Ray Peacock interview
AD: For the past three years you’ve worked with Ed Gamble on the Peacock and Gamble live shows. How different is that to your solo work? People seem to either love it or hate it…
RP: We [Peacock and Gamble] did a gig in Brighton once on the Don’t Want To Be On Telly tour and there was this girl at the front. She was practically right on stage, right at the front – didn’t crack a smile, arms folded, she looked proper angry. And we just kept alluding to it on stage, and kept mentioning it, until – I think it was during Naughty Keith – we couldn’t deal with it anymore, and I just spoke directly at her.
I said, ‘Why are you here? There’s been an interval and you’ve come back!’, and she pointed at the bloke next to her and said, ‘It’s his birthday.’ She was fucking furious, and he was obviously a massive fan. I said to her, ‘You don’t like us at all do you?’ and she said, ‘No, I think it’s rubbish!’
She’d bought him two tickets for his birthday and she was there with him – but she fucking hated it. We’ve thought about that loads since then; if you don’t like something I think it’s best to just say, ‘Here’s two tickets, take one of your mates to it’ – but to sit right at the front, proper angry, ruined his night as well!
Interestingly, though, we had no actual walkouts for Don’t Want To Be On Telly – none at all – which was probably our most successful show.
With Heart-Throbs, for example, you had to be invested in us already. It was kind of a failing on our part a little, but we wanted to round up the story. Heart-Throbs was the hardest show for somebody with no familiarity with us at all to just watch and understand and get on board with.
We tried to make it more successful with the Jimmy Savile jokes at the beginning and all that sort of stuff – with me getting those jokes wrong and all that – but when you get into the intricacies of the relationship people who hadn’t already invested in us, be that through the podcast or through the previous two live shows, it wouldn’t have packed the same punch with those people.
They’d only known us for twenty minutes anyway before we started rowing – so maybe that was a failing on our part, but what outweighed that was our desire to round-up that story and that relationship. We’ve put a pretty definite end on that, really.
AD: Is that it then in terms of live shows with Ed?
RP: Well, in that format I’d say a 90 to 95% definite yes. In that format. We wouldn’t rule out working live together again, but it wouldn’t be those two characters – it’d be something different to that. I’ve always liked the idea of us doing a play, or something someone else has written and us performing in it – because we’ve got such a good relationship on and off stage. I think we could actually apply that to something else in a different format.
I know we never discussed it; we never sat down and said, ‘This was the last show.’ We didn’t do that, and I can’t speak for Ed, but on my part before we’d even put pen to paper on that show I was sure that would be the last one we’d do with those characters.
AD: Is that purely because you think it’s reached the end of its shelf life?
RP: I’ve always been that person… Even with the podcast and things, when a section is going really well like the Fraser letters or a running section like in the old Ray Peacock Podcast, if there was one week where I was struggling to write it that was the warning sign that we can’t maintain the quality this, so stop it.
And people always go, ‘Bring back Ed’s Amazing Deaths’, but if we did that and just carried on doing that you wouldn’t have the sections that followed like ‘Ray Says A Food’. So I’ve always been – and I don’t know whether it’s detrimental or not – the sort who’ll go, ‘This isn’t working as well now, so just stop it. Don’t try and fix it.’
So I certainly felt that with those two characters. We didn’t have Naughty Keith in the last show, and that was because we literally had no idea what to do with it. Weirdly at the back end of the Heart-Throbs tour we brought him back. We just had Naughty Keith on the floor on the stage, all the way through it, and there was one point where I’d go, ‘What is that?’ and Ed would go, ‘I don’t know, what is that?’, and I’d say, ‘I don’t know – it’s weird, isn’t it?’ and that was it.
So that was just one little nod to it being a thing, that even I forgot about it and couldn’t remember what it was. It was just a weird bin bag on the floor.
I read a thing about Chris Sievey once. He was in a band called The Freshies in Manchester – they’d been around for a while, had minor hits and stuff – but just at the point where they were going to get their break that was also the point where Chris Sievey said, ‘I’m bored with this’ and created Frank Sidebottom. He just stopped doing it, and it was tremendously frustrating to those around him, but I’ve always thought, ‘Yeah , but that gave us Frank Sidebottom.’
So that stubbornness at worst, or that freedom at best, ended up giving us Frank Sidebottom. And who knows, if Chris had survived, by all accounts he was going to take the hat off and go into a different phase of his life – and I’m confident that would’ve been amazing as well. But there’ll always be people who’ll say, ‘But I liked Frank Sidebottom!’
It’s an odd streak through me, and I think it perhaps does frustrate some people around me that once I decide I’ve had enough of something I do stop it. Even management this year were going, ‘You should definitely go back to Edinburgh with another [Peacock and Gamble] show. You should definitely do another show.’ And we thought, ‘Na, we’re going to do solo shows’. We did round it up – that was done, within the writing as well.
When we were writing Heart-Throbs I knew that Ed was filming Almost Royal in America, and I knew we had to pull a fair few gigs while he was in America, but we couldn’t talk about that because this show relied on people not knowing that they were characters.
But, when we were writing that show, I’d pre-empted this idea that one of this double act is now going to go on to be more well known than the other, or to be elevated by what they’re doing. So what I then did in the writing, certainly in the bits I wrote, we mirrored that where it was me becoming the famous one in Japan, with Ed dealing with that. So it was exploring, before it happened, what’s actually going on in real life now with Ed – which I think was quite a healthy thing for us to do because we’re prepped for it.
It means that Ed won’t now go and become an unbearable arsehole after being on TV in America, because he’s already been in a show that said, ‘Being an unbearable arsehole will cost you your friendship’.
So yes, maybe that was me putting an argument in place. If Ed becomes a cunt I will say, ‘It’s like you never even did Heart-Throbs. You weren’t even listening to us!’
AD: Have you seen Almost Royal yet? It’s going to be on E4, isn’t it?
RP: I’ve not – I’ve seen bits and bobs of it. We’ve known for a while [about the show being on E4], and it’s weird knowing things in advance. On the radio [Peacock and Gamble co-host a show every Monday on Fubar radio] it’s so hard for me to keep my mouth shut when I know things. Every week I’ve been tempted to slag off E4 knowing Ed can’t – and also can’t say why he can’t!
AD: I wanted to talk to you about Fubar; it’s almost the next chapter of Peacock and Gamble now you’re not working together live…
RP: I’m a great believer in uncensored radio, but there’s going to be lots of difficulties with it, and those difficulties are in plain sight, and in open air, and we talk about them on the show. I believe in it as a thing; it’s a way of monetizing podcasts essentially. It’s taking the ethos of podcasts and applying it to a radio station set-up.
There’s always a risk, and I don’t think we’ve fallen into this trap, that when you’re told you can do what you want you then go out your way to be offensive, and I think some people do fall into that trap. I don’t think we have, but there are other people who have joined the station since, who are from a radio background, who don’t understand that radio rules don’t apply. They’ll be upset because we’re saying certain things, but there’s no rules. The whole point is freedom of speech.
I know, for example, there was a huge furore when Jon Gaunt joined, and I fiercely defended that, on air and off air, because whilst I can pinpoint the offensive parts of what he does I think he’s brilliant at what he does. He’s a brilliant presenter; he’s brilliant at provoking and getting a discussion going.
There were certain comics on Twitter, and even presenters, saying, ‘If this carries on I’m not staying here!’, but the ethos of Fubar is freedom of speech and you get all opinions. You get everything. I can’t argue for us being allowed to say what we want on our show and also argue that someone else shouldn’t be allowed to say what they think.
This might sound egomaniacal, but I think me and Ed totally get it, but others have perhaps got confused in their own politics or their own interpretation of freedom of speech.
AD: I think a lot of people got upset when Jon Gaunt joined because they thought it was meant to be a comedy station…
RP: I think what happened was that they had the idea for the station, and their first port of call for acquiring talent was podcasts, and podcasts are predominately produced by comedians, so that’s how they ended up with us, Herring, Chris and Carl.
There’s no reason there can’t be non-comedians doing their shows – but I think even some of those people don’t understand freedom of speech.
It’s not TalkSport, and it’s not the BBC. I’m allowed to go on the show on Monday and ring up ASDA because I personally have been mistreated by a security guard in their store. I’m allowed to do that, and I like that – not just for me, but for the listeners as well. But I do it mainly to get a free PS4. And if anyone sends you a PS4 after reading this interview that’s my PS4. I will find out!
AD: You’ve also got a sex show with Angela Barnes, haven’t you? How did that come about?
RP: I, maybe rather arrogantly, feel it’s a really important show. It’s really well done. It’s pretty serious in parts, and we get a lot of emails about sexual problems that we deal with alongside experts.
When we were setting it up, we were both concerned that it would be [a distorted view of sex]. I remember them saying, ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got a pipeline of Page 3 girls who could come in’, and when they used the phrase ‘pipeline of Page 3 girls’ Angela’s head fell into her hands. So we fought hard to say, ‘It’s not about that. It’s not about getting someone in to get their tits out, or me flirting with someone. If there are elements of that in the show they have to be countered.’
So if we do have a Page 3 model on the show, for example, we also have to have someone on the show who is part of the Stop Page 3 campaign and balance it in that way – so it’s not just a cheap, tatty, Nuts Magazine show. That’s not the sort of show we wanted to do.
I will still say inappropriate things, but it’s nicely balanced within the show, so it’s an entertaining listen whilst also being pretty informative and going places that, again, you couldn’t with Radio 4 because it’s too extreme.
We’re not sniggering school children; we’re talking about sex in a very open and candid way I think. We’re genuinely quietly proud of it, but like I said before, I could turn up next week and say, ‘That’s enough of that’. I’m a time bomb at the best of times!
- Ray Peacock: Here Comes Trouble, Underbelly, Bristo Square, Edinburgh, 30 July – 24 August, 9.25pm, £11/£10 concessions, underbellyedinburgh.co.uk
- The Peacock and Gamble Show, Mondays, 1pm-4pm, Fubar Radio, fubarradio.com
- Barnes and Peacock Do Sex, Tuesdays, 7pm-10pm, Fubar Radio, fubarradio.com