Graham Fellows: I know how to cut out noise from revellers

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GRAHAM Fellows, creator of John Shuttleworth, Jilted John and Brian Appleton, recalls his last Fringe appearance as the hard done by rock musicologist.

IT was 2001 when I last performed as Brian Appleton in Edinburgh. I came armed with a reel to reel audio tape recorder and a razor blade.

Don’t be alarmed: I used the razor blade merely to cut up audio tape on stage and reassemble the words and even consonants recorded on the tape recorder in my show, Let’s Look at Sound. In this way I was able to edit an audience member’s innocent utterance of “God Save the Queen” into the more damning “Sod the Queen!”

Quite impressive – when it worked...

I also had a microphone and a digital multitracker, and with nowhere to store all this valuable gear I would take it in a taxi from my Canongate flat to the Pleasance and back again each evening.

My flat was noisy. Almost everywhere is during the Festival, but there is something about the narrowness of Canongate and enclosed nature of the buildings that meant every sound from the street below was amplified, making sleep before 3am virtually impossible. I can’t wear earplugs – they make me feel cut off from the world and I get paranoid.

One Saturday night I’d had enough. Unable to sleep for the racket of tanked-up revellers passing by below, I decided to record the noise for posterity. I plugged a microphone into the multitracker, stuck the mic out the window, and went to bed. Strangely, knowing I was recording the noise, made me impervious to it – I nodded off almost immediately.

In the morning I listened back to several hours’ worth of drunken people heading home followed by a short pre-dawn hush, punctuated only by the intermittent shuffling of an amiable (and lost?) drunk, and concluding with an hour of screaming seagulls and the clatter of morning delivery trucks.

I looped some of the more interesting passages and realised I had the makings of an avant garde concept album. Well... one day. It’s still languishing on a hard drive, waiting to be explored, and chopped up with my virtual razor blade.

Brian Appleton’s History of the World in 3 Darts, Pleasance, Dome, Monday-Sunday, 8.20pm, £10-£12, 0131-220 0000