1An easy one to begin: which actor once said he wanted a Sea Power tattoo?
“I know this! Daniel Radcliffe.
CORRECT. In 2013, the star claimed he wanted to get a tattoo featuring your slogan Bravery Already Exists on his forearm.
“We never met him, but he seems cool. I don’t know if he ever got the tattoo either”
Any other memorable famous fans?
“Peter Capaldi came to a gig in London and drew a picture for us, which was really good. It was a semi-caricature sort of artwork.”
2In a Sea Power-related April Fool’s in 2013, who did you claim was giving you his house to turn into a Cumbrian rock school?
“Oh no! I think I’d get the name in about two hours but… pass.”
WRONG. You joked that Sting had donated his Grasmere residence so that Sea Power could establish “Cumbria’s most prestigious school of rock”. “Some people say Sting is a wanker, but this proves he isn’t,” you said.
“Sting! That was it! [Laughs] It’s a good idea, though. Sting, if you’re listening, give me a call! We’re probably not as daft as we used to be, because we used to be a stupid combination of being quite a serious-sounding band and then just do jokes all the time and wonder why people were confused. We’ve moved on from it, but we used to be the art-rock/slapstick comedy crossover which is how you end up doing a tug of war with The Wurzels!”
“I think they did. Obviously! They’re experts, aren’t they? I think the stupidest thing we did was having a go with Mexican wrestlers at Reading festival and Martin [Noble, guitarist] was – let’s just say – in a very good mood and he went first. They thought we were taking the piss after that so they taught the rest of us a lesson!”
Speaking of scrumpy ‘n’ western merchants The Wurzels…
3How many copies were released of your 2005 cover of The Wurzels’ ‘I Am a Cider Drinker’?
“I don’t know. 1,412? It’s going to be less than that isn’t it?”
WRONG. It was apparently 1,966 – the year frontman Adge Cutler formed The Wurzels.
“There you go! We did a split-single with them. When I was nine years old growing up in a village [Natland], ‘I Am a Cider Drinker’ was one of the first records I ever got in a jumble sale and me and my brother [Sea Power bassist Neil Hamilton Wilkinson] used to love it. So 20 years later, to hear them do ‘Remember Me’ by British Sea Power – as we were known then before changing our name to Sea Power – was brilliant and hilarious. And we did a really sad version of ‘I Am a Cider Drinker’. To cap it all off, they came and played with us at our London show. That’s when we had a tug of war and they gave us some cider.”
Apparently they were partial to a spliff with their cider…
“Cider and spliffs is a good combination! I think the smoking came from their drummer [John Morgan, who passed away in December 2021] who was pretty advanced in his years by then and still having a lot of fun.”
4Which political party asked Sea Power to be their Minister for Fuels and Culture?
“Monster Raving Loony Party.”
“I wish we’d taken them up on their offer as well! I’m sure we would have had a good manifesto for it – better than any government’s between then and now! Screaming Lord Sutch was cool and a big Monster Raving Loony Party guy, and politics is so ridiculous nowadays that I think maybe it’s time to give them a chance.”
They couldn’t be any worse than current culture secretary Nadine Dorries…
“They’d be a big improvement!”
Ever turned down anything equally as surreal as becoming the Monster Raving Loony Party’s Minister for Fuels and Culture?
“We generally said yes to everything. I’m not a big fan of the Royals, but I remember being at a Prince Charles theatre gala performing John Betjeman poems with the weird combination of Nick Cave doing a piece, but also Ronnie Corbett and Dame Edna Everage there. And Dame Edna stole our bottle of vodka. Allegedly!”
5You held your own festival Sing Ye From The Hillsides! at Tan Hill Inn, the UK’s highest pub. How high above sea level is it?
“[Laughs] Erm… I’m just going to go for 1,104 metres. That seems extremely high.”
WRONG. It’s 1,732 ft. When producer James Ford held his stag weekend there in 2008, bringing down acts like Arctic Monkeys and Klaxons, you fed the local press entertaining stories that Noel Gallagher had attempted to arrive there by submarine…
“[Laughs] Yeah! We saw the odd Arctic Monkey popping around which was nice, but they mostly kept to themselves.”
6In 2014, Sea Power performed a series of ‘Sea of Brass’ gigs around the UK backed by different brass bands. Which brass band accompanied you when you played Warwick Arts Centre in Coventry?
“I’m going to go for Jaguar Land Rover Brass Band?”
“[Laughs] Really?! Brilliant! It was a different brass band every night, and was difficult because it was two different musical worlds with me standing in the middle. It was very different ways of keeping time, and everybody’s looking at each other weirdly, thinking: are we following the same beat here? There were times when it went off and wasn’t so good and other times when it was absolutely magical.”
Where did the idea come from?
“I don’t even know if this is true anymore, but I was asked if I could think of an idea for an artistic musical event in a chocolate factory in Derby. I was flying home from Scotland to London, had a couple of whiskeys on the plane, fell asleep and had a weird dream about a giant trombone chasing me. Our manager phoned up the next day asking: ‘Have you got that idea yet?’ So I just came out with talking about brass bands and trombones and it turned into that.”
7Sea Power were once asked to list their Top Ten Colloquial Names of British Birds for The Face magazine. Can you name three of your top five?
“Hmm…. No. I’m pretty sure this is something Martin did. I mean, they’re all going to be comedy names like Shag Piper or Golden Titwank aren’t they? I’m giving up!”
WRONG. You could have had: Cuckoo, which you called Welsh ambassador (1), Great crested grebe – arsefoot (2), Blackcap – nettle monger (3), Fulmar – flying milkbottle (4) or Peregrine falcon – tiercel gentle (5).
“Some of those were a lot more poetic than I was expecting! Bands’ members who like birds have a secret society – which I’m not in because I don’t class myself as an expert of a twitcher, unlike Martin, who goes and does his secret handshake with other music people who are into birds!”
Didn’t you once try to convince Jarvis Cocker to join you on a twilight expedition to look for nightjars?
“I remember that! He didn’t want to. He was having a beer after a show and was having a nice time talking to people, so fair enough. But Martin dragged us all out anyway. It was during a forest tour, and we were playing somewhere that had a Monkey World. Martin ended up climbing up the tree ropes and got told off by the forest warden, who shone a high-powered torch in his eyes, illuminating him in the trees, as he yelled: “FREEZE! You shouldn’t be up there and if you fall, YOU MIGHT DIE!!”
For a bonus half-point, Martin once told NME that the great crested grebe resembled which indie icon?
“It’s not a bad looking bird and Martin is a fan of Bernard’s guitar-playing, so it’s a compliment”
Talking about NME quotes, Carl Barât once pretended to be offended at a jokey letter your ex-manager had written to us suggesting that “every girl and boy in rock… boycott Barât and his associated traders in The Libertines.” When you played a gig in Paris, Barât squared up to your ex-manager, pretending he was livid and was going to beat him up.
“I didn’t know anything abut that until later, but our ex-manager was utterly fooled and thought he might be beaten up by them. I mean, Libertines-wise, Pete [Doherty] once challenged me to a press-ups competition when we played with them. But unfortunately it didn’t happen. I said yeah, and then he just looked a bit sleepy. But I would have won!”
“There wasn’t much happening in indie when we first got together, and all of a sudden there were the first bunch of groups like The Libertines, The Strokes and Interpol who came along and seemed to know what they wanted to do. Interpol gave us our first European tour and I watched them every night, because I was fascinated by them as a band and they made me feel utterly unprofessional, because we couldn’t play our songs properly. [Interpol frontman] Paul Banks asked me: ‘Why do you never play ‘The Lonely’?’, and I replied: ‘Because we can’t play it properly’. He offered to help us out and learned the guitar, and came onstage to join in, and we still totally cocked it up.”
8Which GB News presenter/ultra-bore branded Sea Power “lefty losers” and “certainly no Rolling Stones, Coldplay or Keane” in a cringeworthy rant about you changing your band-name last year?
“I think it’s that delightful Dan Wootton guy?”
CORRECT. You ended up dragged into a culture war by people who had presumably never listened to your music in the first place…
“Exactly! It was a flash in the pan. It was a week or 10 days of weird insight into the culture wars playing out over Twitter, and it a bit worrying in a ‘people can be scary’ way, but also quite funny. Dan Wootton did us a favour with his piece because it helped explain why we felt the need to change our name: just to get away from people like him.”
“[Laughs] He’s gone into his Mainstream Indie Hat and picked out the three biggest names. At first, you think: is this real or is it an Alan Partridge/Brass Eye spoof? We thought someone might be winding us up. And I still can’t fathom if he’s actually serious or if he’s just putting on an act to get paid. He just seems like a villain out of Harry Potter to me.”
'…the decision to change the name is indicative of the toxicity of woke culture running riot through the entertainment industry'
Dan Wootton slams Reading-based band British Sea Power for dropping 'British' from their name, due to fears about an association with 'nationalism.' pic.twitter.com/6pY49KB8Ib
— GB News (@GBNEWS) August 10, 2021
9Which animal adorns the cover of 2012’s ‘BSP EP 3’?
“Oh god! I drew that as well! A fox? Ferret?”
WRONG. It’s a badger.
“We came up with the idea of releasing an EP every month to coincide with the new Brighton clubnight we’d decided to put on called Krankenhaus. Savages played their first gig there, and it was a good combination of poetry, comedy, good music and bingo with [psych-rockers] Bo Ningden, so who’d play some noise then one of them would pull out a bingo ball and call out the number.”
10In 2006, Sea Power staged a mini-festival in Newhaven Fort. What was the art-instillation tent you had there called?
“Erm…something to do with Vikings?”
WRONG. It was The Wanking Tent.
“I’m sure it was a satirical joke, but I’ve got no memory of that at all! None!”
The verdict: 4.5/10
“Oh good. I was expecting to be hovering around the 1-2 mark.”