Craig Charles is gonna sink the boat

Actor, stand up comic, poet, radio presenter and club DJ Craig Charles is about to unleash his compilation album, The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club. It’s taken up residency on our stereo at the moment, with its rip snorting, bass drum banging, brass blaring booga-bloody-loo, big beats, bass lines and blooming brilliant vocals. Something You Said’s very own funk connoisseur, 25ThC, caught up with Mr Charles to discuss the album, his upcoming club nights and, of course, the return of Red Dwarf:

Hi Craig. Your new album is out soon and it sounds fantastic, with a lot of great tracks on there that I hadn’t heard before. I was also happy to see Prince Fatty’s Insane In The Membrane on there as I’m a big fan of his.
Glad you like the album. I um’d and ah’d about that one to be honest but put it on anyway. Its a very difficult thing to do, you know, because what we tried to do is recreate the feeling and vibe you get in the club. A lot of the tracks have been around for a while but it’s not like we were bringing out stuff that’s completely new, and when you’ve got a record collection like mine trying to pick just 19 is a fucking nightmare.

Will there be more albums in the future?
Yeah, we are going to do three of these. There is going to be another one next year and one the year after, or maybe two next year.

It’s certainly an album that has its upbeat tracks as well as slower more soulful numbers.
Yeah, it’s just feel good tub-thumping, hip-moving music and trying to take you on a bit of a journey as well. In the club we always start out hard with something like The Excitements coming out of Spain and The Bamboos from Australia. When you’ve got people going at it for 50 minutes they need a bit of a break sometimes, so we then drop it down a bit with something like Nostalgia 77 & Alice Russell’s cover of Seven Nation Army – what a tune!

So the album is more a feel for the club nights than what you do on the radio show?
Yeah, a club night feel, but then again every track on there I have played on the radio show. The club nights are a bit different, as on the radio you don’t have to keep people dancing all the time and you can play slowies, ballads etc, and on the club nights you’re generally trying to keep people sweating.

I came to the Soundcrash Boat Party in the summer and it went off big time.
That’s the kind of feel we are trying to get on the album, pure “lets have a party”. Its funny because I went to do the Soundwave party in Croatia on a massive boat and the captain came up to me in the middle of the gig and said, “This is no good. It’s no good”. I said “What do you mean its no good? People are going fucking mental.” He said, “No, no no! You’re gonna sink the boat, you’re gonna sink the boat!” Everyone was going fucking ballistic.

I can well imagine the scene. What do you do in terms of finding tunes these day? Do you get all your tracks sent in or do you still go digging?
I still go digging although I’ve got loads of people digging for me. People phone me up and say, “Craig, have you heard this? Have you got that track?” Quite often when I’m DJing in a city area, I try to go the independent record shops but its getting harder and harder and harder to find them. So I go to charity shops like Oxfam as they always have a little section going on. So I still go digging, but I’m in a very privileged position with people sending me stuff.

There also seems to be a big revival of funk and brass bands in recent times. Do you think thats partly to do with you and your show?
I think I was reacting to them really. The scene is sort of like symbiotic. If you look at the album, 80 percent of it is new music getting made today by Europe and the World. We are all dealing with the golden era of black American music but I am more interested in the kind of worldwide, European, and British response to that music in the present day. All the music is alive. Its done by bands that are working and recording now. There are only a few oldies on there, like Al Wilson’s The Snake. I had to put at least one Northern tune on there and it’s my favourite Northern tune. The album is not a history lesson about the golden days, it’s about whats happening now and when you listen to it you think “Fucking hell, what’s happening now is really fantastic and I’d better get down to one of these clubs and dance to it!”

You have some gigs lined up soon with live bands accompanying you. Is this a regular thing?
Yeah, most of the gigs we do, we have a live band on before us and we have had some fantastic bands. We have had Maceo Parker, Speedometer with Martha High who was James Brown’s backing singer for 30 years. That was fucking stunning. And Federation Of The Disco Pimp – man, what a band. There is such a brilliant scene of what’s going on now. I curate the Mostly Jazz Festival every summer and last year had Sly & The Family Stone, Odyssey, Fred Wesley and George Clinton. I get to DJ and play with some of great fucking legends and I get to hang with them. The good thing is a lot of them know my name because they see it on their royalty cheques!

Aside from your Djing, its good to see Red Dwarf back on the screens. I’m enjoying the new series.
Its going really well and Im really pleased, dead happy. It could have gone both ways because when you are messing with a legacy like that… if it’s not as good then everyone is like, “Why did they bother?” I do genuinely believe that the new episodes are as funny if not funnier than the old ones and thats how you know if something has stood up or not.

I remember watching it back in the 90s and it doesn’t seem like anything has changed between the four of you.
Thats what we thought. We didn’t want anything to change. Its like you get old bands that say that they have had to give up their sound to carry on. We are doing situation comedy. The situation is we are in space and the comedy is that we can’t stand each other. Lets just get on with it and make it funny.

Is there plans for more after this series?
Yeah I think so. It’s been recieved so well and the viewing figures have been massive. For once the reviews have been good because that never used to happen back in the day. We never got good reviews. The press hated us. It was just the people that loved us. Now even the press like us so I think we will do some more. It would be stupid not to. What we are doing is a new beginning and not like a full stop.

Thanks for your time Craig. I’m gonna come down to the Brighton gig and the Soundcrash Boat Party so I’ll check out your set then.
Come and say hello mate, you’re always welcome. See ya.

The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Club album is out on the 26th November and Craig will be DJing at the following events:

Saturday 24th November: Album Launch Party, Band on the Wall – Manchester
Friday 14th December: 51 Degrees – Preston
Saturday 15th December: Concorde 2 – Brighton
Saturday 22nd December: Soundcrash Boat Party – London
Sunday 23rd December: Chic Bar – Hitchin
Sunday 30th December: The Duchess – York


Interview by 25ThC.