From the Royal Opera House to travelling the globe and being chased by 25,000 fans (because of mistaken identity) we had the privilege of delving into the wonderful, extremely gifted and somewhat eccentric world of Worbey and Farrell. Their exquisite recitals and beautiful humour has brought them to be loved by many a fan from Mickey Rooney – famed for his 350 Hollywood films and 4 Hollywood Walk of Fame stars, to a lady called Janet from the Isle of White who stitches tapestries of the boys. As Steven (Worbey) was on lock down in the piano room he gave kind permission for Kevin (Farrell) to answer questions on his behalf.
Good afternoon boys and thank you for joining us.
Thank you for having us.
You live in Scotland don’t you?
We’ve lived here since 2004, we keep meaning to come back down [to London] which we will do at some point, or maybe get a place in Brighton or something like that because of agents, management and PR. Everyone’s down in London.
So why did you choose your surnames for your act?
We use to be called Katzenjammer but the name was stolen by a Norwegian girl band and they must die. I’m joking. We got the rights to the name in Europe but they bought the rights in America and we were about to go on This Morning Television last year so we thought we may as well go on with our surnames and have a re-launch! We’ve been under new management for the past year so we’ve had a complete refit.
For those who haven’t seen your act how would you describe what you do?
It’s a recital for the 21st century, a mixture of music we like and they’re all our own arrangements. With classical music we’ll take the orchestral score and work on it for 8 or 9 months. We’re not a classical act like (oh, who can we slag off?) Katherine Jenkins, and those sort of operatic or classical acts that dumb down with lots of reverb, wind machines and the drums. Even though it’s classical music we have a lot of humour involved which helps rid all of the portentousness. For people who think that they hate classical recitals then ours is the show to come and see.
Is it just classical music you play?
No it’s a mixture of Jazz, classical, pop it’s also fun and has a heck of a lot of comedy, though we take the music seriously and we take the comedy seriously and neither get in the way of each other. People compare us to older acts like Victor Borge which is not entirely true because Victor Borge took the piss out of music and took the piss out of the audience which is one thing that we don’t do at all. Our music is a lot of fun and completely unpretentious. We will give the audience information about the composer that they may not necessarily know like how most of them died of syphilis. In the show at the moment we, do a version of Camille Saint-Saens “The Carnival of the Animals” and at the same time between it a boogie woogie piece and also the Scissor Sisters, so they get a real mixture. You can’t put an age on good music.
How long have you both been playing the piano for?
10 Years? [Laughs] let’s just say a long time.
How long have you been playing together?
We’ve been playing together for 9 years now. We went to college together, we go on holiday together, we do everything together apart from sex and if we do it together it’s not with each other. [Laughs]
Do you play any other instruments?
No. We did have to play the violin and the flute once but we were both s*** at it.
How often do you rehearse?
We rehearse all the time. We’re always switched on to what we do. We eat, sleep, and breath everything where there’s a project in tow, even if it’s an arrangement that we’re writing down.
What made you come up with the idea of both playing just the one piano at the same time?
We both came to the same point at the same time really. Steven was wanting to form a double act with someone, I wanted to do the same thing and we got drunk one afternoon and started playing the piano together. We had so much fun it just kind of, whatever it was, took over. Everyone was blind to what is was we wanted to do, but this is what we were going to do, and there was nothing else that was going to stand in our way so we launched at the Royal Opera House in March 2003. My work with film composing was coming to an end and Steven was fed up with doing his voice overs and acting and so everything just took care of itself really. The road was made clear and we’ve been to 150 countries since.
Have you ever caused each other any injuries whilst playing?
No, but once we ran onto the stage, jumped onto the stool and started playing the piano when the piano stool collapsed. We continued playing the piano and the audience loved it just thinking it was part of the act. We now carry our own stool because of a trick we’ve been doing. Our show is now directed by Geoffry Durham, (do you remember The Great Soprendo?) He is a real brilliant theatre authority and shaped the act and I think he’s going to be directing us for many years to come.
Who inspires you musically today?
Oh god, flamin’ ‘eck, I don’t know. I like Rufus Wainwright, we both absolutely adore Charlie Chuck, do you know Charlie Chuck? He’s marvellous, an absolute nut case. There’s a fantastic pianist call Martha Argerich.
You travel the globe with your show, where was the most interesting place you’ve played?
We’ve played Papua New Guinea, we do quite a lot in Portugal and Canada. I tell you one gig that we had which was very interesting. We got a phone call from Mickey Rooney’s manager a couple of years ago. Mickey was celebrating his 89th birthday and was looking for an act to open for him and he wanted us because he’d seen us on YouTube, so we were flown over to do the first act, and Mickey Rooney did the second. We actually spent the weekend with Mickey and it was the most bizarre time ever. It’s quite funny how somebody of his kind of stature really is quite a contradictory, because he’s a super talent but he desperately doesn’t know how to stop. He doesn’t want the audience, he needs them. It’s actually how insecure he is, always trying to still justify himself and his talent. You’d think somebody like that would just be able to relax, but he just doesn’t want to, he craves it. What’s bizarre is his mind’s there, but everything else around him is letting him down and what was quite sad was when he walked onto stage and said “ladies and gentlemen, this is all that is left of Mickey Rooney” I thought ‘great’. One thing he said in the car on the way to the function, was how people used to ask questions about him and Judy Garland and if they were a couple and he used to say – “We weren’t a couple, we weren’t brother and sister, we weren’t lovers, but what we were, was magic.” I thought ‘Oh god that is such a wonderful thing to say,’ it was an amazing moment. On the Saturday night, we went to see Tony Bennett who was performing and Tony announced to the entire 25,000 audience that Mickey Rooney was in the audience. The next thing, the cameras were projecting Mickey’s image all around the stadium but also with Steven and I sitting next to him. As we were all a similar size people thought either we were his sons or grandsons and so we had to have a police escort out of the stadium as we were getting hounded with 25,000 people going crazy.
Are you hoping to play on top of Buckingham Palace one day?
I’d love to. We’ve got great management now that are re-packaging us, and I’d love all that – absolutely!
What’s the strangest gift you’ve ever received from a fan?
Oh loads. Our number one fan is a lady called Janet from the Isle Of White and she does these amazing tapestries of Steven and myself and they’re so good they look like photographs. She must spend months doing them and we’ve got one up on the wall which is of Steven and I looking through paper like our poster and there’s 46,000 stitches which she’s done by hand. That is dedication for you.
There’s a wonderful DVD out at the moment of your work, pray tell, where can people buy it?
It was filmed in Vienna. We went over there and did a show which sold out for 2 months and so we had it filmed. Some of the stuff on the DVD involves two pianos and our biggest arrangement – Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody” which was made famous by Tom and Jerry. Also we will soon be releasing some of our arrangements which we’ve had requests all over the world for, so we’re going to start releasing some of them onwww.worbeyandfarrell.com
Which one of you has the biggest hands?
I don’t know. Steven has long ladies fingers, very distinguished and very elegant. His hands are wonderful actually. I‘ll say I’ve got the biggest stretch.
Which one of you has the biggest talent?
What biggest cock?
I’m assuming they’re referring to your piano skills.
Oh god, me. [Laughs and shouts to the piano room] Steven, It’s a readers’ question, “which one of us has the biggest talent”? [laughter] No it’s not a euphemism – we presume its pianistic skills. [Shouts back from piano room] Mine is a wider talent, where as Kevin’s is longer.
What’s your favourite fruit?
Steven’s is a Kiwi and mines a watermelon.
Are you open to having new works written for you?
Yes we are. We’re certainly open to anyone to write something for us although we generally do our own arrangements. What would be nice would be to actually work with somebody on something as a collaboration.
Have either of you ever recreated the famous scene from Pretty Woman where Richard Gear tinkles with Julia Robert’s Ivories?
It sounds camp but we’re not likely to.
Finally we have a question for you from five times “LA Music Award” winner Kris Searle.
“If you were to come back as an animal, what animal would you like to be?”
Steven would be a meerkat and says I would be a thick owl.
Thank you for having us.