Sunday, 30 December 2012

A short conversation with Ira Middleton

It is a typical wintry day in mid-July. Ira Middleton and I are sheltering from the blizzard conditions among the genteel clientèle of The Brady Rooms in Royal Mayfair. In accordance with the hotel’s stringent dress code we have both donned quilted dressing gowns. On an adjacent table, a pair of elderly twin sisters are celebrating their 90th birthday. The flimsy white satin nighties that shrink-wrap their gaunt, bony frames leave very little to the imagination.

 “I once met the lead singer from the death metal band Septic Entrails at a convention centre in Detroit...” says Ira. He takes a sip of camomile tea from a dainty bone china cup.

“...I asked him whether he perceived the history of rock and roll as a conversation, predominantly between England and the U.S., regarding colonial Africa.”

 “What was his response?”

“Distinctly noncommittal. He called me ‘a whining, bleeding ass faggot.’” 

It is at this point that we are interrupted by a waiter, voicing concerns about the level of audible profanity peppering our conversation. Ira spends the next five minutes explaining to him that he is presently engaged in the telling of a story in which a certain coarse vernacular is a vital element as a means of conveying both veracity and colour. At the end of his explanation the waiter apologises profusely and leaves the room. We are later informed by hotel management  that this presumptuous member of staff he has been dismissed as a direct result of his inability to distinguish between anecdotal swearing and casual abuse.

Middleton, who made his name on the wrong side of the tracks, is no stranger to uncouth language. In 1974, three years before punk broke, he had word “Effete” tattooed across his back in lavender-scented ink. In 2007 he was banned from the institutional radio programme - Desert Island Discs - for selecting the first eight tracks from the NWA album - Straight Outta Compton - in sequential order.

“They un-marooned me! My luxury item was a Glock and an unlimited supply of ammunition. It dates back to when I used to be in a gang called The Cripes, who were an English, home counties chapter of The Crips. We were pale, public school types  who wore striped blazers and penned sonnets that expressed a mild disdain for society. It all came to an abrupt end when I was given 4 weeks worth of detention for writing disrespectful letters to a policemen. The beak bumped 2 months off my sentence because I wrote my correspondence in exemplary Latin.” 

Upon his release, Middleton renounced the thug life, and his incipient status as an OG, to work with endangered species:

“There’s a Britpop group called Queen Cauliflower who signed to EMI in 1994. Recently the company accountants realised that, due to a contractual anomaly, the Universal Music Group could reap a substantial return on its tax bill if the band split up. As it turned out Queen Cauliflower didn’t want to split up, but felt under tremendous pressure to do so. I arranged for them to be flown to the Galapagos Islands where they now enjoy protected species status. Essentially they have same rights, with regard to hunting, as giant tortoises.”

I ask him whether there is any truth in the rumour that he has joined Take That.

“I formally joined the group in February. They’ve entered an interesting conceptual phrase of their existence. I had a long chat with Gary Barlow. He feels that over the past few years their fanbase has become more open to experimentation. Their latest piece is a three hour song cycle inspired by the foundation of The World Wildlife Fund  I’m on board for one album and a world tour, in which I play the narrator. I recite spoken word passages between the songs. Originally Jason Orange was going to do it but they thought that I would bring more gravitas to the part.”

“2013 will be a good year for you then.”

 “Things are going to get real in 2013. I can’t go into specifics at present.”

As I get up to leave, we bump fists in a gesture of enduring solidarity. 

The following day I take delivery of a picnic hamper. The gift card reads: “Raise ‘em up. R U Still Down? Ira.”

When I open the basket I find that it contains six miniature bottles of champagne. Nestled in some straw at the bottom are several small cans of ‘Premium Boneless Vagina’ which, I learn from the label, has been processed in the Philippines on behalf of Maldon Comestibles Ltd. 

I donate it to a local food bank .

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