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Singer, song-writer Barry Andrews interviewed – Page 2

Barry Andrews continues on jokes, music and furniture...

RV: Your sense of humor shines through in your lyrics, for example, phrases like “We are the Daleks of God”, “Blessed is the big damage”. And the cover of your album, Haunted Box of Switches, has you with a rifle aimed at a piano. I recall hearing an interview with you where you said you were inspired by the ancient belief “If you see the Buddha, kill it, because it’s not real”, and so wrote “Gunning for the Buddha”. Also, I recall seeing a Shriekback concert where you introduced a song by saying: “My reference to aerial dynamics was not entirely flippant.” I was wondering what has influenced your humour.

BA: Yeah, jokes are great, aren’t they? Aristotle said comedy was a higher form than tragedy and he was right. As as kid I used to like that strand of Brit humour that started with the Goons developed through Monty Python and then into Vic Reeves and so on. ‘Surreal’ is the word I guess, though that always makes it seem just random, which it isn’t. When Vic Reeves knocks over his enemy Lister with a fox embedded in an enormous diamond it has a kind of mad poetic logic to it, which is funny and I’m really not sure why.

There was a columnist called Beachcomber who I loved as a kid – ‘Dr Strabismus (whom God preserve) of Utrecht’ – James Fenton’s comic verse – ‘Parting Time Hall’ is wonderful.. Flann O’Brien’s a great comic writer because he’s so erudite and straight-faced. (His narrator has an underwater meeting with St Thomas Aquinas). I like it when humour takes itself seriously – when it’s not so much about yuks as a deep-down grin.

RV: I read you also were interested in art and furniture. Are you creating these things? Does the creative impulse in you just look for anything that will express it best, or do you think music and language cover it, and art and furniture is something you’ve been doing for their own sakes?

BA: I had a six year hiatus from the Muzbiz in which I started making sculpture and weirdshit furniture. I went and got a degree in Metalwork design. You’d best check out BarryAndrews.net for the nature of these things. Yeah, I think some things are best expressed in particular ways and I do think my nature is to make things with whatever comes to hand. However, the impulse is also a sensual one – I like the idea of making a noise in front of people – affecting them with sounds-, similarly I like the idea of lighting fires and melting metal or pouring vicious acid on things. Chemistry sets, messy magic, all that.

RV: How did you get started playing music?

BA: Listening to it a lot as a kid and yearning – really yearning – to make that magic happen myself. Ma and Pa bought me a recorder and I loved it and got good at it very quickly. Then they refused to give me piano lessons which, in hindsight, was the best possible thing they could have done. By the time I inherited a piano from my Grandad I was in a state of high Musical Arousal…

RV: How do you write your songs? Do you collect phrases you hear and write them in a diary? How do you put a song together?

BA: It’s a strange and mysterious process as it goes. Certain words and nagging obsessions, musical phrases that seem to have – uh – resonance. Then a lot of good old fashioned graft to bring the whole thing up towards the surface. Does that explain it? Probably not.

RV: Assuming you write poetry as well, are they similar to your lyrics, or are your poems a different matter altogether in terms of subject and style?

BA: No, I don’t – poetry per se is a fierce and total discipline I think, and something one should either do totally or leave alone. Lyrics are a component of a bigger thing.

RV: Do you keep a diary and if so what sort of things do you write about?

BA: I have two diaries – one for work thoughts and plans, the other for my dense introspection and internal turmoil.

RV: What’s it like when you’re on tours? Do you do a lot of reading, or is it too tiring?

BA: Looking at the World is instead of reading I reckon, and the older I get the more fascinating even the most seemingly banal places are.

RV: What future projects do you have in mind, whether Shriekback – related, art, memoirs, books, touring, anything else?

BA: I intend to keep working on a number of fronts – there’s obviously Shriekback – which seems to be bubbling along still (new six track ep called ‘Having a Moment’ out soon). There’s the piano record ‘Haunted Box of Switches’ which I’ll be promoting in the States next month (April) along with the noisy samply ‘Stic Basin’ a new project which I’m devising at the moment and which I’ll also be touring with in April. It’s a very juicy time and it’s nice to be back in harness.

Check out http://www.BarryAndrews.net

-copyright Simon Sandall.