Weird music starts with TV and film for me. When I was a kid there was an ITV show called Picture Box and I was fascinated by the eerie theme tune, but couldn’t find out who it was. I then read a Broadcast album review mentioning this as an influence. My girlfriend took two years to track the record down: it’s Manège by two brothers, Lasry-Baschet, from Structures Sonores where they play musique concrète on bizarre, homemade folk art instruments. They were going to do the original Doctor Who theme but they were too expensive – they did some music for the early episodes, though. That style has filtered through to hauntology, and labels that I like such as Ghost Box and Clay Pipe Music.
I’m very into soundtracks and recommend The Fantastic Planet by Alain Goraguer. I remember seeing a clip in 1974 on [BBC film quiz for kids] Screen Test – it completely freaked me out but I wanted to see more. The soundtrack is unsettling, psychedelic and funky, like David Axelrod. It reminds me a little of where I grew up; East Grinstead, a very weird town with a lot of ley lines.
One of my first albums was More Death And Horror, a BBC Sound Effects album on blood red vinyl. I bought this as a kid. One track upset me so much – Premature Burial, where a guy wakes up in his coffin – that my mum came in and said, ‘What’s the matter?’ I said, ‘Why am I into horror and death and all that?’ and she said, ‘Because all little boys are.’
Horror soundtracks are how I found Coil, who were going to do the soundtrack to Hellraiser but got dropped. Records are like portals: through Coil I got into Meat Beat Manifesto and other experimental electronic and industrial stuff. I really like Horse Rotorvator – it followed on from a version of Tainted Love that was just so brilliantly glum. Coil could do horror because they don’t shy away from anything dark.
I found most music through TV shows, NME and Sounds. One night on The Tube they showed a video for the Residents track Act Of Being Polite from the Commercial Album. I went out and tried to buy everything. I got into them so much, for a time I didn’t even like things with melody. I went to [Residents’ home town] San Francisco in 1990 and I was buying as much stuff as I could find in a record shop, while raving about them. When I finished talking the assistant said, ‘I couldn’t say anything but that was funny – one of the Residents was standing behind you.’
Through Residents I found Snakefinger’s Chewing Hides The Sound. It came out in 1980 and it’s a really funny, vibrant and mental album with a great cover version of Kraftwerk’s The Model. I got this in ’86, the year he died. Years later, I was working on the film Paris Je T’Aime and I went in to see the director [Sylvain Chomet] and got talking to one of the animators, who said he’d been working on a Residents film. We got on to Snakefinger, me saying, ‘It’s such a shame I never saw him before he died.’ He said, ‘Oh, he’s not dead. He just didn’t want to do it any more, it’s a hoax…’ Whether that’s true or not, I love that idea.
I was a skinhead for years and really into Madness. When 2 Tone wound up in 1982/’83 I stuck at it, but there was no one really doing that music and I felt a bit lost. Then I saw Cardiacs doing Tarred And Feathered on The Tube and I thought, ‘I’ve got my new Madness, but turned up a notch.’ I saw them many times in the 80s. The gigs were pure joy, and I’d go dressed as a Droog because I was going through a Clockwork Orange phase.
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The other band that saw me through were Fishbone. They’d play funk, Zappa, anything… totally fearless in pushing ska music forward. I saw them at Dingwalls in the 80s and Suggs and Lee Thompson from Madness were there too. I was in heaven.
XTC are my favourite band of the lot. I love Englishness in bands, and XTC are quintessential. If it wasn’t for XTC, I wouldn’t have got into psychedelia because of Dukes Of Stratosfear. I feel sorry for Andy Partridge, though – in every interview he’s asked about getting XTC back together, the stage fright and so on. But he produces lots of new music.
The album I adore is Powers. When he was a kid he used to get these books from the library, not to read but because he liked the artist, Richard Powers. So he made this homage, a Radiophonic, Raymond Scott vibe, like Forbidden Planet had, just sounds and textures. The picture on the front is what the music sounds like! People expecting Senses Working Overtime will be disappointed.
Through the Residents I discovered Negativland, then I read a review by Simon Reynolds of Stop Your Nonsense by Position Normal saying, ‘This is the British Negativland.’ That excited me, and was quite accurate. Samples, cut-ups, weird easy listening… it’s got this heavy rock, Sabbath-type track played on recorders.
The main reason I’m into prog is because of I Monster – Dean Hohner and Jarrod Gosling. They kind of invented hauntology, being entrenched in this 60s Hammer horror aesthetic without being too corny. I read a review in Bizarre of These Are Our Children – you can’t get it now because they didn’t clear any of the samples – bought it, then lent it to [director] Edgar Wright, who I’d made a ‘sleazy listening’ compilation for that he’d really dug. He gave I Monster the theme tune to this zombie film he was making – Shaun Of The Dead.
I saw them at the premiere, went up to say hi and we all clicked. Jarrod said, ‘You like psychedelia. Do you like prog?’ I didn’t really know, so he started sending me mixtape CDs of phenomenal stuff – Skip Bifferty, McDonald And Giles, Comus – and it blew me away. This was 2003 and we became close. We just collaborated on his new project Cobalt Chapel, who I’ve written a song for. But I would recommend hearing I Monster’s most recent album Bright Sparks, which was commissioned by a company bringing out a synth sampler, so every track is about a synth inventor – and I pulled in a favour and recruited Stewart Lee as narrator.
My music taste might seem quite quirky, but I was never into Joy Division. Madness, Ian Dury, Squeeze, Giles, Giles And Fripp, Bonzos – the thing that runs through my music collection is that knowing wink. Stewart Lee said to me when we went to see the Residents, ‘Paul, we both like experimental music. But whereas I explore the avant-garde, you embrace the novelty, vaudeville aspect.’ I can’t help it. I like the stuff with a twinkle it its eye.”
Catch Paul in Kevin Eldon Will See You Now on BBC Radio 4, 11pm on Tuesdays from April 18
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