INTERVIEW: Craig Charles

Published on, Feb 2017


Craig Charles On Skipping Syd & An Exciting Melb Collab

Lockout laws will see British Red Dwarf star Craig Charles’ funk and soul show skip Sydney, but as Daniel Cribb discovers, that just means more time in Melbourne for an exciting collaboration.

“I could quite easily move to Australia and feel right at home because a lot of the people over there have the same sort of musical sensibilities as me,” Red Dwarf actor and now revered musician Craig Charles begins from his Manchester home, preparing for a trip Down Under.

Despite the climate juxtaposition — Charles currently staring at frost in his garden while Australia powers through another summer heatwave — his funk and soul passion aligns nicely with our scene.

After scoring a regular Funk And Soul Show on BBC radio in 2002, which he still hosts to this day, Charles began performing live, quickly forging a completely new fan base outside of his acting work as the legendary Dave Lister on Red Dwarf, hosting duties on Robot Wars and ten-year stint on UK soap opera Coronation Street.

He released his fourth Funk & Soul Club compilation in December of last year, which opens with Aussie soul legend Kylie Auldist’s Family Tree. “Melbourne’s got such a great funk and soul community going on, with Lance Ferguson and The Bamboos and Black Feeling.”

Auldist’s voice topped numerous charts last year when her feature on Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ This Girl became a global hit via a Kungs remix. “I’ve been championing those guys for years,” Charles says.

With a week off after in the middle of his upcoming Australian tour, Charles is set to enter the studio with them for a unique collaboration, focusing on the UK star’s roots. “They want me to do one of my poems to music, so I’m going to do that and have a proper chillout,” he reveals. “I don’t know what we want to do; we’re just going to spend a day in the studio and see what happens.

“I’ve just done these epic poems called Scary Fairy & The Tales From The Dark Wood, they’re kind of children’s nursery rhymes, but I’ve done them with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and they’re 45 minutes long with a 95-piece orchestra behind them.

“I want to see if I can do funk and soul version of them… Sort of like a concept album.”

Charles has been venturing to Australia for the better part of two decades, and while this trip sees a return to Adelaide and his first-ever Perth date, Sydney will unfortunately miss out. “There’s loads of stuff coming out of Sydney as well, although I’m not playing Sydney this year,” he tells. “I think they’ve got this curfew now in Sydney. That’s going to kill the fucking music scene, isn’t it? I’m shocked that I can’t come over there and play because I love Sydney.

“I was over there doing Robot Wars stuff, staying in Darling Harbour and they gave me my own motorboat and I was sailing around on my motorboat for four weeks — it was brilliant, I didn’t want to go home.”

His touring schedule will also see press for Red Dwarf XI, which dropped last year. “Dave Lister is a very big part of my life. I started playing Dave Lister when I was 23, so he’s been with me my whole adult life, and it’s one of those career-defining roles,” he explains. “I was in Coronation Street for ten years, which is like the biggest show in Britain, but people still call me smeghead in the street,” he laughs.

“He’s a character I’ll never shake off, nor would I want to. I’ve really enjoyed playing Dave Lister and he’s opened a lot of doors for me.”

First airing in 1988, the sci-fi comedy shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. “Red Dwarf XII comes out this year,” he reveals. “That’ll come out in autumn this year. We’ve got all sorts of plans for Red Dwarf XIII and XIV and a stage tour, a stadium tour, which would be fantastic if we could get it off the ground, so it’s exciting times.

“We’ve been doing it nearly 30 years and we pinch ourselves that we’re still getting away with it — four broken down old TV stars stumbling onto a stage, it’s quite cool,” he laughs.

His role as Dave Lister was one of the reasons he got cast to host Aussie favourite Robot Wars. It was revealed last year that Robot Wars would reboot for another season, and the production company made the mistake of moving forward without Charles. “Because we’re in an ageing population, nostalgia is really big business. I don’t think you should mess with people’s nostalgia,” he explains. “We were filming Red Dwarf at the time and they made this new Robot Wars without me hosting it and there was a massive outcry over here from the fans because basically the production company who made it were fucking with their nostalgia.”

Although he’s developed different fan bases for each aspect of his career, that theme of nostalgia binds them all together. The longevity of good TV and film can be compared to that of classic albums. “I have arguments with my misses about this, you know,” he says on that point. “My wife Jackie, she doesn’t watch a film, ‘Aw, we’ve seen that film.’ I can watch a film ten, 20, 30 fucking times. That’s like saying, ‘Oh, I’ve heard that album.’ You listen to an album over and over again.

“You listen to an album over and over again until you learn the lyrics and good TV is like that.”

And there are some records in Charles’ collection that he’s indeed played over and over. “I’ve been collecting records since I was a teenager and it was a hobby for years and then all of a sudden it turned into this parallel profession. I don’t see it like working; I get invited to all the cool parties and I get to play the music.”

Craig Charles’ Australian tour kicks off this Friday, Feb 3, at The German Club, Adelaide, before he takes on Melbourne and Perth.

Check out theGuide for all the info.