Sunday, 7 April 2013

The True Gentleman - An Interview with Mr B

"Cheery-bye Mum," I shouted as I slammed the back door. Sammy, my faithful Basset hound following me, I leapt on my chopper, ready for a day of stunt biking and perhaps some mystery solving, and sped off.
"Gosh," I puffed as I cycled up the road towards the park, "I wonder what jolly japes we get up to today, eh Sammy?". I turned to see Sammy struggling up the hill, he was a bit of a shit dog, but I did love him. I stopped my bike and waited for him to slowly lollop up the road. Why hadn't mum bought me a sheepdog like she'd promised?
While waiting, I scanned my surroundings. Through the gate there was the park, and just there in the middle of the park was the little cafĂ©, that served hot chocolates, and iced buns. I checked my pockets, ooh, maybe enough for a doughnut. "Oh goody," I thought, licking my lips with anticipation. 

Then, just as Sammy had finally caught up, I spotted him. My eyes lit up - oh Golly! There he was! Dressed in tweed, with a dapper tie and moustache curled with all the joie de vivre of a renaissance dandy, there was Mr.B! Mr.B the chap-hop Gentleman rhymer! Would I dare go over and talk to him? Would I dare? Yes, I blumming well would!

I parked my bike up, and with my most speedy of walks I headed towards him. My tummy fluttered like a nervously caged budgie, and I stopped by his table and smiled. He was tucking into the most enormous Knickerbocker Glory and it looked good, even Sammy's chops were drooling, then again they always did.

I stood there, grinning at him until the air became a little uncomfortable.

"Excuse me," I said timidly, "Gosh, I'm such a terrific fan of yours Mr.B, would you answer some questions for me?", dreaming of the ring binder that I could fill with Gentleman facts.

He looked up from his pudding and smiled, his face full with clotted cream and strawberries. 

The waitress came over,  and in a quaintly common voice asked what I wanted to order. I couldn't help it and asked for the same as the Gentleman. He smiled again, face still full of pud, and taking it as an invitation I sat down.

I took out my trusty pad and paper and leant forward in anticipation of my first answer.

"Mr.B, you are such a spiffing fellow and your music is tops, your album has been described as a 'psychedelic chap-hop masterpiece', what a coup! How on God's green earth did you come up with your unique style of rap?" I asked.

He swallowed his mouthful, wiped and straightened his moustache and answered, I was on tenterhooks.

Chap-Hop was something of a culmination of many things I'd done in the past, from 'straight up' rap to banjolele covers, from quirky breakbeat disco production to being in a dandy punk band. Just thought I'd bung everything together and see what occurred. Chap-Hop occurred!

"Gosh Gentleman, that's super! So who has influenced you along the way, both in music and, of course, your unique and sweet, sweet style?" I inquired. My mother had always said that flattery got you everywhere, let's see if it got me an answer.

Crikey, so many splendid types. Old school hip-hop types such as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa, Noel Coward, Ronald Frankau, George Formby...the list goes on... they tend to be stylish musicians.

I continued, "You always look like you're in your Sunday best Gentleman! What era would you class yourself as? Surely not the 21st Century?!" 

I suppose I am a 21st century chap out of time.

The cockney waitress brought over my Knickerbocker Glory. She was obviously not very bright, but I thanked her anyway as my mum had always taught me to be polite. I tucked in, but not before asking another question.

"I saw a programme of yours Gentleman, and you seem to do a lot of festivals, what are they like? Which is your favourite?"

I do indeed. The Croissant Neuf stage at Glastonbury is always fun, Bestival and Camp Bestival are lovely. Latitude was a raucous show in the poetry arena. They're all lovely and it is the audience which makes them so.

I wanted to ask about all the hippies. I'd seen a film of festivals at school, and my teacher said not to trust hippies; because they were smelly and didn't like to work, but before I had time to ask him, he'd already started again. I tucked into my ice-cream and listened intently.

Festival audiences tend be splendidly open-minded. Either that or they're simply out of their tiny little minds on something rather naughty.

I wasn't quite sure what he meant by that, maybe they stayed up late and didn't finish their vegetables? That is naughty. My teacher must have been right. I decided to change the subject.

"What do other rappers think of you?" I inquired, rather quizzically. 

I believe they are terrified. 

Again the meaning of his answer eluded me. He seemed such a pleasant chap, maybe he wears a scary mask or something on stage, but I certainly wasn't scared.

He was getting to the end of his pudding now, I had to think on my feet. I know, I thought, I'll impress him with my knowledge. I searched through my note pad under the note that was headed; 'Questions to ask if I ever met one of my musical heroes and have to impress him'. Oh yes, this was a good one. I read it very carefully;

Do you think that bands like The Bonzo Dog Doo Da band paved the way for artists like you, giving credibility to 'comedy' music? Neil Innes astutely pointed out that some of his music was silly, but it was still good music, 'good, silly music'. 

He was absolutely bang on there. Comedy music often doesn't work because it's comedians trying to do music or musicians trying to do comedy. Usually they'll forget one or the other. I like to think that I try my very best at every aspect of what I do. So if you don't find it amusing, you may enjoy the music or vice versa and what have you.

I also remembered something I'd seen on the news, Kevin Ayres had died. I asked for his reaction to this.

It is always sad to lose a high quality clever musical loony. 

This was going just splendidly, I thought. I checked my notes, "What's next for you?" I asked,  "More rap battles? I've heard about you and Professor Elemental. Have you checked his credentials, I suspect he's not a real professor though, have you asked to see his certification?" 

Next up is recording the next album, entitled (at the mo) 'Can't Stop, Shan't Stop', which should be splendid fun.
As far as battles go...well, the Prof and I have rather called a truce at the mo, so I doubt there will be any battles in the near future.

He was down to the cherry sauce now, just time to squeeze in a couple more. Oh yes, I thought of a fabulous question, "Who would be in your dream band?" I asked.

He replied

2nd Banjolele: George Formby
Bass: Lee Rocker
Piano: Hugh Laurie
Trombone: Louis Armstrong (he'll learn it quick enough)
DJ: Kool Herc
Backing dancers: Ginger Rogers and Rachel Riley from Countdown.

I laughed to be polite, but to be completely honest I didn't have the foggiest notion who most of those people were, and by golly they did have funny names. I went to school with a chap called Ginger Swithington-Rogers, who we used to pelt relentlessly with oranges for having red hair. Oh those were happy days, I wondered if it was the same fellow?

Now both the Gentleman's and my own Knickerbocker Glories were all but empty glasses, so I thought I just pop in one final question about all my favourite rappers - apart from the Gentleman that was.

So, Gentleman, who do you think is the best rapper of the classic? They are of course Blondie, Adam Ant and obviously the Wham! boys?

Apart from those three I would have to give it to MC Mikey G (of MC Mikey G and DJ Sven). When he ringa-ranga-donged for that holiday a new art form was truly born.

"Well thank you Mr.B, you are indeed both an excellent Rhymer and a Gentleman," I said politely. The waitress came over and put down the bill, and I noticed that she had added mine onto the Gentleman's. "Oh you are a nice man, I shall run home and tell my mother and father what a spiffing chap you are, and that you answered all my questions and you paid for my treat and everything. Oh thank you Gentleman! Gosh! Thank you!"  

Well yes....I suppose so, he answered as I jumped on my bike and excitedly left the park, rushing back to tell my mum the news of my fabulous encounter with Mr.B, The Gentleman Rhymer.

Oh, and I never did see Sammy again. 


  1. Nice to get an insight into the mind of Mr B. The one artist who combines the sensibilities of Grandmaster Flash and Noel Coward. More folks like this please, culture.

  2. I would have wondered about the nerve of the scalawag, taking advantage of your good nature, but they got a nice article from the encounter for all to share!

  3. Was he a foreigner as he seemed to have a very un-gentlemanly, one might say cavalier, attitude towards his canine companion.

  4. Love the 'Rachel Riley' mention...glad you have afternoon time on your hands Mr B