Noel Fielding has carved a niche in British comedy as an avant-garde provocateur. From his rise to popularity as the mullet-headed pre-hipster Vince Noir to in The Mighty Boosh alongside Julian Barratt in 2004, to his regular seat on Never Mind The Buzzcocks and his own solo sketch show Luxury Comedy, he’s earned his place in the pantheons of surrealist comedy.
If you’re thinking this decade is Noel’s time to slink quietly into retirement like a warm flannel (to coin one of his phrases) you’d be wrong. He’s just kicked off a UK tour and will release a DVD, An Evening With Noel Fielding on November 16, before heading to the US for a series of dates.
But where did Noel’s penchant for surrealist humour come from? It turns out he has Primus to thank…
Hello Noel, how are you?
“I’m good! Can you hear me alright? I’m not speaking into a phone, it looks like a strange toy from the 70s!”
So, you met Les Claypool recently and posted a picture on your Instagram. How did you become friends with the Primus frontman?
“It’s a weird story. I was a big fan of them when I was at art college years ago, and recently my friend bought me tickets to see them at Brixton [in June, as part of their Willy Wonka tour]. Their videos are quite frightening, like My Name Is Mud and Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver. I didn’t know what they were going to be like – they might’ve been really terrifying. The music is quite jazz-horror, but the set was amazing.
“Their merch guy said we should go and meet them and that Les is a big fan, and I was like, “Ooh, I’m not sure about that, it’ll be terrifying!”. We were just going to leave, but the guy came up at the end and said we had to go and meet them and that [Les] was really excited. So we went backstage and ended up getting on really well. He’d watched some Luxury Comedy and he’s a big Boosh fan. He’s also been writing a TV show with Jack Black and asked if I’d help. So we’ve been meeting up a bit in America and doing that, but it’s very early stages and I don’t know if anything’s going to happen. But a Boosh/Primus collaboration would be quite powerful.”
**Can you tell us more about this Les Claypool and Jack Black collaboration?
**“Yes, but I can’t speak about that, it’s so early so I don’t want to talk too much about it. But as you can imagine it’s not your normal business.”
**Have you found your own comedy inspired by Primus?
**“I did like the Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver video with the plastic cowboys. I thought it was such a great visual. And when you put a good visual to powerful music, something amazing happens; you get the combination of a good tune and a good visual. We were always going for that in the Boosh, trying to get a good song right at the point when there was a good joke or something visual happening. I was young when I first saw Primus on MTV, but I’m sure that did inspire me in some way. I think Julian [Barratt] likes Primus as well.”
What’s the likelihood of you working with Julian again in the future?
“We’re still friends and we’ve talked about doing something, so you never know. I don’t want to say yes because he’ll get too excited, and then I’ll get Boosh fans attacking me on the street!”
You’re taking your tour to America next year. Will Les be on the guestlist?
“He hasn’t seen me live before actually, but we’re doing San Francisco and I think he lives up near there so he said he’d come. I’m sure he will now we’re buddies.”
You should get him out on stage to do a cameo.
“I know, that would be amazing. He’s an interesting bloke, he’s got some interesting tales. He’s into comedy so we hit it off, it was nice.“
Have you got a shared interest? Maybe something we wouldn’t expect, like golf?
”[Laughs] No, he’s quite into fishing, which I’m not at all. I don’t like boats, so that broke his heart. But I think he’s invented a drink for people who feel sick on boats called Sea Pop, so he reckons he can sort me out and we’ll go fishing. What a guy. We bonded over this drink called an ‘Arnold Palmer’ which we were drinking all the time when we were writing, which is iced tea and lemonade, invented by the golfer. That was my drink of choice – that’s how rock and roll we are.
“The closest we’ve come to golf is when we did our own festival in Kent. We stayed up all night afterwards because we’re idiots – Har Mar Superstar, Gary Numan, Robots in Disguise [were there]. Our hotel was by a golf course, and Julian got naked on the golf course and streaked across it at seven in the morning. We were out of our minds, and all the golfers were like, ‘What is happening?’ as Julian ran through the sprinkler. We used to be rock ‘n’ roll. Not so much now, it’s all camomile tea.”
Do you find your comedy gets a different reaction in different countries?
“Yeah, in Nepal it’s just blanket indifference. [Laughs] I guess, slightly. Canada was weird when I first started doing it, but they’re into it now. I think it’s tricky when you go to those type of places and do a short spot – it’s quite a lot to take in in a short space of time. I did a gala in Montreal and Lenny Henry hosted it and it went OK, but it wasn’t until I did a gala with Cheech and Chong hosting where I really had a good gig. Something just clicked with the audience, and after that I did my own show. We did a festival for Jack Black on the pier in Santa Monica and that went really well. The Boosh did the Roxy in LA, and Robin Williams came to a gig, as well as John Paul Jones and Josh Homme. Lots of different comedians like us in America, like Mike Myers and Ben Stiller. I’ve never done a proper tour there though, so we’ll see what happens.”
“It’s been real - I’ll never forget you.”