Legendary DOCTORS OF MADNESS founder Richard Strange took the time to talk to Vive Le Rock ahead of his show at London’s Bush Hall on Saturday 9 June.
As previously announced, Richard and a band involving several special guests will be performing his classic solo concept album The Phenomenal Rise Of Richard Strange for the first time ever in its entirety. Tickets for the show are available here.
The Bush Hall Show sounds like a spectacular, what should people expect?
An immersive, multimedia, interactive event, featuring some of the greatest musicians I have ever worked with. Between them they have worked with Bob Dylan, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits, Nick Cave, Tindersticks, The Who, Atomic Rooster, Scott Walker, Sarah Jane Morris, Madness, Band of Holy Joy, The Higsons, Jamairoquai …oh and the Doctors of Madness!
Is this really the first time it’s been performed in full, what took you so long?
The time was never right… I had fallout with Virgin soon after it was released, Cabaret Futura was going strong, my acting career was starting to take off and the original band had started to go their separate ways. We did some of the songs at Glastonbury in 2009, but never the whole show, and never a staged version embracing the political narrative.
Will it be just you on the stage?
No, see above… This is a 24 carat all-star band, plus films, staging, guests, bells and whistles!! All the hoopla of a Trump convention… but without Stormy Daniels!
The album is nearly 40 years old, do you feel it speaks to these times?
More than ever… Obviously I have been working on it a lot and listening to it a lot recently, as you can imagine. Never been more relevant. A Maverick politician uses showbiz techniques, media manipulation and sheer brass neck to become president (of a Federated Europe, which is in total political meltdown). The second verse of one of the songs starts…
“Bombing in Madrid by Franco’s chosen sons.
Mussolini resurrected in Rome.
And meanwhile back in London
there’s this woman whose ambition
is to send everybody home”.
(On Top Of The World. Copyright Richard Strange 1978)
You couldn’t make it up…. Oh hold on… I DID… in 1978!! But that could have been the BBC news today… Meltdown in Italy, Spain, UK, Hungary, Germany, Holland. Resurgent nationalism/fascism, a media that distort news for its own ends.. etc etc. Any resemblance between my character and any other character, living or dead, is purely intentional!
Where does your love of theatrical presentation come from?
I have been lucky enough to work with the best! Directors like Robert Wilson, Yuri Lyubimov, choreographers like Luca Silvestrini of Protein Dance, artists like Gavin Turk and Haroon Mirza, film directors like Harmony Korine, Martin Scorsese and Tim Burton. Event curators like Hal Willner, who did the Disney show at the RFH with Jarvis Cocker, and the Fellini show and the Sea Shanties shows at The Barbican. I love the way he flies by the seat of his pants and always pulls off something unforgettable…….. I am sponge… I watch everyone, everything, and adapt to my own needs. I always carry a note book. The scenes are out there every day! You just got to see them (and not forget them)!
You’ve worked with the great and the [not so!] good. Who taught you the most?
I think Robert Wilson, with whom I spent 3 years working on ‘The Black Rider’ with Marianne Faithfull, (the Tom Waits/William Burroughs musical play) was a huge experience for me. We did it at The Barbican, in LA, in San Francisco and in Sydney. Watching Bob work is a masterclass in stagecraft, lighting, movement, composition and sheer bloody mindedness!! Also writing a cantata with the great Gavin Bryars, based on the life and work of William Burroughs, was an inspiration. Neville Farmer, the director, and I are just finishing editing the movie of the event. Tim Burton was great to work with (on Batman) and Martin Scorsese is a lifelong hero… (Though if I could have chosen ANY of his films to work on, it would probably NOT have been Gangs of New York). Working with Harmony Korine, Anita Pallenberg, Denis Lavant and Diego Luna on Mr Lonely was a gas. It was 6 weeks of non-stop insanity in the most remote part of the Highlands, with only the midges for company! I love the energy and dedication and attention to detail of Luca Silvestrini, the choreographer with Protein Dance
You had a ringside seat for the Punk movement, is it true the Pistols supported you?
Yep. Not only supported us (1976) but also robbed us while we were onstage!! I sat next to Paul Cook a couple of weeks ago at the Albert Hall, watching my mate Joe Elliott raise billions for Teenage Cancer Charity and felt a hand in my pocket…turned to see who it was and it was Cookie…. he laughed and he gave me a lovely hug!
What would you say to anyone one thinking of waiting another 40 years to witness The Phenomenal Rise of Richard Strange?
See you there!