THEY may have recently been described by the NME as “the Chuckle Brothers of Britpop” (a compliment any day in my book), but reformed 90s pop warriors Dodgy were always far more than three cheeky chappies up for a giggle on Never Mind The Buzzcocks. For a start, they have their own philosophy - the Way of Dodgy; at least one commandment on every recording; now numbering in their 30s. They have a pale ale named after them. And a beer. Beat that, Chuckle Brothers.
On top of all that, Dodgy care. A lot. They care about their fans; they care greatly about the music (new album Stand Upright In A Cool Place, out now!), and they care about the way it is presented to their fans in its myriad forms. Let us worship at their feet and allow drummer Math Priest to tell us more...
LightsGoOut: Who does your artwork, and where did you find them?
Math Priest: A psychedelic warrior called Russell Hardman (www.growabrain.co.uk). Like most things to do with this album, we started working together in quite an organic way. Besides being a cosmic pioneer, he's also an art teacher, and he used to teach the daughter of a great friend of ours, Robin Evans, who helped produce the album.
Russell was a big fan of ours when he was a kid and I think we helped form his psychedelic mind, if you know what I mean ,*wink*.
My brother was the designer for the band back in the 90s and Russell is a massive fan of his work. so we made sure that my bro was on hand for inspiration and approval
LGO: How much input into the look and feel of Dodgy’s artwork do you have as band members?
MP: Well, everything has to be approved by all of us, which can be a shitty process for the artist as two of us could like something, and then it gets rejected by the third member.
It happened with the cover for Stand Upright In A Cool Place. Russell had designed this really unique-looking sleeve with a penguin on the front and we all approved it, but then Nigel [Clark, singer] changed his mind a few weeks later. This quite understandably infuriated Russell, but Nigel was right to question it as Russell came back with an even better sleeve. I'd even go so far as to say it's an absolute classic album sleeve. One of the greats.
LGO: Nowadays have you got more control over artwork and suchlike than you did back in the 90s when you were on a major label, or did you always have an input?
MP: We've always had final say on the artwork but as my brother, who was a highly regarded designer back then, was doing the design, we kinda trusted him. He'd known the band from the beginning and totally understood our ethos and where we were coming from. In fact, his ideas and designs were integral to the whole image and vibe of the band.
Within the band, Andy [Miller, guitarist] is very artistic, he has a good eye. And quite an attractive forearm.
LGO: Which are your fave album and single covers from your catalogue?
MP: My fave album cover has to be this new one, I can stare at it for hours, in fact I have. You can meditate with it. Closely followed by the sleeve to the Ace A's and Killer B's best of; we employed a horticulture school to plant the flowers - it took a bit of planning that one. Sad times, though.
For a single, nothing beats our first-ever sleeve for Summer Fayre/St Lucia back in 1991.
LGO: Your CD booklets have often been quite fun [1994’s Homegrown aptly featured instructions on how to build the perfect spliff] - do you think the CD format is one that works well with good artwork, or do you prefer good old vinyl-size covers?
MP: Of course nothing beats an old LP sleeve but the trick with CDs was about being creative with the restrictions. I like discovering new things every time you pick up the CD.
LGO: Tell us about the Way of Dodgy.
MP: My brother was always a spiritual soul, always trying to find some kind of inner-peace, though he did used to search for it in the strangest places :-)
The Ways of Dodgy appeared on every release since the single Water Under The Bridge in 1993 and were started by him really, so he could dispense some of his little aphorisms. Some made you think, some were just plain silly. We used to chip in with quite a few, my favourites were:
The Way of Dodgy No. 2: The only thing that you should worship, is the ground you walk upon
The Way of Dodgy No. 18a: The only nation you should have pride in is your imagination
LGO: Seeing as you’re appearing in the hallowed pages of LightsGoOut... are you a little bit punk?
MP: Absolutely, Nige was a punk. That's how we bonded in the early days - I would introduce him to lots of soul like Sly and The Family Stone and he would introduce me to The Clash and the Ruts. I had to draw the line on some of the stuff he liked as I felt you kinda had to be there, like Crass, Subhumans etc. But that mistrust of authority that Nige got from punk has certainly permeated everything Dodgy has done.
As for a modern punk band, I fucking love Cerebral Ballzy. Are they punk? [I dunno... Mr T, are they punk?]
- First published in Lights Go Out issue 17, June 2012. To buy a real papery copy and for loads more punk zine fun, visit www.lightsgoout.co.uk