Preview: BUG

Gary Ryan speaks to DJ and presenter Adam Buxton about his latest foray into pop culture

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You might imagine that witnessing a member of Radiohead laughing uncontrollably would be akin to seeing a dog perch on its hind legs: although they’re physically capable, it’s somehow eerily unnatural. Nevertheless, guitarist Jonny Greenwood professes he can regularly be found “wandering around gigs chuckling to himself like a lunatic”. The reason? He’s listening to podcasts of 6Music’s Adam & Joe Saturday morning show.

Wildly inventive, it’s part witty conversation between two pop-literate lifelong friends, and part a kind of Blue Peter for “adultescents”, soliciting contributions from listeners, who send in cartoons, dress up, and make videos for pop songs that their heroes have created. Attracting 70,000 listeners, it’s the station’s most popular show.

Aside from their digital radio success however, 2011 is proving to be a bountiful year for the duo. Joe Cornish has just released his directorial debut with the film Attack The Block and found himself headhunted by Hollywood (co-writing Stephen Spielberg’s upcoming TinTin movie) – immersed into the big-screen world the pair used to spoof in their cult 1990s Channel 4 series – while Buxton is bringing his renowned BUG show, which showcases the most visually creative music videos on the web, to the north for the first time.

No stranger to music videos (having directed quirky pop promos for Radiohead), in a way the show reconnects Buxon with his roots: he got his break by submitting homemade footage to Takeover TV, which was essentially YouTube before YouTube existed.

“It’s supposed to be a time of financial hardship but people are still finding a f*ck of a lot of money to pump into huge stupid music videos,” he says. “But for people who are creative and have a lot of ideas, it doesn’t hurt to be on a budget. It’s always an enjoyable thing when you see someone who’s thought of a clever idea that’s simple to execute. The other great thing is music videos never outstay their welcome. Even with a good film you think: “Jesus, that would be better if they cut half an hour.”

Celebrating lovingly-crafted lo-fi, high-concept promos from the likes of OK Go and Hold Your Horses!, mixed with comic observations, one of the recurring features of the night sees Buxton trawl through the sneer-and- loathing world of YouTube comments, and reading out the most deliriously demented.

“When geeks clash about what kind of operating systems people are using or incredibly trivial things, that’s generally when I’m happiest,” he laughs.

Incidentally, he was planning to cover 13 year-old YouTube musician Rebecca Black’s virtual watercooler moment – Friday – before she attained pariah-like status. “I saw it when it was in the low millions and the next time I looked, people were going schizoid, saying: ‘This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen! She’s going to die! I’m going to kill her!’

I couldn’t share that level of ire.”

Although Adam and Joe’s flag sailed high on Channel 4, by Buxton’s own admission, they never fully crossed over into mainstream success. Watching it again, many of their sketches seem remarkably prescient – for instance, they were providing stop-motion-with-action-figures parodies of Star Wars long before Seth Green’s Robot Chicken.

“I mean, I feel there are kindred spirits,” disclaims Buxton of their influence. “When I first saw The Mighty Boosh, I thought: ‘Oh, they’re doing the same kind of thing but in a different way.’ When we saw Flight of The Conchords, we thought:?‘Oh, these guys are the same as us – but they’re much better at doing songs.’”

They never courted fame. When BBC3 wooed them, all requests to present conventional gameshows or documentaries were turned down in favour of pitching “wilfully strange, silly and overcomplicated ideas”. Branching out due to necessity, it was radio that reunited and turned them into the indie equivalent of national treasures.

“I think the reason people have responded to it is because it feels like you’re part of a gang,” beams Buxton, still youthful at 41. “I think people have responded because it’s a genuine conversation between two friends cocking around.”

BUG: The Evolution of Music Video, Zion Arts Centre, Manchester on 18 May. For future dates and clips, see

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