An interview with the Hairy Bikers

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What do you have planned for your 2019 live tour?

Dave Myers: "We’ve done two nation-wide tours before with some degree of success. The last one I think must have been around 2014. It’s about time we did another really. We did the autobiography, which did really well. The Hairy Bikers started in 2004 so we’ve got quite a lot of water under the bridge now. We do a radio show on Planet Rock, which is doing really well. We love the idea of doing ‘An evening with’. The other two tours were a bit vaudeville and daft.”

Si King: "They were our nod to vaudeville. There was cross-dressing, escapology. We’re not doing that this time.”

Dave: “We had an idea to do ‘An evening with’ but have it really interactive with the audience.”

Si: “We’re going to use technology so it’s a symbiotic relationship between Dave and I on stage and the audience.”

Dave: “You get fed up of people having their phones out in the theatre. This time we’ll encourage them. What we’re hoping will happen is - we’re still figuring out how - we’ve got a stage man regulating stuff on stage, and there’ll be a screen. We have some clips to show if they’re relevant. He’ll be able to take any kind of Facebook or Twitter messages coming in and put them on the screen so we’ll be interactive with the audience. No night can be the same. Of course it wouldn’t be us if we didn’t do some cooking so one thing we did for the first two tours is we picked some people, maybe this time we’ll do it almost as a raffle. Pick people from the audience, take them up and we’ll feed them. What we’ve always done in the programmes is do a lot of recipes, so the programme is good value as it’s a recipe book as well. They can pick what they want us to cook. Maybe we’ll have a drop box at the interval and people can leave stuff. There’ll be two people we’ll pick and cook and feed them for the second half. Last time it was very successful. We had a little restaurant but this time it’s like coming round to our house. There’s a kitchen table in the corner. There’ll be a few daft songs. It’s round to our house for a really cosy night but no evening is the same.”


Is that scary or exciting?

Si: “It’s really exciting. It’s lovely because the whole evening is not only motivated by Dave and I but motivated by the audience and the fans that come to see us. What Dave and I love most of all is that interaction, breaking that boundary between the stage and the audience. We do that really quite successfully when we’re on stage at the NEC for instance doing cookery demos.”

Dave: “When we’re at the NEC we’ll have a theatre of 3,000 people and we do four sessions a day. So, yes, you’ve got to get the food over with but then we go: ‘Has anybody got any questions?’ It pops around from the theatre and before you know it, everybody is included. We tend to get dragged off stage because we’ve over-ran our time. Hopefully we can generate that kind of energy and sense of belonging in the theatre. It’s like the radio as well. We seem to banter for hours and it seems to do alright.”

Si: “It’s very special that. What we’ve found with the fan base that we have is they know us really well. What you see on the telly is fundamentally what you get at home. There’s no difference. That’s not always the case but it’s important to Dave and I all that and always has been since the very beginning. The tour was a great opportunity to get out and meet as many of our fans and people who have supported us throughout our careers. That’s really what the night is about.”

Dave: “Our book signings take hours because people seem to want to talk to us about food. The BBC has allowed us to grow. 2004 was the first Bikers and we’ve done everything from campaigns for Meals on Wheels and the dieters always comes up. We can be honest about that. We’re still big lads but we’re not morbidly obese anymore.”

Si: “This woman said to me yesterday - one of my neighbours - as I’m carrying a box in: ‘Ooh, you’ve put some on’. I go: ‘I’ve put a bit back on but I’m nowhere near what I was’. She went: ‘But you’ve put a bit on. How long have you lived up the road?’. I said: ‘About four months. What a great way to start a relationship with your neighbours’. It’s hilarious.”

Dave: “I’m on my own this week at home. We did the Boat Show then went down to Sainsbury's to do my shopping. I normally do the cooking for the family but thought: ‘I’m not going to be cooking’. Sat down Saturday night - Strictly night - got my pizza, six pack of beer and I’m there at the tills and got: ‘Not cooking then’.”

Si: “I was in the world food isle, which in St Albans is very small. I’m rummaging through and saw these two people looking into me shopping trolley. I said: ‘Can I help you?’. They said: ‘Oh, we just want to see what you’re buying’.”

Dave: “In the theatre if we can have that level of intimacy as with people at home…. We’re playing the London Palladium, which is amazing. We could be the first people to do a fry up on the London Palladium stage. The Hairy Bikers journey, to use that much over-used phrase, has been quite remarkable. The last time we were at the Boat Show was the day before our first programme ever was aired in 2005. We said: ‘We’ll be back and buy one of these’. The people said: ‘Have you got enough money saved up yet?’.”

Si: “We’re still skint and can’t afford it.”


Did you ever expect the Hairy Bikers to go on so long?

Si: “To be perfectly honest we’ve never thought about it. We just keep doing what we do. I’m doing it with my best mate.”

Dave: "When the pair of us are away together and they put us behind a table and we’re cooking, it’s not like work. Saturday Kitchen - we’re hosting it this Saturday - that’s not like work. I’m nervous but at the end of the day I look at him in the dressing room and think: ‘This is great’. It’s a buzz. Business side is like anything. It’s a pain the cojones. Tour side is not work. Every night is a buzz. Every night is a night out. We haven’t done too much. I think if you do it every year it saturates it and spoils it. You also have to wait to have an idea to do something that you want.”

Si: “It’s really quite special going on tour and we look forward to it very much.”

Dave: “You get a lie-in every morning as well. It’s brilliant.”

Si: “You’re not available to do anything else: ‘Oh, I’m on tour’.”


Do you scrutinise your backstage catering and chip in to the chefs?

Dave: “Backstage catering with us? No. It was only when we went on tour we found out you have to pay for all that so we send out for chips.”

Si: “We’re working class lads. We don’t want all those shenanigans.”

Dave: “I remember we did the first tour and they went: ‘What do you want on your rider lads?’. It was pointed out to us that anything you want on your rider you pay for, so tea, sandwiches and water would be lovely. We got a bit carried away by the second tour. We were at the Lowry (in Manchester) and heard that Def Leppard have a case of Montrachet in the dressing room so we said: ‘We’d like a bottle of Montrachet and two glasses please’. We drank the bottle of Montrachet in the interval, felt fabulous, went on the second half. The worst thing you can do in this theatre is go over. We said to the tour manager: ‘How was it? It felt great’. They went: ‘You overrun by 20 minutes. It was all a bit blah, blah, blah.’ So we cut that out.”


So, no boozing during the tour this time round?

Dave: “I don’t know. It’s round our house this one so it might be appropriate to have a glass of beer while we’re doing it to wet our throttles.”

Si: “It’s always nice to have a bottle of beer.”


Why are cookery shows and live tours like yours still so exciting for people?

Dave: “I think we’ve never been in a better place for food in this country. We celebrate food. We’ve never had this competitive thing, that’s not us. It’s getting round the table and enjoying it. It’s part of our DNA. I think we’re unique in that respect.  We’ve been in Canada and America doing a charity motorbike ride. Watching some American food programmes -they’re blinking awful. We do lead the world in that in terms of quality and the presentation.”

Si: “What Dave and I’s whole thing is it’s really important for us to empower people to get into the kitchen. Fundamentally what we’re saying is if we can cook in a ditch in the middle of Patagonia you can do it in your fitted kitchen at home. This morning I was waiting for Dave to come off the train, having a cup of coffee, and this lad goes: ‘Can you send my love to Dave because you guys have got me in the kitchen. You took the scariness out cooking for me because if you get it wrong I just try again. Now I make great hollandaise. I can do reductions for my sauces’. His words were: ‘I’ve followed your journey the whole way through’. How lovely is that? What a great compliment.”

Dave: “For us, the excitement for two cooks, who have been food obsessed, it’s a career that people can relate to. On Saturday Kitchen, the chefs that will be on cooking, we’re in awe of them as well. For us to have worked our way into that position, not by any deceit, we don’t take it for granted.”

Si: “It’s from grafting - and the food industry sees that. We’re genuinely knowledgeable and enthusiastic. From our point of view, we’ve been incredibly lucky in the sense that not many chefs get to travel as much as we have. We’ve been around the world four times. We’ve filmed in every major continent on the planet and sampled the culture and foods.”

Dave: “We’ve had the chance to write over 2,500 recipes. Sometimes you forget. I grow loads of my own veg. It’s things like that in a theatre show I think we should show some pictures of my veggie garden. Si’s got a band going. You’ve had that since you were 17. That was resurrected and you played at Cornbury this year. If I’ve got a glut of courgettes I’ll type in courgette recipes into the internet and find one and think halfway through: ‘Oh sugar, it’s ours’. You forget what you’ve done. Every night will be different and hopefully once we get the hang of it we can steer people through and show them what they want to see. Any question they want you to answer. You know what it’s like. You start talking and go off on a tangent.”

Si: "We’re good at going off on a tangent."

Dave: "I think talking b******** is the turn of phrase.”


People are worried about food prices after Brexit. Do you think that’s going to affect people cooking at home?

Si: “What was really interesting was…. It all happens in Sainsbury’s in St Albans. This woman came up to me and stopped me. She was quite posh and she said: ‘Don’t you have somebody to do this sort of thing?’. And I went: ‘What? Do me shopping?’. She went: ‘Yes’. Why would I? I said: ‘If I don’t know what the price of food is how are Dave and I going to know what to put in recipes and have a rough idea of how much it’s going to cost?’ She went: ‘Oh well, yes, I suppose’. I went: ‘You’re doing your shopping aren’t you?’. She went: ‘I don’t normally come to Sainsbury’s. I shop at Waitrose but it’s closed’. I said: ‘Of course we do (our shopping) because it would be stupid. We need to know what ingredients are available because we’re just like everybody else.”

Dave: “I do our shopping because my wife is really bad at it.”

If you’re doing the cooking that makes sense.

Dave: “I end up having to buy the washing up powder as well.”

Does she do the washing?

Dave: “No, that’s 50-50.”


Who do you enjoy watching cooking?

Both: “Rick Stein.”

Dave: “His last series was great, the Mexico one. Obviously old Floyd, everybody loved that.”

Si: “I’ve got into Action Bronson. He’s hilarious. He’s like us for teenagers. He’s a huge rapper but he loves food. I’m loving what he does. He’s got this great book going called That’s Delicious. It’s sheer genius. I spend my time between here and Australia. My youngest son came over to visit. He said: ‘I’ve got Action Bronson’s book. We’ve got to go to this place called Tins and Wings. It’s in the backstreet area of nowhere in Sydney. You walk up these stairs and think: ‘Dear God, where are you taking me boy?’. I’ve never tasted wings like it. They had all these craft beers. All they served was chicken wings and the accompaniments and the most amazing craft beers. It was one the best nights out I’ve had in years.”

Dave: “Nadiya from Bake Off has brought a lot of modernality to Britain. She’s gave it a shake up and reminded us we are a multi-cultural country. Certainly we’re a far greater country because of it. Politically at the moment it’s hard. There’s so much tripe being talked about. I think the fact that someone like her is on TV, as a mum, as an attractive personality, people love it. It’s great. Some of her recipes are good as well.”

Si: "Dave and I’s careers have been about celebrating that and saying there’s enormous value in a multi-cultural society. The celebration of that should never stop. It actually defines and shapes who we are as a nation and the character and personality of our nation through the great food we produce. I can’t think of anywhere in Europe, where in outside the capital and provincial cities around the country right across Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland that you can eat your way around the world.”

Dave: “You can’t do that in France.”

Si: “Or Germany. You try and get something spicy in Germany and you have a German version of it.”

Dave: “I tried that in Berlin. I went to a Thai restaurant and an Indian restaurant and chatting to people saying: ’This isn’t right’. They go: ’Nah, we can’t do it like we do at home or in Britain, where the Indian chefs can cook like home and people love it’.”


Are British people braver in terms of which food we’ll try?

Dave: “We have the British empire. It has it’s faults, to say the least, but the offshoot of that is we’ve been exposed to abroad for a couple of hundred years now and we’ve got the head start. Love Raymond Blanc as well. He’s cooking classic French food. All the history he cooks is proper charming. You look at that plate and gosh you could lick the telly.”

Si: “There’s Nathan Outlaw. He’s a great exponent of British seafood.”

Dave: “Saturday Kitchen has given all these chefs such a great platform for their personalities to show - and the great food. Tom Kerridge of course.”

Si: “We like them all.”

Dave: “We’ve never fallen out with anybody to be fair. We’ve never tried to be anything we’re not.”

Si: “We don’t have the ego. It’s stupid. I get bored of that ego nonsense. We do what we do and people seem to like it."

Dave: “I remember going to The Sportsman down in Kent, which I think was voted the best place to eat in Britain last year. It was so nice going in there and the chef coming out and saying hello to me and asking what I’m up to. I find that a great compliment. The food to say the least was stunning.”


How big is the tour?

Si: “It’s half what we did last time. There’s going to be a few dinners around the country I think. Leicester De Montfort Hall that was good. We don’t get time, do we? We’re two pints and go to bed. We finish in Dunfermline. That’ll be a really great one for us to finish on. We did two nights there last time. We sold out and do remember what a good time we had so it’s quite fitting that our last night is there. Scotland’s always been warm."


You’re doing to Aberdeen as well….

Dave: “I lived in Huntley for 15 years. Hairy Bikers started in Aberdeenshire. You used to rattle up on the bike from Newcastle and we’d go off doing what we do now but on the west coast of Scotland. We lived on pies for about a week. I remember you (Si) said: ‘Is there any chance of a salad because I think I’m getting rickets?’ They said: “The pies come with a garnish’ so you said: ‘Can I have a really heavy garnish?’. He was passing the pies to me and eating the garnish. Again this tour, because we’re not setting out with a set format, I think the nature of where we are in the country is going to come through the shows as well. Years ago we did a series, possibly the hardest thing to film, Food Tour Of Britain in 2008. We did 30 counties in Britain. They put us against Michelin starred chefs in competition. We won 17 out of 30, which was a miracle. We had a fair idea of various parts of the country so we do know where we’re going. Reading will be good. I was in panto there. I had a lovely time there.”

Si: “We’re playing Newcastle City Hall as well.”

Dave: “We’ve got to get your band on there - give them a treat. Can’t afford to take them anywhere else.”


What about getting your band involved in the tour?

Si: “Apart from anything else they’ve all go day jobs.”

Dave: “Newcastle City Hall is such an iconic rock venue, we’ve got to get the band in there as well. Sunderland as well, if they’re free from work.”


Could you not take elements of the tour to festivals with the band after doing Cornbury? What about Glastonbury?  

Si: “Glastonbury, there’s the thing. Could you imagine my lot at Glastonbury Dave? It would be chaos.”

Dave: "You’re too rock and roll for Glastonbury. It was funny at Cornbury. The headliner was Alanis Morrisette and by the end of that everyone was depressed. Si’s band went on next at the bar stage and about 1,000 people were rocking their nuts off getting de-Alanis-fied.”


What do you play?

Si: “I’m a drummer. Very noisy. Dave’s had to put up with me tapping for the past 25 years.”

Dave: "On the early Hairy Bikers shows we used to do all the research. We used to book all the hotels. The first series took 42 weeks to shoot. We used to fly the crew and director out for the filming. The rest of it we did. Every country we came into there was always two numpties - me and him - with a carpet and a drum and African mask. We bought so much tat.”

Si: “It’s all over me house. You wander into a bedroom and go: ‘Oh that was Vietnam’. ‘I’m stood on the mat from Turkey’. It’s great.”


Dave, you’ve spoken about your eye situation recently. How is your health now?

Dave: “The eye situation, a lot of what was reported was quite dramatic. It could have been potentially terrible but what I was trying to point out for National Eye Health week was that seven years ago as a result of a regular eye test - the thing where they puff into the eye to check the pressure - going to get my specs, mine came back as abnormal. I remember saying to the optician: ‘It’s alright, I’ve just got a hangover’. They said: ‘Go get it checked’. Went and got it checked out and there was a problem. The pressure could eventually lead to glaucoma, which could potentially lead to disability - loss of driving license. All I do now is take two eye drops every night in each eye. I keep them by my toothpaste. That reduces the pressure on my eye. I get my eyes tested for glaucoma every year and it’s well under control. Campaigning with Specsavers and the RNIB, National Eye Health week starts today to encourage people. 30 million people are eligible for a free eye test in this country. If you wear glasses or not, get your eyes checked out. I’m scared of the dentist.

Dave: “Opticians don’t hurt. Specsavers are on every high street. 50% of people they get their boiler serviced every year. 25% of people have never had their eyes checked. If you go on lots of websites for opticians you get a free voucher to get your eyes tested. It’s not hard. These days it’s hard to get an appointment with your GP due to one reason or another but it’s never been easier to go get your beepers tested. In some ways I was lucky being short sighted since a nipper that I had to keep going. I kept wrecking my glasses on the motorbike. It saved me a lot of problems.”


What can we expect from the new cookbook Hairy Bikers Classics?

Si: “It’s been great fun to compile. It’s our best of really.”

Dave: “But it’s not just the old stuff bandied together and stuck out there to make some money. We’ve picked the best and the recipes have been rewritten. Some of the recipes we know people - and we - love - but they’re 20 years old. We’ve come on a bit since then.”

Si: “Each book has a theme and there’s been some recipes that Dave and I wanted to include across our careers that hasn’t been relevant. This is a great opportunity to get all of those together. That’s been great fun.”

Dave: “Because we are a cosmopolitan country a lot of our British classics now come from around the world. It’s not all Madeira cake and mince. We were going to put a byline on the book: ‘British Classics: S*** you want to eat’ but they wouldn’t allow that. That was the idea of that. We wanted every single recipe in the book to be something you wanted to make. It’s certainly not a diet book.”


What do you think about food trends?

Si: “I don’t get it. The thing is great food is great food. Some things come into fashion and some don’t but I’ve never been a big fan of trends and new foods and that sort of stuff. Particularly when it comes to diet. If you need to lose weight, there’s all sorts of complicated messages out there.”

Si: “The six diet books we’ve produced are saying we’ve kept the recipes exactly the same, dead tasty, but all we’ve done is strip the calories out of them. Maintain the flavour and appeal. What you’ve got to do is eat less, smaller portions and do more.”

Dave: “Burn more calories than you take in. The only people we felt we could lecture were overweight middle-aged men. What we’re trying to advocate is if you are fat and it’s affecting your life medically - which is was to the pair of us - certainly for type two diabetes, rather than rely on palliative medicine which is going to sort things out for a few years, you’re best off to shed the timbre. Get a grip on yourself. It has changed the way we cook. I love a chicken kiev and a pizza but if I do have them I think I’m going to have to cut back a bit.”

Si: “It’s definitely changed our attitude towards food. Food is a very personal relationship. It’s about changing that. That’s quite hard because it’s a psychological game that you have to play with yourself. Some people are more equipped and able to do that than others. I found that really difficult. But once you’re there, you’re there.”

Dave: “We worked a lot with a dietician as well. She said: ‘You’ve got to reverse the northern plate you grew up with’. A northern plate being carbs - you’ve got your mash, chips, rice - then you’ve got your protein and veggies. It should be veggies, protein and carbs. Now I do tend to weigh the pasta before I cook it. With rice I’ll do the restaurant thing, a ramekin of rice. This is one time we felt we could identify with ourselves because it wouldn’t offend anybody. If I had a chilli the rice would come on to the table in a salad bowl, then you’d put it in a ring on the outside to make sure you could dip it in the middle. We spent the day in a life of a sumo wrestler in Japan. We found out how they consume 24,000 calories a day, mostly big bowls of white rice. Yes, their knees are knackered, they’re all suffering from diabetes.”


What is your exercise regime?

Dave: “I love cycling when I’m at home in France because it’s easier. I won’t get run over. I live between France and Kent. Kent I wouldn’t dream of going out there. I love getting my push bike out.”

Si: “I’ve got two dogs so I walk them every day otherwise they’re unbearable to live with. I’m a member of a gym. I quite like it because I don’t have to think about anything other than feeling uncomfortable and really angry with myself.”

Dave: “Sometimes on tour we’ll go off to the gym for half an hour, even if it’s just to give us an excuse to have a couple of pints ‘cos you don’t feel as bad.”

Si: “We did that in Bristol quite a lot when we were doing Comfort Food.”


What do you like doing in the gym?

Dave: “I like the treadmill. I put my tunes on.”

Si: “I do cycling and resistance.”


Spin classes?

Si: “No, are you joking?”

Dave: "I went to one once in California. Can you imagine what it was like with all these super human people and there’s fatty old me at the back. They were like: ‘Let’s go. Stand up’. By about the third one my knees had gone and I had to go: ’Not for me’ and scamper out the back with all these sun-bronzed gods looking at me. I felt like cack. I was alright in Zumba. My Zumba teacher was gorgeous. I lasted seven weeks on Strictly. I had the time of my life with Karen Hauer. I love it.”


What do you think of the new Strictly contestants this year?

Dave: “I saw the line-up and thought, like a lot of people, I didn’t know who half of them were. I saw the show on Saturday and thought it was really good and fresh. People like Joe Sugg - he was stunning. He was such a great personality. He rocked his jive. I think it’s really cool. A lot of the old timers, who are used to the old warhorses coming out on Strictly, are gonna have to accept it.”

Dave: “It’s given it a shake up on Strictly this year and actually it looked really fresh and vibrant. The core value works. I really enjoyed it. I made friends on that that I’ve still got like Anton Du Beke. He was on Michael McIntyre and he did a spoof. They texted a lot of people on Anton’s contact list. I got this text saying: ‘Have a look at some of the young things on this. I’ve been offered free liposuction, Botox and every conceivable thing to look young. They’re said I can take a mate for nowt. Do you fancy it?’. I said: ‘If I look like you in your orange pants then I might give it a go’. I’m trying to persuade him (Si) to do it. It’s him that goes out dancing at night, not me.”


What would it take?

Si: “Dave’s way braver than I am.”

Dave: “If all you do is Strictly then you prep for it.”


Have they asked you?

Dave: “Yes, it was when they asked me. And he said: ‘I’d sooner have a red hot poker shoved up me bottom’ but not quite so polite. You got asked to do Dancing On Ice this year. He’s in demand.”

Si: “Me, on Dancing On Ice? A 17 stone Geordie at 30mph on Dancing On Ice? That’s a recipe for disaster.”

Dave: “You should do The Jump.”

Si: “You’re just trying to get rid of us now. You’ve got to be slightly unhinged.”


Might be best to wait until after the tour in case he breaks something?

Dave: "Actually after Vietnam, when he broke his ankle in 2006, the BBC commissioner did say: ‘I’ve got to admit Si, the show was very boring until you bust your foot. What can you break next time to liven things up’. I was wheeling him around for the rest of the show and he was a grumpy old b***er.”

Si: “Dave pushing me in a rickshaw, he had legs like Linford Christie.”


You can catch the An Evening With The Hairy Bikers at the Opera House on Saturday 2nd March. Tickets are on sale now 


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