INTERVIEW WITH 3 DAFT MONKEYS
It’s an exciting time for folk music. Artists like Joanna Newsom, Beirut and the Westcountry’s own Seth Lakeman have drawn attention to the genre internationally and helped to break the beardy-weirdy stereotype of the folk musician. Folk, with its new, hip image, is experiencing a resurgence in popularity and one of the most vibrant folk scenes in the UK is happening right now in Cornwall. Home to the ever-growing Wadebridge Folk Festival, Cornwall not only attracts a large variety of touring folk musicians but also boasts an up and coming home-grown talent who are starting to make a name for themselves. Rising stars of the Cornish scene 3 Daft Monkeys and Mr Julian Gaskell & His Ragged Trousered Philanthropists, have talked exclusively to Sara Bodinar for 247 about their music. (Image: Julian Gaskell)
3 Daft Monkeys are Athene (vocals, fiddle), Tim (vocals, guitar) and Jamie (bass guitar). They hail from Cornwall and describe their music as ‘world influenced acoustic music, with a hint of the bizarre’. Their last album Social Vertigo got rave reviews in the national press.
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists are: Julian Gaskell (vocals, guitar), Tom (upright bass), Dan (guitar) and Rory (drums). Julian describes their music as a ‘home grown, make-do-and-mend version of the exotic sounds of the world’.
How did your bands first get together?
3 Daft Monkeys (Athene and Tim): Athene and Tim first met when they were performing at a 72-hour squat party in Holland. Athene was in Brighton-based diddly-dub-dance band Headmix and Tim was playing in Cornish psychedelic punksters Moondragon/Lordryk, who invited her down to Mullion to play fiddle on their new CD. We met Jamie when we were busking outside his gig on St Martins on the Isles of Scilly, where he was playing with his quirky band Dr Zeuss. We all have completely different musical backgrounds, but the three styles just seemed to gel together in an unusual way.
Julian Gaskell: It started as me on my own, having escaped the North, in Falmouth playing pastoral folk and blues on the guitar, Tom joined in 2006 and we have gained an extra member every year since then, Dan was studying on a course with me and Rory
joined us for some ‘seminal’ gigs at free parties in Falmouth and stayed on board.
Who or what inspired your lyrics?
3 Daft Monkeys (Tim): Having been travelling and playing music for many years, you get to see many different ways of life, places, and people. I’ve busked on the streets in Spain, and played at the Brixton Academy, and these are the stories of what happened in between. They are social comments and observations on what I see and experience… some are celebrations of life, and others are cautionary tales.
Julian Gaskell: A bit of everything – looking through some of the songs on our next album there’s the late, great pianist Mrs Mills, cautionary tales of drinking, the Falmouth grey mafia, the lack of old-time music festivals, chain pubs with revolutionary images on the wall, private sector rented accommodation and the idea that grown men don’t just drop down dead in the street like that.
You play a lot of festivals, which would you say is closest to your heart?
3 Daft Monkeys (Athene and Tim): Festivals… we love them all! We played over 40 festival gigs last year, and we still can’t seem to get enough of them. We do still get really excited about Glastonbury, even though we’ve been going there since we were teenagers. We’ve played so many stages there… (our record was nine stages in one weekend), but this year we were really excited as we were lucky enough to be playing two of the bigger ones, playing on Avalon Stage on the Friday afternoon and the Glade on the Sunday afternoon… it was great. We also love some of the smaller non-commercial festivals. Knockengorroch Festival in Dumfries is a magical place deep in the mountains with an intimate free-party vibe and a 24-hour porridge stall! They serve Heather ale and Mead, and have some of the best folk/dance/reggae bands in Europe playing. Maker Festival here in Cornwall is another one with just the right vibe and lots of fantastic live music.
Julian Gaskell: Holifair is the one for me; close to home, small, cheap, environmentally friendly, and a random collection of folk putting their collective shoulders to the wheel to make some entertainment. And there’s a barn dance too, what more could you want?
Have any Cornish bands influenced your music?
3 Daft Monkeys (Athene and Tim): We met the guys from Dalla a few years back and they really inspired us with their knowledge and beautiful arrangements of Cornish songs. Before that I really wasn’t aware that all these wonderful Cornish tunes existed, and we used one called Ribn Aven in our arrangement of the song ‘One Fine Day’.
Julian Gaskell: Cornish folk stalwarts ‘Dalla’ have influenced us by introducing us to the ‘Newlyn Reel’, a fine tune if ever there was one… Then of course there are Zapoppin’ without whom I would not be playing the banjo today, and Ninoskika, who have inspired the way we look as well as the way we sound. 3 Daft Monkeys are always good for a night out, proper violin playing and everything. ‘We have no TV’ also lead the way in terms of lyrics, saw playing and euphonium.
Do you think it’s an exciting time for folk music?
3 Daft Monkeys (Athene and Tim) Most definitely. A few years back the national folk scene was firmly rooted up in the north, but in the past few years the winds have changed, and many of the acts headlining the folk festivals such as Show of Hands and Seth Lakeman are from the West Country. It’s also an exciting time as the boundaries of folk are opening up and its definition is changing. We were totally blown away to be asked to play such famous folk festivals as Cambridge, Cropredy, Trowbridge and Towersey, as none of the music that we play is traditional folk, although we do use influences from folk music from around the world. It shows that their perspectives are changing to reflect the way that musical boundaries are being crossed. The classic image of ‘folk’ is also changing… it’s no longer the ‘F…’ word it used to be, and a lot of the audiences are now a complete cross-section of ages, styles and cultures.
Julian Gaskell: It’s always an exciting time for Cornish folk, that’s why I moved here. I think that we could be heading for an exciting time for folk music everywhere, I’m hoping that the collapse of the recorded music industry will lead to music being made for it’s own sake rather than profiteering; perhaps this will mean that all the talented and interesting musicians will stay working at a local grass roots level. Mainstream commercial music, lacking the input of new talent, will seem more and more dull in comparison, leading the public to reject this in favour of the more exciting music available to them in their local pubs and venues. And so on into a world of 21st century troubadours, slowly rambling around the country telling their tales and showcasing their musical wares.
3 Daft Monkeys Live at Cropredy 2008 Social Vertigo
Words: Sara Bodinar
by 247 Magazine