Edward Barton Unofficial Web Page: Articles / Interviews
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31st January 1987
EDWARD BARTON is a loonie. The Stud Brothers are remarkably sane. Alan Reevell took some photographs. All's well with the world.
IT would be difficult for us to pronouce Edward Barton mad, being destitute of any evidence that we ourselves are sane. It might make more sense to rely on florid vagueries to describe him. Terms such as "sick", "weird" and "eccentric" at least in their ambivalence, circle his unusual condition and point to some of its symptoms. Edward Barton is a painter who has recently taken to singing and, though this in itself is no evidence of insanity, his work both on canvas and on vinyl is upsettingly lurid.
If clothes make the man, then Barton is at best unsavoury. His tattered tweed overcoat, when buttoned, would lead you to believe he spends an unusual amount of time lurking in bushes on common land. His shirt and tie, had they been so dirty, would have clashed in a way only nature or poverty would permit. In fact if it hadn't been for his eyes, we might just have thrown him the price of a cup of tea and gone on our way.
If the eyes are the gateway to the soul then Barton, poor soul, is in torment. While his right eye looks straight on, his left seems to be telling you there's something a great deal more interesting happening over his shoulder. He's probably the closest you'll come to seeing someone with eyes in the back of his head. It's not unlikely that, when children see him, they dance rings around him, grunting like mongoloids and taunting him with names like "Flid", "Spaz" and "Drongo".
Everything about Edward suggests he is, if not mad, then certainly unhappy. His single, "Me And My Mini", released on Wooden Records, tells the story of a tortured individual who appears to be both attracted to and repelled by women. To us, at least, it gives the impression of blaming objects of sexual desire for the death of the protagonist's brother. It's unrepentently nasty, wholly demented and almost physically disturbing.
If real subversion lies in undermining the senses, then Barton's single is the audio equivalent of "'Eraserhead". Its salivating yet unrequited desires, its bitterness and sense of loss, turn the listener into a guilty, giggling spectator as, for three minutes, we witness a freak's descent into furious insanity.
When speaking to Edward, his most immediately striking characteristic is the way in which he, pedantically prounounces every word with slow, suffering clarity. He might almost be speaking in block capitals. It's a predictable contrast to his incensed gibbering on the single. It's as if he were trying to control himself.
On "Me And My Mini" you sound angry.
"Yes, I do".
Are you angry?
"Well, I've lost my brother and my initial reaction, after the shock has passed away, is anger."
How did you lose him?
"Actually I haven't lost my brother, I lost my brother in the song. We both used to have Minis and both of them were broken and he was ill in bed and I decided to sing him a song to divert him from his illness. So I sang 'Me And My Mini' all the way through and then I realised I'd sung a song. It was the first song over 30 seconds I'd ever sung."
In spite of the fact you say you've created a character to speak through, you are the singer and you do sound extremely pained.
"Well, he was a good brother. We used to have a good time together and then the passenger seat was empty. There is a follow-up to 'Me And My Mini' called 'My Weenie Girl' and the first line is 'I drive, I drive, my brother's bones in the boot,' it describes how he feels 40 years later."
A good deal of your aggression seems directed towards women.
"Towards women? Good Lord, in which bit?"
Barton's song expresses the need to "get" girls while also, by its tone, conveying on air of failure in that direction. This tonal allusion is endorsed by the fear inherent in the lines "I drive all day / One thousand miles / I drive all night / One thousand miles / Away from girls / Away from girls".
How do you see yourself in relation to women?
"I couldn't possibly answer that. It would take a whole day of cogitation."
You must have something to say.
"I really can't answer that question. I don't think about things very much. If I have a thought, I get very excited because it doesn't happen very often. If I have one, I look after it and just play with it for a few days until I forget it. Then I have to wait for a new one."
Is there any autobiography in your songs?
"Good Lord, I'm not going to sit here and admit I feel the things in those songs."
You must feel some of them.
"I cannot tell a lie, and, if was to tell you the answer to that, I'd be lying after having said what I just said."
Were you lying before?
"And now the conversation's got so complicated I'd need minutes to resume."
Are you a very honest person?
"No, I'm not honest. Not deliberately honest. I might be by accident."
Are you saying you're being deliberately dishonest?
"No, I don't think about it. I think about such a small amount of things."
"I'm very fond of wood."
Why do you think you're fond of wood?
"I like the feel of it".
Do you paint on wood or something?
"No, but I collect wood. I've got a vast amount of it at home."
Are we talking about furniture?
"No, I just collect wood."
Planks of wood?
That's quite an odd hobby, isn't it?
"It's an exhausting hobby and I wish I could choose something a little less sweaty and less ... long. I hurt my back considerably."
You're not being serious, you're not really fond of wood.
"I'm actually getting ridiculously affectionate towards it."
Does it bother you to see wood burn?
"Oh no, I'm not all all patronising in my attitude. Life goes on."
Is that the only thing you collect?
"I collect teddy-bears, but only wounded teddy-bears, just from puddles. Where I live there's lots of teddy-bears, And dummies, I collect children's dummies and children's shoes. But mostly wood and teddy-bears. The dummies and shoes are just for when I can't find wood or teddy-bears."
It was difficult to know whether he was lying because it's difficult to read eyes that are so far apart, and it's difficult to detect dishonesty in a voice so emotionless and monotone. It's difficult to decide whether Barton is a playful charlatan or a genuine 24-carat fruitcake.
What are your other songs about?
"There is one song about a man who goes into what he believes to be a telephone-box but it isn't a telephone-box, it's a peepshow. But he is misled by its tallness and redness. He puts his money in the slot and is amazed to find a girl, presumably in the box next door, with no clothes on. And the story continues from that. And there's another man who's singing about the problems of being a bollard rather than a tree. He feels himself inextricably bound to a bollard life and melancholy in the forest, being the only bollard in the forest. And another one about somebody who has many bears who have had great cruelty done to them, and he's eventually forced to build a castle to defend them."
AT that point, after so many ridiculous answers, a ridiculous question seemed in order. Is that autobiographical?
"Oh, some of my bears are in it. There are five bears in it and four of them ore bears that I found and used for the song. The man in the song is much, much larger than myself. I'm very hairy under these clothes but he is hairy even outside of his clothes. And he's very large, too large at the end to live with the bears."
Are you being serious? How much humour is there to you?
"It depends how many people are laughing."
Your fascinations are abnormal, One might even say fetishist.
The word "fetishist" seems more suitable.
"No. Well actually I used to... When I was on cross-country runs at school I used to take a short cut and I used to masturbate in the wood. And I used to like the feeling of it on my bottom. But I do not think that's fetishist, it's just that you like certain textures."
Textures? Most boys masturbate over photographs of naked women. Barton rubs his bum on bark. If that's true he is not normal.
Have you told a single truth at any point at all during this interview?
"If I told you I was joking I'd be lying. No, I'm telling you the truth."
You're mad, aren't you?
"I am not mad."
[Author: The Stud Brothers]