INTERVIEW: Kitty Lux from the Ukulele Orchestra of GB

The ever popular Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain are returning to the Liverpool Philharmonic on Wed 11 May. The Ukes appear on stage with one ukulele each, no gimmicks, no tricks, no vocal enhancers or overproduced wizardry, then proceed to tear the house down. Rich Denton caught up with Kitty Lux from the band to find out more…

How’s it going?
Very well, thanks.

Are you looking forward to coming to Liverpool?
Yes. We always find the audience in Liverpool to be really appreciative and vocal!

For people who have never seen you play live, what can we expect from the UOOGB when you come to the Philharmonic?
Our audiences often have preconceived ideas of what they are going to find at one of our concerts. They often think that it will be old swinging music, and though we like to set the toes of our audience tapping, we usually include a few hot jazz pieces, we also include rock, even grunge and classical music and some music that probably defies classification. We find that people who have been to our concerts often come again but bring their friends. They like to see the change in the attitude of their friends; apparently it is common for people to think it might be ok, but then realize that the prejudices they arrived with are wrong and that they should just sit back and enjoy the show. Although we only use ukuleles and sing in the show, it is in fact not much to do with ukuleles and everything to do with great songs, great entertainment and rapport with the audience. While we like ukuleles, we like music more, and we like to have fun, and if we have fun then the audience have fun with us.

You’ve played the Phil a couple of times before, what brings you back?
The great audience and the fantastic venue. We have been lucky that the show has always sold out and as I mentioned earlier a significant proportion of the audience has seen us before so there is always a really good atmosphere – we find the Phil audience is always vocal and heckles are always welcome!

There’s a wide range of musical styles in your show, from funk to grunge to spaghetti westerns!! What inspires you to choose a certain piece of music?
We all bring along the songs we like and play around with them in rehearsal, if it works well we start playing it live and then it evolves and takes on a life of it’s own. We say that the ukulele is a good bulls**t detector, if a song is weak then the ukulele reveals this. A bad song can be dressed up and made to seem good with lots of effects and a big production but the ‘stripped down’ ukulele treatment let’s you know if the song is good musically or not.

Will there be any tributes to Liverpool bands in the show?
You’ll have to wait and see. 

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You have played a number of festivals including Glastonbury and WOMAD, what’s it like to play to a festival crowd?
We have played at festivals all over the world and they are always a lot of fun. We find that the crowd want to sing along and when thousands of people are singing with you in a field, in the middle of nowhere it’s special.

What was the craziest gig you have played?
There has been quite a few but I think the time we played for two camels to dance to has to be near the top. The instruction in the score was something like “play B Flat when the camels come in” and then you just looked up from your music and there they were just gallumping along…surreal!

You famously joined the Kaiser Chiefs on stage at the BBC Electric Proms, who would be the ultimate collaboration for the band?
That’s a hard one to answer as each member of the band would give you a different one. We’ve played with Yosef Islam (Cat Stevens), Madness, Wheatus, The Wombats and jammed with George Harrison. My personal choice would be Ukulele Ike (Cliff Edwards), were he still alive. He was the voice of Jimminy Cricket in Pinochio, a great uke player and wonderfully mad scat singer.

What’s so special about the Ukulele then?
It’s small, cheap and intimate and capable of fully chromatic music, from Bach to Schoenberg, and all the various forms of pop. It is also portable so you can do a world tour with only hand luggage.

It says on your website that you may be responsible for the global Ukulele revival, feeling guilty at all?
We have only encountered one resistance movement so far and that was in New Zealand, when we arrived at the theatre 3 people were picketing outside with signs saying ‘Keep NZ a uke free zone.’ They also kindly supplied a garbage bin for people to throw their ukuleles into if they so desired. It was actually very funny and they kindly posed for photographs with a couple of the Orchestra. I actually saw them in the auditorium watching the show.

After this UK tour what’s next in line for the orchestra?
We are about to release a new live album called ‘Still Live’, available to download in the next few days and from our website ukuleleorchestra.com from May 5. We are also working on a new studio album, which is still in the early stages but we hope to release next year. We also have a full world tour next year that will encompass the UK, Europe, Australisia, America and possibly China.

 

The Ukulele Orchestra of GB are playing the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall on Wed 11 May

 

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