Gradually becoming a Duke
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Date: August 2007


 

'I want to do something that definitely uses theatre; I’d hope it was a little more subtle.'

 

George Luke talks to the dynamic, musically ambitious and charmingly eccentric Duke Special

Greenbelt regulars have known you for a good few years – both as Booley and now as Duke Special. Now suddenly, you’re getting major media attention. How does that feel?

I’ve been touring as Duke Special for over six years now, so it’s been a very gradual thing for me.

This year, there have been quite a lot of things that have obviously been in the national media, and all of a sudden people are aware of the tours I’m doing, etc. but it’s been a very gradual thing, and I’ve always done other things apart from Greenbelt. I’ve always been touring.

There’s a big theatrical element to your music. What inspires that, and what do you think of other similarly theatrical pop acts such as Mika and the Scissor Sisters?

I’ve always tried to put on a show live – whether on my own or with a band. I’ve always tried to exploit the fact that it’s a live thing; it’s something visual and different from the records. But I also just try to write decent songs as well.

The Scissor Sisters pay a huge debt to Elton John; Mika is also doing something very flamboyant and very theatrical. But that’s not exactly the same as what I want to do.

I want to do something that definitely uses theatre; I’d hope it was a little more subtle. I want it to be like Freddie Mercury always said that his songs were disposable and he was happy with that.

I want my songs to have some depth, but that if people only want to be entertained, they get that too. I don’t have either of their albums, but I do appreciate what they do.

And how much of your musical influence comes simply from living in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland’s one and a half million people. It’s not a big place. So inevitably, musicians know each other and run into each other.

There’s a real cross-pollination of people playing in each other’s bands. People often ask, ‘Who are your influences?’ My influences are a lot closer to home than the big, famous names. Often, it’s people you’re with every day that are your biggest influences, I think.

You sometimes have a gramophone on stage with you. Where did the idea for that come from – and will it be making an appearance when you play Greenbelt Mainstage tonight?

I got the idea from Andy Kaufman. He was an actor and a comedian, most notable for his appearances in Taxi. If you’ve seen the film Man on the Moon, he has this record player.

I was doing a few shows on my own and wanted to accompany myself, so I kind of nicked the idea from him – but a gramophone seemed more in keeping with what I was doing.

And yes, it will make a brief appearance in one or two songs!

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