The son of Ian Dury appeared with his dad on the cover of ‘New Boots and Panties!!’ aged six, and has developed his own voice as a melodic singer-songwriter of a bittersweet, folkish and psychedelic bent. His latest album, ‘Happy Soup’, is out on August 15 on Regal.
The first record he ever bought was Shakin’ Stevens’s ‘Green Door’. ‘It was either that or UB40’s ‘Red Red Wine’, but I think they were around the same time. I was 24! No, I was definitely a tween – I was well tweeny. In my initial stages of liking music, Dad had got me into Elvis and Gene Vincent and then I found somebody who was my own, and it was Shakey. He was my own icon. Then I tried to sell the record to my dad, but he… well, dad in his own coarse way didn’t hold back.’
He learned kindness from his parents and is very grateful for that. ‘Dad was obviously a bit more bashful and extreme and could be quite hurtful in his kindness but he was still massively kind, and on a grand scale. He was a humanitarian. My mum was the total opposite from my dad as a daily creature, but she was also very kind. I think it has to be taught, and it’s taught as manners, which are a way of tailoring your kindness.’
He was once caught chucking cow dung on to a motorway from a bridge. ‘I was about 11 and it was the first time I ever got told off by a policeman. I filled up a saucepan with cow shit and threw it at the first car I saw coming under this motorway bridge, near Tring where I grew up. The driver was an off-duty policeman. He was a real Sweeney-type dude and he got me in some sophisticated arm lock. He said I could have killed the next person. At which point I burst into tears.’
It definitely means something to him to be British. ‘Without ever venturing at all down the road of nationalism, I’m quite proud of the fact that we’re isolated and I love the British quirky character; every race belongs to us and this country is owned by everybody. I kind of like Britain’s tough-but-fair way of being and I love every aspect of its art and dramatics. And I like how cocky we can be! But I think we can be rather naive about the rest of the world.’
He’s a big fan of The Beatles. ‘My dad used to take the mickey out of them, but I signed to Parlophone because of The Beatles; that label was really set up around them and I’m hugely, ridiculously a romanticist in that regard.’
He recorded a vocal for his album up a tree. ‘We spent about three weeks cooped up in this huge house on a small mountain in the middle of Ibiza. There were about 15 of us there and we all just went a bit bonkers, in a positive, fun way. We all started pissing about, wearing different clothes and everything. I recently saw footage of myself up a tree, with chilies taped over my nipples. I don’t remember it at all, but there I was up a tree, recording a vocal with a big hat on. It was purely to impress everybody else, because I wanted to be the idiot.’
He doesn’t like musicals, but he’s smitten with West Side Story. ‘If I had to rescue one album from my burning house, it would be the soundtrack to West Side Story. There’s a particular version from 1961 with Simon Oakland. I just love the whole thing and the campness of it. I’ve been playing it to annoy my neighbour recently; he’s a massive guy who works in a pub or something and he gets really confused by it.’