Next month sees Rowland Rivron join Ade Edmondson (The Young Ones, Comic Strip, Bad News, Bottom, etc), Neil Innes (Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Monty Python, The Rutles, Innes Book Of Records, etc), and Phill Jupitus (Never Mind The Buzzcocks, QI, Radio 6 DJ, etc) as drummer in The Idiot Bastard Band. The band of funnymen are dedicated to the comic song, and before they take the show out on the road to have some fun I spoke to Rowland to find out more.
Why the Idiot Bastard Band?
It was an idea that Ade (Edmondson) came up with really, I'm pretty sure. Ade Edmondson and Phill Jupitus were guests, performing and singing on Neil Innes' Bonzo Dog Reunion tour, and so they were all singing together doing the Bonzo numbers, and during the course of the tour they discovered that they had a bunch of numbers that they'd written individually that they would quite like to roll out in front of an audience. That was, I think the kernel of the idea.
It started from very small beginnings, so small in fact, and so laid back that we didn't do any rehearsal, because of various people's commitments and because we couldn't be arsed, so 'The Month Of Mondays' that we did at The Wilmington Arms in Islington on Rosebury Avenue by Sadlers Wells Theatre, was advertised as rehearsal gigs so people could come along. We only charged a fiver for people to get in, so it was like a token thing. But, there was a bar there and everything, and people could just come along and watch us making our way through these numbers, very tentatively.
How did you get involved?
They wanted some drums just to give it a bit of oomph, and I'd known Ade, as we went right back to The Comic Strip days. I did all the drumming on Bad News, The Comic Strip film that he did, and he knew I was a drummer. We got on with each and we'd had a lot of escapades with the big tour. So, I was their first port of call (I hope).
Have you been on tour much before, well, since Raw Sex a long time ago?
Certainly, the first proper touring I did was with 'The Comic Strip' when it was a revue show, when it was a bunch of double acts and Alexei Sayle was compering, and they had a little piano, bass, and drums to accompany any of the songs that they were doing. Then, very hot on the heels of that I toured with Rik (Mayall), Ade, and Nigel (Planer) in 'The Young Ones' stage show. That was quite good, and then Dawn(French) and Jenny (Saunders) did a big tour for about a year, when we doing Raw Sex.
Then whenever Gilson (Lavis) is injured or can't do any gigs I sit in for him with Jools (Holland) and his Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. I've spent a couple of summers touring with Jools because Gilson had either broken his shoulder in a car accident or, the last time, he'd had a heart attack on Friday, and I was back in the band on Sunday. That was about 10 years ago, Jools had just acquired an eighteen/nineteen piece band. I then played with them for about 18 months I think.
Would that be the last time you were on tour?
Yes, that would probably be the last time, because since then I've been doing very much television stuff, and arsing around on the radio.
What's the best band you've seen touring?
I'm a big fan of Ian Dury and The Blockheads to be honest, in fact I do a couple of Ian Dury numbers in our Idiot Bastard Band set. They were the band I had the most time for. In my youth when I was in my early twenties I virtually lived at Ronnie Scott's club, the jazz club on Frith Street. So people like Buddy Rich and Cedar Walton, and people like that, jazzers, that was pretty impressive.
You've been on stage at various times over the years, which has been the most memorable gig you've played?
I think it was good fun playing with an 18 piece orchestra with Jools. They were good rousing gigs, with very excited audiences, but I think for shear enjoyment touring with Dawn and Jennifer for a year doing proper big theatres with proper big stage crews, and stuff like that.
Being able to turn into reality whatever whim or fancy you had. We would do some amazing things on stage. I remember coming on stage, Simon (Brint) and I, as Raw Sex (we did the first three quarters of the first half before Dawn and Jenny came on) and we said wouldn't it be good if we arrived on stage with me in a sidecar, and Ken (Bishop) on a motorbike. The next thing you know we are touring a motorbike and sidecar for one gag at the beginning of the show that lasted about 20 seconds. Stuff like that, that was good. It was pretty much a sold out year long gig, and it was right of the height of Dawn and Jenny's notoriety.
How long do you intend to take The Idiot Bastard Band on tour?
Well, this tour is very much on the back foot to date. In as much as we've only ever done odd gigs here and there. So, we've never really got any momentum going with the band, and the muso's, and the set and the songs. What we're doing with this tour is see if it has proper legs, because we've had offers to play in Australia and things like that. We're not sure whether to fully embrace this, because certainly Ade and Phill, and Neil have got a lot of commitments in other arenas. If we were going to all focus on the Idiot Bastard Band we would have to know that we were on to a winner, and I'm hoping that doing this tour starting in November we can really concentrate and focus on the music, because we will playing every night rather than playing every six weeks.
Your press blurb says you never play the same song twice, but you will have to have a set surely?
Oh yes, whenever we play a song it's never the same. You see up until now there's been such big gaps between each time we do a gig, that each time we do a song we approach it completely differently. It's the same song but it's always done in a slightly different way because of the length of time. But once we're doing them five or six times a week we'll get them match fit.
How much of the set is original material?
It's about a sixty percent original stuff and forty percent numbers that we all knew, and we're all mutual fans of. There's a John Hegley number in there, there's some Bonzo numbers in there, and a couple of novelty classic numbers from the Fifties, 'Transfusion' (Nervous Norvus) is a good song. Songs that we've all known, and mp3s were flying about to each other before each gig, and we'd ask "Do you know this song? Can we try it?" that sort of thing, and it would be "Yes, we'll give it a go!"
And they're all comedy songs?
Each song's got a humorous bend, there's nothing serious, so it is a night of music with humour, not music and humour. There's not been that many humorous bands like this, usually they're solo performers. The Bonzos (Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band) are the one that everyone gets drawn to, and of course Neil, but apart from that there's been a couple of American bands. But, Flight Of The Conchords are basically guys who play serious music but are very funny. John Hegley, he's good, as I said, we do 'Eddie Don't Like Furniture' which is a very funny song of John's. I think Ronnie Golden does quite humorous stuff, but they're usually just solo guitarists that have got whimsical songs. There aren't many bands... I suppose The Wurzels, and dare I say it The Baron Knights. There is a band called Ween apparently, who somebody told me are very good for the young people. All our songs are guaranteed to raise a smile.
Will there be an album in the future?
If we can get enough original numbers together because there's no real point doing covers. Once the guys are happy with the amount of numbers that we've got that are purely original I think it would be madness not to commit them to tape, just for prosperity if nothing else. Also, for when we need to learn the set again very quickly.
So you are intending to continue the band further than the end of the tour in December?
Yes, hopefully, we were approached to do a load of gigs in Australia in January, but Ade's writing another series of Bottom with Rik Mayall, so that's been put on hold. But, I'm hoping that that will just be put to the spring.
I was wondering if you would do any festival appearances?
Next year? Definitely. I don't know what ones, I just get a phone call and I'm told to be somewhere, I'm very hands off. But there's a lot of potential things on the horizon.
You can see the The Idiot Bastard Band on the following tour dates:
Thu 01 November Buxton Opera House, Buxton
Fri 02 November Assembly Rooms, Derby
Sat 03 November Town Hall, Birmingham
Sun 04 November Coal Exchange, Cardiff
Thu 08 November Embassy Theatre, Skegness
Fri 09 November The Sage, Gateshead
Sat 10 November The HMV Picture House, Edinburgh
Sun 11 November The Old Fruit Market, Glasgow
Thu 15 November Floral Pavilion, New Brighton
Fri 16 November Wyvern Theatre, Swindon
Sat 17 November Venue Cymru, Llandudno
Sun 18 November City Varieties, Leeds
Thu 29 November Subscription Rooms, Stroud
Fri 30 November The Alban Arena, St Albans
Sat 01 December LCR UEA, Norwich
Sun 02 December Union Chapel, London
Thu 06 December Fleece, Bristol
Fri 07 December Carnglaze Caverns, Liskeard
Sat 08 December Electric Palace, Bridport
Sun 09 December The Brook, Southampton
To buy tickets where available, click here.