Roger and Darren are seated at the famous Regency Café in
London. Occasional voice of lady shouting out the orders
(“Two sausage, egg and chips, one toast.”)
What can you tell us about your backgrounds?
We were both born in north London. I was in ’65 and Darren
(Alan Partridge voice) Good years!
I got into the Mod revival movement in ’79 and although we
didn’t know each other, our experiences sort of mirrored
So then we came together in the clubs.
It was mainly Mod and then everything moved over to northern
soul a little later for us.
We had a lot of strong Mod clubs around us, didn’t we?
beans on toast, two teas.”)
Please listen to the Fontana re-release of Kiki Dee’s
1960s stuff that’s just come out. It’s great.
I’ll check that out. I picked up a Billie Davis album the
other day – she’s fantastic.
She’s still touring. She had a fling with Jet Harris in
the sixties but then they had a terrible car crash and they
had to re-build her jaw. That slowed the momentum of her
career down more than a bit. You were just babies when that
I didn’t know that. You learn something new every day. So
Darren grew up just down the road from me. But as you grow
up you get your scooters and start to go a little further
afield and we started meeting in local clubs. I used to tell
Darren to go away!
Because everywhere he went he had this fixation with the
camera. And he took pictures of everything and we’d say
“Darren, just leave us alone.” (Darren laughs) But now,
we’re really glad because we’ve got everything archived
from back then and still this massive archive of memories.
You’re in good company Darren. The Stones and other groups
all used to take the Mickey out of Bill Wyman because he
collected memorabilia in the sixties and seventies and
photographed everything and now they are all pleading with
him to sell them some memories. (All laugh)
Darren Russell - the new Bill Wyman!
I should have a book coming out soon with all my photos.
Terrific. Are there any cafes involved? (All laugh)
Actually, there are some shots of us in an Amsterdam café.
Glamour shots by any chance?!
No, there weren’t that many glamorous ladies on the scene
at that time.
Have you ever done glamour shots Darren?
Well, the Christmas cards that we did...
double egg and chips.”)
Was that model a friend?
No, that was through the people I work with – the make-up
artist knew a girl who is semi-professional and she’s in a
band called Jessie and The Orbits. They do Rockabilly and
she fronts that band. They’re a really good band and she
had that kind of Betty Page look. What we wanted to do was
to have a scooter and we also wanted tease not sleaze. And
so the scooter fitted in. The clothing was from What Katie
Did. They were really helpful and so were Vivien of
Obviously Mod is a passion for you both but what are your
It’s always going to be music and TV for me, because most
of the stuff around now is pretty dirge isn’t it? On the
music side I’m open to new stuff all the time and always
looking for something new but I always end up returning to
my back-catalogue. I very rarely watch TV and if I go back
home late at night I’ll flick through the first twenty
channels just to find something that I can put on that makes
me grin every now and then when I walk into the room, you
that’s where I am.
Does the TV turn black and white with you like it does with
(Laughs) But there’s not much good stuff around at the
I’m going to see Elbow on 19th March.
A very good band. Again, I keep my options open and like
Roger listen out for stuff. But I always go back to northern soul, The
Small Faces, The Who and things like that. Also for me film
is a big inspiration.
It’s because it’s images for you, isn’t it?
What sorts of films?
Darren: The Plank, The Knack, Villain, classics like The Italian
I came in the other night and Quadrophenia was on and I was
telling Lisa my wife that I only watched it for the first
time two August bank holidays ago. It was always around but
I’d never seen it. And because I couldn’t get to the
Isle of Wight two years ago we went away to Kent and I
bought Quadrophenia and sat and watched it with a bottle of
Films like Alfie – you’ve seen it 100 times but you
start looking at the background then.
The Jude Law Alfie wears terrible.
That’s not even Alfie!
You can’t improve on the original.
They’ve just remade True Grit and I sat there
watching The Kings’ Speech at the cinema and they had the
trailer for True Grit and I know it word for word so what is
the point of making a remake?
The worst one ever was Get Carter with Stallone. (All laugh)
Try and work that one out!
If I can’t sleep I try to count in my head how many people
get killed in Get Carter and I always get to sleep before I
get an answer!
I have the soundtrack in the front of my cab and it’s
intermixed with the dialogue.
Who wrote that theme? It’s amazing?
It was a bloke called Bud…
Bud Flanagan?! (All laugh)
Roy Budd. That’s it!
There was a programme on BBC 2 about soundtracks and you
only have to play a snippet of that Carter soundtrack and
you know what film it is.
I think it’s the tone of the notes as well and it makes
your ears actually prick up.
You can hear the train heading up north.
It’s the more visual things that stick in my mind.
I think that was the golden era for film.
Certainly for British film. I love the soundtrack for the
Peter Cook and Dudley Moore film Bedazzled.
I couldn't understand why Peter Cook resented Dudley when he
went to the States and seemed to be a babe magnet.
No, it's perfectly understandable why the ladies liked Dud.
Cook was quite insulting about him.
It was strange, Cook's insecurities, given his good looks
and huge talent. He should have given Dudley the benefit of
the doubt for the great musician he was.
And a good comic.
Certainly a great stooge for Cook.
I watched a bit of Jaws the other night and I was really
surprised it was as long ago as 1975.
The first Alien was on TV the other day and that was 1979.
I can’t eat lobster because of that movie!
Why is retro and nostalgia more popular than it has ever
I’ve got a couple of theories. The whole reason I ended up
becoming a Mod was because it was constantly around me all
of the time. When I was growing up, my dad was working for
John Bloom and he was with the whole sixties set. Meeting at
The Scotch House and the radio was always playing sixties
tunes and even in the seventies
the radio was tuned to Radio’s One and Two. And
they were still constantly churning out those sixties tunes.
So it was always around you. And, as you get older, you look
back on those days with a smile and you automatically
connect with the smells and the sounds. That’s never
really left me. And I think it’s the same for a lot of
people from our generation. Are the younger kids into retro?
Because it’s not really retro for them, it’s the first
time around. But then the eighties thing is big for a lot of
They play at it sometimes. I went to the V&A and they
had a retro and vintage Friday event. It was 95% young
ladies, which was a bit scary as you can imagine! But they
turned up in a mixture of looks and decades so that there
weren’t many that had a truly totally authentic fifties,
sixties or seventies look. And the exhibitors were going for
the look and feel of retro but not in a purist way - for
example they were printing retro T-shirts but the images
were bland repro images. And whenever they talk about
Hollywood glamour it’s always Hepburn and Monroe and
Twiggy but never Jane Fonda or Julie Christie or Jean
Shrimpton and those were the images they were using to do
the makeovers. It’s all a bit formulaic and clichéd. They
haven’t quite got it right. But fancy dress for sixties
and seventies is huge.
r: For themed parties and stuff like that?
Yes, and these retro photo booths are big too.
For us it was more of a major influence than simply
something for fun. It
was around you and you couldn’t help having it as part of
Why do the British have this thing for joining clubs and
cults? Mods, Beatniks, Skinheads, Punks, New Romantics and
so on. I thought we were supposed to be fiercely independent
I think we all like to belong to something. Although we’re
It’s birds of a feather, isn’t it?
Yes. You want to know that there’s going to be others
there that like the same things as you.
and chips. Beans on toast. Two coffees”)
Maybe it’s a safety in numbers and knowing you’re not an
island. In an island!
The term 'Retro' covers such a wide spectrum. You’ve got
The Chap which is the thirties and forties ... I was in
Trafalgar Square the other day about to do a job…
What sort of job?
I’m a photographer!
I was just trying to think if there are any banks around
there! (All laugh)
… And a bloke walked through there with a pair of brown
brogues, Prince of Wales check trousers, overcoat, a gas
mask case, case and a trilby and as he walked past and I
thought “Yes, I bet you read The Chap.” But if you’re
gonna walk around like that you’re not going to go to the
local disco – Cinderella’s or Tots or whatever.
You just really dated yourself Darren!
When we were doing the disco thing we went to – what’s
the one in Tottenham?
The Tottenham Royal.
Yes, The Tottenham Royal and it was The Temptations playing
there and we all went along from The Cambridge and you
basically formed a circle and stood out like a sore thumb.
There were all these girls in puffer skirts but you didn’t
fit in there and also to an extent you didn’t want to fit
in and that’s why we were Mods. I think that’s why in
the retro thing there was no fashion or music that I like
after The Jam had disappeared and turned into The Style
Council. The media had finished with the Mod thing and The
Specials had gone and it all had been dropped apart from by
the hardcore people who stayed with it. That was because
there was nothing they could get into. A lot of people moved
into New Romantics or the next thing and the next thing.
A lot of people moved over to the Acid Jazz Scene.
That came along a lot later, I’m talking about the earlier
Well, from the Mod thing it went into the rare soul movement
and the rare groove, but there was no main media movement.
The people who stuck with it really were passionate about
Mod and as I got deeper into it I got the music and the film
and the books and there was always something new. It would
be “Have you seen this or heard about that?”
I think you just touched on something there. Retro as a term
has been around for a few years now as a term that describes
a point when people in the country had decided what they
really like and then you start 'researching' it. It’s the
same with my records. If I hear a really good record I then
go away and read about them and then I find out about their
influences and on it goes.
It’s great when you see those connections and a light bulb
of familiarity comes on.
Yeah, it goes off into all sort of avenues.
Retro used to be associated with old men and the MG club or
the Land Rover club but now it’s come back that it’s
cool to be retro. The young will listen to northern soul or
sixties mod as well as the latest stuff.
I wouldn’t ever listen to stuff that my parents liked but
now Sinatra and Nat King Cole and Matt Monro – definitely.
Bacharach and Dusty – I never had time for them before but
Dusty and The Beatles are what I first started listening to
but then when Dusty did ‘In Memphis’ you wouldn’t
touch it. I had an album and listened to it but didn’t let
anyone know I did. Now I don’t care and I’ve got it on
CD and vinyl and digital.
Can you tell us more about Kookskleek? There’s an eBay
also doing events...
Some people find us on the Kookskleek website and some on
eBay but we found eBay's the perfect forum for what we’ve
got because so much of our stock is unique items and
one-offs. Short runs, a carton here or half a dozen there.
If you have a website to sell stuff you need multiples of
the same items on there rather than going back and keep
changing details and pictures all of the time.
People use eBay as a means to buy now rather than as a
Because all of ours tend to be one-offs we put them in
auction and people can bid on them and we found that’s a
really good forum for 'em!
Accessories as well?
We try to stay within the Mod niche. So things that we like,
we put on there. Simple as that really because it’s our
Do you go up to selling scooters and cars?
No, because I think enough people are doing that sort of
I think also that I wouldn’t know the difference in
workings between a Vespa and a Lambretta
You mean you don’t know?! (All laugh)
So it’s horses for courses and you stick to what you know.
Roger is the clothes side of things and I’m the more
visual one, doing the cards. That was our first Christmas
card that we did.
And we’re going to have an image side of things as well as
the clothing. We’ve got different other things that
we’re looking at doing. We’ve
got ideas but we won’t announce them until they’re
The events is a big thing?
When we looked at this first I’ll be honest, we looked at
it as a way of making more money. But it soon became obvious
that we weren’t going to make any money out of it so we
decided to make it more into a kind of community day.
Whitewebbs is a charity so any money that’s made goes to
them apart from the people who have then pitches – they
pay for the pitches and obviously any money they make goes
to them. But as for charging people for going into the
It’s £4 for entry isn’t it?
Yes, it’s nothing and £15 for a pitch. Compared to our
local large market which is £240 for a pitch. Everyone’s
jumped on board so in the end it’s turned into a community
day. There were events like this all around the country and
we just felt that London and the south-east had missed out.
Where is it?
Whitewebbs is in north London just about a mile from the M25
A10 junction – it’s really easy to get to.
It’s a lovely little winding road and it’s almost like
you’re going back in time.
Especially when you turn up at the location because it’s
an original pumping station that’s been turned into a
museum. Lots of outbuildings, a massive courtyard and
there’s nostalgia everywhere.
Big Victorian windows so lots of light comes in and
there’s the vintage and classic cars outside. Such an
atmospheric place. Most of the vehicles belong to the
volunteers who run it. There’s a guy down there who
started their cycle shop in the 1920s in Kentish Town and
it’s still there today and he still has the original van.
When you hear him he says “I used to do deliveries in this
when I first started working with my dad…” And it’s
the actual Austin van from eighty-odd years ago. It’s got
the name of the coachworks on the side and you’re talking
to the man who drove it when it was new and there’s that
connection with history.
You don’t get that these days.
He’s still selling bikes and now the business has been
passed on to his son. A couple of my mates lived and worked
in Camden Town and they remember buying their bikes from
him. They’re lovely people down there and yes we
originally did go into it to make money out of it but it
So we thought we’d do it for the good of everyone. Simple
as that really.
Will you have a stand there?
Yes, we’ll have a stand.
What sort of feedback are you getting from your clients?
The Christmas cards that featured your
glamorous lady on scooters. They went well?
We didn’t promote them well enough to be fair. We’re
going to have some different styles and different
genres this time.
Still girls on scooters, quite cheeky and retro. Facebook
was a massive big help. We got the Uruguayan Lambretta Club
on board. (Roger laughs, then they all laugh)
There are obviously a number of Mod communities and groups
Tons of them. But my point is, there are probably only five
Mods up in the Andes but someone in Uruguay has actually
taken notice of us and got in contact with us.
Is the UK the Mecca for these Mods around the world?
I think so, yeah. For Japan, America and Europe, the UK is
seen as the home of Mod.
It is. I sell loads of clothes out to Italy and France and
Spain in particular.
I was ashamed when I went on the Ocean Village cruise a few
years ago. We went to various places in the Med, including
Villefranche. There were French and Italians and others who
were all immaculately dressed, smart suits and shoes and
dresses walking around and strolling up the ‘prom’ and
then this shipload of scruffy Brits descended on the town.
Football shirts and trainers. I know they’re on holiday
I know where you’re going. I just think the Italians are
Somebody stopped me in a car and asked me for directions in
French and I gave them. I was pleased and it was the only
time I’ve ever wanted someone to think I was French! (All
As you said you can spot them a mile off and I think there
are a lot of stylish people in Britain and a lot of British
manufacturers bringing out good stuff. But a lot of the
masses just want cheap shirts.
They all want cheap because of the economics of the country
at the moment. That’s why Primark sell so well.
And TK-Maxx. Things like that.
That’s also some people’s interpretation of retro as
well, they wouldn’t know the difference between an
original and a repro and they wouldn’t care. They’re
only interested in price and a generic look.
and bacon, chips and peas.”)
typical Kookskleek merchandise
I find looking for this stuff’s like a treasure hunt. When
you find a box and you open it up at the back of a warehouse
and you don’t know what you’ll find...
Where are you finding this stuff?
All over the place, you know. I just sold the last cycle
shirt that I’d found which was one of the first finds I
had. At first they didn’t sell but I couldn’t say what
the story was behind them on The Net or it would have given
away my source. I found them from a guy who opened up a shop
when he was sixteen in ’63. He started the shop with his
father and three years later he decided to set up on his
own. He was then supplying Carnaby Street and Chelsea Girl
on sole trade. He had a cousin in Manchester who went to an
Iron Curtain, Soviet conference event in Manchester – it
was wholesalers, manufacturers from the Iron Curtain who
came there as a trade delegation and they thought it was
great. This guy bought a load of items from Poland and I
found about 200 cycle shirts still in the back of a
warehouse from that original order in the mid-sixties.
It’s fantastic to find – they bought so much that it
went out of fashion before they could sell them all. They
just ended up at the back of a warehouse.
I’d love to be a time traveller, wouldn’t you?!
It would be great.
You might find one shirt or a couple of polos or jumpers.
You never know quite how much you’re gonna find or what. I
I suppose The Internet is a big thing for you? Your main
clothes and accessories shop is on eBay although you have
the Kookskleek one selling the cards?
At the moment, yeah.
You’re going to stick with eBay or are you going to
develop your own shop too?
We are going to develop it, but we want to make sure that
we’ve got the right products on there. The trouble with
building up websites is that you want multiples of the same
items otherwise you’ve got to continually mess around with
that website which is a pain.
And people asking you for one-off
items that have already gone.
and bacon, bacon well done.”)
Yeah and you’re constantly reloading pictures and details
and it’s time-consuming enough as it is.
It’s kind of hard though because the Mod ethos is
to have stuff that someone else hasn’t got. So how do you
sell multiples of something knowing that no-one wants to buy
it because no-one wants what someone else has got. So it’s
an awkward one.
But it is The Web, so it’s a big audience and they’re
spread around the world.
Yes, it’s a global market and a perpetual market as well.
The other day I was gonna pull off a load of straw raffia
pork pies from the site. Summer had gone and I thought
“get rid of the sunglasses, get rid of the pork pies…”
And then all of a sudden the pork pies and glasses started
selling again. They all started going out to Australia where
they were going into their summer.
And to Florida. So nowadays I just leave everything on there
because there’s always a market for it somewhere at some
Also if you have a shop you’ve got to pay rent and have
somebody there all the time. It’s staffing and the high
We started going to Camden when we were fifteen and you look
at it now – it’s retro Disneyland.
Carnaby Street is also a travesty. And when I go to Denmark
Street I feel so sad because they’re nothing like how they
were in their heyday.
It’s all just been ripped apart. We used to go down
to Camden to the flea markets and you could actually find
something that you wanted.
The clothes that we wanted to wear, to actually find them
– you could buy a button down shirt from Marks and
Spencer’s in the eighties but you had a choice of white,
blue or grey. When you wanted a check one then you had to
Yeah, finding something with a little bit of extra detail is
really hard to find, like two buttons on the neck. You just
can’t find that stuff.
Now it’s a lot more available. I remember in the Sunday
Times colour supplement they had about five or six shoes
with different prices – tasselled loafers, driving shoes.
Now I knew people back in the eighties who would murder for
a pair of shoes like that and now you’ve got five
different types and you can walk into a Next or a Jones and
buy them just like that.
I think that’s a good point because a lot of the people at
the main high street retailers are now picking up on this
retro thing and playing with it.
They are. They’re feeling their way with it.
The trouble is they never get it quite right.
No, because they're trying to keep the majority happy so
they get the majority sales. I can’t aim it at one fussy
Mod who lives in who knows where?
Someone, I forget who it was, they did a button down
knitwear polo shirt but the collar was tiny and it was
almost like a granddad shirt and you think “Oh, if you’d
only just made the collar wider with those little
You should have told them!
(Laughs) Yes, I should have - "Improve your stock, put
some collard on and I’ll buy one!" "Cancel the
beans, egg and chips.”)
Shall we retreat to outside? It’s getting a bit too noisy
and atmospheric in here! (All evacuate to taxi outside) ...
What have you got more generally planned for the future?
Well, we’re looking to go more into greetings cards.
In the Moon Pig manner?
No, more of a niche market.
typical Kookskleek merchandise
No, no, no, it’s gonna be sixties. We’re gonna start off
with what we know and then it’s going to expand. It’s
always going to be a sixties market.
What we’re really looking at is the clothing side, the
image side and we’re exploring how to work on the images
side of things.
And the Mod events too, of course?
Hopefully that will just be the yearly event and we may have
other things that come out of that.
A lot of the forties people seem to make a living out of
forties events the whole year round.
Milk Cow and so on are doing very well.
Yorkshire’s huge for retro with all their forties events.
We’ve never hosted an event and God knows we’ve been to
enough events in the past. This is the first time and it’s
amazing the amount of work you have to put into it.
No, I can imagine.
We’ll have a stall at the event so hopefully we’ll be
able to get something back from Sunday Best.
We’ve got about four or five projects on the go at the
Is this in addition to your day jobs?
Are you hoping this might become your day job eventually?
It will never become my day job because I enjoy what I do.
It complements it anyway?
Yes. It will be part of my day job.
Are you doing the graphics for the cards?
We’ve got two brilliant graphic designers.
Do you have much competition? There seem to be quite a few
They’re more mass market.
My mate has just started working for Adaptor Clothing.
It’s horses for courses. What they do is all their stuff
is new. We buy what we like and we get the feeling that
people trust our take on things. We know that if we buy the
things we like and put them in the shop we can pretty much
guarantee they’ll please people. And because it’s small
numbers of items, you’ll know there’s a uniqueness to it
and it’s not going to be reproduced.
If you look at the feedback we’ve got on eBay there’s
hardly any negative feedback – you can’t please
everybody but we've got 100% feedback.
We do go out of our way to keep people happy as well. We
make sure more so than the big players who are mass
produced. If someone doesn’t like the way it fits, okay
we’ll give them their money back. Everyone gets a personal
note, it’s packaged nicely and sent out fast. We like to
think we've got it right and from the amount of repeat
business we get we seem to.
Thanks Roger and Darren for letting us know about what you're
Yes, thank you Digger. I look forward to seeing the Feature.