A ten-minute drive from Slough, a man in a bright red morph suit was doing all he could to avoid the giant pieces of fruit being hurled at his head.
Moments earlier, that same man – Allan “Seapa” Mustafa, AKA People Just Do Nothing’s MC Grindah – was suspended high above the candy-coloured set of the fictional Japanese game show his character was appearing on, as extras in brightly coloured costumes milled about below.
If all this sounds a bit different to a normal episode of the BAFTA-winning sitcom, that’s because it is: the Kurupt FM boys had left Steves’ mouldy flat and were filming a feature-length film, People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan. Having spent a couple of months shooting “guerrilla-style” on the other side of the world, they were back home in deep west London suburbia, not too far from the Kurupt “studio” in Brentford.
A few years have passed since we last saw the lads in the TV series finale, and, as the script would have it, everyone has mostly moved on from the UKG pirate radio dream. Grindah is a postman, Beats has secured his “dream job” at the local bowling alley, with Craig as his manager. Steves has a flourishing weed farm. Chabuddy, meanwhile, is living in his van and is at his lowest point ever, but has only gone from strength to strength in his status as the most useless manager of all time.
Following a few missed emails, the Kurupt FM crew come to discover that their “Heart Monitor Riddem” has been used as a jingle in a popular Japanese game show. As a result, they're flown out to Japan by a record label, who reckon they can turn this viral novelty song (and maybe even the guys who spawned it) into a commercial success. Sadly, laughed director Jack Clough, they soon discover that “the guys are complete idiots with very little work ethic”.
So, how does making a movie compare to filming half-hour segments for a TV series? “The process is quite similar, but the challenge was how to step it up cinematically while sticking to the doco-style and keeping that raw aspect,” Jack explained, as we watched Steves pretend to shelve a condom filled with drugs in preparation for his upcoming holiday.
In fact, really not much has changed: most of the crew also worked on the TV series, so the spirit is the same, just scaled up for the big screen. The vibe on set is jovial and supportive. All the guys watch each other film their scenes and sit around cracking jokes between takes. The front page of the call sheet has a note in bold capital letters, warning, “DO NOT TOUCH THE FAKE WEED PLANTS THEY’RE DELICATE.”
During the lunch break, I sat down with the boys in an old converted bus serving as a makeshift canteen. Last to arrive was Hugo Chegwin, AKA DJ Beats, who was fuming because there was no good food left, leaving him with vegan Bolognese. Once he settled down, we began: why did they decide to make a movie?
“When you’re watching the TV series, they never actually make it, so we wanted to see what it would be like if they actually ‘made it’… even though it’s kind of in the wrong way, because it’s as a novelty act,” laughed Mustafa. “But seeing them out of their comfort zone, getting the things they thought they always wanted... they realise it’s more about their friendships, and them not wanting to grow up.”
And Japan? “We were going for a fish out of water vibe… where can we go where everything’s bonkers,” said Asim Chaudhry, who plays the band’s “manager” and (extremely) small-time huckster, Chabuddy G. “We had loads of ideas, but we just kept coming back to Japan.”
“It took us ages to figure out how and why they would get to Japan,” added Steve Stamp, AKA Steves, who does most of the writing for the show. “I didn’t like the idea of them just getting a booking in Japan.” Hence, Kurupt FM skyrocketing to international stardom by way of a musical cameo on Bang Bang Game Show – the perfect deus ex machina for a crew who could only ever stumble into success dick-first.
“There’s a documentary about LTJ Bukem and his manager, [Tony],” said Mustafa. “He's a drum ‘n’ bass act, and his manager’s a proper geezer – and they’re out in Japan, and there’s a bit where he’s like, ‘Japan has decided drum ‘n’ bass is ‘appening.’ So we were like... Japan has decided that garage is happening!”
“That helped inspire us. There’s [also] an old documentary about when Wu-Tang go to Japan, and they've got no weed, and Method Man is stressed and they’re all arguing,” he laughed. “We just thought, ‘There’s so much we can get out of this.’ The Kurupt FM boys are so inappropriate and rude anyway in England, and [Japan] has such a traditional culture, so putting them in there is funny.”
Although there is a written script, the dialogue in the film – as it was in the TV series – is predominantly the product of on-set improv, with the script acting more as a guide. You might imagine this would be a stressful arrangement for the people funding the film, but the boys clearly proved their ability to deliver over the course of the BBC Three series.
“It’s very free,” said Mustafa. “I used to just enjoy the improv and fucking about with my mates, because that’s the beauty of this job. But I do love delivering lines with some sort of emotion attached to them. That’s a newfound love for me.”
So… actual acting?
They laughed. “Yeah, after five seasons we’ve just worked out how to act,” deadpanned Stamps.
“There’s loads of tragedy in our comedy,” added Chaudhry, whose character has had a particularly bad time of it. “There’s a thin line when you’re doing a scene which reads funny, but then you think, wait, if this actually happened to a real person it would be horrible! Sometimes you feel yourself drifting from that comedic performance on to that tragic performance. They're both related.”
“I think really good comedy should be like that,” added Mustafa. “If it’s just gag after gag after gag, you haven’t earned those moments. You want to feel like you believe it, and you want to feel invested in those characters. And then the comedy parts work better.”
I visited the set in December of 2019, and shooting wrapped a few weeks later, with a summer 2020 prospective release date. But we all know what happened that March: COVID meant the PJDN boys found themselves with an extra year between the end of filming and their creation’s eventual unleashing upon the world.
Fortunately, Mustafa isn’t particularly upset about how things turned out when I catch up with him on the phone. “It turned out to be a good thing in the end – having more time on our hands helped us shape it into something we’re even happier with,” he says. “I guess the frustrating thing was it sitting there for an extra year without the release. There [were] talks of just getting it released on the VOD platforms, or online, but in the end we thought, ‘Let’s just hold out and do it properly, how we wanted to in the first place.’ We’re just really looking forward to everyone seeing it now, finally.”
The boys have also used the extra time to get in the studio and record Kurupt FM’s debut album, ‘The Greatest Hits (Part I)’.
“Everything we do has a logic within the world of those characters,” says Mustafa. “By the end of the film, they’re left with some residual PRS money, and Grindah insists that they’re going to make Kurupt FM’s greatest hits, and then he realises that they’ve only got three tracks.'“
“You don’t see any of this happening, by the way,” he clarifies, laughing.
The project is narrativised as taking place within Grindah’s hubristic dreams, in which the Kurupt boys team up with producers and MCs including Sir Spyro, MJ Cole, D Double and P Money to create their first original album. That fictional album is now very much a factual reality, and their hope is to actually take it on tour next year.
This blurred line between the characters and the boys themselves is arguably what makes People Just Do Nothing so good, and their comedic alter-egos so easy to invest in. During my set visit, I had to stop myself from glaring at Mustafa, who, as Grindah, I blame for all of poor sweet Beats’ problems. At one point, I lost my cool and asked Mustafa if he will ever leave his long-suffering best friend alone.
“It’s a romantic story between me and him. The film has a big bromance element,” he laughed.
Chegwin piped up from his vegan-Bolognese-induced silence in support” “Don’t ever leave me alone. I love it.”
People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan is in cinemas now.