Not too long ago, in a petite coffee shop that straddles the the suits of Clerkenwell and the hipsters of Hackney, The Velvet Onion were lucky enough to catch Dave Brown in his busy life for a chat – Velveteer Paulyne caught up with him following the release of Scribblings Of A Madcap Shambleton and now we can bring you the first part from our afternoon with the designer.
“I wanted to get across the idea that Noel paints as he writes and writes when he paints. It’s how his mind works, his comedy is very visual.”
Although the book is a collection of Noel Fielding’s artwork, with Brown taking on the entire design of the book I wanted to find out the process of putting it together and working with the artist. Dave explains, “When I was putting the Boosh book together and going through Noel’s mountain of sketchbooks, I realized that there was obviously loads that was Boosh related but there was also loads that wasn’t and more related to his stand up, so it was really a case of ‘With all your paintings and this, we could make an amazing book for you’.”
Back in the early days there was once a house in Hackney that occupied Brown, Fielding, Nigel Coan (Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy, The Mighty Boosh’s, The Moon) and many others including illustrator Jake Steel (The Mighty Book Of Boosh‘s Rudi & Spider graphic novel) Richie Martin (Luxury Comedy’s Model Maker) and Joe Fox (Pipey Boosh Series 1). Their shambolic home was covered in Fielding’s artwork, though Dave jests at Noel’s failure at archiving what he would paint, “It used to do my head in, he would have a room full of canvases, all stacked up in piles and under his bed and because he couldn’t afford to buy new ones, he would paint over stuff he’d already done and had got bored of, it drove me insane cause some were great and he had no record of them. I would always try and take pictures of what he’d done but many were lost without a trace! but at least he has the book now, he’ll probably paint over all of them now!”
If I were to summarise my thoughts on Dave prior to meeting him – like everyone else, I thought of him as the Ape/designer/comic/dancer who is able to stick his fingers in many Booshy pies. But how would Brown classify himself when asked to narrow his occupation down to one thing? “A creative I guess. Or a Slasher, don’t they call it a slasher these days? Designer slash photographer slash performer slash Budgie breeder slash cheese sculptor. You try explaining to your accountant that you’re a designer, photographer, comedian, singer, director, DJ, gorilla, naan bread – Accountants and Tax men love stuff like that!”
When juggling this many roles all at once, it all boils down to a career working amongst friends. Dave originally met Noel in college where they shared a love for comedy, and he explains that at that point in time his main ambition was to become a designer or photographer. Indeed, working with a long time friend may be treading on dangerous ground but this pair seem to set an example when it came to the book. “He’s pretty good. He trusts me and lets me choose [paintings]. Obviously he has some favourites and there was no doubt that they would go in! There were some however, like the last page portrait with the tea, that he wasn’t really fussed about but I came across in a sketch book and loved, he trusts my opinion.”
There’s no doubt that the book is a big hit with the fans; after Noel’s art has been in the limelight for last few years being able to take some home with you is nothing but a delight. What about Dave’s own photography book though? “I really hope to do a book in next year or so of my photography, but purely of the Boosh – 10 years of the Boosh. I haven’t worked out yet though whether it’s going to be purely photography, or if there will be some writing from my tour diaries and stuff in there. I’m the only one with a photographic record from day one, and it would be great to get it out there for the fans.” This isn’t the first time a book of Brown’s own photography has been mentioned and with everything else happening it’s understandable if we have to wait a few more Christmases to see it.
As we all know, the Boosh folk have never been afraid to tread close to the line, and the middle-page of the Scribblings book is one that leaves little to the imagination. Dave explains, “That was up at Noel’s exhibition [the painted over pornography] and there were kids going to that. He’d never put anything up on a wall or in a book he wasn’t happy with. To be honest I thought that would get cut by the legal bods, and was amazed it got through. I do love it though, very Keith Haring, kind of makes a mockery of the crap top shelf porn that you’d often find in the woods as a child! Apparently Asda’s got a problem with it – they didn’t know it was in the book until a area manager called Alan pointed it out in disgust. There was outrage and now it’s been banished to on a higher shelf! Like that’ll stop the youngsters seeing naughty bits! think they need to chill out a little. Do a google search for anything these days and you get tits and arse, if you’re lucky. Anyway they can talk – they slap their arses in their TV ads!” He draws a line on the subject, “There’s a lot of other profanity in the book. It’s all silly or funny or in context isn’t it?”
After talking about the book in such depth I went on to ask the extent of his involvement. It sounds like it was close to near to everything! With the exception of some photos that were taken by buyers abroad, including Dave’s brother now residing in Australia, the Boosh’s American representative Danny Bennett, and famous photographer Nobby Clark – Dave and friends took the time to track down all of the paintings and collate them for our visual pleasure! And it wasn’t always easy. “Many were owned and framed behind glass; ideally I’d have got them all out of their frames in a studio and shot them all in the same lighting state but very difficult when people own them, we couldn’t exactly start ripping them off the walls, pulling their frames off, and walking off into the sunset. I had to shoot many at people’s houses on floors/tables. I developed a technique where I’d shoot them at angles to avoid the glass reflection then re-touch them back into perspective. Absolute nightmare and so time consuming – and probably the most boring thing I’ve ever explained in an interview! I got technical on your arse! Sorry.” Dave’s light-hearted comment about the complications with the photographs doesn’t disguise his passion about his work, his attention to detail and conquering something that was a serious hindrance at the time. Personally I could listen to such talk all day.
The afternoon drew on and as we trailed off discussion about the book, Dave continued to be frank, open and laid back, which I found more than impressive considering how many balls he has been keeping in the air lately! Scribblings is something to be admired, and now we hope it is a piece of work that you can look upon in awe with knowledge of the hard work that has been put into it. You can still order your copy in time for Christmas in our shop and if you want to really impress your friends and family, the limited edition versions are also avaliable to order!