What happens when a long haired, metal loving, cross-dressing comedian starts a band with his best mate; a pink (sorry, purple!) bearded man with a penchant for musichall lyricism and all things Victorian? The mutha of all steampunk bands is born, that’s what. The Men That Will Not Be Blamed For Nothing are coming to town this month and they’re armed with their new album ‘Not Your Typical Victorians’ and a whole host of shouty, sweary, gin-soaked (yay!) fun. Here’s what happened when our resident pink-haired, beard fetishist, gin enthusiast met up with guitarist and all round dark lord of comedy, Andrew O’Neill…
So your new album came out TODAY. How are you feeling?
Really excited. It’s easily the best thing we’ve done and we’re very, very proud of it. The first album was pretty much me and Andy dicking about with some ideas and we were surprised that people seemed to like it so we put a band together and recorded an album and bit by bit it’s sort of grown. And then this album, the songs are a lot more It’s more of a grown up album.
But really, you already let it slip out a few weeks ago…did you just get tired of waiting?
Yeah we’re a bit impatient haha. We’re punks. We’re not very good at doing things officially so we were like ‘we’ve got them. D’you want them? OK’.
How do you come up with the subject matter for your songs?
Well this is all Andy. On this album he wrote the main lyrics for every song so they’ve come to him in various ways; in the bath or when he’s cycling to work. He’s got a very, very dark mind.
This album features an entire song about gin. Do you like gin? I like gin…
I do, yeah. We’re all quite big fans it has to be said. The cheaper the better.
And how do you take your gin?
Oh with tonic. We’re old school so we go with tonic. Some cucumber, if you’ve got it. Fruit and vegetables, shove it all in…
Where do you stand on the lemon vs lime debate?
Whatever’s to hand. I think you’re underestimating my raging alcoholism. I’ll put a banana in it if I need to!
How do you fit the band in around your comedy gigs?
Really badly. Very unsuccessfully. It’s a struggle, to be perfectly honest because stand up’s my living and the band doesn’t make any money. So if we’re on tour for two weeks, I’m not doing my job and I don’t get holiday pay. The tour we’re about to do, I am the main support act so I’ll be doing half an hour of stand up before each show so that keeps me sharp and it keeps me standing up. They kind of complement each other. Over the summer we did a lot of festivals where I did comedy and the band but fitting it all in is a clash.
Is it strange to support your own band?
It depends on the show. Steampunk crowds can be pretty weird. They’re very confident and they’re very heckle-y in very strange ways but they are smart, so there’s a pay-off. Supporting any band is strange because of the environment so you really have to get people to shut up and listen. They’re stood up, rather than sat down; people talk over music so they’ll talk over stand up so you have to be a bit more direct. You have to overcome the urge to go ‘No! You’ve got to listen!’ and there are various techniques you can use.
You do quite a lot of music festivals with your stand up so you must be quite used to taming that sort of audience…
Yeah, exactly. For a festival crowd it’s different again because often they don’t know who I am and they’re not there to see me; they’ve probably just walked past and thought ‘oh, it’s a thing, let’s have a look’ so the material has to be punchier. You can’t do anything like a running theme because people have walked in halfway through so you have to be punchier, a bit more aggressive even.
You guys have played some major festivals, which one was the weirdest?
Secret Garden Party. It looked like The Road. It was the most depressingly post-apocalyptic thing cos it absolutely hammered down with rain and as we got there, because it’s a young crowd that are not used to it, there was this mass exodus of people having given up on the festival and going home because they couldn’t stand the rain. People in shorts with carrier bags on their feet because they hadn’t prepared for The Outside. We had to carry our gear across the whole site. I had to put my effects pedals in plastic bags cos they were being rained on. But then the flipside of that is doing Glastonbury or something where you’re looked after. It was a dream come true.
Why steam punk? What is it about the Victorian spaceship stuff that pushes your buttons?
Well, me and Andy were obsessed with the Victorian era. That’s basically what it came down to. For me, it extends from reading Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell’ and then I got really into Ripper-ology. I did a show about Jack the Ripper a few years ago and off the back of that I do Ripper Tours round the murder sites. We both just really love the era and the aesthetic and then we found steampunk and kind of went ‘oh, there’s a name for people like us’. Steampunk kind of found us really.
A bit like an other-wordly Chas & Dave…
Yes! I’ve always loved Chas & Dave. I’ve always loved the cockney thing. And we took the punk bit in steampunk literally and there’s not a great deal of sci-fi in what we do; there’s actually not a great deal of steampunk in what we do. It’s basically just Victorian punk rock. But that musichall thing is superb and it’s delightfully freeing to be able to do exactly whatever we want with a song. Y’know if we were an orthodox black metal band and said ‘shall we do a cockney knees up outro?’ well, no, because people will think it’s shit but weirdly we’ve got loads of black metal fans. But we also have the ability to go as heavy as music gets. There’s grindcore and there’s black metal in what we do. We get a lot of people saying to us ‘I don’t normally like music that heavy, but I like you’ and the humour brings them in so we’ve got a very diverse range of audience membersesesesseses…
Obviously you’re a big fan of metal anyway, but those kinds of fans are often the ones with the best sense of humour…
Oh yeah. Well, people underestimate how self-conscious metalheads are. I mean, Napalm Death know that that’s a funny name. Cradle of Filth know it’s a funny name. I’ve always said if brevity is the soul of wit then Napalm Death are funny as f*ck. It’s true. Metalheads are smart. That’s why doing stand up for them at Download and stuff is good because metalheads are the ones who read books at school.
You like to cross-dress. I bet everyone asks you about cross-dressing. Do you get bored of talking about it?
Yeah. I mean, I did a radio show on it so I will refer the reader to that. It’s weird because it’s so just a part of me that it really takes effort to step out of it and think about it consciously now. Basically, a long time ago, I destroyed all notion of gender boundary and I dress however I want on any given day so it feels a lot less like I’m crossing a boundary now and it’s only when people give me the cartoon double take when I walk out the toilet and they double check the gents’ sign that I notice. So if it wasn’t for that, it probably wouldn’t occur to me that that’s what I’m doing anymore because I’ve folded it into my life.
Andy has a pink beard…
He does. Although he gets offended when people say it’s pink so I have to state that it’s dark purple.
My apologies, it must be the settings on my computer screen…
You’re an idiot, and you’ve made a fool of yourself haha
But I thought we were kindred spirits because I have pink hair and I love beards. So what I’d give for a pink beard. If I could grow a beard, I would. If I could grow a pink beard, I’d never have to work again. Can you grow a beard?
No. Oh no. My facial hair just gets in the way of putting on make up so I have to have a wet shave. No, if I try and grow it out I look like I’ve got a sea anemone on my chin.
What’s the most ridiculous billing of your band name you’ve ever seen? Cos it’s a tough one…
I think we’ve been called The Men That Won’t Be Blamed For Anything before…and when someone changes the ‘nothing’ to ‘anything’ that’s when you know they’ve gone several steps too far. ‘The Men That’ we had once and sometimes even the acronym is wrong. But the thing is, it’s a historically accurate grammatical error but when we first came up with the name, we said ‘The Men Who’ so you can’t blame people haha!
Catch them live 18 November @ Talking Heads
Words: Zan Lawther