Mark Fisher meets radio presenter and comic satirist Jon Holmes, a man intent on pricking pop’s balloon and sidestepping the laws of the land
You can’t get the pop stars these days. In the glorious 1970s, it was every musician’s duty to live a life of hedonistic excess, but then we hit a sidetrack on the otherwise straight and narrow road to Pete Doherty and Amy Winehouse, and our expectations were upturned. ‘Led Zeppelin famously rode motorbikes up and down the corridors of the Hyatt Hotel on Sunset Strip,’ says Jon Holmes. ‘The manager of Billie Piper and Five told me that on a Smash Hits poll winners’ tour, the most they could do was have a pillow fight in a Travelodge on the A12.’ For his first Edinburgh solo set, the Now Show
regular and 6 Music presenter is bringing his best- selling Rock Star Babylon to the stage — aided by slide projections and the voice of Stephen Fry — sharing his scurrilous compendium of Popbitch- style tittle-tattle and drunken roadie gossip. ‘They’re the stories you’ve heard but no one knows whether they’re true or not,’ he says. ‘I’ve discovered you can’t libel Mötley Crüe because their reputation is already tarnished enough. You enhance them if you say anything bad. But there are stories about Status Quo, Damon Albarn, Cast, Menswear and some classic Led Zep, of course. Mike Patton from Faith No More is a particularly filthy man; what he used to do with hotel room hairdryers defies belief. I also found I could tell a story about Stevie Nicks as long as I include her quote of denial.’
Where he claims the print version is ‘the most
legalled book in Penguin’s history’, the stage show has a new degree of freedom. ‘When the manuscript came back from Penguin’s lawyers I have never seen so many yellow post-it notes outside of Staples. The libel laws for writing stuff down are pretty strict, but on stage you can sort of get away with what you like. Thank you, old laws.’ His previous fleeting Fringe visits with Radio 4 are the equivalent of teenybopper bedroom brawls compared with the full-on intensity of a solo run. All the same, he’s not sure he’s ready to turn his scandal-seeking light on Edinburgh’s backstage frolics. ‘I could write Edinburgh Babylon, couldn’t I?’ he says. ‘Although no one would ever speak to me again. I’m very well behaved backstage, of course. I’d have a pillow fight, but with a pillow full of heroin.’ ■ Jon Holmes, Gilded Balloon Teviot, 622 6552, 20–30 Aug, 7pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9). Previews 17–19 Aug, £5.
22 THE LIST FESTIVAL MAGAZINE 13–20 Aug 2009