My latest foray into the world of Arts interviews finds me in conversation with the legendary punk poet, Attila the Stockbroker. Veteran of 3800 gigs, over a 40 year period, he has performed in such diverse places as the USA, East Germany, Australia and New Zealand, Belgium and the Druid Inn in Goginan (twice). He is the author of eight books of poetry and numerous recordings – and a fascinating person to talk to!
I say talk to – he immediately warned me, that normally interviewers don’t get a word in edgeways. To a point, this was the case (although the fact he was in the throes of COVID at the time, did give me some opportunities to contribute – not that it slowed him down too much!). Let’s face it though, you want to hear the artist more than the interviewer anyway, so I was more than happy to just steer things every so often, sit back and be entertained.
Self-termed as a ranting poet, Attila the Stockbroker has a lot to say and is very forthright with his views of the injustices of society. In a world where that sort of raw anger is suppressed within the media, it hasn’t stopped him managing to appear on radio 4’s ‘Woman’s Hour’. He does tend to leave you with food for thought and over 40 years, many people have approached his work with a closed mind, to be left with food for thought thereafter.
We opened with an immediate reference to the issues currently befalling UK artists wanting to perform in Europe. This is not the first time I have heard it from musicians. It is useful to understand from the perspective of the performer, what they now they need to do, having been promised no change in the heady days of campaigning. It wasn’t an hour of political rants, but it immediately showed the passion that he had for subjects close to his heart.
The interview continued, see-sawing between topics in rapid succession moving from current affairs, to personal reminiscences, football and plenty of references to his catalogue of work ( all available via Attila the Stockbroker – Performance poet – poetry – poems – songs – punk rock , it’s well worth a look, including his autobiography)
I was delighted to see how willing he was to turn the interview into an impromptu performance, with some live poems. We started with a wonderful tribute to his wife during lockdown. We ended with an emotional elegy to the growing pains of his relationship with his step-father. They both showed his passion for humanity, put to eloquent verse, Attila has no problems with finding ways of expressing his thoughts, as only a quality wordsmith can.
Politics forms a large amount of his work – and we do hear some of these performances. The Dub poems, ‘My Generation’ and ‘Justice for Grenfell’ are backed by a solid reggae beat, that complement the powerful words . He was happy to talk about his links with Welsh language bands, Anrhefn and Datblygu. In recognition of the recent death of Datblygu’s David. R. Edwards, he performed a eulogy that he had written, in both English and Welsh. I have a lot of time for people who show respect to the Welsh language from outside the principality, in spite of it not otherwise affecting their lives. In my mind, they ‘get it’. I wish more people did.
I was taken on a journey that explains Attila’s rather off-piste ways of gathering a basic grasp of the language. As a French graduate, Attila has over time found a respect for other cultures which defy the ignorance institutionalised into us.
There was also a wave of hilarious stories that probably only scratch the surface as to his career – how he got the name Attila the Stockbroker, how he once filled in for Donny Osmond on his abandoned tour and how Ralf Rangnick developed his managerial style from playing a season for Southwick (a team that Attila is the shirt sponsor). The autobiography, ‘Arguments Yard’, holds these and many more anecdotes and stories that show a lifetime that entertains as much as the performer.
We were given an insight into his musical versatility, with an excerpt of an impromptu woodwind solo (sadly curtailed on the interview, courtesy of the internet) which gives you an insight into his ability, as well as a snapshot the music of his ‘Restoration punk’ band Barnstormer 1649. The band performs songs from the Civil war period and thereafter, bringing to the fore the movements, such as the Diggers and the Levellers.
The interview was only concluded when he ran out of steam, courtesy of COVID. In-between (amid some now edited coughs and splutters), Attila had provided an enjoyable hour, that will have something in it for everyone. The autobiography, the poems and the music are all out there and should be seriously looked at, but spend a short time with me in the court of Attila on Feb 23rd at 9pm – and prepare to be entertained.
Live stream via www.radioaber.wales and thereafter via podcast.