Posts Tagged ‘Matt Berry Interview’

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.

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