Unsigned artist The Humdrum Express talks about his career so far
'Lacking excitement or variety; boringly monotonous' - it's not the usual way to describe yourself.
Humdrum is also probably the last thing you'd want people to call your work, but Ian Passey doesn't care.
Known for his fast-paced lyrical style, Ian – better known as The Humdrum Express - is a man on a mission. And if people are talking about humdrum, then it means they are hearing his music.
"I chose the name because my initial plan was to write mini kitchen sink dramas set to music," he says. "It can also be perceived as a boring newspaper [not the Express & Star/Shropshire Star we hope] or a commuter train, which fitted in nicely with my idea of writing about having to go to work every day."
Born in Quinton on the edge of Birmingham, he has spent most of his later life around the Wyre Forest. First of all living in Bewdley, he now resides in Kidderminster - 'where I've been based for a number of years'.
"I’m currently a screen printer by day which allows me plenty of thinking time to come up with song ideas.
"I played in a few bands initially. Smedley, Jackpot and Swagger all gigged regularly across the Midlands during the 90s. After taking a break, I rediscovered a love for songwriting which eventually led to becoming The Humdrum Express. Ten years and five albums later, I’m enjoying it more than ever."
He counts the likes of John Cooper Clarke, Ian Dury and the Blockheads, Half Man Half Biscuit and Sleaford Mods amongst his influences. So it is little surprise satire and political swipes form a part of his repertoire.
"I don’t really consider myself to be a political artist," says a man who describes his age as 'old enough to know better'. "Even the term social observer sits uncomfortably but I suppose I set myself up for it. Reviews tend to mention the words acerbic or sardonic which always raises a smile. I like to mix humour with familiar cultural references, or create fictional characters eager to share their bitter-sweet tales of delusion."
So like those listed above, can we assume that Ian views the world with an air of frustration?
"I suppose so. It was never a plan to write in this way but it’s something that has evolved over time. It’s also an outlet that gives me opportunities to meet others with a similar feeling of exasperation. Like with so many musical subcultures over the years, there’s a sense of making the most of difficult circumstances."
Ian is a keen member of his community and likes to take a look at the issues which affect his little corner of Worcestershire, too. This stretches into his work in more ways than one. Take the video for his latest single, E-Petition. He used Stourbridge as the filming location. But anybody who might have been popping into town that day would have been in for a bit of a shock.
"The video for E-Petition was filmed on a Sunday afternoon. We had a cast of 60 people dressed as zombies rampaging through the High Street which was such fun to film.
"I really enjoy getting others involved and I’m always humbled by how many are willing to go along with the ideas with such enthusiasm."
And as for the single itself, he added: "It’s had prime time BBC 6 Music airplay and has been very well received."
The E-Petition video also saw him rekindle a bromance with local musician, critic, actor and filmmaker Nick Townsend, who many may know as the frontman of Kidderminster band Weak13. It is a friendship which has brought Ian success before.
"Although we knew each other a while ago, I’ve really got to know him well from having worked together on five music videos," he said of Nick. "He’s someone I admire greatly with a similar sense of drive to get the best out of original ideas.
"It’s great to see Weak13 doing well at the moment and he seems to be gaining huge respect for his filmmaking too. I can’t think of anyone who works harder for fellow bands with his reviews, advice and, of course, his fantastic videos. We’ll definitely team up again next year.
"I recently put a band together for a show at The Rose Theatre in Kidderminster featuring members of a couple of my favourite acts, Flying Ant Day and Sleuth. When schedules allow, we’re planning four or five dates next year as a full band which I’m looking forward to immensely. I love playing my solo gigs but to have the option of doing something different with the songs is both fresh and inspiring."
There is a lot on Ian's plate. While most may have their eyes on the visit of Santa in a couple of weeks, he is looking past that and into 2018.
"It’s been a very busy year and I’m finally able to enjoy spending a bit of time writing again," he admits, amongst his promotion duties for E-Petition.
"I’ve got a couple of gigs with two of my lyrical heroes early in the new year, with Attila the Stockbroker in Stourbridge and Half Man Half Biscuit at The Robin 2. I’ve been lucky enough to play with them both before and they’re ones I always look forward to both as a performer and a fan.
"I’m not sure whether a new album is immediately on the cards. Putting songs out individually or as EPs tend to fit in more with current listening habits. I still love the album format so will see how the new songs shape up over the next few months."
For more information and up-to-date gig news, including the Attila the Stockbroker gig at Katie Fitzgerald's on January 12 and Half Man Half Biscuit support slot at the Robin 2 on February 8, visit www.thehumdrumexpress.com
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