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  • Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show - MNZ Interview: Capital BS 008: Captain Festus McBoyle

Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show - MNZ Interview: Capital BS 008: Captain Festus McBoyle

06 Dec 2021 // An interview by bethany_rachell

For volume 8 of Capital BS, Beth caught up with Captain Festus McBoyle about his new radio show Shipwreck Sunday. Bonus content includes: the history of the band name Buzzcocks, the benefits of theatre performance in NZ and some really positive and wholesome take-aways from Covid (yes, they do exist)! 

How would you short bio yourself and what you do?

I’ve been a performer for 35 years. I started off in rock bands and I’ve been working on my current project for over ten years. It’s called Captain Festus McBoyle’s Travelling Variety Show. We are a vaudeville musical comedy act, travelled all over New Zealand and Australia, won numerous awards for music and videos over the years and had international finalist and semi-finalist spots for our music as well.

We’ve been signed my Modern Sky in China – one of eight acts, some of which are Grammy award winners. We’re kind of the rock n rollers of the kids world, we are a bit cheeky, a bit naughty. Very much family oriented, rather than just kids. We come from rock bands and we come from punk bands. So we’re all just rock musicians who have turned our ways towards doing family music.

We’re supposed to be on our second tour of China with the Modern Sky label but that hasn’t happened because of Covid. In May we were supposed to be going to Europe – but again can’t do it.

And now you’re doing a radio show?

With Covid there’s obviously no live work so I’ve re-floated my radio show, which I had in the very early days. Very early days. I did a radio show on Radio Ponsonby called Shipwreck Sunday. It was purely a vehicle at the time to promote my music and get some exposure up. I did it for about a year and when touring and gigging got busy I kinda put it on hold.

Now I have time to do it again, and I thought bugger it I’ve got to do something. I love performance - when I don’t do it my whole being is not as happy and I’m not as pleasant to be around haha! I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, so it’s my drug of choice really – performance and creativity. I saw a Facebook post, Radio Hydra in Piha was doing 24 hour radio. So I got hold of this guy Martin Reed who runs the radio station, told him “look, I’ll do a kids show” and he said, “sure if you provide the recording, we’ll do a one hour show.” And that’s what we do!

I work with a nine year old, she goes by the name of Chalky the Cat. She is Chalky the Cat in our vaudeville troop. The music is everything from punk and rock n roll to nostalgic hits, we do book reviews, weird interviews, one with a witch recently – a proper witch. A green witch. We also do facts about animals, bugs and birds, weird and wonderful jokes and poems. The music is a real eclectic bunch that shouldn’t work when put together but it does! It’s for those families who don’t just want a Wiggles fix every week. It’s education for kids in different genres of music and it gives kids a voice. I mean I thought I had a good knowledge of music but the more I dig in deep I keep finding all this really cool stuff. It’s been a great way of still having a voice in today's climate. Working with this wonderful nine year old is brilliant, watching her get more and more confident.

It’s no judgement, no politics, it’s just Captain Festus being himself with Chalky the Cat, playing a whole bunch of songs and talking a bunch of shit, just having fun.

Is it being played anywhere else?

It’s been played on funky kids radio in Australia. It’s now being played by Kids.Radio in America. It’s also being played on Radio Küken in Switzerland and currently it’s being played on Radio Hydra and also on Kidnappers Radio in Hastings. I haven’t even really approached anyone yet!

Right! So you’ve got a really far reach!

Even in Radio Hydra they said it’s being listened to by people in Finland, Germany, France, England. The next step now is to start putting it around to all the community radio stations in New Zealand. Trying to get it further around the country. It’s been really great just meeting all of these weird and wonderful people who kind of steer you to the next port of call. The beauty of it is I’ve never been to the radio station – I’ve never even met the guy! I wouldn’t know him from a bar of soap! All I know is that he runs the Piha campsite. He’s got a really low broadcasting capacity that just gets around Piha but since it’s online on their website it goes all over the world.

How do you organise the music?

It’s just music that I like! And obviously Chalky comes up with stuff that she really likes too. So we have a mixture. It’s a democracy haha. There’s some really obscure stuff in there, everything from Wanda Jackson right through to…ah I found this band the other day…a song called Restless Legs by the most bizarre punk band. It’s amazing how much you can play without getting into dangerous territory with lyrics – I have to be so careful with lyrics. I was putting a song in by T-Rex, Mambo Sun. The lyrics go “girl your good and I’ve got wild knees for you.” Apparently it was a bit of a dodgy lyric back when it was released but it doesn’t make any reference to what it is actually about – most of T-Rex’s lyrics don’t make any sense whatsoever. So I thought NO! I’m going to put that in there. This week I’m putting in Ever Fallen in Love by the Buzzcocks and I thought ‘ooh, there’s going to be a bit of a thing about the word ‘Buzzcocks’. But it was actually a line from a Time Out magazine about a television series review called the Rock Follies. And the line was “It’s just the buzz, cock.” ‘Buzz’ referring to the buzz of being on stage and ‘cock’ is Manchester slang for mate or buddy or friend. So I explained that.

I like to push boundaries and prove that people are being far too stupid, when you look into it, it doesn’t mean anything rude at all.

How does the music that Chalky chooses differ from the music that you choose?

Not too much really. I mostly research the music and she’ll give me a thumbs up or thumbs down. She does her own book reviews independently and we both research the jokes. We have what’s called a joke off and a fact off. A bit tongue in cheek. The other week the topic was Kiwi and we just go fact for fact – like a duel.

How does the New Zealand audience responds compared with other audiences?

We’re respected in New Zealand, we’re the oddballs because we push the boundaries and we’re definitely not sugary. The punk rockers of the kids world. You can’t ignore us; we won’t go away. People have mixed feelings about us in the industry but they respect what we do and we’re bloody good at what we do.

I think we’re a breath of fresh air for most people. If you start looking at what’s out there in terms of kids music it just sugar. It borders on being insulting to kids, talking down to them. And we don’t do that. Wherever we play we have the advantage of appealing to old age pensioners because we’re music hall panto. We also appeal to parent age because we all grew up with Monty Python and Spike Milligan. Teenagers, we like picking on the teenagers and they blush. The kids about eight really get it, they think it’s wonderful and jump around. And the real little kids are kind of just intrigued… standing there with their mouths open, look at us and do nothing!

Would you say that theatre performance is taken more seriously in New Zealand than just music performance?

It’s hilarious, it’s complete freedom. In the rock days it was carry your own stuff around and walk away with a couple of free beers and maybe $20 in your pocket. The people that book us now love what we do and we’re just being ourselves behind a costume. All on our terms. You either like us or you don’t. I don’t miss the rock stuff at all, this is much more fun. I’m fortunate I’ve got these two wonderful people by my side who are very talented and very adaptable and clever. Who enjoy my moments of madness.

I was going to ask; do you have any positive take-aways from Covid – but the whole radio venture seems like a positive take away...

With Covid, you aren’t able to perform and the radio show has given us our voice back. A lot of us have diversified. And you have to. I know people who are now doing vocal tuition, I teach drums to kids which is another diversification. It’s been hard but if you focus on that then you’re going to feel depressed. There’s plenty to be grateful about, even though it breaks my heart we can’t tour China.

The positive spin is that it’s forced us to diversify and break old patterns. Change is good, even if it’s hard. We started doing video production from home and we won best New Zealand kids video this year. We formed our own production company as part of a diversification, started doing things ourselves as a very small team. My partner was the director for all of our videos, she was also costume designer. She comes from a film and television background. So we’ve diversified in that way. Just explore your options. Think about what ya can do rather than what you can’t do.


About Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show

A Vaudeville musical comedy Troupe from Auckland who are regularly compared to Monty Python and Spike Milligan. They target unsuspecting families with utmost precision, and transcend age and culture with ease.

This lot are more fun than a squirrel up ya jumper. Award nominations for both their music and their videos, current semi finalists in the International Songwriting Competition and recent NZ on Air grant recipients, they regularly perform all over NZ and parts of Australia. A unique and dynamic experience for the whole family. Masters of Mischief and Mayhem and simply an act not to be missed.

They've played everything from WOMAD to Splore to Cubadupa to sell out shows at Nelson Arts Festival to Town Hall shows with the entire Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Captain Festus McBoyle's Travellin' Variety Show


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