‘Like having a big stick in my arse’ – Cabbage’s Lee Broadbent on his broken pubic rami

The VO5 NME Awards Tour 2017 kicks off tomorrow (March 16), with sets from Blossoms, Cabbage and Rory Wynne – but just over a week ago, Cabbage’s frontman Lee Broadbent fractured his pubic rami, a part of the pelvis you really don’t want to break. We talked to Lee about how it happened, how it’ll affect his sets – he’ll be in a wheelchair – and how the other bands are helping him to soldier on.

So Lee, we hear you’ve broken your pubic rami – is that right?

“Pubic rami, yeah. Nice fracture just in time for the NME tour.”

What have the doctors done for you?

“The thing is with a pubic rami – that and the collarbone are the only two bones that you can’t really do anything with. So all they’ve told me to do is, if I don’t use it I lose it, so I need to just keep myself mobile, keep myself from stiffening up. But by 8pm I’m absolutely knackered. So obviously on the tour I’m just going to take advantage with my bell on the end of my wheelchair.”

How the hell did you break it?

“I was trying to catch a train, and at Mossley train station to get on the platform you’ve got to walk through the car park, and on the edge of the car park on the main road, there’s a big 10-foot wall. And the train turned up. When we were kids we used to climb over this 10-foot wall and slide down the streetlights but they’d got rid of the streetlights. So I climbed over and my plan was to shimmy down from the ledge, but I lost my footing at the top, came straight down. The conductor came over with his hand on his mouth, wide-eyed, and there was a load of blood pissing from my head. And just from the adrenaline and the couple of drinks I’d had, I just jumped up and ran and got on the train. He told me he’d get me an ambulance from the next stop, Stalybridge. I knew something was wrong cos I felt like I had a big stick in my arse.”

What happened next?

“I got off at Stalybridge station, which is just the one further up. I sat there, they got an ambulance. I tried making an escape – I was sat at the platform like ‘fuck this, I’m going home’ – so I tried walking, and I got about 20 metres in front of me and I realised something was seriously wrong. So I waited for the ambulance which whisked me off to hospital. I’m currently living with my mum and dad as well and they didn’t even know until the morning.”

When was it? 

“It happened Wednesday night (March 8) at 10 o’clock. Mum thought I was in bed upstairs.”

How is it now?

“It’s still painful, but I’ve just been given a ton of painkillers and I’ve had some physio and I’ve got a chair, a wheelchair and a gutter frame for tour. I can get up and hobble about and everything but obviously it’s a six-week injury to heal so going on a two-week tour, I’ll probably have to play most of it in the chair. And hobble home with my gutter frame. But you know – you’ve got to make the best of it haven’t you? I’m going to get a big flag saying ‘save the NHS’ cos they’ve saved my pelvis.'”

There was a picture of you in a comedy nappy in NME a few weeks ago. Is that a reality for you now?

“I’m not incontinent just yet, that’ll probably come in the next 20 years… But I can bring a few pairs of nappies along. The great thing about that picture was, on my right leg I’ve got this wart that I’ve had for years and it’s in the NME. And I was going to write a song that was gonna be a B-side to one of the singles saying ‘my wart was in the NME’. Think it might make a pretty catch tune, that.”

Cabbage's Lee Broadbent in hospital after breaking his pubic ramiLee Broadbent

You’ve got a long line of great chair-bound musicians to live up to – Dave Grohl, Axl Rose, Kurt Cobain…

“Was he actually injured or was he just…?”

Nah, he was just pretending.

“Yeah he did do the entrance, yeah. Well the thing is, we’ve got a crew member as well, a technician. I’m going to dress him up as an occupational therapist so every night when we come out I’m going to have him pushing me on in a nurse’s uniform.”

Nice. How’s prep going for the tour otherwise? Have you been hanging out with the others? 

“Blossoms are probably one of the busiest bands going on at the minute. They played 180 shows last year, they’ve pretty much kept onto it this year. But we went on tour with them last time so we’ll catch up with them then. Joe, the drummer’s actually sent me a message saying he’s going to figure out a plan/structure for who takes turns wheeling me throughout the day.”

What are your plans for the staging?

“It’s a bit difficult because you don’t want to tread on the headliners’ toes and you’re trying to think of what you can bring to the tour that might make it a little bit more special and different from the others. Thank god I broke my pubic rami because I’ve got it now, haven’t I?

“It’s in no way trying to turn it into something egocentric – like ‘look at me i’m injured but I can still do it’ kind of thing – but I hope that some band look at it and go: ‘Well fucking hell, this is what’s important to you, music truly means something to you, and you can’t let little detriments in your life get in the way of the end mission.’

“I can’t see how being in a wheelchair is gonna stop me from singing shows every night and putting everything into my performance. I might not be able to climb the speakers like normal but I’m pretty sure I can entertain people with my mouth for two weeks.”

How are you feeling about it then?

“Really really excited. Obviously there’s the awkward battle of family members saying ‘you shouldn’t go on tour’ but opportunities like these don’t come round often, do they, and at 25 years old, break or not, you’ve just got to make the best of what you’ve dealt with. Some people are in wheelchairs all the time, aren’t they?”

Will you have a physio coming on tour with you?

“My girlfriend actually is an OT. She’s going to pop along to a couple of shows. She’s been my lifesaver, cos when I got discharged I went to her house and she had to look after me. We had that awkward relationship moment where they gave me a commode, which is a… you know what a commode is. So we had that awkward moment where my girlfriend breathed in, puffed out her chest, and went, ‘yeah, I’ll do it if it comes to it’. You know you’ve got the one when that happens.”