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CHARLIE MGEE (FORMIDABLE VEGETABLE SOUND SYSTEM) – UKULELE

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Quite possibly the only band to promote the joys of gardening through dance music, Formidable Vegetable Sound System have recently released their quirky new single Kimchi, a potent yet tasty morsel that celebrates the fermented Korean cabbage.  In addition to this, the group also released their boogie-inducing new album Grow Do It on September 2.  To celebrate, the band have hit the road in their veggie oil-powered van to play some all ages shows.  Charlie Mgee put his veggies aside for a minute to answer a Q&A for us.

CHARLIE MGEE (FORMIDABLE VEGETABLE SOUND SYSTEM) – UKULELE

What was your first ukulele?
Just an el-cheapo Mahalo back in 2004, which was pretty much all that was available at my local music store at the time. I wanted a German-made Bruko, because it’s what my uke-hero Azo Bell played, but the designer-uke craze hadn’t taken off yet, so cheap uke it was!

What was your first band t-shirt?
A Frank Zappa tee I picked up in Thailand. I’d been searching everywhere for one and it was a size too small, but I didn’t care. So stoked!

A record that changed your life?
Frank Zappa’s “Ship Arriving Too Late To Save A Drowning Witch”. I remember when I was about 8-years old, waking up late one night to my mum singing along to “Valley Girl”. I kind of stumbled into the room half asleep not quite believing what I was hearing and nothing has ever been the same since.

What’s your main uke now?
It’s a hand-made one from Rocky Creek Strings, who are a small luthier family up near Byron Bay. I first picked up one of their ukes at the Channon Market and started busting out some Django on it. I really dug its chunky honky-tonk sound which was perfect for manouche swing and I really dig the round solid-faced body – even though everyone mistakes it for a banjo.

rockycreekuke

Do you amplify your uke? If so with what?
After many elaborate attempts to get it sounding right, I’ve now just opted for a simple piezo pickup running through an LR Baggs Para Acoustic preamp DI. It sounds great through big and small systems and the Baggs beefs it up about as much as a ukulele can be ‘beefed up’!

What’s your latest recording and when will you be back in the studio?
We’ve just done a little experiment and released a kids’ album called Grow Do It – it’s a ukulele electroswing/dubstep/funk album all about gardening & sustainabliity aimed at kids, but with adults in mind. We were conscious that parents don’t want to be driven crazy by bad kids music, so we got legendary Melbourne electro wonk-meister, Spoonbill on board to produce it and he’s done a fantastic job. Not sure when we’ll be back in the studio next, but we’ll see how this one goes and that will probably determine whether the next album will be for kids or adults!

What gigs have you been playing lately?
This year has been pretty quiet, as I’ve taken a no-fly pledge, which makes touring a bit harder. At the start of the year we did Woodford Folk Festival, which afterwards I hitchhiked the 2000km odd k’s back to WA. Then I converted a van to run on waste vegetable oil, which got us back across Australia to Wide Open Spaces festival in Alice Springs, Happy Daze in Far North QLD and then down to Tassie for a couple of months of winter hibernation. The veggie oil didn’t like the snow so much, though.

Most memorable gig?
Glastonbury 2014. We played in 2013 as well, but I think coming back the following year was a good move, as word must’ve spread about the band. We weren’t prepared for the epic crowd of cider-soaked hooligans who’d packed the venue out before we’d even got on stage!

Worst stage nightmare?
I think it nearly happened at a gig in Port Headland where the band I was drumming for at the time had been booked to play an outdoor gig (supporting Epicure or something) and the entire stage was covered in water from the epic humidity. The guitarist nearly got electrocuted so we all jumped straight off stage and refused to play the gig!

What gigs are coming up in the next few months?
We just started our national album launch tour – so we’ve been covering some k’s! This weekend we’re heading to the Gov Hindmarsh in Adelaide on the 18th Sept and finally home to Perth. After a couple of months of gardening and chilling out, we’ll be back on the east coast to play some summer festivals such as Earth Frequency, Grounded and Cygnet.

A uke tip for the kids?
Just pick it up and play it! A uke is the most fun thing that can be made of wood – nobody showed me what to do. The beauty of the uke is that you can just about put your fingers on any random frets and it’ll sound nice!

Website: formidablevegetable.com.au

Remaining tour dates:

SAT 17 SEPT | MT GAMBIER CITY HALL, SA | ALL AGES | TIX AT THE DOOR

SUN 18 SEPT | THE GOVERNOR HINDMARSH, ADELAIDE, SA | ALL AGES |TIX thegov.oztix.com.au | All Oztix Outlets

WED SEP 21  |  HANNANS CLUB, KALGOORLIE, WA  |  ALL AGES | TIX  hannansclub.com.au

SUN 2 OCT | PERMAFEST – SWAN VALLEY ADVENTURE CENTRE, PERTH, WA | ALL AGES | FREE ENTRY

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