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punk, punk, Go ahead Go ahead make my make my day! day! Ade Edmondson has been making Britain laugh for the best part of 30 years, and his latest idea might sound funny, but as he tells GAVIN ALLEN, he's very serious about playing "thrash mandolin".

Byline: GAVIN ALLEN

FROM the day he first headbutted his way into the national consciousness as stud-headed Vyvian in The Young Ones, Ade Edmondson has been putting the punk into comedy.

Edmondson shot to fame in the early '80s alongside his partner in comedy crime Rik Mayall in The Comic Strip Presents TV Shows.

But since then he has carved out a hugely varied career; how many others could cook up a storm in Hell's Kitchen, write Bottom, sing in The Rocky Horror Show in the West End, write a novel and be the voice of Pepperami? But after a career of comedy job-hopping, and a recuperative spell as Dr Percy Durant in Holby City, Edmondson is now threatening to turn his back on TV for his new love; The Bad Shepherds, a band that plays punk hits on folk instruments.

"I've wanted to be a musician from the age of 13," says Edmondson, a much more calming presence than one might imagine.

"I grew up at the same time that punk was happening and although I never thought of comedy as punk, I was inspired by it, by the fact that you could just do what you liked, when you liked.

"At the time there weren't any comedy clubs at all. Stand-up comedy used to be working men's clubs with DJs in frilly shirts and racist gags. But we loved doing comedy to different audiences - even if they didn't want it.

"Over the years I've had a lot of comedy bands and directed music videos, I've even had a number one record in seven countries, although I couldn't tell you what those countries are, with Sir Cliff and The Young Ones.

"But I'm glad to finally be in a proper band."

Edmondson, 52, got the idea while he was touring with the famous comedy music troupe The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band as a guest vocalist.

After a drunken Christmas lunch, Edmondson "accidentally bought a mandolin" and soon after was messing about with it in rehearsals when The Bonzo's mainman Neil Innes suggested he form a band.

"Actually, what he said was that I should get some white hot musicians around me and do it," laughs Edmondson.

So he did. He recruited former Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull guitarist Maartin Allcock, composer and pipes virtuoso Troy Donockley and champion fiddler Andy Dinan. Together they get their teenage kicks playing the music of The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Jam and The Stranglers.

"I think the idea, doing punk music on folk instruments, you either get it or you don't," he says.

"I want to show people what great music it is, how good the songs are. I've always played these songs at home on an acoustic guitar and then I got hold of a mandolin, started playing them and they sounded great.

"Although we are doing songs that already exist, we are arranging them considerably differently, with different time signatures, and it's often the case that people don't realise what song's coming until it hits them in the face.

"And I know people get frightened of folk instruments because they think it's going to be all Aran sweaters and smoking pipes, so this is my way of duping them into the thrill of it."

The band's schedule takes Edmondson up to October and while he isn't ruling out a return to acting or comedy in the future, he thinks he has finally found true happiness in the band.

"Let's face it, I'm knocking on now and I just want to have fun," says the man who married comedy queen Jennifer Saunders in 1985.

"I've done an awful lot of touring over the years and the majority of it has been with Rick, and while he is like a brother to me we got bored of each other after 30 years on the road together. I'm doing this with three other guys and it's how I always imagined being in a band would be.

"My whole career has been one accident after another, TV jobs come and go, and I'm not giving up on that sort of thing but sometimes it gives up on you.

"And anyway, who needs it when I'm probably the best thrash mandolin player in the world."

The Bad Shepherds, The Globe in Cardiff, Thursday. Tickets pounds 15 from www.theglobecardiff.com

CAPTION(S):

Ade Edmondson with his band Bad Shepherd, and right, in more familiar roles in Holby and The Young Ones
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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 22, 2009
Words:747
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