Grant Sharkey is the most politically outspoken musician we have featured to date. So I was a little apprehensive about featuring Grant during the final week before a general election. I soon learned that my fears were unfounded once Grant's performance was underway. His performance was light-hearted, making jokes of politicians and the upcoming election rather than airing any strong views he may harbour.
Grant is an unusual sight to see upon a stage, he is a solo artist but instead of using a guitar or piano for accompaniment Grant uses an upright electric double bass. This makes for a fascinating show to watch, let’s face it, no one other than bass players in the audience usually watch a bass player. Therefore this was a real eye-opener for many (myself included) to see how versatile a double bass can be. I asked Grant how he got into playing the bass guitar.
“I was 14 years old when the film Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey came out. A band called Primus were on the soundtrack with a song called Tommy The Cat. This song had an amazing sounding instrument, I didn't know what that sound was. My brother told me it was a fretless bass and gave me his bass guitar to try. The first thing I learned to play was Tommy The Cat. I was playing technical stuff before I even realised it was technical. I now play an electric double bass which was made by a guy in Kent called Allen. They have a fiberglass body and are pretty tough. I bought my first one three years ago, it has started to fall apart, but I do hit it with a drumstick. The reason I favour an electric bass is because it’s smaller than an acoustic bass. It's a logistical thing more than anything because I drive a Smart car”.
It's usually drummers who drive the smallest most inappropriate cars, and although un-music related we had to ask. Why did you buy a Smart car knowing you have to fit a double bass inside?
“I bought a bookshop from a friend, the parking space behind the bookshop was only big enough for a smart car”.
As we stood outside the Music Box in Salisbury interviewing Grant the clock struck 12 midnight, marking the release of Grant’s fifth album. Grant has set himself a mammoth task of releasing 40 albums between the years 2013 and 2033. At this point I’d like to recommend that you visit Grant’s website, because he gives an insightful explanation as to why he has embarked on this challenge. However at the time of the interview (thinking off-the-cuff as we usually do) we asked Grant more about the logistics of recording one album every six months.
“I record them with a chap called Dan Parkinson, he knows how I work which is the most important thing. Saturday morning I turn up smartly dressed with croissants and coffee. We don’t come out until Sunday evening looking scruffy but with the finished album. My first album was just a collection of songs. The second album called Binge Thinker was about me thinking too much. When the third album came out I decided I was going to record a 45 minute song. Before my 4th album I had a hand operation which caused me to have five weeks off, I wrote this album after leaving memos for myself describing songs. My fifth album is about governments and if you believe everything that they tell you you'll be helping them out in the long run”.
Music is just part of Grant’s act, he speaks with humour about life and politics between each song. I wanted to know if music is the most important part of Grant’s act, or is his message paramount?
“The most important part is making music, playing bass, and having fun. That's what people come for, they want a good time. I'm the type of person that sings when I’m going about my daily business. Music is in my blood. But I also have this uncontrollable urge to ask people awkward questions and challenge them. I’m not trying to change anyone's mind but I won't give up until either they change their mind or they believe in what they protest even more. I'm also a nihilist and think that everything is pointless. For example getting on stage is a ridiculous thing to do, it's great because you can touch people, but then it dawns on me that it’s pointless because one day we will all be dead. But from tragedy comes humour, you can't make a joke without some kind of misfortune”.
I asked Grant to tell us how he would define himself.
“I’ve been trying for 20 years to try and define myself. Some people call me raconteur, some say zany bass-man, others choose satirist. But it's just punk rock. Punk rock is when you yell at people and ask them to think about something”.