We caught up with the simply fucking awesome Craig Charles for a chat about funk music, Red Dwarf and even Takeshi’s Castle. His new album is out on Monday, you can get your filthy mitts on it here. You dirty Smegger.
You’re releasing a new album on Monday, can you tell us a bit about it?
We do the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club at various residencies around the UK. And there’s the Craig Charles Funk & Soul Show (6-9pm, every Saturday on 6Music). And everyone’s been saying ‘Craig, why don’t you put a CD out with all the music you play in the club?’, because if people haven’t been to the club they might think it’s a history lesson or something, you know? It’s not like that, though, it’s funk and soul for the 21st century that we play. So I thought, ‘yeah, let’s do it!’, so we have and I’m really proud of it. It’s all bangers, it’s all tunes… it’s wall-to-wall bangers! It’s some of my favourite tracks that really get the crowd going. There’s a few covers that I think are better than the real thing: Alice Russell’s version of Seven Nation Army, the Incredible Bongo Band’s version of Satisfaction, Prince Fatty’s Insane In The Membrane and The Apples’ version of Killing In The Name Of.
How did you get into DJing?
Back in the day, when Kiss stopped being a pirate station and became a licensed station, I did the breakfast show for Kiss. Unfortunately at the time it was techno and all that kind of stuff, and I sort of fell out with Kiss because they wanted me to play techno at breakfast. I don’t want to listen to this at breakfast, you know? So I left Kiss because I wouldn’t adhere to the programming policy – they wanted really hardcore, 4am, tripping out your head, Eing and gurning and stuff over breakfast. I said people don’t want that, but their raison d’etre was that people would be getting home from clubs at this time in the morning.
Then John Sugar at 6Music, about ten years ago now, was putting together a radio station that was going to be the sister station to Radio 2. He asked me if I wanted to do a show and I asked if I could do a funk and soul show because no-one plays it on the radio, he said yes and the rest is history. I’m like the Ken Barlow of 6Music.
But as well as funk and soul you’re back on TV with Red Dwarf, how does it feel to be back?
Sometimes I look in the mirror when I’m on set, covered in all them leathers, and think ‘This is no way for a man who’s hurtling towards 50 to be dressing’. No, we’re loving it actually. We’re really happy that it’s been so well received and it genuinely is funny. We were worried because we didn’t want to ruin the legacy, we didn’t want to come back and it not be as good as it was. After we did Back To Earth, because it was done as a comedy film not as a sitcom, we wanted to make Red Dwarf as a sitcom again, in front of a live audience. All four of us are natural show-offs so we’re always trying to get bigger laughs than the previous one, you know? It was really fun to make; I hope we can make some more, I think we are.
How similar are you to Lister in real life?
I think we’re all caricatures of the characters we play. Lister’s like me but just exploded a bit. I do like lager and I do like curry, put it that way. And Chris Barrie collects things, but not telegraph poles. Danny is the vainest person I’ve ever met. And Robert is just full of that middle-class guilt.
Do you play guitar badly and eat vindaloo on a daily basis?
I do play guitar badly, but I think I’m slightly better than Lister. But only slightly – I can chug out a few power chords. And I do eat a lot of curry. I eat West Indian curry more than Indian curry, though. I love curried goat, man. And jerk chicken and stuff like that.
What has been your most memorable moment on Red Dwarf over the past ten series?
There’s been so many times where we’ve nearly died. I remember walking backwards (in Backwards) into a lake, then they were going to reverse the footage so it looks like I’ve walked out of the lake and I’m completely dry. But I was wearing these big biker boots and I got loads of silt and water in the boots, so when they shouted action I couldn’t move. They actually waited about 45 seconds before the divers went in and got me. They had to wring me out.
When Kryten blew up the gazebo in Jane Austen World (in Beyond A Joke), we let the army do it. Normally it’s just a few puffs of smoke from BBC special effects, but the army riddled it with dynamite and C4. We smashed windows a mile away. It was ridiculous. We had to pay so much compensation to people.
That explosion was huge…
It set the tree behind it on fire! There was an ornamental lake and we were on the other side of the lake, and you could see the blast waves. It was scary. You should have seen the size of the crater!
As well as Red Dwarf, you’re beloved by a generation of students as the voice of Takeshi’s Castle. How does it feel to be synonymous with a crazy Japanese game show?
I really enjoyed doing the voiceovers for it. We just had a laugh. We’d go down the pub, have a couple of pints, then get a VHS, stick it in the machine, pick up a microphone and it was just say-what-you-see TV. There was no script; we’d just take the mickey really. I can’t believe I got away with some of the stuff I was saying on teatime television. “She’s on her hands and knees with big black balls bouncing off her bottom lip”, I can’t believe I said that on television. I’ve heard that they’ve found a few more episodes so we might be doing a few more Takeshi’s Castle.
We’ve never actually seen anyone win Takeshi’s Castle…
We did 150 episodes and only three people ever won. Apparently all they win is their teeth back.
Much harder than over here!
Well we tried to do Takeshi’s Newcastle. The idea was to go to Newcastle, get 100 pissed-up students and do it like that, but we couldn’t get the health and safety on our side. The next minute, the BBC have gone to Argentina, by-passed all the health and safety, and called it Total Wipeout and totally ripped us off.
We’re getting near the end of 2012 now, what has been your highlight so far?
Doing Red Dwarf again has definitely been a highlight. And coming back on Corrie, you know? It’s just been great. I’ve done a load of festivals and stuff like that. Just taking the Funk & Soul Show out and getting to do all these festivals. You arrive at a festival and there’s nobody there, then you put on some banging funk and soul music and turn around to see 6,000 people going mental in a field. You just think ‘Yeah. Best job in the world.’
Craig Charles releases The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club on 26 November.