The title suggests a contest like Star Search, but the UK’s Channel 4 series Star Test was an interview show with a gimmick: a bleeping and whirring computer host. The guest sat alone in a big, white, reverb-y room with stained glass windows and potted plants (a budget version of the room at the end of 2001? a sanitized Cathode Ray Mission from Videodrome?), choosing categories from a touchscreen menu and fielding questions that were more often insipid (“When did you last cut your toenails?”) than inspired. Wendy James of Transvision Vamp, Bernard Sumner of New Order, and Peter Gabriel all sat in this sterile technochapel and took part in its weird ritual.
YouTube user Tony Payne uploaded the Julian Cope episode of Star Test last week. Aired on June 13, 1989, it picks up right where Cope’s autobiography Head-On left off, with Ian McCulloch refuting a fortune-teller’s prediction by living through his 30th birthday that May.
Cope was then between his late-80s pop confections, Saint Julian and My Nation Underground, and his unpolished early-90s deep skull dives, Skellington and Droolian, which prepared the way for the prophetic Peggy Suicide trilogy. Unhurried, slightly bored, and whip-smart, he dispatches some questions with a few syllables—Hell is “a loop tape of U2,” the person with the most power over him is “me”—and uses others to propel himself to sublime heights most other musicians don’t even know are there:
What’s the best reason for being alive?
Um… just ‘cause it’s such a break, you know? I just think this is the best break that anybody could give anybody, and I kind of, I feel that with all the people who are in such a bad place, a bad position in the world, you know, that I’ve got to be good at being what I am, ‘cause it’s like—as an analogy, say life is like a play or something. I’m standing at the front, somebody’s given me a really good ticket, so it’s my duty to enjoy the play I’m in, because it’s rude of me not to, ‘cause there’s all these people starving around the world. They’re the people who’ve got a really, really bad break, and they’re standing at the back, and they’re all smaller than everybody else, and they can’t see over, so they never even get to see what life is, they never even got to see the start, you know?
People just say, “Work, and you’ve got a chance.” That’s complete garbage; it’s just rudeness. There’s so much rudeness. So much rudeness in our society, as well, which really kind of gets to me. Some people, they just physically can’t get it together, they can’t mentally get it together, you know? I’ll apologize for them if it makes, kind of, people in power feel any better. Sometimes you can’t get out of your room. Sometimes the world just completely bewilders you and does your head in, you know? And going out is the same as being dragged and knocked senseless by a bunch of muggers, and that’s just sometimes they way it is.
How do you react to criticism?
I really like a good slag-off, ‘cause a good slag-off can really kinda like erupt you inside. And you can be full of crap a lot of the time; you need to have somebody kickin’ around inside you. If there’s no friction in what you do, then there’s no way that you’re gonna get on, you know? The best way to make great art is to have it trivialized by other people as much as possible—that way, you fight, and fight, and fight.
What is your most wicked fantasy?
My most wicked fantasy? An evil fantasy? Well, if it’s a fantasy, maybe my most evil fantasy is that the white race doesn’t actually belong here, and was put here to mess everybody up, and everything that I do as like a total kind of WASP that I am is gonna destroy the rest of the world with its half-assed evangelical calling. But I don’t even know if that’s a fantasy, see, ‘cause I kind of believe that.
You see, the Drude is dispensing the psychedelic wisdom you need for your life, in a convenient 25-minute TV dose. (The show is half as long as it appears to be—like the Circle Jerks’ Group Sex cassette, it plays through twice in a row.)