Reflecting on the Pranks of Dean Blunt, the Greatest Piss-Taker in British Music
He'd fucking hate us labelling them 'pranks', but we're doing it anyway.
The British, as a people, are the inveterate piss-takers of the free world. We produce top-notch piss-takers at the same rate China produces our steel – from You’ve Been Framed, to the Big Breakfast, through to The Day Today and Brass Eye, all the way to your grandad putting an unwanted sugar in your nan’s tea. Sure, the future may be coloured a carpet-fluff shade of grey for most of us, but the grand tradition of determined trolling and bloody minded pranking steamrolls on unimpeded.
On the subject, there is no artist working today who encapsulates this greatest of British traditions better than the enigmatic London musician and artist: Dean Blunt. Over the years, Blunt has accrued a reputation for precocious brilliance and inventiveness across a number of different mediums - he's released outstanding, eclectic albums (we rated one of them as our 2nd best album of the year) and abstract videos, put on extravagant and wildly unpredictable live shows, and a couple of aborted stage plays. But as well as, and a part of, all the beautiful art, Blunt is also the undisputed heavyweight champion of the fiendishly elaborate piss-take. He's told inquisitive journalists that he was quitting music to attend wrestling school, sold weed on eBay, and trolled entire awards ceremonies, to name a few.
Of course, he would fucking hate us labelling them 'pranks' – he railed against the word in a September 2014 interview with Wire, deriding, “All these faces smiling thinking you’re going to do a fucking joke before you play. I want to say to these people, it’s not funny, it’s not a fucking critique”. But we’re doing it anyway, because his peculiar brand of trolling often acts as a means of opening up a dialogue – or determinedly individualistic monologue – on complex issues of race, perception, and, as Blunt has outlined in detail, the smug assumptions and “default knowledge of the liberal left”.
The core jokes are also just really fucking funny. The huge, impassive black bouncer he brings onstage at every gig is an almost WWE-esque visual gag, but it’s also a way of adding another black face to the white hipster crowds he invariably attracts. The reason he “has a brother with me everywhere I go – (is because there are) never any others in the venue so I might as well increase the numbers a bit.”
So, we’ve siphoned off a few of his best piss-takes, that lurch between oblique commentary and a splattered custard pie to the face, and here they are…
THE TIME HE PUT ON AN ART EXHIBITION, BUT IT WAS JUST A GETTY IMAGES STOCK PHOTO AND SOME PIERCING WHITE NOISE
We might as well start with his most recent masterpiece, which I had the pleasure of visiting in person. As I shuffled past tote bags and beanies, the white noise I clocked on entry ratcheted up in pitch. And there I found myself, bang in the middle of an exhibition, and it was literally just a Getty Images photo of a cheesy couple simpering over coffee. That's it. It runs until the 28th of February and I still can’t give a remotely sensible answer about whether you should go or not*. Which is presumably what Blunt’s going for.
*It’s definitely worth going to. I think.
THE TIME HE TROLLED THE NME AWARDS BY SENDING A RANDOM GUY THAT WASN'T HIM
It came as a slight jolt to the system when Blunt scooped up the 'Phillip Hall Radar Award' – reserved for outstanding newcomers – at last February’s ceremony. Actually, scratch that. It ended up being two slight jolts as A) a genuinely outstanding, genuinely left-field candidate won, and B) it felt strange to label Blunt as a ‘newcomer’ when he has – across projects – released nearly ten albums.
So as polite applause subsided, a bald black guy clad in 2004-timewarp-indie jacket took to the stage, so visibly emotional that he thanks God and the NME that “he’s finally made it”. Respected publications immediately post-out sincere social media congratulations. “Fam done Good”, write NTS Radio with a tongue in their cheek, “Congrats to Dean Blunt on the NME award…”.
Because it’s not Dean Blunt. The real Dean Blunt, if he’s even watching, is presumably pretty chuffed with the simply efficient prank of sending a random bloke to collect the award. A random bloke that respected media outlets are reporting as the real Dean Blunt – including the NME themselves on their live blog. If the question Dean posed with this one was, “How well do you actually know me and my work?” Then the answer spoke for itself.
THE TIME HE PRETENDED TO GO BLIND DURING AN INTERVIEW ON RINSE FM
“I got cataracts in my left eye, I’m half blind. I can’t see anything in my left eye”. Blunt’s pretty much unanswerable response to getting caught out breaking Rinse FM's ‘No Swearing’ policy during a live interview upon being told the ‘No Swearing’ sign was perched on his left. You know what, he might have cateracts actually. Maybe I’m on dodgy ground here? Fuck it, I’m hailing it the work of a visionary anyway, because I'm writing this article and I can do what I want. You're not the boss of me.
THE TIME HE TRIED TO FLOG TOY MINI COOPERS STACKED WITH WEED ON EBAY
You’re forgiven for having absolutely no idea what it means for Blunt to be selling tiny toy cars stuffed full of weed, and emblazoned with the Foxtons logo, because guess what? Nobody does. Search away for deeper meaning and construct ingenious readings if you have to – Mini Cooper are poisoning our minds? The Italian Job was a bad film? Cars are bad? Cars are cool? – but sometimes it’s ok to just see a custard pie gag for what it is.
THE TIME HE RELEASED A BOOK BUT IT WAS JUST FULL OF REALLY EXPENSIVE RECEIPTS FROM VIP CLUBS
One for the perpetually beleaguered Bob Marley poster crowd and hyper fleek art crew alike, “Ciroc Boyz: Vol 1” dropped last April to a mixture of the bewilderment of the many and the knowingly exchanged arch looks of the Blunt-loving few. A lovingly crafted, coffee table-adorning 30 page tome chronicled the "excessive expenses made in the most popular VIP clubs in the hip hop scene" – it is literally just a book of receipts totalling over $156K’s worth of expensively packaged distilled potatoes. Still, it was described by one reviewer as, “both ludicrous and vaguely profound – much like Blunt himself.” It's defo better than the Hunger Games, imo.
AND FINALLY, THIS STORY
As told by Dean Blunt himself to the Wire in 2014: “[My record label, Hippos in Tanks] hooked us up with a gig at the 50th birthday party of the guy who made e-cigarettes. He just got divorced from his wife and so he thought The Redeemer was helping him or something. He had this huge mansion in Fort Lauderdale in Florida, and James and I played at it, just non-stop white powder truth sessions. He had paramedics bringing us IV drips so we could keep going. Then on day two he had this thing called Fifty Is My Fantasy where he hired a bunch of ladies of the night and he rented this island and all his friends turned up and they basically ran through the forest hunting these women down like dogs. The whole thing was hooked up for us by Hippos in Tanks, it was fucking intense and all the time they were chasing these women, they were playing Billy Joel really loud across a PA system. It was totally surreal and kind of fucking disgusting really, but it was powerful, you know? Certain things are just bigger than judgment.”
You can follow Francisco on Twitter.