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Craig Charles - the king of funk

8 November 2012 | Katie Moritz

'We get about 1,500 people down at the Funk and Soul nights, all going nuts - it’s such a good night. People come for the music, not to pose, and I'm no celebrity DJ!'

Craig Charles is a man with many talents. I’m sure you know him as Lister and Lloyd, but what about 6 Music and Radio 2 DJ, sell out funk DJ and performance poet? Read about his new album, out of control robots, sinking cruise ships and if there’s going to be more Red Dwarf…

London Calling: Who should I buy your new album The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club for, for Christmas, and why?

Craig Charles: You should get it for the house - if you're having a party on Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve, all you need is my CD; it's a party in a box. It's nineteen total party starters, bangers, tub-thumpers, rip-roarers; it's the one, I tell you!

It's the hardest thing that I've ever had to do, nineteen of my favourite songs. When you've got a record collection as big as mine, to hold it down to nineteen, you have to go out and kill some of your children! It's Sophie's Choice! Hopefully people will find it a thing of beauty.

 

LC: You’ve done loads of gigs, like Glastonbury and the Vintage Festival and many others. Is there one that stands out, and why?

CC: Croatia was good; we played the Soundwave Festival there. They flew me in and it was so crazy, I didn't even know where I went! They picked me up in a limousine and took me to this massive boat and I got on it with my little trunk of funk with me! So I started playing music and after about an hour, the captain said to me, "This is no good, this is no good!" I said, "What are you on about? It's amazing!" He goes, "No, stop. You're going to sink the boat!" It was just a fantastic gig.

 

LC: What's it like working at Radio 6 music?

CC: It's the coolest station in the world, really. You get to work and hang out with the likes of Jarvis Cocker and Guy Garvey. The people who present the shows are proper experts and enthusiasts and it's all about music, not egos.

People play what they absolutely truly adore, even if it’s not music that you would particularly go out and buy yourself, they sell it to you in such a way, that it makes it worth a listen. It's one of those stations that actually cares about your musical education. It’s just a joy to be on it - 6 till 9 every Saturday night; people can listen while cooking and have a dance around the kitchen! If you're not into the X Factor, then it's the best thing.

 

LC: How are your performances in London going?

CC: We get about 1,500 people down there, all going nuts - it’s such a good night. People come for the music, not to pose, and I'm no celebrity DJ.

 

LC: Who are you more like in real life - Lloyd or Lister, and why?

CC: I'm a bit like both of them to be fair, but I'm probably more like Lloyd now! When I was younger I was probably more like Lister; I'm just a sad middle-aged man now. I just want to go home and have a really hot curry! A lot of people associate me with Lister, but Lister never grew up!

 

LC: What's it like going back to Red Dwarf and how is it different from the first time around?

CC: We're all old and rattled; we all have to push when we take a leak now, it's actually so sad that they took us out of the box and made us do it again... we only do it for the money! Have you seen the size of Kryten now? How much software can you get into one robot?! It's like four old, broken down TV stars that are rolled out for last hurrah!

 

LC: So will there be another series, or is this the last one?

CC: There will definitely be another one. We’re all so happy doing it and its proper funny. When the script arrived I just thought it was brilliant. It looks good and we've all aged disgracefully! It still works because we're all still stuck in deep space, looking for a way home and a really hot curry. It's good that we've kept most of it on the ship, the relationships and how the four of us interact, so it's character-based situation comedy. It's a joy.

 

LC: Is it true that Dave was named after Dave Lister?

CC: Yes, that's an absolute fact; I've got my own TV station! I want them to call ITV2 ‘Lloyd’ now and then I'll be more than happy. It's world domination, I want a magazine called Lloyd's Letters, because he's the constant of the street, everyone comes to him with his problems. He's like my uncle!

 

LC: What drew you to do Robot Wars and Takeshi's Castle?

CC: Robot Wars was one of those shows that you couldn't really say ‘no’ to. It was groundbreaking TV, really. We didn't know how we could do it, we had to contain it, stop people dying during the making of it. There were so many problems because these robots were really, really dangerous! I remember once, there was a local cab company on the same frequency as one of the robots, so the robot woke up and stuck a pickaxe through the top of the sitting director’s foot. It went through the top of his Timberland and came out of his heel - that's when you know that you're in a really dangerous environment!

With Takeshi's Castle it's absolutely brilliant - a hundred Japanese people going nuts. I love the ones where they run through a door and it’s either bricked up or made out of soft material, but they don't find out until their head hits it and they bounce about thirty yards. We did 150 episodes and only three people ever won, and all they win is their teeth back. I mean, why would they do this show!? It was such fun to do and you could get away with saying things that you wouldn't say on teatime TV normally.

 

LC: Tell us about your early career and especially your Performance Poetry?

CC: That’s how I got into the business. I used to rent a dark space at The Abbey in Liverpool on a Sunday night, when there was no play on. I must’ve been fourteen years old at this stage. They put poets on and it was at a time when John Cooper Clarke had just exploded and people like Atrocious Stockbroker, Seething Wells and Porky the Poet were doing poetry.

I was a very angry young man back then. It was all about the Tories. A BBC2 arts programme, called Riverside, spotted me when I was sixteen and I started doing poems. When Wogan first started as a chat show three nights a week, they gave me the job every Friday to do a top pop up of the week’s news.

Then I did Saturday Night Live with Ben Elton, Hugh Laurie, and all of those guys. The producer, Paul Jackson, said he was leaving the show to do this new sitcom set in space, called Red Dwarf.

He gave me the script and asked me to read the part of The Cat and tell him if I thought it was racist. I told him no it wasn’t and asked him if I could play the part of Lister. He told me to f**k off! So I kept at him until I got the part. And the rest, as they say, is history!

 

LC: Finally, you get the last word!

CC: Go and buy the Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club album. It’s on Freestyle Records. There are nineteen tunes; they’re all like babies to me and it’s been a very difficult birth. But I tell you what, if you want to get a party started, this is what you need this Christmas!

You can stream Craig's new album here and you can book tickets for his London funk nights here

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