Interview in Phoenix Remix about This Machine Kills Wasps

Note: this interview first appeared on the Phoenix Remix website.

Hello James how are you? How is 2023 treating you so far?

It’s been busy. I am performing in Leicester Square Theatre’s Sketch Off competition in two separate groups, Horse Passports and Owl Bag, so there’s been prep for that. It’s also wassailing season, so I have been singing old folk songs at bees and apple trees, to ward off bad spirits and ensure a good crop for when things come alive again. I’m also writing lots of postcards. It’s all go.

# You are starting a brand new comedy night in Brighton, what can you tell me about it?

It’s a musical comedy night – so stand up, musical comedy, AND music. So I have the amazing goth / Americana / murder ballad group Message From The Ravens, as headliners, doing beautiful songs and no jokes. I have Shelf, Leila Navabi and Selena Mersey doing jokes AND songs. And I have Sharlin Jahan doing jokes and no songs, although she may yet surprise me.

# It is hosted at a great venue as well tell us about it!

It’s the gorgeous Folklore Rooms, above The Quadrant in North Street, right in the centre of town. Visitors to the Brighton Fringe every spring will probably be familiar with it – it’s the best dressed stage in the city, the people who run the venue put on fabulous acoustic nights and are lovely, and it’s an intimate space. As soon as I saw it I felt in love.

# The show has a really unique name – how did you come up with it?

This Machine Kills Wasps is a riff on This Machine Kills Fascists, which legendary protest singer Woody Guthrie had written on his guitar. The reference is stolen from the CD inlay art from Half Man Half Biscuit’s 2005 album Achtung Bono. It is, admittedly, extremely niche, but it made me laugh, so at least one person is entertained.

# Brighton is a great place for a comedy night – what makes yours stand out from the rest?

Hopefully that it’s music AND comedy. Certainly there aren’t any other nights that do this, to my knowledge. There might be a good reason for that.

# You are the MC as well, how do you warm up for such a role?

In this case, I am warming up by writing some stupid songs. But MCing for me is about being human, and reassuring the audience that we know what we’re doing and they won’t be picked on too much. As with most alternative comedy nights, setting the tone is important – that this isn’t going to be like Live at the Apollo.

# You perform comedy and music as well – will any of these skills sneak their way into your MC role?

I sure hope so. I bought a plug-in Uke and everything.

# If people want to find out more where can they visit online?

You can head to our website. We’re also on instagram and Facebook and so forth.

# When will the next event take place?

I don’t have anything booked in yet, but if this one goes well, I’ll do another one in April, and try to have a night with some of the musical acts playing the Brighton Fringe in May.

# Finally, why should people come to your show?

Because then I’ll be able to pay the acts!

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