SQ Magazine

The UK's Leading Independent Youth Culture Publication

INTERVIEW: Cassetteboy

Posted on Wednesday, 4 December by


Casetteboy’s YouTube mash-ups have been racking up millions of hits in the past few years and everyone from Lord Sugar to Boris Johnson has been targeted by the duo’s own brand of satirical assassination.

Keen to conceal their identity, we talk to ‘Mike’ from Cassetteboy about comedy, making money from YouTube and the possibility of a Cassetteboy party political broadcast.

SQ: So first things first – how and when did your transformation into Cassetteboy begin?

Cassetteboy: Well there’s two of us in the act and we started off by making compilation tapes for our friends and we would put little snippets of stuff from the TV inbetween the music. The first one we did was nearly 20 years ago…as we carried on the tapes got more complicated and the samples we captured from TV shows got more complex and eventually they took over while the music disappeared completely.

What spiked your interest in mash-ups? Has it always been a hobby or was it something born out of work or education?

Erm, I suppose it’s always been a hobby really. It was nothing to do with university. The other half of Cassetteboy and I went to school together and we’ve always both been interested in comedy. What we do is a new form of comedy that hasn’t been expressed before…a way of making a new kind of joke.

Both of you started your career performing under anonymity. What convinced you to make the move and go public?

Everything that’s ever been done is actually under a pseudonym so there’s no trace of our names…just call me Mike from Cassetteboy and nothing else! We were actually scared of being sued. When we first started releasing stuff we were concerned that Frank Sinatra or Michael Jackson might sue us for using their songs. Concealing our identity is something that we’ve tried to stick with…no matter how unsuccessfully.

We can’t monetise our own channel. Essentially, it’s a hobby that we’ve been doing for twenty years.”

Cassetteboy Boris

You originally started out by releasing albums so what brought Cassetteboy’s transition from audio to video?

Well, we’d done three proper albums and each album had its own style. Our first was a ‘learning in public’ record, the second one we view as a our ‘pop’ album and went after targets like David Attenborough, Harry Potter and that sort of thing…brash, obvious, straight forward and colourful. Our third album was a bloated, self-indulgent concept album, which tells the story of human life through the medium of Eastenders samples. We never had an idea for a fourth style of album so we moved into video.

What we’re really keen to do now though is a video album. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ve got the time to do it! The first album took about seven years on and off. A video album – because we both have to work and keep a roof over our head – it’d probably take about ten years. Don’t expect to see that anytime soon.

That brings me onto my next question. You’ve previously made remarks about the ‘YouTube business model’ of putting videos out for free and making no money off the back of it…how tough is it trying to turn Cassetteboy into sustainable income?

It’s impossible. Every now and then someone will contact us from an ad agency and ask us to make a video of Alan Sugar saying “I love Coca-Cola…” or whatever. Great, but do you have permission from Alan Sugar? Do you have the rights to The Apprentice? If not, you’ll get sued. After that they disappear.

We occasionally get some stuff on the TV and occasionally get paid to make YouTube videos but there’s not much money in that. We can’t monetise our own channel and we sometimes do gigs but there’s not a great deal of cash in that either. Essentially, it’s a hobby that we’ve been doing for twenty years.

We were concerned that Frank Sinatra or Michael Jackson might sue us for using their songs.”

You mention that your act performs gigs too, just how much does Cassetteboy differ on stage from what we see on YouTube?

We’ve got two different sets of live shows essentially. We play at Glastonbury every year and that gig is basically a compilation of YouTube style videos and we dress about and act out the videos, it’s all very theatrical.

The second style of live show – which we’re keen to do more of – is a disco, essentially. Pop hits subverted with samples of The Apprentice and everything else. We’ll play ‘In Da Club’ by 50 Cent but drop Jeremy Paxman in there so he’s joining in with the rap. Alan Sugar is a presence throughout the set and it’s a mash-up of pop hits and TV snippets. We take our friend DJ Rubbish with us who MCs and gives out prizes, that kind of thing. It’s a lot of fun and Student Unions are the ideal venue for it. Student gigs are our favourite things to do really.

Is there anyone in public life who you would never parody?

Hmm, good question. People usually ask us who we’d like to do. I don’t think there’s anyone. As long as you get the angle right you can make a joke about anything. Whenever we’ve done shows that feature members of the public we try to shy away from mocking them too much. The weak and the powerless are not good for satire, we want to be poking fun at the powerful people in society. The people who are forcing themselves on us, ever-present celebrities and politicians, are usually the best targets.

Are you aware of anyone who’s seen your work and then had something to say about it? Either in complimentary or critical terms?

Well, I know that Alan Sugar has seen our videos and Nick Hewer was a fan of The Apprentice video that we did. James May, who we did a video of earlier this year, called us “gits” on Twitter. The Hairy Bikers also tweeted a link to what we did and seemed happy with it. People seem to be okay. The only one who didn’t take well to it was Nigella Lawson, who we covered very early on. That disappeared from YouTube so I can only assume that she didn’t like it.

I think it’s good to have a point of view and too much comedy these days is bland and inoffensive.”

Cassetteboy Clegg

Another video that gained traction was your satire of Nick Griffin on Question Time. Are you ever concerned about your own political ideology coming under the microscope?

No, not really. I think it’s fairly obvious that we’re left leaning and I don’t really mind that it’s obvious. I think it’s good to have a point of view and too much comedy these days is bland and inoffensive. There are terrible things that this government is doing and it’s good to point out how terrible they are.

So is a Cassetteboy party political broadcast just around the corner?

Possibly so. When the next election rolls around we do have a couple of David Cameron pieces that haven’t seen the light of day yet. They could quite possibly get a release, yes.

The obvious question to end on – and one you’ve already pre-empted – who’s next to get the Cassetteboy treatment?

Right at this moment I’m actually working on a new video for a YouTube channel called Bad Teeth and let’s just say I’m watching a lot of a particular celebrity chef at the moment. That should be dropping in the next month or so.

Watch more Cassetteboy videos on YouTube and follow them on Twitter.

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Corey Pellatt
22-year-old editor of SQ Magazine and Media Studies student at the University of Sussex. Freelance writer for clients including BHAFC.

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