I got the chance to talk again with Carl Green, the mastermind behind The Whirlpool Guest House, about The Close-Ups, a short lived but fantastic cartoon band that came to life out of his imagination. And for those wondering, you can still get the CD album here. Thanks again Carl for the great interview!

++ Hi again Carl! What have you been doing since our last interview?!

Travelling mainly, to places beginning with V- Vienna and Vegas! I tried to find culture in Vegas and strippers in Vienna. I wasn’t especially successful on either count.

++ I guess the idea of a cartoon band comes after what you were doing on the “live” gigs with The Whirlpool Guest House, but in between there was Shandy Wildtyme, so how come you decided going back to this format?

I’d always wanted to do it on a grander scale, but I was pretty broke in the 80’s. Everything was done on the cheap with Whirlpool Guest House, which was great fun but at the same time frustrating. With The Close-Ups I’d enough resources to do things on a different level, and the time seemed right to try and fulfill a long held dream of mine- namely, create my own fully animated cartoon band. Gorillaz were doing the business back then too, and I thought they could use a little competition!

++ Did you create the characters and all? Did each one had some special trait or personality?

I created the concept, look and individual personalities for the four band members, but I didn’t do the artwork. Can’t really draw! That was done by a brilliant artist from Manchester called Jez Hall. I outlined what I wanted and then “auditioned” his creations. Abby and Rake were taken on straight away, whereas the original Zack and Newt were sent back to the drawing board a couple of times!

++ One of the characters is called Newton Aycliffe, is this place important to you?

How on earth do you know about Newton Aycliffe?! It’s a wholly unremarkable new town about 15 miles from where I live and is barely known locally, let alone in Miami! Anyway, I chose the name to reflect the band’s North East roots, and hopefully get a few wry smiles.

++ Was it for The Close-Ups that you created the Northern Round Square Records label? Was it easy to set it up and distribute your releases? How was this experience?

Yeah, totally for The Close-Ups. It’s a low key affair really, with distribution via the internet and key record shops in the UK like Rough Trade, Piccadilly and Norman. I enjoy running it, but it’s the quickest way I know to lose lots of money. And friends. Still, it’s worth it when people get in touch to say how happy they are with the records and stuff- that’s the real and best reason for doing it. I’ve just re-activated it recently for our next release, the debut album by Head Of Light Entertainment.

++ So how did this band starts? How did you know Abby Connor? What is she doing nowadays?

I needed a certain voice to make the whole concept come alive- an understated vocal style with a girl-next-door vibe, with no affectations or guile. Abby was the 15 year old daughter of one of our friends, and although reluctant at first, she really got into character and lent an innocence and sense of wonder to the project it really needed. I love her voice! We named Abby Kirkella (the cartoon lead singer) after the real Abby- blurring the lines and all that nonsense!
Abby Connor is now 21 and studying art at University. A couple of bands have approached her, but she’s not really on that path anymore- painting and design is her real passion.

++ How did the recordings for what was mainly a duo happen? Was it an easy thing to do? I notice you also had many friends helping you.

The music was put together over a three year period (2002-2005), starting with the first single “I’m On My Way” in 2004, through to the album “2am In Flat 3b” released in summer 2006. I recorded the guitar and bass parts, did a guide vocal, then brought in some friends Paul and Adam to play the drums and keyboards respectively. Abby did her vocal at the end, once the full track was in place.

++ The sound of The Close-Ups is very different to your previous projects, this is not really C-86 stuff but closer to bubblegum pop. Was it because of what you were listening at the time? Or maybe you wanted to try something new?

To me it’s all just pop. Different strands but definitely still pop. It has got an intentional bubblegum skin but it’s an indie-pop heart that beats underneath. It’s still rough and sweet and skewed. The idea was to try and create an indie-pop Archies for the internet generation and I like to think we got pretty close.

++ Three vinyl singles and 1 album in around 2 years. That is quite prolific! But what is your favourite format? the Cd or the 7″ single? and why?

I love the pop aspect of the classic 7″ single- it has a magical mythical quality that CD’s just don’t have. Having said that, I do like clarity and convenience, so I suppose my CD’s do have a vital role to fulfill!

++ Why did you dedicate a song to Jean Shrimpton? Was she your first crush maybe?

I think Jean Shrimpton is one of the most beautiful women to ever walks God’s earth. A true mesmeriser!

++ Out of curiosity, Mike McGrother, who plays the fiddle on Jean Shrimpton, does he have anything to do with the great Kevin McGrother?

Yes, it’s Kevin’s brother. He’s a brilliant fiddle player and fronts his own Poguesy type band The Wildcats Of Kilkenny. They’re big news round our way!

++ And what about Mascara Dave? What’s the story behind him?

Mascara Dave is a fictional goth character, and a friend of Abby. It’s a love song to cheap make-up and those brave enough to wear it round Stockton!

++ On “Come on Home” you invite all your favourite people to visit you. Among them you invite Ferdinand and Scholes… and even Cantona, so I guess you are a Manchester United fan? You do know they are not a favourite team for popkids? Who do you think will win the Premier League this year then?

Ferdinand and Scholes get a name check as they played together for England. Cantona is an enigma first and a footballer second- it’s the enigma that intrigues me. The Man Utd connection isn’t relevant. To be honest, I’m not a massive footie fan these days. Money has ruined the game and sucked all the goodness out. Who’ll win the title? Any of the usual suspects- it’s all so terribly predictable.

++ And, what about Louis Theroux?!

Another of life’s oddballs. I’m drawn to them every time.

++ It seems you had a great time with this band, so why didn’t you continue with the Close-Ups?

You’ve probably gathered by now Roque, I’m rather restless musically! There wasn’t anything left to do with The Close-Ups, and besides, I was ready to go live again. Hence what I’m doing now- Head Of Light Entertainment.

++ Anything else you’d like to say?

Yeah, please buy the debut Head Of Light Entertainment album “I Am Liberated” on Northern Round Square Records, out in November! It brings the Whirlpool Guest House, Shandy Wildtyme and Close-Ups story bang up to date! Thanks Roque.

The Close-Ups – 20,000 Groups


Tim Readman from the Watt Government just got in touch! He wrote me a bit more about the band and it’s quite interesting, so please have a read! Also you can find a live video for the song Working My Fingers to the Bone here! And while there please check a video of their previous band Arthur 2 Stroke and The Chart Commandos! Tim confirmed me there was only one single released but that there were many recordings made. Hope I get to hear them soon!

Watt Government were originally formed to do some opening spots on comedian Alexei Sayle’s tour of England in around 1982. At that time the band was me on electric guitar and vocals, Debbie Byron on lead vocals, and Steve Nash on acoustic guitar and vocals. Over time the band was reinforced by members of a band Steve and Tim previously played in called Arthur 2 Stroke and the Chart Commandos – Ian Thompson on bass, Graham Easthope on sax, Ross Winning on trumpet, Stevie Lee on percussionist and Davey Bruce on drums.

The name Watt Government comes from a few different places. First it is a play on words because it sounds like what government? That was a question we were asking a lot in the early 8o’s during Thatcher’s reign.

We wrote a song called What Government which dealt with the actions of police outside the Orgreave Colliery during the historic coal miner’s strike of the 1984-5. Orgreave was a coal mine situated adjacent to the main line of the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway about 5 miles south east of Sheffield. A widely reported clash during the strike took place at the Orgreave Coking Plant near Rotherham on 18 June 1984. This confrontation between striking miners and police, around 10,000 on each side, was dubbed ‘The Battle of Orgreave’. Violence flared after police on horse-back charged the miners with truncheons drawn and inflicted serious injuries upon several individuals. In 1991, the South Yorkshire Police were forced to pay out £425,000 to thirty-nine miners who were arrested in the events at the incident.

Watt also refers to Watt Tyler – Watt Tyler was one of the leaders of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt. He was a slain by the King’s supporters after drinking a jug of beer “in a very rude and disgusting fashion before the King’s face.”

Watt also refers to the Watts riots – The term Watts Riots of 1965 refers to a large-scale race riot which lasted 6 days in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, in August 1965. It was a landmark event during the development of the Human Rights movement.

I think by now you will be getting the point!

Waiting for a Phone Call is a song about an imaginary phone conversation between Thatcher and Ronald Reagan.

Working My Fingers to the Bone is a song about not being able to switch off after work. It was inspired musically by African music- stuff like King Sunny Ade, Rochereau, Manu Dibango, The Super Rail Band and Fela Kuti.

Martin Brammer and Dave Brewis are school friends of mine who had success with The Kane Gang. Martin is from my home town of Seaham and Dave is from Whitburn, just north of Sunderland. They produced the first version of the song, which was originally to be released on the Kitchenware label. It was sent to be manufactured to our publisher, Hugh Phillimore, in London. His BMW was stolen with the master tape in the boot and never recovered so we had to re-record it. I had to talk the guys at Volume records in Newcastle into giving us the dough to re-record and release it.


Watt Government – Working My Fingers to the Bone