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Jonny Fluffypunk - Interview

  by Amanda J. Window

published: 16 / 7 / 2020

Jonny Fluffypunk - Interview


Amanda J. Window speaks to Jonny Fluffypunk – a poet in love with the spirit of punk and DIY. He explains why he recently jumped at the chance to 'sell out'.

While watching endless TV during lockdown, you may have suddenly been distracted from the mundaneness of endless repeats by a short, one-minute advert from Nationwide filled the screen? The poetic voice resonating with us all about "this strange dream" and how we have all adapted, temporarily, to a new way of living? This was my introduction to Jonny FluffyPunk. From that moment, I found myself watching him performing at various venues on YouTube. Jonny Fluffypunk went from being a teenage 'anarcho-punk' living in a small village to taking on a famous tour, 'How I came to be where I never was'. His recounts of life transformed into poems are pure genius and genuine; a punk with a safety pin through his heart and a quest for a greener planet. We had the honour of interviewing Jon (at a distance of course). PB: On your tour 'How I Came to Be Where I Never Was' is a story about being the first punk in the village and being the only trainspotter wearing eyeliner. Who were you listening to growing up, and what did 'the locals' think about the eyeliner? JF: At that time, I was very into anarcho-punk. I somehow seamlessly moved from whatever was on the radio, or 'Top of the Pops' – pretending to be into Duran Duran to impress a girl on the school bus – to Crass, Subhumans, Rudimentary Peni and all that stuff. A teacher at school had got people to bring in music, and one lad played a tape by Flux of Pink Indians. I'd never heard anything like it. Angry, abrasive and totally authentic. And I just went "YES!!!!" And that was that. I used to listen to that stuff on the walkman as I did my paper round. The eyeliner? On the whole, old ladies were very supportive. Stockbroker types less so. My beautifully unjudgemental nan gave me a box of her old earings to put in my pierced nose. Bless her. PB: Which bands do you listen to now? JF: I love stuff that's lo-fi, home-produced and DIY. People following their star, that comes from the heart and isn't slaughtered by over-production. So it's still the punk attitude, even if the music's more varied. Currently, I'm really into people like Jeffrey Lewis, Darren Hayman, the late, great Daniel Johnston. And some who've been going for years and are still bashing away in their beautiful little corners, like Jad Fair and Half Japanese, Wreckless Eric, and R Stevie Moore, the godfather of lo-fi home recording. Billy Childish is always a good bet, too. Oh, and Sleaford Mods are the brutal intensity of punk mixed with electronica – I love them. PB: Do you still own any 'records' from your younger days? If so, which ones? JF: Not many, I'm ashamed to say. I've sold my record collection numerous times to fund other nefarious activities. I meant to tape everything before I sold it; I started alphabetically, but I got fed up of doing it by the time I got to D. At one point I had tons of cassettes, but they were all by bands that began with A, B or C. One 7" I've always hung onto though was the 'Where's Bill Grundy Now?'EP by the Television Personalities, with 'Part-Time Punks' on it. That's an all-time classic. PB: You've been an established poet for some time now – so how did you get into poetry? JF: I was always good at writing at school. At 16, I wanted to be in a band, of course, but I was crap at learning the guitar, my mum had destroyed any confidence in singing, and I was a bit of a loner anyway. Radio 4 was always on in our house, a dreary background drone. One day I was lying on the sofa and punk poet Attila the Stockbroker popped up on it for some reason, ranting poetically and satirically about 'Russians in the DHSS'. I got that kick in the guts feeling and suddenly saw my future. Ranting poetically and satirically, that is, not the DHSS… ('DHSS' is what they called the jobcentre in the '80s.) PB: Carl Burkitt is one of your favourite poets. Which poem of his really resonates with you? JF: I love the whole concept of Carl Burkitt. Unburdened by success, his poems are short, and accessible, and get you in the heart with their tender humanity and Carl's marvellous way with a simile. Funnily enough, the one he put up on Instagram today has immediately become my favourite poem of his, ever. It's about a checkout lady in Sainsbury's. Carl knows that the greatest beauty can be found in the smallest things. PB: You've produced two poetry books – will there be a third? If so, can you give away any secrets yet? JF: There'll hopefully be many more, yes. Creativity is a demanding mistress. My previous books have come out with 'proper' publishers, but I've an idea for a little series of DIY homemade ones as it's so immediate and you have full control. They'll be like little concept albums. And it's a nod to the DIY, punk ethic I came from, and to the working methods of my favourite musicians. The first one will be full of poems that came about after seeing a bit of fluorescent tennis ball fluff that had escaped the tennis ball fabric factory near my house and was living incongruously in the dead weeds beside the canal. I felt it was a brave, bold alternative lifestyle choice for something with so predetermined a destiny. As far as I'm concerned, that bit of yellow fluff had attitude. PB: John Peel likened you to John Cooper Clarke – How does that feel? JF: Um, I don't think he did. You're confusing me with someone else here. Other people have made that comparison, but then poor old Johnny Clarke is the go-to comparison for almost all stand-up poets. It feels OK. John's a fine poet. A reviewer once said of me "like John Hegley, but with more unfortunate lifestyle choices", which is probably more accurate. PB: You've just appeared on a TV advert for Nationwide – reciting your poetry about 'lockdown' – How did that come about? JF: They asked. And it was just after my entire career had gone over the COVID cliff, so my starving children put Nerf guns to my head and made me do it. In truth, poets – the lame ducks on the golden pond of showbusiness – rarely get the chance to sell out, so when the opportunity comes, you grasp it with your ink-stained hands. Just to see what it feels like. PB: Lockdown has been a tough time for everyone. How are you surviving it? JF: I built a writing shed and studio at the end of the garden. I've been meaning to for years but never had the time. And now I've done it. It felt good. To be honest, I didn't have too bad a lockdown. I live on the edge of town and could get out into the woods and fields with no social distancing problems. So all those sunny days, I was cooking breakfast over campfires with my little boy and teaching him outdoor stuff. That, and building the shed. Our local pub didn't shut; it just turned itself into a handy corner shop with a massive off-licence section. So we had it pretty easy. PB: What festivals were you due to perform this year and are they being rescheduled for next summer? JF: Off the top of my head: Glastonbury, WOMAD, Green Gathering, Shambala and a couple of smaller ones. I'm sure they'll all happen again next year, and yes I'll be there. I'm involved in running the spoken word stages at WOMAD and Shambala. PB: What's your favourite festival so far, and why? JF: What, ever? I came out of the free festival circuit in the 1980s, and it's all changed so massively over the years since then, so it's hard to put a finger on one in particular. These days, I really enjoy the Green Gathering, as it still has a feel of the old free festival days. Very happy-go-lucky and not constrained by minor details like time and schedules. I mean, you're down in the programme as doing a gig, and if you're lucky it'll happen within 12 hours of the advertised time. And you can pop up in cafes and do a few poems in exchange for a cuppa and a vegan flapjack, and that's the way I like it, baby. PB: A Question from my punk friend Candace Ramone: how do you know you're a punk? JF: 'Cause of the safety pin stuck in my heart. Punk, to me, was always about an attitude rather than a look or even a musical style. Legendary punk bands like Alternative TV and the Apostles got very experimental very quickly; The Apostles released albums of jazz instrumentals, and the spikey-tops grumbled, but it was fiercely DIY, uncompromising and true to themselves, and that's what it's all about. My para-boots and spiked hair died long ago, but the DIY soul is still there. PB: How can we inspire the young generation to be more poetic? JF: By example, I guess. They're getting there faster than my generation did. The poetry/spoken word scene was really exploded in the last few years, and it's got less in common with the mainstream poetry world than it has with the music scene. And that makes it sexier and more appealing to lost kids looking for an outlet. PB: Have you heard of the Punk Scholars Network at Bolton University and have you ever considered lecturing? JF: Nope, never heard of that. But it sounds alright, doesn't it? 'Punk Scholars' makes me think of the Bash Street Kids in the Beano. PB: Questions from my colleague Andrew Twambley: so, we have had no access to the barbers since lockdown, who is looking after your moustache? JF: No one. It's suffering. PB: What's all this about a shadow puppet within your act? JF: I do little solo theatre shows alongside the poetry. So, yeah, shadow puppets. I just like them. They're magic. All these things are just tools to help you express yourself as an artist. I'm a performer; I love performing and working a crowd. I couldn't ever be 'just' a poet reading out his poems. So many people are allergic to poetry, anyway. You have to smuggle poetry in while you distract them, like a guerrilla raid on enemy territory. Shadow puppets and comedy and a kid's toy accordion are part of the camouflage. PB: Covid19 has brought much misery upon us all... but one aspect that you'll be happy with is the lack of air traffic. Do you miss flying around? JF: No. I love my work, but I've thoroughly enjoyed not driving. I've had to get into making films. Lots of Arts Spaces that I do gigs at have wanted little films to put online. So rather than driving down the motorway, I've been driven round the bend by useless phone film editing apps. PB: This question comes in two parts: 1. You are famously nihilistic. What makes you happy? 2.Can you answer this as a sonnet? JF: 1) A slug of Aldi fake Baileys in my Barley Cup. 2) You must be joking Fourteen lines? It's gone midnight. This haiku will do. PB: Thank you.

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Jonny Fluffypunk - Interview

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