July 2010 saw Noel Fielding bring his unique brand of stand-up to Montreal, Canada.
TVO forum members Leah & Tammy were on hand to see his show and offer us an exclusive review and photographs. However, we also got more than we bargained for, as Noel – himself an avid TVO reader – was kind enough to talk to the pair in depth, after the show. Leah & Tammy have very kindly offered to share this discussion with us here at The Velvet Onion.
Many thanks to both of them for their efforts – now over to them!
Friday Night: With Pink Floyd’s Arnold Layne driving from the speakers, Noel Fielding weaved his way through the sold out crowd at the Le Savoy, landing on stage to be greeted with rampant applause. You could tell that he was buzzing with energy and seemed confident from the start, even with a nagging cold dogging him. The result was another blazing show, in which he discussed eye wars, embarrassing penguin pauses, the Manson family, mind reading, MontreAlers, Goths in his garden, capes, Lord Percy Shambleton, the one beast, magic, fairies, Bigfoot, whispering, knife crime, chav philosophy, sledging, flamingos, jelly fish, blue bottles, Trent Reznor, Monkey Edwards and finally KISS – all with plenty of audience interaction.
The show rivaled his best gigs in Toronto, and he even treated to the crowd to a bit of Tony Harrison and Old Gregg before disappearing off stage. After attending his rather chaotic final show in Toronto, it was delightful to see Noel back in control of the audience as he took the room on a fever pitch psychedelic romp.
And on Saturday, Noel bounded on stage to find an enormous bag of Chupa Chup lollies on his bar stool – which he promised to give out at the end. Again, he was full of playful energy and powered through another set with several fresh topics – angel fish, wacky audience members, Torontonians, Hackey, Crack Foxes, lassos, being raised in the jungle, talking to trees and Bollywood punch-lies all added into the mix. At the end of his extended set, handing out lollies to the crowd, he remarked: “I’ve never felt so much like a paedophile in my life…do you want a lolly?”
It was a treat to have the longest set of his Canadian tour be his final gig. Having been lucky enough to see five shows it was quite striking to see the material evolve and build over a two week period. Rest assured, you’ll never see the same show twice from Noel!
After the show, we were lucky enough to speak to Noel in detail after he had signed autographs for the small crowd of fans who had gathered. Apologising for the somewhat less than glamourous surroundings, Noel made it clear he was very familiar with The Velvet Onion…
Yeah. I like their reviews. I like them because they’re quite fair. If I do gigs and they’re not that good, they’re not all gushing. They just sort of say: ‘That wasn’t the best’. If it’s really shit, they don’t say: ‘That was great.’ There is nothing worse than people saying: ‘It was amazing’ when it wasn’t.
So now that you’re at the close of your Canadian tour do you feel it has been a success?
Well, really, I think it’s been better. When I came here about three or four years ago, it was much harder. I just did lots of small concerts and the gala and I couldn’t get anything to work. I felt there was too much of a divide between English culture and the French speaking Canadian culture, so I couldn’t connect with them.
But this time it seems fine and Toronto was great. I was thinking maybe it’s just Toronto that’s good, as its more of a music town and I just thought: ‘I like this, I get this’. I knew they would like the Boosh, though they don’t get it on telly in Canada, so people got it through word of mouth on the internet and are much more hardcore fans. In Toronto there was a small pocket of them but they kept coming back. By the end of Toronto, the last gig was just a travesty! I taped that one, and it was the only one I taped so I was a bit annoyed! I taped tonight’s actually, but I can’t tape them all. But that one was hilarious. It was a shambles, but it’s not as bad as it felt. The gigs went well and I had a really good gala with Cheech and Chong too, which I was quite worried about. My short spots haven’t been going as well, but the gala went really well.
So could the Boosh perhaps follow you to Canada?
It would be great to bring the Boosh over here. The Boosh is going well. We’ve got an album coming out, and I’m developing a Channel 4 show in England, The Noel Fielding Show, so I haven’t really got time to do anything anyway so I didn’t come here to sort of try and get to the next level. I think if you get sucked into that whole sort of industry thing it can get a bit weird. I really enjoyed it, though. I was so tired in Toronto because I just put my art show up, and I had worked really hard to finish it and get all of it on the walls, then I got straight on a plane. I think that’s why I got a cold.
But it’s been great. I’ve really had a brilliant time. I understood Toronto more, as it was more of musical grungy place. This place is quiet, it’s like Europe but not quite like Europe, a parallel world. ‘Baguette Sir?’ and you go ‘really, is this Europe?’ The people here are quite eccentric – they have their own thing that they’re doing and they don’t really care, so once you buy into that it’s alright actually. They are quite open minded in a weird way, when you see some of the stuff that’s going on in the festival they probably think I’m just doing straight drama. I didn’t see much of the city, but I saw much more of Toronto. We went out quite a bit, there. I went to the museums, so I might go the Botanical Gardens here.
I met Bo Burnham, too. He’s really lovely. I hung out with Tim Minchin as well. He’s amazing. I got to know Tim really well, we both like what we did, we always got on, but this time we got on really well. He’s really lovely. And meeting Bo was really nice.
You’ve played smaller venues than you’re used to, as well…
It’s good to play small venues – it makes you better when you have to leave your ego at the door. Because you know you get used to playing massive places with screaming people. The show’s got better, I think. It’s got tighter. I hadn’t really done much stand up, so I knew what I wanted to do and now it’s starting to feel a bit more like a show. I would love to do more because it starts building and developing and you start adding call backs and things and it starts becoming much more the sum of the parts. When it starts working you think: ‘oh, this could be really good’. It’s bloody frustrating for me because I don’t have enough time to spend on it. I’d love to go do a tour of England and really work up two hours and make it really good. But I have got to write for this TV show, finish the Boosh album and there’s loads of other stuff too. Me and Julian are going to LA to meetings. It’s so much stuff to do that it’s not gonna happen. It’s slightly depressing, because I love stand up and I’d love to spend some more time on it and do a proper tour and just dedicate some time to it, I will one day. When I’m seventy.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
In the Boosh we dance a lot. To get everyone going we dance to Rick James and stuff. We always dance together in like a circle; that was quite nice. Rich is really good he get’s everyone going, he gets dressed really early and starts drinking quite early and he’s just hilarious. He just lives for the gigs so he’ll turn up and get changed and he never moans; he’s brilliant. I don’t know what I do actually. I just need five minutes before I go on, on my own. That’s quite hard to get, it doesn’t sound hard to get but people are constantly talking to you and asking you things. You just kind of need four minutes to get in the zone. If you’re in real life it’s not going to work. You need to be in that fantasy zone. It’s a bit like when spaceships come back to Earth they have that bit before they hit the atmosphere… decompression. It’s a bit like that. It’s like being an Astronaut I’m saying! I know that didn’t make any sense but I knew what I meant!
You seem quite inspired by music in your work, what was the first record you remember buying?
I guess you’re really influenced by your parents. Mine liked heavy rock so I bought a Motorhead album. My first album I bought was Adam Ant’s Prince Charming. The second one was a Motorhead album. I think it’s called Bomber. I was pretty diverse. I had the pop star thing, the camp sort of fan boy pop star thing – Gary Numan, Adam Ant and all those people. I love that and then I also love KISS and Pink Floyd – early Pink Floyd. Syd Barrett I loved. My parents were into The Beatles but massively into The Stones and Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa. I like all of that. I do love The Beatles – I sold one of my paintings to Ringo Starr. His son bought it for his dad. Zack is really funny – he’s absolutely hilarious, but in quite an English Spike Milligan-y sort of way.
How about the first concert you remember going to?
I don’t know actually it would probably have been something like Gary Numan or Adam Ant, I can’t remember. Motorhead or someone. I think I was obsessed with Motorhead. Which is quite odd, to be obsessed with Motorhead, as they are really heavy, but Lemmy was like, I don’t know what…
A force of nature?
(Laughs) Yeah. When I was seven or so I dressed as Lemmy. I’ve got a picture of me with like really blond hair with a Motorhead t-shirt and cut down jean shorts and I’m thinking I’m really cool.
Your art exhibit just opened in London, what inspires you most when painting?
It depends what mood I’m in. I like painting quite fast and angry when I’m in a weird mood, but some things you need to take more time on. Usually I write ideas down or do sketches, then I work from my sketch book. But usually the idea is such a tiny part. If you’re doing something quite realistic or quite technical, after a while it just becomes like an exercise in just painting. It’s quite nice in a sort of relaxing chill out way. Usually I like painting when I’m in the mood and that comes across, or something happens and if you’re upset or angry or happy, you try to put that into a painting a little bit sometimes. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to paint and I just start, but usually it’s better to have an idea of what you’re doing.
Who are your style icons?
I like Edward Gorey. I love his drawings and stuff. I also like Syd Barrett – very stylish. I like The Beatles… that sort of sixties/seventies slightly psychedelic fashion. I like Gothic stuff, but I like color as well. I like Andy Warhol as well. I like the fact that he wore a wig and just made no bones about the fact that he was wearing a wig. I like Bowie’s style, Brian Jones, Oscar Wilde.. the gothic dandy!
Speaking of goths, how did the character of Richmond on The IT Crowd come about?
I get offered a lot of parts as a Goth or a vampire. I get typecast as dead people often, fantastic people, unreal people. I don’t often get acting parts as real people. It’s usually dead people, zombies, ghosts, vampires, mythical people. Which is fine by me, because I like that. Graham Linehan had an idea to make me a Goth because he thought I looked like one, but he wasn’t quite sure how it would work. I just said to him: ‘I’ll do it but I’ve got an idea for a voice if you like that’. He thought it was hilarious.
It’s basically based on me and the comedian Stewart Lee? He’s brilliant English comedian, who directed one of the early Boosh live shows and he’s a brilliant stand up – one of the best stand ups ever. We used to love this Pink Floyd documentary, post Syd Barratt. They’re in a sort of Abbey Road canteen and we were really laughing because they’re so posh.
One of them was asking for some apple pie: [in Richmond’s voice] ‘Apple pie, is there any apple pie left?’.
‘There’s this big one. I can cut you a bit of that.’
‘No, I’d like one of the individual apple pies. No, could I have one of the individual round ones.’
‘No, darling, there aren’t any individual round ones’.
They’re such proper English fellows that I thought it was a brilliant voice for a character. It’s just one of those things where two disparate ideas create a spark. Sometimes ideas clash and they create a star. I think Goths and then that voice; that posh English voice is something like that. It’s like a merman and the funk and a mangina coming together and sometimes those things work. Or the Crack Fox – his voice like a serial killer. I don’t know it’s interesting, comedy!
Speaking of which, what new projects can we expect from you in the near future?
Hopefully this half animated TV thing with my friend Nigel Coan, who did all the animation for the Boosh. I think I’m going to call it Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. Hopefully it’ll be quite psychedelic but visually it will be really dense, like a really luxurious aesthetically pleasing sort of dense, rich, psychedelic comedy show. Hopefully it will be amazing. One Boosh album soon, I’m hoping. Hopefully, a film with me and Julian at some point – we’re half way through a couple of things. More art hopefully, and maybe some collaboration with Serge from Kasabian at some point and I’m not quite sure, but he might get involved with this TV thing. More stand up. I don’t know really, I’m not sure what else. Maybe a film at some point would be good!
To wrap it up then, in the style of Will Ferrell’s James Lipton character, what’s your favourite word, sound and curse word?
My favorite word… I like flamboyance now because of the flamingo thing. I like meringue. Meringue is a good word.
Favourite sound… I sometimes play a CD of the jungle when I’m sleeping. I like the harp. I like the sound of harps. Quite soothing. The sound of a body being carried through the bushes at night. The sound of cheese being tortured!
Curse word? Flipping Hell. I like flipping Hell. It’s very British sounding angry. Quite posh, flipping Hell!
With this final question, we concluded our chat and were able to get one lovely shot of Noel looking quite resplendent with his Chupa Chup lolly and glam skull ring. Meeting one of your heroes can be vexing at best but I can honestly say Noel instantly put us all at ease, and had such a charming conversational style of answering questions that the whole experience was an utter delight. He even thanked us for going to so many shows on the tour, then gave us each a hug and a kiss on the cheek and as we wished him a safe journey home, he wandered down the street away from the venue… then at the last moment he turned back, blew us a kiss and then disappeared into the Montreal night.
Many thanks once again to Leah, Tammy & of course, Noel Fielding for this report! If you’ve been to a Booshniverse event, and would like to write us a review or share some photos with the world, then feel free to let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: We cannot and will not arrange interviews or guest-list places for anyone on our behalf, and we cannot allow anyone to represent the site beyond its core team for security reasons. This interview was a chance occurrence that Leah has been kind enough to share with us. Nevertheless, we’d love to hear from you post-event and your work could feature on the site itself!