spinmaster plantpot
(August 2004)

The Fried Onions Brigade, three verbal spasms jerked from the mouth of Spinmaster Plantpot, three shouted vignettes on the subject of life and love, three acapella blasts punctuated by a clutch of "hah," "yeah," "hunh" and, oddly, "Chaka Khan." The Fried Onions Brigade, a three-track CDR that arrived in a House of Lords envelope. The Fried Onions Brigade, the disc that lasts for two minutes that stuck to the stereo for two weeks.

It was followed by a tape, a one-off ("hello Jimmy, I hope you like this") recorded roughly and bristling with barely-suppressed bile, that never seemed to end. Song after song after song with Plantpot trawling through his notebook for new and old lyrics, answering the phone and no doubt pissing off the neighbours by prowling around his kitchen ranting into a tape recorder.

We liked it. He liked that. We asked the questions. He liked that too.

So you work at the House of Lords, then?

Indeed I do, for my sins. I have worked in this very bizarre establishment for nigh on ten years. In this time, I have been called a "bad boy" by the Lord Chancellor, borrowed Baroness Miller of Hendon's Arsenal season ticket and talked Belle & Sebastian with Melvyn Bragg. All from replying to an ad in the Evening Standard. Don't make 'em like they used to do they?

What do you do?

At the moment I am an office manager in the House of Lords' Hansard department. I have worked in the House of Lords' Hansard for 10 years in different offices. Every office for all intents and purposes might as well be different workplaces completely 'cos they vary so much. The office I'm in at the moment is very mixed age-wise and atmos-wise. It's full of worried middle aged women and slighly trendy Warren Zevon fans.

Who are the Fried Onions Brigade?

The Fried Onions Brigade are the everyday folk who like a burger and a fight. They're normal people who don't analyse their lives. They accept everything and don't try to change things. They are also loveable rogues who change our lives. People who really make a mark on us. Characters. People who ooze charisma and who give good anecdote. We like good anecdote.

You sounded angrier on the tape than on the CD.

The 3 songs on the CD single (Crazy Nites, I Was Just Flirting and Dairy Milk) were my three favourite songs of my set when I recorded the single. I hadn't really planned a single, what happened is that I was asked to appear on a poetry CD called 23 Poets and the kind gentleman, Steve Edwards, putting together the CD let me record three trax to see which one was most suitable for the album. Then I asked him if he could make the three into an EP anyway. All three of the songs are well-known and get shouted for during my gigs but I am continually writing new material. Almost every day. I like to think about it as like.. a real work ethic. Like Mark E Smith, continually churning it out, being inspired and trying to develop and do new things every day.

The songs on the tape were really my whole back catalogue including lots of newies and the day I recorded it I think I'd had a bad day at work and was letting out my frustrations. It worked. I felt a lot better afterwards. So a short answer to your question is: the tape is less poppy and I was angrier when I recorded it! Phew.

How much do the songs change based on your mood?

The way I deliver them changes very much in a live setting. It's much more raw and bluesy live but I do consciously change the way the words are delivered from gig to gig just to keep it interesting. Inevitably from time to time you end up going into slightly autopiloted mode just 'cos the songs are so deeply ingrained into you.

I tend to find that if I'm angrier the songs are delivered more spikily and if I am feelin' quite relaxed it's more of a mid-tempo and self-assured delivery. The first track of most of my live sets tends to be a speaking-in-tongues bluesy freeform number. I really love it when I don't sing proper words, but just sing angry shit off the top of my head. It's very liberating and just as valid as doing something with "proper lyrics," I think.

You stuck versions of The Twist and How Much is that Doggy in the Window? on the tape, was that a spur of the moment thing?

Both The Twist and Doggy are well-known cover versions of mine. I like to update my cover version repertoire quite regularly. At the moment, my two fave ones are Praise You by Fatboy Slim (probably something to do with the fact that I've watched the Spike Jonze-directed video about 100 times since buying the DVD) and Daisy Daisy (the London Cockney knee-up classic). I had one gig where I did We'll Meet Again and Pack Up Your Troubles. That was at the Buffalo Bar, a well-known Cockernee venue.

Some of your lyrics are obviously angry, but some are quite poignant. One of the ones I like best is "now look up, you've grown old." Is that about anyone in particular?

That was just really about the sadness of life.. the way we go about our daily busines and all of a sudden we're 10 years older and we think "where the fuck did that go?" I think it's about me. I can't believe I'm 32. I still feel like the 18-year-old who used to dance to Summer Babe by Pavement.

Do you think there's a football chant element to your music? (Suggested answer: there's always been a football chant element to my music.)

Aha! I'm not really what you'd call a proper football "geeza". I pretty much lost touch with footie when I got into music but last seven years or so I have resumed my relationship with my team of choice, Arsenal. I'm told Pires and Henry really dig my schtick. But yes, there's definitely a hooligan chanty vibe to what I do. It's the Essex in me.

Did you start performing acapella from the first gig? Or were you in (failed) bands (like the rest of us)?

I was in a band once for five minutes and then they kicked me out 'cos I couldn't make the second rehearsal. The real reason was that I was a shit singer. Plantpot has always been acapella from word go. Mister Ben Wallers (The Rebel, Country Teasers, The Beale) has been recording me for another album, what's gonna be called the Remix Album. I've had a sneak preview of what he's done with it and it's amazing. The Rebel is a "sound" expert. he's added pianos falling downstairs, babies crying etc. to my voice. I don't mind being disloyal to the acapella cause if it means a genius like Ben producing something of true wonder.

You're in the Beale as well, aren't you?

The Beale thing is a very new development. What happened is that I begged Paul Kearney from Guided Missile to put me on at the Buffalo Bar and he duly caved in, giving me the graveyard 8pm slot. It went well and Kearney gave me a couple more gigs. Then it just so happened that Adrian Shaw (of the Beale and Teenbeat fame) was away for a Beale gig and Paul asked if I wanted to fill in at a Buffalo Bar gig as the singer. I jumped at the chance and had a week to learn six or so songs. I really really loved the songs. The actual day of the gig we had a rehearsal and I pretty much sung the songs in a normal un-Plantpot-ish voice but when it came to the gig I really gave it some and stamped my own mark on it. It was a lovely experience. The boys in the band are all top lads and the Beale really is like a cool gang which I am very happy to be part of.

Paul Kearney knows very clearly how he wants to present the band and I had to blend in with this. It has a very us against them kinda feel. Since that Buffalo Bar gig I have sung at other Beale gigs and it's always great to be part of it. My involvement could possibly be stepped up shortly as more of a permanent singer although it's all a bit undecided at the mo. The Godlike Genius of the Beale is their full name and they live up to it for sure.

Finally, just who is Spinmaster Plantpot anyway?

He's my angry self really. I like to think of what I do as modern blues. Ragged, spontaneous, honest, funny, loud, cathartic screaming blues; poetry crossed with comedy crossed with music; straddling the divide. Plantpot is really me becoming confident enough to be on stage and really enjoy it.

I never ever thought I'd be doing this. I was a late starter, during my late 20's I started to DJ and perform and as a teenager these were my dreams. I can honestly say that if I don't achieve anything else I'll be happy but it's my dream to sell out and be on GMTV. It frustrates me that the real geniuses of this world - Adrian Shaw, Ben Wallers (The Rebel), Herman Dune - never really get mainstream recognition. These people are so utterly talented and incredible performers and I just think it's a shame that the whole world doesn't know about them. I want to try to crack the mainstream. It's a very long shot, I know, as my stuff is fucked up but, hey, I'll gladly die trying.

Let's hope he does and doesn't (break into the mainstream and die.)

The album, Earthy Anthems, has 26 tracks in 19 mins and will be out soon. To get it (£3) and The Fried Onions Brigade (£2) try spinmasterplantpot@hotmail.com or www.spinmasterplantpot.netfirms.com. The Spinmaster also makes free custom-made tapes with five songs on: "No postage fee, totally free."

*spinmaster illustration by seacat17@yahoo.co.uk

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