Mr Everything, Craig Charles

Adjectives for Craig Charles are abundant, having shot to fame as a punk poet in the ’80s, then having become a sci-fi comedy actor, presenter, and more recently DJ and soap star. ‘Reformed’ would also be on that list following his spell in rehab for smoking crack six years ago.

But despite his almost national treasure-like status, Charles’s Liverpudlian dulcet tones sound so familiar chatting to him feels like I’m talking to someone I already know. A factor helped by his frank and friendly manner – ‘Fuck, I shouldn’t have told you that!’ – he says a couple of times during our chat.

Charles is about to release an album of choice funk and soul cuts, off the back of the success of his show on BBC Radio 6 Music. How did he go about choosing the tracks on the album? ‘It was a nightmare from start to finish, I have a big record collection with so much music I adore and  the album has only 19 tracks on it!’

Charles has regular DJ slots in clubs across the country, including a hugely popular set at the Bloomsbury Bowling Lanes in London – so much so that he says one fan recently came down from Inverness but had difficulty getting in it was so packed. And having seen him DJ at the venue, you can see why he’s so popular, pumping every ounce of energy into the set.

‘I was trying to recreate the feel of the night in the clubs.’ The album is the first of a three part deal. ‘It’s just beautiful music that makes you feel alive, it’s not supposed to be a history lesson and includes bands that are working now.’

Ten years later and his BBC6 Funk and Soul Show has had the highest audience share of any programme on the network – not bad considering just two years ago the station had been earmarked for the chop.

‘It’s amazing. I feel like the Ken Barlow of BBC 6 music. I’m the guy who has been there from the beginning. We’ve gone from being under attack to winning the Sony Radio station of year. It’s been an incredible turnaround of fortune. I often have to stop and take stock.’

The show has still been subject to cuts, with less money available for live sessions. ‘At the end of the day it is austerity we are living through, with greatly reduced means. But that doesn’t mean you have to turn creativity button off!’

Despite Charles’s considerable cachet of cool in the music scene, for nerds such as myself first and foremost he will always be Dave Lister in  Red Dwarf.

The comedy recently returned to our screens having first aired nearly 25 years ago. So how was it returning to do a full series after a decade (discounting the not-very-well received three-part mini series in 2008)?

‘I really enjoyed it. It’s such a funny series and I was a bit worried at first because it’s quite an iconic show, and I felt if I wanted to do a sitcom again it should be as funny as possible and in front of a live audience on the ship. But we’re all couped up together and talking bollocks just like before! Danny [John-Jules], Rob [Llewellyn] and Chris [Barrie] are the funniest people I’ve ever met and it was a pleasure to hang out with them. It was like The Who reforming – but with no one having died!’

It’s a series that has arguably stood the test of time better than other shows of a similar age.

‘I don’t think it’s aged so badly, because it’s set in the future, whereas something like The Young Ones was much more of its day. Sci-fi fans are also loyal followers, plus the chemistry of the cast has helped to make it. Now we’re old and raddled and they are still wheeling us out, it’s wrong, they should take us out to pasture!’

But he doesn’t mean that. ‘No. it’s some of the funniest work we’ve done. I put out on Dave and they were playing some of the old ones from the halcyon days, I actually didn’t think they were as funny as the new series.’

Charles occupies a wide and varied fan base, not forgetting his stint presenting Robot Wars in, and his ongoing part in Coronation Street as Lloyd.

He lived in London for 25 years, but moved to the Cheshire after joining Coronation Street in 2005. But says he doesn’t see himself moving back to London. ‘The thing about England is it’s too important a place to be a one city country. Everything you’ve got in London, you’ve got in Manchester – it’s a proper metropolitan city,’ he says.

And would he consider doing another Robot Wars? ‘It was getting so dangerous health and safety closed us down. One robot was on the same frequency as a local taxi firm. It tuned into the signal, woke up and tried to stab someone through the foot,’ he says.

So what else is on the cards for him?

‘There will definitely be more Dwarf. It was a rebirth not an end. I just love the script, Doug [Naylor] makes us laugh so much and there is just so much none funny stuff on TV.’

And beyond that?

‘About 15 more interviews and then I’m going out to dinner with my wife – which I cannot wait for!’

‘The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club’ is out on Monday 26  November.

Craig Charles will be playing at the Soundcrash Xmas Funk & Soul Boat Party  on Saturday 22 December aboard:

The Dixie Queen
Tower Millennium Pier
Tower Pier

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