Mr Ted are a Liverpool phenomenon. Not serious and serious at the same time, sometimes making sense and at others, well … read on to find out.
We’re big fans of Mr Ted, having first encountered them at Liverpool Calling a couple of years ago, playing a set in the basement at Maguires along with Dead Naked Hippies.
They had an unenviable early slot, but they absolutely smashed it and were one of the stand out bands of that festival.
Since then we’ve seen them supporting Hands Off Gretel and at their own party to launch the single Sexy Legs last year.
There’s been an album – El Dirty Sexy – and then, well we all know what happened.
Recently, the band surfaced on Facebook to say they’d been back together in their practice room, so we thought this was an ideal time for a chat to chew over life and the bizarre world in which Mr Ted inhabits.
As the band started to join in the Zoom meet, we just exchanged the usual pleasantries.
Mark Manning: Alright everyone, you all OK? How’s everyone’s Friday evening going?
P3dro: Alright, I’ve got a glass of wine here.
MM: Ah, I need a drink now, dammit.
Peter Williamson: I’m on the Brewdog Layer Cake – it’s a marshmallow and chocolate stout.
MM: Holy shit. What does that taste like?
PW: It’s beautiful. It’s 7%, though, so I’ll be hammered if I have another one or two of these. It’s in proper pint size cans as well.
MM: I wish I could join youse for a drink. But I’m [going out] for a few drinks later, so I’ve gotta drive first.
PW: Well, you could have one.
MM: You know what I’m like after one. I’ll be off me tits.
PW: Peter, what’s the plan for this? Do you have any timeframe?
P3dro: Not particularly. I just thought it might be quite entertaining just to have a chat. I did write down some questions, but we can just see where it goes.
PW: Happy to go off road?
PW: Let’s go rogue.
MM: I’m nervous, now.
P3dro: I don’t think you’re the kind of band that’s going to get nervous, are you?
PW: We can, surprisingly, chat a lot of sense when we want to. Me and Mark [Hughes] thought we were being quite eloquent when we did the Society of Losers podcasts [the band’s record label].
We can be sensible when we want to be. Whether tonight’s one of those nights, we shall see.
PW: Have you been to any socially distanced gigs, Peter?
P3dro: No. I haven’t felt the enthusiasm for doing it, to be honest.
PW: Yeah, I’d hate it. Unless you’re, say an acoustic act who would generally play with people sitting around at tables anyway, there doesn’t seem much point.
P3dro: I’ve kind of written off this year, really.
P3dro: Well, I’ve done my due diligence and I’ve written down some notes, but let’s just see how we get on. But I always start [Ha!] off by asking where are you and what are you doing?
Steve McCarroll: I’m just sat in the back room, with the conservatory just behind, with a brew, a packet of unopened Quavers and two KitKats, just to keep me going.
Mark Hughes: I wish I was in somewhere different, now. Actually, I’m on the couch, in me house and this is the couch we moved out of the way – I’m on the set of Shame.
P3dro: Who is Mr Ted?
The whole band: Oohhh
SM: That’s definitely a question for one of you guys. I just sit back at this point.
MH: It’s just a silly band. But Mr Ted – he was a barber on Pilch Lane.
PW: He’s dead now, unfortunately, God rest his soul.
MH: I don’t think Mr Ted was ever actually aware of Mr Ted.
PW: He was as scouse as they come. I don’t think he would ever have had any interest in the type of music that we play. But some of us got our hair cut by him.
MH: I never.
MM: I did. It was the craziest experience. He used have, like, a beaded room at the back which was really mysterious.
PW: A bearded room?
MM: No, beads. Like a proper 70s style room. You’d go in and there’d be a couch, a TV and a VCR. It was a weird experience. And then when he cut your hair, he’d put holes in your head. It was an experience, to say the least.
MH: I never went to Mr Ted. I had a barber which was closer to home. I’d go to Crosby every time.
PW: The Paramount?
MH: Nah, not The Paramount. Facing St Gabriel’s Church.
PW: I used to get my hair cut by Alan from The Paramount.
MH: There’s a lot of Alan’s about.
PW: We could have called the band Alan. Does that answer your question, Peter?
P3dro: Yeah, probably. Where does the band get its influences from, musical or otherwise?
PW: We’ve all brought in different influences from everywhere, really. We’ve all got bands that we mutually love. But for me, there’s influences from bands like Ween and Half Man Half Biscuit. It’s the kind of absurd, ludicrous lyrics – not doing anything that would be expected.
MM: Primus is definitely a big influence for me. [Especially] the bass.
MH: You know me. It’s all Melvins. Any time I can mention The Melvins – I love them. That’s the pinnacle. Heavy and loud, yet ridiculous most of the time. That’s me.
But, if you wanna a fresh look at Mr Ted, Steve’s the newest member. He’s the deal.
SM: I’ve always been a heavy hitter on the drums. I like to play fast, I like to play loud and really get amped up on the kit. I think that shows in a lot more of the recent stuff we’ve been writing. There are certain bands that may not have a direct influence on what we do as a band, but personal favourites are the likes of Black Sabbath, Mastodon, The Sword, that kind of stoner rock type of stuff.
MM: 70’s disco.
P3dro: I was looking at your Bandcamp page and you say: “There are so many genres of music, but we don’t play all of them”. Which are the ones you don’t play?
MM: All of them.
PW: R&B. Although, we do have a bit of R&B groove in some of our songs.
MH: Sexy Legs, at times. We haven’t got anything jazzy.
SM: We just try different ideas and explore different things.
MH: That’s the beauty of it.
MM: We just go for the idea of a song and carry on writing it. We don’t think about the genre at all. And play it.
MH: And then put some silly lyrics on it. Yeah, that’ll do. That’s the one.
MM: What kind of lyrics are we writing at the moment?
SM: Sheep’s Punk.
MH: Yeah, punk is for sheep. Saying it like that, it sounds great. It’s a good line, that. And there was another song we were writing, about the weather.
SM: Oh, yeah, Lizard Weather. Because we had lizard weather not that long ago.
PW: I think we need to clarify, before we offend a load of people, that “punk is for sheep” is definitely not the message the title indicates. We’re saying that sheep can enjoy punk as much as anyone else. That’s the message we’re trying to get across.
SM: Is there a message in any of our songs?
SM: I think the message is that if you say it fast enough – something we discovered. Sheep Spunk.
MH: Yeah. Any excuse to … Yeah, well, it’s just great.
PW: I think anything’s fair game. We’ll poke fun at anything, but we’re not meaning to be offensive to anyone. We’re not doing this to aggravate people. It’s just we’re being playful. Everything we do is with a big pinch of salt. We mean no harm. If you look at the Sexy Legs lyrics [and video] we’re just trying to twist people’s pre-conceived ideas.
It’s just about poking fun at anything that goes, so long as we’re not crossing any boundaries.
MH: Yeah, we may push the envelope too far, but Sexy Legs never mentions whether it’s about a boy or a girl. Anyone can eat arse. Anyone can. Not my cup of tea, but it might be yours.
P3dro: Where do you guys think you fit into the Liverpool, or North West, scene?
MM: It’s hard to put us into any scene.
MH: We’ve played with a lot of different bands – we’ve played with death metal bands before. But we just seem to play with a bit of everybody. We just sort of squash in. We’ve got enough in our set list and other songs we haven’t played for a while to cater around everyone.
We even had a set one time where we downtuned all our songs [to make it deeper] and heavier. That was a gig in the Zanzibar and we played with Gods of War and Scare Tactics.
PW: I think we’d hold our own weight in playing Rebellion Festival, for example. I wouldn’t say we were a typical Rebellion type of band in terms of the music. But in terms of the anything goes type of message, I can’t think of anything more punk than that. So, we’re punk in some aspects, we’re funk in others, thrash for some songs. It’s a big mix.
In terms of the Liverpool scene, I think there’s only a very small portion of people who know about us and that’s down to the fact we’ve only released the one album thus far.
P3dro: I think you’d be quite a good fit at Rebellion.
PW: We’ll play there one day, I’m sure. It’s just that we don’t know anyone there, yet.
SM: We need to know the guy who knows the guy.
MM: That sounds like a song. There we go, that’s how it starts.
MH: We need to know the guy that knows the guy, but, why do we wanna know the guy who knows the guy?
PW: They’re great lyrics.
MH: This is not the time to be writing this.
PW: This is absolutely the right time to be writing this. Peter, have you got any lyrics you want to include in the next Mr Ted song?
P3dro: Er, let me have a think about that one.
SM: The thing is, he’s not joking.
P3dro: I think, maybe something about turning up to interview Mr Ted, whilst still wearing a work shirt having been doing a ballaching video conference all day.
PW: OK, we can get that in.
P3dro: I’ll leave that with you.
P3dro: I wanted to ask you guys about the Birmingham compilation record you’re on from DIE DAS DER. How did that come about?
PW: That was through our label, Society of Losers. They and DIE DAS DER have a kind of band swap partnership. So at any festival that SOL are putting on, then they’ll get a few DDD bands up to play and the vice versa, so, we were down in Birmingham about a year ago to play their birthday party.
We were on pretty early in a room that’s about the size of this living room. It was called The Sweat Box. We must have made some sort of impression because they asked us to put a song forward.
It’s for a really good cause [Save Our Venues]. As you know, venues are dying on us left, right and centre. Many haven’t got enough money to keep afloat, so anything we can do to help these venues …
P3dro: I’ve seen other cities doing similar. Do you see anything like that happening in Liverpool?
SM: I don’t think we’ve seen anything like that. All we’ve seen of Liverpool – it’s heartbreaking, but too many places have been closing down. 2020 has just flipped the whole live music industry on its head.
MH: When things go back to normal, then hopefully a few [venues] will spring up from the ashes.
PW: It’s always happened … more will spring up. But, just how long it will take. God knows.
P3dro: One of the reasons I asked you to do this interview was because I saw on Facebook you said you’d been able to get back into practice rooms, so I was wondering how the last 5 months had been for the band. Whether you’d managed to be creative?
MH: Well, we did, at the very beginning of lockdown. We did make a video with footage that we made at home for a song that [never got on the album]. So, we did that. It’s called Volume Is An Instrument.
PW: That is the most poetic I’ve ever heard Mark be, in that first two minutes. It’s actually profound and awe inspiring. And really silly.
MH: Yeah, what if JAWS was a Disney movie? I mean, what if? It’s not, but what if? But, what if that movie predicted our impending doom? That’s deep. But it’s not.
PW: I’d watch and pray.
P3dro: Have you got any plans for a new album? Or are you gonna wait another 10 years for it?
MH: Nah, definitely not wait that long.
SM: We’ve been practising for a month and a half / two months. Just working on new ideas. We already had a couple of ideas in the works [that are] boxed off. Since then we’ve come up with another three or four ideas. The music’s all there, we just need to get our heads together and write the lyrics for them.
We’ve been working towards a new album. And if we continue along at the same pace, we could probably have an album’s worth of material by the end of the year. Easy.
P3dro: What about gigs? Any plans?
MM: Nothing at all.
MH: Probably a load of people who are booking gigs for January, February , they’ll more than likely get cancelled, so we’re just playing it by ear for now.
MM: There’s a lot of gigs getting streamed at the moment, but I fucking hate it. It does my head in. It’s good to get the music out, but its not the same.
SM: There’s nothing better than having Pete and Mark’s cabs just screaming at your face.
P3dro: What about outdoor gigs? Does that appeal?
PW: I’d love to. Do you think Mr Ted would go down well outdoors?
SM: I think so. We have the amps for it.
MH: Yeah, I’d play outdoors.
PW: With families having their picnics in the park?
MM: While we’re shitting out Sexy Legs?
PW: But, playing gigs outside in January / February?
P3dro: Yeah, I’m with you there.
P3dro: Recommend a band or an album that you think we should be listening to right now.
The whole band: Hhhhmmm….
PW: I have one for ya. It’s probably not what you expect. The artist is Rupa and the album is called Disco Jazz. I’ll give you a bit of context.
P3dro: That’s the kind of genre you don’t play.
PW: Exactly. It was an album released back in 1982, it sold a handful of copies but about a year or two ago YouTube’s magical algorithms propelled it to millions of views. Rupa hadn’t realised she’d become famous overnight. It was her nephew that told her everyone was talking about her. Such a feel good story. I will warn you [though], it’s a little bit disco, it’s hardly jazz, but it sounds really prog. It reminds me of Jethro Tull in places. I recommend it highly.
MH: I recently went on a little bit of a kicker and I started listening to the new album from Coriky, which is the new thing from Ian MacKaye from Fugazi.
SM: I’d go for Baroness – they’re one of my favourite bands. They came up as a YouTube suggestion. The song that got me into them was a song called ‘Isak’ from their debut album, Red Album and then from that point onwards, I’ve just been listening to them constantly. All of their albums are named by a colour. All of the songs just blend into each other. It’s well thought out lyrically, musically. The artwork [for the albums] is all done by their singer, John Baizley.
P3dro: Anything else to declare?
SM: I’ve just opened my packet of Quavers.
PW: We miss it, we can’t wait to be back.