Eddie Argos interview: Double D, Art Brut, comics, hoovers

Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos chats about his comic book project Double D, an incredibly British superhero story…

Art Brut are a classic rock band. At least, that’s how the cult indie rockers choose to identify themselves after five albums, countless tours and ten years of nearly non-stop rock ‘n’ roll antics.

The ‘nearly’ in that last sentence is there to signify that their frontman, Eddie Argos, has been skiving off and working on another project of late. He’s written Double D, a comic book about a slightly overweight British schoolboy called Danny, who becomes an unlikely superhero one miserable afternoon.

Danny discovers his superpowers during a particularly humiliating PE lesson, experiencing envy-inducing levels of wish-fulfilment as he shows up nasty bullies, evil PE teachers and uninterested lady-folk in one fell swoop.

What follows is the most quintessentially British graphic novel you’re ever likely to read. Pulp band T-shirts are worn, teenagers wander through leafy suburbs in search of elusive crimes to fight, and – at one stage – the term ‘radioactive sausage roll’ comes up.

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We spoke to Eddie over the phone about Double D, Art Brut and, err… hoovers. We’ll let him explain.  

For the benefit of any Den Of Geek readers who aren’t familiar with Art Brut, I thought we’d confuse them at the start with a nice big illustration of you and a hoover. Would you care to add some context to that?

[Laughs] Well, yeah, actually – I played the hoover in my old band, The Art Goblins. But I just wrote a memoir, and on the front cover of that is me and the hoover. My manager thought it was me riding a bike – he was like ‘oh, why are you riding a bike on the front cover? I mean, it’s pretty…’ He didn’t look at it very closely.

I wanted my memoir to be like a Just William book. Because when I made the name Eddie Argos up, I always wanted Eddie Argos to be a continuation of a Just William sort of character. So I thought ‘what’s a funny, stupid thing to put on the front cover?” – so yeah, it’s me playing the vacuum cleaner. So that’s why that’s there. I don’t do that any more!

I’ve been in Art Brut for like ten years. We say we’re a classic rock band now, which has been quite nice with the press release for Double D. Because I keep reading everywhere that it’s, like, ‘I’m an accomplished lyricist from a classic rock band.’ It’s like ‘yeahhhh!’ Lovely. My dream’s come true.

How many steps were there between playing a hoover as a musical instrument in The Art Goblins and starting up singing with Art Brut?

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It was a move to London that did it really. Yeah, I was always trying to be in bands and stuff. The Art Goblins is the one I had at school, really. But I’m really bad at letting things go… The Art Goblins even played in London a few years ago. That was fun, playing song from our childhood! We have songs like I Wanna Be Johnny Dean, who’s the lead singer of Menswear. Like, we wrote that in 1996 or something.

But yeah there wasn’t many steps between The Art Goblins and Art Brut. Jasper from Art Brut was in The Art Goblins. I moved to London because The Art Goblins kept leaving me behind. They kept cheating on me with jobs and locations. So I moved to London to start a band. And same thing really, I just annoyed people until they agreed to be in a band with me. I’ve been doing a spoken word tour about it. I could do it for you now, but it takes about an hour!

But I moved to London and found some people to be in a band with. I can’t really sing, but I’ve always wanted to be in a band, so it was sheer persistence that did it I think.

[‘This is me as a traffic warden being bribed with a cake,’ reads Eddie’s Twitter page]

I saw the spoken word show in London, actually. One of my favourite facts learned from that was that you became a traffic warden between bands. Simultaneously the best and worst traffic warden.

I was quite embarrassed about that. Being a traffic warden. There’s a lot of stupid shit that I’ve done, in my book and in my spoken word show. Quite a lot of stupid things. But the one that I’m most embarrassed about is being a traffic warden. Because people don’t give you enough time to explain it.

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I go, ‘oh! I was a traffic warden because…’, but then they’ve gone [Laughs]. They’re not interested in hearing that I needed the money and that I was a nice one. So I kept that on the down low for quite a long time, but it’s a tell all memoir, so I had to put it in!

When was it, for you, when you knew you could make a career from music? Was it when Emily Kane was flirting with the charts, when you posed nude for the NME, or something else?

[Laughs] Have I made a career in music? I’m not sure if I have! When all the exciting, mad stuff with Art Brut happened… like, we were touring America a lot and stuff, it all happened so fast. Nothing happened for ages, and then in 2006 we signed to EMI for a second and went to America and toured everywhere for ages. And it should have felt exciting then. That’s when it should have felt exciting, because everything was happening.

But it was so intense, that I didn’t realise until a few years later. It was like ‘Wowwwww! That was mad!’ Looking back, I think I’d missed… I wasn’t living in the moment, my whole life was like the power of hindsight I think. I should have been really excited then, but it didn’t really dawn on me until about a year and a half later, like ‘wow – that was exciting.’ I couldn’t sleep at night because of the things I’d already done. It never really dawned on me.

To start steering us towards Double D, then: when you were growing up, were comic books always a big part of your life?

Yeah, for sure, loads. I was quite shy, really. I read a lot. I was ill in hospital when I was younger and my dad brought me, like, The Beano I think. That was it really. And then I was in. Comics are brilliant!

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And I thought I’d have to give them up, you know, as I got older? But I realised that you don’t need to give them up. Batman is really good. Things like that. One day, someone put a load of comics by my front door when I was about ten. I don’t know where they came from, but there were a lot of Batman comics. And that was it. I was hooked, really.

I didn’t get pocket money, I got different comics. And then when I got older and had a paper round, I gave him all the money back. At the end of the week I’d get the money for delivering the papers, and then I’d go ‘there you go, I’ll have these five comics.’

So yeah, I’ve always been into them. I did a song as well, about DC Comics that I like. I got to go to DC Comics and meet all those people. I got an issue of Booster Gold, like, a week early. That’s one of my highlights of being in Art Brut – getting to visit DC Comics. And later, I got to visit the Marvel office too. Which was awesome as well.

What made you want to channel that love of comics into song? DC Comics And Chocolate Milkshake is one of my favourite songs of yours…

That’s just true, man! I’d always wanted to write a song about DC Comics, because I love them. And also, I’m a bit cynical. So I thought, ‘If I write a song about them, maybe they’ll get in touch.’ That was always in the back of my mind.

And then one day I was – I’ve always been a bit poor – but I was broke. Living in America at the time with my girlfriend. I had no money. But I had just about enough money for, like, a chocolate milkshake and a DC comic. And was like ‘that’s brilliant!’ It really made my day better.

All my life has been that. Whenever I’ve been broke or poor: a DC comic, and a chocolate milkshake – that’s three pounds! You’ve always got that lying around somewhere. Down the back of the sofa, sometimes. So I thought ‘ah, it’s fine, isn’t it? As long as I’ve got DC comics and chocolate milkshake, everything’s gonna be alright.’ They’re quite cheap!

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Did you get a big fan reaction to that song as well?

Yeah, it was nice. That whole album, actually, Art Brut Verus Satan, was me in a bit of a grump. I thought, ‘I wanna make some friends now.’ Being a bit of a grumpy fella, I thought I’d put lots of things that I like into this album, and then maybe people who like these things will come to our gigs and I can make some friends. And that kinda worked out. It was great. All those Art Brut Verus Satan shows. People brought me DC comics. I could talk about the Justice League with some people afterwards, and stuff.

There’s other songs on that album about things I like. I like Lo-Fi music a lot. It was nice. Every gig after that felt like a gathering of friends. That was the plan. Maybe I can’t be really famous, but I can be this niche guy who has loads of friends!

[Steven Horry’s Art for TOTP2 by Keith TOTP & His Minor UK Indie All-Star Celebrity Backing Band]

And now, a couple of years later, you’ve got your own comic book coming out. Where the did the idea for Double D first sprout from?

That’s from Steven Horry [who illustrated Double D]. I’ve known Steve for years, on and off. He was in a band called 586 who are really good. We sort of played together a lot. I didn’t know he could draw. And then he drew the artwork for our friend Keith Top Of The Pops’ album.

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He did… It’s like… the middle of Keith’s album, is like The Last Supper. But it’s in a Wetherspoons. And Keith is Jesus. And everyone around him is from his band. It’s really good. All my friends are in it and it’s a really funny picture. Morrissey’s the barman. I saw it and said ‘that’s amazing! Who did that?’ and Keith said it was Steve Horry. ‘Wow, really?’

As soon as I found out he could draw, I went to him with an idea I’ve had for years – a comic called Band On The Run. I was really drunk, and I was trying to convince Steve to make this other comic with me. And he’s just a lot more persuasive.

And he was like ‘I’ve got this idea called Double D,’ and he didn’t have more than an idea. Just that it was a fat schoolboy who gets powers somehow. ‘It turns out, his excess body fat can make him have special powers,’ he said. And he had some set-pieces. ‘I want him to punch a car in the air, at one point’ he mentioned. And he’s just more persuasive than me, so we did his idea first. I’d say he talked me into it, but I was hooked immediately, actually.

I really like origin stories. My favourite bit of a comic is, like, where does it all come from? And he hadn’t written that. So we took his idea, this fat school kid, and made it really interesting I think. And I like things like American Werewolf In London, too. Or like Ghostbusters. When it sort of starts normal and gets more supernatural. ‘I could really play with this,’ I thought, as soon as he told me the idea. It stuck in my head. And then we spent two years playing around with it.

What was the process of actually getting it made, with Image Comics, like?

Steve’s actually better at that than me. I always need a person who’s a bit more organised. Like, I have all these funny ideas and stuff, but I’m not very organised. Steve was really good at pushing it. Yeah, we wrote the pitch together. And, every day, he was on at me to do things. Image have been really nice.

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It was going to be a comic book. The plan was to do it in issues, like, every month. And then, they said we should do it as a book. And we were like ‘yeah! That’s more exciting!’ and then we were like ‘oh shit! Now we need to finish it! Really quickly!’ The process was good. It was fun.

Me and Steve talk every day, on Facebook. I live in Berlin and he lives in London, so I’ve not seen him properly in years. And every day we talk on Facebook, for hours. Writing things and planning things. Yeah it’ll be exciting when I see him at Thought Bubble [a comic book convention in Leeds, running 14th/15th November 2015]. It’s quite scary actually, I never talk to him in real life. I’ll have to stand next to him and Facebook him, or something.

What’s the difference for you between writing a song and writing a comic? What’s your creative process been like?

Yeah… I thought I could only write songs. I love writing songs. It was my favourite thing really, writing songs, until I started writing comics! I’m like ‘oh, this is brilliant too!’

Yeah, I dunno. It doesn’t have to rhyme, which is makes it easier! And… I don’t know. Songs are quite short, really. When I write a song, it takes a while, but then it’s done. You know when it’s finished with a song. But, with writing the comic, there’s just more elements to it. It’s fun. I can get more carried away with it, you know? It doesn’t have to last three-and-a-half minutes and have a chorus. My brain could wander a bit, and I can imagine the characters talking to each other and stuff, it was quite nice.

I got so carried away with it. It was like I wasn’t writing it anymore. It was like I was reading it, almost. It was popping into my head so quick. And that’s quite new for me. I don’t really have that with songs. Songs can be quite hard work. And, not that Double D wasn’t hard work. It was hard work. I dunno. There’s lots more of it, and it’s more fun to edit it. And stuff. So yeah – doesn’t rhyme [Laughs]. That’s the difference.

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The format of this allows you to jump around in the timeline as well –

I did that… on purpose! Yeah, I like that a lot. When it was going to be issues of a comic, we thought it’d be fun to, like, suddenly freak people out by having one of the chapters – chapter five, I think – jumps back in time a bit to the 1990s. Yeah, we thought it would be fun. But now it’s a book! But I like things that jump around in time quite a lot. For the storytelling, you know? I’ve sort of just done lots of things that I like, and put it into Double D.

My brother’s a PE teacher, and I’m sure he’d thank you for trying to humanise the PE teacher a bit with that flashback.

Sorry to your brother in advance [Laughs]. There’s a bit in there where Danny gets really angry about PE teachers, like ‘they’re just all failed athletes!’… And I did that! I got drunk when I was in sixth form, and I was so angry at my PE teacher from my old school that I started a fight at the Christmas party. Going to him, ‘What did you want to be when you grew up?’ I was awful. I was terrible. But it was nice to get that into Double D.

Lots of things that Danny has happen to him, and lots of things that Danny does, happened to me and Steve. It’s like therapy. I didn’t run a cross country, though, in a dress.

Did you have a shoe thrown at your head?

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No. Steve had a shoe thrown at his head! That’s where that came from. Like, ‘they threw a shoe at you? Were they carrying the shoe around?’ We didn’t know where the shoe came from.

There’s a bit in it, too, where Danny stands up and does this big speech in his French class about how he’s as clever as every body else, and they should leave him alone. Then he gets moved down a set… Yeah, that happened to me. I wasn’t fat, but I got really angry at the sports people and was like ‘I’m the same as you!’ and then, teacher came in, moved me down a set.

With all these personal experiences from both of you going into Danny, did that make it difficult to get inside his head and work out the way he speaks?

A little bit. Not really. I sort of realised, early on – and this’ll sound strange now – that he’s a bit like Winnie The Pooh. He is a bit of a know-it-all, but he’s not that bright all the time. Like, he gets the Bechdel Test wrong. He’s got more confidence than common sense in some ways, you know?

I soon as I worked out that [Danny’s best friend] Ben was comic book nerd, it was quite nice. They don’t all talk like each other, which is what I was worried about. Every character doing the same voice. I think I’ve avoided that, so that’s good. I really like Danny. He’s loads of fun to write. He’s not me or Steve. Just because the same things happen to me and Steve, he’s not really like me and Steve.

We’re already planning the second one, and I’m really enjoying writing for Danny. It’s good. When it was going to be a monthly comic, I wrote like 25 issues. As an arc. So there’s quite a lot of storytelling left. It’s just started, really, hopefully we’ll get to make more.

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And is there still a soundtrack album coming out to match up to Double D volume 1?

We’re still working on that at the moment. It got slowed down because I had a hospital visit, but it should be out at the end of November. It’s harder than I thought, actually. I don’t want to spoil any of the story in case people hear the music first. There is a song about Danny passing the Bechdel Test though!

Another thing I like about Double D is how unashamedly British it is. Not London, but properly suburban England. Did the folk at Image Comic ever say, ‘er, does it have to be set in the middle of nowhere?’

Yeah, I think they kinda liked it! We pitched it as very English. Like, we like all these superhero comics about teenagers and stuff, but none of them are very English. It’s part of the fun, as well. All this superhero stuff goes down in a small town in Kent!

The fact that they struggle to find any crime is brilliant, too…

It’s like, what if someone really got superpowers? If I was fifteen, and I got superpowers, I wouldn’t know what to do! I want to fight crime, but what would I do? Just wander around. That’s what teenagers do isn’t it, just wander around aimlessly? He finds a crime in the end! There’s one crime [Laughs].

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We cover comic book movies a lot on Den Of Geek, but not new comics themselves quite as much. Which comics – besides your own – would you recommend to our readers?

My favourite, and I talk about it a lot, is Booster Gold. Jeff Katz and Geoff Johns did a really good run on that. Volume 2, the first 24 issues maybe, is really good. I love that.

Scott Pilgrim. Everyone knows Scott Pilgrim’s good don’t they? You don’t have to recommend that, do you? That’s a classic. Um… I’m looking at my bookcase now…. Essex County by Jeff Lemire is really good. Very strongly recommend that. Anything by Jeff Lemire, actually.

It’s funny, Jeff Lemire did the artwork for Art Brut Versus Satan, because I’d read Essex County. I thought, ‘this man’s going to be massive! He’s amazing!’, and it’s quite nice now that he is massive. And amazing. It’s like… wow, he writes everything now.

Also, everything on Image is amazing at the moment. That’s why I’m so psyched to have Double D come out with them. Sex Criminals, The Wicked + The Divine… pretty much everything else from Image. Amazing.

And what’s next on your schedule then, after Double D is out into the world?

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We have to, still, find a way to pitch my idea for a comic – Band On The Run. I’ve got an idea, and it’s like… The Wicker Man meets Red State meets Kenickie. That’s the idea I was talking to Steve about before we got into Double D. We need to find someone to make it for us!

I really like writing comics. I’m really into it. I hope I can write some more. And after that it’s the Art Brut album. And lots of things. Same old! I had to fill a form in, when I was in hospital recently. I had to fill a form out that said what my job was. And I want quite sure what my job is. So I put ‘Cult Figure’ [Laughs]. What do you do for a living? I don’t know! I dabble!

Just finally – our traditional Den Of Geek question – what’s your favourite Jason Statham movie?

[Laughs] When I saw that, for the first time, on Den Of Geek, I thought it was joke, because he’d only made one film. I thought he’d only ever made Crank! I like Crank.

I just looked at his IMDB page, and he’s got loads of films! I didn’t realise. But obviously Crank’s the answer, isn’t it? That’s the correct answer?

Crank or Lock Stock are the two most popular answers, I think.

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[Pause – clearly Googling]

I like his role as… Tybalt’s voice in Gnomeo And Juliet [Laughs]. That might be from his IMDB page. It’s Crank, isn’t it? That’s the correct answer.

Eddie Argos, thank you very much! 

Double D is out via Image Comics on 11th November 2015. You can order it online here or go find it in a real, actual shop.

Also – Eddie Argos and Steven Horry are doing signings at Gosh in London (this Thursday) and Thought Bubble in Leeds (this weekend), if that’s your cup of tea.

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