When we heard there was going to be a 'punk rock vegan' appearing on Channel 4's Come Dine With Me we knew we had to tune in. Turns out it was none other than Jhon Cosgrove, comical guitarist of the Petersfield based UK pop-punk band Mike TV. Jhon made vegans proud, sharing a table with three meat eaters, making a splendid vegan meal that even slightly older male citizen Anson couldn't argue with (and they in turn had to make a vegan meal for Jhon). He did however also get naked, which slightly disturbed one of the female participants. If you haven't watched the episode, you can find it over at http://www.channel4.com/programmes/come-dine-with-me/4od#3240375. Since Jhon is now a TV legend, we naturally had to get in touch and ask him more about his TV experience - being on the box and in the band.
Shari Black Velvet: Why did you decide to go on Come Dine With Me?
Jhon Cosgrove: I decided to go on Come Dine With Me because I failed the Countdown audition and I crave the attention that only an appearance on a national TV show can generate. I also wanted to show off my genitals to strangers and that vegan food can be good.
SBV: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is currently on our screens with River Cottage Veg, a series where he’s living as a vegetarian for six weeks. Do you think TV programmes can educate viewers into making dietary lifestyle changes such as becoming vegetarian or vegan?
JC: TV programmes can educate people about the benefits of a plant based diet but I don't know how much clout a man who has made his name by cooking with animals can have. Fair enough he wants to get his point across and I don't know the premise of his current show but didn't he go on about saving the 'supplies' of fish in the ocean but then still keep cooking them? Maybe if he wants to save certain species of fish, it'd be good idea to stop eating them. Same with Gordon Ramsey and the sharks, if it wasn't gonna shock people and generate viewers then they wouldn't have made the show in the first place (plaice). It'd be good to see these chefs actually cooking some awesome vegan food and stop fucking about with cottages and sharks.
SBV: Was there anything filmed that wasn’t aired that you wish was?
JC: Other than the orgy on the third night with the contestants and crew, there was a lot of things that didn't make the edit. I'd love to tell you them all but I can't remember because my brain was soaked with wine.
SBV: The prize was £1000. Do you think you ruined your chance of winning by getting naked? Why did you get naked?
JC: The prize was indeed a grand but that's not why I went on the show. I think Anson would've won the show anyway as he's a fantastic character and human being. I could've done better if Selena had enjoyed my night but that's her call. It's a heavily TV produced show anyway, so who gives a fuck? I got naked because my girlfriend said that my body is so good, that I should share it with the world and it was just selfish for her to keep it to herself. She's also a compulsive liar and lives in my head.
SBV: What was the best thing about being on the show?
JC: My girlfriend's (she is real, honest) reaction when I came home and couldn't stand up. Meeting someone who was weirder than me was probably the best thing; stand up Anson! I said stand up twice, I wish I could do stand up. Three times. Hell yeah.
SBV: I can actually see a sort of Russell Brand side to you. Have you ever tried to get into TV (not Mike TV) more? You did co-host a pilot music show once – how did that go? Any desire to present any other TV show?
JC: I actually got interviewed by Russell Brand at Homelands Dance Festival back around 2000. He was off his nut and so was I. I just stood there confused. There's three main differences as in he's handsome, he has had sex with people and he's funny. Although he's a fucking shocking actor, I hope we don't have that in common. Then again, I've been acting happy since I was born. Oh, that's dark and a massive lie. I did do a pilot called Badtown TV which was really fun and enlightening but nothing came of it. So yes, if anyone is reading this GIMME A FUCKING JOB! I'M FED UP OF POURING BEER FOR CUNTS.
SBV: How long did it take you to decide what meal to prepare for Come Dine With Me? Did you ask friends/relatives for their opinions? JC: Well I didn't have that long to decide. When you apply you have to give them some ideas and then when they say they want you, you have fuck all time to sort it out. That's why some times you see three of the same desserts etc in the same show. I did send it to people (vegans) after and they seemed to think it'd be okay! I cook all the time for carnivorous types, so you have to make food taste good or they'll think vegans only eat nuts and bananas.
SBV: How long have you been vegan and what would you say to anyone else that may be considering veganism – or even just giving up meat and going vegetarian?
JC: I've been vegan for just over four years now and before that I was vegetarian for seven years. I think with veganism, you've really gotta wanna do it and make the change. Don't fuck about with it, just do it. It's not that hard when you get used to it and you feel better all round. Giving up meat is a good start but if you worry about what you’re eating, then do some research online and speak to other vegans/veggies who are well informed. If you do give it a go, find a vegan buddy for the first few months and call them when you need advice/help.
SBV: You’re not new to appearing on TV. You’ve been interviewed on China TV when touring over there with your band Mike TV. How was it being on Chinese TV and what memories will you remember forever from touring China?
JC: Haha, that interview in Chongqing went out to a few million people. They don't get many western bands out there! I don't remember much of the interview as we'd just finished playing the hottest ever gig. I know I looked like Sarah Jessica-Parker if she'd been run over and pissed on a few times. We've been to China twice and will do again next year. It was an amazing experience - they're so new to rock n' roll out there (and rubbish pop-punk) that it felt very fresh. We did loads of great things like going to that huge wall thing, The Kremlin and played a festival to 10,000 people. I also managed to shit and puke at the same time, got driven up a motorway slip road the wrong way, got offered cannabis by the head of police in Xi'an and they're the dull stories!
SBV: China has a lack of animal cruelty laws. What do you think of their laws, and how they have a lack of human and civil rights as well as animal rights? They’ve had cruel ‘animal Olympics’ and they also skin animals alive, beat dogs in the street as well as having exceedingly cruel bear bile farms.
JC: I saw some fucked up things in China! They eat some crazy shit. The rest of the band tried to eat a lamb's penis but it was too tough. The meat out there looks wrong, totally glad I don't eat it. They'll eat any old cut of it. I also saw live chicks (not girls) hanging off the back of a travelling motorbike and literally hundreds of pigs jammed into the back of a lorry. I don't agree with certain things out there but as a band it was our responsibility to entertain the general people and not think about certain things. Kids just wanna go out and have a good time and forget about any issues, and that's why live music can be such a relief. Things are changing slowly in China and I hope that they do sort out both their human and animal right issues.
SBV: Over the years you’ve had a few slight line-up changes and recently Rich has left the band. How hard is it to find the perfect permanent bandmates for Mike TV? What must a musician have if they want to be in Mike TV?
JC: Haha! What a question! Firstly, we don't allow musicians in the band. It's a case of the next taxi off the rank - first person to ask to join has the job. There's always been Domb and I but it's hard when your band is not full-time and you're not making money. You have to work etc. Richard left because he got a job designing Lego. Not the exciting space or castle stuff but just the ordinary, boring old blocks. We have a new guy joining and he's a total dick, so we'll get on just fine.
SBV: You’ve toured China, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Belgium and other countries. Which was the least vegan friendly and which countries or cities had the coolest vegan stores and diners/restaurants? Which particular stores/diners/restaurants stood out?
JC: A little bit of internet research and you'll find some great places to eat on tour. Normally if you tell the tour booker in advance that you're vegan, they'll sort stuff for you. The mainland is normally really good for providing vegan food. I found an awesome vegan cafe in Cologne but didn't find any cologne in the vegan cafe. China was tricky - I did find a fully veggie place in Beijing but was then seriously ill for three days after. I decorated a few toilets and their walls during that experience. If we're on tour, I normally bring a cool box with supplies in. It also saves money too!
SBV: On your bandcamp page fans can download your albums as a ‘name your price’ approach. What’s the most someone has paid for your album? Do you find that most people don’t want to pay anything when there’s a ‘name your price’ deal?
JC: I think someone once paid £20 for the album! Mental. I think it can work both ways. We'd sold out of the CD pressing of our album, so it made sense to put it up online for people to download. If people really don't wanna pay for something, they'll find it and download it anyway. I think for smaller bands, it's now a case of getting their music out there and touring hard to promote the release. It also helps if you're not shit.
SBV: Mike TV used to be called Pickled Dick and you’ve been a band since 2000. What’s your take on the music industry? As an independent band does it get frustrating to not achieve more success or are you happy with how things have been? Seeing other UK bands blow up and become successful, do you think it’s more about money/advertising or marketing/hype? Why do you think some rock/pop-punk bands become successful and others don’t?
JC: Well as with anything in the entertainment industry, money is a massive issue and so is the "who you know, rather than what you know cliche". If it wasn't for both these things, we'd be fucking famous and the best band in the world. Probably. I think do it as long as you enjoy it. If you don't, then get a job designing Lego.
SBV: A lot of the UK bands that you toured with as Picked Dick, such as The Fight and Jesse James have split up. What has kept you together and continuing? You did post earlier in the year that you were going to take a semi-permanent break, but now there’s talk of a new album being released in 2012. What most keeps you wanting to keep Mike TV alive?
JC: I think the main draw is recording another album. Domb has so many songs and is such a talented song writer, that I think it'd be a shame to give up now. I can't imagine not having a gig to look forward too. Also, we have no qualifications or aspirations so music it is. Oh yes, and did I mention we're fucking great? We only really took a break so I could play cricket all summer and so Domb could get his forklift license.
SBV: As a band there’s a Green Day influence – and you have a satirical ‘American Idols’ song about the band with the lyrics ‘I miss my old Green Day’. Have Green Day heard the song and did you win many Green Day fans with the song?
JC: We don't have fans. We have people that tolerate us. Yes Billie Joe has heard the song and they're gonna cover it on their next album as they realised the last one was so shit. Probably.
SBV: You have a song on your ‘Mike TV’ album called ‘Chameleon’. Chameleons are well known for changing colour. As a band would you say you change colour musically/sound-wise? Would you say you have a sort of colourful rainbow style sound?
JC: Rainbow as in the TV show? This interview has gone full circle. Yes we're like Rainbow. Annoying puppets getting fisted by metaphorical 'man' and entertaining kids - our main demographic.
SBV: You have covered ‘Daytime Dilemma (Dangers Of Love)’ by The Ramones. What dilemmas have you faced with the band – besides the name change?
JC: We've had a few incidents. Too much alcohol, the time I punched Domb, the three and a half hours it takes Glyn to set up his drum kit at practice, inter-band relationships (everyone with me) but nothing really major. It's supposed to be fun isn't it, when it's not we'll stop and I'll finally become a full time stripper at hen-dos.