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Interview: Alan Fletcher aka Dr Karl Kennedy from Neighbours

28 November 10 interview: Sarah Morrison

He’s played the world’s favourite doctor for the past sixteen years, been the front man and singer in The Waiting Room for the past five, and would do almost anything for his legions of almost obsessive fans. When we heard that we was heading to The Walkabout in Nottingham as part of a UK tour, we called up Alan Fletcher, AKA Neighbour’s Dr Karl Kennedy, for a quick chat about music, his fans and being referred to as a DILF...

What have you been up to today?
To be honest I’ve had a bit of a crazy day, I was in the studio this morning, in the Kennedy house, and then I’ve been running round all day organising for the tour - all while keeping a firm eye on the cricket, it’s quite a special day for us and not England’s finest day!

Are you looking forward to heading to the UK?
Very much, it’s going to be a beauty. It’s wonderful to be renewing my relationship with the Walkabout chain as well, I used to do a lot of my gigs in those venues and then they stopped being so much of a live music venue, but now they’ve revitalised that part of it and it’s great to be a part of it and doing such big gigs.

Have you been to Nottingham before?
Nottingham’s a very special place for me actually! Back in 2005 when we [Alan’s band, The Waiting Room] first came to the UK, nobody really knew much about us, and we had a secret gig at Nottingham Trent Uni which they weren’t allowed to advertise but the word got out. We were on at five in the afternoon and there were about 5000 students there, it was one of the most special gigs of all time. Hopefully we can get 5000 into the walkabout on Tuesday!

It’d be a bit of a squeeze..
Hah, yeah. And of course Nottingham will always remain very special for me because on the night we played Nottingham Walkabout, Liverpool - my team - won the European trophy for the fifth time, so I walked straight on stage and sang You’ll Never Walk Alone with the crowd. Nottingham's got a big place in my heart.

What do you love most about playing music?
Well I’m an entertainer, I’m all about getting a crowd worked up into a bit of a frenzy, and that’s what I love most about it, the interaction - getting the audience to laugh, sing along and really have fun. Every gig’s a major excitement, it’s fresh, new and different and you have to adapt every time.

I suppose that interaction is what makes music differ from your acting career...
Well yes, I mean I’ve done a lot of theatre and pantomime where you get a bit of interaction, but in television there’s none at all. There’s no audience, you might think something’s screamingly funny but there’s no one there to laugh. But when you get out amongst the fans and play music to them, you almost get a sense of their appreciation of Neighbours as well, and that fills me with pride and makes me realise what a wonderful job I’ve got.

Do you have a preference?
Not really, as I said I’m an entertainer - acting and music are just different ways to entertain people. I’d like to think that I’ll continue to do both for the rest of my life.

Does the fact that the world knows you as Dr Karl ever bother you? Even your gig listings plug you as Alan Fletcher AKA Karl Kennedy..
Not in the slightest. The most important thing is for people to have something that connects them to you, and after playing Dr Karl for sixteen years there’s no way that people are going to think of me as anything else, and I totally embrace that. When people used to come to our gigs when we first started, people used to say that they came to our gigs because they thought it’d be funny, they thought it’d be terrible! But the band turned out to be fantastic and they liked it, so they kept coming back. It’s been very rewarding.

How do your two kids feel about how well known their Dad is?
It doesn’t phase them at all. My daughter was born six months after I started on Neighbours and my son 2 years after that, so they’ve never known anything else. It gives them a bit of a laugh every now and again when we’re stopped in the street or whatever, but they’re not phased in the slightest.

I have a friend who’s quite a big fan of yours, she calls you a DILF, have you ever heard that term?
Well I can imagine what the expression means given that I know what a MILF is. Could you tell your friend that I’m very flattered and I appreciate the compliment?

Will do, I’m sure she’ll be thrilled to have a personal message from Fletch.
Excellent! Really, one of the most important things for me is contact with the fans, we do the Neighbours bus tour here in Victoria, where people come to Ramsey Street and meet the actors, we have a Neighbours night where my band plays so I meet a couple of hundred fans every Monday down there, and I have a lot of Twitter going on too. To me it’s a really cool thing, I wouldn’t be where I am without them so it’s something I’m very keen to maintain contact with fans.

What was the first record you bought?
First single was by The Turtles, a song called Eleanor, probably back in ‘67 or ‘68. The first album was by a pretty obscure band called Canned Heat, called Cookbook. I also listened to a lot of The Doors too.

Do you have a shower ballad?
Actually, one of my fans recently asked if I’d consider playing a certain song by Whitesnake called Here I Go Again which I thought would be cheesy and fun, so I’ve been singing away to Whitesnake in the shower!

What was the last thing to make you laugh?
Today at work actually. We’ve got a storyline going at the moment where the men and women are having a contest to raise as much money for something, it’s difficult to explain without giving it away.. But one of the scenes got a little licentious, and we were all having a giggle about all the extensions to the storyline that we could think of that would never make it to air..

And the last thing that made you cry?
I had a good cry when my son was awarded a trophy for cricket, he won best batting average for his club. I teared up over that, it was a pretty proud moment.

Who do you think would win in a fight between Lady Gaga and Madonna?
Oh Madonna. Even though Lady Gaga’s probably fitter and stronger, Madonna’s more like the grasshopper of the two.

You’ve got some pretty hardcore fans out there, what’s the weirdest thing any of them have done?
Probably a young girl and her grandmother who flew to Australia on a one way ticket because they decided they were going to live with the Kennedys. Needless to say they weren’t thinking too straight about the whole thing, but they were well looked after by Grundy Television and Quantas kindly flew them home. But we still get letters from the young lady from time to time..

Any last words for LeftLion readers?
Well, I’m really looking forward to getting back to Nottingham, and I hope the roadworks on the ring road have been sorted! I’m really excited, it’s going to be an absolutely ripper time and I hope people get down to the Walkabout and join me for a big party on Tuesday.

Alan Fletcher official website

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