We caused a stir in the coop as we bothered the (apparently very tall) front man of the Californian hip-hop trio, Ugly Duckling. Once he’d preened and re-fluffed, Andy Cooper (known as Andy Cat in band-terms) was happy to quack the day away with us and we went on to discuss all walks of flock related things. It just so happened that these flock natters entailed careers, family life, angry wives and copyright infringements.
How’s it going?
‘It’s all good except my wife was attempting to tell me about her day but I’ve chosen to neglect her and focus on this interview for the sake of Sheffield, she’s angrily reading this over my shoulder.’
What’ve you guys been up to?
‘Life is sunny and relatively pleasant here in Southern California. (Young) Einstein had his first child in October and Dizzy (Dustin) is already a busy dad with his daughter – they’re holding the fort for Ugly Duckling’s breeding interests. I’ve spent most of this year shivering in my wife’s hometown of Kirkcaldy in Scotland; so as you might deduce, we’re all becoming family people.’
What does the rest of the year hold for you?
‘I can’t speak for the other guys but for me it’s busy and exciting. Ugly Duckling will be out and about in Europe this month and next, alongside the tour I have multiple projects taking shape in the spring, I’m releasing my first solo project called The Free EP and I’m launching a blog site called ‘Ear to the Track’, in which I write humorous (I hope) opinion pieces about the history of popular music – my favourite subject. I also wrote the music for a small theatre production which hits the stage this month, titled ‘Recorded in Hollywood’, it tells the tale of an iconic, L.A based record shop that shaped the West Coast music scene during the 1950’s.’
To still be making music and being successful after over two decades in the game is mighty impressive, what’s your secret?
‘Whatever degree of success we’ve achieved is down to our commitment to always presenting a high quality product, we’ve never for one second taken the opportunity to entertain people as a given or an entitlement and I think our supporters appreciate this attitude. Also, we’ve been very stubborn about not straying too far from what we do, which has helped in maintaining a fan-base, despite that not being our intention – we just like that early 90’s style rap.’
How do you manage to keep things fresh, not just for the audience and fans, but for yourselves?
‘For me personally I need to keep creating, but I think that translates to the group, we’ve always been determined to put on a great show. There’s no time like ‘showtime’ and every performance is unique in some way, so as entertainers it’s our duty to keep it fun for the audience and, though it can get a bit stale sometimes, it’s often as enjoyable as you make it. It’s similar to socializing, if you head up to a party and are determined to mingle and have a good time, that’s usually how it ends up but if you’re like me and you just wallow in a corner, you usually end up feeling miserable and looking awkward so when we head out on tour we have the attitude and determination of being friendly and rocking the house. What’s the point if not?’
You’re just about ready to set off for a tour, how do you get ready for live shows?
‘Dizzy and I don’t do anything special before the shows, but Einstein has a real OCD-esque method of organising his records and going over the setlist again and again before he takes to the stage. He prefers to begin this process at the last possible second which usually makes us late to the stage and frustrates everyone involved.’
What do you love to see in an audience?
‘Warm bodies! We don’t take attendance for granted so any crowd is a good one. That said, we love to see happy and humorous people who want to groove to the funk and have a laugh. I personally like to focus on the folks who move with good rhythm ‘cause it keeps me in sync and encourages me to be tight.’
What was the first record you ever bought?
‘The first thing I can really remember having as my own was the soundtrack to ‘The Empire Strikes Back’, I used to run around the house making laser sounds while hiding behind couches and scaring Fuzzy, our cat. Einstein told me he bought Cars by Gary Numan, which is a much cooler claim than mine.’
If you weren’t a musician, what would you be and why?
‘I’m fairly certain I would have become a history or an English teacher, they were always the things that seemed the most interesting to me. In a way, our stage show has a little bit of that with our propensity to overemphasise old-school hip-hop.’
If you could work with any artist, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
‘Louis Jordan who was, in my ignorant opinion, the architect of rock’n’roll, soul, funk and hip-hop, although that’s an incredible, and almost definitely false stretch of a claim. I would love to play the drums in his band (The Tympany 5) and get a 1940’s Chitlin’ circuit club jumping. Either that or Bieber.’
Finally, what’s your favourite song of your creation and why?
‘So far, ‘I Want to Believe’ is the favourite tune of which I’ve been a part. It’s an album-cut from our album Audacity that came our surprisingly well and, dare I say, epic. I’m sure we’ve done better songs but sometimes an artist appreciates an unexpected success more than the songs you really try to push. I also wrote ‘Blurred Lines’ and I’m in the process of suing Robin Thicke and Pharrell.’
Dip your toe in the water at Ugly Duckling’s O2 Academy2 gig on the 1st of May, get those beaks and flippers on down to feel the groove.
By Ellie Greenfield