A Conversation With The Upper Crust’s Lord Bendover
Back in March, I conducted an interview with Upper Crust singer and guitarist Lord Bendover (a.k.a. Nathaniel Freberg) for U.K. tit mag Bizarre. Unfortunately, everyone running that periodical is on drugs, and the interview never ran. To be fair to the dear Lord for giving me his time (not to mention all the Crust fans hungry for wig-related insights), I now present to you complete, unedited, unpublished JG2/Lord Bendover summit.
Lord Bendover (second from left) and the boys. Photo by Jay Elliot.
JG2: I’m guessing the reason you guys play so infrequently is because wig upkeep is so expensive and difficult, right? Wigs just don’t hold up out on the road, do they?
LORD BENDOVER: Wigs have not been an issue. In fact, the worse you treat them the more rocking they look. I speak for my own wig of course. Our drummer Jackie Kickassis’s complex double-breasted wig might require more attention. I tried to wash a wig a while ago—say that 10 times fast—and it wound up well the worse for wear. Probably because I put it in the dryer. Of course, it is never advisable to put a wig or any other item of costume in a plastic bag immediately after a sweaty show and forget about it for months while it ferments.
JG2: So what keeps the Crust from playing more than once every few months?
LB: We would play more often if more people offered us more money.
JG2: You guys recorded Revenge For Imagined Slights in one week and released it the next. Was that the plan going in to the studio, or did it just work out that you were super efficient?
LB: We tracked the songs in three days, including writing and recording “I Stand Corrected” in about an hour on the morning of the last day…which explains why it’s such an astoundingly brilliant song. We did some backup vocals and guitar overdubs and mixed everything in another three days, and on the seventh day we rested while the Camp Street crew uploaded the album.
We were fortunate to be working with an extremely talented production team at Camp Street Studios, Paul Kolderie and Adam Taylor, whom we’d worked with often in the past. We did have a kind of time constraint as we wanted to have something new out before we flew out to Los Angeles to tape the “Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson” a couple of days later. So yes, we were super-efficient and it was the plan to get the record online immediately.
JG2: How’s the reaction been so far?
LB: Revenge has been warmly received by our girlfriends and the 20 other people who have heard it so far. We might do a little PR for it. As it is, you’re the first journalist to know of its existence.
JG2: How did was the crowd reaction when you played with Aerosmith? Were all the gnarly bikers down with the Crust?
LB: It was at the Boston Garden, then called the Fleet Center, on New Year’s Eve, and it was pretty much a sea of uncomprehending faces. Nobody in the audience had any idea what was going on or whether they were supposed to laugh, cry, or ignore us completely. [Steven] Tyler and [Joe] Perry were very nice to us. They actually kind of copped our look for their set somewhat, costume-wise.
JG2: How hard was it to convince three or four of your friends to start this band in the first place? Did you carry the idea for it around in your head for years like most geniuses, waiting for the perfect moment to put it into action?
LB: Not hard at all, we were all playing together in other bands and spontaneously came up with this hilarious idea of a hard rock band coming from privileged society, which quickly refined itself into what we know today as the Upper Crust. Most of the first album’s material wrote itself in a month or so and within another couple of months we had costumes, names, and identities established and were more or less period correct.
JG2: Do you ever fear running out of 18th Century aristocratic references for the band to use? How far away are you from penning a rock opera based on the life of Colley Cibber?
LB: We ran out of ideas long ago. But now that you’ve given us the suggestion, we are newly inspired and will get right to work on the rock opera.
JG2: Has anyone in the band noticeably broken character in concert? It seems like it might be hard if, I don’t know, a microphone shocks you or if someone hits you with a beer bottle.
LB: Never, except for an embarrassing and inexplicable period when I could not stop speaking in a sort of a Scots accent. These kinds of things can happen in the aftermath of even a minor head injury, or after listening to Alex Harvey.
JG2: How the hell did “Eureka, I’ve Found Love” end up as a bonus song in Guitar Hero?
LB: The company that originally designed the game was based out of Boston and slipped some of their favorite bands in.
JG2: Seriously, where do you get those wonderful wigs? Did you make them yourselves?
LB: Lacey Costume Wig in New York City.
JG2: Which experience was more pleasurable—appearing on “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” or appearing on “The Late Show with Craig Ferguson?”
LB: Having just done the Craig Ferguson show, I would say it was an enjoyable experience. You get three passes at the song for your and the camera crew’s benefit, then you eat lunch, then they shove you through a curtain and count down from ten while the audience of about 60 people applauds, then you exit via the same curtain. So you’ve been onstage for approximately four minutes and you haven’t even broken a sweat while they immediately rearrange the studio for the talk show segment, which you watch from the green room.
Conan O’Brien had a big fancy set in a large studio in front of a bigger audience, with himself and the guests at one end and the band at the other. I will say that both Conan and Craig Ferguson are two of the funniest people in show business and it has been a great privilege to appear on both shows. Only I remember Ferguson as if it was just last week.
Lord Bendover and the Duc D’istortion rock out while Count Basie appears non-plussed in the background.
JG2: Do you think Aaron Burr got a raw deal after he shot Hamilton, or was his personal and professional exile justified?
LB: With all due respect, I decline to venture an opinion on this still highly tendentious and inflammatory issue.
JG2: Okay, fine. What about Ben Franklin? You buy into that whole “penny earned, penny saved” nonsense?
LB: Ben Franklin is featured on the U.S. hundred-dollar bill, so he’s a fine one to be talking about pennies.