Alan Fletcher
(Dr Karl Kennedy from Neighbours with The Rakes)

It's funny what a difference a year can make. Since we did this interview last May the Rakes have become one of the UK's strongest musical combo's playing to 2000 people a night on sold out UK tours. When we last met the band they were playing to a couple of hundred people while Alan Fletcher's Waiting Room played downstairs to a couple of thousand drunken students dressed up as nurses and Daffyd, the only gay in the village. Similarly life in Neighbours has changed for Karl, he's found out Izzy is a bit of a lying cow, he wanted Susan back but she was with Alex who's now dead. As this interview goes to print he's training up Boyd, ex-steroid addict, to become a doctor and the TV guide reports he's about to have a drunken fling with Janelle Timmins. So here we are a year late, but strangely relevant as The Waiting Room look set to tour the UK in May / June 2006

Q: The tours been a mixture of Walkabout and Student venues. How has it been going so far?
A: Awesome, but the schedule's been a nightmare. We've been playing to 800-900 people a night and the response has been that overwhelming that we've sometimes been doing 2 shows a night.

Q: So where did you meet the rest of the band, The Waiting Room?
A: Tom, myself and Chris met a year ago. They've been gigging, writing and playing in bands for 20 years and they invited me in to maybe do some trio work and because I was playing for UK fans acoustically the bar I was playing at suggested that we do it as a 3 piece for a Monday Night residency.

Q: When you play live it's a mixture of covers and originals then?
A: Yeah, we've been writing the past 3 or 4 months and Tony had some songs already. He's just this brilliant songwriter that had about 150 songs so we took the best of them and wrote a few together. It was originally to be just an EP for the UK, but we turned around the album really quickly after we found what a great reception we were getting over here

Q: You've also written "Perfectly Comfortable", the track that we described as Russell Crowe sings Billy Bragg
A: (laughs) It was basically written in a day and produced in a day in response to the Iraq War. It's not really a good example of what The Waiting Room are like but it's something I felt I needed to do and get up on our website. I was very opposed to that whole situation, I didn't want to use my celebrity status to change people's minds, I just wanted to put out a song which was basically asking people to have a think about themselves so that the notion of the song was our you perfectly comfortable with what's going on with what your government is doing. If you are that's fine, but at least have a think about it.

You've got to be very careful about how you express your opinion. As Paul McCartney apparently said "He doesn't think celebrities should express their opinions" and I agree with him. I don't think it is about expressing your opinions, I think it's about raising rational arguments. There's no point in some standing up and saying I think this is wrong or I think this is right, you've got to say why it's right or wrong.

For months after I put that track on the website I had lots of really original and interesting arguments from people all over the world. That's what it should be like.

Q: Over here in the UK the soapstars are controlled rigidly from what they can and can't say. Do you have the same restrictions as an actor in Neighbours?
A: I'm in the public eye so I have to be responsible about what I do say, but if I feel strongly about something and I feel i'm right and I can show why I'm right then I've got every right to go out and express them.

Q: We were looking on your website and saw photographer, musician and actor. Quite a bow of talent there?
A: They're all creative industries and the acting and singing I see very much as running in tandem. Performing music is a lot like performing a script, the songs are stories to be told and translated to an audience. And what we do with an audience is we work really hard on the entertaining aspect of it so that everyone leaves having a sensational really good time. And that's an actors job as well

Q: I know you do "Don't Look Back In Anger". What other cover versions do you do at a gig?
A: We do Lenny Kravitz "Fly Away", Wonderwall, Living On A Prayer, a bit of Robbie Williams and we even do "I'm A Believer". The Proclaimers always gets the women jumping. Basically it's party music or pub music and we throw in a couple of originals just to show them what we do. We don't really need to change the set when we come over here cos a lot of the audience we play to back home are from the UK so the only real difference is the set can be a little shorter over here.

Q: If we could just finish off with a few Neighbours rumours we've heard over the years?
A: No, i've not gone out with Libby Kennedy. I'm happily married.

Q: Well that's one cleared up. One we've heard for years - is Susan Kennedy going out with Lynn Scully in real life?
A: They're very very old friends but they're not going out together.

Q: Did Harold Bishop use to sleaze over Holly Valance?
A: No (Alan's whole band start laughing)

Q: And the final one - did Joe Scully get sacked for drinking on set?
A: No

Q: These are just some of the rumours we've been hearing for years and years...they're kinda common knowledge in the UK. Have you heard any rumours about yourself?
A: Can I just reiterate none of those rumours are true. The other rumour is has Susan Kennedy got tattoos on her arm cos she always wears long sleeves? No

The main rumour that goes around about me is apparently I was having a relationship with Libby Kennedy. I've no idea where it came from cos she is like a daughter to me.

Q: I guess there are many rumours that you're certainly not going to divulge to us. Is Neighbours rock'n'roll 24 hours?
A: It's very strongly musically influenced. Natalie Bassingthwaite (Izzy) is got a great singer and is fronting Rogue Traders, Marcella Russo (Liljana Bishop) has a got a band called Lucy Deville and she'll be coming here later this year. Neighbours has always been strongly musical, I've done My Fair Lady and Natalie is doing Grease. It's always been that way.

Q: So who's the next band out of Australia to follow in The Vines and Jets shoes
A: (laughs) The Waiting Room. Go to the website and all the song samples are on there and people can buy the album through there and find out about our tour dates

The Waiting Room's debut album "In The Waiting Room" is out now
The band tour the UK throughout May / June
For more info on Alan Fletcher

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