I promised exciting things would be coming to this blog. And tonight, I will deliver!
As a kid, I remember being fascinated by Dick Van Dyke’s one man band performance in Mary Poppins. And also by his inventions in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Which is, I suppose, part of the reason that I am so captivated by the Steampunk scene. (Remember the light up goggles that my man made me? Probably the coolest thing ever.)
Anyway, being thoroughly enchanted by steampunk and gadgets and one man bands, when my sister (who shares a similar interest) and I happened upon an appearance by Uptown Brown - one man band extraordinaire! - we of course decided to check it out. And what a delight it was!
(Photo by Danny Wootton.)
Uptown Brown’s performances are definitely something special. And he is an interesting character, to boot. I am sure that you do not need proof of this, but I will give it to you anyway!
I asked Uptown Brown if he would be willing to let me interview him, and he graciously accepted.
So, here it is! My first interview conducted entirely through a time machine. Enjoy!
Natashadventure (NA): Uptown Brown…does this name reference anything?
Uptown Brown (UB): Well, I like to think of myself as a classy type of fellow so ‘Uptown’ was a logical choice – implies I’m from the better part of town you know. Brown is my mother’s maiden name. She was a burlesque trapese artiste and as a young lady was something of a tearaway I’m lead to believe. Even as an older lady too for that matter! Rumour has it my father was a steam locomotive driver but I never did find out his name.
NA: What do you call this musical contraption that you built? How long did it take to build?!
UB: My machine is known as the ‘Goodtimes Gyratorscope’ (patent pending). I built it over a period of about 6 months using parts from a wrecked biplane (which I myself crashed, but that’s a whole other story).
Uptown Brown and his “Goodtimes Gyratorscope.” (Photo by Danny Wootton.)
NA: Was it easy to play initially?
UB: After the initial malfunctions (including nearly losing an arm) the machine is now almost entirely non-lethal. Except for mild electrocution from time to time.
NA: What or who inspired you to become a one man band?
UB: Primarily economic necessity. And the fact that the majority of the musicians in my original orchestra have all largely been imprisoned, gone mad with syphillus or are in various health sanatoriums undergoing treatment for substance abuse.
NA: Are there any other one man bands that inspire you? What other musicians are you influenced by?
UB: I was inspired by the likes of Jesse Fuller, Phillip Roebuck, the Straniero and Eric Royer (all one man bands – check them out). There’s lots more. Also the films of Fritz Lang, Terry Gilliam, Charles Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Jeunet & Caro.
NA: Do you take your act on the road, or are you mainly based in Melbourne? If you’ve been on the road, where have you traveled to?
UB: As a street performer my act is always on the road! Or the sidewalk. I’m mostly based in Melbourne but am always open to offers of travel to faraway places. I loved Morocco/Marakesh but I was mistakenly imprisoned about a misunderstanding over a camel. Thats a whole other story.
NA: What is your favorite performance memory? Any peculiar stories?
UB: I love the interactions and intimacy you have with an audience as a street perfomer – too many memories to single one out. Amongst them though playing for singing children, dancing lovers, weeping drunks and howling dogs. And occasionally combinations of all four simultaneously.
NA: What is your favorite song to perform?
UB: I only play songs I love but ‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ (by Jesse Fuller) is still one of my favorites.
NA: Is there anything that you would like to say to your fans? Where can they see you perform next?
UB: I have fans? Good lord, whatever next?!! Well, I’d tell them to not take life for granted and make sure they enjoy a few cocktails along the way. I’m performing a few shows at the Famous Spiegeltent in the next month or two and will probably hit the Camberwell or Victoria markets a few times.
And there you have it, folks! I was lucky enough to catch another of his performances tonight, at the Spiegeltent (something else you all should check out!)
For those of you living in Melbourne, I highly suggest that you keep your eyes peeled for more entertainment by Uptown Brown. Not that lucky? Not to worry, I will end this post with a video!
Uptown Brown on facebook.