at ready to rumble

The artists formerly known as PJ and Duncan, Ant And Dec have more in common with Prince than a change in name. They're small - but not where it counts. Words: Paul Flynn

DECLAN DONNELLY lS tired. It’s official. ‘l’m a bit knackered. like,’ he says, retaining the seasoned air of a professional, qualifying it with the even-more-professional rejoinder, ‘but I’m alright.’

Well, you would be knackered, wouldn’t you? You’re one half of the only all- conquering Geordie comedy duo (Reeves and who?) who manage to squeeze a consistently successful pop career into their spare time. That’s Ant And Dec: the artists formerly known as R] And Duncan, the PJ And Duncan formerly of ace children’s drama Byker Grove.

Ant And Dec are currently known as saviours of spiky tea-time viewing for moist teenagers and students alike up and down the land. They are the new Morecambc And Wise though Dec insists, ‘l’m not worthy.’ They are quite possibly the best thing on telly. More to the point, their subtle shift of monicker, from the fictional pubescents that rocketed them to the nation’s heart, to their christened titles, makes them Prince in reverse. ‘l’ve thought that before,’ chuckles Dec. ‘1 mean, we don’t just share the name change in common. I’m about as tall as he is . . . he’s only about 4ft llins, isn’t he?’ Declan Donnelly is 5ft 6ins.

The cause of Master Donnelly’s genial state of knackeredness is the start of the new live extravaganza he and his partner in rhyme, Anthony McPartlin. are ushering onto the road this month. It kicked off with two nights in Rhyl. ‘There’s hardly anybody to see it there . . . a few sheep and that,’ says Dec. Any wild partying in Rhyl? ‘No. Not now, not never. lt’s Scotland, Newcastle and Liverpool that we look forward to.’

It’s gruelling rock ’n’ roll hell from now on for the two young whippersnappers, then. ‘I don’t know about that. actually. But it does feel a bit more rock ’n’ roll because we’re going out with a live band for the first time.‘ says Dec. All trading axe licks with the lead guitarist and mopping sweaty brows, sharing microphones and onstage Jack Daniels. That kind of idea?

‘Well, I’m not exactly trading that many licks because I only know three chords. 1 do them during “Shout” for the audience’s delight. There’s A. there’s E and there’s another one that I’m not quite sure what it’s called but I know where to put my fingers.’ Bravo.

The most brilliant thing of several brilliant things about the duo is their ability to pour

scorn on themselves before anyone else gets in there, as Dec’s admission of his mastery of the geetar clucidates. This isn’t faux-humility or irritating self depreciation, it’s simply getting your own joke. Spotting your own cliche and using it to great advantage.

No one else who has graduated from teenage drama to adult pop seems remotely aware of it from Sean Maguire and Michelle Gayle. to the headmistress of naff herself, Ms Dannii Minogue. Even Dannii‘s sister Kylie has encountered hiccups on the transition front and only now seems able to comprehend the ridiculousness of her former identity she recently opened the world’s largest casino in Sydney, singing a seat rendition of ‘I Should Be So Lucky’ with Ray Charles.

It doesn’t bother Dec a jot that a good proportion of the Ant And Dec appreciation society are ironic pop fans. Not in the sense of liking ironic pop the post-Jarvis explosion of Babybird and My Life Stories but liking pop. ironically. The great mass of students who have rolled around a springy, cider-stained dance floor to ‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble’ and the twentysomethings who have been seduced by the TV show Ant And Dec Unzipped, are invited to the party as much as anyone else. Doesn’t it perturb him slightly?

‘I don’t mind because I think it’s quite ironic myself.’ he says. ‘I find it ironic that I’ve come to be a pop star. You know what pop stars are like: they all wear sunglasses indoors and big puffa jackets and have really deep tans. We’re not like that. so I tend to agree with the students. It is ironic.’

A recent review of the new album The Cult OfAnr And Dee in glossy indie-kids’ manual Select got a whopping three stars. Dec was delighted. but sees himself a world away from the whole boy band phenomenon. ‘We share an audience with Boyzone and Backstreet Boys and so on, but I find the whole thing bizarre. To me it‘s four blokes with wet look gel on their hair and rippling chests standing on a beach with their arms round each other.’

No rippling chest to show off yourself"?

‘l’ve got a fine beer belly if you want to see that.’

As part of the whole boy band thing even

'You know what pop stars are like: they all wear sunglasses indoors and big puffa jackets and have really deep tans. We’re not like that.’ Declan Donnelly

without the pectoral implants does he expect to be slagged off?

‘Sometimes,’ says Dec. ‘We’ve been called Fisher Price pop and all that and you expect it from the serious muso mags because we’re not serious musos ourselves. We’re interested and serious about writing music . . . but not always. Sometimes it’s about having a right old laugh and you’d expect them to get the joke. You don’t always expect people to take things that seriously. The one that really sticks in my mind is ‘U Krazy Katz’. We try to take the piss and, you know, it was tongue-firmly-in-cheek there, but some peoplejust don’t get it.’

The disparity in opinion between the public who shift themselves to buy music and those that have it sent free to write about has always been a hefty one. The consistency in sales for all the Ant And Dec singles a flawless track record of Top Twenty singles, each with that essential hummability and some touching on pop genius has been reflected sturdily by album sales. If anything would really clean up, though, a greatest hits package would.

Dec is reflective about the level of success he and Ant have received so far, clearly aware that some of their singles ought to have been bigger than they were. The Lou Reed steal ‘Shout’ (is he suing? ‘I think we had permission to use it. Our bassline is slightly different.‘) sounded Top Three at ten paces. Dec is enormously proud of it, not to say a little surprised.

‘You see these bands coming through and having four Number Ones in a row, and it’s like: “What’s going on here?”’

Asked if he is jealous of the Peter Andres of this world. he says: ‘l’m not jealous of him by any stretch of the imagination, but I’ve been jealous of the success. But I mean we’ve got three albums under our belts now and I’d rather have consistency and longevity than three Number Ones on the trot.’

Blimey. Declan. you’re beginning to sound like Paul McCartney.

‘lRaucous laughter] Don’t say that. man.’

Ant And Dec are at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, Tue 27 May. Their album The Cult Of Ant And Dec is out on Telstar.

16—29 May 1997 WE usn