‘Fame is a toxin’: Rare radio profile of Cleaners From Venus main man Martin Newell

It’s kind of annoying when people write ‘ICYMI’ and recycle posts you just scrolled past in the first place – but there’s a good chance you missed this profile and interview with Cleaners From Venus main man Martin Newell on Dublin Digital Radio in December.

The profile was on Emma Cawley’s XXX show the Thursday before Christmas, as the hungover Dawn of the Dead shopping cycle was at peak levels, but thankfully it was saved for future consumption.

Newell is held up as a pioneer of early 80s DIY cassette culture in the UK, sidestepping the music industry, the media, new wave trends and even current conceptions that the underground tape scene was all primitive garden shed electronics or lo-fi outsider strumming.

The Cleaners From Venus, who featuring a floating band for most of the 80s, are more than an obscure curio, calling on jangle-pop, skronky jazz, dubby post-punk and new wave synths, with pop hooks around every corner.

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Since 1981, Newell has released 15 Cleaners From Venus albums, seven solo albums, several records as Brotherhood of Lizards with Nelson of New Model Army, and a trail of EPs. Officially England’s most published living poet, his poems have been appearing in national dailies for decades. He has also published over 10 volumes of poetry and an autobiography, This Little Ziggy.

Cawley got a hold of Newell at his home in Essex, saying she was a late convert after hearing The Cleaners and realising Newell must have had a influence on modern left-field indie-pop artists like Ariel Pink and Mac Demarco. This is just one of the topics they discuss, along with Newell’s perpetual suspicion of the music industry, stuffy academia, the price of fame, and Simon Cowell’s crime of inflicting “android sonic porridge” on the nation. “Money is a nuisance and fame is a toxin,” he says at one point, which almost feels like a manifesto for his whole career.

Listen below…