30 seconds with… Louis Barabas & the Bedlam Six

Since forming in late 2006 The Bedlam Six’s music has infiltrated almost every creative niche, being adapted into animated short films, burlesque routines, musical theatre, fringe festival revues, documentary soundtracks, motion picture scores and even a comic strip.  They are a ‘Dirt-Swing’ band that has in the past shared the bill with the likes of Motorhead, Sun Ra’s Arkestra and The Blockheads.  Over the years they have won praise and support from the likes of Supergrass, The Mighty Boosh, Har Mar Superstar, UB40, Mark Steel, The Hell’s Angels, and BBC Radio.  Their bandleader Louis Barabas took some time out to talk to M.

How long have you been making music?
This year will be my twelfth since the first gig. I originally started out as an actor but then went over to music – I have since found that the live shows owe more to that original ambition than any skills as a musician!

What inspired your latest album?
A desire for simplicity I suppose. It’s always tempting to over-complicate things in the studio. Our last release was a live album and it quickly became my favourite, so for the one coming out this March we decided to go back to basics, the band all moved into a house for a week and converted the ground floor into a studio and recorded the whole thing as live, it was a much more enjoyable process than previous studio work and it really shows in the recording.

What process do you go through to create your music?

I tend to write love songs but focus mainly on the dark underbelly, generally taking the Happily-Ever-After as a starting point and then letting it all unravel. I like word play and humour but set within the framework of more serious themes. I’m quite a private writer, not good at letting others in until I’ve finished but I like to keep it flexible and once the band get their hands on a new song the arrangement process is very quick. We tour loads so don’t have a lot of time to fiddle about. New songs are often learnt in soundchecks and then developed over the course of several shows before being laid down in a more definitive manner on record.

How would you describe your sound?

I describe it as “Dirt Swing” – I love the orchestras of Sidney Bechet and Cab Calloway, that big dramatic yet light-hearted sound, but I also love the freedom and grubbiness of rock & roll so it’s kind of mixture of those two. Narrative folk music and blues (particularly Howlin’ Wolf) are also big influences. One reviewer calledour sound “Rockabilly Hell-Jazz”. I rather like that!

What would your dream collaboration be?
I’d absolutely love to be guest vocalist with The Blockheads. That would be a dream come true. I’m also really drawn to the idea of collaborating with someone non-musical. I think it’d be really interesting to work with a contemporary authors like A.S.Byatt or Margaret Atwood or J.M. Coetzee (all amazing). That could yield very unusual and exciting results.

Where can we catch you performing next?
We’ll be all over the place this year but our next big show is at Band On The Wall in Manchester on 13 February.