Actually, I wanted the other one...






 from the planet Bollox XIII. Call me cynical, but to me it looked very like an old bolt and wing-nut rusted on to a piece of string, which is probably why you didn’t get another tape out for three years. However, you then very wisely sent us a box of ‘Magic Dusters’ (we still use them to this very day) as a bit of a wheeze, so we released “Ointment Makes Am-Ess” (M&E 297), a compendium of your most recent two mini-albums, in the New Year of ’97. Then we started using “The Magi Crap” as a theme tune in the May of that year and suddenly everyone seemed to have an opinion on Cheapo Card Company, some of them even printable. What are your memories of that halcyon period and did you actually get much more direct interest in the band at your end?

MM: I’m sure you’d have given Adele a good run. 

Wil: Unlike several of your other legendary musical heroes(?!), though, I can't be accused, in any justifiable way, of selling out. I've been writing adverts and commercial copy for nearly all of my working life, so have in fact "bought in" to the artistic world, if anything. As you might imagine (you might imagine all sorts of things, but for the sake of brevity, let's stick to the subject) I've heaped literary praise on all manner of double-glazing, car part shops, funeral homes (tasteful or otherwise) along with great tomes on the subject of fun for "all the family" (assuming Dad prefers face-painting and Harry Potter theme parks, to hookers, booze or contact sports).


MM: Get back to me on that after next March…


Wil: I'm also convinced that I probably invented the phrase "Serious Fun With A Laser Gun," when the first laser-shoot-out halls appeared... but that remains to be proven, officially. In these media-wary times, though, I'm obliged to opine that other suppliers of orthopaedic slippers are available, should you care that much about it.


MM: You couldn’t pick up a free sample in size 14, could you? Now, you also work as a comedy sketch writer, which I know you’ve been doing for quite some years. How did your interest in it first come about and tell us about some of the people you particularly enjoy writing for, I seem to recall there are some quite well known names amongst your clientele?


Wil: Ah, yes... pre-WWW, there was much more of a market for freelancers, writing comedy sketches, Several German & Belgian TV shows used British writers almost exclusively, and around the early to mid-90s I had quite a few mentions in the "additional material" credits, on a number of British sketch shows... and my "Mel wakes up to an alarm, as a bin lorry backs into his bedroom" quickie is still used to advertise the "Best of Smith & Jones" when it's shown on telly. I did once make a personal appearance on John Shuttleworth's Radio 1 show, where another character decapitated me with a sword... but that's all in a day's work.


MM: Maybe he thought you were a mate of Gordon’s?


cassette labels. On the humour-influence side of things, we did support the very Bonzo-esque "Dylan Rabbit" band on occasion... and, in early 1995, I did post some Cheapo tapes to Viv Stanshall, about a week before he died in his flat... I do hope the events weren't related, in any way. In a recently-triggered memory, it came back to me that, as a toddler, I would often sit by an old wind-up gramophone (which could play 45s... I'm not 'quite' that ancient, yet) listening repeatedly to "Martian Hop" by the Ran Dells, which was one of only a few records we had... so maybe I nicked it all from that.           


MM: You came to us as a duo from Norwich, consisting of yourself and “Val, a Spaniard from Surrey.” I’ve seen a picture of the Cheapos live, so I guess he was the other one, though you were both ringers for Rasputin, so it was a little hard to tell. How did the two of you first meet, decide to work together and are you both still involved nowadays?


Wil: We met up in the late 80s, during a night-school studio recording course, in Manchester (I think several members of 808 State might've been there, too, but I've no idea what became of those unknowns). Both full beards were already in place. In the breaks between repeating RadioActive jokes almost ad-infinitum (horse-jockey), we learned how to edit audio-tape, demagnetise recording heads and thatch roofs (all the stuff so useful to the modern-day recording artist)... and worked on a couple of my songs during some studio downtime. Val also plays percussion during gigs... which situation might well continue, should Cheapo play live again. I do, however, get bored very easily, and the thought of performing a song more than once or twice soon became anathema to me. Perhaps we might do a Jeff Wayne, and re-work the Cheapo classic "Lost Plants" tape, twenty years on, for no apparent purpose other than to make nearly enough money to get the bus home again.    


MM: Off peak, of course. I remember the bribe of precious jewellery you offered for another release; a bandanawang bridal charm


Wil: Yep, the year doesn't go by without someone trying to blag a free Cheapo t-shirt (other gardening clothing shops are available, folks). Opinions were indeed relatively plentiful, what with them not involving the perpetrator having to stump up for a postal-order, in order to hold them. In recent years, though, tracks have tended to be purpose-written, and let out into the world in ones & twos, rather than as a full mini-album. Cheapo tracks also turn up on the odd interweb broadcast, from German indie-shows, to the very very occasional Radio 1 burst. There was the aforesaid Ricky Gervais song, in 2000. Si Begg sampled some Cheapo vocals for a track on his John Peel session, and I also read recently that a club DJ once opened his set with "I Like Countdown"... which cleared the dance-floor so completely, the manager banned him for two years (it's nice to have a legacy to leave behind). Quite recently, Cheapo's "Evil Evil Brian Cox" song found its way onto a Mitch Benn comedy song podcast and, as I write this, several brand new Cheapo songs, complete with expensive Hollywood-style video production (?!), are in the process of completion, for a very early 2013 appearance on the Cheapo Card Company YouTube channel. "Lost Plants" still remains the most 'widely' remembered release, though... probably because of the slightly nazi-looking packaging. People like that sort of thing.


MM: That and cheese, yes. Now, in the present day, as the Cheapos are rather more on the back burner, you make your living with other applications of your amusing talents, one being the radio commercials. Tell me something about the kinds of things you do, especially about those “best orthopaedic slippers,” I’m of the sort of age where that sounds quite exciting now, you understand.  


Wil: Until someone in authority realises that they need a Cheapo song as the theme to the next Bond film, I have to do something to pay the gas bill.

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