A cooler blend of culture

Crazy ’bout the music: Interview with Crazy P’s Ron Basejam

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Crazy P (formerly Crazy Penis) are well-known and loved for their work as one of the biggest disco/funk outfits to emerge over the last two decades.

Best known for their smooth, funkalicious track There’s A Better Place (that which sampled the main song from the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie), the band has been relentless in releasing fresh material, much to the delight of fans.

Indeed Crazy P’s reputation for producing spacey, melodic sounds has seen them release six studio LPs and countless singles, always maintaining a laidback coolness and seeing them earn continued respect from their Australian fan-base.

Co-founder Jim Baron is now also producing originals and remixes under the name of Ron Basejam. Indeed, he’s one very busy man, but managed to take time out to chat to Cream ahead of his Australian tour.

 

Hi Ron. How was you Christmas?

Yeah, it was entertaining. Ha ha! I’ve got two young children and my mum and dad over as well, who are also like two young children, so it was a house full of nutters. But, yeah, it was quite entertaining. And went off without a hitch I think it’s fair to say.

 

Well that’s good, I’m at a Christmas party at the moment – actually I’m interviewing you from my car! I’ve been hearing some pretty crazy family stories here. You can’t help but be related, right?

Ha ha ha, yeah, you can’t choose your family.

 

So I’ve just been telling people at the party that I’m interviewing Ron Basejam, who cofounded Crazy Penis [I still say ‘Penis’ because that’s the kind of guy I am] and it still gets such a great reaction from people who don’t know the name. Why did you guys go with Crazy Penis as name?

Well, we were called Loco Pinga originally, which is like a colloquial Spanish Mexican translation of Crazy Penis. Then the guys from the record label – Paper, the first label we were signed to – found out what the translation was and urged us to go with the English version on the basis they had another artist called Dirty Jesus. Elliot Eastwick was like “Just imagine it: Dirty Jesus versus Crazy Penis”… and so that’s how he sold it to us. But the name, it always gets a reaction. And it’s quite a ‘Marmite’ reaction. I think you either love it or you hate it; there’s not much in the middle.

 

Once signed, you got to making music right away then?

It was very much a hobby at that initial stage [with us] possibly thinking we would have a couple of releases and then get “proper” jobs, which never really happened.

 

Do you think the name did you any favours in those early days?

Ah, probably not, but I think over time you get to see how swear words work in music. I think, generally, if you’ve got a song with ‘penis’ in it, you’re alright. If you’ve got a song with swearing in it, you’re alright. But if you’ve got a band name with anything risky in it, it’s probably a bad move… You get complaints in venues that are council-run, and things like that, or you get stopped at San Francisco airport for, like, two hours because they’ve found out the name of your band and they stick you in a room and say, ‘Crazy Penis? Right. Okay. Well we need to find out more about your band…

 

Crazy P formed soon after; how’s that going as a band?

Really good. We’ve had a really great 12 to 18 months. A bit of a resurgence you might say, in terms of gigs. The last album that came out on K7 did really well. It’s ticking over really nicely. When I get back from Australia, we’ve hired out this barn in North Wales where we’re going to start recording the new record. So, yeah, it’s hard to believe after all this time that it’s still fun…

 

Sorry, did you just say you were going to record the album in a barn?

Well, we’re going to record some of it there. Most of the recording will happen at our studio probably. But we just wanted to get out of the studio. We thought about hiring a big fancy schmancy recording studio for it, but then a friend of ours who runs a festival called Got Wood –

 

‘Got Wood’. That’s perfect for Crazy Penis!

Ha ha! Yeah, exactly… So he owns this amazing place. It’s in the middle of nowhere, right by the water. It’s got this amazing forest which is built into it. And he has accommodation there for everybody. They run, like, yoga retreats and stuff there in the summertime, but not much goes on there in the winter. He kindly offered it to us at a cut-down price. We just thought it would be good to get another view out of the window basically.

 

Mightn’t the view be distracting from the work?

I think taking a period of time out and going somewhere else enables you to really focus on what you’re doing. But it’s not an exact science making music. It can either go great or it can go terribly, you just never know.

 

I guess that would be the secret to your longevity as a band… Although you guys must experience some difficulties working together as well, right?

Of course, it’s like any relationship, but we all came from the same place in terms of our personality and musical development, so there’s no big ego there. It’s all very civilised actually, I’m quite pleased to say! Mind you, there have been times we’ve been stuck trying to come to an agreement, but it’s generally very civilised and debated in a straight-forward fashion until we can out-argue the person who’s disagreeing.

 

Under the moniker of Ron Basejam, the stuff you make is quite varied, from slow jams to late night disco. Do you set any rules for yourself when making music?

No, there’s never any rules. I think once you start imposing them, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. I saw there was a guy that, um, I digress slightly, but do you know Mike Monday?

 

Yep.

Well, he’s doing this thing online at the moment that goes sort of like this: “Crib sheet to getting your tune finished”, where he’s done a ten-step guide of rules for you to follow in order for you to finish your music. It just got me thinking about that side of things, and about people that you view as real artists… Would Joy Division have ever had a crib sheet of ten rules? Fucking hell! No, they were stuck in a warehouse in post-industrial Manchester; it was pissing down with rain. What they were doing was just an extension of how they felt, and I think that’s what we always do. I don’t think we ever place rules on ourselves.

 

What do you see for the future of Crazy P and Ron Basejam?

Ron is a nice little outlet and I had a chance to do quite a lot of work at the beginning of the year. So I’ve just had an EP out on Futureboogie, and have another out early next year. Ron’s great. I really enjoy it because it really is no-holds-barred, and I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Remixes-wise, there’s been a steady flow. I’ve just done a Barbara Tucker thing for Compost. And Crazy P-wise, we finished an EP just before Christmas which we’re going to try and get out pretty quick. It’s, like, more uptempo stuff. Then around February, like I said, we’re going to knuckle down and try to make in-roads into the next longplayer. We’ll see how we get on in barmy Wales! Ha ha ha!

 

Ron Basejam is playing at Coast in Perth on Friday 6 January, and then The Port in Sydney on Saturday 14 January. Tickets are available through www.eventbrite.com.au.

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