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article imageInterview with writer and musician Chris Wade Special

By Adrian Peel     Jun 23, 2014 in Music
The versatile, creative and very sharp mind behind a number of interesting projects chats to Digital Journal about his music, his writing and working with the late, great Rik Mayall.
At only 29-years-of-age, Chris Wade has racked up an impressive CV. With six novels and 10 non-fiction books to his name - each published by his own successful publishing company, Wisdom Twin Books - plus five albums of critically-acclaimed folk music under the moniker 'Dodson and Fogg', this pleasantly down-to-earth cat lover, engaged to long-term girlfriend Linzi, is one very busy man.
As well as writing and making music from his home in Leeds, the enthusiastic connoisseur of English music and popular culture also runs Hound Dawg Magazine, an online publication active since 2009 that has included interviews with the likes of Arthur Smith, Pete Best, Wilko Johnson, Dave Davies of The Kinks, Adrian Edmondson and the recently-deceased Rik Mayall. Interestingly, the latter also lent his voice to the audio version of Chris's 2009 novel, Cutey and the Sofaguard. More on that later...
Since we last spoke in late 2011, the hardworking poet and illustrator (his talents stretch far beyond writing and composing) has made music his main focus (Dodson and Fogg is Chris plus a host of
talented guests) and has also become a dad. I wondered if the writing had therefore taken a back seat for the time being?
"Yeah definitely," he replies. "I think I got a bit frustrated by reaction to my writing at the same time as I stopped enjoying it as much. My non-fiction stuff sold and I got some nice notices about my audiobook comedies, but I felt a little dissatisfied with it all on a creative sort of level.
"It’s so bloody hard to sell fiction to people and especially if it’s a bit different to what is popular. So I started recording again like when I was younger, which I used to do a lot as a kid with my brother, so I was doing these recordings, starting on the acoustic and working from there.
"I want to do some writing again soon though. I have some short stories and ideas I might start on. I’ve got nine new tracks for the sixth Dodson album already, but I’m not releasing it for a while."
Having released a staggering five albums in two years (the most recent of which,
After the Fall
, was released earlier this year) - and each to rave reviews - I wondered how Chris manages to keep up his enviable work-rate.
"Well I’m at home all day from Monday to Friday; writing and recording and other bits and bobs are what I do for a living, as well as looking after my beautiful daughter Lily, so I always find time to do it. I’m driven by creating things, writing songs and mixing, recording, all that stuff.
"So I still have plenty of time to relax with my family as well. It just takes up the nine to five hours and sometimes a bit more… Well often quite a bit more, but it’s a hobby as well."
And memorable artists who have appeared on his records?
"The violin player Scarlet Rivera, who was on one of my favourite ever albums, Desire by Bob Dylan, is on the new record and that is very exciting for me. I loved getting the chance to work with her. Nik Turner from the space rock band Hawkwind was on the first two records...
"I don’t like to think in genres, I just like to think I can make music that I fancy making at the time and hope to come across other cool musicians along the way. It’s a very exciting job to have, if you can call it a job.
Discussing the positive reactions to his work, the modest artist states, "I have been really pleased with all the great reviews... I remember when reviews started coming in for the first album and I just couldn’t believe it when people were calling it Album of the Year and it got BBC airplay and stuff. It was amazing. I didn’t expect it.
"I knew that I liked it and hoped others might too, but I didn’t know if it was special or anything. I just knew it became like an addiction, creating these songs and mixing them and releasing them on the internet. I can’t see an end to this really. I want to keep doing it."
As mentioned earlier, the much-missed comedy genius Rik Mayall brought Chris's slightly bizarre tale Cutey and the Sofaguard vividly to life when he agreed to voice the audio release a few months after the original book had been published.
"I ended up working with Rik because I wrote a surreal novel called Cutey and the Sofaguard," recalls Wade, "and when I was writing it I had Rik’s brilliant voice in my head as a guide for the main character. One day, after the novel had been out for a few weeks as a paperback, I emailed Rik’s management, completely off-the-cuff to see if he wanted to do an audio version.
"I didn’t expect a reply but they got back saying he might take a look and to expect a reply within a couple of months. They got straight back and said he really wanted to do it, so it was all quickly set up in February 2010 to record it. I have amazing memories of our collaboration. He had so many ideas for each character. It was amazing really and he gave me choice of which version I liked best.
"We had this amazing meeting at his agent’s headquarters in London and we spent the afternoon eating muesli bars and drinking coffee and tea, going over it all. He had printed off two sets of notes he had made on the characters and we went through it together. I was blown away. Then the recording part was brilliant too. He bought me dinner every day. We went to a cafe after each recording session and chatted some more and I was amazed at how brilliant an actor he was. So clever.
"We had a good laugh and seemed to click in some ways, but we both got ill. He used to make me Lemsips up. Really surreal looking back. My favourite memory is from when I went down to London again later that year to interview him for my magazine and we had a great 'in character' interview where he went off on one and was quite wild. Then we had some nice down time as well where he was just himself and was very warm and seemed to be thoughtful.
"I didn’t know him for very long. We stayed in touch for about two years in all, sometimes by text, and he once even prank called me, withholding his number saying he was calling on behalf of
Chris and Rik
Chris and Rik
Chris Wade
Rik Mayall to see if 'Mr Wade would have sex with him'. Classic. I’d loved to have stayed in touch longer, but you can’t regret these type of things. I am just very proud and feel lucky to have worked so closely with him and seen his talent up close.
"It was what it was, a little project he had some time for and I think he moved on, so I can’t really look back with regrets at all. It’s just a tragic loss that he has died and I feel for his family...
"Anyone who loved his work will be gutted he has passed away. Just look at the massive reaction to his death. He’s back in the charts, tributes are everywhere, he was on the cover of all the papers. I suppose I feel a little extra bit sadder because I was lucky enough to briefly know him."
Chris, who cites the chess fight from Bottom, Rick dancing to The Human League on The Young Ones and the "Ooer sounds a bit rude" sequence from Filthy Rich & Catflap as some of his favourite Rik Mayall moments, concluded by telling me about his proudest achievements and future goals.
"Well predictably I am proud of the Cutey audiobook... I listened to bits of it today and it made me realise it was a great little story and how brilliant Rik does it. I’ll always have it there to look back on fondly. I am also proud of the new Dodson and Fogg album.
"My ambitions are to keep on recording music that a reasonable amount of people are interested in, maybe do some more fiction and get back into it, and most importantly to be great dad to my lovely daughter and a good partner to Linzi. I just feel so lucky at the minute and I want it to carry on like this forever."
For more information, visit Chris's official website.
More about chris wade, dodson and fogg, Folk music, Leeds, rik mayall
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