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Noel Fielding: The Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton

The Mighty Boosh comedian discusses animals, art versus comedy and reveals plans for a new TV series with Sergio Pizzorno from Kasabian

By now, The Mighty Boosh's Noel Fielding is a legend. Except for his hilarious work with Julian Barratt on the comedy TV show, Fielding has made a name for himself by appearing in music videos, touring his stand up routine and regular stints on 'Never Mind the Buzzcocks' and other panel shows. Add to that his very unique style and overall friendly persona, and we have the perfect role model for funny and oddly dressed youngsters everywhere. But it has transpired along the way that art, as well, is another of Fielding's passions. With a couple of exhibitions behind him, we sat down with Fielding to discuss his first ever art book...

Dazed Digital: You studied art early on, was that your first love as opposed to music or comedy?
Noel Fielding:
Yeah, I think so; I was good at drawing when I was a kid. And painting. So I think my family thought I’d go to art school. I was quite shy so I would have never ever have dreamed of being on television, there was absolutely no way.

DD: So you saw yourself as a future artist. That was the kind of career path you had planned?
Noel Fielding:
Well, I guess I wanted to be a painter. And then I started to think that I was more interested in concepts rather than just images. But my teacher, who is quite a famous artist now hilariously, believed in me. I was quite lucky because he was the one that saw something maybe that a lesser teacher wouldn’t have. He said maybe you should do comedy or performance or something.

DD: Do you see your art as comedy? You’ve sort of muddled the relationship between the two.
Noel Fielding:
I think the thing is people think that art is quite serious and I think it isn’t really. But I think art can be quite funny and comedy can be quite arty and I was kind of trying to maybe sit somewhere in between the two things and use my skills as a painter or of drawing in my comedy and also make my book quite funny. I would never want to do a serious book of paint - it's not really what I’m about!

DD: How do you think you’re expressing yourself, how do you think that doing that through art and comedy for example how does that differ?
Noel Fielding:
I guess it’s not the work that differs, it's more the people that are into art are a definite group and the people that are into comedy are a definite group and the people who are into music are a definite group. I think you confuse music and comedy a little bit but I think Bill Bailey does it really well and The Flight of the Concords do it really well, and we did it in the Boosh but I still think it's quite hard to fuse the two. To be quite rock 'n' roll if you’re a comedian or to do music if you’re a comedian... it’s quite hard to be funny if you’re in a band.

DD: And these different groups that you already mention, the art audience, the comedy audience and the music audience, I can imagine that perhaps the art audience is very different from music and comedy.
Noel Fielding:
Well, when I do my own exhibitions, I think that people who like my comedy come to see them. But I think when I’ve had pieces at the Saatchi gallery or at different places then you are dealing with a completely artistic audience who are just into art and not necessarily into comedy, so it’s a completely different crowd so you would have to tailor the work to a different group. Whereas people who come to my art exhibitions expect them to be funny in the same way they expect the Boosh to be a little bit arty.

DD: There's a lot of animals in the book - are they just something that you like? Or are they are funny to draw?
Noel Fielding:
When I do stand up there are always talking animals. And when we did Boosh we worked in a zoo and then we ended up living in Shoreditch with a gorilla who is a DJ. There’s always that jungle book, Rudyard Kipling thing going on. I don’t know what it is. I think it comes from me rather than Julian. Julian supplies the jazz and I supply the talking animals! It's funny, the book it’s just a lot of stuff I’ve done over the last ten years. We couldn’t track a lot of it down, we tried to but I’d sold a lot of it and we didn’t know where it was. So it was the best of the stuff we could find!

DD: There are also a lot of you in the book, drawings and photos. How do you see yourself fit into your own art?
Noel Fielding:
Well, the guy that designed it is a photographer as well; Dave who is Bollo from the Boosh. He wanted to do some photos of the book as well of the art in situations, and he also just wanted to take some pictures of me painting because he knew that people were interested in me as a sort of character.

A lot of artists are anonymous but the ones that aren’t, like say Tim or Sue and Damian Hirst that have a bit of personality, it’s always quite nice to see them in a studio doing stuff or amongst their work slightly inter… I don’t know it's not interactive in a way but I think I’m under no illusion that the people that will buy the book are into it because of the Boosh and because of my stand up and because of my personality so I thought we should put a bit of that in there as well. And also it gave me a chance to put some nice photographs in as well.

DD: It gives it a kind of behind-the-scenes feeling to it, in a sorta 'come with us and see how it all happened' kind of way...
Noel Fielding:
Yeah. And I wanted it to be quite punky. I wanted people to think that art can be much more… you don’t have to go to the RCA and you don’t have to be in this elitist group. And that you know a lot of people can paint and draw in lots of different styles – make it much more DIY and punk. And make it much more available to kids as well. A lot of kids that like the Boosh and will like my book and be like I really want to go to art college and you’ve really inspired me. Because I think maybe it's closer to what they think they can do than maybe looking at some books from a gallery where there are artists that they cant relate to.

DD: How would you describe the art in the book or the book itself?
Noel Fielding:
I think I’m quite schizophrenic; it’s a real mish-mash of styles I didn’t really want to just keep it to painting or keep it to just one style of painting. I think I work a little bit like a comedian in its context as much as if it was - I would use a certain style for certain thing or subject and I wanted to do everything. I wanted to be able to have drawings in there. Paintings, crayon drawings in there and there are some drawings in there that I just did with children’s crayons that I bought from a newsagent and I sold them to an American buyer. And for me just to get a scrap of paper and some children’s crayons and be able to sell is great because its much more punk and DIY.

It doesn’t have to be oil and it doesn’t have to be canvas and it doesn’t have to be a white gallery and I just wanted to try and change it a bit.  So you could have a much more punky and DIY aesthetic to it and paint over things. I did a lot of paintings over the top of fashion magazines that I couldn’t use in the book and wrote stories out of them and graffiti and defaced them all but I couldn’t get permission to use the original photographs! I wanted to make a whole book of those.

DD: Do you have a piece or a section that’s a favourite or that sums it up?
Noel Fielding:
Well I think I like the pop arty stuff, the Mick Jaggers and the Keith Richards because they’re very simple and pop arty things. But I like painting on the plates because I like the objects. I love painting on things, I paint on records sometimes and plates and the plates were the most popular things actually just because people like plates as objects and its not too much. You can have a plate in your house and it doesn’t take up too much room. Not big and expensive. And they’re round I think people are really drawn to round objects plates are the one thing I’d definitely would do again. I was thinking of doing an exhibition of masks where I make masks out of different things like records and plates.

DD: What other things are you working on?
Noel Fielding:
A new TV series, it will be on E4 or C4 and it's called Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy. It's coming out in January and it’s a half filmed, half animated show, with the music I’ve done with Sergio from Kasabian and it's like a comedy show, and it's my own show so I’m really pleased with that. And the Buzzcocks is on at the moment. And then I’m doing a sort of audio thing, not really a radio show, it's like an audio show with Chris Morris, Richard Ayoade, who directed Submarine, and that’s nearly finished and hopefully that will be coming out next year. There is also a Boosh album finished so that will definitely come out next year. And there is two half films written... !

Noel Fielding's 'The Scribblings of a Madcap Shambleton' is out now, get it HERE