Fame No Spur

16 September 2014 | 12:55 pm | Cyclone Wehner

Bill Bailey talks celebrity and Miley Cyrus covers.

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"I feel an immense fondness for Australia because it was the first countries that I performed in outside of the UK,” enthuses Bill Bailey (in fact, ‘Bill’ is a nickname; he was born Mark). “The reaction I got was so encouraging – I never forgot that.”

This visit Bailey, his comic approach one of befuddled and tripped-out rumination, will premiere Limboland. The show’s theme is (self)-perception and the slippage between what’s conceived and the reality – or, as Bailey puts it, “this gap, almost a transition, a sense of weightlessness, between how we imagine our lives and how they actually are, and how we imagine the world and how it actually is.” Indeed, Bailey is seeking ‘the greater truths’. “It’s not too much of a New Agey mindfulness, ‘cause there’s a lot of jokes along the way!”

“I’m working on a song actually, a new song, based around that which is [saying]: ‘The ‘80s, I hated them the first time around – not again!’”

When Bailey toured his last show, Qualmpeddler, he was feeling “grumpier” than of old – especially about politics. “The spur for that was an interview that I had on TV where I was referred to, and introduced as, ‘Bill Bailey, celebrity’. That really got under my skin. I realised that I was really very angry about it (laughs). I guess it’s really a bit of a realisation about the nature of fame and how people perceive me, and then comparing myself to the sort of people who’ve achieved celebrity – these kinda reality show stars and people who are desperate for fame. There was a certain sense of pride which made me feel very angry about that – ‘Don’t cast me into the pit with these people!’ I suppose there’s maybe a bit of vanity, let’s be honest. You think, ‘Well, surely I’m not just some fame-hungry twerp!’”

Regardless, Limboland is ‘more reflective’ than Qualmpeddler. “The stories and the anecdotes and the themes and the jokes are all based around me – my own experience of things not quite turning out how you imagine them.” That said, Bailey feels “anguish”, if not outright anger, over the “lurch to the right” in Europe and Australia – and, yes, that comes up in Limboland. (Bailey, a natural history buff, is notably frustrated by climate change deniers.) “You think, ‘Oh no – this is a backward step. Why has this happened?’”

Bailey is also a muso and will show off his latest unusual acquisition, a musical Bible custom-made by an Australian, in Limboland. “I like to look at new musical genres – I like to explore them.” He found ‘fresh’ inspiration at the recent Reading and Leeds Festivals in the ‘hip’ electro outfit Chvrches. “They sound like a band from the ‘80s and so I thought, ‘Wow, hang on, there’s something here,’” Bailey explains. “I’m working on a song actually, a new song, based around that which is [saying]: ‘The ‘80s, I hated them the first time around – not again!’” Best of all, Bailey, who once assembled a Kraftwerk tribute band called Augenblick, will do a Krautrock version of Miley Cyrus’ Wrecking Ball – “which,” he quips, “seems to go down very well.”