THERE are various ways you can try to persuade straight society to buy weekly magazines from homeless people – free gifts, guilt trips, having a picture of Danger Mouse on the cover – but for a time at the Big Issue in the North, we decided to use instantly recognisable celebrities instead.
The idea to capitalise on the street-wise cachet a high-profile interview with the magazine could deliver came after people like the Stone Roses and Morrissey ignored Fleet Street and the music press to give us world exclusives on their post-hiatus returns to the limelight.
It worked for a while, but the emphasis on finding easily-recognisable faces week in week out led to us going for whatever pop culture dreck was ploughing their way through the grim regional press grind that particular week – telly, movies, music, the lowest common denominator stuff you could ever imagine.
Ultimately, it looked like we were just another celeb-focussed magazine, but crucially, unlike Heat or OK, you had to buy our magazine from someone who was very often a drug addict.
This Mis-Teeq interview dates from a period when I was commissioning interviews – and occasionally, as with this one, writing them myself – with the likes of various Spice Girls, Atomic Kitten, Hear Say and Westlife (as well as, in my defence, people like Macy Gray, Craig David and Amy Winehouse). It is nobody’s finest moment.
THE first time I ever got an inkling of the glamour surrounding Swing Out Sister was during a stint working behind the counter at a record shop in a dour northern steel town. One morning about 25 girls came in and asked for a record called Breakout by Swing Out Sister. None of us had ever heard of them but I liked the band already ..
I liked them even more when I saw the beautifully designed sleeve for Breakout, featuring the group’s singer Corinne Drewery, with a look inspired by equal parts Kibuki theatre, Louise Brooks in Pandora’s Box and Tiger from The Double Deckers.
By the time I heard the exuberant brass-heavy electro-funk of the record itself, I was sold. The whole package – the look, the music, even the name – exuded a certain elan, an effortless glamour, easy sophistication, sheer class. All qualities in short supply in Scunthorpe at that time.
CALLING your band Crazy Penis is neither big nor clever. The group’s new album, however, is both.
Crazy Penis is such a fantastic name for a band. Like many people, I was sold by the time I’d seen the cover of their debut album, which featured a poorly photocopied photograph of the group in yellow bear costumes. Even before I’d heard the music.
Of course, after just one listen to 1998’s A Nice Hot Bath With Crazy Penis, it immediately became clear that their name and comedy outfits were the least of their attributes.
Packed full of big, bottom-heavy funky house numbers, there was also a strong element of live instrumentation – Chris Todd is an accomplished guitarist, while Jim Baron has been playing the trombone since childhood – to complement the usual sequenced rhythms. They made waves.