The Piccadilly Rats – interview
HOME – Manchester
The Piccadilly Rats are a street theatre/music group from Manchester who started out busking on the corner of Lever Street nearly 5 years ago. They are the subject of a new film called Piccadilly Rats Live in Moderation. Louder Than War’s Nigel Carr caught up with front man Garry (Gaz) Stanley, dancer Ray Boddington, (left & right above) former drummer Martin Gray and film director Nathan Cunningham to talk about the group and the new film which is slated for release at the end of this year. Sadly Tommy Piggott, the missing member, couldn’t make it.
Louder Than War: When I interviewed Cabbage in early 2016 Lee told me that ‘We love the Piccadilly rats, we aspire to be them’ so that’s really the first time I became aware of you.
Gaz: “Is that what he said? Well we are actually mentioned in one of their songs (Tell Me Lies About Manchester) Noel Gallagher actually said about Ray how he likes his crazy dancing – Noel said to Paul Gallagher, who told me. Quite a statement that wasn’t it?!”
Nathan: “Yeh they (Cabbage) did that gig at The Fallow Cafe and he said to me if it wasn’t for the Piccadilly Rats he wouldn’t be in a band.”
Eighteen months later and Cabbage are playing one of the bigger stages at Glastonbury so tell me a bit about your history.
Gaz:” I was an actor and appeared in one episode of Shameless (series 8 episode 1) playing Blind Stevie. Mimi came to the door wanting me to take a blood test and I said ‘Shit yer’ve not got The Aids ‘ave yer?’ She said ‘No I want to find out who the father of me child is’.
When we first started off we were just doing a bit of busking and to be honest the first time I went busking I couldn’t sing into the mic. I just couldn’t do it. I kept waiting for people to go past and in the end, I thought ‘fuck it’. I started packing me gear and half way through packing I thought ‘No I’m doing it’. I rammed it back in and started singing Rave On straight away and one man went past and threw ten pence in. And I never looked back!”
So You’re like the start of it all Gaz?
Garry: “Yeh, and then after a while, I thought I’d get a gimmick, so I got a rat’s head for the drummer and they started throwing money at us, I’m like ‘what’s this?’ We weren’t called The Piccadilly Rats then. There were just the two of us Heath Dean and me. So we decided to get a second mask right? But then I realised I couldn’t sing through it, so we ended up with a spare mask. Then Heath went missing and Dave (Copeland) joined outside Wetherspoons, I met him there and he said he could drum. He said ‘Just let me drop me shopping off’ he wasn’t great, he was OK and then the drummer came back so we ended up with a spare mask. Dave put the mask on then, so then there were two rats then. Then the drummer went missing again, Martin comes and steps in.”
How did you get involved Ray?
Ray: “I was walking past one day and I saw Garry and I liked his guitar and I liked him, I play guitar myself so Garry knew I did my own dancing He said ‘Why don’t you have a dance? When I first saw them I thought ‘no chance’ but then as the months went on its developed and now it’s really, in my opinion, very good.”
Martin: “I saw them by accident, I was walking past and I’d seen these two guys and Heath with them outside Primark, I’m thinking, ‘This guy’s got this mask on they look really weird. It was March 2013, I was on me bike and I got talking to the guys, I went past a few times round the corner, on Lever Street where they always are and said I was a drummer and I’d been with Goldblade. He said ‘Would you like to come down one day and have a jam’, so we did. I put the rat head on and I never thought anything of it and then he said ‘you know that you can play’ so it just happened.”
What happened to Dave? I believe the circumstances were tragic?
Gaz: “I met Dave outside Wetherspoons and that’s the last time I saw him there the day that he died. He died of pneumonia in December 2014.”
Martin: “They were having a Christmas dinner right in Wetherspoons, Garry was there, Ray was there, and Dave and me. Dave was accused of being pissed, but he was only on orange juice or something. The staff said ‘We’re going to have to send him out’, they’d paid for their Christmas dinner and Dave was really worse for wear and he passed away that evening.”
Ray: “They were really nasty, no one took any notice and the guy said, ‘Get him out of here he’s drunk’ and I said ‘I’m not being funny mate’ he said ‘you’re all drinking’ I said ‘no I don’t drink, I’ve never drank in my life so you’ve got that wrong straight away, there must be something wrong with that pint’. He said, ‘well get him out of here'”
So you started to gather a following. Tell me about how the Judge Rinder (ITV reality court show) appearance happened.
Gaz: “Then we evolved and people started to approach us for gigs then, so when we went into this competition (Battle of the bands) at the Bierkeller at The Printworks in 2014. We do the heat, we get through the heat, everything’s great. Then we get to the semi-final, everything’s great and then we get through to the final. Then going out I said, ‘I’m going to get Tommy a mankini for the final.’ and the promoter said ‘Aw that’ll be great’.
Leading up to the final Ray said all week ‘It’s not a fucking good idea that Garry! No’ So we decided not to do it then on the night we arrived at the venue and the promoter said ‘Have you got the mankini?’ so I said ‘No, we don’t really think it’s a good idea’. She said ‘aww no I was looking forward to that’ so I thought ‘fuck it’ and I ran out and bought one from Love You Babe on Market street. We get there and because it was a final all these other bands had a following so the place is rammed. We’ve got no following at all.
Where the stage was there’s a perfect little room for Tommy to get changed, right next to the drum kit. I’d said to Tommy, ‘After the first song, come on, do a little turn and then go off’. Half way through the first song, out of the corner of my eye in my peripheral vision I can see Martin kicking the door shut – he’d seen what Tommy looked like”
Anyway, Tommy came out after the first song and it was that loud the cheer it felt like One Direction had walked out! The room, I’m not joking, absolutely erupted and I thought ‘Thank god for that it’s gone down well’ I looked across and the wide bit of the mankini, he had that on his chest. The thin bit was at the bottom, and his knackers were hanging out”
Gaz (to Ray): “You said he was big didn’t you?”
Ray: “Big? He was like a bull! I’ve lived in the country, I lived there when I was a kid. I told him ‘You can’t do that onstage, man, this is the final we’re up to win this, turn round and go back in that room and change’. This is what’s not on Judge Rinder because they daren’t put it on. I turn round again after and he had nothing on! He was absolutely naked, you know what I mean!? I said ‘Right that’s it!’ and Dawn, who was like assistant manager said ‘That’s is disgusting’ and then she said to the guy next to her with a camera who’s filming ‘Get a shot of that quick!'”
Gaz: “Honestly, she said she actually wet herself!”
Ray: “It was that disgusting they couldn’t put it on the website! That’s Tommy and his age and a few problems headwise. Anyway, so that was it.”
Gaz: “So that’s how we ended up on the Judge Rinder show.”
Martin: “We came third because of that but we should have come first.”
What sort of stuff were you playing?
Gaz: “Oasis stuff like that, Wonderwall, All my Loving, Rave on.”
Ray: “I thought that we would win, we can’t say for definite we would have won, but I think what happened cost us. I’ve had nightmares over what I saw!”
How did you the Judge Rinder show get hold of you and what happened?
Garry: “They contacted us but I think Ray contacted them but he won’t admit it (Ray ‘sued’ the rest of the band on the show for the £500 they would have won in the competition). (To Ray) Did you get in touch with Judge Rinder?
Ray: No, they phoned me up right?, she said ‘Has anything ever gone wrong at one of your show?’ so I said ‘no’ She said ‘have you had any fall outs? has nothing ever gone wrong at one of your gigs?’ So I said ‘oh yeh, Tommy put a mankini on’. She said ‘oh yes that’s it, what went on?’ So she knew! I’m not bothered, I don’t get involved in politics, you know what I mean?, I do what I do, I’m an entertainer.”
Gaz: “When we got to the studio we were saying all day to the producer, ‘Where’s Ray?’, and he said ‘Oh he’ll be here in a minute’. An hour later ‘where’s Ray?’,’ oh he’s just on the other side of the building’ and then when I walked into the courtroom he’s in the other fucking dock! I said ‘What are you doing over there? I thought we was all going together?’.
We thought it was going to be between us and the court but if they hadn’t put Ray in the other dock there’d have been no story.”
Ray: “To me the whole thing was a sham. I was at home and a car pulled up and a guy knocked on the door, he said ‘Can you get in the car, I’ve got to take you to Granada’. I got there they did me hair, they put a suit on me and threw a portfolio under me arm, she said ‘When we open the door if you go to the right.’ I said ‘where is the group?’. So that’s what happened. I just played the part.
They phoned me up and they said ‘That show it’s the best thing we have ever had, it’s got us half a million viewers more she said.”
Gaz: “After the show, we got gig requests from all over the country but we had no management, no travel budget and no drummer.”
Martin: “I left because I got pissed off with that Judge Rinder thing. I wanted to wear a rat head in court, but at the last minute, they told me to take it off. I was going to walk out – I was revealed.”
Gaz: “After that, we started to get a load more gigs and Nathan, who is directing the film, has got contacts with two guys who have connections in the music industry, the Donnelly Brothers.”
Nathan: “Anthony (Donelly) is one of the executive producers on this documentary.”
Gaz: So, with their connection, they got us on at Kendal Calling on the same day as Noel Gallagher. When we went on it was half full and after a couple of songs, the whole crowd moved forward fifteen yards.
How did you guys meet and how did the idea for the film come about?
Nathan: “The first time I met Garry we were working together at the Manchester Evening News, I was on the street giving out free newspapers and he used to come and collect the rubbish. Then I got promoted to bike duties! I was on a bike with a trailer, I had the bundles of newspapers and all that and I used to drop them off at different sites. Me and him used to sneak off to the park and skive off. We’d be there with a packed lunch drinking San Miguel, we just got chatting and we had a lot in common.”
Garry was doing quite a bit of acting at the time, TV stuff, and I was just getting involved in the business side making short films. I made a film called, The Pimp, The Prostitute and The Milkman, changed the name to Racial Depression, and Garry played the baddie in it. A pimp on a council estate. So that’s how we met.
The documentary came about because when me and Garry used to skive off he used to bring his guitar. We always kept in contact and he said he’d just started busking, so I saw the very first time he did it and I was buzzing.
Anthony got in touch with me, I was making a film called Rum Bastards with John Cooper Clarke, Shaun Ryder and all them lot and I run out of money and thought ‘fuck what am I going to do man? I was a bit gutted and I was always charmed by the Piccadilly Rats. I saw the Judge Rinder thing and thought ‘we’re going to have to put Rum Bastards on ice and make a documentary about these guys’. I knew I could get full access to the band as I knew Garry.
I then did a crowdfunding thing through Indigogo and then Anthony got wind of it and I got a message on Twitter he said it was great what you’re doing and through him we got a gig at Kendal Calling. It was fucking massive and the film is basically about The Piccadilly Rats trying to get off the street and have their moment.”
Gaz: “Everything that we do leading up to that point goes wrong. Tommy fell off the float at The Irish Parade and fractured his eye socket and broke four ribs last year. We went to Kendal Calling thinking it will all be shit again”
Martin: “Cabbage were there that day, that’s how they became fans.”
Nathan: “The film is basically ‘The road to Kendal’. It’s disaster after disaster, failed gigs, bad weather, injury, hardship and then we got to Kendal and we didn’t have an end to the film. Thanks to The Donnelly boys they got on there and we thought ‘Right this could be the end to the film’. They were first on in the house part tent at half one, and then the Sunday afternoon, ten minutes before they went on there we three people in the tent, and I’ve got three cameramen there, the proper set up. As if by magic, people started coming in and it was fucking rammed – they just fell in love with the Picadilly rats.”
Ray: “I thought it would have been dead and then I started talking to the crowd when I went out and I said ‘How many are from Manchester here? Right you’ve come ‘ere to enjoy yourselves haven’t yer? My name’s Ray and we’re the Picadilly Rats. Let yourselves go’ and the next minute it erupted.”
Who do you base your dancing on Ray because you’re not like Bez?
Ray: “No, but he said to me, ‘You’re one mad dancer, I like some of your moves even I haven’t got some of them, and you are a good dancer in your own right and you do your own stuff’, and I said ‘Yeh and there are 22 moves I do you don’t see’. People don’t only associate me with that (The hair comb move) I play the harmonica and have done all my life.”
Nathan: “We started shooting in January 2016 and we stopped in November and it’s been in edit since then and will be out mid-Autumn after the legals are sorted, so maybe October or pre-Christmas.”
What have you been doing since:
Gaz: “We are doing a few festivals this year, Rockfest in Buxton, we just did Millfest and we’re still doing bits of charity work as well.”
What do you hope for the documentary:
Gaz: “For the band, it will hopefully raise our profile even higher.”
Nathan: “Hopefully with The Donnellys behind it, they have connections in TV and film, (Their own life story is being made in to a film written by Irvine Welsh) they said give us first dibs on it.”
What does the future hold?
Gaz: “Bigger gigs, we played with The Blinders on New Year’s Eve, Death To The Strange – when we play with their bass player and drummer it locks the sound up.”
Will the Rats ever retire?
Gaz: “I don’t know”
Who are your favourite artists Gaz?
Gaz: “I like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, I like Paul Weller as well.”
Do the shades ever come off Ray:
“Very Rare! My mother told me one thing ‘Never take notice of anybody, so if anybody comes up and says you’re good, don’t say yes or no, just say I’m glad you enjoyed it, if someone comes up to you and says you’re rubbish, say ‘I hope you like it next time’. Don’t leave in a temper and that’s professional and that’s how you grow up…”
Gaz: “I’d like the Piccadilly Rats to continue but eventually I’d like to get off the street and do private booking and gigs and record some of my own stuff as well. We are a street theatre group but I have got a serious side as well.”
The film Piccadilly Rats Live In Moderation is released at the end of 2017 and is directed by Nathan Cunningham. It is produced by Cunningham, Greg Tomaszewicz and and noted Manchester promoter Mr Peeps. It is narrated by Steve Evets.