Craig Charles is in high demand. After a near two week wait to get 10 minutes alone with the DJ, comedian, actor, poet, presenter and author, he takes time out to chat about all things musical.
Away from the world of soap and comedy, Craig is gearing up for a spot of DJing at the Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul festival, which takes place in Moseley next weekend.
“I’ve finished on the cobbles for the day, and now I’m having a cheeky Stella in the garden!”, he chirps, with the buoyant enthusiasm of a man half his age.
Keeping busy must in turn keep him young, as he works five days a week on Coronation Street, playing cab-driving Lloyd Mullaney, then delves behind the decks into the underbelly of DJing. Since 2002, he has also hosted The Craig Charles Funk and Soul Show on BBC Radio 6 Music, gaining a huge cult following.
The 48 year-old insists: “I’m just dead lucky that people have allowed to me to do so many different things, and let me get away with it for so long. I love acting, I really do. To call it my day job would kind of denigrate it really. But I work Monday to Friday on Corrie, which I love, and I get to go and do Red Dwarf every now and again, and of course, there’s the DJing. I love presenting, I love stand up – I feel blessed. To actually be taken seriously in these fields too, y’know what I mean? I’m not a celebrity DJ, that’s not what we do [on the radio show]. We’re there for the music.
“I do compartmentalise my life like that though. I don’t expect Robot Wars fans to be at a funk and soul night. Some people only know me from Takeshi’s Castle! It’s all part of the jigsaw.”
In Birmingham next week, the puzzle piece in particular on show will be Craig’s DJing prowess and all round muso nous. At the Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival his fingers-in-pies input is now counted-on, with two years experience at the event already behind him. He has held the roles of DJ, curator and after-party host.
Headlining this year’s festival will be disco funksters Chic, hot on the heels of Nile Rodgers’ rebirth as the Godfather of funk and soul following his collaboration with electro-pioneers Daft Punk. They will play on Sunday night, after sets from Soul II Soul and Snarky Puppy.
“I saw Nile Rodgers live last year, and you forget all the work that he’s done. He’s worked with David Bowie, with the 3 Degrees, with Sister Sledge, with Diana Ross... you just think wow! In the middle of his set he says, ‘We are not a covers band! Everything we play I wrote or produced!’ And then he goes into all these tunes. That man has some pedigree.”
Beat-laden soloist Bonobo is Friday night’s main attraction with support from Brummies Troumaca, who, after being signed by Gilles Peterson on the back of last year’s festival performance, return to debut their first LP, The Grace.
Soulstress Candi Staton, The Blockheads and Smoove and Turrell are amongst three of the names playing on Saturday, before Craig aims to entertain the crowds not once, not twice, but three times. He will first take to the Yardbird Stage for a DJ set.
“I’ve got some wicked stuff that I’ve been playing recently. The Apples version of Killing [In The Name Of] always goes down a storm. Grant Lazlo’s version of Heard It Through the Grapevine, with the full orchestra, I’ve been doing that – and it’s as funky as... as... it’s funkier, than a mosquito’s tweeter!
“There’s all sorts of stuff though. As long as I take people on a musical journey, educate them, play songs they know and songs they don’t and keep them dancing – then that’s my job done.”
As an avid musician, and for his second trick, Craig will also step out from behind the DJ booth to collaborate with his idols. He confesses, “I’ll be on stage with the Fantasy Funk Band [formed on his radio show in 2007] for a bit, but, as to what I’ll actually be contributing, I’m not quite so sure!”
His heavy involvement in the festival will then culminate in one of Mostly’s infamous after-parties, hosted at the Hare and Hounds pub in Kings Heath. Friday’s party will feature disk spinning sets from Don Letts and Troumaca, with Saturday night’s names including DJ Cheesedip and Craig himself.
“I’m looking forward to that, a lot,” he says.
“It gets hot, and sweaty, and you’ll have great local DJ’s on there too, like Sam Redmore. Funk and soul I’ll play, to the max. That’s what I’ll be dropping. No sleep till way past bed time – that’s the plan!”
* Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival takes place from July 5 until July 7. For tickets visit: www.mostlyjazz.co.uk