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Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Thursday, 23 April 2009 12:39 UK
Marmaduke Duke: Biffy's 'liberating' fun

By Greg Cochrane
Newsbeat music reporter

Biffy Clyro's mystical side project talk about their unexpected success, Britain's "highly sexed" nature and their plans to have their fans play live with them.

Marmaduke Duke
Marmaduke Duke's Simon Neil will now return to his day job with Biffy Clyro

Marmaduke Duke are less of a band, more of an intertwined, deliberately hedonistic, plot to have fun and make things up.

As a quick revisit, officially, the 'Duke are The Atmosphere [Biffy Clyro's Simon Neil] and The Dragon [Sucioperro's JP Reid].

For their rare and sporadic live performances they're dressed in tights, helmets and tarred-feathers.

2005's The Magnificent Duke was their debut record. Duke Pandemonium - released on 11 May - is the second part of a trilogy. Third instalment The Death Of The Duke is still to come.

Mystery characters

And in case, you're wondering exactly who the Duke is, he is a slightly gormless character who walks around the stage with them but also makes the behind the scenes decisions.

So far, so surreal.

However, following an appearance in Joe Whiley's Live Lounge [23 April] the pair are now putting down the masks to return to their respective day jobs. "At least until the summer time," says The Dragon.

Marmaduke Duke
The band release Pandemonium Duke in May

To this point the journey has been deliberately fractured, under-rehearsed and spontaneous.

"We don't like to practise too much because if you practise too much it starts to feel like a job," says The Atmosphere.

Outings for the band so far have been infrequent and explosive - they embarked on a brief six date UK tour earlier this year.

"If we were out doing the touring every month - it would just become a bit jaded for everyone," says Reid.

"When we do the shows we try and party as much as the people there," adds Neil. "It's the opposite of what you'd normally do at a gig which is play as well as you possibly can."

The friends both agree their mystic roles in Marmaduke allow them to be "freer".

Indeed, Neil is glad not to be tethered to his mic-stand playing guitar as he does with Biffy Clyro.

"I can't believe how easy frontmen have it," he says. "Someone who is just a frontman, all they've got is a microphone to hold.

"Its just a ton of fun, no-where is off limits," he explains. "It is really liberating.

We don't like to practise too much because if you practise too much it starts to feel like a job
The Atmosphere aka Simon Neil, Marmaduke Duke

"Everything you've kind of learnt over the previous years you just forget instantly."

For the chaotic shows Neil describes his own onstage persona as "Axl Rose mixed with Cedric from At The Drive-In".

New album

The same lucid rules - or lack thereof - apply to their recorded output.

"We don't really write anything in advance for the Duke - we just go in and what comes out is the Duke stuff," says Neil.

"We knew Duke Pandemonium was going to be funk - euro-house was how we initially described it to ourselves as - and obviously it hasn't worked out that way."

From current single Rubber Lover you'd imagine the duo musical outpourings are a sunny mix of dizzy pop. Not the case, Duke Pandemonium visits acid jazz, spazz-metal and electro-pop - sometimes within the same song.

Understandably the success of Rubber Lover - and previous single Kid Gloves - has taken them by surprise.

Neil admits, the fact that people might like it "initially didn't really dawn on us."

"Out of context Rubber Lover is just a two minute pop song whereas in the context of the record it seems a bit more arty."

"[Marmaduke Duke] was never commercial prospect whatsoever," explains Reid. "It was done because we wanted to make music and have fun."

Marmaduke Duke
Duke's Simon Neil in session for Jo Whiley

Accidently, Rubber Lover could find itself as this year's openly rude summer anthem.

"We had a right laugh about it when we were recording it with these perverse kind of lyrics," says Neil. "It seems to be water off a duck's back to people.

"I guess Britain is a highly sexed nation," he laughs. "More highly sexed than we first thought."

Final chapter

Whilst the third of the Duke's three records is yet to be written it will be a one-track continuous "guitar epic" prospectively to drop in 2010.

"Initially it was going to be a CD called, well a band called Guitars and it was only a complete record when you played along with it," muses Neil. "But the prospect of making a record that would only be complete if someone else played on it was too much."

However, when The Death Of The Duke arrives the band will invite fans to bring their guitars and play live with them.

"Who wouldn't want to go and see that?" laughs Neil.

Reid: "It is one of those things that would either be brilliant or just a disaster."



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