Digger: Hello Kludo. Can you please tell us a bit about your
Kludo: I started off in west London. I
was born in Chiswick, down Hammersmith way. I was there until I was
about eleven and then my parents moved down to the south coast.
Digger: You mentioning west London, Iím thinking of The Who.
Kludo: Yes, well thatís my neck of
the woods. In fact, my Dad knew a lot of those guys.
Digger: Steptoe and Son territory really?
Kludo: Yes. In fact, my Dad played
with Johnny Kidd and The Pirates for a while. He was the bass player
and had met them at a holiday camp in the early sixties and toured
with them for a while. He went to school with lots of people that
youíd probably be interested in. He went to Isleworth Grammar School,
and in his class was Francis Rossi, Ritchie Blackmore and Graham Nash,
who was living in that part of London at the time. They were all in
the same Skiffle groups together and then, as he went on - he was a
drummer and a bass player, he played with all sorts of different
people. He claims that Rod Stewart owes him money and various other
people too. When I was a kid growing up in London, we used to have these
funny blokes come round - I used to come home from primary school
or junior school and thereíd be these hairy blokes in our kitchen
drinking tea with my Dad. I didnít know who they were at the time or
the significance. They were people like Ronnie Wood and Keith
Richards, who used to pop round to catch up with my old man. He left
all that scene and became a flying squad officer in the police
Digger: God, that was a bit of a change!
Kludo: Because he was a vice officer,
he was going round to all the parties (Digger laughs) where heíd see
all of his old mates over and over again.
Digger: Coming across his friends who were now on the other side of
Kludo: Thereís a funny meeting place,
actually, which most people donít realise. A halfway between being a
criminal and a policeman and thatís where most policemen and
Kludo: And lives become blurry. It
was an interesting childhood and, of course, my experiences were all
universal and everybody lived that way and knew those sorts of
people. It was normal for people to come round and play guitar in
the front room all night long. As I got older I realised that wasnít
what most people were used to. But that was my interesting start.
Digger: You were very lucky, werenít you?
Kludo: In lots of ways but in others
Ė in my early teens it became a bit of an issue for me and nearly
stopped me from being involved in it all. From becoming a musician
and an artist, I mean, because I was surrounded by it and it was all kind of
approved by my fairly hippy-like parents.
Digger: Oh yes, I see.
Kludo: So my early teenage rebellion
was to be a bit straight.
Digger: Your inclination was to become a chartered accountant?
Kludo: Well, not quite but definitely
I worked hard at school and insisted on going to university and
things like that. Even though, by that stage, I was already working as
an actor and musician.
Digger: Isnít that funny? That adolescent imperative to go against
Kludo: (Laughs) But itís always
there. Mine was kind of the reverse of what you might expect. The
late fifties, early sixties archetype was rebelling against
everything that was supposed to be the norm.
Digger: In a way the two have sort of merged, have they not? Because
youíve got the very artistic thing going on but thereís also a
business mind that you have.
Kludo: For me?! Well, not really. I
try to be businesslike and the point of me setting up my painting
website years ago Ė maybe eight or nine years ago, was that Iíve
always made a few quid out of selling paintings which I did for fun.
But I decided I wanted a break from touring and that life. I had
been touring with bands on the road, on and off, for ten or fifteen
years. In musicals and at theatres. After a while it became a
bit of a job and so I quite fancied a little beach house and staying
at home for a while. And doing the paintings to keep me. And they
did for a while, for four or five years. I didnít have enough hours
in the day to paint and it was great. Rock stars and Volkswagens Ė
it was all very interesting and challenging on a daily basis. Iíd
wake up and thereíd be ten emails from different people saying ďCan
you do this?" "Can you do that?Ē "Have you ever done a picture of Phil
Lynnot?" " Have you ever done a picture of Hank Marvin?Ē And it was
constantly interesting and itís one of the things I really love
doing. But the orders have just dropped off because of the state of
the economy. I would put the music on for whoever I was painting
Ė a Jimi Hendrix CD and then doodle Jimi Hendrix and see how it came
out. So the music and the art have always been overlapped
intrinsically and one couldnít really survive without the other. To
the point where Iíd be the person painting the cover for my recent
record. I canít seem to draw the two apart at all and thereís always
an element of one in another.
Digger: Not exactly Jekyll and Hyde but youíve got two parts to you?
Kludo: More like Jack of all trades,
really. I seem to have this relentless cycle where I have to be a
painter for a bit, kind of an intuitive thing where I need to paint
and then another time Iím just not in the mood to draw or paint at
all. So for the next couple of months or weeks or days Iím only
interested in writing songs. And then I might not write anything for
a year, because Iíll be concentrating on being on tour. Itís a funny
thing and I understand why it takes so long, at a high level, to
produce an album. Because when youíre touring youíre just in a
different mode. Youíre living out of a bag, youíre not feeling at
home anywhere that you go and when youíre away from home. For meÖ
the one place I have been able to write music away from home was when
I was living in my camper van. A few summer tours I've done in my
bus - when the shows are done and the gig's all over I go back to my
camper van and it's like a microcosm of home. My recent album was
actually written while I was living in my van. A six month period
which started about two years ago.
Digger: A shame you can't turn it into a studio like Ronnie Laine's
Kludo: Well, I have done some
recording actually inside or sitting outside the van and then
overdubbed in my little studio at home here. It's interesting trying
to do things differently and this is the great thing about the
digital recording technology and all the other technology that's
available now. You can actually record on a laptop in a van and it
doesn't sound like it's recorded on a laptop in a van. If I'd had
this technology available to me twenty five years ago, it would have
been a different story.
Digger: Amazing. It's strange isn't it? Because you've got all these
youngsters who can record their material in a bedroom and master it
and then market it as well.
Kludo: Yes, and, of course, the
downside is that everybody's able to do it.
Kludo: And there's so much stuff
coming out. Whereas in the mid-sixties or the early seventies there
were a limited amount of people who were able to do something like
that so it was easier to make your mark then, I think.
Digger: And most people, even if they had a dream of being a pop
star or musician, would opt for the proper job because they didn't
have the passion or the guts to do it.
Kludo: Yes and it's a generational
thing too. The generation I've been in with my peers and colleagues
as actors, musicians and even artists - the people I've worked with
and known. We've all got this same issue that we're all doing it but
we've all got to earn a living at the same time. So most of the
people I know, as you say, wear many hats and are juggling their
roles. And at the moment it's a nightmare for everybody.
Digger: It's just keeping your head above water really. That's the
message I get from a lot of people these days.
Kludo: Songwriters, musicians,
actors, artists - everybody I know is struggling at the moment more
Digger: It's strange though because I've got a lot of people, and a
diverse range of businesses, promoting on my site and doing tangible
products, be it hats or jewellery or lingerie or Betty Boop
memorabilia or whatever....
Kludo: Yes, and things like that
continue to be successful.
Digger: Yes and I think it's because they have identified a real
niche and even though that niche may be small, and maybe only 1%
might be interested in what you do, when you look at that 1% or
whatever it is in terms of the web and the population of the USA,
Europe and so on then that 1% is an awful lot of people. They can
all find you and these businesses are getting customers from all
over the world.
Digger: You started on the web very early didn't you Kludo?
Kludo: Well, bizarrely I'd never
owned a computer until about ten years ago. The first time I bought
it, it was a real eye-opener and I was about five years late
actually getting into computers. I started designing my own website
because several people said I should and I thought it would be good
for selling the paintings. I tried it out and it was a steep
learning curve for me, but I managed to build pretty much all of it
on my own. Then, to make it work, I had to bend the ear of a friend of
mine a little bit to try and get him to help me get it online - he
gave me a few idiot-proof tutorials about how to do this and how to
do that. Slowly it's evolved into what it's become now. Initially the website was just me selling VW T-Shirts and stickers,
because at the time you couldn't buy them. But now, of course, the
market's completely flooded. Animal, and various other major labels,
started to produce VW T-Shirts...
Digger: And all the ceramic vans and so on.
Kludo: Yes, it was all suddenly
everywhere and I had to evolve that to make enough money to keep it
going. So it evolved into the paintings and then the guitars and
other bits and bobs. So constantly having new ideas is the really important
Digger: Who are your customers and where are they coming from? Are
Kludo: I get a lot of customers in
the UK who I meet when I take a mobile gallery in the camper van to
VW events and outside festivals and things like that. I set it all
up and they come along and buy bits and bobs, they buy pictures and
they talk to me about their vans. I get quite a lot of business from
that - people will email me a picture of their bus or their Beetle
and then I'll make an artistic impression of it for them and create
that as a canvas and send it to them. And then, of course, there's
word of mouth that comes from that. Again, that was very thriving
about a year or two ago and now it's almost dropped off to be
Digger: People just sitting on their hands.
Kludo: They just wait and think
"Maybe I'll get that cheaper later on." It's nothing personal, I do
understand that. (Laughs) It's just the way things are at the minute.
Digger: It's funny how human nature is and people are quite
predictable, aren't they? They go into Christmas mode or Sales mode
or Holiday mode or Recession mode. Almost to the minute you can
predict some of these things.
Digger: What about commissions Kludo?
Kludo: If it's a portrait of a
favourite actor or artist or some kind of musician then, if they've
got a favourite album cover or a photograph, then I encourage them to
send me that and then I'll do something from that along those lines.
Quite often I get people asking me "Can you do me a Beatles picture
a bit like that one you've got on there but these colours..." Or
you make me one like your Pink Floyd thing which is a collage-type
painting which is one of my favourites?" - a collage of words and
images. Those ones, people are quite happy for me to try things out
and then generally I'll email people back to get some ideas from
them. With images and half-created sketches which I'll put into the
computer and play with them and then send them off. Once I've got
approval it's easy, I just make a canvas the size they like and then
Digger: So you tell them what it's going cost, they say "Yes" and
then you go from there?
Kludo: Yes, I'll draw up a basic idea
of what I can make for them and then one or two emails pass back and
forwards where they say "Can you change that bit? Could you put
this word in or that image?" Often, with the vans, people ask me to
Digger: That's the beauty of your stuff, of course, it is
Kludo: That's the difference, because
what I always try and do, even if I reproduce the same canvas for
somebody, I'll always make them deliberately slightly different in
some way. The challenge has been every time I paint..... I must
have painted The Beatles over a dozen times, and it's a funny thing -
people will ask for a different colour scheme or a different scale.
But it's a challenge every time to make it slightly better than the
last one and it keeps me interested. That area I wasn't happy with
in the last one I'll try and make Ringo's nose look slightly better,
you know? If I can.
Digger: What does the sixties mean to you?
Kludo: In my early teens, twelve and
thirteen, I was living down on the south coast, not far from where I
live now in Brighton. It was a different experience for me and I was
the London lad as far as the local kids were concerned. So it took a
little bit of time to integrate but I just got really into records.
My Dad had a massive collection of LPs which my brother and I used
to listen to all of the time and thought "Wow, this is great."
Everything from Buddy Holly, because my Dad was a huge Buddy Holly
fan, to Eddie Cochran - all that early stuff. Acker Bilk, Lonnie
Donegan, Dusty Springfield, Petula Clark.
Digger: It was a great mix.
Kludo: Yes, it was a really broad
spectrum of the decent stuff from the late fifties and early sixties
and we found that very inspirational. My brother is also a musician
and an actor and we both drew quite a lot from that. The bands
we both put together were inspired by the records we found in my
Dad's record collection - not the actual records themselves, because
his if you see what I mean. We got into others that weren't really
well-represented in my Dad's collections such as The Stones, The
Beatles and then The Kinks and The Who and all those Mod-type bands.
But, for me, it was the Merseybeat stuff - my Dad didn't have many
Beatles records but the ones he had really opened my eyes and then I
suddenly realised "Hang on a minute, there's another ten or so albums
out there of Beatles stuff." So, for me, it was a case of earning my
money as a teenager and then going off to Brighton on the train to try
and hunt down Beatles For Sale for under a tenner, you know? That
was the thing - bringing the vinyl back and sticking it on the
Digger: They don't get that experience at all nowadays do they?
It's all instant gratification and downloads these days.
Kludo: Exactly. So I discovered and
explored every aspect I could of the Beatles' music and that almost
nerdy kind of fascination until I felt I almost knew everything and
heard everything. Then I realised that these guys were figuratively from the
same neck of the woods as me - you don't have to be born in
Liverpool to do this. (Laughs)
Digger: Because The Kinks and The Who weren't that far from you
Kludo: No, not really no. It was
later on when I looked towards the London groups - I think initially
I'd looked in the wrong direction. The Yardbirds' Keith Relf was a
of my Dad's. And he was living in the same road as us.
Digger: The Yardbirds are still touring with two of the original
members - Jim McCarty and Chris Dreja. Such a big loss when we lost
Kludo: I know Jim too. Because as I got
a bit older I was working in bands and living in Twickenham for
about fifteen years and it all started to take off for me then. I
was working as an actor and a musician - four or five nights a week
working as a 'muso' and out gigging and playing university gigs and
corporate gigs and all sorts of things. Playing fifties and sixties
music sometimes, original music sometimes and it was just music,
Digger: A nice life really.
Kludo: It was a nice life and like
anything it felt like it was a job after a while.
Kludo. The interest waned for us
and we all kind of moved on to different things and I moved on to
become a 'serious actor' for a while - Shakespeare and plays and
things like that. I moved away from music for a bit, then missed
it and looked for some jobs in Rock and Roll theatre. I did Buddy
and then played Eddie Cochran for about five years, on and off, in the
west end. I toured the world playing Eddie Cochran which I loved.
It was my favourite job I've ever had. Leather trousers, a great big
quiff, a beautiful Gretsch guitar and superb songs to play. And
people from any generation, whether they know Cochran or not,
cannot help but enjoy themselves listening to Summertime Blues. And
I was playing these great, great Rockabilly songs and especially
live they've got such power. I became Britain's leading exponent at
playing Eddie Cochran because of all the various shows I did. And the
funny thing was, I played myself with an American accent! Because
nobody really knew. I had a real struggle when I played Elvis - I
used to work for Bill Kenwright quite often in his Rock and Roll
shows and he had me playing 'the middle Elvis' for a while. It's
really hard, that gig. Because everybody, even if they don't like
Elvis's music, thinks they know exactly how he moved, spoke, looked
- every aspect of Elvis.
Digger: I saw an Elvis show last year and the first half featured a
guy who really looked like him and the second half a guy who
really sounded like him.
Kludo: Yes, that's kind of how it
seems to work with Elvis - the early Elvis has to look right and the
later Elvis has to sound right. The audience can be quite forgiving
with the rest of it, but generally speaking my experience of playing
Elvis is it's about the hardest gig you can have. It's seen as naff
by the general populous - end of the pier-type naff. And around the
time they had Stars In Their Eyes on the TV. It's odd because we're
all nevertheless musicians.
Digger: Tribute bands these days have actually got a very good
Kludo: They have NOW, but back
then people looked down their noses at it quite a bit. Even in quite
high profile theatre shows where we were playing to 3,500 people at
places like The Liverpool Empire, in The Roy Orbison Story in which
I played John Lennon and Michael Caine and a few other characters as
well as being a musician. They were great jobs but there was this
"Oh, it's old-fashioned" attitude. It doesn't exist today. Retro is
much more cool than it has been.
Digger: Why is that?
Kludo: I think it's partly because
there isn't anything of any real substance or quality that's coming
out to compare with the past. I'm forty now and with my generation
there was always a bit of a snobbery about music. It must have been
something to do with the way society was based when I was a kid. But
what I find interesting is something I discovered with my recent
album, which is deliberately retro and quite obviously a celebration
of the music of the fifties and the sixties which I love. So I went
back to my roots and worked through that inspiration, which has been
very therapeutic for me and I got a lot of that out of my system in
a way. Which means I can now concentrate on my own sound. But great
fun doing it and you learn so much when you do that sort of thing
and study the early Sun recordings and try and reproduce it. That
was what I enjoyed about the Rock and Roll shows that I used to do.
Digger: Do you play everything on it?
Kludo: Nearly. I have a couple of
friends who are professionals who sang with me a little bit and a
drummer that played on a few tracks. My brother's guitar player
played on one or two of the songs. My friend Andy Pelos is on about
eight of the songs with me but it's largely me and I wrote all of
them and I play all the instruments.
Digger: What sort of feedback are you
getting about the album Kludo?
Kludo: It's really taken off. I
really didn't know what to do with the tracks because they've really
been accumulating for the last two or three years. There were ones I
didn't think I could use because they were too evocative of other
people's sounds or manner or style. I kind of shelved them all and
had this collection of songs and I was encouraged by my wife and
friends to get them out and so something with them. I thought I
needed something to make them hang together right - I couldn't just
put them out as a set of songs, they were too different from each
other and too much of a range of styles. When I came up with the
Pirate Radio show with the DJ bits and the jingles in between I
thought "Yes, that could work."
Kludo: That makes even ME want to
listen to the whole thing when I put it on. 'Cos I much prefer to
listen to radio than listening to CDs or albums. To me, albums from
Hendrix, The Who, The Beatles and The Beach Boys and even The Small
Faces - they used to create these concept albums where you'd listen
to the whole album, the way you do with Sgt Pepper. It's very
difficult to take it off or to put that album on half way through.
Digger: Some bands had a theme
running through or a little bit of talk which carried on through.
Kludo: In a way that's a very
retro thing to do as well so it all seemed to fit. And because it's
autobiographical really - when listening to the songs objectively
they really have told the story of my life over the last few years.
As my songs often do without me realising, and they're a bit like a
diary reflecting my ideas and experiences. So listening to them with
a bit of distance, I realised there was a bit of a story and it is
something of a concept album with a bit of philosophy and a kind of
positive energy and outlook about the songs. It worked when I put all the
voice and bits and bobs and the silly noises in - it suddenly became
more interesting and exciting.
Digger: Is it available as a download
as well as a CD?
Kludo: It is, yes. I said to my
wife, who is my manager these days "If we're going to put this out
I'd like to do something positive with it because it sounds so
positive." So we went to The Teenage Cancer Trust whose inspiration
is Roger Daltrey and we met and spoke with them up in London a
couple of times. They all really liked it and were keen on getting
involved in projects that they think that would be commercially
viable. So I said "I'd like to give the proceeds to you guys." So
they're helping to publicise it and to find an audience and we've
sold about 1,000 copies now since the end of September.
Digger: What about the future then
Kludo: What we plan to do is tour
- The Campervan Radio Tour. I have started rehearsals with the band
to play the album live and we have been booked to play half a dozen
Volkswagen Festivals in 2012 and various other gigs that we've got
lined-up as well. This starts around April 2012. I'd like to take it to
the States, but we'll see how it goes over here first. It's one of
those things where it's not going to make anybody rich or famous but
it feels good and it feels right and I always like to follow my
intuition on things because it's never really let me down on
anything in the past. So we're going to do that this Spring and it's
been very well received so far. We've got a lot of people now buying
it from the website and it's got its own website as well now. The
Internet makes things like this a lot easier. Today, we sold a copy
of the CD to a guy in Hawaii and last week we sold a couple to
Australia, just from the web. Slowly and surely it's presence is
being known - it's out there and people are slowly finding it. We've
not put a lot of money or time into promoting it - it's been organic
- "Get that done, put it out there, see what happens." That's what I
like about it. John Lennon used to talk about Instant Karma and how
he'd write a song in the morning and record it in the day and it
would be on the shelves the next day. Well, you can pretty much
achieve that sort of thing now. A couple of the songs were done very
Digger: Well, it's a fun and fascinating album. It's been really
good talking to you Kludo. You know your stuff and it's great.
Kludo: It's lovely to be
Digger: Thanks for that Kludo.
Kludo: Thank you David.