Matt Berry has been a comedic hero of mine ever since I first heard him utter the words 'What happened between you and this Renwick customer?' from Garth Marenghi's Darkplace. I don't know if it was his James Mason timber, his Renaissance-man sensibilities, or his ability to adapt himself into unique characters that always inevitably steal the show. But from that moment on I was all in.
Matt Berry has starred in many of the top shelf British comedies over the last decade (Darkplace, IT Crowd, Mighty Boosh, and Snuff Box) as well as some of the most progressive American productions (Portlandia, Sarah Silverman Program, and Aqua Teen Hunger Force). On top of all of that he has recorded three studio albums (Opium, Witchhazel, and Kill the Wolf--available June 17th) and is a true musical virtuoso in every sense of the word. His lyrics and melodies are haunting and beautiful. With songs that are perfect to listen to as autumn turns to winter or you are reenacting scenes from The Crucible.
I had the pleasure of asking Matt a few questions about his career (past, present and future) and we couldn't have asked for a better first guest to start off our Charlemange interview series.
AA: Darkplace seems like a good place to start. What was the feeling like when you were making it? Did you know that it would be something special?
MB: Not at all. It was made by a bunch of unknowns, went out and remained unknown for sometime. There really wasn't much interest when it first aired from what I remember.
AA: In hindsight do you wish you guys could have made more or are you happy with the omnibus you have left us?
MB: I've never really thought about it. I think it did what it had to do within the 6 episodes. Plus, I seem to remember the cost of using real film may have made the decision for them.
MB: The Empty Room was a pastiche of the old grey whistle test which is a show I love and continue to watch as its pure and sometimes very ridiculous and dramatic in a very british way.
AA: Who do you think is better in bed: Dr. Julien Sanchez or Douglas Reynholm?
MB: Try both at once.
AA: How did you get involved with composing music for and guest staring in Saxondale?
MB: I think Coogan had seen AD/BC which was a short musical I'd written and wanted a 70s feel to his incidental music
AA: From all your great guest staring roles, which one would you like to see in a series of their own?
MB: None of them, as they were just small guest roles that served a small purpose within a bigger story
AA: Do you consider yourself a musician first, actor second or vice versa?
MB: I try not to consider myself at all. I'm grateful at the moment to be able to work on whatever is forcing me out of bed at that particular time.
AA: In both your albums you effortlessly blend old time/retro storytelling and beautiful melodies with sly comedy. What part does comedy play for you in your music?
MB: I didn't intentionally add any comedy to the albums. The latest album 'Kill The Wolf' explores simple pleasures like enjoying a bonfire or enjoying the change of seasons, simple stuff.
AA: Your songs are so layered and detailed and I hear new treasures every time I listen to them (Lay Your Love and So Low especially). Does writing lyrics and music come as second nature to you or is it as more of a longer, collaborative effort?
MB: The music and lyrics are never collaborative as I write everything myself. I don't think about the difficulty of writing music etc. as I enjoy it, and would still be doing it even if there was no interest or nobody listening.
AA: What should we expect from Kill the Wolf?
MB: Half light terror and simple pleasure.