Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Craig Charles: Who's a clever funker

Craig Charles
Craig Charles Craig Charles Guests... L-R Ernie McKone, Angelo Starr, Mick Talbot, Craig Charles, Julian Burdock, Crispin Taylor Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show Billboard

It certainly was a fab insight to sit in on Mr Craig Charles Funk & Soul show, and a fascinating snapshot as to how the man operates behind the scenes of his very successful radio show. Firstly he loves what he does and secondly he loves musicians! On the show for a mammoth live session were members of Push ex-Style Councillor, Mick Talbot and Edwin Starr's brother Angelo on vocals. Their job was to play the best of black music from the 1940's onwards! It was fantastic to hear their special renditions of Bill Withers, Gil Scott-Heron and Stevie Wonder tunes. Hell's bells! Even Odyssey's "Going Back To My Roots" got featured by this stupendous one night only house band. Such is the uniqueness of this special show and no wonder it's been running for so long. It's got guts and integrity, a three hour spot, once a week and Craig always cuts to the chase!

Retiring to pub for a well deserved drink and a catch up with his muso mates, I just about managed to collar our Craig and ask him a few questions and especially about his new compilation out at the end of November...

So tell us about the new album you're fronting Craig?

It's going to be hopefully the first in a series and hopefully get a feeling of what I do for my live shows, there's lots of crossover. I'm trying to take you on that musical journey, nineteen tracks that deal with the golden era of black American music, and the British and European response to that.

So a cross fertilisation thing going on?

Exactly. Plus Australia's input with the Bamboos and The Mighty Showstoppers with "Shaft in Africa."

That could have been you Craig!!

Ha! Yes! The Excitements from Barcelona are on it too and there's Brenda Boykin working out in Germany on Chin Chin Records, plus some great cover versions - better than the real thing, like for instance Nostalgia 77 and Alice Russell doing "Seven Nation Army." I just love her, all that Quantic stuff, in fact she was voted as the (female vocalist) choice for Fantasy Funk Band but she never ever became available. And let's not forget Mike Viner's incredible bongo band's version of "Satisfaction" - that had to be on it!

We didn't want to do the norm, like on everybody else's compilation, I wanted to make it a bit special…I wanted it to be songs you don't know and songs you do know but have never been done in this way!

I think you've succeeded there Craig. Plus you got one of my all time faves on too, Al Wilson's "The Snake"!!

Well I thought I've got to do a bit of Northern. What am I going to do for my Northern Soul? It's my favourite too and when you put it on in a club the place goes mental. You know, I've got a really young audience at the moment, a lot of them who come to my gigs are in their late teens and early 20's. They don't even know what they know (laughs) when I put it on you can see them saying "what the f**k's this?" Then after a little while you can see them thinking "oh I'm having it, having it anyway!!" It's a sure f**kin tub thumper mate! That's it in a nutshell, the whole theory of doing the album was how to get the party started. The combination of the Craig Charles Funk & Soul show with Freestyle Records is guaranteed just to do that!

How did you hook up with Freestyle?

I know Greg (Freestyle A&R) from him working on the show, although I had originally been in touch with the BBC Worldwide but it was just getting longer and longer and more protracted…I was talking to them for five f**kin years! So in the end we thought the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show was a strong enough brand to stand on it's own, as we know we couldn't use the branding of the BBC or 6Music. I really hope it will be successful it's music I truly do believe passionately about...........

So not only are you a soap star superstar DJ, you're also back as Dave Lister in a new series of Red Dwarf, tell us a bit about that. Your demographic has gone off the chain!

Mad innit! I was asked what was it like getting back together? I said it was a bit like The Who reforming but nobody died! Again it's not work ..........I never for one minute thought it would still be getting interest 25 years later! I thought two series max! (big laughs!)

Getting back to the music, let's not forget your Fantasy Funk Band, what's going on there?

We're relaunching it at the end of the month for the festival season, the stuff will be ready by April and we'll be doing the festivals in the summer. The Fantasy Funk Band is not my band, it's the nation's band! I don't choose them, the audience does, for instance if one drummer gets more votes than another drummer he's in! It's just down to me to cajole them into joining! The last vote was 2008, times change, music keeps changing, there's loads of people coming through........I'm still gonna be the Bez of the band though and Ernie McKone (bass) is the only constant in this band, as I've asked him to be the MD. The audience will decide, I just hope it will be as double groovy as the last one! By it's very nature the FFB 'should' keep on changing, if the audience want a particular musician it's my job to get them.

You really love musicians don't you?

I do! I spend Monday to Friday working with actors but I don't knock around with actors - most of my friends are musicians, they're different you know... I've known Ernie for more than 30 years!!

Well that's good to know, me being one as well! …Craig, last but not least, can you tell us about some of the interviews you've done over the years - what were your particular highlights?

Well Bootsy for one was brilliant man. Mate, either I'm really short or Bootsy's about 6ft11! He was just massive, he was wearing 6 inch heels, he had a fookin top hat and these starry glasses on for good measure. I'd love to be him for a day, just a day, yes Bootsy for one whole day! George Clinton, another one James Brown...

James Brown woah! You got to interview him??

Oh yes, when I interviewed him I said 'James how many children have you got?' He goes (Craig impersonates JB'S whispery voice) 'I got 8.' I said 'really? How old's the youngest?' He said, 'the youngest is 2' …I said, 'It's still working for you James onstage and off!' He said 'more on stage now, but I like you boy I like your attitude, you can call me James!

I've interviewed everyone apart from Stevie Wonder! He won't f**kin talk to me and I don't know why, I was at the side of the stage at Glastonbury with a microphone ready, you know he just wouldn't f**kin do it!

His Loss Craig! Thanks for the interview man and good luck with the compilation!

Awooga and out!

"The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club" album is out now on Freestyle Records... and as Greg from Freestyle would have me tell you, is an ideal stocking filler!

Words Emrys Baird

From Jazz Funk & Fusion To Acid Jazz

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