Founder of Fascinating Aida Dillie Keane talks about the cabaret trio's new show.
Tell us about your current show? What can audiences expect if they’ve never seen you live before?
Jeepers, I’ve never been able to describe our shows. However, I can say that the shows are very very funny, highly topical and up-to-date - you can usually expect to hear mention of current news or ongoing scandals.
People love our use of language which is, though I say it myself, complex and rich and, yes, occasionally enchantingly smutty. I was born in Portsmouth and I blame my rudeness on the sailors I frolicked with in my girlhood.
You founded the group in 1983, so next year Fascinating Aida will be 40 years young. How do you explain the longevity of your success?
Liza’s dad, who was THE television dramatist of his day, apparently used to say, “All you have to do is outlive them.”
There have been times when past sopranos have left us for sunlit uplands when my spirit has been very low, and I have had to retire to a co
rner to lick my wounds, but I always quote a couple from Kipling’s “If" to myself: “If you can see the things you gave your life to broken, Then stoop to build ‘em up with worn out tools;” And yes, I know the poem ends with “You’ll be a man, my son” and I have no problem with that in these gender fluid times. And I say to myself, “Head down, collar up, shoulders into the wind” and I just battle on.
How did you, Adèle and Liza cope under lock down? And for how long were you unable to perform?
We lost 13 dates off the end of the 2020 tour, and then three more full tours were cancelled. I didn’t miss performing nearly as much as I missed seeing shows and going to galleries.
That, for me, was a special kind of purgatory - to be denied the joy of inputting culture. And my brother-in-law died, and my great friend and co-producer died. And then our labrador died. So I was very sad.
I gardened, grew vegetables, and listened to a lot of books. I sent a message to Timothy West (our manager also represents him) to tell him he’d got me through lockdown - I listened to him reading 13 novels of Anthony Trollope. Utterly wonderful. But we were all very sad and it’s given us a special pleasure to get back together.
How do you write songs? Is it a collaborative process?
It has become more collaborative over the years. We attack very big subjects which can take days and days of research and discussion until we find out how to write about it. The Ofsted song took about three weeks to write, our new song about Wokeness took days of thinking and discussion.
Fascinating Aïda are renowned for their dirty themes and rude language. Do you think it is ‘Big and Funny’ to swear?
It’s not so much that it’s big and funny to swear, more that it’s absolutely joyous when you produce an unexpected and possibly smutty image.
You tour a lot – do you enjoy it?
The day I stop touring will be a bad bad BAD day. One-night stand touring is a dream, because you’re never anywhere long enough to get bored. Ideally, I’d like to be buried standing like the Roma. I adore being home and love my garden… but I’m fatally restless.
Fascinating Aïda were early adopters of the internet – and now you enjoy global success on YouTube and other social channels – what was the impetus to embrace new technology?
In 1970, a friend said that every home would have a computer in 20 years’ time. I pooh-poohed the idea, but when I got an Amstrad at the age of 30 or so, I realised (a) that he was10 years out and (b) how wrong I had been.
After that, I embraced every new invention. I currently run a website (not very well, but that’s because of lack of time), I design posters, I use music writing software and when I die, my mac book will have to be wrenched from my cold dead hands. I am VERY proud of our online programme which is FREE and fully downloadable from www.fascinatingaida.co.uk No trees were harmed in the making of this programme - result!
Which musical artists do you most admire? Has that changed over time?
I have worshipped Randy Newman for 50 years. I listen to classical music but tragically, I can’t listen to much Schubert lieder because all my songs suddenly turn out to be poor copies. I have finally come round to the greatness of Dylan - his voice annoyed me for ever, and now he sounds like the voice of God. I listen to a lot of country music, French chanson and German stuff. I love Georgette Dee, such a rich voice.
Tickets for the Spa gig at: www.scarboroughspa.co.uk or at the Box Office by phoning 01723 376774.