Bill Bailey On...Ouds


Written by Siobhan Morrin
05 Sunday 05th December 2010

Bill Bailey, legend of musical comedy, is currently on tour with his new show Dandelion Mind. We caught up with him between gigs to chat about music, mammals and mantras.

Don’t Panic: Your new show, Dandelion Mind, is about doubt. That seems quite cynical. Is it? Where did it come from?

Bill Bailey: Cynical? It’s certainly skeptical. I’m also curious as well. I’m relentlessly curious about things. I find that if you have doubts about something, that leads you to an interesting place.

People with faith have certainty, and scientists have great faith in what they do, yet I’m still unsure as to where that’s leading us. So I’m sort of somewhere in the middle and I think that that sort of grey area is a fertile place for comedy.
DP: In your new DVD there’s part of the show where you play an oud, and a whole religious-type chant of ‘oouud’ starts. Were you expecting that?
BB: That came out of nowhere, that was extraordinary. I mean, it took me totally by surprise. It was the tone of voice of the guy that did it. He shouted out, ‘Oooouudd’ and it didn’t sound like somebody saying, ‘Ooh that’s an oud’, it sounded like a religious incantation, and other people picked up on it (Sounds like a bit of an Oud-dunnit - Ed). And suddenly it became like this sort of strange tribal chant thing. I’m glad it got caught on film really.

Bill Bailey with the magical oud.

DP: Are there any other instruments you want to play in future shows?
BB: I’d love to work with more musicians on stage. That’d be fun. I did this show last year where I worked with an orchestra and that was fantastic fun. There’s only so much you can do as a solo artist. You can only play one thing at a time, one guitar, one keyboard. That’s something I want to try and explore next year, collaborate more. It’s what I do anyway really, a juxtaposition of ancient instruments and modern high tech gizmos filtered through my comic sensibilities. So you won’t see Little Boots mucking about with a Tenori-On, you won’t see the world’s famous oudists getting the audience to shout, ‘Ooouuud!’ That won’t happen, but it’ll happen at my gig.
DP: You did pretty well by yourself, playing different instruments all at once…
BB: Yeah. Sort of. That was like, get the Tenori-On working, then run round, play the drum machine madly with my left hand, play the keyboard with my right hand and then play the recorder whilst my right hand’s still playing the keyboard. I’m thinking, Give yourself a break Bill. You need another musician!
DP: Do you think you’ll do any more documentaries?
BB: Yeah, definitely. I’m involved with wildlife and conservation around the world and I assume that’s just going to be an inevitable part of what I do. In fact I think I’m already going to do one in the new year about baboons. There you go, Bill Bailey’s Baboons.
DP: Good to have a name with two Bs then.
BB: Yeah, it’s mainly things with Bs. Bison. Buffalo.
DP: If you couldn’t do what you do, what would you like to do instead?
BB: Oh.. I would write music and be in a band. Yeah I’d perform. Even if it was a piano in a hotel lobby in Basingstoke.
Dandelion Mind is out now on DVD.


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  • Guest: luke.murphy.1
    Sun 13 - Feb - 2011, 23:56
  • Guest: g1fton
    Mon 06 - Dec - 2010, 13:05
    Nice interview, must be such an interesting guy to sit down with!
  • Guest: generationtwat
    Mon 06 - Dec - 2010, 11:49
    Yes, a total legend, and such an interesting guy! Really respect the man.
  • Guest: slim_slim_slider
    Fri 03 - Dec - 2010, 01:06
    Bill Bailey is such a legend. Looking forward to DVD. Cheers for this.