četvrtak, 30. kolovoza 2012.

The Eccentronic Research Council - Post 1612


The Eccentronic Research Council And Maxine Peake - The Quietus | Hauntology | Scoop.it


The Eccentronic Research Council (kolektiv "umjetnika, dizajnera zvuka, eksperimentalnih pop performera, pisaca i pjesnika", kojem su vođe muzičari iz Sheffielda, Adrian Flanagan i Dean Honer) priziva duhove 12 žena osuđenih za vještičarenje 1612. godine. Kraftwerk + okultizam = pop-hauntologija.
 





Instantly recognisable thanks to performances in dramas such as Hancock and Joan and The Street, the actress Maxine Peake has taken a more unfamiliar role: as narrator on a concept album that brings to life the infamous Pendle witch trials that occurred in her home county of Lancashire 400 years ago this month.

It is another unexpected turn in the career of the Bolton-raised thesp, who broke through as a comic actor in Shameless and dinnerladies, before playing Myra Hindley. Her most high-profile appearance so far has been a starring role in the courtroom drama Silk, though appearing on a synth record about 17th-century legal shenanigans shows she can still find new challenges. On 1612 Underture, shadowy collective The Eccentronic Research Council give voice (via a sinister Ouija board sequence) to the 12 women tried for witchcraft in July and August 1612.
Led by Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer (previously involved with Sheffield's All Seeing I), the self-proclaimed group of "artists, sound designers, experimental pop performers, writers, poets and one actress" hint at contemporary resonances by telling the story of a modern-day pilgrimage to Pendle Hill by a Roman Catholic priest and nun – the latter's thoughts spoken by Peake. As the Council explain in a statement, its members "identify an uncanny relevance to our current political and social climate… People are poor again and have to do bad things to eat. There are hypothetical witch hunts all around." - Chris Mugan
  
Throughout the 17th century, witch-hunt fever was spreading virulently through the UK. Remote communities, once infected, turned in upon themselves and burned up. The lousy fate of some of these women – usually traditional herbalists or healers – was only matched by the outlandishness of the claims made against them. In Bideford in 1682, Temperance Lloyd was accused of practicing witchcraft, with one specific charge referring to her "discourse" with the Devil who had adopted the shape of a black man. One of the many witnesses who testified against her was Anne Wakely, who claimed to have seen the black man/Satan, visit Lloyd as a magpie.
Witches, with their cunning ways, were often thought capable of transforming their appearance to disguise their true nature themselves, so perhaps it's apt that this album is not at all what it seems. On first glance, the cover art of 1612 Underture; the preponderance of vintage synths – patched to sound as if they're being played by men in white lab coats - and the subject matter (the Pendle Witch Trials) all point towards one thing: hauntology. But this excellent record on Manchester's Bird label isn't some generic late adopter's attempt to take on the Moon Wiring Club, rather a genuinely unhinged, unique and deliciously weird pop album. (The name of the band kind of gives the game away really. Eccentronic? Oh do behave.)
The ERC are a self-styled collective of "artists, sound designers, experimental pop performers, writers [and] poets", led primarily by Sheffield musicians Adrian Flanagan and Dean Honer (formerly of The All Seeing I). They have conjured up a beguiling brew of elektronische, keyboard led psych, synth pop and analogue ambient to act as the musical accompaniment to a prose poem. The narration – mainly carried out by TV actor Maxine Peake – is based around a (part fictional) account of a psychogeographical trip taken by a priest and a nun from Salford to Pendle to learn more about the town's most notorious daughters.
And although Temperance Lloyd was remarkable in that she was the last of the UK's 500 women to be hanged by the state for withcraft, the Pendle witches remain the most infamous, given that ten of them were killed some 70 years earlier in 1612 – hence the title. As likely as not, none of the women (and the one man) did anything more serious than commit contempt of court. The album does not pull its punches when it comes to the failures of "religious, historic and forensic integrity", however. The court clerk Thomas "James" Potts – and his shrivelled genitals – comes in for particular criticism for purposefully recording the minutes of the trial incorrectly so as to have better material for his book, The Wonderfull Discoverie Of Witches In The Countie Of Lancaster about the affair.
The album opens with Kraftwerk tribute 'Autobahn 666' which name checks the diabolical road that leads from Salford to Pendle in Lancashire. The A666 may be a favourite location for young UK heavy metal bands to get out of their transit vans and have their photographs taken, for obvious reasons, but on 1612 Underture it is a starting point on a journey to find out more about the women who were murdered by the state exactly 400 years ago. This scaled back British road trip (undertaken in a Hillman Minx) also takes in a Visitor's Centre, complete with audio guide by Dr Who and the graveyard in which Alice Nutter is buried.
The words are Flanagan's, and they sparkle with wit and economy (as well as occasionally spilling over into righteous anger and once or twice, incomprehensibility), not just dealing with the plight of witches but with equal authority on the subject of the "20th Century Lancashire/Yorkshire barm cake versus bread cake debacle". (As he so rightly and succinctly states, via Maxine Peake: "It's a barm cake." But then, I'm from a town that had a sandwich shop called Barmageddon, so I may be biased.)
The real revelation here however is Maxine Peake herself, who is ideal to front this project for several reasons. The first is that this fine Boltonian actor arguably first came to public prominence while playing Veronica in Shameless, the initially dead smart and hilarious portrayal of the so-called feral underclass, the so-called feckless and undeserving poor or, to put it bluntly, the so-called chavs. Of course, this series played fast and loose with the prejudices of some of its middle class, university educated audience in London (and Deansgate, Didsbury and Chorlton Cum Hardy as well, no doubt). The show's creators were certainly aware eight years ago that vast swathes of working class people in the UK were in the process of being demonised by the Government and the mainstream media. Well, the Pendle Witches were no different. They were certainly the popular bogeymen of their day. Female spell-casting hoodies and Asbo collectors on broomsticks, if you will. Rachel Hasted, historian and Pendle Witch Trial expert, said as much, stating that Lancashire was perceived to be a lawless and godless county in the early 17th century and was "fabled for its theft, violence and sexual laxity", and where the locals didn't care much for the teachings of the bible.
The second is the grain of Peake's voice; its rich burr and skittering cadences make her a joy to listen to. Flanagan persuaded Peake to sing on just one of the tracks, the fantastic Mancunian Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra in the Radiophonic Workshop magic of 'Another Witch Is Dead', in which the pair are joined by Philly Smith, of the Sheffield group The Chanteuse And The Crippled Claw.
But the album gives up its true nature slowly. Of course, it reveals itself in the closing songs to be a satire on current times and a reflection on how much things haven't changed all that much over the last four centuries, with working class communities still hopelessly fragmented but now by gentrification, racism, junk culture and sexism. Except it is delivered in the form of a witch's curse on Cameron's Britain. So, scientific rationalism be damned! Let's hope this spell has some effect, no matter how weak.- John Doran


 
 Silent Radio’s Simon Poole recommends Adrian Flanagan for your audible delectation and your possible bemusement on how a Salford born/Sheffield based man who only a few years ago broke both of his arms so badly that he was told he’d never play an instrument again can be so darn busy musically.

 
WHO ARE YA?
“I am one half of The Eccentronic Research Council, my other musical half is Dean Honer from I Monster, we are a non pop, sonic mass of practical Electronics and analogue synthesis, I’m also the writer of Fakeloric sound poems of which I have got my pal Maxine Peake to read on our debut LP ‘1612 Underture’ which I wrote in memory of the Pendle Witches..This year is the 400th anniversary of their hanging.I had to write something about it as it’s so tattooed in to Lancashire folklore. It’s also my Love Letter to Lancashire…I’m very proud of it.”
“I like to wear hats and sunglasses indoors with the hope it will desensitise people to Bono and so I can send stunt doubles to do shows for me if I’m poorly or in hospital. I’m a human pop art franchise eternally waiting to happen..”
“I was banished from the magic circle for giving away the secret to the ‘removing one’s thumb from one’s hand trick & the coin from the ear trick’.”
“I like to paint my nails, eat blue cheese, get piggy backs off ladies and am physically held together by lots of screws/bolts/pins and plates after ..
1:my face, ribs, innards all hit a dashboard/windscreen in an M1 car crash on May 31st  2004
2:not being very good on pushbikes in July 2008
3:I’m due another accident if it’s a four year cycle/so I’m NOT LEAVING THE HOUSE..*airplane lands on house.”
“My Mother calls me Adrian Flanagan and says I’m nothing special.”
“I am also one half(The Crippled Claw) and songwriter for new Sheffield eccentronic girl group ‘The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw’ who are quite a filmic electronic modern take on 60′s popular music with multi female singers/front women….It started out as a one off single with my mate Candie Payne(I wrote for her before a song called Big Umbrella that got released by Domino records and went in the top 20 independent charts) but Candie was also in a band with her boyfriend so it wasn’t viable for the two new projects to try and establish themselves at the same time..So over the past year I’ve developed The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw in to a full live group with two lead singers, everyone plays synths, trumpets, glockenspiels..it’s dead good, they seem to be wowing people where ever they go..”
“Also as one lone person since 2004 I’ve released into people’s bedrooms around twelve singles under the alias ‘Kings Have Long Arms’ which have featured guest vocalists such as Philip Oakey from the Human League, Candie Payne from Liverpool and Ray Dorset from Mungo Jerry via other collaborative meetings with the odd member from The Smiths, A Certain Ratio, Ladytron, Add N to X, All Seeing I, Fat Truckers..”
Autobahn 666 – The Eccentronic Research Council Ft Maxine Peake
HOW DID MAXINE PEAKE END UP ON THE ALBUM?
“I met Maxine on a website for people with a penchant for dressing up as rabbits (laughs). I Sent her a message to ask if she’d meet me on a moor in Kersal, Higher Broughton, dress up as a rabbit for me, have an arm wrestle and a water pistol fight and let me film it for a song I had written. How could any lady refuse that? (laughs). Anyway, we kept in touch and occasionally met up for the sheer hell of doing something as daft as our first meeting or to creatively do something out of our comfort zones, which is how this album came about after Max & I went on a little road trip to Pendle .”
WHERE ARE YOU FROM?
“I was born and raised in Higher Broughton, Salford then moved to Sheffield in my twenties to escape the sound of Manc bands sucking themselves off and for some fresh air as one can’t live off Emmerdale alone.(laughs).

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DOING WHAT YOU’VE BEEN DOING?

“Longer than Doctor Who. I’m endlessly regenerating, I’m about one thousand and twenty two years old, in dog years.”
HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN YOUR WORK TO SOMEONE’S 90 YEAR OLD GRANDMOTHER?
“I’d slap ‘em in the face with a whole salmon, then cuddle them, then I’d ingest all their medication at once, strip off and do a funny dance whilst shouting through a sixty thousand watt P.A.. “it’s a bit like this Gran”…(laughs).
ARE YOU ONE – The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw
IS THERE AN OBVIOUS INFLUENCE TO YOUR MUSIC?
“Not really, I don’t really carry the ‘influence baggage of yoof’,I like classic pop music/songwriting from the 60′s & 70′s,rock and roll, blues, rockabilly from the 50′s,Glam Rock, musicals, film soundtracks, psychedelic garage groups, early and contemporary electronic music, kraut rock, avant-garde, spoken word, prog rock, ska, dub,ye ye, Turkish & Greek rock from the 70′s,euro bloody vision…I’m a microcosm of everything and nothing I’ve ever heard, add to that an actual lifetime of experience, a frighteningly bizarre imagination, a soupcon of literature and art and a lot of Coronation Street and we’ll start getting close to the ballpark of my influences (laughs) .”
WHAT OTHER BANDS DO YOU RATE?
“I only really buy record’s released on the Finderskeepers record label (they re-issue rare and amazing lost musical relics from all over the globe)…The only contemporary pop voice I rate that’s about currently is Ren Harvieu…If there was one person I could get to sing one of my songs right now..I’d say her. She’s smashing, a voice you can believe in and she’s from my old manor..Yeah more power to the Ren.”
BEST PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO FIND WHAT YOU DO?
The Eccentronic Research Council: Facebook / Twitter Tumblr
The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw: Facebook Twitter Tumblr
Kings Have Long Arms: Myspace
ANYTHING TO DECLARE?
“I have more good ideas than the average male and can polish off a packet of custard creams in one sitting.”

 

Hex & The City: Eccentronic Research Council & Maxine Peake Live
Christophe Riesco

Christophe Riesco watches the Eccentronic Research Council and Maxine Peake perform 1612 Underture and finds relaxation in short supply. If you want a flavour of the ERC, watch their short film below


There is a certain atmosphere downstairs in 2200 Dale Street even before the acts come on. A disco ball and a skull. A video projection, a photomontage traveling though night trees. A nun becomes an owl to the sound of strange electric organ tremolos. Animated 17th Century woodcuts of witches and familiars, their matter of fact depictions of a provincial Black Mass.
Jane Weaver's live performance of Eiichi Yamamoto's 'Belladonna' brings the audience to listen. This is not relaxing music.
Suddenly a scream and, fading in and out, voices of condemnation.
The audience is diverse, a cross-section of Manchester people. Perhaps then this kind of darkness is not the dark that people have to put effort into acting out but the darkness that appears everywhere in the city, which takes everyone in and which everyone just knows. Perhaps the North is a place where there is no point hiding from this kind of darkness.
The Eccentronic Research Council take to the stage: "Who's talking? 400 years ago you were still talking."
'Autobahn 666' begins, a punching Kraftwerk bass and snare overlaid with an outspoken, squealing synth. Maxine Peake is a haunting presence even before the words start. "The A666: some call it the devil's highway, and some call it the road to hell ..." The spoken word interweaves with the rhythm, and ideas of the North and of witches interweave with each other.

The words and the music draw from diverse sources. Lancashire is "Blakean in its green and pleasant, demoralised by its dark and satanic". A tribal rattle and more disjointed bass accompany the Anne Sexton poem 'Her Kind', which then acquires a disco beat and becomes music for dancing, or for standing in one place but moving, as this audience seems compelled to do.
The spoken vocals allow the effect of the performance to be discursive, to move from idea to idea. As the show progresses, it begins to suggest that the Hanging Judge is the real Devil, and the trial the real Black Mass.
Abstract noises are one thing on record, but they become another thing live and amplified. A noise-wave has a physical presence as affecting as any melody-wave. The singer appears with a noose around her neck for a swan-song on the gallows. This is not relaxing music. This is Pop in the sense that it plays with free sounds, exploring tonalities and not restricted to the set forms (and set signifiers) of conventional music. It also makes use of one vocal sound in particular: Maxine Peake unleashes the classic witch's cackle, which cuts into the ears and spines of the audience.
The bass-line returns to propel a wonderful series of vocal 'curses', the victims including Jeremy Kyle (making clear the line of descent between Kyle and the Witch Trials) and the disappearance of TOTP as an ancient democratic music source. The band exit the stage, leaving their devices rumbling and hissing with feedback.

Interview With Adrian Flanagan, Dean Honer and Maxine Peake of ERC

How serious are you about hauntology, and how serious should hauntology be? Re: the Fall song 'Psykick Dancehall', can hauntological music be danceable?
Adrian Flanagan: I'm not entirely versed in the philosophy or musical genre of Hauntology but it's a word that's been thrown at me by musicologists over the past few weeks, but I'll take a guess... I think all music haunts itself and has the ghost of something else within the heart of it, it's unavoidable, memory does that to you... I think until you're free of memory anything that triggers anything in your brain is a haunting of sorts and that applies as much to people who make Pop music or if you choose to smack banjo strings with a bull's ball bag through a space echo [laughs], even though neither are ground breakingly original they are both probably informed by something you remember as being a great moment or magical but at the same time convincing your self it's an original idea [laughs].
Dean Honer: My musical partner (in the ERC) and I create all our music and sounds from scratch,even when sourcing our field recordings and samples we get off our arse and physically find or physically make loops from our own creation... we do not simply reach for the rare record in our collection and get a loop going in Ableton... I use my own memory of the past and can only use my imagination to conjure up a distant past... I try not to get too tied up in history books either, history when re-edited and re-translated throughout the ages has the knack of becoming akin to tittle tattle and gossip, a half truth, an agenda... I actually believe that creating something fictional around an age old factual story can get you closer to the real truth...
As a cack handed word writer I'm only interested in bringing spirits and ghosts back to life within music, I like my ghosts to live a little, to be driving the train if you like. I'm not so interested in lazy spectres who only appear in one part of the house throwing stuff about like spoilt kids, in fact any ghost that did that in my house would get a bloody great punch on the nose. It's not really fair to ask me about the danceability of hauntological music as I have an uncontrollable big toe, it's constantly tapping even when there's no sound, but sometimes when I'm tending to the flower beds yes, I may do a light waltz to M.E.S.'s Esp medium discord.
Add N To X used to say old analogue equipment was far more free and creative than digital. Do you use vintage synths? Do you need to?
AF: I've know Ann from Add N to X for a good few years, she's lovely and bonkers. I've been on a few of her Electronic Bible compilation albums... I used to do a solo project called Kings Have Long Arms and have released a good few limited edition 7" singles over the years (2003-2008). Some of these records even featured the voice of the odd legend (Phil Oakey for instance). Kings Have Long Arms were a kind of wonky but tough "Northern electro" thing (mostly produced by a then young Sheffield producer finding his feet called Ross Orton). It was the antithesis to that Electroclash crap that was about at the time which was either performed by sour faced poseurs or laptop yawners. I certainly felt at the time electronic music could be more inclusive, fun even...
So I got a live group together made up of the biggest show offs I could find in local nightclubs who had no real musical ability but had a penchant for dressing up as Mexican wrestlers, woodland animals and fictional characters from books. I'd teach them one note synth and allow their natural need to show off to take over on stage, they'd constantly try and outdo each other, often it would end in an audience member receiving a naked band member's testicle in the eye [laughs]. It was part euphoric rave, part wedding disco in Salford [laughs].
I think this surreal, subversive HAPPY side of insanity, electro pop appealed to a post Add N To X Ann Shenton. She'd come and hang out with us and would end up on stage playing a weird hand made analogue machine she'd bring with her called a "Gestaposizer", it sounded a bit like 5000 mosquitoes flying in to the engine of a jumbo jet. It was like hell built in to a 10 inch square wooden box...
Quite a significant fact to your Add N To X based question is that Dean from the ERC (and I Monster/All Seeing I) co-produced a large part of Add N To X's back catalogue. Dean's in their sound,on their records, they probably used some of his synths,they've got Sheffield dust and air all over 'em.
The ERC love analog equipment and do prefer its more hands on, sexy warm tones, big knobs and lovingly crafted metal and wood exteriors to that of the more "music by mouse & maths" approach of the digital musician. The only soft synths we use are made by our pals at GFORCE Software,they've made an incredibly faithful virtual Mellotron called the M-Tron which we use quite a bit. Saying that, neither techniques particularly offend us, digital editing gives your analog sounds infinite possibilities and can be done much quicker than trying to do such on an old analog tape machine... I can't believe I said that... it's a bit Sound On Sound magazine.
Witches had special chants and songs. Do you see a ritual quality to The ERC's music?
AF: Are you mental? [laughs] I can't take that question seriously. Rituals are for sheep and hippies with no clothes on.
How important is the Internet for the band, in terms of transmitting but also salvaging music and ideas?
AF: When I approached Andy Votel about releasing this record I was only really interested in two things: one, that it came out on a Lancashire based female only record label (Bird) and two, that you could only buy it from Witches Galore in Pendle. It's not a record that really suits the average internet consumer's way of listening to music, we still believe in the two sided vinyl format and that it should really be listened too as a whole so you get the fuller context, the journey, the full 12 inches.
The internet for all its magic of instant gratification and discovery also complicates things, it makes shy people brave, it makes egos of insects, it starves and strangles great musicians, it makes musicians, it's like a universe of small talkers calling up a telephone exchange all at the same time and every now and then someone is let through to operator and their sad little voice is finally heard. The Internet is a fractious, visual, audio headache.
Imagine what it will be like when all the libraries, the record shops, the cinemas, the pubs, the clubs, the concert halls and theatres have all shut down and all your books, music, films etc are then transferred to digital and uploaded to the Internet and the physical objects pulped and destroyed.
What will you do when someone creates a virus that wipes the Internet of all it's data, it will happen one day,everything will be lost? People will be walking around like empty photo albums. Where will they go? What will they know without relying on Wikipedia and what will they own? Would they consider going to see and listen to some ghoulish knaves play an electronic mandolin in a crumbling theatre now they have lost their 3000 followers on twitter?
There seems to be an addiction to speed. What's the hurry, why must you have everything now, why must you have everything for free? Why must you know my whereabouts and the secrets behind the magic, why do you need to tell people what you are eating?
Do you think there's a link between music like yours and music in other genres? Do you have any cross-genre affinities with, for example, things like Burial?
AF: I'm not massively clued up on the work of Burial, the couple of things I've heard sounded to me like a minimal late 90s Bristol trip hop and jungle... music made by pot heads with concrete feet [laughs]. I'm probably being unfair... maybe they also need to be listened to in context.
I think the only label where what we do as The ERC reluctantly fits in with anything else is I guess, the Ghost Box label or Warp... I do love the Advisory Circle, Belbury Poly and the Focus Group and of course Broadcast, who have been the only group to be a constant ear companion for the last 16 years. It was such a shock and loss to learn of the premature passing of Trish Keenan, her voice and words have such a power to take me to far off places, it's like she's putting a finger in my heart and stirring it like a cauldron.
What has it been like working within a band as opposed to working in television or in theatre?
Maxine Peake: Oddly I've found it a complete departure in many respects. Rehearsing in Adrian's front room being the main difference, although his selection of break time refreshments have been far superior than any Theatre Company I've been involved with.
I'm not a singer so felt a bit of a charlatan at first. Performing onstage with other actors is one thing as you are engulfed in the world of the play but to be stood on the battle line facing the audience face on is pretty terrifying but as with the best plays I've Adrian's genius to hide behind.
Are the characters in Shameless in the same tradition as the Pendle witches - fringe people who threaten and are threatened by the norm?
MP: It's not just the characters in Shameless that are in threat. There's more of us on their list than we would care to imagine. The Pendle ladies, like the inhabitants of Chatsworth, were trying to scrape an existence the only way they knew.
I think the characters in Shameless are alot more establishment savvy. The Pendle ladies had no hope from the off. Thatcher and her senseless ego driven destruction of the Miners and the Unions is a good comparison.
 

Maxine Peake moves from TV to music, with added witchcraft

From Shameless to Shakespeare, the TV actor has always done her own thing, and now that means a concept album about 17th-century magic

Maxine Peake and the Eccentronic Research Council
Maxine Peake and the Eccentronic Research Council channel the spirits. Photograph: Joanne Shaw for the Guardian
Lancashire's witch country lies a few miles north of Burnley. St Mary's Church is one of its premier attractions, just up the windy road from the Witches Galore gift shop, and perched at the top of the village of Newchurch-in-Pendle. The visitor's book is an international directory of witch enthusiasts and, presumably, come Halloween, the place is knee deep in goths. For now, sitting alone in the pews, are actress Maxine Peake and the two hairy men with whom she's just formed a band.
The band are the Eccentronic Research Council, and their first project is the 1612 Underture, a bleeping, buzzing, whirring krautrock tribute to the Pendle witches, a group of men and women who were rounded up in the villages surrounding Newchurch, and tried for witchcraft. Nine of them were hung for the crime almost exactly 400 years ago. Suffice to say that this is likely the first time that 'krautrock' and 'the Pendle witches' have been used in the same sentence . While the trio pose for pictures, Alice Nutter, the most well-to-do of the persecuted women, and the only Pendle witch with her own grave, lies outside.
As career curveballs go, those unschooled in the world of Maxine Peake might find the whole business a bit baffling. One minute she's all red lipstick, judicial wigs and booze as feisty QC Martha Costello in BBC1's wildly popular legal drama Silk. The next she's aggressively tousled, wearing a sack and snogging Tom Hiddleston in Henry IV. ("It trended on Twitter! He's very clean! And very well brought-up," she says. "I did wonder if he'd ever laid one on a ruffian from Bolton before.") Today, she's channeling her inner crone while hugging a synthesiser. How's that for range?
Eccentronic Research Council Eccentronic Research Council. Photo: PR The difficulty of pegging Maxine Peake is not limited to her acting. Musically, her tastes range from Japanese black metal, garage rock and folk, to techno and psychobilly. She's programmed Marc Riley's 6Music show with her own tracks. She went to Spike Island when she was 15 and started hyperventilating when Ian Brown came on stage (she told people it was an asthma attack). She forages in charity shops for obscure vinyl, but keeps the best spots a guarded secret. So maybe it's the other way round, and in fact all this acting is a bit out of character. Luckily, she can't play or sing for toffee, she reckons, so at 21 it was off to Rada instead.
"The films, the music, the telly that I like is always a little bit more on the margins," says Peake from her pew. "In a strange way, with going into Silk, maybe this is a bit more like me, a bit more low-key and under the radar." She's garrulous and breezy, frequently dissolving into rattling giggles every sentence or two. She's quick to explain that she's merely helping out with this project and that the mainstays are her two hairy friends, Salfordian Adrian Flanagan of The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw, and Dean Honer, formerly of Sheffield electronic types All Seeing I and sometime producer of the Human League.
Peake got together with Flanagan after he contacted her to ask if she'd fancy dressing up in a rabbit costume, arm-wrestling him and buggering about with a water pistol for an afternoon on Kersal Moor in Salford, in aid of a music video for The Chanteuse & The Crippled Claw. "I said I'd pay her in Thunderbird and a pickled egg," says Flanagan, who gives the impression he would work with Peake again in a heartbeat.
Game as a badger, and perhaps also thirsty and peckish, Peake agreed. A shared interest in the Pendle witches (Peake has read countless books and hopes to be cast in a drama about them one day) led them on a road trip to St Mary's and the grave of Alice Nutter. The day out spawned her spoken-word contribution to the album, reading words written by Flanagan as 'a homage to the legendary Lancastrian sisterhood', delivered over Honer and Flanagan's analogue meddlings.
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"We rehearsed it all in Dean's spare bedroom. And now we're playing gigs!" exclaims Peake. After a couple of warm-ups in Manchester, in September they'll headline the Secret Woods Stage at Festival No 6 in Portmeirion, the home of The Prisoner, a most appropriate platform.
"I get slightly embarrassed when actors say 'Oh, we're artists', but I want to be as creative as possible and this was another avenue", says Peake. "Not part of a job or a career move, just something fun. It's not about being fashionable, or cool, we've got the same taste in music and films, so it was hanging out with like-minded people. A collective of freaks! It's terrible, because I'm an actor, but telly and film I could live without, but music, I definitely couldn't."
The story of the Lancashire witch trials, and the injustice of it all, resonates with her. Some of the so-called witches were from two destitute families, barely scraping an existence. "These were women who were persecuted, though there are all sorts of stories threading through as to why. They were poor people trying to get by and we are back in dire times where people have to do drastic things. They were the undesirables, 'Get rid of them, we don't want them'. It's like people now being moved out of their social housing, 200 miles down the road, uprooting people from their communities."
"We wanted to give the Pendle witches a right to reply. In a sensitive way," chips in Flanagan. "I don't think you can be a human being without feeling the resonance of their story. And I very much wanted it to come out on a Lancashire label that's female focused." Luckily, or more likely deliberately, they signed the project to Bird Records, the Finders Keepers spin-off for 'femme freak folk', which is really rather apt.
The final track finds Peake and Flanagan getting a bit political, cursing various societal ills, from the 'rabid Cameron' and the EDL, to 'bumbling blonde mayors', though she is slightly regretful about a line which likens Nick Griffin to Terry Duckworth. "I don't want to upset Nigel Pivaro. He lives near me, and I don't want him coming round to get me!" she says, collapsing into another fit of giggles.
Peake's politics are dyed-in-the-wool, growing up with her granddad, a communist party member. Her parents' house, however, was not a political place. "Nothing was forced on me, but it was a big influence and I was allowed to make my own decisions," she says now. Instead of sticking around and joining the Salford branch of the Communist party, her head was turned to acting. "I left because I was so focused on going to drama school and going to London. Though I think [politics is] why I got into acting and doing something creative," she says.
Dinnerladies Dinnerladies. Photo: PR From there she got her break with Victoria Wood as sarcastic dinner lady Twinkle in Dinnerladies, as Janice in Craig Cash's Early Doors and for three series as Frank Gallagher's neighbour Veronica in Shameless. Whether the critics rate the production or not, Peake performances are purest critical Teflon, seemingly impervious to vitriol. She played Myra Hindley in See No Evil, Joan Le Mesurier in Hancock & Joan, which won her a Bafta nomination, and then starred in the gripping second series of Criminal Justice, Jimmy McGovern's celebrated The Street and the relentlessly bleak adaptation of Red Riding.
Peake moved back to Salford five years ago after 13 years in London, during which work began to consume her more than she was happy with. Her dance with the Pendle witches might not have happened otherwise.
"That's been the good thing about coming back, doing projects like this," she says. "The community's a little bit smaller. It's given me a balance. I am an actor, I love acting, and I absolutely love what I do, but I don't want it to be every waking hour. This project was never on the agenda, but it's about having fun. Enjoying yourself. I've no plan. I'll see where it takes me. I was told 'Your career's made by what you don't do', and that always stuck with me. I drive my agent mad!" And more giggles threaten to wake up Alice Nutter who's lying next to us. Keep it down, love.

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