This week, prog-legend Brian Pern returns to television in A Life in Rock, directed once more by TVO regular Rhys Thomas.
The show, a follow up to Pern & Thomas previous documentary saga, The Life of Rock, follows the former Thotch frontman as he undergoes three new challenges in his life: the opening of the Thotch musical starring Sherlock megastar Martin Freeman, the staging of his epic musical saga The Day of the Triffids and the recording of his new Christmas album.
We were lucky enough to be put into contact with Brian through the good folk at the BBC, and though Brian wasn’t willing to talk in person or over the phone, he agreed to answer some questions via email, for reasons that soon became apparent. This is how it went down.
TVO: Hi Brian, thanks for talking to us. Are you well?
BRIAN PERN: You will have to forgave me as I have in fact broken my rists in an acksident that I cannot disguss dew to leegal reezons so Ned, my driver is typing this for me. he is a little slow at typing as he is a simple minded kind folk and his spelling is shiv.
TVO: You’ve been appearing on stages around the world for over 40 years. Does the heydey of Thotch still feel like yesterday?
BP: No it doesn’t feel like yesterday, I am much older, fatter and balder now and at times I get very depressed.
TVO: Of course, your first documentary series with Rhys Thomas, The Life of Rock, brought your music to a whole new audience, culminating in the limited rerelease of Spirit Level: The Best Of. Have you seen a change in the fans approaching you in the street?
BP: No. No one reconizeses me in the street anymore I don;t look the same as i did and i don’t reeely want to go around with face paints on an out lanbddish owtfits
TVO: Recently, Thotch have turned to making a jukebox musical about their life story. How’s that coming along?
BP: You will have to watch the program but it’s not happening. there is talk of a film with the man who did Interstellars. but i thought it was long and i don;t want my life in space. i like babadooks director, maybe they will do a god job, can you pass me the straw for my drink ned a thicker one the lumps of banana keep clogging it from the smootheee – don’t tupe that but – what are you doing oh you idiot. i might get siri to do it.
TVO: You bagged Martin Freeman to play you. He’s a big, big star now. What’s it been like working with him?
BP: Not easy as actors can by tricksy. i was a big fan of nativity 3 which he wasn’t in. apparently 1 is good. kermode said so.
TVO: Rhys knows Martin from his comedy days, of course. Did they enjoy reminiscing about those days?
BP: Dey talked for about 3 hours about the time dey were both on Does Doug Know with Daisy Donovan and how the format has been sold to the USA for 29 million $.
TVO: You’re also no stranger to pushing into new territories. You’ve quite a few firsts under your belt, isn’t that right?
BP: what is under my belt is none of your beeswax. ned don’t write beeswax i wouldn’t say that just say business.
TVO: You’re also a keen supporter of charity work. What draws you to plights few seem to have noticed?
BP: I do it because I have a lot of money and I think it’s not fair to keep it all. redistributiin of welth. ned get the phone. i can;t pick ir up/.
TVO: Has Rhys got involved with the charity work too?
BP: No, he’s not rich enough. he works for bbc and is still on the make, he can’t afford. to give money away.
TVO: There’s a few other new projects on the horizon, too. I hear you’re releasing a Christmas album?
BP: yes. It’s out already.
TVO: It’s not the first foray into Xmas music for you, Brian, is it?
BP: no i did 2 of then and episode 3 is all abowt that. its on 22nds of december after never mind the buzzards with Peter Jupitis.
TVO: You’re also working on your long mooted Day of the Triffids album, is that right?
BP: i recorded it in 1977nand now its coming out yes you can see it all on bbc in episode 2. how many more of these i need to have a bath
TVO: There were bootlegs doing the rounds a few years ago of the Triffids demos. How do you feel about illegal downloading of your work?
BP: i don’t care really. I have made enough money i think if fans want to listen great – is my fawlt for not finishing it
TVO: Presumably your manager has something to say about it.
BP: yes and it would envolve a swear word.
TVO: You’re also keen on encouraging new talent in what they call world music. Why is that?
BP: i like the sound of voices from other cuntrees its better than todays bvabds in uk like kasabian,
TVO: Finally, I have to ask: do either of you think a full blown Thotch reunion is ever likely to happen?
BP: I never say never say never so never say never, ever – no.
Brian Pern: A Life in Rock starts on Tuesday 9th December at 10pm on BBC Two. Our thanks to Rhys Thomas for setting up this interview – we’ll be speaking to him and collaborator Simon Day later this week, so stay peeled.