mrs cakehead interview
(May/June 2002)

Mrs Cakehead don't sound like no lady. One listen to any of her seven albums will convince you she's either a bloke or she used to run for East Germany. One line of her linguistic limbo dancing isn't enough to confirm it either way: "Oh no! another Cakehead tongue-twister/ a mixed-up missus that's also a mister" (Tongue Twister.) but a brief conversation about her scuzzed-up reggae, Lee Perry, her imaginary friends, beer, bread and porridge seals it for me. Mrs Cakehead is no lady.

How did Mrs Cakehead come about?

I started as a one off thing about 91/92. I realised a lot of reggae lyrics were just saying the first thing that came into their heads, so I thought: I can do that.

So you did?

I have always recorded my own material and through Radio Lancashire's On The Wire programme and the encouragement of many friends I decided to get a few copied and try to sell them. Friends and Radio Lancs were very encouraging and one stoned joke grew into 7 albums when the next ones finished!

And it's all your own work?

I usually do all the music except for the odd collaboration with Schmitehawk or Bu. I also write the words and do the "female" backing vocals!

Why?

EGO! and the challenge and convenience. I also don't know many people who play reggae and especially ragga except as the Clash/Madness sort of fast rocked up way. I invented members of the band to talk about (all a bit sad really!) "banjo dick" is MD and producer. Eric is guest musician on wind instruments. Dorothy and Vera are the backing singers from the local am/dram society. Betty is my wife.

Who were you trying to fool?

It's not a deception. these people are a good excuse for jokes and asides that are a thinking space for the lyrically challenged!

Does Betty exist?

She's another figment loosely based on my partner Maggie.

You said the lyrics are just saying the first thing that comes into your head, but how much is improvised?

On the mellower dubs I tend to improvise mainly around a theme or a scrap of paper. On the ragga chats I write the whole thing down and run through it a couple of times and then maybe improv on another track as the girls Dorothy and Vera!

Give us one of your favourite lyrics.

Mine or someone else's?

Yours.

This is Mrs Cakehead on the microphone ticket
Bowling rhymes on a sticky young wicket
A vocal googly an off the leg spinner
Working up a sweat hoping to get thinner
I'm not a big rasta or even a white dread
But a humble woolly back here toasting me bread
The bread I like is on both sides buttered
And its the home brew on which I'm blethered.

How much of the music and lyrics are written under the influence of homebrew? Spliff?

I can't write or play very well when stoned /drunk, so I tend to do the music in the daytime. But it's handy as an inspiration chillout thing. I like homebrew and spliff, but I like not having them as well. The whole "I can't write unless I've consumed 20 worth" is not really my scene.

So how do you go about constructing a track?

I usually start with the drums either playing my own kit at home or using logic a sequencer for the Mac I have at home and at work. inspiration comes usually from the radio or an old tape I haven't heard for ages. I don't do many cover versions but copy the vibe or try a similar feel to a song I've heard. these inevitably go wrong and hey presto an original composition!

Do you record hours and hours of stuff and then edit it?

I tend to do a mix of the tunes and then listen to it and maybe go back to do it again. .I usually rub out the master tapes too as I recycle them in an aid to cheapness.

Were you into 70's reggae in the 70's?

I first heard dub at punk gigs in the 70's. I'm 41 you know! Then on Peel and from friends who were into head music to smoke pot to. I like all the genres of reggae: ska, rocksteady, reggae, digital, sleng teng, dance hall and ragga. I'm no expert on where they start and finish. Some of the stuff I don't like is the modern techno/influenced trans-global, bush chemists, festival crusty stuff. it lacks something in the feel department.

Recommend some music for readers who don't know much about reggae.

I like Lee Perry, Prince Jazzbo, King Tubby, any old Channel One stuff. Also On-u-Sound for newer styles, Ward 21, Elephant Man, Bounty Killer, Goofy (despite the horrible homophobia in so many ragga lyrics), Chris Goldfinger's Radio One show, John Peel, Mary Anne Hobbs Breezeblock, On The Wire (Radio Lancashire's Saturday night shows). Dublab.com is pretty good as internet radio

So are you following in the footsteps of people like Lee Perry?

I wish I was following in the footsteps of Lee Perry! He is an originator of a whole new artform. I'm only a follower and adapter. I'm one of the very few to mix ragga/garage/jungle and dub and the only one in a Lancashire vein as far as I know.

What do you mean by "in a Lancashire vein"?

As the accent I have is Lancashire and the subject matter is also "local". It's a bit of a piss take on the Jamaican thing were they sing about ganja and cornmeal porridge etc.

And now there's seven albums of Lancashire dub.

Yep: The Stuff, Mercy Bucket, Chancellor of the Head Checker, Sugar and Shit/On the Deck, President Hoover, Cakemon and the new one any time soon

Did you release them yourself?

I made the copies myself and then Fiend records from Sowerby Bridge got in contact and said they'd like to re-release the stuff with extra tracks in 2001 - only 7 years late! So, rallying good friends Bu (wind instruments) John Spedding (assistant vocals) Nandi and Nolly (backing vocals) Squeezle (djembe) off we went a few good gigs and only one duffer so far!

Why have you only started playing live recently?

I've always played as part of a band doing other material. Last summer the Fiend thing started as well as offers for gigs so I thought if they are ganging up on me, I may as well give it a go! I wanted to keep the electronic/ dub side as mad as possible so opted for drums, bass, keys and b-vox on CD all well and truly mashed up, and live dub for myself and the other players. I don't really like the live hip hop, drum and bass sound. I prefer a very mechanical computer feel for the ragga/digital styles. Also live band dub is a bit of a logistical nightmare!

Do you feel isolated then? you're not part of some dub underground?

I don't know anyone who makes music like me. so yes I am a bit short of feedback from peers. But left of centre is common in many genres so I like that when it comes around. And a pat on the back from reviews like your is a nice way to start the day!

Aww, thanks. Get your slice of Cakehead from Fiend records: 18 Canal Road, Sowerby Bridge, HX6 2AY or www.fiendrecordings.com


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