Standing alone on the southern fringe of the city, the Donkey can often be overlooked as a venue. With a tendency to do what it wants rather than what it thinks others will like, it reminds me of that older sibling you love, don’t always socialise with, but whose music collection you’re envious of. It’s that fine music choice and independence from the inner city scene that makes it stand out. It has an integrity that can’t be questioned and is regarded by many as one of the best live venues in Leicester. Very much a local, still maintaining the vibe of a welcoming pub rather than a venue, it has a reputation for putting on a wide range of musical styles including local bands, tribute acts, jazz, the occasional big name and eclectic, eccentric acts. Gaz and Warren have a simple philosophy; they only put on music they like. That way, if no-one comes, they still enjoy the evening. If the place in bouncing, they really enjoy the evening.

The Urban Voodoo Machine are ideal Donkey fodder; eccentric, colourful, crazy perhaps and with a dedicated loyal fanbase. Prior to their appearance there, I got the opportunity to put a few questions to the driving force behind the band, Paul-Ronney Angel.

You play the Donkey quite regularly and have described it as one of your favourite venues. What is it about the venue that keeps you coming back to it rather than another venue in the city?
On paper everything about the Donkey should be wrong for us being such a large group ie: a small stage, a small dressing room etc, but we ALWAYS have a total blast when we play there. I put it down to it being run by cool people who care about good music, so cheers to Warren, Zoe & Gaz for being just that! We’d rather play a small place like that that has tons of soul than a corporate plastic venue run by suits. The other joint in Leicester we quite enjoyed was De Montfort Hall which we renamed De Donkey Annexe for the night when we played Simon Says Festival a couple of years ago!

I’ve heard that your shows are like going to a carnival. What attractions can the crowd expect at the Donkey?
Carnival, Circus, Cabaret? We’ve heard it all before and take it as a compliment, but we’re just doing what so many bands have forgotten – which is that you’re there to put on A SHOW! Yes, that’s right – we do put on a show and we don’t stare at our own shoes all night although we do have some of the best shoes in the biz!
Ultimately it’s about the songs – some you’ll be invited to sing-a-long to, some you’ll be invited to drink-a-long to, but most of all you’ll be invited to LISTEN to strange and wonderful tales from the dark side. Oh, and feel free to dance to the more upbeat numbers, just don’t clap on the 1 and 3 as you’ll risk a fine!

You have quite a back catalogue stretching back several years now. Will the gig focus on newer material or will there be some older stuff?
We’re currently touring our latest album Hellbound Hymns, but will be playing tracks from our other 4 albums as well of course. We like to keep it fresh and change the set every night. I simply can’t imagine playing the same 15 songs or so for every show as I’d be bloody bored! Of course it would be nice to have a hit or 10, but then again it would be a curse! {there was a smiley face emoji here in his reply}

You released your last album via a Pledge Music campaign. What do you see as the benefits/pitfalls of doing it this way?
We have done our last 2 albums, Love, Drink & Death! and Hellbound Hymns through Pledge and it’s been fun interacting with the fans giving them the option to buy exclusives like hand written lyrics and one off merchandise not available anywhere else. It’s great that the music can go straight from the artist to the fans without some cigar chompin’ fat cat in the middle. It is of course hard work doing it all ourselves, but at least we’re not owned by anyone else!

What next for The Urban Voodoo Machine?
We’re always touring and recording – that’s the only way to keep us outta trouble!
Since the death of our brother Nick Marsh in 2015 we have now also started playing as a marching band under the name The Urban Voodoo Machine Marching Funeral Band – just putting it out there in case anyone reading this are planning to die and want a good send off!

As a Norwegian living and working in the UK, do you have strong views on Brexit?
I’ve been living in London since 1992, which is more than half my life. I’m pretty much part of the furniture and doubt they’ll be kicking me out so no real worries there. I felt extremely sad the day after the referendum though, and feel shocked by the amount of racism that has gone on since then. I am very much of the belief – ‘build bridges, not walls’ and if Coca-Cola can move freely around the world so should people – to quote a speaker at the Anti-Trump Demo I went to in London on inauguration day!
You see, I’ve never been much of a politically engaged person and always claimed that we were not a political band, but now things are getting bad left, right and centre and it’s time to get involved and speak up. I went to help the refugees in the Calais Jungle a couple of times last year and that’s where the inspiration for the opening song from our new album came While We Were All Asleep – it’s time to wake up to what’s going on around us before we get swallowed up by corrupt politicians and greedy corporations!

On a lighter note, has anybody ever mixed you up with the Urban Cookie Collective? If yes, did it lead to much merriment?
The who?? OK, I just looked them up on the interweb – it’s safe to say that hasn’t happened!

You describe yourselves as ‘bourbon soaked Gypsy Blues Bop’n’stroll’. What bourbon do you recommend?
Bourbon? I don’t drink bourbon!! Not when in Leicester anyway – then I drink Donkey Juice only, god knows what’s in that stuff but it gets my mojo workin’!

The Urban Voodoo Machine Plays the Donkey on 12th May

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Keith grew up in the time of punk, and has never lost his passion for music. A regular in the music venues of Leicester he’s been helping chronicle the local scene for a number of years now.

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