Edward Filch / Pete Murphy - "Why write songs about geriatric sex? Why write songs about impotence & depression? Why not!" - Stereo Stickman

Edward Filch / Pete Murphy “Why write songs about geriatric sex? Why write songs about impotence & depression? Why not!”

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Edward Filch’s recent album release makes for one of the most uniquely entertaining projects of the year. We were lucky enough to catch a conversation with Edward and his ‘producer’ Pete Murphy to find out more about it all. Here’s the conversation in full. 

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Hi Pete – great to chat with you again! Who is Edward Filch, and where did he come from?

Hello Rebecca! Likewise, and as you know from previous experience, I tend to ramble incessantly in interviews, so here goes…

Edward came into existence during the making of my last album, a musical soap opera called Funland. He started off as just one of many characters, but as the album developed he featured more and more, and ended up being the main character. He didn’t even have a name until the album was almost finished. I just referred to him as ‘nosy old bugger’. As the Funland concept came more into focus, the little skits and interludes between the songs mostly followed Edward and his lady friend Janice around the neighbourhood, so I thought I should come up with a name for him. The first song I wrote for Funland was Bloody hell, dear!, which has become one of Edward’s most used phrases.

I have no background in comedy or acting. I can’t do accents. I can’t tell jokes. Previously this may have stopped me from venturing into those territories, but these days I’m all about growth and learning, pushing myself and stepping out of my comfort zone.

Songs like The Rum push towards a punchline, but I didn’t start out with the intention of writing a joke. In the case of The Rum, I started writing the song, and the story developed as the lyrics started coming to me.

During the making of Funland, I would walk around the house practicing the songs, talking to my dogs in Edward’s voice, and it dawned on me that I was having a lot of fun doing it. I mentioned it to my wife, and I said that it might be fun to make an album as Edward, so I dashed down to one of the local charity shops, bought a suit for £2, a couple of hats, and some glasses from the pound shop, and started doing ‘The Edward Show’ on YouTube. I didn’t write any material. I just switched the camera on and made it all up on the spot. That’s how I did the whole of season one of the show. The whole of that season may have been a bit heavy on the ‘in jokes’ between my friends and I, but I make the show primarily for my own enjoyment and fun. I might actually write some material for season two. Maybe…

As far as where Edward’s songs came from –

Numerous artists influenced this album…

As always, I am continually influenced and amazed by what Ergo Phizmiz does. One of the most vital and brilliant artists we have, and they get nowhere near the recognition that they should. They recently put out a new song called Walerian Borowzcyk Is Dead, and it’s an incredibly deep and beautiful piece of art.

I recently travelled down to London to see Ergo’s latest opera. It was staged by the Avant Hard Collective, which is the brainchild of Ergo and Lottie ‘Depresstival’ Bowater. Fantastic people, who are doing beautiful, unique, and important work. I also got to meet Elvis Herod, who is such a fantastic all rounder… acting, music, brilliantly observed characterizations, and a really lovely guy.

One of my favourite albums was made back in 1997 by an artist who is pretty much unheard of. His name is Simon Warner, and the album is called Waiting Rooms. He made that one album, and promptly disappeared, never to be heard from again. The orchestral arrangements were done by a guy called Rick Benbow, and while I know very little about arranging strings or music theory, I always appreciate a good string arrangement. Rick’s arrangements on the album are the finest I’ve heard on a modern pop album. The string parts on the Edward album were influenced by him. He’s since done arranging work for some of the big names in the music business.

I’m also in touch with the drummer from the Simon Warner album, a brilliant and hilarious guy called Kenny Rumbles. Incredible drummer. He’s currently working on his own great music project, and he’s definitely a guy to watch.

I’ve heard it said that you should never meet your heroes, but I’ve met several of mine, and I’m in contact with several more, and they’re all such kind, giving people.

James Hall – he hits the stage like the bell has just rang for the first round of the heavyweight championship of the world fight, but offstage he’s just the sweetest guy.

Ergo Phizmiz PLC – an incredibly kind and giving soul. The amount of music they have given away for free over the years is staggering.

In fact, pretty much all of the experiences I’ve had with ‘famous people’ have been positive. A couple of years ago, my friend Matt Malone (who I have played with for the last eight years, in various bands, including his solo project called Malone) took me to see an artist called Jonah Matranga, who was in a massive 90’s band called Far. I was unfamiliar with his music, but after the show he spent time talking and hanging around with us. Such a lovely guy. He even tried to give me a vinyl copy of some of his music for free. I’ve since followed him on social media, and he really is a decent, kind person, with a good outlook on life.

Other influences for the album were Jacques Brel, Dr Alan Statham from Green Wing, and Tom Waits.

I wrote the entire Edward album on a cheap guitarlele. I worked really hard on the melodies. It may be a comedy album, but ultimately it’s about the melodies, and I feel that I’ve succeeded in what I set out to do. I’m really proud of these songs.

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Is his character based on anyone in particular?

Not really. There are elements of people I know, or have known, but no one can sue me for identity theft. As Edward himself says on the first track on the Funland album – “Any similarity to any person, or animal, or vegan, is purely consentimental”

The old chap does have a way with words…

She will probably shout at me for mentioning this in public, but the hearing aid section in My Hearing Aids Is Broken from the album is based on my mom. She’s always forgetting to put her hearing aids in, and when she does wear them, the batteries are often dead. (Sorry mom!)

There are elements of ‘me’ in there, but some of Edward’s opinions and views are in direct contrast to my own. I like it when I disagree with the characters in my songs. I spent many years writing my story and my truth – hundreds of “Oh, woe is me” type songs – but recently I’ve been having more fun with characters. The Funland album is full of horrible people, and that was part of the fun for me – “Wow, did he really just say that?”

Some folks might think that I agree with everything that my characters say, but does the guy who wrote Breaking Bad agree with Walter White’s behaviour? I’m sure he doesn’t. Does anybody who writes an ‘anti hero’ type of character agree with their character’s actions and decisions?

Also, I’d like to say here – yes, it’s a comedy album that deals with various non-comedic issues. This does not mean that I’m poking fun at these issues, or anyone who might suffer with them. I have been directly affected by, and cared for people suffering with alcoholism. I don’t drink alcohol, but I have very close, personal experience with dependency and addiction. It’s difficult and scary. I was addicted to codeine for 15 years. That doesn’t give me any more or any less right to write about those things, but why shouldn’t I? I’m making art, and often, art is not pretty. Not pretty, but still beautiful.

Why write songs about geriatric sex? Why not! Why write songs about impotence and depression and the people at The Tesco changing the layout of the store? Why not!

Talking of which, some of the songs on the album came from real experiences that I’ve had recently. Our local Tesco changed everything around a few weeks ago. While this may be a minor inconvenience for you and I, imagine what it must be like for older people, who may have failing eyesight, are used to their routines, and know exactly where everything ‘should’ be.

I spent time looking after my grandmother and her sister before they passed away, and those are the kinds of things that would have freaked them out.

Bloody Dog! – some of those events really happened (and continue to happen). One of my dogs has chewed Edward’s glasses, more than once. And the other dog, often I’ll catch her running past me at high speed, and I just know she’s found a sock somewhere.

Oh, Hello Doctor – there’s some of me in there. I love watching stuff like Bergman’s Persona, but then I also love sitting down with my wife and watching Muriel’s Wedding or Green Wing or whatever.

There are things that we’re “not supposed to talk about”. Real things. Things that matter. If I want to write about an old man’s depression, and why he’s suffering with it, then I’ll do so. If it’s in the context of a comedy album, then so be it. This isn’t ‘cheap gags at the expense of others’. I worked really hard on these songs.

I gave the Edward album the unofficial tagline of ‘making high drama out of the mundane’, and that sums it up pretty well.

Has witnessing life through Edward’s eyes and writing songs through his perspective changed you in any way?

I haven’t really thought about it, and I’m unsure whether it has changed me. It’s often in retrospect that I discover things like that, and I’m still deeply entrenched in the world of Edward.

It has certainly enabled me to do things that just wouldn’t work under the Pete Murphy name. I like it that Edwards surprises me and shocks me. I’ve gone out in public as Edward a few times. When I went to Ergo Phizmiz’s new opera in London a few weeks back, I spent part of the time ‘in character’, and I’ve been to The Tesco as Edward, which was an interesting experience. Lots of funny looks were directed at me.

The weirdest moment in making the album was the day I started pulling Charity Shop together. The song had already been written (I wrote all of the songs for this album on a guitarlele), but I was working on the arrangement. During one of the playbacks, it got to the middle section, I honed in on the melody that the strings and backing vocals do combined with the rhythm change that the bass does halfway through the section, and I broke down in tears. I had carried that melody around in my head for a while, but when I heard it back with the strings and vocals, it caught me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. With that song, I accomplished (in fact, I surpassed) every expectation that I had. I’m very proud of that song, and I class that middle section as one of the best musical things I’ve ever done.

It’s rare that a song I’m working on affects me so deeply that I break down like that.

What prompted you to make this album, and will you venture down this sort of pathway with other characters in the future?

I think I’ve already touched on the reasons why, in my answer to the first question, but ultimately what prompted me is the fact that I can. I mentioned this in the last interview I did with you, but I have no commercial constraints. I have no one telling me that I can only make an album every two years, or that I can only make art in one particular style or medium. This means there are no expectations or pressures, so I have total freedom to make the music I want to make.

While all of that is great, there are certain frustrations that total freedom brings. I have no fan base. No one is really interested in what I do, aside from three or four people. I sold one copy of Funland. I think my Jenny Le Blanc’s Black Valentine album sold three or four copies, and so far I haven’t sold any copies of the Edward album. I have gotten to the point where I’m no longer apologetic about my art, and I feel that I write good songs, but no one cares. I spend my days and nights doing this, because I love it. I’m sitting here typing up my answers to your questions at 2am, because I love it. My musical mind never switches off. I’m always carrying several album projects around in my head. I’m always trying to improve myself, musically… write better melodies, better lyrics, improve my recording and mixing abilities. But no one cares.

I like to encourage and support my friends and acquaintances when I can, even if what they do is not particularly appealing to me, and even when it’s not reciprocated, but I think that a lot of my friends and family are bemused at what I do.

When I say that no one cares, I don’t mean to sound like a moaning old fool. I get it. I don’t fit into a box. I don’t make the kind of music that is popular. I could do that, but I wouldn’t be happy deep in my heart. I do what I feel is right for my happiness and sanity. And that comes at a price.

I have a famous relative. I won’t mention who it is, as I’m not trying to use their name to further what I’m doing. I don’t know them anyway. It’s one of those ‘second cousin twice removed’ things. This person seems to have struck a balance where they’ve made a successful career for themselves, while still retaining a certain amount of artistic freedom. I have great admiration and respect for that. Their music is ‘popular’, I still hear their hits when I go out, but I sense that they are currently doing exactly what they want to do. How cool is that!?

I’ve had songs that I’ve written used in big TV shows, and while it’s nice, and it brings a bit of money in, that stuff doesn’t really bother me or make me go “woo! I’m on the telly!”

Anyway, onto the second part of your question…

I do have another character, who I’ve kept under wraps. I’ve released a couple of songs as this character, but only told a few people that it’s actually me. I may do some more with this particular character in the future, but I don’t want to say too much about it. Let’s just say that she’s very, very different to Edward.

Currently Edward is taking up a lot of my time. I was working on another album when the idea to make The Edward Show Musics Album album came to me. I put the other album aside to do the Edward album, and I’ve just picked it back up today. It’s going to be very, very different. It’s actually two separate albums that kind of tie together. One is called UnPop Myewzic and the other is called Pop Myewzic.

Edward lives his best life it seems. How did you choose which topics from his week to focus upon within the album?

Ah, like I mentioned, some of the stories/events are things that have actually happened to me (Bloody Dog, The Tesco). I don’t really choose the topics. They choose me. I pick up a guitar, or a notepad, and just write what comes to me. In the case of Bloody Dog!, the song practically wrote itself.

Were there any issues or songs that didn’t make the album, that you felt would cross the line and offer a little too much information?

Haha, there’s probably already too much information on the songs that did make the album! I don’t really censor myself, so this wouldn’t be a factor in whether a song makes it to an album or not.

I just write until an album feels complete. Along the way, songs might get dropped because they don’t seem to fit, or they break the flow, or because I think they’re rubbish, but I would never leave a good song out because of the subject matter.

Funland is far more out there with the subject matter. I think my moral compass steers me well, and wouldn’t lead me out of the realms of satire, and into straight up offence. Of course, some people may disagree, but when you deal with risky subjects there are always people out there who will misinterpret your intentions, and take umbrage at what you’re doing.

There is a song on Funland called Father Jim. I’m not poking fun at the religious community on that song, I’m commenting on people who abuse positions of trust. I don’t care if someone has faith. Whatever gets you through, as long as it’s not used as an excuse to promote hate or war or violence. The first line in that song is “Father Jim is stashing arms, for the IRA” – that comes from a story I heard about a priest at the church where my parents were married. One of the priests was found to be ‘stashing arms for the IRA’. I most definitely AM going to talk about that in my music.

The introduction to that song is pretty dark. As a young lad, I was an altar boy at the local church. It later transpired that two of the adults who worked at the church had been messing with the altar boys. One of them was a priest, the other a volunteer who worked as the ‘head altar boy’, and was also the coach of the football team I played for. I was left alone with the head altar boy on numerous occasions, and while in hindsight some of his behaviour could be seen as ‘grooming’, he never had the opportunity to try anything with me. I was lucky. But why would I not tackle that in a song? The priest is currently serving 25 years, and the other guy has been in and out of prison for his offences.

Thought provoking? Maybe. Controversial? Maybe. Offensive? Well, that’s up to the individual, but it’s not my intention to offend.

I think that as an artist, once you start worrying about what you can or can’t do, what may or may not offend people, you’re in very dangerous territory.

This is one of the things I like about Acousticmaddie. She isn’t afraid to tackle any subject, no matter how difficult. She writes about difficult subjects with sensitivity, while still highlighting the harsh realities and horrors of the world.

Do you think there might be another ‘day in the life’ project in the future?

I have no idea. There is an un-orderly queue of projects/songs/albums waiting around to be worked on, but currently there aren’t any projects of that nature. It may happen.

Can we talk to Edward?

Of course! He’s just finishing up writing a new song called When The Chips Is Down, but I’ll go and let him know that you’re ready to chat. He’s been very excited about this!

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Hi Edward – thanks for your time! You’ve been through a lot from what we can hear on this album. Is every week a roller-coaster ride for you?

Oh, hello dear! It’s lovely to be here doing the interviewings! Fabulous! I have been hearing all of the good things about your internets website. The Stereo Stickmans! I have been doing a lookings, and it is very nice.

I have been writing the musics songs since 1958, and it finally feels like I have arrived!

Now let me tell you something. The musics song I wrote on my album were not intended to be so revealing. The Pete Murphy had a way of pulling things out of me. I wasn’t originally looking for someone to do the producings. I just wanted someone to press the play and the record and the stops buttons. I was quite wary of him at first, but we became quite close during what they call ‘the sessions’.

He encouraged me to be honest, and write the songs that actually mean something to me.

Having said that, he is a crafty bugger. He was always following me around with his tape recordings device. I didn’t realise what he was doing at the time, and I am not very happy that some of the conversations I had with Janice ended up on the album. Some things are for the privates, dear, yet he recorded them and now they are being heard all around the world. He did the same on his music album called the Funland. I thought he was just walking up the way with us, to make sure we didn’t have a fall, but then I heard his album and I was shocked, to say the least. He made it sound like me and Janice are a pair of the nosy busy bodies, instead of the caring, neighbourhood watchings couple that we are. I think he must have done an editings on our conversings, because I’m sure I didn’t say half of the things that are on his musics album.

I wonder if Princess Beatrice has heard my musics album? I love her, and her hats. I wanted her mother to be the queen, you know. We started a petition about it in the neighbourhood. Queen Sarah has rather a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

I wouldn’t quite say that every week is a roller coaster ride. I don’t like the roller coasters, you see. Although every week is certainly a ring and ride!

What would you say are the three most important things in life?

Aha! Are you trying to do a trickings, my dear! Are you expecting me to say the rum, complaining to the Tesco, and the young lass at the charity shop?

My answers are kindness/compassion, the musics, and most importantly… Janice!

What do you think is the key to a lasting relationship?

Now, that is a very good question, dear! It’s funny that you have brought it up, because the Pete Murphy and I were doing the discussings about this very thing during the makings of the album.

The Pete Murphy has been with his wife for 25 years, and I have been with Janice for roughly the same amount of the times. I think he put it quite well, so I will do the paraphrasings of his words –

“In everything you do, consider your partner and your relationship with them. Ask yourself, would this make them happy? Would this make them proud? Or would it upset them? Communicate, honestly and openly. Every relationship is different, and everyone has different emotional needs, so listen to your partner. Truly listen to them.”

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to millennials right now?

Dears, whether you like it or not, you have been, and continue to be conditioned by external forces. The sooner you realise this, and the sooner you break away from it and forge your own path, the better it will be for you, and you will lead a happier and more fulfilling life.

There is a reason why the pop songs you are hearings on the radio have to conform to the certain standards. Reasons why they ‘have’ to be less than four of the minutes long. This started many years ago, when jukeboxes were the chosen form of entertainment in the teenage hangouts. The shorter the song, the more coins being paid into the jukebox. Therefore, more money for the companies.

You can fit three Beatles songs into the time it takes for Bohemian Rhapsody to reach its climax. Does ‘the man’ want one coin or three coins? Of course he wants the three coins! So he monopolises the jukebox, takes out the Bohemian Rhapsody’s, and puts all of the Love Me Do’s and the Sugar Sugar’s and the Shut Up And Do A Dance’s.

It is not much different today. The industry are wrapping up the pop stars with nice little ribbons in nice little boxes, and telling everyone what to listen to. And because they have also taken over the television with the X Factorings and the Britain Has The Talents and the Top Of The Pops, those pretty little boxes are zoomed into our homes every night of the week. We as consumers are told which of the telephones to buy, which of the musics to listen to, what clothings we should wear, that we’re letting our families down if we don’t have the biggest and best TV, the fanciest automobile, the most expensive Christmas presents.

It’s no wonder that so many of the peoples are depressed. It’s no wonder that some of the peoples choose to use the alcohol or the drugs to escape from the real world.

So the peoples go out and make the arts and crafts that sound like the arts and crafts in the radio, because they want to be in one of those glittery, ribbon wrapped boxes too!

We have become the nations of the selfish, dears! We should be helping our fellow humans, helping the homeless peoples and the peoples whose homes have been bombed. If you rip away the skin of the different colour peoples, we all look the same underneath. We should be accepting of other people’s cultures and sexualities, and we should be kind and giving. We should not be locking children up because they are less fortunate than you or I. The politics these days is all about looking after the number one. Let’s all look after each other, dears! This is the way to the happiness and freedom!

Make art that doesn’t sound like what all of the other peoples are doing. The record companies sign up the bands because they like what they do, and then they spend their monies and time trying to make them sound like all of the other musics peoples. What a load of bloody nonsense, dears! They assemble teams to write the songs, they do the market research, in order to have a product that is just like the last product.

As I said before, I have been writing the musics songs since 1962, and over the years I’ve seen a lot of the changes in the musics industry. One thing that never changes is the peoples who have the attitudes of the selfish and the greed. They find the ways to do the manipulatings of the peoples for their own gains.

So to sum up what I’ve just said – be your own person. Don’t follow the crowds. Don’t concern yourself with the latest fashions and the trends, or you will constantly be doing a chasing! Be kind. Give freely. The Pete Murphy played me a song during the making of the album. It is by a young lass called the Bjork. The line in the song that stood out to me was “When in doubt, give”. That is fantastic! If you are unsure what to do, always do the kind thing, the good thing.

‘Things’ aren’t important. Good people and experiences and love and kindness are what matter.

What’s your greatest aspiration in life?

It is on the cards, dear! I am soon going to be playing my musics songs on the live stages! You know the live stages? I have always wanted to do the performings on my own in front of lots of the peoples, but I have always suffered with the shyness and the anxieties.

I have been writing the musics songs since 1927, and it will be fabulous to finally perform my musics in the publics!

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Indeed there is, dear! There is lots more that I’d like to say, but there aren’t enough days in the hour…

Thank you for being the brilliant musics website. I love you, and I wish you all of the successes and the happinesses.

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Check out the album on Bandcamp. Connect with Edward Filch on FacebookInstagram

Rebecca Cullen

Founder & Editor

Musician & writer with an MA in Songwriting.