Friday, 26 June 2015

Meet The Band: Enter Shikari

Tonight, Enter Shikari take to the stage of Glastonbury Festival. This follows the recent release of the video for the track Torn Apart, directed by Mike Tyler who was also responsible for the video for the band’s previous single Anaesthetist. 

The third single from the UK Top 10 album The Mindsweep, Torn Apart follows hot on the heels of the announcement of Enter Shikari’s nominations for Best British Band and Best Single (for Anaesthetist) in this year's Kerrang! Magazine Awards.

Andy Howells recently put questions to Rou Reynolds from the band

You've had a busy year so far touring with the new album, are you enjoying yourselves?
Absolutely. It’s pretty tiring but it’s been amazing fun being able to get out and play our new material to old fans and new. Every time we go back somewhere, we know more and more people, having friends all over the world makes it feel a smaller place and touring a lot less like you are away from home.

Do you prefer touring or recording?
They are two completely different things and you can’t compare the two. They are also inseparably intertwined. You can’t tour if you don’t have music to play. We love both processes, both the creative pot that is the studio and then travelling and playing to enthusiastic audiences all over the world.

How have fans responded to the new material?
Fantastically, we got such a wonderful response from social media when we released the album and then they have also been going down a storm when we play them at shows. It makes us very happy to see people not just appreciate but really love the fruit of all our hard work and passion.

Can you give us some background on the new single Torn Apart?
The song is about race and the stupidity of racism when there are biologically more differences within races than between them. The guitar riff was actually written about 12 years ago but revamped and brought back to life.

Have you got anything else lined up for this year recording wise?
There are actually a couple songs that we recorded at the same time as the album that we are saving for an opportune time but you will have to wait for them.

What are you listening to on your MP3 player at the moment?
Well, I hear so much loud music in my profession that when I have my headphones on I like to relax to a lot of classical.

  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 19, 2015

Doctor Who Star Frazer Hines Treads The Boards In Agatha Christie Classic

Celebrating the tenth anniversary of the Agatha Christie Theatre Company, And Then There Were None returns to Cardiff's New Theatre stage next week.

Adapted for the stage by Agatha Christie herself, the play is based on the best-selling mystery novel of all time and follows the story of ten strangers who arrive on a remote island off the coast of Devon only to find that their host, an eccentric millionaire, is missing. A torrential storm forces them to remain on the island and, with an ancient nursery rhyme haunting them, the guests start to die one by one.

And Then There Were None features an all-star cast of familiar faces from the world of television including Paul Nicholas (Just Good Friends), Colin Buchanan (Dalziel and Pascoe), Susan Penhaligon (Bouquet of Barbed Wire), Verity Rushworth (Emmerdale), Mark Curry (Blue Peter), Ben Nealon (Soldier Soldier) and Frazer Hines, known for his regular roles in Doctor Who and Emmerdale Farm.

Andy Howells recently caught up with Frazer and chatted with him about the show and his career which began as a young boy back in the 1950s.

How has the tour of And Then There Were None been received so far?
We’re packing them out, they love Agatha Christie! Bill Kenwright has got together a fantastic cast of people that if you don’t like Paul Nicholas, you might like me, if you don’t like me you might like Mark Curry or Susan Penhaligon, there’s always someone to like in the cast!

It’s like a who’s who of great British actors.
You’re correct, well-known and even if I say it myself, well-loved faces!

When was your earliest theatrical performance?
I started off in television, because in those days you had to be 12 to actually do theatre. I played Napoleon in Huntingtower and then Shaun Sutton who was head of children’s television at the BBC then gave me the part that got me known which was Jan in The Silver Sword. My first theatre was at the Royal Court Theatre with Dame Peggy Ashcroft and George Devine in The Good Woman of Setzuan, I found a programme, Peter Wyngarde, John Osborne and Colin Jeavons were all in it and the programme was sixpence! It was an amazing cast!

Patrick Troughton and Frazer Hines in
Doctor Who from 1968
What lead you to joining the cast of Doctor Who?
I’d worked with Shaun Sutton so many times as a little boy and then this part of Jamie came up. I got this phone call from my agent who asked me to go and see the producer Innes Lloyd. He said “Frazer, Shaun (Sutton) tells me you can do a Scottish accent.” I said “Yes I can”. He said “This is a part in Doctor Who, Do you fancy playing Jamie?” and I said “Yes”, that was it, no reading, no audition, I just met Innes Lloyd and that was it. The second episode went out and the BBC switchboard was jammed with people saying “wouldn’t it be a good idea if Jamie was to become a companion?” and that lead to three of the happiest years of my life, starring with dear Patrick Troughton.

It’s still a big part of your life, what was it like for you when the recent missing episodes The Web of Fear and The Enemy of the World were recovered?
Fantastic! The fans were more excited about the recovery of those two missing stories than the 50th anniversary episode! They were clamoring for more so hopefully they will find more! The BBC paid me for an interview for a release for The Underwater Menace, which they also did with Anneke Wills and Catherine Howe. I don’t know why but they’ve shelved that at the moment, the BBC doesn’t usually pay you and not use you!

It must be strange for you because all this happened over forty years ago!
When the episodes are found I go to America once or twice a year and the lovely thing is it’s renewed again in people’s interests, you sign peoples DVD covers and stuff like that.

Of course, you were also well known for your role as Joe Sugden in Emmerdale Farm
I was there for eleven years, then got married and left for four, then I got divorced and my mother died and then Sheila Mercier my screen mother (Annie Sugden) called and said “My dear, you’re not having a lot of luck why don’t you come back to your screen family”.
It got me a different sort of fan base because Doctor Who fandom had dropped off by then so Joe resurrected it. When I left Emmerdale I went into The Two Doctors (with Colin Baker and Patrick Troughton). I’d done The Five Doctors (for Doctor Who’s 20th anniversary) and Doctor Who Producer John Nathan Turner asked “It was so good to see you in The Five Doctors, would you do any more?” I said “I’d jump at it!” I then did The Two Doctors which got me to the new audience who had been watching since Jon Pertwee onwards who had never seen the classic stuff so I was put on the ladder of fandom again.

You’re going to be in Cardiff with And Then There Were None, will there be an opportunity for you to pop in on the Doctor Who set?
I’d like to. I got an email today saying “We’ll keep you posted Frazer, we’d love to have you on the set,” I’d love to, because Janet Fielding (Tegan) met David Tennant, Anneke Wills met Matt Smith and I’d like to meet Peter Capaldi!

Frazer Hines today
If there was a chance Jamie could briefly return to Doctor Who, would you be up for that?
Of course! I’d do it for nothing!

So tell us about your role in And Then There Were None?
I’m playing Rogers The Butler. I won’t say the butler did it, it’s a bit of a cockney part, maybe how Bill Hartnell (the original Doctor Who) might have played it with light trousers, black jacket, it’s a nice character part for me.
I played a lovely character part recently in Outlander. It’s written by Diana Gabaldon who saw me in the Doctor Who story The War Games and wrote a story about a woman who in 1946 falls into a fairy ring and goes back to 1746 and meets somebody called Jamie Fraser. I play a character called Sir Fletcher Gordon the governor of Wentworth prison and that went out on Amazon Prime a few Saturdays ago. Catriona Balfe and Sam Heughan are fantastic in it, great actors. Tobias Menzies who plays the villain in it Frank Randall, I feel would make a great Master in Doctor Who.

And of course you’re still involved with Doctor Who by appearing in new audio dramas?
I do them for Big Finish and yes I do Patrick’s voice as well as Jamie, I go from one voice to another in a scene, I love it, its great fun to do and I get to keep Patrick’s memory alive for all the fans.

What other projects have you got lined up?
I’ve got a TV production company called Snowball Productions and we’ve got a comedy series written by a lovely actress called Rachel Warren called Totty. When I finish this play I’ve got a six part black comedy series called It’s Behind You. I’ve then got to have a shoulder operation, so while my arm is in a sling I’ll be putting my producer’s hat on and trying to get that put together as well.
There’s also a couple of movies which I should have done last year, written by Tony Lee, they are called The Mild Bunch and Scrum Like It Hot, they’ve been put on the back-burner, but hopefully I’ll be doing those next year.

You still enjoy your work?
I still enjoy working, I think you have to m very fortunate in that I’ve never had to work for the money, I’ve always enjoyed stuff that I’ve done I don’t think id like to retire.

What would you say has been your career highlight?
Getting the part of Jamie which gave me three happy years with Patrick and its taken me all over the world to New Zealand, Canada and Australia, I guess that would have to be number one. I played a psychopathic killer in a Granada TV series called The Villains that would come second!

How would you describe this production of And Then There Were None to anyone who was thinking of coming to see it?
I would say come and see a great cast of your favourite TV faces gelling together and making a great show.

  • And Then There Were None is at The New Theatre, Cardiff from Tuesday June 30 – Saturday July 4. Tickets are on sale now from £9.50 to £30.50. For further details about the show or to book tickets* visit or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889. 
  • A shorter version of this interview by Andy Howells appear in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 26, 2015. Read the e-edition here.
  • Visit Frazer Hines official blog

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Meet The Band: Andrew Jackson Jihad

Phoenix Arizona band Andrew Jackson Jihad are currently touring the UK vast and wide, alongside friends and former tour mates Hard Girls.

“Musically it's a pastiche of American country and folk," says 
singer-songwriter and former AJJ tour mate Frank Turner of the five-piece from Phoenix, AZ,"with a hefty dash of fifties Spector-esque pop and Beach Boy melody thrown in, shoved violently through a lo-fi punk rock filter, topped off by a frantic voice that sounds something like Neil Young having a psychotic episode."

Last year, Andrew Jackson Jihad released their latest full length record Christmas Island. Recorded by John Congleton who has also worked with St. Vincent, The Mountain Goats and Okkervil River. Christmas Island blends the real and surreal to create some of the most honest, fearless music out today.  

Prior to the UK tour and their visit to Cardiff's Moon Club venue, Andy Howells put questions to Andrew Jackson Jihad.

Whereabouts are you from & how did the band form?
We are a band from Phoenix, Arizona. Ben and I started the band in 2004 when we both worked at a coffee shop. Some time in 2011 we jumped Deacon and Preston into the touring gang, and in 2014 we demoted our merch guy Mark to cello.

Tell us about your latest album
Our latest album is called Christmas Island, it's my favorite one so far. It was our first time working with John Congleton but it definitely won't be our last. The album artwork is a painting we commissioned by Suzanne Falk, one of Arizona's greatest artists.

What’s been your best live experience? 
The latest best live experience was either playing for a sold out crowd at The Metro in Chicago two months ago or playing solo to a small room of excitable Norwegians last night. I fully expect this Cardiff gig to blow both of those experiences out of the water.

What can people expect from your forthcoming Cardiff gig? 
Loads of energy, an amazing opening band called Hard Girls and probably an onstage knifefight with Future of the Left's Jimmy Watkins.

What else have you got planned this year? 
After this tour we're playing some festivals in the U.S. and then heading to Australia in September with the Smith Street Band and the Sidekicks. After that I think we'll make the next album.

Where can people hear your music?
In the hearts of those who know love and terror, Spotify, iTunes, Tidal (maybe?), Bandcamp, You-Tube. Thanks for the interview!
  • For the latest on Andrew Jackson Jihad visit their official website.
  • A version of this Q&A by Andy Howells appeared on The South Wales Argus website on June 8, 2015. A shorter version was published in The South Wales Argus entertainment section The Guide on June 12, 2015.

Rocking On With Rox Vox Star Katie Paine

Hi-Energy show Rox Vox comes to Blackwood Miners Institute tonight. Featuring some of the strongest male and female rock voices performing in the UK today, together with an amazing band, the show will deliver earthy solos, immense harmonies and virtuoso musicianship.

Including classics by Queen, Led Zeppelin, Survivor, Guns & Roses, Status Quo and The Rolling Stones, the show also features exhilarating staging, wicked costumes and a spectacular laser light show.

Andy Howells recently put questions about the show to Rox Vox vocalist Katie Paine.

What was the idea behind the Rox Vox show?
- It's a show that brings some of the best rock songs to the audience, with an incredible live band and exciting vocals.

How many singers and musicians are in the band and how did you all come together?
There are four vocalists and a female band of six members called Joan of Arc. We auditioned for the show and started rehearsals in January to put the show together.

There’s quite a repertoire including music from Queen, Led Zeppelin, Survivor, Guns & Roses, Janis Joplin, Eric Clapton and The Rolling Stones, how do you go about choosing your favourites?
It was difficult to choose as there are so many great classics, but the songs we've chosen all fit in the set list well together, so the band can play one song into another.

What can rock fans expect from the forthcoming show?
It’s a lively show with brilliant vocals and a superb band playing live rock music. And I guarantee you'll be singing along and up dancing by then end!

Which tracks are you particularly looking forward to performing?
I love the opening number 'Whole Lotta Love' - it's such a fab track and really sets up the show.

Is it a show suitable for all the family?
Absolutely! It's suitable for anyone who loves music!

Finally what’s your all time favourite rock track and why?
Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler. I've always loved this song and am lucky enough to sing it in this show!

  • Tickets for the Blackwood Miners Institute show taking place on Saturday June 20 are available from Box Office on 01495 227206 or by visiting their official website.
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in the South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 19, 2015. Read the e-edition here.

Monday, 15 June 2015

In Concert: The Lambrettas, Newport Riverfront

There are some mysteries in the world of entertainment your average music reviewer can never fathom. Friday evening at Newport Riverfront certainly presented me with a very unusual one, as I attended a gig that virtually had no audience.

Doug Sanders of The Lambrettas summed it up perfectly when he said jokingly to those who did attend “I’m fed up of playing scenic gigs, this is the second one I've played in 40 years”

Admittedly The Lambrettas and the two bands that preceded them, South Wales own Keep It Dark and Junior Hacksaw presented a tight programme of polished material which kept those in attendance more than happy throughout the evening.

Keep It Dark who have a sound akin to the raw rock of Canned Heat delivered a fabulous blues-rock set peaking with renditions of Buddy Holly’s Not Fade Away and The Stones' Honky Tonk Woman. Junior Hacksaw were more rock n roll but all the better for it with incredible renditions of 50’s instrumental Sleepwalk and classic rocker Linda Lu.

When The Lambrettas raucous upbeat set came around everyone present was truly spoilt with fabulous renditions of tracks from their album Beat Boys In The Jet Age and homage’s to bands such as The Small Faces and The Stones with renditions of All or Nothing and The Last Time.

Praise must indeed go to promoter Jonny Perkins and the participating bands for creating such a memorable evening for those of us who were there, and a crying shame that so many missed a golden opportunity to hear some great music!

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Meet The Band: The Cadbury Sisters

Alternative pop trio The Cadbury Sisters will release their new single Get This Feeling/Drifting on June 22. The three sisters who hail from Gloucestershire released their first EP Close, a year ago. Get This Feeling/Drifting is an exciting departure from the melancholic vocal tones of their first release.

Big and adventurous, yet classically alternative the Cadbury Sisters new single features a broad spectrum of sonic influences inspired by acts as diverse as Fleetwood Mac, Kate Bush , Bat For Lashes and First Aid Kit alongside the siblings own pop-songwriting creativity.

Currently undertaking a 17 date UK tour, The Cadbury Sisters will play Bristol’s Lantern venue on June 17. On completion of the tour they will also be joining the line-up of Glastonbury on June 27.

Andy Howells recently poised questions to Jess Cadbury of the trio.

How did you come together?
We are three sisters from Gloucestershire, so obviously we have been close all our lives, but only decided to start performing together in 2009 and then actually formed The Cadbury Sisters as an actual band in 2010. Mary and I were at University at the time, and Lucy was still at school and had started learning guitar. I had formed a band down at Uni in Plymouth, so whenever I came home for the weekend we would go and play open mic nights in Cheltenham, and it all started from there really.

Where are you from?
We are from Cheltenham, Gloucestershire originally. I live in Bristol now and that’s where the band is based.

How would you describe your music style & tell us about your latest release?
Our music style has been constantly evolving since we began writing, although we almost always write from personal experience. We started off very folk, three girls and an acoustic guitar, and got a bit heavier and darker in our last EP, Close.That was a very painful record to write and record, and I think you can really hear that! Our new record, Sarah, has definitely moved away from that painful place, and has a much more upbeat and fuller sound to it. We took influence from artists such as Bat For Lashes, Daughter and Fleetwood Mac.

What’s been your best live experience?
That’s a tough one, we've had so many really special shows, but  Radio 2’s Live in Hyde Park last year was pretty amazing just because it was the biggest crowd we've ever played to and the atmosphere was amazing! But we also love doing the smaller more intimate stuff too. We recently played at Llys Meddyg in Newport, Pembrokeshire and it was so special. We felt like we were part of the family by the end of it, and didn't want to leave!

What are you working on at the moment?
We have just finished rehearsals for our June tour. We are playing with a totally new set up from anything we’ve done before, so it’s a cool feeling to be bringing people something new.
Straight after tour we play Glastonbury followed by a few other festivals including the awesome 2000 Trees Festival, and then we will be back to writing for our next release.

Where can people hear your music?
You can come to one of our upcoming shows in June, or you can find all our latest releases on Youtube. The new EP is out on June 15th so you can go to our website and order your copy there:

  • A version of this Q&A appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 12, 2015. Read the e-edition here.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Lambrettas Bring Beat To Newport - Doug Sanders Interview

The Lambrettas came into being in the late 70s. The original members were Doug Sanders, Paul Wincer, Mark Ellis and Jez Bird. Their first gig was on Hastings Pier, and promoter Peter Haines offered them management. After a few months of gigs they were signed to Elton John’s Rocket Records and released their first single Go Steady.

Newport Riverfront will play host to the latest line-up of the band with Doug Sanders and Paul Wincer joined by Phil Edwards and Ant Wellman. Fans can expect The Lambrettas biggest hit as well as tracks from their classic album Beat Boys In The Jet Age. Andy Howells recently chatted with Doug Sanders about The Lambrettas.

Are you looking forward to playing Newport and have you visited the City before?
I look forward to playing every gig. We've played Cardiff a couple of times but the other Welsh visits we've made have been way up North.

So Newport’s new ground for The Lambrettas?
Its new ground for The Lambrettas but not for our guitarist, Phil Edwards. His family comes from there and so does he. He doesn’t sound like a Welshman but he’s a Welshman at heart.

When did you decide you wanted to be in a band?
Since when I was at school really, I used to go and watch the local bands at the YMCA or wherever it was. I'm sure they were awful but I thought they were absolutely brilliant and then you get to the point when you’re playing in the YMCA and you want to get into some clubs and then it goes “I want to be on Top of the Pops.” If you’re lucky you get some of the way there.

How did The Lambrettas come together?
It didn't take too long really I was playing in another band called Shakedown. We were just playing in pubs and stuff we were playing a few covers and writing a few of our own songs there was another guy in it called Jez Bird and I thought “I want to do something different.” I got Jez to com along with me because we wanted to do our own stuff , so we started The Lambrettas.

Did you get signed quickly?
We did get signed quite quickly. We did a few gigs in Brighton and then in London where the clubs were full when we were playing. Every record company wanted to sign their own little Mod band and we went with Rocket. We did a single called Go Steady which got to 80 or 90 in the chart by which time we thought we were The Beatles. One of the people who was behind our version of Poison Ivy was Pete Waterman because he used to work in the A&R dept of Rocket Records, that was one of his first music biz jobs.

In actual fact, the first silver disc that Pete got out of the billions he has was us. Poison Ivy had been covered quite a lot before in the same vein, very close to the original and we didn't see the point of doing it that way so we worked it as a Ska thing. It was in-keeping with the time and quite dancey and it got played to death on the radio, so it did quite well.

I remember seeing you guys on Top of The Pops in the 1980s, what’s it like watching yourselves when the shows are rerun?
I try not to do it (laughs). I find it cringe-worthy quite frankly but most other people I know find it quite good. It’s good to have done it and in some ways I’m quite proud of it but I find it tricky to watch. I'm never comfortable watching or looking at photos of myself.

What material will you be doing at your Newport Riverfront show?
Its 35 years since we’ve done The Beat Boys in the Jet Age album so we’ve done a few gigs where we’ve done that album in its entirety and one or two other bits. At the moment, I guess were doing tracks from that album and a couple of homage type things. We should really be doing some new stuff and the only reason we’re not is that we don’t want to do it till it’s released.

We had ages getting the back catalogue released, because we had legal wrangles but that’s finally released but we wanted that out before we did anything new. We re due in the studio on July 1st. I think that’s going to be a 4 or 5 track EP and the minute we've recorded it we’ll start doing those songs as well. I write songs that’s what I do; my plan is it’s for the Lambrettas but its bang up to date.
  • The Lambrettas play Newport Riverfront tonight (June 12) at 7.30pm. For ticket details visit
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells is published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 12, 2015

Join Dame Kiri Te Kanawa And Kate Adie In Unique Show

Kate Adie (left) and Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

One of the world’s best-loved opera stars, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will discuss her life and work with BBC news correspondent Kate Adie in a special event at Wales Millennium Centre on Cardiff Bay this Saturday.

Through a mixture of frank conversation, personal anecdotes and archive clips of Dame Kiri’s past performances, the event will offer a fascinating glimpse into the lives of both women who have reached the top of their respective professions.

Dame Kiri’s career has spanned more than 45 years to become one of the most famous sopranos in the world. As well as her acclaimed performances at some of the leading international opera houses, she performed at the wedding of Prince Charles to Lady Diana Spencer and more recently starred in Downton Abbey as Dame Nellie Melba.

Journalist, broadcaster and best-selling author Kate Adie was the BBC’s chief news correspondent for more than a decade, frequently reporting from the front-line of conflict zones around the world. She has since written about women and war, the history of foundling children and people who risk their lives for work. She is also a public speaker and currently presents From Our Own Correspondent on BBC Radio 4.

  • ‘Kiri and Kate – In Confidence’ takes place on Saturday 13 June at 7.30pm in the Donald Gordon Theatre, Wales Millennium Centre and is a fringe event for this year’s BBC Cardiff Singer of the World competition of which Dame Kiri is the patron. Tickets cost £20 and can be booked online at or by calling the box office on 029 2063 6464.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

What Ho! Comedy Star Chris Ryan Discusses Jeeves & Wooster On Stage

After conquering the West End, including a 2014 Olivier Award for Best Comedy, PG Wodehouse’s iconic pairing Jeeves & Wooster bring their trademark humour to Cardiff’s New Theatre this week.
Adapted from Wodehouse’s works, Perfect Nonsense is a wonderful new play with a hilarious cast. Edward Hancock plays the effervescent Wooster while narrating this outrageous tale as Jeeves is Jason Thorpe who also has to run around building the set and enacting all the other characters.
Helping Jeeves bring the characters to life is fellow butler Seppings, played by Chris Ryan, perhaps best remembered by a generation of comedy fans for his appearances in TV’s The Young Ones, Bottom and Absolutely Fabulous.
Andy Howells recently chatted with the actor about his career and of course Perfect Nonsense.

Were you a fan of PG Wodehouse?
I’m not an aficionado or anything but I did read The Blandings and Lord Emsworth, things like that. As for Jeeves & Wooster, I do remember watching Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price in the 60s. Obviously these days most people remember Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie but I thought Ian Carmichael and Dennis Price were very good to.

How have you found playing Seppings in the touring version of Perfect Nonsense?
It involves for me so much energy and concentration so each show is totally energised, committed and concentrated. Its not enjoyment so much in the sense of going out there  and having fun but if the audience are having fun that gives me satisfaction in that its working.

Do you prefer working on stage or television?
I feel more comfortable and at home in the theatre. I never feel particularly comfortable doing film and television they are such technical mediums. In the theatre, you get the immediate response you’re on the tightrope because you can’t say “Cut! We’ll do it again,” you keep going. You start at the beginning go through the middle then to the end and do it night after night so you can refine, change and develop things. When I started in theatre I didn't think about television or things like that. I did repertory theatre through the 70s and my first television was in 1978, a non-speaking part in the Patrick Mower series Target and then other bits and pieces.

Was it true you were an original member of The Flying Pickets?
That’s interesting because in 1980, I was in a political left-wing company called 7:84 by John McGrath and we’d done a play by John Burrows called One Big Blow which was all men and about a group of miners who were also a brass band. We did everything vocally, harmonies and sing all types of pop stuff from all periods and we’d travel from place to place as the band.
Then we did one gig at the Albany Empire but that was the only one I did. We called ourselves tentatively The Flying Pickets. I think it might have been Brian Hibbard who thought of that, he was a wonderful actor who had that Welsh darkness. He was like a piece of coal in a way it was extraordinary the quality he had.
We did that at the Albany Empire and then I was asked to do the play Can’t Pay Won’t Pay.  They revived One Big Blow and then from that they obviously developed it and went on. I can’t claim to be a Flying Picket, I was probably in the prototype but id left the company by then.

How did you come by your part of Mike in the TV comedy The Young Ones?
I was doing a play at the Criterion Theatre called Cant Pay Wont Pay which was a Dario Fo political farce. I was in the play with an actress called Maggie Steed whose partner at the time was Andy De La Tour, he was part of that group and I think he suggested me.
They were looking for someone to play this character (Mike, the cool person). It was only after it was all over and done with that I discovered that originally it was going to be Peter Richardson, who was the comedy partner of Nigel Planer. I went along to the BBC and met Paul Jackson who was producing and directing and read with Nigel and Rik Mayall. I don’t think Ade Edmondson was there on that particular day, I did some little improvisation things. This was all in order to do a pilot which we did and that pilot became the first episode. Then it was commissioned for a series and then another. We only did twelve episodes, six in 1982 and six in 1984.
Subsequently from that, we did Waiting for Godot in the West End with Philip Jackson playing Pozzo. I played Lucky and Rik and Ade played Vladimir and Estragon and then they asked if I could play Hedgehog in Bottom. By then, Ade had married Jennifer Saunders who wrote Absolutely Fabulous, she wrote this character called Marshall for me who was one of her ex husbands. Its funny how these things relate.

You also have the distinction of appearing as aliens in the classic and new series of Doctor Who. Did you find it a challenge to act through prosthetics?
Somebody said that to me and I didn't realise that. I know there are many people who know everything about it.  That was three and half hours getting all that stuff on with very heavy costume as well. That was another "something else" wasn't it? Very hard work again acting your way through the costume and the make up and everything to show the character.

Would you like to return to Doctor Who in the future?
If they asked me! They've done more with Sontaran's but haven’t asked me but that’s fine because other people get a chance. If they asked again, I'd certainly think about it. I know the score now, with the make up and the rest of it.

So back to Jeeves & Wooster, how would you describe the show to people planning to come and see it?
It’s universal, timeless and fun. The response we've had through the tour has been very enthusiastic, especially at the end of the show. Hopefully they’ll get a taste for Wodehouse and it may prompt them to read the books.
  • Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense is at the New Theatre until Saturday 13 June. Tickets are on sale now with prices ranging from £11.00 to £33.00. For further details about the show or to book tickets* visit or call the Box Office on (029) 2087 8889. 
  • A shorter version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 5, 2015. Read the e-edition here.

On Stage: Basil Brush' Full On Fox Tour, Newport Riverfront

In the last decade I have been fortunate to review several family orientated shows featuring stars of children’s television. Yes, having three children I've seen them all from Mr Tumble to Fireman Sam, Hi 5 to Peppa Pig. Yet its quite apt that as my children are getting older the last two shows I have found myself reviewing have featured characters from my own childhood, still going strong and generating genuine belly laughs with today’s audiences.

Following on from Sooty’s appearance at The Riverfront last year, the cunning but lovable fox Basil Brush made his debut performance at the venue on Saturday.

As with the TV shows we all knew and loved back in the 1960s and 70s, slapstick humour, music and jokes ruled supreme with several double entendres for the grown ups thrown in for good measure.

For me, I didn't feel I was just there for the benefit of my son who wanted to see the show; this was a chance for me to recapture some of that precious magic of long lost Saturday afternoons on BBC 1 where the TV schedule consisted of football results, Doctor Who and The Generation Game.

It might not have been vintage TV straight men (Mr) Derek Fowlds or (Mr) Roy North up on the stage with Basil but Chris Pizzey AKA Mr Stephen and Matthew John Morley as Theatre owner Mr Snell (Mr Smell) provided great foils to the cunning Brush.

Basil himself retains that magic quality interacting frequently with participants and the audience, while improvising through stage mishaps in the fast paced show. When attempting to read from a book that happened to be closed he joked “I’m reading from a closed book, it’s a good job I have the script at my feet”. Nobody minded at all, not even the children whose laughter echoed across the Riverfront theatre. For me it was the same priceless laughter that gave so much joy to me as a child back in the 1970s. Long live Basil Brush!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Tom Jones Life Story Told In New Biography - Sean Smith Interview

As Sir Tom Jones 75th birthday approaches his biographer Sean Smith chats to Andy Howells about a new book on the music legend.

Sir Tom Jones reaches his 75th birthday this Sunday (June 7) and who could have predicted when he was born in Pontypridd in 1940 what an unforgettable roller-coaster ride his life would be?

Leading UK Biographer Sean Smith, who has written books on Cheryl Cole, Kylie Minogue and Gary Barlow, among others, has meticulously researched Tom Jones life and career for a recently released biography entitled Tom Jones – The Life. 

The biography traces the music legends beginnings from starting out in the Welsh mining town where he suffered from TB and married his sweetheart at just 16, to scoring his first UK hit seven years later that would propel him to international stardom.

“I enjoy writing all my books for different reasons because everybody is interesting before they become famous,” Sean tells Andy Howells, “but Tom was also interesting after he became famous. His whole life story is such a big one and I really enjoyed that challenge.”

Sean who insists on having a courteous respect for the subjects he writes about, visited Tom’s hometown of Pontypridd to conduct interviews with friends and family and uncovered much in the way of new stories about the star, “They were very pleased that someone had taken the trouble to go there and speak to them to find out about him in a proper fashion,” he says.

It’s something to try and get beyond the famous PR driven images of Tom Jones in the 1960s having knickers thrown at him from adoring fans as he tries to perform his greatest hits but Sean peels away the image to reveal another side to the star. “I think there is a more sensitive and introspective man, as well as the image which makes him much more interesting and complex,” he says.

Of course, the biography also covers Tom’s early chart successes with hits such as It’s Not Unusual, Green Green Grass of Home and Delilah under the watchful eye of manager Gordon Mills, but it also analyses the stars wilderness years when he went to the US and became little more than a Vegas lounge singer.

Sean Smith
Picture: Rapture Photographics
“Its one of the things I liked,” continues Sean, “it isn’t all a continuous stream of success. It sort of peaks and troughs as well as light and shades. He got very bogged down in the world of Vegas where he was making phenomenal amounts of money, so why wouldn’t you be happy to do that?”

“He had an incredible lifestyle, but artistically and professionally it didn't fulfill him. In the mid 1980s when Gordon Mills, his first manager died, things got taken over by Tom’s son Mark and his wife Donna. It was a slow process, but they gradually rehabilitated him with the British market because he was a forgotten figure. He appeared on the Jonathan Ross show and performed Kiss with The Art of Noise. It gave him just that little bit of credibility and he’s built that up in layers. Ultimately last winter, he was at a sports event in Melbourne performing with Ed Sheeran.”

Given the fact that Tom has had such a lengthy career, was it difficult for Sean to know what to leave out of the biography? “You have to drive the story on and I’m always aware that you can’t lose the reader,” he says “There’s a huge amount of ground, but I really felt I was dealing with modern history with Tom, when you get his run-ins with the mob and all these people he knew including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra and Janis Joplin. I felt like I was writing an encyclopedia but he is more interesting than that.”

The biography which is available in both hardback and e-book has already been well received and Sean couldn't be happier. “It’s only just dropped out of the Sunday Times best sellers list,” he says, “I’m pleased about it but it also shows he’s a popular guy.”

  • Tom Jones - The Life by Sean Smith is published by HarperCollins and available in hardback at £18.99 and eBook at £9.49
  • For more on Sean Smith and his books visit his official website
  • A version of this interview by Andy Howells appeared in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide on June 5, 2015 See the e-edition here.