I start my interview with The Midnight Beast by confessing I wasn’t a fan the first time I saw their YouTube parody of Kesha’s Tik Tok, but a few months later I ended up binge watching all their videos and being won over. I’m at Stefan Abingdon’s flat in South West London, along with Ashley ‘Ash’ Horne and Andrew ‘Dru’ Wakely, who complete the trio. To my relief, all three laugh it off: “It does start with hate for a lot of people”, says Ash.
For those who aren’t familiar, The Midnight Beast (TMB) are, in their own words, “the greatest unsigned gimmick-rap band from South West London”, who delight in making pastiches of popular culture. They were one of the very first musical acts to find viral success, when their 2009 Tik Tok parody spread like wildfire, with MTV and Perez Hilton both featuring the video on their websites. Several parodies and original songs later, TMB were soon touring the UK, and were eventually commissioned to write and star in their own sitcom on Channel 4, spawning two seasons.
Ash and Stefan met at school, the latter meeting Dru at a theatre group. Dru tells me they formed the band organically from hanging out, playing Xbox, listening to the same music, and watching shows like Jackass and The Office together.
“We’ve always been keen to not get too hung up on the comedy element of The Midnight Beast,” Stefan says, “because that was a very accidental thing; it was just us making each other laugh, and then suddenly we’re sharing the bill with Jimmy Carr and Bo Turnham.”
I’m keen to find out how that fateful parody came to fruition...
“I was writing for other pop artists at the time, without much success,” Stefan explains. “And in one of the writing sessions, some of the producers played me Tik Tok by Kesha. So I rushed home, and on the train I wrote a little concept, which I showed to Ash and Dru. We actually already had Ninjas Of The Dancefloor in the bag. But we thought people might just think that we were a second-rate Lonely Island! And then one day, the morning after a friend’s party, when the three of us were still half-asleep and half-drunk, we just made the video. Ash did some choreography, it was all very silly — just at my parents' house.”
Knowing both Stefan and Dru were trying out different bands and DJing at the time, Ash meanwhile pursuing acting with bit parts in Eastenders and Doctor Who — I put forward the idea that it’s sort of perfect, in the way TMB incorporates all of the collective pool of skills they bring.
“Definitely,” Stefan says. “It was insane that we found something that enabled us to do music, comedy, acting, choreography, and editing, all under one roof.”
He also admits that he almost cancelled the video upload because his Internet connection was so slow at the time, and that each of them were starting to think about getting a ‘normal’ day job after their weary experiences of the performing arts industry — there does seem to be some element of fate to it all.