I can’t quite recall how or when I first heard PREGOBLIN’s 2019 single “Combustion,” but I do remember that within twenty-four hours, I’d listened to it about thirty times. The two minutes and 43 seconds of infectiously danceable beats and clever, darkly humorous lyrics (“Spontaneous combustion is the way I wanna go“) had me hooked; I was, and remain, an instant fan.
PREGOBLIN was initially composed of sad music/crance sensation Jessica Winter and Alex Sebley. The duo wrote a string of excellent singles (including “Combustion,” which has racked up a million-plus streams on Spotify) accompanied by camp, highly imaginative, low-budget music videos, which gained them a devoted cult following.
After years of working with Winter, Sebley is currently operating solo, under the same all-caps moniker of PREGOBLIN. Totally Wired recently caught up with him to discuss his approach to songwriting, his first gig memories, and plans for future music.
TWM: When did you first begin writing? How old were you?
PREGOBLIN: I guess I started young. When I was child, I used to make up repetitive songs to annoy people (some might say not much has changed in this regard). “I am Cool AL, Cool AL AL AL,” was an early tune. I would sing this like a power ballad and would act out— make the sound of, by hissing through my teeth—of a big applause after singing the opening line, (very funny, even if he does say so himself). But I didn’t really start writing, or at least taking it seriously until I joined the Saudis.
TWM: What moved you to focus on writing songs (as opposed to prose and fiction)? What made the act of songwriting special to you?
PREGOBLIN: I started writing prose and fiction in my teens before writing songs. I’ve looked over some of that work recently. Some of the ideas are good, but the writing is not all there. I’ve recently started writing short stories. Two of which, “Big Sea Small Sea” and “The Swan,” have been published by Orange Blossom Press Co. Charlie Boxer.
TWM: When was your first gig? What feelings did it impress on you?
PREGOBLIN: First gig was a Nirvana/ Pantera tribute band. Springfield School, Portsmouth. I was on vocals; it was magic. Ten minutes in, the head of music tried to stop the show and ran about the stage turning our amps off, but after he had turned off one, another would come on. And it was funny to see him out of breath running from one end of the stage to the other. This went on for a few minutes. I did my first stage dive. A very attractive cool IT girl tried to kiss me backstage. But I froze. Not a bad show, then!
TWM: Who has influenced you the most in terms of lyric writing? In terms of prose?
PREGOBLIN: My influences are somewhere between the Velvet Underground, Run-DMC and Groucho Marx – basically Walk This Way. I’ve been reading Brendan Behan – Borstal Boy and the Confirmation Suit, which is one of the most beautiful things I’ve read. And A Cleaner’s Diary by Gareth Rees.
Recently, I have been enjoying: Family Consumer Science, aka Will Barker, Warmduscher, the Stones Sesh, Nick Hart, Wu-Lu, Made, Mic Dun D, Brian Destiny, Sweat, Scud FM, Erin Lawrie, Sworn Virgins and Annette Funicello.
TWM: What was the impetus, the inspiration, behind your songs “Combustion,” “Gangsters,” “Snakes and Oranges,” and “Love Letters?” They’re all songs that have very defined narratives, very strong imagery, they must have fascinating backstories.
PREGOBLIN: Were they Gangsters or just on Universal Credit? If you’re broke in the UK, you have to play the system to get by.
“Love Letters” is my reply to “Oh Sebastian” by the FWF, a song apparently about me (my middle name is Sebastian). The vocal in “Love Letters” is the first take within the first half-hour of meeting Jessica Winter. There is no purer love song in 2022.
“Snakes & Oranges” is a reimagining of Lady in Red by Chris de Burgh.
TWM: What are you up to these days–in terms of music, in terms of writing? How was your experience playing with Pete Doherty recently?
PREGOBLIN: I’ve been recording my radio play The Adults Of Farthing Wood with actor Emily Lloyd. As well as producing and recording A Cleaner’s Diary by Gareth Rees narrated by Miss Denise Harrop, that was serialised on Resonance FM 104.4 The Dexter Bentley Hello Goodbye Show. Now on YouTube.
I’ve written some new material with a new sound, and I’m getting ready to put an album out. I’m doing a reading at the Volcano Theatre in Swansea 22nd September hosted by Incunabala Media Co. Kim Dallesandro and Dave Kelso Mitchell.
Pierre Doherty is a very nice man, the gig was great, one of Pete’s dogs—a snowy husky—joined us on stage mid-set. Pete and I are planning to work together soon.
You can follow the further adventures of PREGOBLIN on Instagram @pregoblin_gram.