Waen Sheperd: carving out the future of music with a silken axe
Last month, a quietly spoken gentleman with blonde hair rocked the twin foundations of music and comedy to their very foundations and won the Perrier Best Newcomer award at the Edinburgh fringe, when everyone was expecting it to go to Paul Daniels.
His name is Mr Waen Shepherd.
19 September 2003
Waen's act is an exquisite homage to the New Romantic movement, and involves him wearing all sorts of piratical face-paint and tight hosiery. Gary le Strange (Waen's character) is the greatest Neo-Regency Face Warrior of his generation, and le Strange's greatest anthem ('Grey') articulates third millennium disaffection in the most heart-rending fashion since Tonight I'm Gonna Let Go, by Syleena Johnson.
Waen's show was without a doubt the second best thing on at this year's Edinburgh fringe (after Tempus Fudge-it, of course)... and we are delighted that he has taken time out from creating richly-textured electronic sounds to speak to us.
> how did Gary le Strange first introduce himself to your mind? Was it in a dream?
I can't remember dreaming it, but I do remember frantically searching the Internet nearly three years ago to see how many New Romantic tribute bands there might be, and how many of them consisted of comedians - just to see if anyone was already doing it. And then I spent another 18 months not doing anything about it. Until the unbearable possibility of someone else doing it became too great and I caved in to the pressure in my mind. Thus was Gary born.
> Do you enjoy dressing up? And did you dress up as a kid?
I love dressing up but these days I need an excuse to do it. When I was a tiny boy I thought nothing of running around in a hat and scarf pretending to be Doctor Who (and calling my cat 'Sarah Jane'), but I developed a thinner skin as I got older and became terrified that people might think I was a nutter. I tried to be a Goth when I was 15 or so but could only manage it on certain occasions, spending the rest of the time feeling awkward and alone in my winkle pickers and crimped hair (a prime feeling for a true Goth, but I still gave it up). Dressing up is one of the many main reasons I like being Gary Le Strange.
> Whereabouts did you grow up?
Castleford, West Yorkshire, which used to be a mining town but its central feature these days is an enormous shopping centre. As I remember, there was nothing really much to do there and they didn't like me dressing up. Not as a Goth anyway.
> Do you remember an incident with a bicycle?
Nothing specific. I had a blue Grifter.
> What was the naughtiest thing you did before puberty?
Vandalising the unoccupied house next to the school. Well, some other kids did it really, I was just there. Anyway, it was only a broken window and the bins tipped over and some petrol splashed all over the garden. I got done by the headmaster for it but I don't remember any specific punishment. Just a lot of shame.
> When was your first cigarette?
When I was a 15-year-old Goth, walking up the road from Castleford to Pontefract with some other Goths (who didn't live in the area, because Castleford and Pontefract didn't have Goths). One of them smoked Silk Cut, so I had one and remember thinking it was rubbish. It was another four years before I started smoking regularly. The man who gave me the cigarette, his name was Sten. He was a very good and funny man, but unfortunately he is no longer with us, after committing suicide a couple of years ago. Itís very sad. I am still smoking.
> Did you always want to be a rock star?
Yes. And an actor, and an astronaut, a super hero, a comic book artist, a writer, a religious figurehead and a famous scientist.
> What is your favourite OMD song, and what does it remind you of?
Messages. And it reminds me of... Messages by OMD.
> How did you compose the le Strange songs?
The usual rule is that certain musical phrases potter around in my head for a few months and slowly form into structured songs, which I then turn into reality through the use of clever electronic machines. Sometimes the music comes from a lyric or idea, which in turn suggests a way it can be sung. But more often than not the music is just there.
> Will Gary ever play the Albert Hall, do you think?
Only if he can afford an orchestra to back him.
> Have you ever been to Peru?
No. I am very narrowly travelled. But I would like to visit some day.
> When is the last time you fell over?
Thatís difficult to say, since I fall over all the time. Actually though, now I think about it again, I can't remember having fallen over for years. I do spill drinks a lot though. Usually I knock them flying across pub tables, but sometimes I do it from the comfort of the stage - in Edinburgh this year I managed to kick over an audience memberís pint on at least two occasions (once into a Perrier judgeís handbag, which did worry me a little at the time). I would like to think this happens so often because I am wildly gesticulate in some very interesting way, but perhaps I am just very clumsy. Especially when it comes to liquids.
> Would you go into space if you had the chance? - or would you not think it worth the risk?
I would rather just about everybody else went to Space instead. I don't mean to sound misanthropic, but there are just too many people down here.
> What was your fondest memory of this year's Edinburgh Festival?
I have so many, but the fondest is probably opening the front door to find a woman pissing against it. At 3.30 on a Tuesday afternoon. On a busy shopping street in the capital of Scotland.
> And your worst?
Spending an hour trying to chase a mouse out of my bedroom.
> What has been the most awkward moment you've ever had on stage?
Trying to continue an hour-long show when half the audience have been thrown out for abusive behaviour within the first 20 minutes. That moment lasted at least another 40 minutes.
> Do you admire Pete Sampras, and were you sad to see him retire?
I really am sorry, I have no interest in tennis at all. But I wish him luck.
> If you had to perform in a double act with Pete Sampras, what would it be?
It would be pretty damn awful.
> What next for Mr Shepherd - any other characters in the pipeline?
These are trade secrets. But I am working on Garyís next album and there will be another Edinburgh show in 2004.
> Any last words of advice from Gary?
I want you all to go down to your local record company, rip the gold discs from the walls and melt them down to make bangles.
More Gary at: