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So Hot Right Now #28

27 Apr

Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more. Click through for the latest news, and see what’s so hot right now THIS WEEK below…

A SEANCE WITH LOWE & LLOYD FOR INSIDE NO. 9

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

© Sophie Mutevelian / BBC

The superlative creativity of Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton seemingly knows no bounds, as demonstrated perfectly by the second series of Inside No. 9, which concludes its eclectic run of six one-off tales this week, with special guest appearances by Downtown Abbey star Sophie McShera and Mike Leigh veteran Alison Steadman in the macabre Seance Time.

Tina (McShera) has never consulted the spirit world before, and isn’t quite sure what to expect on her visit to psychic Madam Talbot (Steadman). The medium’s assistant Hives (Shearsmith) seems quite helpful, but there’s already something waiting for Tina on the ‘other side’ and he knows all about it.

To say more would, as ever, ruin the subtle surprises on offer, but we will add that there’s the added bonus of guest appearances by TVO regulars Alice Lowe and Cariad Lloyd, as well as Doctor Who‘s resident Sontaran, Dan Starkey (last seen in Ben Wheatley’s Deep Breath in August, and occasional improv artist alongside Phil Whelans).

For one week only, the show shifts from its usual Thursday night slot to WEDNESDAY at 10pm on BBC Two. We’ll be sorry to see Inside No. 9 go, as this second run has proved to be a telly highlight this year. The campaign for a third run begins here…

STRICTLY LAUGHS AT W1A

© BBC / Jack Barnes

© BBC / Jack Barnes

Spoof documentary series W1A moves to Inside No 9‘s old slot of Thursday at 10pm this week, as Hugh Bonneville and team meet to discuss the troubling rumours that Newsnight presenter Evan Davis is to compete in the next series of Strictly Come Dancing.

Elsewhere, there’s a new Pilates initiative as Anna (the ever magnificent Sarah Parish) puts herself forward for the newly advertised role of Head of Better, and ever put upon Lucy (the inimitable Nina Sosanya) faces yet more tinkering with her as-yet-uncommissioned drama project.

As ever, Rufus Jones and Jessica Hynes are part of the impeccable ensemble cast, and the results are yet more must-see telly.

DELIVERY FOR BEA & MCQUEEN

© Monicker Pictures

© Monicker Pictures

New ITV sitcom The Delivery Man continues on Wednesday, once again featuring Aisling Bea and Alex MacQueen alongside Darren Boyd, Paddy McGuiness and Faye Ripley.

This week in the maternity ward comedy, a prisoner arrives on release to give birth, but the police need some crucial information, so Ian (McGuiness) tries underhand interrogation tactics on the expectant mother. Elsewhere, Ryan (Joe De Costa) discovers Lisa (Bea) has been lending money to Matthew (Boyd), and heads to the hospital in a rage.

You can catch this latest episode at 9:30pm on Wednesday evening, over on ITV1. Previous episodes are available on ITV Player now.

TVO SQUARED

© Kieron McCarron / September Films / GME / ITV

© Kieron McCarron / September Films / GME / ITV

Okay – we have to admit: this one perhaps understandably slipped by us… but ITV’s latest incarnation of gameshow Celebrity Squares returned recently, with Warwick Davis (Life’s Too Short, The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains) at the helm.

The Harry Potter star is now two episodes into the run, which airs on Sunday evenings at 7:15pm on ITV1, and both installments to date have featured TVO regulars or connected artists, so they’re well worth catching up with on ITV Player.

The first show, which aired on 19th April, featured none other than cult duo Anna Crilly Katy Wix amongst its star line-up, whilst the second, which aired yesterday (25th April), featured Jessica Hynes and House of Fools stars Vic Reeves & Bob Mortimer.

The third show, which will air on Sunday 3rd May, will feature comedy legend Doon Mackichan – best known for her work on shows such as The Day Today, Smack the Pony and most recently, Toast of London. And we will never rule out ITV gameshows for potential connections ever again.

EXTRA ONION

© BBC

There’s a whole lot more TVO goodness to savour this week if you know where to look on tv and radio, thanks to a healthy dose of repeats – and a sneaky little spot of guest starring here and there.

BBC Two repeats Noel Fielding‘s 2013 appearance on QI XL on Saturday 2nd May at 11pm, whilst over on Channel 4 an hour earlier, there’s another chance to see the excellent British sci-fi action movie Dredd, which memorably features heavy usage of Matt Berry‘s theme for Snuffbox.

On radio, duo Max and Ivan continue their series The Casebook of Max and Ivan with a guest appearance from Reece Shearsmith this Tuesday evening at 6:30pm on Radio 4. Last week, they sneaked in an appearance from Jessica Hynes, whilst Matt Lucas joined them the previous week. You can catch up with the whole run on iPlayer now.

Meanwhile, BBC Radio 4 Extra are revisiting a firm TVO favourite in the form of Lucy Montgomery’s Variety Pack – which also features Waen Shepherd and was written by Montgomery with Steven Burge and Dan Tetsell. The first two episodes of Series 1 are on iPlayer now, with Episode 3 airing again on Wednesday evening at 11:30pm.

If you’re in the US, and feeling left out, don’t forget that Steve Coogan continues his run in Happyish on Sunday evenings exclusively on Showtime at 9:30 pm ET/PT.

MAY I HELP YOU?

As we reported last week, this Friday sees the relaunch of Rachel Stubbings web series, Stubbing Out Problems

The stand-up comic’s first run of S.O.P. videos began in May 2011, and featured Rachel’s disinterested alter-ego (Dr Stubbings, that is, not Rachel from Friends) trying – and failing – to help a series of clients sort out their issues, all played by fellow comedians. TVO regulars Stephen Evans, Alice Lowe, Tom Meeten, Alex Kirk and Aisling Bea joined the likes of Luke McQueen, Brett Goldstein, Katherine Ryan and Margaret Cabourn-Smith as clients across the series.

Following Rachel’s debut Edinburgh run with a show based on Stubbing out Problems in 2012, the concept was retired except for a handful of rare live revivals – but now at long last, it’s back with a bang! For the whole of May 2015, Dr Stubbings has pledged to heal at least one problem per day (except weekends), which is really impressive. The results will be uploaded to Vimeo every day* throughout May, and will feature a whole host of new clients – some of whom you can see in the teaser above.

ON STAGE THIS WEEK

© Tony Law

There’s almost always a chance or two to see a TVO regular on the London stage, and whilst this week is a bit of a quiet one, there’s still a few chances to see great people this week.

27/04/15 – Joey Page with Craig Murray – The Old Town Hall, Hemel Hempstead, 8pm, £8

29/04/15 – Richard Sandling with Bec Hill, Brett Goldstein, Chris Coltrane, Howard Read, Tiernan Douieb (new material night) – Betsey Trostswood, 8:00pm, £3.50-£5

30/04/15 – Tony Law with Sara Pascoe, Zoe Lyons and Brett Goldstein – 99 Club, Leicester Square, 8:30pm, £9-£12

30/04/15 – James Cook: Outsiders Alternative Pop Cabaret with special guests – Aces and Eights, 8:00pm, £5

01/05/15 – SPANK! featuring James Wren and Leon Fleury, plus special guests Abandoman, Marcel Lucont, David Morgan and In Cahoots – Udderbelly, 10:45pm, £15.50

AND THE REST…

As always, there’s so much going on at the Velvet Onion, it’s easy to miss things. As well as our News pages, the best way to keep track is via our Twitter feed, so here are a few highlights from throughout the week gone by. Until next time, keep on peeling!

James Cook’s New Video!

18 Mar

James Cook has released a new video for ‘Jamie’. The song is his modern British interpretation of Jacques Brel’s French classic from 1965 ‘(Chanson de) Jacky’.

The track is taken from James’ studio album Adventures in Ausland, which is available to listen to and buy for just €8 (digital file) or €10 Euros (signed CD) here. We’re loving his contemporary spin on the song’s lyrics. “My name would then be Simon Cowell, plucking stars out of my bowels” is a particular favourite!

You can watch the video for Jamie below:

And for those of you who appreciate thoroughness and things that come in threes, here’s the original French song, by Jacques Brel – plus, for good measure, Marc Almond’s cover version, which included a relatively straight translation of the original French lyrics:

So Hot Right Now #22

16 Mar
Welcome to The Velvet Onion – the central hub for an interconnected range of alternative comedy and more. Click through for the LATEST NEWS, and see what’s so hot right now take a look below.

House of Fools welcomes Way & Davis

Series Two of House of Fools continues apace this week, with Episode Four featuring guest appearances from Nurse star Esther Coles, stand-up Romesh Ranganathan and TVO regulars Tony Way and Tom Davis.

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

© Pett TV / Christopher Baines

The latter three play a trio of hard-as-nails dancers, who threaten to wipe the floor with Vic, Bob and Beef at the Danceathon event over at Julie’s bistro. Though when Julie isn’t dealing with Bosh’s poor customer service, she’s dealing with a rat infestation.

As ever, Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer lead the ensemble, alongside Matt BerryDan SkinnerMorgana RobinsonDaniel Simonsen and Ellie White. TVO saw this episode being filmed in Salford back in the Autumn when we went to interview the cast, and while it was a struggle to put together, we’re confident the end result is an absolute treasure. You can see for yourselves on Monday 16th at 10pm, over on BBC Two.

Nurse continues with Day and Hoult

Episode Two on Nurse – the new show from Paul Whitehouse starring himself alongside Esther Coles – continues on Tuesday.

© Des Willie

© Des Willie

With Whitehouse starring as a cavalcade of troubled characters, and Coles portraying the community psychiatric nurse who has to see to them all, the show has charmed critics with its off-kilter comedy and a respectful look at mental health.

Co-starring Simon DayColin Hoult, Vilma Hollingberry and Rosie Cavalero, this week’s episode features a guest appearance from none other than Fast Show veteran Arabella Weir, and you can catch it on Tuesday at 10pm over on BBC Two.

Justin Edwards goes In And Out Of The Kitchen

Here’s one that slipped us by last week – as we reach the middle episode of a three-part sitcom starring Miles Jupp and Justin Edwards entitled In and Out of the Kitchen.

© Gary Moyes / BBC

© Gary Moyes / BBC

The show is based on the Radio 4 comedy of the same name, and charts the life of cookery writer Damien Trench (Jupp) and his partner Anthony (Edwards). The show also stars Philip Fox, Brendan Dempsey, Ade Ofeyoso and Margaret Cabourn-Smith, who just so happens to be the wife of one Dan Tetsell.

It’s a huge treat to not only see a show focusing on a middle-aged gay couple on our screens without any ‘novelty’ hoo-har about it, but also to see one that’s so expertly written and delightfully performed by its talented cast, and we urge you to catch up with the series, with Episode One available on iPlayer now.

In the second episode, which airs on Wednesday evening at 10pm on BBC Two, Damien is banned from the kitchen for the day as Anthony prepares their Valentine’s meal. However, his desperation to know more is soon the last thing on his mind, as his planned documentary about the culinary habits of the great poets is thrown into jeopardy.

More Moone-ing around for O’Dowd and company

Over on Sky 1, the third series of Chris O’Dowd‘s Moone Boy continues with a very special guest star this week, in the form or legendary broadcaster Sir Terry Wogan.

© Sky Corporate

© Sky Corporate

In this third episode, Martin (the ever brilliant David Rawle) finds out that every clip played on a TV video out-take show earns £250 – so he and Padraic get hold of a camera and try to film themselves doing something stupid. Meanwhile, the Moone household is bursting at the seams when Fidelma, Dessie and baby Rose move in, leaving Liam at the end of his tether.

One of the great charms about Moone Boy is that, though written by and starring a big star like O’Dowd, he is not afraid to let his character take a back seat to allow others to shine. And when you’ve got an ensemble like this, who can blame him? You can see the episode for yourselves on Monday 16th at 9pm.

Pomipidou Continues

Sunday evenings are that little bit warmer and fuzzier with Pompdiou around for teatime.

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

© BBC/John Stanley Productions/Natalie Seery

The utterly bonkers and penniless aristocrat is played with sheer delight by Matt Lucas, who is ably supported by the sublime Alex MacQueen as his put upon butler Hove. This week, Pompidou wants to spend Valentine’s Day with a date, and signs up to a dating agency to make his wish come true. Except, his idea of romance isn’t to everyone’s taste.

With special guest appearances by Anita Dobson and Paul Putner, this is another charming way to spend 25 minutes in the company of Lucas’ madcap alter-ego. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it seems that ol’ Pompi has found his audience, and you can join them on Sunday 22nd at 6:35pm.

TVO IS FIVE all over again

As this weekend marked five years since we became a dotcom, and we had some bonus birthday messages that came in too late to be in our first round-up, we’ve extended our TVO IS FIVE video to include lots of new treats. You can see the results below.

And the rest

As ever, there’s so much going on in the realm of the Velvet Onion, it’s quite easy to miss things. As well as our News pages, the best way to keep track is with our Twitter feed, and here’s a few highlights from throughout the week gone by. Until next time, keep on peeling!

The Velvet Onion Is Five Again

15 Mar

The Velvet Onion is proud to bring you an updated version of our TVO IS FIVE video for your perusal, featuring a cavalcade of comedy legends wishing us a very happy birthday.

Some of you may remember at the end of January, The Velvet Onion marked its official fifth anniversary with a string of birthday messages from regular faces on these pages for the last five years.

The very next day, we got our first late message. And they kept coming in – so much so that we decided we’d soon have to either make a second instalment, or extend the original video. As well as these extra clips, a handful of names who wanted to get involved tried to move the earth to get a video to us, but for various reasons from technological breakdowns to hectic work schedules to full blown flu-outbreaks, just didn’t quite manage to get a message across.

As a result, we made the decision to delay the second video for as long as possible, in the hope that a few more people could get involved. This weekend just gone by marks, in essence, our second birthday – as we became a real, fully fledged .com on March 14th 2010, following six weeks of vibrant positivity around our initial activities. Hey, if it’s good enough for the Queen to have two birthdays, it’s good enough for us, too!

So here, at long last, is Version 2.0 of the TVO IS FIVE video. New to this collection are birthday messages from Paul FootRich FulcherRichard GloverJohn HopkinsPaul KayeTom MeetenRichard SandlingMichael Smiley and Dolly Wells.

Also included in the video are the previous messages from Katy BrandDave Brown, Neil ColeJames CookStephen EvansColin Hoult (and his various alter-egos), Rufus JonesDave McNeill, Spencer MillmanBob Pipe, Holly Jane ShearsWaen ShepherdRachel Stubbings, Tony WayPhil Whelans, James Wren and Jacqueline Wright.

Once again, enormous thanks to everyone who sent us a message and is included in the video. We love you from the bottom of our hearts, and really appreciate your efforts. Whilst we’re here we must say a huge thank you to the wonderful Tracy Ann Oberman, who tried to get a video message to us THREE TIMES, only for technology to block her attempts at every turn. We also greatly appreciate everyone else who wanted to get a message to us, but had various reasons for not managing it in time – we know you tried, and are grateful for that at least.

To still be doing this over five years after we started is a testament to the love we’ve received from those we cover on our pages, and the fact that you, dear reader, keep on coming back for more. Here’s to the next five, eh?

Onion Talking: James Cook’s Adventures in Ausland Part 2

28 Feb
© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

If you’re a die hard fan of The Mighty Boosh or a lover of alternative music crafted with care for the details, chances are you’ve heard of James Cook. If you haven’t, then perhaps you haven’t been reading TVO properly these last five years.

With his new album out now, Cook has returned to the London music scene in recent months, and sat down to talk to TVO’s editor-in-chief Paul Holmes, about his past, present and future in a revealing two-part interview, ahead of the next round of his club night, Outsiders, on February 26th.

Part One was shared with you in mid February, and you can read the second part of our discussions below…

History tells us that the most famous of men named James Cook sailed thousands of miles across largely uncharted areas of the globe, mapping lands from New Zealand to Hawaii to an unprecedented level during his voyages of discovery.  There’s a sense of irony in the way his namesake – cult musician James Cook, formerly of NEMO, has traversed the globe over the past decade.

“The last ten years have been pretty crazy to be honest,” Cook tells TVO, as we continue our first in-depth catch-up since James performed at The Velvet Onion Live night almost three years ago.  “I started touring in 2004,” he continues, “when I was the guitarist in IAMX for about a year. We travelled across Europe, Russia and the USA – a rotating line-up featuring Chris Corner, Noel Fielding, Sue Denim, Dee Plume, Julian Barratt, Julia Davis and myself.  It was an amazing year, and the first time I started earning money from music.  Unfortunately,” he adds, “I couldn’t remain in IAMX because I had to concentrate on NEMO.”

© James Cook

© James Cook

NEMO were the electro-tinged indie darlings who released three albums in four years, concurrently with the televisual run of The Mighty Boosh, with which they were closely linked.  While they never cracked the mainstream in England, the band were particularly successful across Europe, taking James to Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic.  However, James decided to disband NEMO in 2008, and move to Berlin.

“I started touring solo,” he recalls, “with just a laptop and electric guitar. This actually enabled me to be even freer with my movements, so I continued my European travels as well as venturing further away to the Americas, visiting Uruguay, Argentina, New York and LA.  I was mostly invited to these places, or I knew people there and sought out gigs and travel. Myspace allowed NEMO to have fans all over the world, so it was a relief and a dream come true to be able to travel through music.”

All of this travel enthused his latest record, Adventures in Auslandnamed after the German word for ‘abroad’. “It can also mean ‘outside’,” Cook notes. “Or ‘otherness’.  Wanderlust is addictive. Once I had a sniff of that lifestyle, I was hooked! There was no question of me not taking every opportunity to escape the comparative confines of London, and the experiences gained from all this travel fed directly into the new album. Songs were written and recorded across several years in LA, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Prague, Berlin, Vienna, Genova and London, now I’m based here again.”

© James Cook

© James Cook

Adventures in Ausland marks James’ second full length solo album, following 2012’s Arts and Sciences and 2013’s covers EP Reverse Engineering.  With three NEMO albums and the full-length record by side-project The Dollhouse behind him, however, the album is technically his sixth complete record, and arguably his best work yet.

“The feedback has been great so far,” Cook states, “which is obviously why you continue releasing new material. The aim is to constantly improve and grow, and hopefully never repeat yourself. I think I am physically unable to repeat myself artistically. I never make the same album twice, and have never even used the same method and techniques twice. I always use new and different musicians and instruments, and the process of recording is as important as the writing stage. It’s basically a series of filters, like distilling alcohol like some sort of electro/chemical process.”

Well, quite. Indeed, the album adds brass elements to Cook’s impressive canon, The usual degree of classy strings and James’ curious ability to sound both impassioned and distant at the same time remain, but this album feels less immediate and more mature than ever before.  James’ natural influences – Lou Reed, David Bowie, Scott Walker – remain at the heart of his work, and as the years have progressed, other artists have crossed James’ path and made an enormous contribution to his style. TVO notes that there appear to be strong traces of Neil Hannon’s work across Cook’s catalogue, and James is quick to own up to an admiration for the songwriter.

© James Cook

© James Cook

“It’s hard to disguise formative influences,” he notes, “and the first two Divine Comedy records were definitely a big influence on me, and it took me a while to shake the influence off! I initially discovered them whilst living in Paris and was blown away by something that seemed to me to come from another universe. I then investigated Scott Walker and Jacques Brel as a result of listening to them, so I owe Mr Hannon quite a debt!

The mention of Brel draws conversation to an intriguing aspect of Adventures in Ausland: Cook’s voice has often been compared to Marc Almond, and the album features a new interpretation of Brel’s magnificent Jacky, which was infamously given a camp disco makeover in the early 90s. James was aware that this could draw closer comparisons to Almond’s work, but his love for the original song overrode any reservations he had. It was time, he suggests, to finally do it justice.

“Brel was one of the 20th century’s greatest songwriters,” James explains. “People like Scott Walker brought his amazing songs to an English speaking pop audience in a way he could never have done himself. However, as a university student of politics and French, I became obsessed with how badly his songs are actually translated into English. Most of them totally miss the point, or just simply don’t make much sense, and it is perhaps impossible for anyone who doesn’t speak French to understand that.”

“They’re very satirical songs,” he continues. “Very personal, very dark and very funny, so doing a proper translation is really no mean feat. I had always dreamt of doing my own modern translations of his song. Scott Walker’s version of Jacky was my main reference, but so was Momus 1986 version, Nicky.”

“People have been saying I sound like Marc Almond for years,” he sighs. “I’ve never really been a fan. I think that first Soft Cell record is great, but I think it’s more that we had a similar music and cultural upbringing. We definitely share similar tastes and influences in our music, so that’s probably where it comes from. But Marc Almond’s version of Jacky is pretty crap and pointless really, so I decided to pluck up the guts to go for my own version. It’s a very personal song, so you have to make it about yourself – which is why my version is called Jamie, after my childhood name. Then you have to have the appropriate cultural references, and requisite irony, correctly translated and updated. When I sing it live, I update the words to fit current situations. That’s how it should be done.”

© James Cook

© James Cook

We’re suddenly touching on ground that has come up in the Cook’s work previously: a sense of frustration about the abandonment of art and discovery, hand in hand with the rise of technology and the era of disposability. It is something TVO is only too acutely aware of, and James shares our frustration and apprehension about the way society is headed.

“Without sounding too depressing,” he explains, “I genuinely feel we are in some sort of cultural nadir right now. Technology should be allowing us to create more and more insanely mindblowing art, but all we seem to be doing as a collective community is tweeting nonsense, and posting up pics of ourselves, our food and our pets. The idea that we have all the information known to man inside our pockets, is something that would have been inconceivable even fifteen years ago.  Somehow that potential access has frozen us in fear, mediocrity and narcisism.”

“Music has been devalued to virtually nothing,” Cook continues. “Disposable, vacuous art permeates popular culture. Narrative creativity seems to be anachronistic. Attention spans are at an all time low. Our technology is controlling us right now, rather than the other way round. Let’s hope we snap out of this dystopian Orwellian nightmare and take control of our lives and collective destiny!”

TVO proposes that one way independent artists are trying to do exactly that, is by abandoning traditional release structures, and turning to pledge culture to release their work via fundraisers and special releases. Could the future for James involve making albums through this method?

“I am open to it,” he suggests, considering the angles. “I’ll try anything and everything I can with my future releases. I’m currently working on three new albums, and must find new ways for people to experience them. Unfortunately, I have a small fanbase, and am not really very good at self-promotion or asking for money when it comes to my own music. Those Kickstarter type situations seem unappealing to me, somehow, but I’m looking into them.”

There’s an interesting honesty about Cook. He is perhaps, his own worst critic, yet acts also as his own personal champion. Proud of his achievements, but keen to downplay his abilities, there’s a sense of an artist who still has so much left to give and an awful lot more to say. As conversation moves briefly onto science fiction, and Cook and TVO share a mutual moment of Doctor Who admiration, he teases about a treatment he is working on for an animated time-travel detective spy thriller. There’s a sense that he has so much more to give, and TVO could listen to him talk about his plans for hours. Sadly, it is time for James to disappear into the early dusk of a Winter’s day. Before he goes, however, TVO suggests that, in an ideal world, Cook would be utilising his delicious string arrangements, cryptic lyrics and silky smooth vocals on the next James Bond theme. “Oh, god, yeah! That would be another dream come true,” he beams. “But I guess I’ll have to join the queue for that one!”

James Cook returns with Outsiders on 26th March. His new album, Adventures in Ausland is available now via Bandcamp

Onion Talking: James Cook’s Adventures in Ausland Part 1

18 Feb
© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

If you’re a die hard fan of The Mighty Boosh or a lover of alternative music crafted with care for the details, chances are you’ve heard of James Cook. If you haven’t, then perhaps you haven’t been reading TVO properly these last five years.

With his new album out now, Cook has returned to the London music scene in recent months, and sat down to talk to TVO’s editor-in-chief Paul Holmes, about his past, present and future in a revealing two-part interview, ahead of the next round of his club night, Outsiders, on February 26th. The initial results are below…

The story of any cultural movement that shaped the course of an entire industry is always fascinating to hear.  Some stories, however, have yet to be told in any real detail, such as the birth and subsequent explosion of the new wave of alternative comedy and music that existed in tandem at the turn of the millennium, focused primarily in the heart of North London.

One major player in all of this was James Cook – former frontman of cult favourites NEMO, collaborator of Chris Corner and regular guest star with The Mighty Boosh.  For the last six years, Berlin has been Cook’s base, and thanks to large amount of travel, he knows his ‘way around’ LA, Montevideo and Prague, too. But London will always be his real home. 

© James Cook / Media Curve

© James Cook / Media Curve

“This year has definitely felt like some sort of homecoming,” he tells TVO as he strolls the cold streets of a capital knee-deep into Winter. “It feels like home, really. I was born and grew up in Luton and Dunstable, but London was somehow embedded in my subconscious. It was the teenage dream for a musician and songwriter, to head into the Big Smoke!”

Now following a period of several years spent living abroad, Cook has returned to London to make it his permanent home once more, and has already begun finding his feet again with a new regular live night in the works.

Indeed, as TVO caught up with Cook, he was filled with enthusiasm for the opening night of Outsiders – his alternative pop cabaret at Aces & 8’s in Tufnell Park. “The room was completely full,” James exclaims, full of joy. “The audience was great and the night was fun and exciting – for the band as well as the crowd. It was a lovely way to begin the live side of things again.”

Outsiders features Cook hosting a night of, in his terms: “music and nonsense, with a bit of classic pop dj-ing from yours truly”. It’s also an opportunity to see his ever expanding live band, plus special guests every month. Fifteen years after NEMO began their career as part of legendary club night, The System, there’s a sense that his journey has come full circle.

© James Cook

© James Cook

A whole decade has passed since those heady days, when NEMO ran The System as an electro/indie club night of their own.  “It was unheard of back then,” James states.  “The scene blossomed. Robots in Disguise, Chris Corner and Sneaker Pimps… who later became IAMX, The Mighty Boosh, Imogen Heap, Graham Coxon… they were all regulars.”

“We all used to hang out together as friends,” he continues.  “We’d go to each others events, get drunk together, perform, collaborate, and guest in each other’s shows. I remember once performing a song onstage at the Hen & Chickens with The Mighty Boosh, and Julian Barratt pretending to ‘fancy’ me after seeing me perform. He tried to snog me!” He bursts out laughing, and adds: “Much to Noel’s annoyance!”

Cook subsequently shared a flat in Angel with Barratt and violinist Anne Marie Kirby, with whom he still works to this day. “That was between 2003 and 2007,” explains James.  “So it coincided with my touring with IAMX, NEMO’s rise to infamy, and the writing and filming of all three series of The Mighty Boosh.  They kept calling me in for some weird and wonderful cameo…” He adopts an impression: “James Nemo? Are you available to come to shooting 8am tomorrow morning with the Boosh? Today you will be a blue alien nomad. Can you play this Oud?”

Indeed, Cook’s cameos on the show are numerous. He was one of the Ape of Death’s bodyguard mandrills, a Mod Wolf, a mutant postman, magical shaman, dying hipster, a blue tennis player (The Blue McEnroe, no less), and perhaps most delightfully, Kevin Rowland, searching for the New Sound.  His biggest role in the show, came as a blue-faced nomadic minstrel, slave to Rich Fulcher’s Blue King Alan, who is composes a song about Vince Noir being ‘The Chosen One’.

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

“We seriously wrote that song together five minutes before we shot that scene,” James reveals.  “Shooting the Boosh was a bit like that. There was always room for people to put themselves into the role, add lines and improvise. That was the reason for so much laughter and hilarity on set. They were truly magical times.”

It is perhaps hard to believe that it’s now over seven years since the third series aired, and almost eight since the Boosh team were making new episodes – a fact that Cook is all too acutely aware of.  “It still feels very recent,” he tells TVO, “but everyone involved has been so creative and busy that it also feels like forever.  So much amazing material has gone out into the world from that little scene of comedians and musicians.”

“I was so glad when TVO came along,” he adds passionately, “to help join the dots for people. In the early days I felt like I was the one constantly talking about the collective hive mind we had. That family feel. We used to go on holiday together, make short films…” He trails off as a near-forgotten memory rises to the surface.  “We made a legendary silent horror film which we shot in France.  It was called ‘La Rose D’Envie’, and featured Julian Barratt, Chris Corner, Sue Denim and myself. Never even released!”

© Baby Cow Productions

© Baby Cow Productions

The creative family has widened, remoulded and become increasingly fluid in recent years, yet at its core will always be two inter-connected groups – that of Ealing Live (a comedy troupe featuring Alice Lowe, Richard Glover, Oram & Meeten, Katy Brand, Simon Farnaby and many, many others), and the Boosh/IAMX collective across the city.

“When you started to write about it in TVO,” James enthuses, “I was relieved that someone else had noticed the connections and references. It means it has been initially documented and recognised, but the full story can and should be fleshed out properly one day.”

“There was so much creative overlap,” he continues, “between the comedy shows, music nights, albums and tv programmes. The energy was bursting out of North London at the time. A lot of it is captured within the art, but there are so many little notes and stories…” He pauses for a moment, then adds with determination: “I would love to write some sort of memoir about it one day!”

James Cook returns with Outsiders on 26th February. His new album, Adventures in Ausland is available now via Bandcamp. Part Two of this interview will follow next week.

Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us!

30 Jan

This weekend marks TVO’s fifth anniversary, so what better way to celebrate than to grab as many video messages from the good folk we feature on these pages as physically possible, and put them all together for your enjoyment?

Huge thanks to everyone who contributed a message, as well as to all of those who really wanted to but have various deadlines and personal matters to take care of that have kept them out of this compilation. If you’re one of our regulars, and you haven’t been featured in this video – we’re still up for hearing from you, so do get in touch asap!

Adventures in Ausland – Album Launch Party

23 Nov

James Cook will be celebrating the recent launch of his epic studio album Adventures in Ausland, with a Christmas shindig in north London. And you’re invited!

The launch party will be taking place at Aces & Eights in Tuffnell Park on 16th December, starting at 8pm. It will also be the pilot night of James’ new cabaret pop night ‘Outsiders’. Double win.

To get your mitts on advance £4 tickets for the evening,  head on over here, click on ‘James Cook Advance Live Tickets’ (and follow the instructions).

And to get you in the mood, check out the stunning video for his latest single, ‘Lilly (A Lover’s Dream)’ below:

 

So Hot Right Now #1

13 Oct
Hello, dear Peelers, and welcome to The Velvet Onion!  For your regular news updates you used to find on our home page, click here.  But below, here’s what Dolly would say is sooo hot right now in Onion Land.

COOKING UP A LOVER’S DREAM

The former Nemo frontman returned with his new album Adventures in Ausland recently, which you can buy over yonder.  He’s just released the music video for his single Lily (A Lover’s Dream), which you can see below.

 

STAND UP TO CANCER

Alan Carr, Davina McCall and Dr Christian Jessen host this year’s live event on Channel 4 this Friday evening, with an all star cast of contributors joining the fundraising efforts.

Along for the ride are Will Ferrell, Martin Freeman, Amanda Abbington, Taylor Swift, Derren Brown, Nicole Scherzinger, McBusted and many more – including a number of comedy legends – including our very own Dan Skinner as Angelos Epithemiou and Richard Ayoade – with the latter joining Andy Murray in a sketch about a movie adaptation of the tennis star’s life jam-packed with BIG NAMES!

© Channel 4

© Channel 4

All money raised will help finance clinical trials around the UK, including the most sophisticated bowel cancer trial ever to be undertaken in the world. The aim is to reach the point where three in four people will survive cancer in the next 20 years – so join in the good fight from 7pm this Friday.

 

BOOK TIME WITH ONION LAYERS

Everyone has at least one novel in them, they say – and no sooner have we received Katy Brand’s excellent debut novel Brenda Monk Is Funny, we’re treated to three more books from TVO regulars.  None of which are novels, but all are worthy of your attention.  Buy them via our Amazon Store by clicking on the pictures below.

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

http://astore.amazon.co.uk/thevelvetonion-21/detail/1783520345

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

Buy this book by clicking on the image above!

 

ALL THIS & MORE

That’s not all going on either – with Never Mind The Buzzcocks continuing, appearances from Tony Law and Simon Farnaby currently up on iPlayer, the return of Not Going Out (starring Katy Wix) this Friday, Tom Cruise blockbuster The Edge of Tomorrow co-starring Tony Way being released on blu-ray, 3D blu-ray and dvd this week, and Tony Law, Paul Foot and Noel Fielding gearing up their UK tours.

For all the latest news as and when we find it, visit our News Page and keep your eye on our Twitter Feed!  Keep on peeling!

Cook Live In Berlin

5 Oct
© iamx tour corner

© iamx tour corner

James Cook will be performing his first live show in over 18 months in Berlin in a couple of weeks!

The gig takes place at Dschungel on 16th October. It will feature a special live acoustic preview of Cook’s latest studio album Adventures in Ausland and will feature collaborators Anne Marie Kirby (violin) and Rhiannon Lock (cello) alongside Mr Cook himself. Psychedelic US Popster Anton Barbeau will also perform at the show.

For more information, and to let folk know that you’re going pay a visit to the event Facebook page.

A Fine Adventure With James Cook

3 Aug

© James Cook

James Cook‘s second solo album, Adventures in Ausland was officially released this week. And in case you’re pondering whether or not to invest, please allow us to draw your attention to a recent review…

The Ringmaster Review has described the album in the superlative, opening their review with the following words: “There has always been an inescapable magnetism to the creativity and songs of UK singer/songwriter/producer James Cook, and the release of second solo album Adventures In Ausland certainly does not lose any of that imagination sparking prowess. In fact it takes it to new levels with tracks which are bred from even greater maturity and inventive expression in sound and lyrical enterprise.”

While clearly a fan of Cook’s music, the reviewer explains in rich detail why the tracks on the album are worthy of such praise. This isn’t simply hollow hyperbole.

To read the review in full wander over here. And then head on over there to buy the album. You can even go old skool and buy a signed CD. We defy you not to, after reading that!

Cook Gets Indie Minded

30 Jun

James Cook has been interviewed about his new album Adventures in Ausland by indie music website Indie Minded.

© Hudebniknihovna

In the interview, he talks about how he has evolved as a musician since becoming a solo artist, which are his favourite tracks on the new album, and what music he like to listen to when he’s not creating it himself.

Of his latest musical direction he says: “I think I have managed to completely distance myself from my previous work in NEMO now. ‘Arts & Sciences’ was somehow a hybrid of the electronics and pop sensibilities of my old band, NEMO, and the work i did with Anne Marie Kirby on ‘The Dollhouse’. This new album a step away from that into a new, hitherto uncharted, musical universe for me. They are still basically pop songs, but the tone, arrangements and concepts definitely come from a more lyrical approach.”

To read the interview in full visit Indie Minded here.

Adventures in Ausland is released on 31st July. For regular updates and Cook-flavoured news follow James on twitter.

James’ Adventures in Ausland

8 Jun
© James Cook

© James Cook

James Cook‘s second solo album Adventures in Ausland is now available to pre-order.

The 10-track album was written, produced, recorded and engineered by James and Oliver Ralfe plays the piano on the track Bring Back the Boom.

James is marketing the album through Bandcamp where you can listen one of the tracks – Bees in November, and order the CD or download. The download will be available immediately in the high-quality format of your choice (MP3, FLAC, and more), plus unlimited mobile access using the free Bandcamp listening app.

The CD version includes all of this plus the CD artwork, the lyrics and a dedicated signed CD, which will be dispatched around 31st July.

The album pricing is €8 EUR (or more) for the download and €10 EUR  (or more) for the CD – yes Euros!

You can also download individual tracks for €1 EUR, but why not go for the whole album?

James Cook New Album News

25 May

This weekend James Cook revealed the full track listing of his forthcoming new album Adventures In Ausland.

His second solo studio album has been 18 months in the making, and will be released later this year. There are ten tracks in total, titled as follows:

© Catonthewall

1. BEES IN NOVEMBER
2. LILLY (A LOVER’S DREAM)
3. FINANCIAL TANGO
4. DOG ARMS & DILEMMAS
5. ART DECO
6. BRING BACK THE BOOM
7. THE BLACKOUT
8. JAMIE
9. TIDAL WAVE
10. AUSLAND OUTSIDE

Back in March we were given a sneak preview of the first tune, Bees in November. And if that whetted your appetite for the rest of it, we recommend following James on Facebook and/or subscribe to his mailing list. Special preorder details will be sent out to those of you who sign up for updates soon.

Raising Bees In November

21 Mar

James Cook has released the first song from his upcoming second album.

Bees In November is the first track from Cook’s new solo album which will be titled Adventures in Ausland. The album will be out later in the year but you can already satisfy your musical cravings with this little preview.

You can listen to Bees In November over at SoundCloud or here below.

If you want even more James Cook music, head on over to his Bandcamp page and remember to keep your eyes peeled for further news.

 

Fun Boy Sings

7 Mar

© James Cook

James Cook has released the final track from his covers album, Reverse Engineering, in the form of the  early 80’s pop classic ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’.

For the uninitiated out there, Reverse Engineering consists of two 7-track EPs featuring reworkings of musical material with which Cook feels a connection. Previous releases have included Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie, XTC’s Making Plans For Nigel and Hiroshima Mon Amour by early-incarnation Ultravox.

Our Lips Are Sealed was originally written by The Specials/Fun Boy Three singer Terry Hall and The Go-Go’s guitarist Jane Wiedlin (who were alleged to have been having an affair). It was first recorded by The Go-Go’s in 1981 and was released by Fun Boy Three in 1983.

Of his version of the track, Cook says: “As a little boy this song helped me get through bullying and teasing of playground days. Although I sensed the deep adult emotions than ran through it, it would only be fully understood by myself in my 20s.”

To listen to the new instrumentation click here (where you can also buy the download by naming you own price). And if you fancy checking out the two previous recordings, here are The Go-Gos and Fun Boy Three doing their thing:

Cook Does Ultravox

12 Feb

© James Cook

If you’re a regular visitor to these pages you’ll be aware of James Cook‘s covers project, Reverse Engineering. Now Cook has unveiled another track – Hiroshima Mon Amour, originally recorded by Ultravox.

For any of you not yet in the know, Reverse Engineering consists of two 7-track EPs featuring reworkings of musical material which means a lot to Mr Cook. Selected tracks were revealed throughout the year, and have previously included Ashes to Ashes by David Bowie and XTC’s Making Plans For Nigel.

Hiroshima Mon Amour comes from Ultravox’s way cooler pre-Midge Ure era, and Cook says of the track: “This is a beautiful John Foxx lament from 1977, proto New Romantic, early electro pop, inspired by the 1959 movie of the same name. I have made it more acoustic and swooning, and added a little commentary of my own towards the end.”

To listen to the new instrumentation click here (where you can also buy the download by naming you own price). And if you fancy checking out the original, here are Ultravox performing the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test from back in the day:

 

Cook Commences Countdown, Reverse Engineering’s On!

5 Jan
© James Cook

© James Cook

James Cook has unveiled a new video for his cover of David Bowie’s Ashes To Ashes.  Sordid details following…

This time last year, the world was about to be rocked by the news that the Thin White Duke himself was to release his first studio album in ten years, with The Next Day becoming a critics favourite overnight.

Around the same time, completely coincidentally, big Bowie fan James Cook recorded his version of Ashes To Ashes with regular collaborator (and valuable friend) Anne Marie Kirby, and a string section in, fittingly, Berlin.

The track was released straight away for free download, and marked the first track in his proposed Reverse Engineering releases – two 7-track EPs featuring reworkings of material which meant a lot to the former Nemo frontman, ahead of his second solo album proper.

Further tracks were revealed throughout the year, and thanks to the little green wheels at TVO, you can download a free copy of Making Plans For Nigel as part of our festive EP until Wednesday, with the rest available for a name-your-price scheme now.

Now, out of the blue, comes a music video proper, as James gears up to finally release the second part of the project.  As soon as we have links, we’ll let you know, but for now, stay tuned to his official website over yonder.  You can see the new video below.

Four Days Left For In Holoserica Cepa 2013!

4 Jan

In Holoserica Cepa 2013It can’t have escaped your attention that, with all this review of the year gubbins, TVO has been relatively silent on the news front. Given the relative silence of a new year, we decided to temporarily suspend normal service at TVO Towers until tomorrow, when we’ll return to our usual ways of bringing you all the news, reviews, interviews and fun stuffs that we can muster from the realm of Onion Land.

You can see our four part review of the year below if you’ve hopped straight to our home page, or individually by clicking on the words one, two, three and four in this sentence.

To round off this period of reflection, we felt it prudent to remind you on this one final evening of indulgence that there’s just four days left to download our 100% FREE Six-Track musical EP, featuring some of the finest musical names in Onion Land.

In Holoserica Cepa 2013 includes the official release of ZaNg‘s epic Yogiebogiebox – the alt-rock brainchild of Paul Kaye & Adie Hardy, which features actor Marc Warren on harmonica.  It also packs the first release of Waen Shepherd‘s festive ditty, Little Old Nick in character as Beach Boys esque alter-ego Colin Watson, and the debut of James Cook‘s sensational cover of XTC’s Making Plans For Nigel.

And, like all gifts that keep on giving, there’s a preview of Stephen Evans‘ forthcoming one-man comedy show via his track Walking, made in collaboration with Rob Halcrow – and a rare chance to hear a new track from Dead Dog In Black Bag which pays homage to one of the biggest influences, Prince.  Lastly, but by no means least, the EP is the only place you can pick up a digital copy of Baloo My Boy sung by Richard Glover on the soundtrack to A Field In England, which was previously only available on limited edition vinyl.

You can hear the full thing above, or alternatively DOWNLOAD IT OVER YONDER.  But hurry, because just like our first EP this time last year, come January 9th, they’ll be gone for good.

As always, TVO would like to thank everyone involved with the making of these tracks, and the compiling of this collection.  You all know who you are, and to you, and everyone out there reading this – a very happy new year to you all. We love ya.

For full details on the tracklisting, click to read more…  Continue reading

TVO’s Review Of The Year 2013: Part Four

4 Jan

Hello and a warm welcome to the final part of our Review of 2013. Although October to December may feel like it only just happened, prepare to be amazed by how much you’ve forgotten. We were, but then we’re getting on a  bit.

So here are the best bits from the fourth quarter of the year – cherry-picked from news stories about both our regulars and a few new faces too. Enjoy.

OCTOBER

October was the month that Booshmania returned.  Just as the fantastic Behind the Boosh exhibition started its run at Proud Camden, showcasing the history of that most Mighty of comedic troops via the majesty of Dave Brown‘s photography, the boys were back in town.  Or rather, on the pier, as The Mighty Boosh went from the Soho Theatre to Tenacious D’s Festival Supreme in LA. A final (chaotic) UK warm-up show and a further run through at The Comedy Store, almost halted by a Visa saga, paved the way for a live performance that turned out to be one of the Festival’s highlights. Fan forums and social media platforms were buzzing with photos, footage and reviews of the show.

Another announcement that got us more than a bit over-excited in October was the news that Ben Wheatley is to direct the first 2 episodes of the next series of Doctor Who, starring the new Time Lord, Peter Capaldi. How good is that!?  We’re itching to see what happens when you combine one of the UK’s finest directors with its biggest export, now in the capable hands of an Oscar-winning acting legend to boot.  You can see the moment Capaldi became the Doctor in the 2013 Xmas special below…

More telly stuff, with the launch of Matt Berry’s new series, Toast Of London.  We’d been itching to see it since the pilot back in 2012, and it did not disappoint…

Elsewhere, Richard Ayoade established himself as a permanent fixture on prime time panel shows with a stint as team captain on Was It Something I Said? on Channel 4. Ayoade’s intellectual sparring with host David Mitchell certainly made our Sunday evenings feel a bit more highbrow!

What else?  Well, in movie news, there was an update on the cast for Paul King‘s long-awaited Paddington Bear feature film, which included mention of Rufus Jones and James Bachman. To end the month, TVO artists offered us a veritable smorgasbord of comedy options for Halloween night’s out, with special spooky performances from Colin Hoult and Richard Sandling.  And we were sad to lose the talented comedy actor Felix Dexter, who died at the too-young age of 52. He left behind an incredible legacy of great TV performances on shows like Bellamy’s PeopleAbsolutely Fabulous, The Fast ShowKnowing Me Knowing You… With Alan Partridge, Mongrels and Alexei Sayle’s Merry Go Round to name but a few. He will be much misse, and would typically hate all this fuss about him, so let’s remember him with one of his silliest moments – dancing for Sport Relief alongside Rhys Thomas and Lucy Montgomery.  What a dude.

Continue reading

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