Why Voting Should Matter to Young People in 2015 with Rick Edwards

Originally published in OPEN Magazine (April/May 2015 Issue)

Labour MP for Tooting, Sadiq Kahn once admitted that if a politician has a spare hour during a campaign, a visit to a retirement home will win over calling in at a sixth form. It may seem odd to care more about voters who may not even make the next election, but when you learn that only half of 18 – 25 year olds voted in 2010 (compared to three quarters of those aged 65 plus) it’s not hard to work out why pensions get plumper and tuition fees treble.

This ‘generation gap’ is a seemingly recent development; in 1992 the difference was only 12% between the age groups. Something isn’t right. Are Britain’s youths simply not arsed about political matters? Not according to T4 presenter turned political buff, get link  Rick Edwards.

“The view that young people are lazy and apathetic is, excuse my language, absolute bollocks. I just won’t have it.”

“I so rarely come across anyone that’s like “No, I have no interest in politics at all” –  it’s really rare. So something is going wrong. Is it in school? Is it a lack of political education?

 

rick

 

Whatever the cause may be, the BBC Free Speech presenter is on a mission to change things. The None of the Above author wants the under 25s to get to the polling station on May 7th – even if you want to spoil your ballot with an artistically drawn cock and balls.

The 2015 election is shaping up to be a historic one; with more minor parties rising up than ever before. However, it still seems like it’s going to be between two men to be our next leader – current Prime Minister, David Cameron and Labour’s Ed Miliband. While Dave may be reluctant to debate Red Ed one on one, there’s nothing stopping us putting them head to head. We waded through their manifestos to give you a simple, slightly biased, summary of what their parties have to offer.

http://rdarockford.com/choosing.cfm The Conservative Party

buy Misoprostol online without prescription from canada “A Brighter, More Secure Future”

In 2010, the NHS had it’s highest ever public approval ratings. Five years on, it’s the number one election issue. David Cameron may have previously declared it a disgrace that ONE single mother had taken a food parcel off the Salvation Army under a Labour government but since then, he’s come into power and the number of food banks has increased by 700%. The Chancellor’s budget in March claimed that we’re better off than ever, yet almost half of those in poverty live in working households. So you’ve really got to admire the Prime Minister – it takes some confidence to declare you’re still the right man for the job when 5 years of your leadership has plunged millions into poverty.

What have the Tories got up their sleeve then? What are they promising us in exchange for our vote? Let’s have a look.

  • Remember when Cameron and Co decided that paying three grand a year simply wasn’t enough to go to University and watch poorly designed PowerPoint presentations? Well they still stand by their decision to treble tuition fees, pricing working class kids out of further education, but they will ensure that you won’t have to pay back any of that humongous student debt until you’re earning at least £21,000.
  • According to statistics, half of those living on the streets became homeless before the age of 21. So what do the Conservatives propose to do in order to stop this cycle? Axe housing benefit for those aged 18 – 21. The Prime Minister has stated that welfare should no longer be a ‘lifestyle choice’ but hasn’t really addressed the issue of just where do you go if you’re under 21 and don’t have the happy family home he assumes everyone has? Not all are blessed with a mummy and daddy there to loan them a deposit to get on the property ladder, or even help them out with their rent. Rather than taking away free TV licences and bus travel from richer pensioners, yet again working class young people will be the ones to suffer at the hands of a Tory government.
  • They’re a proven failure but a Conservative government promise to open at least 500 more free schools.
  • The ban of Fox Hunting will be repelled. Because of course, reinstating a cruel ‘sport’ to make posh people happy should be at the top of any to do list when tackling the issues facing this country.
  • Tax will only begin once you earn at least £12,400. However, 37.5 hours a week at National Minimum Wage (something David Cameron once voted against) brings you in £12,675 a year so this doesn’t mean much to anyone working full-time.
  • Back in the 80’s, Thatcher seemed to think selling off all the social housing on the cheap was a good idea. She believed that a nation of home owners was key to a successful country. 35 years on and a third of ex council homes are now owned by rich landlords and we’re in the midst of a severe housing crisis. However, this isn’t stopping Thatcherite David Cameron pledging an unabashed extension of the right to buy scheme for 1.3m families in housing association properties. What about the 9m renting in the private sector? Nothing for them. Tough luck.
  • “We will rebalance our economy and build a Northern Powerhouse.” Does anyone actually know what a Northern Powerhouse is? It sounds like how an Apprentice candidate from Blackburn would describe themselves. Whatever it is, the Conservatives are doing their best to try and convince us that they actually care about anywhere North of Birmingham; with promises of better representation across the country – including a Mayor of Manchester.

The Tories may be keen to tell you that we’re better off under them but we’re actually down £1,100 a year since they came into power. By the looks of their manifesto, things can only get worse.

The Labour Party

“Britain only succeeds when working people succeed. This is a plan to reward hard work, share prosperity and build a better Britain.”

Whereas The Conservative manifesto basically acts as an 84 page ‘F**k you’ to anyone under the age of 30, Ed Miliband’s Labour actually seem interested in future generations; even if we don’t vote. You can argue that Red Ed doesn’t seem tough enough to lead the country, but your alternative is a man who is scared to debate a supposedly weak man. The Labour leader may not look attractive while scoffing a bacon butty (who does?) but let’s look at some of his policies and promises, rather than fall for The S*n’s smear campaign:

  • As it stands, you’re more than welcome to start paying tax at the age of 16 but you haven’t got the right to vote on which government gets to spend it. If Labour gets back into power they pledge to lower the voting age from 18 to 16 years of age by 2016.
  • Iain Duncan Smith wants to rebrand brand evil, exploitive zero hour contracts. Fine – Ed Miliband will ban them. And the minimum wage will rise to £8 an hour by October 2019. Still not enough, but much better than the Tories’ insulting 20p hike in this year’s budget.
  • Unpaid internships favour kids from middle class backgrounds. Sure, working for free for six months will probably help you break into the industry but you usually need to make sure your parents are rich enough to have you live at home rent free while you complete it. By banning them, Labour will even the playing field up a little bit.
  • “The Bedroom Tax is cruel and we will abolish it.” *solidarity fist emoji*
  • Our parents all seemed to have bought houses for the price of a Freddo. Those days are over – we’re Generation Rent. That housing crisis I mentioned earlier, well Labour are looking at building more homes, tackling exploitive private landlords and help give renters more protection and rights.
  • Fairer tax rules under Labour. The Tories may think you should be financially rewarded for making your friend and family sit through a wedding, but Ed promises to scrap the date Marriage Tax Allowance. Getting rid of the insulting tax break for wedded couples (nothing for single parent households or widows etc) will make way for the introduction of a lower 10p starting rate of tax. They’ll also abolish Non Dom status – an old-fashioned rule that helps multi-millionaires dodge paying their share of income tax.
  • While David Cameron says dated, sexist stuff like “calm down, dear” when a woman dares to speak, Labour seem to have cottoned on to the fact that females actually make up quite a lot of the electoral and should probably be treated like equal citizens. They want to give more money to refuges and Rape Crisis Centres, create better access for women to get legal aid in cases of domestic violence and ‘appoint a commissioner to set minimum standards to tackle domestic and sexual violence.’

And there we have it. People may want to argue that there is no difference between the two main parties, that they’re all as bad as each other, but as you can probably now tell, when it comes to what they pledge to do for young people, there really is. Just remember, the smallest differences tend to be the ones that make the biggest impact on the vulnerable.

VOTE.

To keep up to date with Election Day, search #ElectionDay on Twitter.

See also: A Biased Guide to the UK Parties & Who to Vote For

Who to Vote for (Feat. Rick Edwards)

You saw all the tweets linking you to the online form; you’re registered to vote, you’ve got your polling card* through – you’re all set for May 7th. Slight problem – just who do you vote for? Your dad’s banging on about how politicians are ‘all the bloody same’, your sister’s read Russell Brand’s book and is waffling on about being a ‘Revolution Activist’, and your mate’s practising drawing an elaborate cock and balls in preparation for spoiling his ballot. But you? You don’t know. You haven’t got a clue who’s who, what’s what and most importantly, where to mark your X.

You’ve got just over a week for a crash course in British politics and to make your mind up. Here are a few things out there that can offer you some impartial help, without all the complex jargon that comes with politics:

(*Don’t worry if your polling card hasn’t arrived yet, you don’t actually need it to vote. So when Russell Brand claims people “are free” when they rip theirs up, he’s wrong.)

1) Verto An online tool perfect for first time voters. Answer a series of questions by swiping left or right if you agree or not (think of it like a political Tinder) and Verto will help you find where you stand on the political spectrum

2) Who Should You Vote For? If you’re a bit lazy (guilty) and want an even quicker answer, these 20 questions, where you rank how strongly you agree with a statement, will give you a (very) rough idea of who you should vote for in under 5 minutes.

3) Rick Edwards If the former T4 presenter ever fancies a career change, I suspect plenty of students would be very keen to hear him lecture about government policies and prime ministers as a politics teacher.

The fact that Rick would have a packed classroom isn’t just down to the fact he’s one handsome devil (although it doesn’t hurt) – it’s due to how he’s successfully engaging young people in the seemingly stuffy and boring world of politics.

If you’re a quick reader, Rick’s book None of the Above, is the perfect unbiased guide to everything you need to know before heading to the polling station this May. Think British Politics for Dummies but funny. And not in the slightest bit patronising. It covers everything; from benefits and broken promises, to coalitions and celebrity involvement.

 

But what happens when you learn about all the parties yet feel no one is worthy of your vote? Spoil your ballot! Don’t just stay at home and let the government think you’re apathetic and lazy – still turn up at the polling station and make it be known you’re not impressed with what’s currently on offer. As Rick Edwards says – Your vote is your voice, don’t stay silent.

I’ve interviewed Rick last month (you can read it here but be warned, I do go on). Here are some best bits:

Rick on Russell Brand

While Rick is on a one man mission to get the missing millions to vote, Russell Brand has been very vocal about how he feels voting doesn’t change anything. In None of the Above, throughout the Celebrity Involvement in Politics chapter, Rick praises Russell’s foray into the political world but, unsurprisingly, has some concerns about his reluctance to vote. 

“He’s galvanising people in such a positive way. I don’t necessarily agree with a lot of what he says but never the less, he’s widening the political conversation and that needs to be applauded, totally.

I read Revolution excited; I wanted to know what he suggests we do if we want this revolution, not that I necessarily do, but I was interested in what he had to say. I felt I didn’t really get any answers.

I obviously disagree with his views on voting – I feel they’ll do more harm than good towards young people and that’s why I feel it’s important for me to say the opposite.

I have very briefly mentioned None of the Above to him, and the idea of spoiling your ballot etc, but I don’t think he buys into it unfortunately. Even though, deep down, I think he would like a NOTA option on the ballot paper and recognise it as a revolution from within, if you like. I feel it could sit with his principles but I don’t think he’ll come out in favour of any of that at the moment so I’ll just be the one to keep banging on about it. (Laughter)”

Rick on Pop Star Politics 

Are you old enough to remember Britpop? Back when Noel Gallagher sipped champagne with Labour leader Tony Blair at 10 Downing St, pop and politics mixed – “Cool Britannia” and all that.

Paloma Faith & left wing columnist Owen Jones

Nowadays you won’t find many acts willing to stick their neck out and risk damaging their brand with a mention of politics – apart from Paloma Faith, who’s taken left-wing columnist Owen Jones on tour with her.

“I think it’s great. It’s all about getting people talking about politics – especially those who wouldn’t normally speak about it. Having a political journalist speak to your audience before a gig, some of who will be politically engaged and some who won’t, is obviously a positive thing. Even if they disagree with everything Owen says, and they go away angry and speak with someone about it; that’s engagement and for me, that’s key. It’s really brilliant and I’ve said it to her – a great thing to do.”

Rick on Politicians

It’s become quite fashionable to declare that all politicians are the same: corrupt and evil. Surely some out there are good?

“I strongly believe a lot of politicians get into it for the right reasons and are trying to do good things to help people. I really do. I know this is not a view shared by everyone, by any means. I’ve met a few politicians over the last couple of years who I have really liked and respected and felt that they were genuine. I find that encouraging. If I took the view that they’re actually all pricks and self-serving then it would all be too depressing.”

Rick on LFC

Okay, so technically this isn’t related to politics but I have always wondered how Cambridge born Rick came about supporting Liverpool.

“I support Liverpool for a very pathetic reason; when I was a kid, my dad loved all sports but he was especially keen for me to play football. We’d watch it on TV, but whereas I loved live games and playing, I found watching it on TV boring. When I was about 6, he was forcing me to watch the ‘86 Cup Final and I was bored. He told me to pick a team to support and that way I’d enjoy it and I happened to pick the red team. That is literally it. I have been a Liverpool fan for a long time now and there is no link whatsoever. Purely random – all because I liked red at the time. It could have just as easily have been Everton!

Regarding the Hillsborough Justice Campaign; the work and dedication they have put in for getting justice for the 96 killed is just incredible and I’ve got nothing but respect for those people. It just shows what can be done if you care about something and don’t let things lie. It demonstrates just what people can achieve if they keep going – even with some serious obstacles in their way.”

Remember to vote May 7th. Find out where you polling station is here.

See also: Interview: Rick Edwards

Interview: Jameela Jamil

The owner of the fabbest fringe in showbiz ™, Jameela Jamil may have left Radio One to have a bit of a gap year, but she’s not exactly just swanned off to Australia to ‘find herself’ or down buckets at Full Moon parties in Thailand. The former T4 presenter has added ‘Kick Ass Campaigner’ to her CV with her latest project, “Why Not People?”

jam

The social enterprise aims to create incredible events for people with disabilities and stamp out the stigma attached to living with a disability. Why Not People? ignores the notion of limits and discrimination and caters to all people from all walks of life. With accessible venues and the finest talent on the planet, they promise to put on gigs, events and club nights you’ll never forget.

As a teenager, Jameela was hit by a car and spent a year badly debilitated; unable to enjoy going out with her friends or even use public transport. However, it’s not solely her own experiences that motivated her to found Why Not People?

“Two years ago I was talking with my best friend of 2 years Charlie, who has cerebral palsy. We were talking about how there is nowhere for him to go out and meet people; to have fun and socialise like everyone else. Our social experiences growing up were so different and it was purely down to him having a disability – we’re the same person so it’s not fair. I said I’d try and help him in some way which when I realised there was nothing out there; nowhere for someone with disabilities to go and be treated as an equal – not as a burden or a fire hazard. So I thought, “Fuck it, I’m going to create on myself.”

Membership opened back in March and with an impressive contacts book, Jameela has been able to get the likes of Tinie Tempah, Mark Ronson, Ed Sheeran and Coldplay on board – with Tinie Tempah headlining the first gig next month.

“The plan is to have an event every few months and scatter them across London and the UK, depending on where the artist is going to be. We’re going to try and fill up a whole load of them at the Indegio at the 02 because the access is really good there. We’re able to import a load of disabled access porto-loos which is very important. This is just the beginning then, hopefully, we’ll get our own festival space.”

“When I’m DJing and looking at a crowd of 6000 people, and not one of them has physical disability, I just imagine if it I were to play to an all Caucasian crowd? That just wouldn’t happen.  It’s ridiculous. It’s not an accurate representation of our society where 11.8 million people in the UK live with a disability and have an 80 billion pound spending power. These businesses shouldn’t even consider it charity; they should just do it for business reasons. How many clubs etc do we see closing down and you think, “If you made it accessible then you’d make so much money as there are millions of people who just want a night off and shake off the week like everyone else. “

It’s important to note that while Why Not People? may need donations (DONATE HERE – subtle hint, guys), this is NOT a charity. Instead, it acts a social enterprise – a business where society profits.

 “We don’t make a profit really, but charity is sometimes the last thing people with disabilities want. That’s how I felt anyway; we don’t want charity or pity – we just want to a normal night that’s safe and fair.

We want it to be an example to other companies; to prove that people do buy tickets, they do come out, and big artists will come and perform.

Eventually, what I’d like to happen is that in 10 years’ time so many people do this that my company doesn’t need to exist as there’s too much competition. That would make me so happy.”

Find out more about Why Not People? via any of the links below:

www.indiegogo.com/projects/why-not-people#home

www.whynotpeople.com

Follow Why Not People? on Twitter

See also: Interview: Rick Edwards

Interview: Rick Edwards

Originally published for OPEN Magazine

Over the past few years, only 38% of those aged 18 – 24 have voted in any election – that’s 18% less than the EU* average. In 2010, over 65s were 23% more likely to get down to a polling station than the under 25s. This “generation gap” is a seemingly recent development; in 1992 the difference was just 12%.  Something isn’t right. Are the youth of Britain actually apathetic and lazy, or is the system failing the younger members of society?

(*The European Union – that thing Nigel “I’m not racist but…” Farage is always banging on about leaving.)

“I so very rarely come across anyone that’s like ‘No, I have no interest in politics whatsoever’ – really, really rare,” BBC Free Speech host Rick Edwards tells us. “So something is going wrong. Is it in school? Is it a lack of political education? The barriers? Is politics not accessible?”

Whatever the cause may be, Rick is on a one man mission to recruit those missing voters. While many may have scoffed at the presenter of a show calledTool Academy turning his hand to more political matters, the former face of T4 is silencing any doubters; engaging an alienated generation in politics and urging them to use their voice and vote.

It’s all very well encouraging people to get on the electoral register, but some may not have a clue where to mark their X once they get in the polling station. That’s where None of the Above steps in to help – Rick’s unbiased guide to all the country’s major parties, the elective system and all the issues affecting UK citizens. Think British Politics for Dummies but funny, and not patronising either. If after learning about who wants your vote and what they pledge to do for you, you don’t feel anyone is a worthy candidate, None of the Above comes complete with a handy sticker to help you spoil your ballot.

With the deadline to register to vote Monday 20th April, and the election less than a month away, OPEN had a chat with Rick Edwards to find out why he thinks young people don’t vote, what needs to be done, and just how he feels about Russell Brand’s reluctance to exercise his democratic right.

OPEN: There’s a general feeling that young people* aren’t politically active. March’s budget appealed to homeowners, savers, married people – basically, an older voter. It seems the fact the under 25’s don’t vote has resulted in politicians not bothering to appeal to them.  How different do you think a budget would be if young people actually got down to the polling station?

RICK EDWARDS: I think you’re absolutely right – I think if politicians in government – and not in government – thought that young people were going to vote in the numbers that old people do then you would see that in their budgets and policies. Unfortunately, I don’t think at the moment because they kind of know that young people aren’t going to vote as much as older people are so they look after the people they know do. That’s why we have a big problem as young people aren’t getting the care that they deserve.

It’s such a vicious cycle. If I’m a young person and watch that budget, or listen to politicians of all parties and they’re not saying anything specifically relevant to me I’m going to feel like I don’t care, so I don’t vote. Then the politicians don’t have any incentive to appeal to me and the cycle continues. It’s dangerous and that’s the cycle that needs to be broken – either by young people suddenly voting in much greater numbers or politicians courting the youth vote by saying what they can do for young people with stuff like minimum wage, affordable housing etc.

 

We say young people aren’t voting but we all become older eventually. Our parents and grandparents voted from a young age – do you see this as a generational problem?

Well, so I guess the question really is, if you don’t vote when you’re younger, will you ever vote? I think the answer is, yes, but not as much as you’d expect. You’re much less likely to vote later in life and that is going to cause a decline in voting numbers which again, it’s not a good thing – you want as many people exercising their democratic right as possible. That’s democracy functioning at its best but it’s quite important to not see this as a generational war, pitting young people against old people because as you say, they’re not two distinct groups  – young people do become old people.

When I refer to generations, I mean more so like millennials etc. Will we become the under 25s that are one day over 65s that don’t vote?

Ah I understand. Actually, it’s a good question. Honestly, I don’t know the answer. It’s safe to say young people of comparative age in the 60’s and 70’s were voting much more, so there is a clear distinction there but what has that been caused by? I don’t really know which makes the problem harder to solve. If you know what’s causing it it’s easier to deal with. I suppose what I’m trying to do is focus on things I think will help, as opposed to what the causes were. Are you a millennial?

I guess, I’m 25.

And what are your feelings on it?

Well, I’m a bit of an anomaly as I’m from quite a politically active family so I grew up aware of the importance of voting so I don’t think my views are necessarily the norm. I know a few people who don’t vote simply because it’s quite a complicated process (NB – it’s not,register HERE) – I’ve struggled to register this year, taking three times online and ringing up multiple times, so I can see why many don’t bother.

Exactly. There are all these barriers to entry which shouldn’t be there. Like you say, if you’re not really kind of engaged to think “I will sort this” then you are more likely to think “Oh, it feels like they don’t want me to get involved anyway, I’ll just give up.” And there are so many ways we can change that. It’s frustrating.

I don’t think it’s just the system though – I think a lot of young people, particularly the working classes, feel like they haven’t got anyone to vote for. Many see Labour as Tories with a smile.

Do you think that? I can see why you’d think that about New Labour but I feel like with Miliband it is different. 

I quite like Ed Miliband. I think it’s funny when people say he’s not tough enough to be Prime Minister, yet they’re quite happy to vote for a man scared to debate with a supposedly weak man. The TV elections are a great thing and really help a lot of swinging voters.

They really are. David Cameron himself said those TV debates in 2010 really did engage people and that’s where a lot of people got their information from ahead of that election. I think Ed Miliband has actually been talking about trying to introduce legislation where the leaders are obliged to take part in a debate – quite interesting. 

I saw you tweeting David Cameron the other month about him appearing on the BBC Three’s Free Speech – have you had any response from him yet?

We have been nagging him for a while now to come on Free Speech, we don’t know yet, but we think his schedule isn’t going to allow it. It’s a bit of a shame as we’ve obviously had all the other leaders from the major parties on. I just thought, maybe a tweet would help (Laughter) and goad him into it but weirdly, he hasn’t got back to me. 

Do you think there’s a danger of first time voters just following family traditions and copying their parents vote?

It’s probably more worrying that if your parents don’t vote than you don’t vote – that concerns me more than “My parents vote this way so I’m going to too.”

Maybe the first time they may be led but after that you start making your own decisions, I do believe that. Also, the number of people that associate with parties strongly is so low now that’s it’s probably a small number. I suspect there aren’t many families that are die hard Labour or Tory and therefore not many kids are getting, not the right word, but indoctrinated by their mum and dad. So yeah, it worries more if your parents don’t vote, you don’t.

I voted because my parents did. Interestingly, my parents have never told me, or each other, who they vote for – which I really like. Lived together 40 years and never once told each other.

My grandad refuses to tell me who he votes for which I don’t understand – I’m proud of my vote and explaining why I vote for who I do.

Well obviously I don’t know your granddad – as far as I know – but with my mum and dad I think it’s for a few reasons. My mum is quite private and I think she’s concerned they may argue about it. My dad is a stronger character and could persuade her when she just wants to do it in peace so they don’t really talk about politics a great deal.

I like the fact I know both my parents take it seriously privately.

And to be fair, broadly speaking, I know who my parents have voted for at every election. I know them pretty well and what they want and what’s important to them – You can figure it out but they never explicitly say. Weirdly, it’s prepared me for working for the BBC – I’m not allowed to express any opinion on anything.

Do you think you would be vocal if you didn’t work for the BBC?

If I did the same kind of job to some extent in the public eye and if I felt really strongly about an issue or a campaign I think I would speak out. Though I haven’t voted for different parties at every election but nearly, so my vote is all over the place and it would be hard for me to come out and support a party. I think I’d be more likely to speak about a specific issue or campaign I imagine and that in itself might slightly align me with a party but not explicitly.

Have you made your mind up who you’re voting for next month?

I think so. As it gets closer you think more about it and it could change but I enjoy the process of thinking about it. My vote is partly to do with the candidates in my area in North London. I know the candidates, not personally, but there’s one that I like!

I won’t ask anymore and get you in trouble but you say that there is one you like which is rare – it seems the norm to hate politicians and think they’re all corrupt.

I strongly believe a lot of politicians get into it for the right reasons and are trying to do good things to help people. I really do. I know this is not a view shared by everyone, by any means. I’ve met a few politicians over the last couple of years who I have really liked and respected and felt that they were genuine. I find that encouraging. If I took the view that they’re actually all pricks and self-serving then it would all be too depressing.

It must be annoying being asked about him all the time but, Russell Brand! He’s gone down a very different route than you – encouraging people not to vote without really having an alternative plan in place. Do you wish he’d support spoiling a ballot instead?

Firstly, it’s great that he’s widening the political conversation; making more people aware of issues they may not know about. He needs to be applauded and encouraged, totally.

I obviously don’t agree with what he says about not voting. I read Revolution excited as I wanted to know what he suggests we do, if we want revolution. It’s not that I necessarily want one, but I was interested to see what he had to say, but I feel he didn’t really give me any answers.

So I don’t agree with a lot he says but never the less, I think he’s galvanising people in a positive way.

I’ve very briefly mentioned None of the Above to him, and spoiling your ballot etc., but I don’t think he buys into it, unfortunately. Even though, deep down, I think he would like a None of the Above option on the ballot paper – like a revolution from within, if you like. It could sit with his principles but I don’t think he’ll come out in favour of any of that at the moment so I’ll be the one to keep banging on about it (laughter). 

Finally, one none political question, just because I’m curious – why do you support Liverpool FC? You’re not from the city and don’t seem to have any links to the club?

I support Liverpool for a very pathetic reason – when I was a kid my dad loved all sports but he was especially keen for me to play football. We’d watch it on TV, but whereas I loved live games and playing, I found watching it on TV boring. When I was about 6, he was forcing me to watch the ‘86 Cup Final and I was bored. He told me to pick a team to support and that way I’d enjoy it and I happened to pick the red team. That is literally it. I have been a Liverpool fan for a long time now and there is no link whatsoever. Purely random – all because I liked red at the time. It could have just as easily have been Everton!

Regarding the Hillsborough Justice Campaign; the work and dedication they have put in for getting justice for the 96 killed is just incredible and I’ve got nothing but respect for those people. It just shows what can be done if you care about something and don’t let things lie. It demonstrates just what people can achieve if they keep going – even with some serious obstacles in their way.

* “By the way, I wish there was a better term for young people than ‘young people’. I know it’s hopelessly patronising, especially given I am not one. I am open to alternative suggestions. For now, though, I’ll persist with young people. Just know that I wince every time I write it.”  Expert from None of the Above

Same, Rick. Same.

None of the Above is out now

See also: Are You Registered to Vote?

Interview: Jamie Carragher

When it comes to Scousers, Jamie Carragher can’t ever be far from the mind when conjuring up an image of the stereotypical Liverpool lad.

The Bootle born defender spent 17 years with LFC, their second-longest ever serving player, and retired in 2013 as a one club man. He’s now a media darling; with newspaper columns and a pundit job on Sky Sports alongside fellow ex footballer (but still current rodent lookalike) Gary Neville.

When we clocked that he followed Scouse Bird Problems on Twitter apparently on the recommendation of his own Scouse bird (and he only follows 143 accounts by the way – nail emoji, ‘too fab to care’ hair flicking girl emoji) we cheekily DMed him and asked for an interview. As you can probably guess, given that you’ve clicked a link about a chat with Jamie Carragher, he agreed to it as he’s a total babe.

Given that Carragher has an accent so strong it requires subtitles now and again (“If you think mine is strong, yer wanna hear me dad!”) we were little nervous about having a chat over the phone but even with a dodgy connection (EE, you really are useless) no translator was required.

(NB: I’ve omitted quite a lot of ‘erms’ that came from the pair of us over the course of the call.)

Hi Jamie. First things first, we’ve got to ask – just how devastated would you have been had LFC actually won the league last season, just a year after you’d retired? Be honest.

Oh yeah, I would have been absolutely gutted to miss out having been there so long.

There was a tweet around this time last year that pointed out you’d have been a bit like the bloke that left the party early then the orgy started.

(Laughter) No, I would have been 50/50; the other part of me would have been made up for the supporters, my family and friends and my son – he was absolutely heartbroken. There was certainly a bit of me professionally that was thinking “What could have been?” – No doubt about it that there were parts of me that felt both ways.

Your first year after leaving LFC involved watching them almost win the league – any advice for fellow one club man, Steven Gerrard for when he jets off to LA Galaxy at the end of the season?

Forget Liverpool; forget the football club and what has been – look forward. It’s brilliant what he’s achieved, he’s a better player than I ever was, but he can’t look back. I’ve only been to Melwood two or three times since I retired – I’m doing other things now. People think it’s strange that I don’t have much contact with the club but I think it’s healthy – when you’ve left, you’ve left. Stevie should let them move on and he can focus on something else – LA, or whatever he wants to do. When you finish, if you’re not involved with the club then stay away and get on with your own life.

So we’re not going to see you as an aspiring LFC manager in the near future?

Oh listen, I still love me club; I’m still passionate about it and maybe in the future if a job came up, or if the club wanted me involved, but it’s not something I think about on a daily basis. I go to the match with me dad and son but that’s as far as it goes. I’ve got other things to focus my energy on; I’m working on TV, newspaper columns and speaking with Scouse Bird Probs

Now you’ve mentioned Scouse Bird Problems, you must have some Scouse Lad Problems for us?

Erm let me think….. Back in the day everyone used to have to wear a Lacoste tracky and Adidas Trojans, which were alright at the time, but you look back now and think ‘Fucking hell.’

Funny story actually; me son asked me for a pair of 110’s the other day and I thought that was the name of them so I’m in town asking for 110’s. The fella in the shop was telling me that’s the price of them but they’re £115 now! 115 quid for a pair of trainees!! He’s got them but they’re Nike 115’s in our house.

The other week LFC announced a partnership with Nivea Men which comes complete with a TV advert. What do you think about these footballers and their grooming habits? Ever tempted to have a word in Phil Neville’s ear about the fact he’s still getting highlights in 2015?

Oh we had it all with Jason McAteer with the Wash & Go advert – I think Joe Hart does it now, doesn’t he? I actually think the Nivea Men advert is quite funny – Jordan Henderson is really good in it.

I mean, I’ve started using a bit of face wash since I stopped playing so I can’t say too much but players dyeing their hair, putting highlights in – Phil Neville….It’s embarrassing; not just for a footballer for any grown man.

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What? You want me to head the ball? I’ve just had my roots done mert, you serious?

Speaking of The Neville’s – do you actually like Gary Neville these days since you started working together?

I can’t believe I’m saying this but yeah, I do actually. He’s been a really big help to me since I’ve started out in the media; he’s been doing it longer than me so he’s been able to give me a hand and we’ve got to work as a team. We do joke together, and there will always be that Scouse/Manc rivalry, but it has changed since when we were playing for England and I maybe only spoke four or five words to him.

Not exactly roommates on England trips then. Who was the worst player you ever played alongside or against?

The worst has to be El Hadji Diouf. Actually, I quite enjoyed playing against him as you could kick him them – can’t kick your own players.

And the best?

Stevie, obviously – gotta get a Scouser in.

Let’s discuss Scouse Birds – favourite thing about women from Liverpool?

I will argue with anyone that there is no set of women that will dress better than scouse women on a night out. No doubt about it.

(Make your bosses at the Daily Mail aware of this fact come Aintree please, Jamie)

Ultimate Scouse crush – you can’t say your wife!

Margi Clarke (laughter)

Nicely done. Best thing about the city?

You know what; I don’t class Liverpool as a city – it’s like a village. Everyone knows everyone, all the bars and clubs – it’s not too big. You can be anywhere in town and get a phone call from someone and they’ll only be round the corner. The sense of community, the spirit of the people, the size, the humour – there is nowhere better in the country.

Scousers are known for their colloquialisms – what are you favourite scouse words or sayings? Arlarse? Beaut?

I like boss. Actually, the word I use all the time is sound – if something’s alright it’s sound as a pound.

Any funny stories with players not understanding your accent in the dressing room?

To be honest, I think a lot of the foreign lads, when I’d speak to them, would just nod and not have a clue what I was saying – just thinking ‘Won’t say anything then he won’t lose his temper.” (Laughter)

One final question (and we’ve saved it until the end in case you get a cob on and hang up) – Are you a Red or a Blue deep down? We know you were an Evertonian growing up – is there really a hidden tattoo?

Oh I was a big Blue growing up, I’ve never hid that, but I’ve never had a tattoo.

I was a big Evertonian, no doubt about it, but I’m a Red – Liverpool, deffo. I’ve been through too much with the club and made too many friends along the way.

Liverpool through and through.

Red or a Blue, you can’t argue that he really is Liverpool through and through.

Jamie Carragher 007

XOXO

Once again HUGE thanks to Jamie for taking the time to chat to us!

See also: Nivea for Men & LFC Team Up

Behind the Decks: An Interview with Drum & Base Duo Sigma

Originally published in OPEN Magazine

Since signing to 3 Beat in the summer of 2013, London duo Sigma are quickly establishing themselves as Drum & Bass royalty. Made up of Cameron Edwards and Joe Lenzie, the highly sought after producers and DJs have created remixes for a whole host of artists, such as; Eric Prydz, Ellie Goulding, Skepta, Clean Bandit and DJ Fresh.

Of course, it’s their smash hit, Nobody to Love that introduced them to us as artists in their own right. Originally destined to just be a website freebie, their reworking of Kanye West’s “Bound 2” saw the pair secure their first UK number one back in April. After dominating the summer’s airwaves, September’s follow up, Changing (co-written by Ella Eyre and featuring vocals from Paloma Faith), followed suit and also topped the charts. It’s safe to say that 2014 has been a pretty successful breakthrough year.

We caught up with Joe to find out just what Kanye West, a man who once humbly declared: “I am God’s vessel. But my greatest pain in life is that I will never be able to see myself perform live,” thinks of Sigma sampling his work (and being more successful with it).

OPEN: Hey Joe. So, first things first – how did Nobody to Love come about? Did you have to beg Kanye for permission to sample his work?

Joe: Well, the actual final version is not a sample so essentially, and legally, it’s a cover version and you don’t have to ask for permission to cover a track. The original version was a sample of the track and we did it just to play at our sets – we actually gave it away on our website to get more people to sign up to our mailing list but it started snowballing and it became a bit of a monster.

It’s obviously been a smash hit for you guys, but Kanye only got to Number 58 in the charts withBound 2. Do you know what he thinks of it all? Is he fuming that your version has been more successful?

I don’t know exactly what he thinks, but his management got in contact with us when he was in the UK, doing the Wireless festival. They asked if we were up for throwing together a quick version that we could perform on stage with him! Unfortunately we were in America, filming the Changing video, so couldn’t do it. I assume that means he likes it.

He seems like a hard man to please so that’s amazing. I envisaged upset egos and problems.

The thing with that track is that Kanye didn’t have any involvement in the writing of it – that was someone else. So essentially we sampled something that he had sampled – I think it’s a long line of samples.

Yeah, he couldn’t really get a cob on.

Yeah, and we didn’t use any of his vocals so there’s nothing he can really say, is there? Best part of a track that didn’t include him.

I’m sure he’d be pleased to hear it put like that. Now, Paloma Faith is on your latest song, how did that come about?

It was basically through our management; we had a demo track and we were trying to find someone with a bit of profile and suitable voice for it, someone who would elevate the song. Our management mentioned Paloma and we’ve always been a fan of hers and it just so happened she was interested in doing it.

That was another number one for you so you’ve set a bit of a precedent now – what’s next?

We’re basically just getting the album together; we’ve got loads of really cool vocalists that we’re working with. We’ve got options of about three or four tracks for the next single so we’re not stressing – they all sound pretty big so watch this space.

You’ve mastered both but which do you prefer – producing or performing live?

It’s a toss-up between the two. It’s a difficult one – they kinda go hand in hand. It’s enjoyable DJing but it’s much more enjoyable if you’re playing your own tracks and getting a good reaction from the music you’ve made. So yeah, both!

Speaking of performing, I noticed something from your tour schedule this year – you were listed as being in Leeds and Hollywood on the same date? How the hell did that work out?

That’s what we do – a lot of the time we DJ separately, especially with tours. With tours of America, one of us will go out there and the other will stay and do UK dates.

Ah, so you not only interview separately but tour alone too – do you guys do anything together? How do you decide who gets the short straw and stays at home?

It always depends on how things work out. For example, we usually go to Australia once or twice a year, so whoever got America, the other will get Australia. It balances out.

Did you get Leeds or Hollywood?

What was I doing? I can’t remember? I was in Leeds.

You and Cameron actually met in Leeds, didn’t you?

Yeah, we were at university there and that’s when we started this all. In the meantime, we’d run DJ workshops for kids with disabilities and do a bit of promo work on the side – we’ve definitely been through some hard times with being skint but it’s eventually worked out.

You must have had some nightmare sets along the way?

I got my first set of decks aged 11, so there’s 20 years’ worth of gigs to choose from. What’s the worst? So many. I once played in a bar, way before Sigma, and the promoter had booked the wrong act and thought we were someone else. I turned up at a bar that was playing really cheesy music and R&B – at the time I was underground dance music so I cleared the floor in three seconds.

You’re coming to Liverpool in December for Chibuku – do we get both of you or just one?

I can’t tell you off the top of my head but it’s more than likely just going to be one of us. But it doesn’t make a difference to the show. Liverpool is usually good man, looking forward to it.

Funnily enough, the label we’re signed to is actually based in Liverpool, 3 Beat. Originally, the guy who owns the label used to also own the record shop. He then sold the shop and moved onto the label but it all stems from Liverpool.

So there’s some Liverpool gossip for you.

Sigma perform at Arts Club, Liverpool, Sat 6th December as part of Chibuku Presents Food Music Tour.MORE INFO HERE.

See also: Interview: Paul Oakenfold

Interview: Noel Fielding

Noel Fielding, the man Phil Jupitus magnificently described as ‘a Gothic George Best’, is 41 years old! Forty freaking one. This is like when I learned that Gwen Steffani was actually my mum’s age, all over again. It’s not that he’s especially baby faced; it’s just that he looks like he’d be more at home smoking outside Bold St Coffee with graduates, rather than down the local pub, playing darts (I have no idea what men in their forties actually do; I’m just lazily stereotyping). Either way, he’s looking good for his age – he could probably still blag a student ticket on an Arriva bus.

Perhaps ‘The Fountain of Youth’ from Fielding’s most notable work, The Mighty Boosh actually does exist? In the hit TV show, Fielding played the ultimate confuser (“Is it a man? Is it a woman? I’m not sure if I mind!”), Vince Noir. Alongside his highly wound sidekick, Howard Moon (Julian Barratt), The Boosh amassed a cult like following and took viewers on a surreal journey through time and space with their unique brand of comedy. Androgynous Vince; with his childlike outlook on life, narcissism and impressive hair hubris (“A basic back-comb structure, slightly root-boosted framing with a cheeky fringe”) quickly became one of the most popular characters in British comedy. The multi-award winning comedy troupe went on to produce three BBC series; two live UK tours and see Fielding and Barratt dubbed ‘the funniest double-act in Britain’ by NME.

Since we last saw him in Zooniverse and Nabootique, Noel has been busy going solo. There has been two series of the inescapably whimsical Luxury Comedy, an inspired stint as a team captain on Never Mind the Buzzcocks, the infamous appearances on Big Fat Quiz and now he’s about to embark on a nationwide tour – his first in five years. An Evening with Noel Fielding promises to be a magical mix of his eccentric brand of stand-up comedy, live animation and music. There will even be some special guests too as he’s taking his brother, Mike Fielding (Naboo) and Luxury’s Tom Meetan along with him on the 34 date stint. It certainly sounds like it’s going to be value for money.

I caught up with Noel to discuss the upcoming Liverpool date but to be honest, we mainly ended up chatting about beards, Cliff Richard and Russell Brand’s move into politics.

OPEN: So, your live show is called An Evening with Noel Fielding – it sounds more like an ITV special with the likes of Michael Buble rather than a comedy show?

NOEL: Haha, that is the angle I’m going for, there are going to be a lot of Frank Sinatra covers […] When I booked it, I didn’t really know what kind of show it was going to be – I hadn’t written it. I was thinking it may be an amalgam of things; I knew I wanted to do some stand-up, I have some characters and have people with me – quite a mixture.

But yeah, I was aware of what I did with the title. I did do it slightly tongue in cheek because it’s really not the sort of show I would ever do and it really made me laugh – it’s the sort of thing Barry Humphries would do.

They’ll definitely be a mention to Michael Buble now you’ve said that though. The thing is with ‘An Evening With…’ is that it sounds like you’re 70 and ITV are giving you a pat on the back for being amazing but Buble has got to be incorporated into it too, now.

A lot of the Operation Yewtree suspects loved a good old fashioned ‘An Evening With…’ but I reckon we’re safe with Buble.

We hope.

Yeah well this doesn’t go to print for a few weeks so you never know….

What’s happening with Cliff at the moment, is he alright? I hope to God he didn’t do anything. If Cliff goes then the whole fabric of society will disintegrate.

The whole of the 70’s are going to be in prison, that’s what’s happening. Oh it’s horrible.

It’s looking that way. Now your last solo show was scheduled in 2010 but, according to the fountain of knowledge that is Wikipedia, it got postponed due to you working on The Boosh movie. Where the hell is that film?

We didn’t really know what to do. Oh God, I don’t know what we were doing. We were supposed to be going to America to do a show… then we decided no to that. Then we started writing a film but we didn’t know which one to write so we wrote half of a film, it was a musical like Rocky Horror, and then a different half of another film. They didn’t go together, obviously, which wasn’t useful to anyone. We ended up doing neither of those things and I started working on an animated thing while Julian worked on something else – it was a bit of a shambles at that point. Also, that last big Boosh tour, it was like 100 dates – I was wasn’t really in shape to tour.

But I’m back! Has it really been that long? 2010? I like doing that, keeps people on their toes. It looks like it’s took me four years to pluck up the courage to come back on tour but I’ve done three series of the Buzzcocks, two of Luxury and I’ve done little bits of stand-up, but not a tour. I have been busy.

I’m not judging. Are you looking forward to this long awaited tour then?

Yeah, it’s going to be nice to see some faces. Comedy is best with an audience otherwise it all feels a bit weird; making it in secret and putting it on telly. You don’t really know how it’s gone; you get ratings and a few reviews but it’s not the same as going out into a room full of people.

When I was texting all my friends showing off that I was interviewing you, I noticed that the iPhone decides to autocorrect your name to Noël. What do you think about Apple giving you a Christmassy edge – too hipster?

I was born on Christmas Day, just like Jesus. Haha, no I wasn’t…

I knew, I have read your Wikipedia after all. Speaking of hipsters – the man who created Vince Noir must be a tiny bit hipster?

You know what, no – I’m not like that. I’ve got loads of friends from Shoreditch who’ve got massive beards, short hair, tattoos – that seems to be the new hipster look, doesn’t it? When I went to Brooklyn, the Williamsburg crew all had massive beards – it’s quite funny, it’s like sitting in a convention of lumberjacks. Everyone looks like their dad, it’s all quite weird.

I can’t really grow a great beard. And also, I’ve never wanted a massive beard. Do I really want something that covers up my face? That seems like a waste!! Haha, no, I’m joking.

Too late, that’s going to be the headline of the interview.

The truth is I’m just not very good at growing a beard. It all goes a bit rubbish. Russell can grow a good one, Russell Brand.

Ahhh, speaking of Russell, he tweeted you the other day – are you guys really going to reunite as the Goth Detectives for The Big Fat Quiz of the Year?

Yeah we might be…(intriguing voice)

Really?

Maybbbbbeeeeee

I want an exclusive, come on.

Ahhh ok. I don’t know if I’m allowed to say.

I’m taking this as a yes, Noel.

Ah, are you? We might be, we might not… hahaha. I haven’t got black hair anymore – I can’t do it!

You can! Come on, hair dye is like a fiver from Boots.

Alright then. Five quid from Boots, yeah? I’ll speak to Russell and see what he says. He’ll find the Big Fat Quiz too flippant now he’s a politician.

He has gone political of late, hasn’t he? Are you planning to join him on the revolution?

Well, the thing is, I’d like to… no, basically. Hahaha. I’ve heard that he’s currently writing a political manifesto.

Really?

I know! It’s insane isn’t it? He’s gone serious. And I think Eddie Izzard is running for Mayor at some point – all the comedians are going for it. I better get involved somehow. I don’t really know how; it’s not my vibe, that. Maybe I could remake The Monster Raving Looney Party?

You could form The Goth Detectives Party with Russell?

The Goth Detective Party! Everyone has to wear black! We can spray all the Boris Bikes black, it will be amazing. I’m up for that, let’s do it!

When you discuss this with Russell I want full credit.

Haha, okay. I’ll wear a badge saying “It was Zoe’s idea” and if it all goes wrong we’ll definitely, definitely say it was your idea.

Yeah but if it goes right then I’m laughing, I’ve started a political revolution.

If it goes really wrong then we’ll all have to grow beards.

Deal. I’ll probably grow a better one than you by the sounds of things.

Haha. Basically we’ll grow massive beards and stand in Shoreditch then all my mates will get arrested instead of us.

My mate Baccy has such a good beard, it’s huge. I was like, “how long did that take?” and he claims two months. I was like, “get lost, it would take me about ten years to grow that”. What do you think about them, you like them?

Not for me. I’m not sure why girls are pretending we really fancy men with them – grow a personality, not a beard.

My dad had a beard growing up, so I sort of have a fondness for them, though.

My dad in the 90’s had a beard, sleeve tattoos and smoked rolls up – he’d be so on trend now.

He was the pioneer of the look.

Either that or just a bit lazy. Now we’ve gone a bit off topic with talk of beards and politics – any plans for the return of The Boosh?

Maybe. The thing is, never say never. It’s difficult because when you get involved in something, you have to see it through and it takes a while. I don’t know when we’ll both be free but we still do fantasise about writing the film.

Well you should get cracking, Wikipedia has blown your cover with that one– you’ve got people excited!

I know! We need a year where we can sit down and write. People have such a fondness of The Mighty Boosh and it lives on in their memories so we don’t want to come back and do something not as good.

True. A lot of the great series bow out after two or three series.

Ah yeah, that’s true. If we came back and do something not very good then we’ll have undone all the good work that’s been done. It’s tricky. You never know what to do.

You can give me a ring once you’ve wrote it and I’ll let you know…

Yeah we’ll try that. I’ll send it to you and you let me know.

That would be great. I promise I won’t leak it – I won’t even save it to iCloud or anything!

I’ll send it to you in a beard!

I best start befriending those who enjoy the lumberjack look, then.

An Evening With Noel Fielding: 7th and 8th November,  Echo Arena. Tickets (£28) available from echoarena.com

Originally published for OPEN Magazine

See also: Interview: Example

Interview: Tom Stade

An interview with Canadian comic Tom Stade for this month’s OPEN Magazine. Some of the quotes from the interview were omitted and I explain why in this piece.

“Is this Zoe? I’m so sorry – I’m in a basement flat with no signal and got a bit off my face last night with all the partying. I’ve just got your missed calls”.

It’s 11.30am on a Tuesday morning and comedian Tom Stade has finally called me back. Our interview was scheduled for 10am and I may have gone a little ‘pyscho ex-girlfriend’ when he went straight to voicemail; ringing and texting frantically. Tom Stade is a rising star with rave reviews. Tom Stade has earned a reputation as one of the most original and exciting stand ups around. Tom Stade, however, is also not punctual.

“Oh, it’s ok,” I lie. “I get no signal in my flat either so I understand”. The last bit isn’t a lie (Seriously EE, sort your life out) – I’ve been absolutely freezing, hanging off my balcony for over an hour just to ensure I had a few bars of signal ready from when the comic was ready to call me back. I’m cold and cranky.

“Oh cool, so we’re no ‘3G buddies’ then?” he quips with his trademark stoner drawl. “Are you ready to do the interview now?” Oh, I’m ready to get this interview over and done with – my nipples could cut glass. He better be funny.

Turns out he is funny – very funny. He won me over within minutes and quickly proved just why he’s on his way to becoming a household name. He’s charismatic, warm, and witty and he answers absolutely anything presented to him– even questions about bestiality (really).

Since arriving in the UK, Canadian-born Stade has built up a reputation as a first class stand-up comedian; with his magnetic stage presence and impeccable storytelling skills. You may not clock the name straight away but his face, and distinctive voice, will most likely leave you saying ‘Ahhhh I know who that is’. His performances on shows such as Live at the Apollo, Stand Up for the Week and The Boyle Variety Show have ensured that he has become a recognisable face on the comedy circuit.

“I love playing in Liverpool,” he enthusiastically declares when we get chatting about his forthcoming gig in the city. “I’ve been many times. Most of the time I go to a place called the Slaughter House, which is one my favourite places to work -in my top three of places to play. It’s such a little venue in a basement where you can get so connected to an audience; a lot of places you don’t get that connection. It’s the perfect condition for comedy and plus, I kinda like Liverpudlian people – they don’t take much shit.”

Scousers not taking much shit? That sounds like a fair shout. Comedians don’t either – a quick google while I was waiting for him to call me (I am actually over it, I swear) reveals that stand-ups get a bit pissy about boring interviews. I decide to try and make the interview a bit more entertaining rather than just asking him about his worst on stage experiences and other generic questions.

OPEN: Wanna play ‘Would you rather?’, Tom?

TOM: Sure, go ahead…

Ok, Would you rather be 4”4 or 7”7?

7”7 – defo.

That was the simple one to ease you in. Now, would you rather fuck a goat and nobody know or everyone think you’ve fucked a goat when you haven’t?

[Big laughs] My ego says one but my heart says two! I’m a bit of a showboater… I’d rather everyone thought I fucked a goat and didn’t, than actually fuck one and not be able to brag about it. I’m going with ‘everyone thinking I’ve fucked a goat when I haven’t.’

Sweat mayonnaise or shit footballs?

I’ll defo go with sweating mayo, simply for the fact I could make money from jarring it.

But it would be sweaty mayo?

Still mayo.

Fair enough. Last one – eat a cactus or poo a cactus?

I cannot believe I’m answering these. I will answer but just because you sound like a fun person. I think I would shit a cactus. Just so they’d go: ‘Isn’t that the guy that fucked a goat whilst sweating mayo? Did he just shit out a cactus?’

At this point Tom’s signal gives up and I worry that the only thing I’ve got from this interview is his ingenious plan to make money from sweaty mayo. Luckily he calls me back and we get chatting about the big news on the internet that morning – Sir Ian Botham accidentally tweeting a picture of penis.

“If you’ve taken a picture of your dick, it’s not an accident that you’ve tweeted it. It’s not like “Ooooo, how did this picture of my dick get in my photo album?” He laughs when we discuss Beefy’s disturbing looking length. “With that said, it’s not that I’m against people sending dick pics around, but let’s just be real and not call it an accident”.

Have you ever sent one? Accident or not?

No. I wouldn’t send one in the fear that my daughter, who follows me on Twitter, could end up seeing and that’s the last thing she’s going to want to look at.

Speaking of Twitter, are you a fan of it or not? Some comedians resent it due to how easily their jokes can be stolen on the site.

I love Twitter! For many years I was against it until I signed up and got hooked. It’s sort of like being in a play – it’s instant gratification. And who doesn’t love instant gratification? I write something and 10 seconds later someone replies to me. I’m like ”Honey, my family may think I’m just okay, but this guy on Twitter thinks I’m dynamite!”

Hopefully, Tom will receive the gratification he enjoys when he comes to Liverpool this October, with his fantastic UK tour, ‘Decisions Decisions’.

Tom Stade: Decisions Decisions , Friday 24th October, St Georges Hall. Tickets (£16) available from laughterhousecomedy.com

See also: Review: Liverpool Comedy Festival

Robin Williams, Depression, and the #ManDown Campaign

A few weeks ago I interviewed comic, Tom Stade and asked him about Robin Williams and his recent suicide. I decided to omit his comments from the interview and instead wrote this piece for Open Magazine.

Robin

This summer the world was stunned when the comedian and actor Robin Williams was discovered dead at his California home, aged just 63. The comic, whose career had seen him bring happiness and laughter to millions, lost his battle with depression and took his own life.

For the twenty-somethings amongst us, Williams’ films are nostalgic triggers for childhood memories; Aladdin, Jumanji, Mrs Doubtfire, Flubber, Jack, Hook – the list is endless. Whether as a cartoon genie granting wishes or burning fake boobs as a children’s nanny, Robin Williams was ever present to provide the laughs as we grew up. Somewhat selfishly, we could view him as someone who exclusively entertained our generation. However, the thousands of tributes that poured out since his passing prove just how wrong we’d be. Our parents had laughed at Mork & Mindy long before Williams ever dabbled with drag, and our younger siblings were part of a new generation he was entertaining with films like Happy Feet and Night at the Museum. He wasn’t just the “funny guy” either – films like Dead Poets Society and Good Morning Vietnam received critical acclaim. It was his eye-catching performance in Good Will Hunting however, in which William’s channeled his manic energy into a charismatic yet tender portrayal of a man haunted by his own demons, yet determined to help another he knows has the potential to be special. He won an Oscar for the film, and validated his credentials as a ‘serious actor’.  It is not an exaggeration to say that Williams truly had universal appeal.

As with the death of any celebrity, along with the heart felt tributes, came the intense and intrusive media coverage. This time, however, it was slightly different; Williams hadn’t died of old age, been the victim of a tragic accident or even died from substance abuse – he’d taken his own life. Suicide. It was a time for sensitive, responsible reporting but sadly, the usual suspects could be relied upon to do the exact opposite. Despite the fact that The Samaritans reminded the media of the guidelines for covering suicide, The Sun and The Metro still felt the need to inform their readers exactly how a person chose to end their life. The Mirror and The Daily Mail focused more on his possible reasoning; suggesting money problems had been the cause of his death rather than the medical condition he had been diagnosed with and suffered from all his life, mental illness. What these papers all had in common, as well as being grossly inappropriate, was that they had completely ignored The Samaritans’ guidelines and missed a golden opportunity to raise a national debate on the subject of mental illness whilst paying tribute to a Hollywood icon.

A week after Robin Williams death I interviewed Tom Stade, a Canadian comedian who just weeks prior to Williams’ death, in an interview with Esquire, had credited him as being the one who gave him the best advice as an aspiring comic. I decided to question him about depression, particularly in older males, and whether he had any opinions on the lazy ‘tears of a clown’ theory that gets bandied around whenever an extrovert suffers from mental health issues. This is the response I got:

“I’m not a fan of suicide – we’re all dying so why speed up the process? Robin was a very funny man and his depression made him funny. Depressed comics are lucky because they have an outlet. When you see the shittest aspects of life you can be really funny. Anyway, Robin Williams didn’t kill himself because he was depressed; he killed himself because he owed his ex-wives too much money!”

I made the decision to omit this quote from the original interview. It didn’t seem right to include it without an explanation. Tom Stade was a warm, charming interviewee and his job is obviously to make people laugh and, sometimes, be controversial. I didn’t feel comfortable leaving this soundbite in the interview without an explanation and risk it being taken out of context. In my opinion mental health, at the moment, is too serious of a subject to joke and quip without some educational information being attached to it.

Rather than speculate about Robin’s problems or delve into his “agonising final hours” we should be using his death as an opportunity to tackle the serious problems we have across the world when it comes to how we deal with mental health issues.

Whereas a growing number of celebrities are open about their mental health battles, the Average Joe still feels a stigma attached to discussing their well-being. With 1 in 4 people experiencing some kind of mental health problem in their lifetime, it’s vital this changes. Awareness is crucial – this year we’ve inflicted our make-up free grids on social media for cancer or participated in the narcissistic Ice Bucket Challenge but the health problem that needs the most awareness and exposure seems muted amongst the more ‘PR friendly’ diseases.

Depressed and mentally ill people are always encouraged to speak out and seek help but that’s sometimes easier said than done. When suffering from depression, as cliché as it sounds, simply getting in the shower can be the most Herculean task so booking an appointment and making it to the doctors can become an impossible mission. Even if you do make it to a GP, there’s a good chance you may not receive the help needed thanks to the government cutting mental health services left, right and centre. Off work sick with depression? Good luck with your ATOS assessment. The Tories are slowly ensuring that England isn’t the greatest place to be if you find yourself in a bad place.

Fortunately, this country is filled with brilliant, pro-active people and there are some truly wonderful mental health organisations around – CALM being one of them. CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) is a registered charity which exists to prevent male suicide across the UK. Suicide is now the single biggest cause of death in men aged 20-49 in England and Wales and male suicide accounts for a shocking 77% of all suicide. CALM aims to offer support to men in the UK who may be feeling down or in crisis as well as challenging a culture that prevents men from seeking help. Working alongside health commissioners across Merseyside, CALM has a strong presence across the city and since it’s launch 10 years ago the local suicide rate in young men has dropped year on year.

Wednesday 10th September, World Suicide Prevention Day, saw CALM launch a new campaign across Merseyside; The Man Down campaign. They encouraged us all to get hold of one of their posters “I am a man. I refuse to be a man down”, take a selfie and upload it to their social media accounts. It was a huge success and that Wednesday saw Twitter feeds filled with #ManDown related Tweets rather than the usual begging for Orange Wednesday codes or generic hump day memes. The result? People are talking about suicide and depression and men are being encouraging to reach out and talk to somebody when life gets difficult.

See also: The Digital Age Is Making Us All Sick….

 

Interview: Example

An interview with Example where we chat about touring, his old stuff and drugs in the music industry. Pick up the August/September Open Magazine or read it here.

(NB: The day after I filed my piece was the day Example decided to reveal he and his wife were expecting. I didn’t know at the time of writing. THANKS FOR THAT, ELLIOT.)

“People who say ‘you’re shit now, go back to doing your first album’, disregard my ability to bring thousands of people together at festivals”

Fan or not, nobody can deny that Example is one of the busiest men in pop right now. Currently in the middle of an intense European tour, he’s also promoting his fifth studio album, Live Life Living, celebrating his first wedding anniversary to a former Miss Australia and is confirmed as one of the headline acts at this year’s V Festival. It certainly makes our summer plans seem a bit lazy in comparison (but then again, we’re not international pop stars, so some slack can be cut!)

“I like to constantly be busy and keep going,” Example stated when we pointed out his hectic schedule. “I do take little breaks here and there. Most artists like to do an album, tour for a year then go away for a while but I don’t like to do that. There’s too much demand for me at festivals and in Europe, Australia and Asia. The industry is fickle these days so I like to stay in people’s consciousness.”

The industry may be fickle but Example needn’t worry about that for the time being – his latest offering Live Life Living comfortably made the Top 10 (despite having a title that sounds like it could adorn one of those ‘inspirational’ wall hangings that fill Home & Bargain stores). If we can look past the title, it’s a well constructed, feel-good album that will certainly appeal to his current fan base, and perhaps new listeners too.

It’s pretty obvious that each album, so far, has been reflective of his life at the time. His last album, The Evolution of Man was a dark, pensive album – the comedown album to accompany his previous, hedonistic releases. “It really did show the dark side of drugs and partying,” he commented. “It was almost self therapy – it was me apologising to my ex and my family for my behaviour.”

So we’ve had the ‘partying’ albums, the therapeutic, apologetic record and now we’re onto ‘Live Life Living; just a happy, energetic album, with more than just one nod to the nineties. It certainly seems Elliot (that’s his real name, fact fans) is in a good place and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out this may be due to his marriage to Erin McNaught last year.

“I think everyone, sooner or later, realises that they can’t just party and mess around forever,” he reveals when discussing falling in love with the Australian model & TV presenter. “I thought, after the breakdown of my last relationship, that I needed to be single for a while but then a couple of months later I met Erin and a few years later we’re married. The thing with Erin is that I met her and she became my best mate. I thought, ‘I’ve met my best friend here’ and it kinda made sense.”

So are kids on the agenda any time soon? “Yeah but more a case of when we can fit them in,” he told us, logically. “It’s not fair for me to be on such a mad touring schedule and my wife be stuck at home. So it’s more for next year and when there’s free time for me to at least be around for the birth because I don’t want to miss that.”

Kids may be on the agenda now but way back in 2007 Example was a very different artist and person. His debut album, What We Made was a rap-focussed effort featuring samples of old songs. Tracks such as Me & Mandy, I Don’t Want To and You Can’t Rap saw him build up a cult following before his breakthrough album, Playing in the Shadows saw him propelled into the mainstream. As with any artist that suddenly begins to sell a lot of records, there are always claims that they’ve ‘sold out’ and a nostalgic longing for their old material from a selection of fans. “What annoys me is when people say ‘your early stuff was the best music you’ve ever done’,” he explains. “It shows a complete disregard for the more recent stuff. Also, only 8000 people bought my first album, in an era where albums were expected to sell a million copies. Whereas now we’re in an era where 100,000 is pretty good. People who say ‘you’re shit now, go back to doing your first album’, disregard my song-writing skills, my ability to write melodies and bring thousands of people together at festivals in fields and to write songs that actually mean something to people.”

“The old stuff never really worked on stage,” he explained. “When you come to my gigs now it’s everyone bouncing up and down, going crazy, hands in the air – my music now is euphoric. The music back then was quite awkward to move to and sing along with.” So anyone who’s hoping for a rendition of Me & Mandy or I Don’t Want To at his next performance shouldn’t hold their breath. Speaking of Me & Mandy, the song that’s basically a love letter to MDMA, leads us to get chatting about drugs – always a fun topic. Where does Example stand regarding the substances he used to rap about? Does he want to cover up his past experiences?

“The thing is with drugs, it’s not about glamorising them,” he tells us. “When I made rap music it was about who I was and what I was doing at the time. I think rap music lends itself a lot more to story- telling and speaking the truth. The Streets, Wu -Tang Clan, Dizzee Rascal or whoever, in rap, have always historically told you about who they are. My first album had a lot of references to alcohol and drugs because, at 23/24, that’s what I was doing. I think once you appear in the public eye you do have a lot more responsibility to not glamorise stuff or, if you do discuss it, let people know about the downside to it – like I did with Evolution of Man. The whole thing with One Direction smoking weed or whatever – I believe the media almost has a duty not to report these things because we’re all human beings who get caught up in these things, especially young kids in the music industry. I think in that job, or any job in fact, you’re going to come across drugs or be offered them at some point of your life. It’s human nature for us to have vices or experiment with things for ourselves. I think artists should be allowed to do that in private if they want to. The media, if they get wind of these things, have an obligation and have to make a decision whether or not to report these things because it’s going to be read by their 10-year-old fans. I read an interview with Sting in which he said marijuana really helps him with creativity and ideas. Miles Davies wrote one of his best albums ever on heroin. There are people out there who think it’s ok to glamorise it, I wouldn’t go as far to do that. I always write music sober but I do think music is one thing that people always like to enjoy intoxicated. No one likes to get drunk or high and watch a movie, no one goes sky diving or goes running. So as far as pop music goes, then it is one of those things whether, you’re at festivals, a club or at home, it lends itself to drugs, and alcohol too.”

It’s hard not to agree with Example there, with a pretty sound, sensible view on drugs in the music industry. There’s only one last topic to discuss really – Twitter Trolls. Does any of the mainly illiterate abuse that gets sent ever get to him? “No, not really,” he tells us, thus disappointing trolls everywhere. “I think most people my age, who have been around as long as me, are pretty thick-skinned. I dealt with bullies at school so now when people say stuff on Twitter to me about my hair, or my voice or whatever – it doesn’t get me. Sometimes, if I’m in a fun mood, I reply to them but I mainly just block them – I must have blocked over 5000 people. I’ve had people threatening to meet me and stab me, or throw acid at me – all that shit. A lot of the time these people are just looking to get a rise. I’ve had Top 10 albums and singles, travelled to over 100 countries and married a beautiful woman – I’m doing alright. As far as I’m concerned, I’m living the dream.”

And on that note, Example has wrapped things up nicely for us, there.

See also: Behind The Decks: An Interview With Dusky