Monday, June 22, 2009

Bryn Phillips: 'I am the dark side of Oscar Wilde'

Bryn Phillips: Madame Arcati's very own singer-songwriter discovery - sign him up while you can, bitches. Photo by Margaret Stone

It's not everyday that Madame Arcati throws caution to the wind and falls publicly in love with talent at a distance. But such was the case when her gaze fell upon the singer-pianist waif who unexpectedly popped up in the video of Mark McGowan's latest stunt, the burning of Gordon Brown's effigy (see bottom of this piece).

After flames had licked away the PM's cardboard jowls and blackened his terracotta Guerlain powder makeup, Madame Arcati was consumed by a febrile passion - one stoked by a most beautiful belter of a voice that soared effortlessly above the sound from an upright out-of-tune filthy piano in a room with the acoustics of a serial killer's basement. Madame Arcati was blown away! A star was born! I subsequently learnt that the voice belongs to Bryn Phillips and he agreed to an email interview. Record companies please take note. Don't be slow.

Bryn Phillips! What did you think when you realised an elderly matriarch who wears plaid and rides a basketed bike was lusting, er, I mean, admiring your singing talent on YouTube?

I thought "beauty is in the eye of the beholder".

Give us a spec of your musical range - your voice, instruments - I mean, have you recorded anything?

At the core of my art is the act of song writing. I have always been musical - I play the piano, guitar and violin. I play with synthesisers, electronic beats and other ways of generating sounds, like tape loops too. I’m obsessed with popular music, but I think pop music often lacks strong lyrics and I am not ashamed of writing poetically. And yes, I have been recording, with my band Private Lives.

Andrew Weatherall said I should call my album ‘Better Than Bowie’, which is very flattering. Our recordings aren’t mixed yet, so I won’t post anything on the internet for a couple of weeks. However, you can see me perform live at Hackney Wicked Festival, on Saturday August 1st. It’s a festival in edgy, Hackney Wick and I’m excited to be playing there. Check our MySpace page for details.

Tell us how you ended up on Mark McGowan's Gordon Brown burning video. And was your wonderful performance impromptu?

Really MA, you’re extremely kind. Actually, I was surprised to see the video on the internet. My performance was genuinely impromptu, and isn’t that piano terribly out of tune? Personally, I would have preferred that Mark had burnt Boris Johnson or Peter Andre. I don’t agree with you about making an effigy of Nick Griffin. He is doing a very good job of burning himself. If you believe in eternal damnation, of course.

Oh, before I forget, what's your astrological sign or at least give me your birth details. You're from Wales I understand.

Predictably, I am a Leo. My birthday is the 13th of August 1981. Actually, my mother is English but my father is Welsh. My parents met in a stable, although unfortunately I wasn’t born in one. I grew up in the fens, north of Cambridge and I speak basic Welsh. My genes have given me the lungs of a valley boy and my upbringing has given me the teeth and tongue of Joe Orton. I am the dark side of Oscar Wilde.

Oh, and that song you sang. What's it called?

It's called Femme Fatale. It's a tragedy about a girl whose baby gets put into care. The recorded version I did with Private Lives sounds far superior, and I am extremely proud of the vocal.

What do you think of Mark? I like his stunts but his Jade Goody one annoyed me.

Oh yes…he’s quite a minx, don‘t you think? I have noticed, other than the Gordon thing, that Mark is a pyromaniac. He’s always burning things, isn’t he? In truth, I think he’s a talented satirical artist. The Hackney Gazette were furious about the Jade stunt, Mark was denounced all over Hackney on every billboard for a whole week. The tabloids seem to utterly hate him, so he must be doing something right. Although they do always send a lot of photographers to take nice pictures of him…

You live in a bedsit in Clapton. Now, I don't know how to ask you delicately but if an elderly matriarch wanted to pay a visit would your landlady/lord object? Or do you already have a bitch/whatever? Please feel free to go into intimate, micro-detail.

Well, I have a stalker. Really, I do.

And yes, I live in Clapton. It’s very rough where I live. Even dangerous. My bedsit is an old shop. It’s located on "the murder mile" and the E5 Crew meet outside my front door on a nightly basis. Sociologically, gangs are very interesting, but they make for ghastly neighbours. Just a few weeks ago a boy was stabbed to death at the end of the road and the police tape made it very difficult to get home. I have no hot water at the moment, so I don’t think my landlord is in any position to start vetting my guests. But my kettle works, so please do pop by if you fancy a nice cup of tea.

You say your shower is in disrepair. Tell us about your bathroom ablutions.

I hate to sound maudlin, but my shower is definitely on the brink, it runs, or rather more, it drips, cold. Which, in turn, it seeps its way into my work, haha. I must admit, after seeing the video I did a bit of a SuBo, got me hair done, scrubbed me nails and all that. I like my Mac though. Do you think I need a stylist Madame Arcati? Does the hat really maketh the man?

You just stay the way you are for now though I'd add a bit of eyeliner. Now, Bryn, seriously - you're very talented - what do you want from life and what must happen next to get you there? Do you compose songs?

Oh, you’re very generous MA, I’m flattered. Yes, I do compose the songs, I’m quite prolific in fact. All I want from life is a decent, permanent place to live, books, a piano and a fridge full of food. Oh….and to be really famous, hang around with Amy Winehouse and get papped outside Dalston Superstore. For all of this I need to secure a record deal. In fairness, I haven’t tried to yet, but I’m very much open to offers.

Who's the greatest singer ever? And when you're famous, what do you want to be famous for?

Who’s the greatest singer ever? My friend Paloma would be extremely offended if I didn’t say her…so Paloma Faith. But really, Billy Mackenzie - without a shadow of a doubt. I love him. Hmmm…when I am famous I want to be famous for the subjects I write about and for the life I have led.

Finally (for now) - have you ever consulted a mystic? If so, what was foretold?

I never have MA, apart from an elderly gentleman I knew as a teenager, who used to dabble with the occult.

Bryn! Thank you so much. Madame Arcati will chart your ascent with her usual enthusiasm.

A reminder of Bryn's powerful voice - he starts at 2:30 after Mark has turned Gordon Brown to ash.


Alex C said...

luv it, but why am I never there when exciting things happen? Alex, Decima

Anonymous said...

I never thought I would say this, but you do have a glimmer of taste, Madame!

Lommy said...

Such a peculiar posting for you Madame. I have never known you to promote a nonentity. Is he your lover or something? But he IS gifted. He has a wonderful voice. Bizarre. I'm pissed.

Anonymous said...


Si Clops said...

What's that black thing behind his head? Is it a ponytail?

Anonymous said...

"Madame Arcati was consumed by a febrile passion"

Is that what you call it. Bryn, beware this monster.

Anonymous said...

Fabulous . Truly Arcatiesque
Did you get the column and the book deal yet? Waiting with baited breath MA darling

Madame Arcati said...

Well, thank you. No column yet - but then I've not tried to get one beyond thinking aloud. I'm not sure I am a perfect fit in any editor's love map and I don't like to be told what to write. Still, you never know. Life has its surprises. As for book deals, not seeking one. But I'm sure there's an Arcati-themed one to be done. Just put out the word. It's the way to go.

Anonymous said...

Isn't he cute! And I love his voice. Just keep him away from Louis and Simon.

Anonymous said...

Does MA a thing for the Welsh? First Molly, now Bryn. And wasn't Robert T-M Welsh?

Madame Arcati said...

I have a thing for talent.

veritas said...

I disagree with Madame-I like Mark Mcgowan's Jade Goody tribute. Bryn's a good find-hope you find some talent in Croatia as well. Take a camera,

Anonymous said...

Love the Jubilee clip. What happened to Jenny Runacre's film about Divine?

Duralex said...

He vaguely reminds me of the French musician and singer Michel Polnareff. Polnie is much more gifted and spectacular, though.

Best performances:

Love me, please love me:


Madame Arcati said...

Polnareff has a grand piano in tune, an orchestra, a studio venue, a professional camera trained on him, shades, a microphone and music sheets to crib from. So, yes, he would seem more accomplished. Put in the same circs, Bryn would show him up. Raw talent, Duralex. Raw talent.

Simon Reuben White said...

He showcased his new material at our gallery event "Cheap Neon" and blew us all away, just wait till you hear the other songs!Especially "SoHo" cant get it out of my head :)

Madame Arcati said...

Tell Bryn to put stuff on YouTube or someplace so I can showcase.

Simon Reuben White said...

leave it to us...maybe we should film him in concert - he's way better than that french bloke!

Duralex said...

From what I heard, there's absolutely no way Phillips's voice can seriously compete with Polnareff's, no matter the musical environment. But I won't insist, you're obviously biased! :-)

veritas said...

I think Madame makes fair comment Duralex-the difference between an orchestrated performance and an impromptu one makes all the difference as demonstrated by that tired old cow Madonna who, if asked to sing live without musical accompaniment, would find a wall of shoes thrown at her.

Come on Bryn-get some nice polished performances onto youtube and such-there is a world of fans out there just waiting for you.

Anonymous said...

Jenny Runacre could have had a great Hollywood career after refusing to sleep with Jack Nicholson on 'The Passenger' but she chose to follow Derek Jarman and became an aspiring art tart.

Anonymous said...

that piece you played was very meaningful. It makes one glad that they invented the internet, as if they hadnt who the fu*k would care about the posturings of some art school rejects.

Anonymous said...

Bryn also played this 'Femme Fatale" piece at Farah Damji's book launch at the same venue, July 2009. How very apt!!

And, instead of burning Gordon Brown, Mark McGowan was putting snails on his face!!!

I hear that Damji has fallen out with these and many others at a book launch. Anyone know why?