At Home with the Rude Mechanicals by Manjit Dhillon

I was waiting face down on a cushion when my mobile finally rang. The luminous dial flashed the initials “SB”. It was Stanley Bad. I pressed to receive and a deep throat rasped, “Miss Roberts will be ready to receive you in 30 minutes”. I was there in 20. As I arrived at the west bound carriageway of the A40, I tried to relax and husband some self confidence as I dodged the screaming traffic of these concrete causeways. “Grey Gables”, the home of the Rude Mechanicals, loomed ahead of me. A dilapidated, ramshackle, late Georgian bolt hole on an island under the Westway. This was shabby chic on acid.

I had to regain focus. This interview was different, this gig was the one. It was an affirmation of everything right and true and decent in the national character. It was a gross physical salute to the fantastic possibility of music in this country – but only for those with true grit. I managed to avoid the final obstacle which was a red mini that had been circling”Grey Gables” slowly (rumour has it that it was M16 surveillance).

As I pushed the rusty, wrought iron gate a vision in pink organza came floating towards me from the porticoed doorway of the main house. The blurred face grew clearer and a pair of luscious, crimson lips broke into a warm smile. I could see the wings of her floppy straw hat gently flapping with each gust from the rush hour traffic. “Oh you poor dear!” the figure exclaimed in a shrieking falsetto, “having to get through that traffic toute seule, you are brave.” “I’m here to meet Stanley Bad?”. I searched for some recognition but she was giving nothing away. “I’m Lynda Beast dear. Stanley’s a naughty boy. Can’t find him anywhere. Come.”

She held out a soft, frilly arm and as we strolled towards the house I noticed how the glints of sunlight danced upon her full beard. I found myself being overawed by Lynda’s charms immediately and the sight of the hairs poking through her ‘American Tan’ tights was uncorking a sapphic well of desire in me. i had to deviate.

(MD) Lynda, rumour has it that your maiden name was Bouvier. Are you related to the dead Kennedys?”
(LB ) I am related to Kennedy’s (the butcher’s shop), but not by blood. ”
(MD) Like any self respecting girl on stage you like to give yourself a little lift. Which do you prefer, breast implants or chicken fillets?
(LB) Having never eaten a breast implant, I can’t comment. Or is this a question about cross-dressing? I have always favoured oranges as breasts. I have also used lemons, mangoes and tennis-balls (but you can’t eat tennis-balls for breakfast the morning after a gig – believe me, I’ve tried).
(MD) You’re a bit of a polymath on stage. Who are your musical inflences/heroes?
(LB) Well now, in terms of what I do in this band, I guess my violin-playing is influenced by Gary Glitter, my keyboard-playing by Kurt Schwitters , my cornet-playing by Tex Ritter and everything else by Angostura Bitters. People often ask me if Kennedy is an influence – yes, I used to buy pies from Kennedy’s in Beckenham.
(MD) You have an air of Hollywood about you. What are your favourite films?
(LB) “Glen or Glenda?”by Ed Wood Jr. is a good film. But my favourite films at the moment are “Peau d’Ane” and “Les Demoiselles de Rochefort” (both by Jacques Demy).
(MD) Any plans to go solo?
(LB) I’d love to go solo if anyone will join me… Oh, hang on…

As I left lovely Lynda pondering on her future potential I made my way inside the panelled front door which was held together by the Virginia creeper enveloping the house. In the icy cool of the hallway, with it’s chipped marble floor tiles and peeling swagged and festooned wallpaper, I spied an open door to my left. A figure loomed at a redundant fireplace. As I moved closer I could see a flash of red and realised it was Dr Cos, the Rude Mechanicals lead guitarist. Barely registering my arrival, he moved manically back and forth on a rocking chair staring at an imaginary fire and smoking a pipe made from a squirrel’s thigh bone. I had to learn more about him, he was known for being the Yoda of the band.

(MD) Do lead guitarists have all the fun or are you still waiting?
(DC) That’s just a silly question – I mean – judging by how miserable the rest are I must be having all the fun… for a start the guitar is just a pure babe magnet.
(MD) It’s difficult to pin your music down into any particular genre. What are your musical infleunces/heroes?
(DC) Rolf Harris (Sun Arise’s seminal use of didgeridoo and Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sportís use of wobble board). Left Bank Two by the Noveltones is particularly influential on my more mellow side. Moondog is a big hero and the Bonzo Dog DoDah Band and almost anything involving dogsÖ or cats ñ I like them both, no one can call me prejudiced.
(MD)There’s a lot of facial hair in the band, is this a sign of virility?
(DC) Only in my case ñ in the rest itís a sign of laziness. Iíve been cultivating a decent growth since I was 16 (somehow stopped me being bullied ñ that and cultivating the school bully as my best mate). The others are of course copying me, but Iím used to people trying to be more like me and itís entirely understandable. At least that way theyíre getting closer to perfectionÖ
(MD) The Rudes tend to quit the joint quite quickly after a gig, is this groupie action or cup of tea infront of telly?
(DC) I nip off for groupie action then usually return to the venue to see who else needs servicing. The rest have to get their cocoa and be tucked up in their jimjams or they wilt and get all grizzly and bad tempered.
(MD) Miss Roberts is classy and remote but Ms Beast comes across as a little more wanton. Has she ever tried it on and do tell us more?
(DC) Well yes and know ñ the fumbling was a little embarrassing (better kept off stage) but a Les Paul in the midriff is a wonderful deterrent and she didnít try again. As for Miss R being classy, well I could tell you a thing or two but she has a truly vicious left hook and nearly always goes straight below the belt and I donít wish to deprive the womanhood of LondonÖ
(MD) What is the future of music in you esteemed and learned opinion?
(DC) Short term – more live music. LPs will overtake CDs as the biggest selling hard-copy format in about 2015. Bands and musicians will stop creating so much on-line content as they canít get paid for it so downloading will shrink slowly as the bulk of whatís available ceases to be contemporary and exists solely as promo for live performance. By 2020 the average download will be 20 years old. The multinationals are already lobbying to keep a hold on the industry……

As Dr Cos continued on his monumental treatise, I felt my legs go rubbery and my vision blur, I gripped the mantlepiece but it was no good! I was slipping under and there seemed to be a loss of all my basic motor skills. A sudden severance between body and brain as I struggled to keep up with his detailed musings. I fell to the floor, they had already got me. There was something about the Rude Mechanicals that was a very heavy trip and where was Miss Roberts hiding? Was she secreting watching my downfall from behind the spooky eyes of the painting on the wall that kept flickering frantically? For a moment I lost all consciousness. But then I came to.

With a feverish intensity I looked up as a figure began to glow against the wall. With hair hanging delicately over a naked torso, there he stood pinned against the wall. It was Guy Avern, the bass guitarist and keyboard player stretched out like the ‘Second Coming’ with a bass guitar hanging round his neck like an ancient mariner’s albatross. I had to learn more as I had heard much of his wonder.

(MD) You have lovely hair. What’s your secret?
(GA) Being a kingfisher helps. Never expose it to blasts of hot air and let it find its own ends.
(MD) At a recent gig in the Foundry your axe-wielding nearly upstaged the lead guitar. Is the bass getting sexy?
(GA) The bass has always been sexy!! Take the bass out of all music and you have nothing to dance to, nothing to wiggle your arse too – nothing to tap your footsies too. The guitar has always been disposable. That’s why they have to be at the front showing off so much – they know they are disposable and are frightened silly that they might be got rid of so they try extra hard by showing off at the front. Their ego is always bigger than their guitars. I don’t need to worry – as a bassist I’ll always be required!
(MD) Is this still a bid to get the girls though?
(GA) The second reason anyone joins a band! But sadly audiences are seduced by the guitar and vocals-so picking the bass wasn’t exactly sensible in that respect.
(MD) You do a good line in interesting headwear. Which is best ten gallon hat or crown of thorns?
(GA) Hooe I think a gallon of thorns would be the ultimate headwear
(MD) Are you the new messiah?
(GA) Yes
(MD) Are you a member of a cult?
(GA) I was but I became too cultish for them so I became the new messiah instead.
(MD) What is your biggest musical influence?
(GA) To quote John Cage: “Beethoven doesn’t influence me I influence Beethoven” – think about it, very zen. (I actually don’t like Beethoven very much – too emotional)
(MD) Is the bird still in your gutter?
(GA) Yes, but I’m still feeding it my lover so its happy enough

I left Guy’s seraphic vision suspended as he continued to speak in tongues and marvel at his own genius. I could hear mannical laughter from above. Miss Roberts had awoken, Miss Roberts the Rude Mechanicals Uberfrau was nearly ready. I had to see her. I had to be close to her. I had to touch the hem of her silk taffeta gown. But there were more riddles to be revealed as I made my way up the central staircase trying not to get my foot caught in the profusion of holes in the rotting wood.

But with every step I realised there was something accompanying me. I stopped to register the gentle stroke of a snare drum like a weird harbinger that something wicked was coming this way. As I reached the top of the staircase, there he stood. Like some Gunter Grassian horseman of the Apocalypse signalling “The End” it was Tommy G, the Rudes drummer. Eerily he had predicted all my questions and was holding up cards with his answers already determined.

(MD) Drummers always go first. Have you predicted the date of your death?
(TG) 01010100 01101111 01101101 01101111 01110010 01110010 01101111 01110111
(MD) With Keith Moon it was cherry bombs down the toilet, John Bonham riding motor bikes down the hotel corridor….whats your party trick?
(MD) What are your biggest musical influence?
(MD) You’re known for being enigmatic and mysterious. Are you related to Howard Hughes?
(TG) 01001110 01101111
(MD) Do you have. any OCD compulsions?
(TG) x – (x)
(MD) Or are you secret agent?
(TG) 01001110 01101001

I had to leave Tommy G’s mystery hidden, as my binary convertor began to smoke and then explode when I inputted his final response. But Miss Roberts was now very close. I could feel her. I could sense her brilliance growing closer as I made my was towards the attic stairs. “Come,” a voice boomed and I climbed up the rickerty ladder leading the the eaves.There she was suspended from the gables swinging in a witch’s ducking stool (probably 17th century and the likes of which I’d only ever encountered on the Antiques Road Show). A white light filtered through the window and created a halo around her signature Marie Antoinette blonde bouffant. “Miss Roberts, I….”. I had heard about this before. There was something about the girl that made you lose your ability to speak.

I felt compelled to kneel before her and kissed her amber ring (almost hypnotised by the spider and flies entombed in it). I was not her only audience, there were raccoons and squirrels vying for her attention scuttling around her feet. She looked down directly into my eyes. She was ready.

(MD) What mood are you in today Miss Roberts?
(MR) Miserable
(MD) It’s Wednesday. Is it true that a nursery rhyme ruined your life?
(MR) YES!! Wednesday’s Child is full of woe. I didn’t want to be born on a Wednesday, it’s not fair!
(MD) How do you feel about magpies?
(MR) One magpie is very bad. I once loved somebody and decided I would tell them, as I decided a magpie flew over my head almost knocking me out and landed just in front of me on the balcony. I knew then it was a bad idea but I told the person anyway. My heart was broken that day. Its probably a Wednesday.
(MD) How is Derek these days?
(MR) Derek, well, I moved house you see, as he only likes lofts. But wherever I go he’s always in my head for safe keeping. This house also has a ghost in the very dark cellar called Wolfgang..
(MD) What was Derek’s influence on the album “The Cyclops and the Wilderbeest”?
(MR) Massive! Without Derek I don’t know how I’d make sense of the world. Its like everything is insane and mixed up but whilst I know where Derek is I’m alright. Once I was feeling so insecure that I made lots of Derek heads out of old blankets and cut my hair and sowed it onto the Dereks, I think there were about ten in all. I kept them under my bed. They made me feel more secure.
(MD) Is he like the fifth Beatle?
(MR) Yes, probably, or maybe that is Erreth Sondabeng.
(MD) Who are your musical influences/heroes?
(MR) Memphis Mini, Cleo Brown, The Magic Band, Tom Waits, They Might be Giants, PJ Harvey, Haydn, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Thelonius Monk, Billy Jenkins, The Kinks, Janacek (but only one bit), The Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir, Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, Tiger Lillies, Sexton Ming, Andrew Bailey. I will have changed my mind by tomorrow.
(MD) A little bird tells me that the only way you could get the album finished was to lock the band up in your cellar (in the style of Hannibal Lecter ) and make them play til there hands bled. Did you learn this technique from Captain Beefheart?
(MR) Captain Beefheart was an influence but I learnt most of my skills through studying medieval torture techniques. It was my anatomy teacher that got me interested in torture. When I was learning art we did anatomical drawing lessons in the the hospital morgue. The teacher was an exceedingly christian woman who was obsessed with the torture that Jesus would have gone through, she used to show us on the bodies where the nails would have gone in, and tell us about how she tried it out on her husband.
(MD) Are you a bit of a dominatrix?
(MR) Everybody thinks I’m a baddy at the moment and it’s upsetting me. Just because I like to thrash the band to within an inch of their lives then string them up by the ankles doesn’t mean I’m a nasty or dominating person.
(MD) Do you take it to the extreme? Did you really kill your ex-boyfirend?
(MR) Hard to say, my mind goes blank. I wrote my A-level English essay about how I would kill him and got an A for it, so I definitely had a good plan, I was meant to be writing about Romeo and Juliet.
(MD) Does Lynda Beast ever nick your make up?
(MR) All the time, but then refuses to put it on properly, it’s very frustrating.
(MD) Do you get the lion’s share or the groupies? Is she happy with your leftovers?
(MR) She steals my groupies, whilst I’m in the dressing room changing she’s there getting worshipped. It’s me who gets the sloppy seconds. The cheek of it!
(MD) You’re enjoying fingering that plug socket? Do you enjoy ECT?
(MR) Oh yes very much, it has a nice feel to it, very alluring and it gives me the visions.
(MD) Have you had it very often?
(MR) I don’t really remember.
(MD) Who will you have first up against the wall when the revolution comes?
(MR) Stanley Bad

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