"I think the mainstream are the outsiders and I'm the way it should be."
May 22, 2014 10:52 AM   Subscribe

Billy Childish is known as a poet, painter, and musician who is routinely reduced to doing the same thing over and over again. A recent interview in The Guardian demonstrates how much he continues to stay the course, going so far to call him a "monomaniac".

Interviews with Childish-- such as this one in the Metro or this one from the Huffington Post in 2013, or Vice in 2010, and this one from Vice in 2007 -- are predictable in the topics covered: Something about Tracy Emin and getting kicked out of St. Martins College. Some mention of Stuckism (prevliously and previously). The whole non-feud with Jack White. Not living in London, opting to remain in Chatham and paint in his mom’s house (though he now also has a studio in the Chatham dockyard). And for the last decade or so, his moustache. If you’re lucky, there’s mention of his Kurt Schwitters tattoo.

Of course, there are interviews, such as this one from The White Wire or this one from The Stool Pigeon that actually talk about art beyond the traditional tropes.

For a better feeling of how prolific Childish is, Neal Brown’s Billy Childish: A Short Study provides more context.

And here’s a quick rebuttal that all of his bands sound the same: The Pop Rivets, The Milkshakes, Thee Mighty Caesars, The Natural Born Lovers, Thee Headcoats, The Blackhands, The Buff Medways, The Stuckists, Musicians of the British Empire, The Vermin Poets, The Spartan Dreggs, and most recently (for now) C T M F. They’re not all the same, right? And then there’s his solo work.
posted by kendrak (12 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
OOoo good post, I really like this guy. A sort of cranky eccentric guy with his own vision of art and music that he sticks to. Can't ask for much more than that. I've got stuff from Thee Mighty Caesars and Thee Headcoats, and yeah a lot of it sounds "the same" I guess but there's a reason garage rock is in fashion every 5 or so years. It works when it's done well, and Billy Childish gets it right a fair bit.
posted by Hoopo at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

My heart seriously skipped a beat as I thought this was going to be an obit post. Whew.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:13 AM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

Heavens to Murgatroy It's Thee Headcoats Even is one of the greatest albums and album covers of all time. Glad he's still around.
posted by spicynuts at 11:19 AM on May 22, 2014

Yes! He's alive and kicking and still having lots of art shows. I think most of the interviews mangle his musical history because they're mostly about his art, so they won't care about the differences between his different bands.

And if people try to lump The Milkshakes and Thee Mighty Caesars as the same band, I will just remind them of Mickey Hampshire and The Masonics.
posted by kendrak at 11:30 AM on May 22, 2014

My favorite record of his remains The Messerschmitt Pilot's Severed Hand. Much more personal lyrics with the same raw boogie woogie gunk rock music under it.

Billy Childish is my personal savior.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 11:49 AM on May 22, 2014

Re: Jack White accusing Billy Childish of plagiarizing his music.

Jack: a few examples would be a helluva lot more convincing than this snipe.
posted by IAmBroom at 1:00 PM on May 22, 2014

ANGLE ON: A wall.

We see the following graffiti:


A basketball bounces against a wall.

Jean and Benny amble onto a basketball court. Jean's changed his hairstyle. Now the dreadlocks stand straight up from his head.

Benny dribbles with skill while Jean puffs furiously on a cigarette. He doesn't look like he's slept, but he's happy.

Benny throws the ball to Jean. It bounces off a puddle and splashes Jean.

Come on, Jean. Get rid of your cigarette.
I am... On Gina.
Fuck - I didn't think we were actually gonna do this.
Concentrate on the ball. Shoot.
Jean shoots. It flies up, up, up - and over the backboard.

He runs after the ball, gets it, and dribbles clumsily.

You're shattering all my myths.
About what?
Your people.
Oh - you mean black people!
He shoots and misses again. He throws it to Benny, who does a picture-perfect lay-up.

(changing the subject)
How long do you think it takes to get really famous?
During the following, Benny performs a series of amazing shots while Jean looks on admiringly.

For a musician or a painter?
Jean shrugs.

Whatever. Famous. To where you can do your stuff all day without thinking about anything else.
Ummm... Four years. Six to get rich.
He shoots. Swish.

First, you have to dress right.
He shoots again. Swish.

Then, you have to hang out all the time - with famous people - the right people, the right chicks, the right parties.
He shoots again. Swish.

And you gotta do your work all the time when you're not doing that. The same kinda work, the same style - over and over again, so people recognize it and don't get confused. Then, once you're famous, you have to keep doing it the same way, even after it's boring - unless you want people to really get mad at you - which they will anyway.
Benny tosses Jean the ball. Jean walks off the court.

Come on. I hate this. I'm no good at it.
Jean shoots the ball and keeps walking. The ball goes in. He doesn't notice. Benny runs after it.


Benny and Jean walk along. Benny dribbles.

Famous people are usually pretty stupid. You're too smart. You'd get bored to death. You don't wanna be like John Henry - fighting the machine. Just do what you do.
It's about integrity. Follow your heart.
Who's John Henry?
Oh man! Folklore guy - worked on the railroad. Y'know, pounding in spikes and laying down track. Then one day they invented a machine to do it. And he says "Fuck that, I'm a MAN" and he challenges the machine to a race to lay down a mile of track. It takes two days. Neck and neck the whole time. They get right to the end, and he beats it by one spike.

Got a cigarette?
So then what?
He drops dead! See? Just do your shit like you do it! Your friends like you, you get laid, everyone walks by, sees your stuff everywhere. It's good. What else do you want?
They watch a long stretch limo cruise up across the street.

Like I said - my liquid hijack Marlboros.
(indicates limo)
Check it out.
The LIMO DRIVER opens the back door. Andy Warhol and Bruno Bischofberger step out.

Andy Warhol. He's famous and he's not boring.
posted by oceanjesse at 1:08 PM on May 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

ULTRA TO THE MAX MEFI: "I think the mainstream are the outsiders and I'm the way it should be."
posted by umberto at 2:47 PM on May 22, 2014

The first rule of Billy Childish: Nobody talks about Billy Childish.

It just feels safer that way, like how I never use my favorite mug when friends come over.
posted by jwhite1979 at 3:26 PM on May 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

His song, Medway Wheelers, done by his band, The Buff Medways, never fails to improve my mood. It's pretty much perfect.
posted by picea at 5:30 AM on May 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

:-D Fanks!
posted by evilDoug at 7:39 PM on May 23, 2014

Billy Childish writes the best song titles on earth, and I treasure a Headcoats/Headcotees show I saw back in the day. That said, I always get about 8 minutes into just about any of his records, thinking how great garage rock can be, before I suddenly want to listen to anything else. Repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat repeat you win Wild Billy Childish now go away.
posted by argybarg at 4:08 AM on May 24, 2014

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