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Madrid City in English
Monday 22nd of October 2018
1204 14th of June 2012 by laura 12th of July 2012
The Hairy-Faced Cheese Graters mature in Madrid

Icky, Scooter and Ping got together last year to form The Hairy-Faced Cheese Graters. finds out about their unique style, the bridges crossed and the road ahead

“It was important for us to create our own style,” explains Icky, his guitar resting on his lap. “First we tried amalgamating Ska and Punk, but that gave us Skunk. So then we tried Ska and House, but that gave us Skouse. Scooter suggested we should try instrument-free Scottish harmonies, which we could call MacApella, but they sounded awful. In the end, we stuck with Rock, but combined some Mambo because there’s a rumour that Ping’s dad may have been Cuban. We call it Rambo.”
    The Hairy-Faced Cheese Graters were formed on 1 April, 2011. They first got together to fill a gap in the market, but it was a gap to supply late night kebabs in and around Plymouth, in the south-west of England. They invested in a mobile kebab van, serving up late night fare outside clubs. “It was going quite well until Ping bought some cheap pita bread off a bloke in a pub. Fortunately everyone who ate it got better, but now we’re not allowed to open a business in the UK catering industry for at least ten years.”


The right note
It was then that they turned to music. “We thought about going on X-Factor, but we watched the show, and decided nobody knew what the X-Factor was. So what’s the point? I mean, some of the contestants thought they had it, but then the panel told them they didn’t, and then sometimes when the contestants weren’t sure if they had it or not, the panel told them they did. What’s that all about?” argues Scooter. “So we came to Madrid,” he continues, “although even that was a surprise. There was some confusion at the check-in, and we were expecting to arrive in Hamburg.”
    Ping is keen to explain the troubles they’ve encountered. “We were quite happy to kick everything off in Madrid, but we didn’t speak a word of Spanish. At school, I was only good at woodwork. If you’re struggling to explain to a bus driver about where you want to go, there’s not much consolation in being able to make a quality footstool.” Much of their early time in the city was spent trying to gesture what they wanted, or speaking to Madrileños by adding an “o” to any English vocabulary, in the forlorn hope it might make for good Spanish. The problems at least created their first two songs, “Pointing Fingers in Despair” and “Please Could I Havo a Coffeeo”.


Less is more
I notice that Icky’s guitar only has three strings, and I ask him when he’s going to repair it. “Never!” he cries. “We’ve realised that a guitar with three strings makes jam sessions much easier, because I have less choice. Mathematically, playing the strings individually or together, I have 27 possible combinations. With a five-string guitar, you have 3,625 combinations. With those numbers, who’s going to act quicker and more spontaneously? I think you’ll find the three-string guy comes up trumps.”
    It’s certainly an interesting theory, which Scooter puts in perspective. “It’s like when you want to buy yoghurt in a supermarket. There’s every flavour under the sun, as well as Greek, natural, low fat, creamy—it’s a nightmare. I just want a yoghurt, for God’s sake. Give me less choice and I choose quicker. Our guitar string cut works on the same principle. On a good jammin’ session, Icky has less to think about—only strawberry, black cherry and peach melba if you like—so he gets in faster.”


Friends and finance
So what are their influences? “Ping’s mum had quite a lot of influence,” says Icky, “because she let us use her lounge to practise. But indirectly you could also say the Plymouth Knitting Circle, because Ping’s mum was a member, and if they had a meeting in the lounge we couldn’t practise at all. So they both had a big influence. Then Scooter did an evening course in plumbing. That sometimes influenced us too. Like, especially if we wanted to write some songs on a Thursday night, because he couldn’t make it.
    “We feel like Madrid is going to be a new start,” he continues, “We did undertake a World Tour in the UK, playing Bodmin and Exeter. The crowds were pretty good. Two or three sometimes”. With my curiosity aroused, I ask if he means hundreds or thousands. “Two or three,” he replies. “There were financial problems though,” interrupts Ping. “Scooter’s sister’s friend, Maureen, offered to be our marketing manager. She came to a rehearsal, but we’d only been playing for about 30 seconds when she quickly decided to go and get some coffees. She never came back. We wouldn’t mind but she took three pounds out of the Cheese Graters Development Fund jar to get the drinks. Still owes us it. That taught us a thing or two about money management.” As we draw to a close, I ask the Graters how they plan to continue. “We’ve now got a piece of paper next to the jar,” confirms Icky, “and if you take anything out of it, you have to write down how much, why, and initial it. That should put things right.”

The Hairy-Faced Cheese Graters play Sala Oprofilla on 1 April, 10pm.

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