Return of the pighead?

This is shamelessly ripped off from my MySpace blog from last year, when I got a bit excited about the fact that Madnomad had entered SpazzLand, and in turn reprinted an article from a mag I used to edit… But it’s a nice feature 🙂

Seeing as the beyond-excellent Madnomad (one of Bristol’s finest musical secrets, very difficult to put into words just how exciting he/they could be…) seems to be making a reappearance, I thought I would republish an interview with him that came out a few years back, around the time the Tamper Evident album came out…


One band can save the universe from certain oblivion! We send intrepid boy reporter Will Simpson round to ask MADNOMAD how he plans to do it…

“It must be said, considers Madnomad’s Rob Parry, “that it’s not one of those albums where people are going to say yes, you’re talking about my life’.

“If they did I’d be worried. You know there are albums which speak to you at certain times of your life? Maybe this one is for the life you don’t yet know.

Certainly his debut album is the work of a maverick talent. From the whispered lullaby of the title track to the demented, gabba-flavoured Thanks’, via jazz, cinematic soundtrackin’ and rant n’ roll, Tamper Evident is brilliantly all over the place. But where does it all come from?

Sitting outside at the Arnolfini on a February night which isn’t as warm as it threatened to be, Rob – who to all intents and purposes is Madnomad (though tonight he’s brought along guitarist Matt Blackwell for company) – is explaining how he arrived at this point.

Prior to Madnomad he played in numerous bands, but “there had been nothing that had given me any happiness. There was always something wrong. Always a maggot in the apple.”

“Now there’s half a maggot in what’s left of the apple, quips Matt. “Yeah, half a maggot and a rotten core,” says Rob.

The nearest musical comrades he found were two “lovely stoners” in his native Doncaster. “They were heavily influenced by the Bonzo Dog band, and had these massive reel-to-reel tape things. One of them lived in a house that was so damp that he camped out in a tent in the front room to keep off the mould. I would come along and spend four days rehearsing and I think we only played once in a year. It was a fantastic learning process – they were doing music that I just didn’t understand, but I had to get my head round it.”

Arriving down in Bristol Rob fiddled around doing music on his bedroom computer until one day “A friend said he wanted to put me on for a night he was doing at the Cube. So I started getting some tunes together, and it gradually snowballed from there.”

After just a few solo gigs it was clear that here was someone a little bit different… unique, even. In fact, listening to Tamper Evident, it’s almost impossible (unlike virtually every other band on the planet) to tell what this bloke has been listening to all his life. When pressed Rob admits to an admiration for the Butthole Surfers and Elvis: “Although these days the things I listen to mostly are my children’s tapes. I’ve got stacks of them in the car. I find them comforting, but quite sinister in a way. I really like that the most innocent of songs can sometimes be the most discomforting. Did you know ‘Baa Baa Black Sheep’ was originally about sex? ‘Have you any wool’ is supposed to refer to pubes. The original line is ‘One for the master, one for the dame/One for the little boy who fucks like a ram.’ Or something. Seriously.”

But it has been for the live shows that he’s earned the most notoriety. The ‘Madnomad live experience’ is quite unlike any other. We’re talking blazing keyboards, rave aerobics, and – oh yes – men in pig masks. Lots of men in pig masks.

“It’s just that there are codes, aren’t there?” points out Rob. “If you go and see a certain type of band you can anticipate how they’re going to be. It’s refreshing sometimes to go and see someone tipping things on their head,” Matt explains. “You know, doing gentle piano ballads while headbanging… I just want to be in a band where somebody just comes up and asks ‘what the fuck was that?'”

So, erm… what is it with the pigs, then?

Rob smiles, whilst Matt recalls where it all started: “Yeah, each time I think, ‘I’m not going to do that again,’ yet they still somehow creep back in. I honestly can’t remember where the idea came from. I just put this pig mask on for one song and…” “A collective sigh of relief was audible,” finishes Matt.

“No, it just felt appropriate. That’s the thing about masks. You can put on a mask and you become someone else. You’re taking on another role. Pigs aren’t necessarily the dirtiest of animals. I think there’s something fantastically visceral about pigs,” wonders Matt out loud. “If you ever speak to a vegetarian, the one thing he always misses is a bacon sarnie. I think pigs are just intrinsic to the whole world. It’s like seven steps to bacon.”

However, at Ashton Court a couple of years back the pigs got out of hand. “We had seven blokes in pig masks and they asked, ‘what do you want us to do?’ recalls Rob. “I said Just go on and stand there.’ At the end of the show we took our gear off and asked one of the stage crew, ‘Where are the pigs?’ Someone said, ‘Oh, they’re all stood on stage in a line.’
Apparently there was some set-to with the security. The next band after us were setting up their gear, and all our pigs were still standing there. The pigs got a better reception than the band… There’s just something sinister and plain wrong about that.”

There does seem to be an element of confrontation to Madnomad, a rattling of the bars of pop’s playpen. “I can think of people who are more confrontational,” Rob sniffs. “I think lots of bands and artists are more confrontational. Heard of a performance artist by the name of Andre Spit? He’s written a book. The strapline on the back of it says ‘Art is not a mirror. It is a fucking hammer’. That completely encapsulates what we’re trying to say.

“But all this is never that premeditated. It’s just that there is something very attractive about putting yourself into a situation where you’re not sure about what the outcome is going to be. There are too many things that are safe.”

How the world responds to this bug-eyed belligerence remains to be seen. What would be success in Rob’s eyes?

“Just the fact that I’ve done it and completed it,” he shrugs. “That’s enough.”

[Reprinted from Synergy: The Key To Bristol #29, April 2003]


If you can get hold of a copy of Tamper Evident, DO!

…And always remember:

KiLL THe PiG!!!


2 responses to “Return of the pighead?

  1. Pingback: Porcicidal tendencies « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

  2. Pingback: Courting insolvency with Madnomad « Bristle’s Blog from the BunKRS

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