It’s fantastic to be interviewing Ben Browton, AKA Seymour Bubuss from 70’s punk band The Shapes.
Spunkadelica photo: David Mcairley
Born on the
Ben’s had a thoroughly interesting career since the Shapes disbanded including sculpture, music, performance art and even appeared as Sister Bendy on Channel Fours Eurotrash. Read on to find out more…..
Shelley - How did you first get into punk?
Ben - A school friend invited me to go to
Trakmarx 11 - Interview with The Shapes
Trakmarx 19 - Through A Lens Darkly; my punk and Shapes photos
Trakmarx 24 - Poetry Corner; Capra Hircus
Trakmarx 27 - Poetry Corner; Stomack
Trakmarx 30 - Poetry Corner; Maelstrom
From that gig onwards I was completely hooked - wore the clothes, bought the records, started a band.
Shelley - Can you tell us how The Shapes came together?
Ben - I had been expelled from school and was working in a petrol station. A chap from my old school called Brian Helicopter came in one day and asked me if I would audition to be the drummer. About two seconds into the audition, it was clear that I did not have a drumkit, so I became the singer
Shelley - Is it true we should thank Midland Red buses for your name? Did you have any other punky monikers in mind?
Ben - Ah yes - I had a bus ticket on which it said "See more by bus", which inspired me. My first Shapes name was actually Wreck Tangle, but I felt that
Shelley - Where was your first gig? Were there many venues in Leamington Spa?
Ben - The Spa Centre in Leam. We got banned for chucking a catering-sized can of baked beans over the audience. There were a few other places - we ended up doing The Crown Hotel at the bottom of town a few times - they were very welcoming to us. We also played a gig in
Shelley - I first heard The Shapes on John Peel & loved “Wots for Lunch Mum? (Not Beans Again)” and “Batman (in the Launderette)”. What inspired these songs?
Ben - Ah. Good question. It was not drugs for sure. Maybe Ansells' Bitter. I think I just had a fertile, naturally Dada kind-of-imagination - interesting juxtapositions of things. Creating hyper-reality with my lyrics to avoid daily boredom. I was a big fan of Adam West's Batman, and I think it was his version I saw in the Launderette. I loved his swishy black cape & underpants.
The beans thing just because they were always the old standby when mothers (bless 'em) could not be bothered to cook. It was also influenced by the song Food, Glorious Food from the musical Oliver! Which I performed in twice as a teenager - once as a member of Fagin's gang, and once as a punter/boozer in the Oom-Pa-Pa scene!
Shelley - Any interesting memories of recording your Peel session?
Ben - I just found it thrilling and a great privilege to record the session. Apparently, The Shapes were mistaken for Adam and the Ants in the BBC canteen, and asked for our autographs. The session was produced by Trevor Dan (or Trevor Daft as John Peel referred to him). He was very nice to us.
Shelley - You were on the same record label as the Undertones. How did that come about?
Ben - I think Brian Helicopter got in touch with Terri Hooley in desperation because we did not have a deal, or any money to release the second single. In memory it was a master-stroke, because we went to
Sadly, the single Airline Disaster/Blast Off was a disaster sales wise, and in our shame, we threw about 600 copies off a bridge over the River Leam under cover of darkness one night.
Shelley - Having lived in
Ben - We never played Barbarella's, although I saw plenty of bands there - Rezillos, Subway Sect, Clash, Gang of Four to name a few. It was a wonderful place - seedy and glamorous, and heaving with great-looking people. Well worth the drive from Leam.
Shelley - A question I’ve been dying to ask- how did you get the part of Sister Bendy, the cycling nun, on Eurotrash?
Ben - Hmmm...I performed my song "Maxwell Confait” (In Memoriam) for a Talent Contest at the Way Out Club in
Thus I was sent off with bicycle and guitar to interview lots of weird and pretty barking artists in Europe, and to record links in
Shelley - You now live in
Ben - I got fed up with
Shelley - Do you listen to much music these days? Any recommendations?
Ben - I love my LP collection gathered over the past 35 years, including flamenco and cheesy world music, and oddities like LP's full of train recordings or bird song. I've re-bought some LP's I had in the past and missed badly, like the Sadista Sisters and the first Au Pairs album, and Real Life by Magazine.
Of contemporary stuff, I love The Inconsolables (a huge tip who I got down to
To The Moon, Alice (from Hastings -- a recommendation...a tip-for-the-top) I saw recently in the Blue Reef Aquarium in Rock A-Nore - the first gig I've ever attended where the audience were surrounded by fish (very-Shapes!). They are young and energetic, and Dave the singer is really, really good (www.ttma.co.uk)
Generally I tend just to get heavily into one thing at a time - like I did with Goldfrapp's "
Shelley - You’re currently involved with many interesting projects: film production, art, D.J’ing. Please tell us more.
Ben - Mr Eclectic. I set up Plush Productions with my wife Lady Plush last year. We made a short Hastings-based film called "The Air Catchers" in 2007, and have produced some short documentaries, including one with Grayson Perry. Myspace has just licensed these two for a new shorts channel launching in the Autumn. Film-making is very intense, technology-heavy and labour intensive...I cannot do too much because it causes my blood pressure to soar to dangerous levels.
The DJ'ing came about when a Hastings-chap Clive Gross invited me to get involved with a monthly punk/new wave night at the Brass Monkey called The Wire. I offered to DJ using my original 7" singles. I love doing it and recently DJ'd a small festival called Harpesbury in the guise of DJ Agent
The art ticks along, but is mostly short-film making. I got fed up of draughty cold studios. Apart from that I'm currently just letting things unwind at their own pace. I've done a lot of stuff over the years and it's time to take stock. That's why I launched cacaphonique - as a virtual museum for all my creative stuff - I'll keep adding things over time.
I've also been doing a bit of collaborating with Hex and Mark from Hypjoint (www.myspace.com/hypjoint). Their track "One Touch" is beautiful, and listening to it has helped me through my recent tough times. Hex's spoken words are really inspiring and sensual.And Then there is The Shapes - re-forming and rehearsing and arguing!
Shelley - It’s fantastic news about The Shapes playing Kentish Town Forum in December (plug plug). How did the reunion occur? Have you kept in touch with Brian Helicopter et al over the years? Will we see the original line-up?
Ben - The promoter Bradders had been pestering me (sweetly) for a while to re-form for things like the Wasted Festival in
Shelley - Finally, any plans for more gigs or is the Forum show a one-off? What does the future hold for The Shapes?
Ben - We currently have a Yahoo forum where we kick ideas around (and occasionally each other's egos). We want to do some warm-ups before
I understand that Gareth is negotiating a possible re-release of "Songs For Sensible People" in
Japanese waiter - "Sushi and Sake, Bybuss sán?
LINKS TO FIND BEN AND THE SHAPES
LINKS TO FIND BEN AND THE SHAPES
Catch the Shapes at Rebellion on December 13th
Songs for Sensible People CD available via Overground
Check out a showcase of Ben’s fab artwork
Browton film production company
Ben’s MySpace page
Shapes MySpace page run by Gareth Holder
Shapes history- excellent read by Gareth
On Punk 77 web site