me onto Norman Jay. If you’ve ever been to an event where he’s been DJing, I’d put money on you having had a wicked time. He plays music from all kinds of genres but the common theme is that it’s happy, good time music. Some music that you know and love and some stuff that you want to know the name of so you can get it for yourself. My own particular Norman ‘moment’ came a few years back at Notting Hill Carnival when he put on Paul Simon’s ‘Late in the Evening’. Paul Simon at Carnival? Shouldn’t work. But when you heard it loud, all irresistible funky bassline and joyous horns, it just felt like a party.  Everyone around me went mental.

It seems he’s been present at every notable club moment in history, from disco to hip hop to house music and his dedication to getting peoples feet moving resulted in him getting a gong from the Queen a couple of years back. Which makes him the first recipient of an MBE that I’ve interviewed.

PMO – So you know Jazzie B pretty well? Do you remember how you first met him?

NJ – We did a house party together close to Finsbury Park tube. I cant remember the exact year, ’84 or ’85. His sound system was on one floor and my fledgling Good Times sound system was on another floor. I’m sure it was a Sunday night or something and nobody turned up!

We had 10 or 20 people, if that, and about a decade later, when Soul II Soul were conquering the world, I met Jazzie in New York when Keep On Movin’ was number 1 in America. Fantastic achievement from a British band. We went up to the penthouse suite where the record company had put him and we were laughing and reminiscing about that moment. At that time Soul II Soul were conquering the world and my DJ career was at its pinnacle, I was playing at all the biggest spots in New York. Bit of a back slapping thing going on really but it was fantastic – we looked back and laughed. Who would have imagined 10 years on that we would both be living large in New York given our backgrounds and where we’d come from?

PMO – When you started DJing did you see a future in it?

NJ – Nah! It was always a hobby. Most of the time I did it for free and a lot of the time spent a lot of my own money. It was something I loved. Loved clubbing, loved dancing, loved music. Buying records was my drug because I don’t drink alcohol, don’t smoke and I don’t do drugs. Buying tunes was my poison.

PMO – If I’m right you’re 53 now. Do you still have that drive when you were younger about music?

NJ – Yeah absolutely. Still gigging several times a week, still playing everywhere around the world. I’m loving it as much as I ever did.

PMO – How do you still have the energy? Im nearly 40 now and I don’t want to go out so much anymore.

NJ – Don’t do the alcohol, don’t do the rock n roll, don’t do the drugs. Healthy eating, a happy home life, contentment, that’s what gives you the energy.

PMO – I saw something on Twitter about a ‘disco nap’

NJ – Yeah! That’s my euphemism for having a siesta. That prepares you.

PMO – We can say that Norman Jay recommends an afternoon nap then yeah?

NJ – Yeah absolutely. Even if your employers are not up for it. Sneak off! Go and have an hour in the park.

PMO – Did you never think about making your own music?

NJ – I did consider it but just because you’re a duck, it doesn’t mean you like water. I realised from a very early age that I was born to make people dance by playing tunes and I never learned an instrument, although I do have regrets about that. I wish I had.

PMO – Do you ever have a day when you don’t want to listen to music?

NJ – Yeah, most days! Most days I don’t listen to music at all. That’s the secret. I work in it, I don’t really want to do a busman’s holiday. Whenever I come back to it I’m always fresh. I have other interests outside of music which helps my head and helps keep me focused. I go to the football when I can, I’m into classic cars, I’m into classic bikes.

PMO – I saw on Twitter that you were looking for a ticket to the Arsenal Tottenham derby. Did you find one? I presumed you were so well connected that someone would sort you out.

NJ – People might presume that but that’s not actually the case. I don’t go out of my way to court footballers or people from that world.

PMO – I read that you did Thierry Henry’s wedding.

NJ – I played at his wedding and I also played at one of Obama’s inauguration parties which is far more interesting that doing a footballers wedding.

PMO – With the Obama gig, did you get to meet the man?

NJ – It was the only licensed club event in Washington that week, all the others were official black tie balls. I was in New York at the time and got a call from a friend who knew I was in the States asking me to come down. I think I only got immediate security clearance because of my MBE.

PMO – It must have been pretty amazing to be in Washington at the time.

NJ – Oh absolutely. It was a monumental time in history. I’ve done a few things like that. I did a closing party at the World Economics Forum in Dallas believe it or not.

PMO – What does that entail? Is that a room full of politicians?

NJ – It’s a mixture of politicians, ambassadors, captains of industry, blue collars, maybe one or two presidents.

PMO – Is that a hard crowd to get moving?

NJ – No, that’s the wonder of drink and I suspect other things as well. Once the networking gets done…networking comes before anything.

PMO – If you play all these all diverse kind of crowds, what’s your preferred crowd?

NJ – The street kids, or everyday people are my favourites. People who are like me and I’m like them.

PMO – Which brings me nicely onto Carnival. I saw the official statement on your website but I think people didn’t really understand why Good Times wasn’t there this year. Was it a crowd safety thing or…?

NJ – It was a a lot of factors.

PMO – It wasn’t one thing?

NJ – It’s never just one thing. I’ve been doing it too long to be affected by one issue. The overriding issue was that I wanted a break. After 30 years I’m entitled to take a holiday, have a gap year.

PMO – I read you comparing it to Glastonbury taking a break. I think you were sorely missed, you and Rampage both, two big holes either end of Carnival.

NJ – Of course…but it was timing as well. Because of the timing, with the police and the authority in that kind of mood, post London riots…I didn’t need it. I was actually glad that I wasn’t around performing in that kind of climate.

PMO – Just to clarify, do you mean that you were uneasy about playing at that time?

NJ – No I made my announcement two months before. We’re living in very harsh austere financial times. People are so used to getting everything for nothing but people have to realise we don’t get sponsorship from Carnival. We have to fund it ourselves.

PMO – It’s not supported by people selling drinks or anything?

NJ – No.

PMO – So that’s a kind of gift from you every year then?

NJ – Yes.

PMO – I think people would have understood your absence more if they realised that.

PMO – You were brought up in Notting Hill.

NJ – Born there, but brought up in Acton. All my immediate family for many years were there in Ladbroke Grove.

PMO – It’s obviously changed a lot over the years, what do you make of it now?

NJ – I still love it, I will always have an affinity for the place. Its almost like an umbilical cord. It’s the area that gave me a platform for my success.

PMO – I get the feeling that there is a lot of money here now and people are sorry it’s lost some of the character it used to have. How do you feel about that?

NJ – One could level that accusation but with Carnival, it’s the only event that people can come to and its free. Whereas Glastonbury, you’re paying a couple of hundred quid or the Big Chill – you’ll pay it. You’ve a right to expect a certain level of staging. At Carnival, every year we somehow muddle our way through to put a show on with no aid, no Boris, no Arts Council grants, nothing.

PMO – How do you see the future of Carnival? Do you think the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea should fund it, do you think Boris should fund it?

NJ – Well they should do because Carnival generates £94m at the last costings. They should redistribute the money it generates – we don’t see a penny of that. It’s almost like they’re putting it on for the benefit of the police! The people who are selling food and drink have to pay a phenomenal amount of money for the licences and 95% of the time they don’t even make enough money to cover the cost of doing what they do. Everybody runs at an operating loss.

PMO – Where does the profit made from Carnival go?

NJ – No idea. It’s Kensington & Chelsea making the money in licensing, it’s the insurance companies who charge sky high premiums for anything to do with Notting Hill. The people who contribute nothing are profiting the most.

PMO – Do you think the future for Carnival might be to somehow charge people?

NJ – Some way, yeah. In the 21st century they have to look at that. We need some new kind of financing. The current model is unsustainable.

PMO – Do you have a favourite DJ? Do you still listen to other DJs?

NJ – I never did. I came before that whole DJ culture. I’m a fan of music. With the greatest respect to my peers, you’re only as good as the records that you play. I’m a fan of the people that make the music, you know, the artists, the singers, the producers. I never really swallowed the whole superstar DJ thing. Maybe its because of my age. I’m the first generation of ‘celebrity DJs’.

PMO – Do you feel like a celebrity?

NJ – No I don’t. I don’t do the whole rock n roll thing, the whole socialite thing. I’m not out seven nights a week. I still love parties and festivals, I still love being with crowds of people who are celebrating music and enjoyment. I love all of that, I live for that.

PMO – You don’t get stopped in Tescos?

NJ – I really couldn’t deal with that. As my immediate family and my lovely partner Jane says to me, I’m fundamentally shy. I’m very quiet, keep myself to myself.

PMO – Presumably you’ve got to meet some of the people whose music you play over the years?

NJ – Absolutely. I’ve had the pleasure of working with just about everyone who has contributed to UK club culture over the past 20 or 30 years, people that I’ve been in awe of.

PMO – Are there still any musical heroes that you’d like to meet?

NJ – Well, they’ve all passed away now! I would have loved to have met Miles Davis, Bob Marley. I’ve met Stevie Wonder. I was really privileged to have been the last DJ to have toured with James Brown.

PMO – Talking to you, you come across as being very content.

NJ – I am, I’m very lucky.  I’ve got friends who have had their homes repossessed, a friend who is dying of cancer.  I’m very content – I get paid for doing something I love.

Jazzie B

Posted: July 9, 2011 in DJ

So: Mark Bright passed me on to Jazzie B. A proper hero to me as Club Classics Vol 1 pretty much sound-tracked the start of my adult years. I turned 17 that year, learnt to drive and because my mates all got their driving licences too, we started heading down to Brighton clubbing, eager to find some thrills out of the safe little commuter town we’d grown up in. We hammered the tape through the summer and heard it booming out of other cars, shops, houses and flats everywhere. Listen to the fabulously snappy, clean beat that is the first five seconds of ‘Keep On Movin’ – it smacks of an era while still sounding the absolute nuts. Dance music was in the ascendance then and the album just seemed like another brilliant variant to get hooked into. And then the Stone Roses came out that same year. Glorious times.

Got to admit I cheated on this one a bit. You will note, near the end, that this didn’t remain a strict Q&A and became something like a conversation. People say ‘Don’t meet your heroes’ so I didn’t. Jazzie was on his bluetooth headset driving home when we spoke.

-So how do you know Mark Bright?

-Everyone knows him! We work at the same radio station, Radio London, so that helps. He likes a bit of music so I try and encourage him, give him a few pointers.

-Do you know how much of a Twitter freak he is?

-Yep – that’s why I don’t go near it.

-I tweeted ‘Has anyone got a question for Jazzie B?’ and he was the first one back. He asked if you’ve got any recommendations of new music to check out?

-Loads of it. He needs to get himself down to If Music off Great Portland St.

-I was going to ask you where you get new music for your show. Is that where you find it?

-I’m not affiliated with any one person anymore but having been a record store owner and being someone that collects a lot of music, I’m a bit anal about music. I travel all over the place and wherever I go, if I’m there for a day I’ll ask the promoter where the best record shop is locally. I still go through me mates records trying to nick ’em, still go to car boot sales and second hand shops. I’m finding a lot more vinyl. I think it’s due to houses getting smaller and people not having the space. For the last few weeks I’ve been having a field day. I still love me records, still go out and I’m still an avid collector.

-Before you started making money out of music, did you ever have a ‘normal’ job?

-I did. I’m a sound engineer by trade. I worked at Nova studios, that’s where my whole professional music career began, I did that for two years. In between that I worked for the Royal National Institute for the Blind on Goswell Road, I was a sound technician for them. After leaving school I wanted a career in the music industry but my careers advisor advised me to become a milkman or work in the GPO, which wasn’t really part of my make up. I spent half of my time trying to find a job – the RNIB job came up so I could still be around electronic equipment. I was always into electronics. I was 21 or 22 when I took my final pay-check.

-So when did you start running sound-systems?

-From birth! I was born into it. All my brothers own sound-systems. I did all sorts of bits and pieces for them…carrying the valves. I’m from the days of the valve! I was always around sounds and equipment. That was my first real love. I liked the smell of everything. We were always in the back of the van or back at the lock up. The smell of timber and the valves, the heat coming off everything, if you combine that with dust…it sounds really gooey but its a really interesting smell. Also the smell of the acetate, the dub plate, everything combined. When I found a way into the recording world I was very lucky because I was one of the first black people who actually worked in the early 80s in a professional recording studio world, at Nova studios and Pye studios, which was on the corner of Marble Arch. They had cutting rooms there. I also spent a lot of time in Reuben’s, the Jewish sandwich shop. I was the tape op so apart from cleaning out the phlegm of all the brass instruments, I was always sent out to the shop. So I’m a dab hand at making a cup of tea and I know my way around a Jewish menu.

-I read this interview with you on Djhistory.com that you were able to do warehouse parties because you knew this Jewish guy who basically gave you the keys.

-That’s right. We used to go to the estate agent because we knew this guy in there and he would give us the key like we were viewing. All you had to do was do your best at clearing up and give him the key on the Monday and Bob’s your uncle. That was before that become popular and the wide boys started doing it. We pretty much got away with it.

-The Soul II Soul motto is peaceful but I wondered if you have ever had to deal with any violence in your life, either when you were the young up start running sound-systems or when you started doing warehouse parties. Did you ever have to deal with any unsavoury characters?

-That’s an occupational hazard bro! I come from a big family and we had a certain reputation so…

Anyone in the sound-system world knows there was a lot of pantomime. Djing is always about ego, whatever anyone says. Whenever there’s that much testosterone around, things can get misconstrued.

There were lots of situations when shit went on, lots of fights. With that warehouse thing you had to stand your ground as other guys were trying to take liberties. Sound-systems are all about that kind of camaraderie, call it a posse or even a collective, we had the full circumference when it came down to battling and it wasn’t just in the music, there’s also that bit about protecting your own. There were always things going off, someone trying to break the speakers or slashing your tyres.

We were up in Manchester one time and ended up spending the latter half of the night at the Hacienda – we came out to find the minibus had been bricked up (some one had taken the wheels) and they’d smashed up the windows. There had to be a bit of retaliation there. Whether it was the right person we got involved with who took a hiding, I don’t know. That’s just part and parcel of growing up as a teenager. In those days you could live to fight another day. It wasn’t as serious as it is now because most of it was fisticuffs. I never put out anything to suggest that I was a peacemaker like Kofi Annan. I was just a North London geezer who probably fancied himself a little bit.

-What was it like for you when Club Classics Vol One blew up in 1989?

-My life more changed in the 90s because the whole of the 80s was about being the biggest sound-system in the world. I think I drew the right straw in terms of the release of that record because it definitely set the cat amongst the pigeons, in America as much as it did in Europe. It was groundbreaking and the best thing about that was I got a residency in New York. The sound-system of Soul II Soul was very prolific at that time. We were doing what they called cultural exchanges with Japan and we were quite established there. We were playing nightclubs in places like Roppongi anyway. We were really fortunate because we were travelling the world. They knew about the warehouse parties and the Africa centre and they wanted a piece of that.

-Do you miss the old days?

-I do miss knowing when my sound was playing out on the Friday, the setting up the day before, buying more equipment, wiping down the cables, testing the sound. I miss falling asleep in the lock-up…they were just brilliant times.
-When you start clubbing it’s almost inevitable that you’ll come across drugs. Now that you’ve got kids of your own, how do you feel about them going through that stage?

-There’s only so much you can do as a parent and worrying is probably the most fundamental one! My son is a footballer and is at the gateway to all of this hedonism. My son came to me recently and said ‘Dad I want to taste beer to see what it’s like. Can we have a drink together?’ After I’d scraped myself off up the floor, it was one of me proudest moments of being a father, having my son ask me that. You know what though? A lot of these kids are smarter than we give them credit for. At 14 or 15 I knew about basic drugs like weed and speed because of what I was involved with. Now with more stuff out in the open those subjects are not as taboo as they once were. With my age group, we’re going to be open with the idea of drugs and the effects of taking them. In a reasonable household, kids are probably a little bit more open on that level. With parents like ourselves we live in Camden and we see a lot of shit and they know the effects. Whether its a cousin or an uncle or an aunt or whatever who’ve got themselves a bit fucked up, those questions are not hidden like it would have been with our parents who were trying to hide stuff. We live in a community where you do see people who are less fortunate than ourselves and people who have made the wrong choices in their lives. Kids are a lot more savvy. As my Grandmother used to say, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I’d be shitting myself if I thought about that all the time given the amount of nonsense I got involved with!

-What do you make of shows like X Factor?

-Brilliant, love it. I think it’s great. I’m probably one of Simon Cowell’s biggest fans. I like the way he does his business. I’ve come up in the business since I was a teenager and there are a lot of bullshitters out there. I love the way that he’s the got the equilibrium between the bullshit and ripping the arse out of you with no lubrication. When I grow up I want to be like Simon Cowell. There’s a level of sincerity, I’m not going to call it honesty. When you’re shit he tells you that you’re shit and that’s not an easy thing to do. He is doing so much for us on that sort of level so it’s all good.

-‘A happy face, a thumping bass, for a loving race’ sounds like a motto. Are you a religious person?

-I was forced into religion like most kids of my age by our parents who were made afraid of it all. With my scenario it was trying to get a combination of living in the melting pot, trying to get a little bit of all the different religions if that’s the thing that’s going to bind us together. I suppose I took the piss a little bit because the Africa Centre parties happened on a Sunday and it did become one of those religious experiences.. I found out a lot later from some of the people that used to rave with us how much it meant to them. It was a real eye-opener. It was like us being in school and having a gang. If you belonged to the gang you had that ‘happy face, thumping bass for a loving race’ motto and if you went to the Africa Centre it would have made so much sense.

There was a full circumference of music played and there were loads of individuals who all moved together. You know if you go to a club and everyone’s wearing Fred Perry or Nike and everyone sort of looks the same? Back in the day there were a lot more flamboyant individuals. You could almost call it camp. What was interesting was you had people of both genders across the cultural span and the most significant part of it was, at the time I was involved with it, the Africa Centre was a black run organisation that was set up by the church as a refugee centre. When you talk about religion…I want to sort of say more ‘spiritual’, its probably not an accident what went on. Everything just felt right. Here we are coming up to 25, nearly 30 years later with the same motto and its as fresh as Club Classics Vol 1 is. Even though I say so myself those records…it happens every so often in a muso’s life I think, not that I put myself down with the greats, sometimes you get a ‘moment’ and it means that much.

-That album came at the right time?

-That was a lot to do with it as well. So much of this game is about luck and timing and 10% of that is the hard work. That’s very evident today. Especially when you pump up a lot of people as we tend to do in Britain. We drive these guys until the wheels fall off, which is a little bit about commercialism. I can happily say that the innings has been fantastic and today I still play that record much the same like a punter. I’m very proud to be a part of that.

-I was 17 when that record came out and it was such a massively influential thing for the people that I was around. As well as the record we started to read about you and what you were doing at the Africa Centre and it made us go out and explore and see if we could find different sounds. That record touched a lot of peoples lives.

-I’m beginning to see that more and more as I’ve got older. I’ve gone to territories now in Eastern Europe and they tell me stories about what they went through in the 80s and how affecting listening to a cassette of this music was and I’ll be like ‘Did you understand the words?’ and they say ‘It wasn’t about that’. It was a bit of egg on my face because music is something that you sort of..feel. It becomes part of your daily make up…it’s unbelievable.

-I think that’s when music is at it’s best when it is something that you feel. You can listen to things and they don’t really touch you but if you truly feel something then that’s when its really working.

-Absolutely and it’s like some of the records that I’ve got. It’s why Curtis Mayfield is so important to me. I still listen to his music today and find his lyrics profound. Also people like Donny Hathaway…

At this point Jazzie yells hello to his neighbour so I guess he’s home. Which seemed like the right place to stop.

Mark Bright

Posted: April 12, 2011 in TV Presenters

Has it really been a month since the last Pass Me On?  That’s hardly going to entice new readers is it?  There’s been a lot of unpleasant adult stuff to deal with in the mean time which is some sort of half sentence towards an excuse.  You don’t want to hear it.  Hopefully you’ll want to hear something on Mark Bright.  Gary Lineker passed me onto him.  ‘Top bloke Brighty’, he said.

Before I talked to him, have to confess I didn’t know a lot about him.  Most famously he played for Sheffield Wednesday and Crystal Palace but for me he was always the guy who got really excited whilst looking off camera at the games on Football Focus.  I liked him for that – someone who showed an obvious passion for the game, even while trying to give considered opinions on the sofa as the results came in.  He wriggles around, joyous at last gasp goals while the director is probably yelling in his ear trying to get him to stick to the punditry.  Lovely stuff.  I also like the fact he fitted our interview in while cycling from South London to White City  because he was in training for a London to Paris bike ride.   We ended up talking about racism, being gay and the pros and cons of Twitter.

– So how long is that going to take, doing London to Paris?

Takes three days, it’s 300 miles.  They’ve got training rides but every time there’s a training ride, I’m doing a game on the Sunday. They go out at 8 in the morning and do 60 miles.

– What’s the longest you’ve done so far?

I got up one morning and and cycled to Brighton. That’s about 54 miles. I got up in the morning and it was nice and I thought ‘Where shall I go?’ I did it on a fixed wheel – I was done for.

– What do you do for a living?

I’m now called a broadcaster.

– You were a footballer and now you’re a broadcaster so which one is better?

Football! By a million miles. Football is all I ever wanted to do when I was growing up. Just wanted to play for Port Vale and play in a Cup Final. Obviously I wanted to win a Cup Final but I just wanted to play in one. I had to get a job when I left school because they said I wasn’t good enough. So – got a job, four years hydraulic engineering. Went to college for one year, three years day release then turned pro with Port Vale. Broadcasting is good but football’s your dream. I love it. I didn’t release how much I loved playing football. Now its all over.

– When retirement was coming up did you know what you wanted to do next?

Yeah, absolutely. I liked being interviewed. Gary Lineker was instrumental in me getting into the Beeb. I played with Gary at Leicester and we remained friends. I started at the Big Breakfast.

– How did that come about?

A friend of my wife’s (Mark was married to Michelle Gayle) knew Johnny Vaughan, who wanted someone to come in and talk about the Cup Final. They got through to me at Charlton and asked me to come in and predict the result. There was me, Richard Keys and Alan Davies. Whoever predicted correctly was to come back in on the Monday and talk about it. Johnny and I just got on. Also I met Eamonn Holmes on a flight. We got chatting and he asked me to come in and talk about football. True to his word, he got me in. I like the fact that you’re still involved with the game but I was combining that with doing my coaching badges as well just in case.

– You’ve got your own column in Metro. I always wonder if name journalists do their own work or if they dictate it down the phone. Do you write that yourself?

I do. I have to write is Sunday evening or Monday before midday. I can choose my subject or I text one of the Editors and he suggests something. I do about 500 words but that can sometimes take me about three hours.

– Do you enjoy the writing?

No. It’s hard. What I have is all the information but I’ve got to structure and take out what I think is important. When you’re at your best is when you talk about your own experiences. A couple of weeks ago I talked about Steve Davies, the England cricketer who came out. That subject interested me because when I was at Sheffield Wednesday I was accused of being gay. Mainly at Sheffield Utd – Sheffield Wednesday games. My sister came to the game and she heard the fans singing Mark Bright takes it up the whatever. She asked me ‘Why do they sing that?’ I said to her, ‘It’s a rumour and I can’t stop it, what can I do?’ and so I just wrote about that experience.

– When you’re on the pitch is it easy to keep your temper? How do you deal with that kind of provocation?

There’s a guy who I’m friendly with now who I used to play against. I won’t name him because its a long time ago and he’d be embarrassed but he kept saying to me ‘Shirtlifter, shirtlifter’. Most footballers have got an arrogance to them and very few will play the game how its supposed to be played. If they think that by saying that they’ll make you lose focus and maybe take a swing at them, get sent off, they’ll do it. Or they just do it to completely wind you up.

– How easy is it to turn the other cheek?

Because I’m black, I’ve been used to it since I was young, by opponents or by people on the side of the pitch. You’re always told ‘Don’t retaliate’. But to have a guy who’s calling you nigger or whatever…it’s difficult. Friends would say to me ‘I’d punch him in his mouth’ and I’d explain that I’d get sent off and they would say ‘Well they wouldn’t say it again’ but they were missing the point – they would say it again to get me sent off again. You have to keep your composure because if you get sent off all the time, you’re no good to anybody.

– There’s a school of thought amongst fans who pay £40 or £50 a week to get into a game that they can say what they want.

People think footballers are fair game because of the job that they do, the exposure they get and the money they get. People think it’s ok, because he gets paid x amount a week and I don’t, if I want to call him a black whatever, I can do.  There’s an element of that in football but there are rules. Homophobia and racism in football – its against the law. You can’t do that in public, and its no different inside a football ground. No one deserves to be abused.

– Do you think its got better over the years?

Yep. You’ve got to remember that most weeks Wrighty and me used to get it. We used to dread going to West Ham, Newcastle, Liverpool or Everton, for example. But you know what? You used to love scoring against them!

Brighty with Wrighty (Coppelly in the middle)

– You’re an amazingly prolific Twitterer. Why do you love it so much?

I love Twitter. I’ve been doing it for three years. I got it. If you don’t get it straight away….we’re talking about a platform, we’re talking about feedback and being in touch because no one is accessible. People phone the BBC publicity department and ask for an interview with me. ‘Whats it about?’ ‘They just want to talk about this that and the other.’ And I’ll say ‘No, you’re alright’. It’s a stage but unfortunately its open to everybody. You get a few who want to say you’re this that and the other. You can block ’em but I usually reply to everybody. I’ve had quite a few people starting off abusing me and then ended up having a proper decent debate about their team with me.

I like to think that I’m in touch. I use the tube, I use the train. People approach me and talk to me, they ask questions. Sometimes they say that I’ve got a stern look on my face but I might be with my boy and they take up my time.

– Sometimes when you see famous people it can be a bit intimidating.

I was in the tube and there’s this guy looking at me and I can see that he’s trying to work out where he knows me from. Then he says ‘Nah man – I’m not ‘aving you.’ The tube is packed. ‘I see what you wrote about Arsene Wenger in the Metro’ he says, so I said to him ‘Take your headset off cos you’re shouting’ and he took it off and spoke in the same tone. I went warm with embarrassment. ‘Nah man’, he’s saying and just shaking his head.

It’s just a view, everything’s debatable. Twitter’s good. People ask questions every day. If I’ve got time I’ll say ‘I’ve got an hour free I’ll take questions.’  Also you can ask fans if you need a laugh. You can tweet ‘Name the best and worst player your club has ever signed’ and everyone’s got an opinion on that.

– Who’s the funniest person you work with?

The guy who does the accounts at BBC London who’s dry as you like and knows nothing about football. Other than that, Lawro is funny. Lawro is dry. If you get him, he’s funny.

– Is there anyone that you’d like to meet that you haven’t?

I’ve met most of my heroes. I met Bobby Moore and Geoff Hurst. I met Stanley Matthews at a marathon and I introduced Pele on the Big Breakfast.  There’s nobody that I’d be intimidated by. People are just people. It’d be nice to say hello to Obama but he’s going to forget me in ten minutes.

– Who’s the best player you ever played alongside?

Chris Waddle in 1992. He was the best player in the country. He’d just come back from Marseille, played with me at Sheffield Wednesday and I knew he was good but I didn’t realise he was great. His knowledge, his passing, his finishing, his touch – he was a great player for me.

Danielle Lineker

Posted: March 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

Ok, so to come clean, this interview was the first one in the series that has become ‘Pass Me On’ – it was what gave me the idea.  It was originally posted over on Can I Write For A Living.  It’s now here as, given that Danielle was the first, it seemed a bit unfair not to have her included.  That and because Mark Bright told me off about it when I was talking to him.  If I was more techy I could probably get it in order but I’m not so there.

Now it has to be said, Danielle is pretty easy on the eye.  The paparazzi, noticing this, started training their long lenses on Gary and Danielle when they went on holiday.  From there it was only a hop and a skip to coming third in ‘Hell’s Kitchen’, presenting a show on step-families for the Beeb and apparently guesting on ‘Loose Women’ (although I never get to see that as I’m always at work).    Now she’s jumped into acting, currently touring in ‘Calendar Girls’, the stage play about the Yorkshire WI women who stripped off for a charity calendar.  She gave me a ring on a Friday night and we ended up talking about the buzz of acting, fame, booby dresses and Shakespeare.

-So how’s it going?
I don’t think my first night was the finest performance I’ve ever done in my life but…Gary’s looking at me as if to say ‘Dont talk shit’!
-When we met before I asked you how you would feel about speaking in front of a crowd.
I was nervous but the girls have been great. Jennifer Ellison, Lisa Riley and Bernie Nolan have been like sisters to me throughout the tour. They’ve been looking after me and suggesting that I try this or try that. You worry when you walk into a group of girls and you’re the new girl but they’ve been really welcoming.  We were all nervous – even these girls who have been out there doing it for 10 years were nervous as well. Lisa gave me some Kalms for the nerves but I think you’ve just got to get out there and get through your first night.  Performing in front of an audience was a real buzz and I think that’s what people get addicted to.
-So a lot of adrenalin going on?
Absolutely. It’s very intoxicating.
-In the Calendar Girls film there’s a lot of trepidation about stripping off in front of the photographer. Do you have to do that onstage?
My part is the only character who keeps her clothes on. I don’t think I could have dealt with that, being naked on my stage debut, no way.
-What made you want to act?
Its been a feeling since I was six years old. I was always performing as a kid and then I got to my teenage years and I got alopecia and completely lost my confidence, got very introverted and shy and that’s what held me back.  I loved all the musicals, Mary Poppins, the Wizard of Oz, Annie. One of my fondest memories is dancing round my living room with my brothers and sisters and then I always loved Drama and English literature as a teenager. I was 16 when I lost my hair and it was about a year before it grew back. I got to about 28 and so many people had said to me that I should do it..(stops to talk to Joe McGann, who’s walked into her dressing room)
-Do you have a favourite actor?
I tell you who I think is really good, Vincent Cassell who is in Black Swan at the moment. I think he’s fantastic.
-I saw it the other night, it scared the bejesus out of me.
I know everybody’s going on about that but I thought it got a bit ridiculous when she was growing feathers. It’s great but when she looked in the mirror and the feathers started growing out of her arms I just thought ‘Oh come on!’ I thought it got a bit ridiculous then. It’s shot beautifully though. Natalie Portman is one of my favourites too. She plays it well.
-You haven’t had any freaky hallucinations while appearing in Calendar Girls?
No, I’ve had dreams where I forget my lines and can’t speak on stage. It wakes me up. For about a week I kept dreaming I was stood on the stage and couldn’t speak.
-You’ve been in the show for a couple of weeks now so is it becoming easier?
The first couple of shows I just wasn’t present on stage and now there are times when I’m really enjoying it and I’m, oh I hate to say ‘In the Moment’ because it sound actor-y and wanky but there are times when I know I’m completely in the moment and that’s when you get the buzz of performing live. I’m hoping that the more I perform that’ll happen for more than a moment or a minute and it’ll be for the whole time I’m on stage.
-The WI ladies had a taste of fame so I wondered how you felt about it.
For me, its weird, I don’t see myself as a famous person, I’m just married to someone who is very famous. There are obviously lots of advantages. I know I wouldn’t be in this play if I wasn’t Gary’s wife. There are lots of things I’m thankful for. The modelling contract with La Senza came as a result of me being photographed in Barbados with Gary. I find it hard to look on the bad side. You get the press intrusion but you learn how to deal with it.
-Is it scary when you come out of restaurant and you’ve got a bunch of photographers waiting for you?
Completely and I was very naïve. People might believe me or not but when I first met I knew he was a footballer so because of the celebrity side to it, I wasn’t sure about dating him.
-Had you thought about the level of press intrusion there might be?
Absolutely not. Once we’d got pictured together it was like ‘Oh My God what’s happened to my life?’ The intrusion was everywhere, people I went to school were approached by journalists, people tried to see my brother in hospital saying they work for the Mirror or the Mail – they didn’t, they were just freelancers trying it on, trying to talk to nurses to get stories. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat and went to the doctors in the end to give me something to help me out. I knew he was a footballer, I knew there would be some interest but nothing like the interest that there was.
-Did it ever make you think ‘Is it worth it’?
I remember Gary coming to see me just after we’d been pictured in the News of the World and I told him ‘I can’t understand this, its not like you’re Brad Pitt or anything’! I knew he was really special but there were times when I thought I couldn’t handle the celebrity side of it.   He’s had it for a long time so he just helped me through it. If the relationship hadn’t had been as strong as it is, you probably would split up in that early stage because its really difficult.
-So in a way it reaffirmed that the relationship was a good one?
It did yeah.
-When you went out in ‘that dress’ did you think that you might see yourself in a few of the papers?
No. We were getting ready to go out. The dress was really draped and you couldn’t see much. I asked Gary if it was ok, it wasn’t booby – I wasn’t going to go out with my boobs out with his son and all his best friends! We drank so much as it was his 50th birthday and I think throughout the night the corset underneath had slipped and the drape of the dress had gone down. I remember I was so concerned about not appearing drunk I hadn’t even thought about the dress.
-You looked pretty together but Mr Lineker looked like he’d had a few.
Well it was his 50th
-Do you hope being in ‘Calendar Girls’ might lead to other things?
I’d love to do some more theatre, some Shakespeare, like Portia in Julius Caesar.
-That sounds like quite a heavyweight role.
It is. I’ve had two years of training and my coach was very classical.  My Director in Calendar Girls has said to me ‘You’re so serious Danielle, you need to lighten up.’ It’s the way I’ve been taught, Stanislavski method, so I’d love to put some of that training into practice.

(In Stanislavski’s system, actors deeply analyse the motivations and emotions of their characters in order to personify them with psychological realism and emotional authenticity). It’s very difficult in the acting world. I think people would look at me and say ‘Oh she’s a bit commercial’.

-It would be a very unexpected move for you and in a way, the knives would be out – you’d be up for that kind of challenge would you?
Yeah. The part that I’m doing at the moment is comedy and I think making people laugh is harder. I would love to do a Shakespeare part.

-You should get your PR to have a word in someone’s ear.
They’d say (adopts luvvie type voice) ‘I don’t bloody think so! DANIELLE BLOODY LINEKER!’

Gary Lineker’s boot was the only validation on a moral victory over Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’. It was in Mexico in 1986 that cheating Diego touched the ball over the England goalkeeper Peter Shilton. The only recompense we got that year was that Gary came home with the Golden Boot, having scored six during the tournament.

Match of the Day is now as much a part of British life as fish ‘n chips; as the presenter of the show, Gary’s enthused hyping of the matches and gentle dissection of tactics feels as familiar as a cup of tea. At some point in my life I probably wanted to be him. I lived in a cul-de-sac and the wall outside our house was our goal. God knows how much time I spent teeing up shots for the other kids, practising my passing and smashing the ball at that wall.

After talking to Mrs Lineker last week, I asked if she would pass me on to someone else to interview. ‘Gary’s here’ she said, ‘Fancy talking to him?’ A week later he was killing time at Heathrow before heading to Dublin to see her and we had a natter about footballers wages, the nature of happiness and being the crisp bloke.

PMO – Thanks a lot for talking to me.

GL -That’s all right I just do what I’m told. Life’s so much easier that way.

PMO -What’s been the more fulfilling for you – the career you had as a footballer or the career you have now as a presenter?

GL- In many ways the broadcasting. You don’t have the highs of the football, with moments of euphoria or even despair but I was born to be in the box not on the box. For some inexplicable reason I had the natural gift of knowing how to score goals but while I worked hard at football, I had to work even harder to carve out a career in broadcasting. It didn’t come naturally to me at the beginning, it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get to the stage where I was comfortable in front of the cameras and the environment I was working in. The awards that I’ve won in TV give me more satisfaction than those that I won in football.

PMO – It’s strange to hear you say that. When you see people like Wayne Rooney score goals like the one he did last week (a flying overhead kick) and 75,000 people in the stadium go nuts and then millions more across the globe…

GL -That’s kind of my point. You never replace those moments of sheer elation but you never knew you were going to get them anyway which is one of the reasons it was so amazing when they happened. You were never quite sure when your last goal was going to be. That is irreplaceable. I’m not necessarily talking about which gives you the greatest thrill but in terms of personal pride, because broadcasting was very much a secondary profession until it reached the levels which were comparable with what I achieved in football, it makes me reasonably proud.

PMO -When you scored all those goals for England in the ’86 World Cup did you have any sense of what it meant to all the people back home? I was wondering when the last time you were in a pub and how nuts the nation goes when it’s on?

GL – Of course I do because I cover it for the Beeb but you don’t really have any perception of what’s going on back home when you’re playing because you’re cocooned in this protective environment of hotels, security, bus rides and games, especially in those days. Nowadays it’s probably different with technology and computers. You can grasp anything that’s going on back home.  In Mexico in 86 you couldn’t even make a phone call from a landline – we had one phone in the hotel we could use every other day. No mobile phones then, not even phones in the room. In those days you had no idea what was happening at home. Nowadays you do but I think its always a surprise when you come back from a World Cup and see the effect its had.

PMO – Do you think there is more pressure now because of the incessant coverage of the internet?

GL – There’s always been pressure and the great players will always handle that. The spotlight is ever bigger, football seems to grow and grow and it just becomes seemingly so important to so many people.

PMO – Can you describe what its like to be famous?

GL – It’s become part of life, it’s how it is. I’d notice it more now if I wasn’t recognised everywhere with people shouting, ‘It’s the crisp bloke’.

PMO – Do you get that a lot?

GL – Oh yeah, all the time. Its been so long since I was anonymous, half my life, I cant really remember what it was like when I wasn’t known by everybody. I’ve dealt with it a long time. 99.9% of people are really friendly which makes it easy. If you get irked by people being pleasant there’s something wrong with you – you’ll give yourself worry and drive yourself bonkers. We all get bad moods occasionally when we can’t be bothered but that shouldn’t be very frequent.

PMO – When you got divorced and then started seeing Danielle I think a few journalists were a bit catty about that. Do you care what the general public think of you?

GL – Anyone who says they don’t care is made of sterner stuff than most people or just lying. It’s never pleasant. I didn’t start seeing Danielle until two or three years after I’d split up with Michelle. It wasn’t like I left one for another, it was never the case. I got a bit of stick occasionally after the divorce but it was only from people who didn’t know what was going on in terms of their ignorance of the realities of it, so I largely ignored it.

PMO – When you started seeing Danielle did you realise that the papers might get a bit excited about it?

GL – Course because I hadn’t been seen with anyone. I hadn’t met anyone that I’d got close to wanting to introduce to my kids or be seen in public with. I always knew there would be a great deal of interest in ‘the next woman’ if you like.

PMO – Danielle mentioned that some of the press intrusion was underhand and intrusive. How did you feel about that – were you wary of it, did you expect it?

GL – When we first got caught by the paparazzi she was sort of laughing about it but I just said to her, ‘You have no idea what’s about to happen.’

PMO – So you were trying to prepare her for the worst?

GL- I tried to but there was an investigation into every aspect of her life with people trying to talk to her friends.  That becomes very intrusive for a while until they get bored and move onto someone else. They’ll dig and dig and dig but that’s how it is, you have to put up with it. Overall the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Also the PR can be very useful, the self PR for a start, PR for a company you’re working for like Walkers or the BBC, charity stuff. The only thing that really gets to me is untruths which are written, which happens on a fairly regular basis.

PMO – Do you ever think about suing?

GL – I’ve sued a number of times now, it’s the only way. If you don’t sue quickly it becomes ‘true’. It goes onto the internet and it stays there unless you sue. I wish I’d got onto that a bit earlier. There were one or two things written earlier on that I left alone and I should have dealt with it. I’ve found things are much better when you take action when people write wrong things.

PMO – Do you think footballers get paid too much?

GL – They do and they always have done, including when I played but footballers will get paid the going rate. If people are prepared to pay them that it’s not their fault. You could never sit there and justify their wages in comparison to people who do real work. They’re in the entertainment business. Whether its football, basketball or baseball, acting – top actors get paid fortunes, thats how it is. You’ll never justify it.

PMO – How important is money to you?

GL – It makes things easier but it’s not what motivates me. I dont think I’m greedy. I get well paid and I get that. I think we all get paid the best wage we can if I’m honest. I’ve been offered lots of things that I’ve turned down. I dont do things just for money.

PMO – Do you think money can bring happiness?

GL – Happiness is fleeting anyway isn’t it? Happiness is something that is there for a while, then goes away, comes back again. I don’t think there is an eternal happiness. It’s one of the aspects of doing well in whatever you do. Earning a good wage is one of the things that can make life a lot easier.

PMO – When was the last time you were very happy?

GL – I’m very happy now. As happy as you can be waiting for a flight! I’m absolutely totally aware of how fortunate I’ve been in life and to have two really enjoyable and successful careers and lots of kids. Life’s full of ups and downs but generally I’ve been blessed really.

PMO – You’ve been successful in two careers – do you have any ambitions left to fulfil?

GL – I’ve done what I do for quite a long time and more of the same would be fine but I’ve veered away from branching out into entertainment: TV shows, quiz shows, I don’t feel comfortable in that genre. Various things have been thrown at me over the years that I’ve knocked back. I don’t want to be that busy, I’m not that greedy and I don’t want to go too far out of my comfort zone. I think I’ve got a niche that works around football and there’s a danger that you can put your head above a parapet and I’m in a position where I don’t need to do that. One ambition I do have that is largely out of my hands is that I’d love to do a live broadcast and utter the words at the end that England have won the World Cup. That would be very special. I fear it may never come true!

PMO – You’re 50 now so I guess you might have another what, 10 World Cups left?

GL – 10 World Cups! 40 years – I’ll be 90!

PMO – You’ll probably make that, you’re a fit bloke.

GL – Christ almighty, 90! I wont live that long!

PMO – How come you’ve always got a tan?

GL – I’ve got olive skin, same as my mother and her mother, it’s that side of the family. They’re from Norfolk so something’s gone on somewhere along the line. I’ve definitely got something in me from overseas somewhere. I do tan very quickly and we do try and get away occasionally. I don’t spray or go on sun beds!

PMO, Lastly, you’re always pretty well turned out when we see you on the telly. I wondered if you could help Mark Lawrenson out with his haircut?

GL – Lawro’s hair is beyond help now. It’s a frizz thats gone beyond a frizz.