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 http://www.myspace.com/privatelives 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.