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I TALK TO The Midnight Beast

Proving just how small the world is, my latest interview was actually with two of my former classmates from school; Stefan Abingdon and Ashley Horne along with their mate Dru Wakely who together are better known as The Midnight Beast.

You may recognise them from a certain Ke$ha parody video or their E4 series, The Midnight Beast, which returns for a second series Thursday nights at 10pm. This time they’ve fallen on hard times and are having to earn their keep in an ex-Bingo Hall run by a fearsome “EastEnd Granny” and her two grand-daughters. As the Beasts live in hope of one day becoming the venue's house band, their lives will once again be thrown into mayhem and push them to their limits.

I caught up with the band to ask them all about how The Midnight Beast came to be, what to expect from the second series and they also answered some of the questions that came in to me on Twitter from some real hardcore TMB fans.

Let's start from the beginning then, how did The Midnight Beast, the band, come about?

Stefan: I started doing drummer classes outside of school, and me and Dru met there, and we started playing in bands together. Ash, would come and watch the shows, and we went through quite a few different line-ups and finally settled on one. 

As a side project we started playing around with comedy, and made some videos and Ash met us in Ibiza at the time and we made a behind the scenes video - it was just our attempt at being funny together! (Laughs). We really enjoyed it and then finally Dru and I put together this semi-video called Ninjas and we wanted to sort of springboard off it, so we put together the Tik Tok Parody.

Ash was around my parents place at the time and we started filming it, threw it online, and it kind of became a band overnight. It blew up so quick, it went 10,000 in the night and then by the end of the week it was on 100,000 and then MTV featured it on Christmas Day, the video blogger Shane Dawson talked about it loads. Really, it just started by spreading it to mates, and now four years on it's still happening really and we've got our second series on E4...

For anyone who hasn't seen the TV show yet, how would you describe it?

Dru: We've always like the term - "a bit of a dirty Glee." It's a narrative based comedy and we splice in some music videos and yeah it's basically in its second series we've got some new characters that come into it, and some old, like our neighbour Sloman, played by the awesome Simon Farnaby.

Stefan: Julia Deacon joins us as the owner of the bingo hall, where we get our first job, she's been in Spaced and Alan Partridge, and then Al Campbell is directing this series and he directed most of the Charlie Brooker stuff, so we felt in really strong comedy hands which is amazing. Also our producer has produced This Is Jinsy as well so it's been really nice to kind of sit back and know that you're in good hands.

How did the TV show come about it the first place? Did producers come and find you or did you take the idea to the producers?

Stefan: It was a bit of both. It was something that we'd always kind of dreamed of doing together. Ashley had more of the acting background, certainly after we'd left school, and Dru and I were more music. We loved the idea of fusing it - I was quite into video editing, Dru was into production and we loved the idea of fusing everything that we did really, it just made a lot of sense.

We met our management company at the time and they said - "Really, the best place to go, because it's so visual and not just music, is to have a chat with some TV people." And we've always watched E4 and said if we were ever going to do anything, it would be for them.

Their marketing is so good, and obviously the stuff with Skins, everything's very viral and online, so we figured they'd be the best people to do it with, so we tested it out with the pilot and managed to have the opportunity to work with Warp Film, who made Dead Man's Shoes and This Is England, but not ever a comedy TV show.

How much input do you three have in what goes on in the series?

Ashley: With the scripts in general, it's very hands on from everyone, collaborative with our ideas and there's a guy called Tom Edge who wrote most of it and he was just awesome, and we've got some fresh new writers this series. But with everything really, even down to the music videos, editing - Stefan edits the music videos still - it's great to have such a great team around us.

How much of it is based on real life and how much of it is exaggerated?

Stefan: It's a real range, we set out to make it a heightened version of ourselves, but yeah, a lot of the scenarios come from real life. The pilot, which has not been transmitted at all, was almost a direct story that had happened to the three of us.

We'll talk to writers, we always go for a coffee with Tom, certainly for this one, and just talk through stuff that happened to us when we were younger, and he'll fuse it in. There's even some times when we forget little bits and watch it and go - "Oh yeah! That was that!" I think, our favourite comedy comes from real-life scenarios like Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Office and Extras - I mean, a lot of the Ricky Gervais stuff, and Larry David.

I think it's really nice because - unless it's kind of very oddball like Mighty Boosh, which you obviously know is not so real - you can normally smell it if it's been made up by a team of writers. And I think that's almost the worst thing.

I think even in stuff like Friends or Big Bang Theory, you can see those scenarios that people have obviously written down on their phones and been like - "I'm going to chuck that in!"

I think you're right, The Midnight Beast comes across as very natural and real. So natural in fact that there's a lot of nudity in this series, is that deliberate?

Stefan: Ah, that's great to hear man! Thank you very much.

Ashley: There are a lot of cocks ain't there? That's our thing I think this series! (Laughs).

Who would you most like to have cameo in the show?

Stefan: Not just because we saw him on your blog, but also because we were a huge fan of him in Entourage, and that's Jeremy Piven. He's just a bit of a hero, the character - I don't know how much of it came from him, or how much came from the writers, but it's just incredible. He'd be amazing, we've always been huge fans of Matt Berry and he's really owning it on Channel 4 at the moment.

Ashley: Peter Serafinowicz? (They all agree.)

Stefan: I think they'd be the big three really.

Would you ever follow in the footsteps of fellow E4'ers, The Inbetweeners, and do a movie?

Dru: I think we'd never say no to it definitely. We always love the idea of just pushing ourselves to the next thing. We've talked about doing some sort of musical, so I think it's definitely on the cards. We'll wait and see how we end up after the second series and see where this year takes us.

Ashley: A musical would be perfect, we're very inspired by The Book of Mormon at the moment and that's relentlessly funny for a musical - if we could create something like that, that would be amazing.

Stefan: Yeah, that's kind of the idea. And I mean obviously, the musical as a film is massive at the moment - it's something we've been chatting through a lot - with people in the States as well. In the States they're really ramped up by the idea of musicals and stuff. To be able to encapsulate something that is maybe a bit film, or a bit of stage would be incredible.

So you're a lot more than just a traditional band, is that right?

Stefan: Yeah, absolutely. Like I was saying earlier, to be able to utilise dance, singing, acting, editing, writing - and find a project that captures all of that is so nice.

We try and push ourselves to places that we don't comfortably think that we can go and work through it, and then look back and go - "Wow! We really did that." I didn't ever think that I'd be able to mix an album that was going to come out in HMV for example. None of us thought that we'd be able to sit back and say that we're the lead actor on a TV show with two seasons.

Let's talk about your fans for a moment. Just how crazy are they?

Ashley: I think a lot of bands say they're fans are pretty crazy - it's quite a standard thing, but I think a lot of ours do go through some crazy lengths. We've had like voodoo dolls made of us and sent through. I mean it's just... weird shit.

Stefan: But it's nice, because we kind of have the best of both worlds where we don't have to be puppets to a record industry, we're self produced and have our own label.

But then we sometimes reap the benefits of having a crowd that can be a generically boy band audience, so to be able to have the two - and then the older ones who are into the series, it's amazing. It's wicked.

Speaking of your fans, I asked for some of them to tweet me in their questions, which they did, so I'm going to ask you a few now...

Ashley: Who has the most hair products? I only use hairspray, I mean that's only one thing right? But I use a lot of it. And if I happen to see my reflection I do have a cheeky little look.

Stefan: Mine is just sitting on my arse playing X Box.

Dru: For me I'd say X Box and then drumming.

Ashley: I love to run baby... I'm always running!

Now, Ash and Stef, I went to theatre school with you two so I already know the answer to this is acting and singing, (which you are doing), but Dru what about you?

Dru: I used to really want to be a pilot.

Stefan & Dru: Really?! D: Yeah, I always had a thing for planes and was a really big fan of the Red Arrows. I used to love it. But I suck at maths, really suck at maths so that's why that didn't happen. I wouldn't pass the test.

Stefan: I think we would never believe that we were anywhere near famous status. It's always surreal to have someone come up to you and know who you are and stuff. If people are into what we're doing then that's brilliant, and if they're not, then at least we're evoking a reaction.

It's absolutely crazy. It's mad to think last tour we were playing Shepherd's Bush Empire, and we were going to watch bands play there and think - "Oh my God, I wonder what they're going to do afterwards?" It was a world that you never kind of get near and stuff  so it's amazing to be in the footsteps of people that we really respect.

I would utilise the power of anonymously slapping people. Not in a bad way! But there are a lot of times throughout the day that I feel that I am wrong.

Ashley: I would have invisibility and I'd probably watch Dru in the shower!

Dru: I'd love the old telekinesis, so I can lift things up without getting off my arse.

Stefan: You could lift up your weights without reaping the benefits! (Laughs).

The Midnight Beast returns Thursday 24th January at 10pm on E4


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