The first time Mick Trouble heard of cult 80s UK post punks Television Personalities he was in a sauna in New York City. “My manager Mort Rich, my friend Joey Bishop, and I were having a shvitz in a bathhouse in Hell's Kitchen. Mort says, "Hey Joey, you heard these new kids Television Personalities?" and starts singing "Where's Bill Grundy Now." It sounded horrible, so naturally I wasn't much of a TVPs fan until around age 92, when I heard them at a record shop in Bushwick. It changed my life”, Trouble explains via email.
It turns out that the anecdote is about as real as Mick Trouble's birth certificate. What is true is that Trouble, the alter ego of Jed Smith, now has a Television Personalities interest that comes close to having to be monitored.
It's the Mick Trouble EP is four tracks that have Trouble sounding uncannily like Dan Treacy, the singer-songwriter of the London band known for their jangling psychedelic pop punk and sardonic British wit.
Though relatively obscure at the time, songs like "Part Time Punks", built around Treacy's louche and sarcastic humour helped Television Personalities to become punk cult heroes who influenced many including Kurt Cobain, and Creation Records’ Alan McGee, who called Treacy, "the last real bluesman in England".
Mick Trouble was born from Wondering Sound, a project that involved Smith creating musical artists from Facebook profile photos and then creating, album covers, bios and then recording a track for each. As well as the 80s pop of HI and the blue-eyed soul of Moira, Smith created Trouble, a songwriter born in Muswell, London in 1963 and who disappeared before a scheduled appearance on John Peel. His 1980 album was discovered earlier this year under a cookie jar in his basement.
Smith is keeping busy and as well as a new Mick Trouble LP, he's working on a My Teenage Stride (his main pop band project) album, recording with one of his personal heroes Ian Svenonius as well as “some other weird meta historical-reenactment type stuff”.
We emailed him questions to find out more about his music and interest in Television Personalities.
Noisey: How did you get the sound so much like Television Personalities ? It’s uncanny.
Jed Smith: I record myself in my practice space. I play everything on the record so I start with drums and layer from there. There's no vintage equipment and no outboard gear besides mic preamps and a Ramsa mixer, so it's mostly all done in Logic. Basically I've made it my personal business since I was about 14 to absorb every microscopic detail of all of my favorite recordings, so I guess it's just "years of practice."
Humour shines through in a track like “Shut Your Bleeding Gob You Git”. But TVP had some fun.
Yeah, the humour is kind of integral to the thing. But I try not to go too broad because this is not satire or parody. It's just "knowing?"
Do you have a favourite TVP song?
Probably "This Angry Silence." Or "Bill Grundy", or "Jackanory Stories". Or all of them.
Has Dan Treacey heard your music?
Not sure. Jowe Head [Television Personalities guitarist] has. In fact Jowe is going to be playing bass in the live Mick Trouble band for a tour next year, and we'll be his backing band for his set (he's recording a new album). That was pretty mind-blowing, I can tell you. But I don't know if Treacy's heard it. Probably not.
What do you think when your music is described as word ‘mimicry'? Do you think it lessens the artistic integrity?
Well of course it's mimicry. If it weren't that word you'd have to come up with a synonym because that's basically what it is. I guess you could say "tribute." But no I don't think it lessens the artistic integrity. I'm doing my "art" inside one construct, and it's a stylistic one, and it's a very specific one at that. It's just a framework to me. I'm not sure I think originality in popular music even exists for the most part. In fact I think it's quite the opposite in a lot of ways. It's a continuum, a universe constantly building on itself and expanding and modifying the vocabulary based on its own precedence. Also, it's fun.
'It's the Mick Trouble EP' is available now on Emotional Response.