Once more it’s like someone pulled a thing out of my head and made it a real thing. There’s a TV theme tunes covers band called Dream Themes, you say? OMG. They also do a spoof soap called Thamesmeerd starring Dream Themes and various queercore musicians? OMFG. They’re doing a panto/gig featuring cast members from the soap? OMAFG. Yes. This is stuff that is happening. I spoke (wearing hearteyes) with Paul Matthew Kelly, founder member of Dream Themes and one of the genius brains behind all of this stuff.
A TV theme tune covers band, a faux soap (or, fauxp, if you will), a fictional XmasPantoGig… Is this representative of the inside of your head?
Yes. Do you know Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
Not intimately. But we’ve met.
Tracey Emin’s unmade bed is what’s inside my head.
It’s like you’re all part of a warped renaissance salon, really. Did being Frank Sidebottom’s backing band pretty much set you all up for this part of your careers?
Being Frank’s band was the best job any one of us has ever had. Or ever will have. It happened sort of by accident too. I run a club night and booked him to play it in 2005. He came and did the first couple of gigs with his keyboard, but I’d remembered him having a band in the 80s and I suggested the idea of having a band down here who could learn the songs and use the sound check as our practice and he was up for it. The gigs with Frank were always mayhem. We never knew what was going to happen, just an idea of some of the songs we’d planned to put in. He’d start others too and just shout at us ‘Join in!’ Even though we’d never played them before in our lives. There were lots of parts of the show where it made sense to have some incidental music, like when someone would come up for a raffle prize or something, so we’d play the theme from Terry & June or Grandstand. Then one day when we were practicing I suggested we start a band that just did telly themes and call it Dream Themes. Our first gig was at my friend Amy’s wedding. And the couple’s first dance was to the Countdown theme.
Your online soap ThamesMeerd famously features a Crisp Restaurant, OMG Crisps, and there’s just been one crop up in Soho. You’re basically a hipster trendsetter, then? (btw, bet HipChips can’t do a hoolahoop tower like Gemma Cross can)
If I had ever thought people would be stupid enough to actually go to a restaurant that sells crisps on a plate, I’d have started that business myself. That storyline, as you can imagine, came about on the back of the breakfast cereal café opening, and, as a lot of the best ideas, started as a joke in a pub. ‘Right! I’m gonna start a crisps themed café and it will be called OMG Crisps!’ Obviously, I wasn’t going to start one really. Thamesmeerd is basically a retirement home for our stupid jokes/ideas. A lot ended up in the panto too.
It’s called Santa in Space: how non/traditional is the panto likely to be?
It’s very traditional. We have the dame played by a man, the principle boy played by a woman, the ‘behind you!’ section, the idiotic double act. I’ve done a lot of research into which side of the stage the goodies and baddies traditionally enter/exit, adhered to the trad colour scheme of the evil baddie’s costume (black and purple). OK, the space and Father Christmas bit is different, as are some of the songs; adapted versions of Smiths and Joy Division songs and more. Can’t tell you any more or I’ll give the game away.
Dream Themes covers a very wide variety of TV themes from across the decades. Are there any you just won’t touch?
We have a couple of rules. We don’t tend to do pop songs that became TV themes, preferring to concentrate on music that was written for purpose. And we don’t include themes that have words in, ie, we only play instrumental themes, eg, Dallas, Grange Hill, Bergerac, Peppa Pig, Panorama. (We very occasionally have guests who sing a few at the end. Notable, we once had our mate from Wigan appear with us, singing things like Are You Being Served and Only Fools and Horses. He does an act where he dresses as Davros. He actually made it to the semi finals of the last Britain’s Got Talent. We tried to get him in the panto but he’s busy fighting timelords.
Is your plan for Thamesmeerd to run and run like other soaps, or are you more of an Albion Market, an Eldorado?
Thamesmeerd will run forever. We haven’t got the episodes out as regularly as we’d have liked, but 5 are out, one’s in production and I’ve written 3 more. It would only end if I dropped dead or we got banned from YouTube. (We wouldn’t. It’s a family show).
What’s next for your varied musical-thespian ensemble?
There are plans afoot for a musical based on TV themes.
*This journalist dies of happy
Interview by Corinna Tomrley
Go see Santa in Space at the Lexington in London on 17 December