Recently I was lucky enough to have a brief chat with Adrian Edmondson about his band ‘The Bad Shepherds’. Best known for his comedic performances in such programs as Vyvyan in The Young Ones and Edward Hitler from Bottom, not many people realise that Adrian Edmondson is also quite an accomplished musician.
After a brief introduction Adrian tells me that I don’t sound old enough to remember The Young Ones and asks, “Do you have them on video? Sorry, its DVD’s these days isn’t it… do you have a video?”
I can’t help but reply, in my best Vyvyan voice “YES I’VE GOT A VIDEO!!!” (Reference The Young Ones episode ‘Nasty’ Series two, episode 3) He laughs and we commence the interview, starting with past bands.
“I’ve been in numerous bands ever since I was in school, music has always been a big part of my life. I even released a flexi single in the 70’s with my band Piece of Thorns,” he says.
If you watch The Comic Strip Presents… Bad News and/or More Bad News, you can tell he’s experienced most of the ups and downs of band life first hand. In those shorts he plays vocalist and lead guitarist Alan Metcalfe AKA Vim Fuego. When asked what Vim would think of The Bad Shepherds, he replies “I’d like to think he’s dead now to be honest! Burnt out from his rock and roll life style… or he’s stacking shelves in Lidl and wishing he was dead!!!”
No plans to cover “Warriors of Genghis Khan” by Bad News then?
“No! But it’s a great riff though isn’t it?” He replies.
Adrian tells how, after a boozy pre-Christmas lunch, he had wandered into a guitar shop in London for a look around, and the next morning awoke to find he’d purchased a Mandolin. Not being a stranger to strung instruments, he picked it up and figured out a few chords, starting with some of the tunes that he used to play on guitar as a youth. I suspect the mandolin wasn’t quite ready for The Clash, The Sex Pistols or Ade’s ‘thrash’ mandolin style, but the two bonded and the seed was sown. Not long later he pitched the idea of ‘Punk songs with a Celtic feel’ to Troy Donockley, rehearsals followed and the Bad Shepherds were born.
The First CD, entitled Yan, Tyan, Tethera, Methera, was recorded in 2009, all live in the studio and with each song recorded in one take with no over dubs.
“The second CD, By Hook or by Crook took a little longer to record” he explains, “because it was initially recorded live again but this time we did add a few extra overdubs and extra tracks.”
Adrian adds that he prefers to record in a live situation as it gives the listener a sense of just how tight the band are together.
Although both CD’s are full of ‘Folked up’ cover versions, the Bad Shepherds don’t just play carbon copies of the songs on Celtic instruments – they have all been reworked, and some are almost unrecognisable until the vocals start.
“We like to keep the listener guessing as to what’s coming,” he says.
My personal favourites are XTC’s Making Plans for Nigel and Talking Heads’ Once in a Lifetime. I asked Adrian which songs stand out, but having specifically picked all the songs because they were already his favourites, he can only answer “the second half of the live set!”
“The second half is almost like my concept album; the songs run into each other and work really well.”
Over the years Adrian’s managed to build up a collection of 12 guitars. Now he’s started a modest mandolin collection too and is already up to six (much to the dismay of wife Jennifer.) Other instruments under his belt include banjo, trumpet, auto harp, triangle and the coco nuts. We all know how many guitars a guitarist really needs though, don’t we: just one more.
“I must remember that, I’m going to use that,” he says. Sorry Jennifer.
Adrian’s most cherished guitar was given to him by Jeff Beck about 25 years ago. It’s custom built, painted bright orange with blue flames and has the most amazing circuitry – he gets some really different sounds out of it without the need for any pedals.
Also in his possession is an original 60’s Gibson Les Paul and a Steinberger (very good for string bending), as well as a 1947 Martin tenor guitar. He even has two standard mandolins and an octave mandola made by Paul Hathway, which he notes are “very simple in design but have a fantastic tone and sound completely amazing.
“They also have wider fret boards than those classic Gibson-type mandos, which is a boon to someone like me who has bunches of sausages for hands.” He is also keen that we mention a brilliant tenor Uke made by Phil Davidson as well!
The Bad Shepherds are a very hard working band, doing anywhere between 50 and 100 gigs a year and currently playing festivals (check the gig guide here.) No rest for the wicked, because after that they’ll start their own headlining tour on the 27th of October; 21 dates all around the country that really shouldn’t be missed. Bare in mind that it’s not your regular ‘hey nonny nonny’ folk evening, but as far as we’re concerned that makes it all the better.