“..a folksinger of our times with a veritable hive of bees in his bonnet.” Edinburgh Fringe review
Cosmo is “a one-man folk-punk phenomenon.” [Miniature Music Press]. An activist as well as a singer-songwriter, his energetic shows fuse sharp comedy with ruthless social satire and high octane passion. Over the years of criss-crossing the country with just a beat-up guitar, he has forged a position as a unique chronicler of the underbelly of UK life. He’s also performed at countless picket lines, protest camps, pro-choice rallies and demos.
With a tongue that is at times as offensive as it can be delicate, Cosmo offers up observations on the timeless subjects of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, as well political critiques, personal vignettes and small town soap operas. Over the course of ten albums and countless tours, his award-winning performances have brought him an international following.
Cosmo started out on his own, before getting countless bands together, finally settling with festie legends Flannel in Brighton in the mid-nineties. Described as “musicians and political activists intent on blurring the line between performance and protest”, (Index On Censorship), Flannel were known as much for their antics as their music. These included playing their classic anthem (Let’s All Go To A) Ketamine Party on charity show Children in Need, getting chucked out of the Brit Awards and having three gigs banned by their local constabulary. Their slapstick behaviour belied a serious undercurrent that saw them organise and perform at radical protest events such as Reclaim The Streets.
After Flannel folded, Cosmo had a stint with hip-hop crew Pondlife MCs. At the same time, he started working on his own again and took off to Brazil armed with a guitar and a minidisk player. There he recorded the album Home Thoughts From Abroad, described by Frank Turner as “boss”. A lo-fi concept album about UK dole life recorded in a rain forest, it is now available as a CD complete with digital travelogue looking at aspects of Brazilian life, the recording of the album as well chronicling his experiences with landless revolutionaries there. This added to his collection of self-recorded albums Bedsit Blues and I’m A Suicide Bomber In Your Heart, which up to that point had just been distributed around friends.
Returning home, Cosmo hit the UK festival circuit hard. Relentlessly touring the UK, sleeping on floors, in ditches or wherever anyone would have him, he build up a loyal following. Setting up his own label Perverse Pop, he released a further two albums, Costly Pills and Hash and Citizen Smith. Drawing on the underbelly of small town life for inspiration, they also contained hard-hitting political viewpoints. Fuelled with bluegrass double bass, mandolin and accordion, he created what was described as a “kick-ass zydeco swamp feel” in the Miniature Music Press.
Cosmo began a fruitful association with Cardiff-based Tantrum records, releasing the tracks George Bush RIP and Oi Mush – The Mosh Song. The second of these hit the Amazon folk charts at number 2, outselling even Neil Young, and featured a video that was described as “part Crass, part Benny Hill”. At the same time, he won awards for performances at the Edinburgh Fringe and Hay Festival. He also toured Europe, Ireland and the USA, and supported Bullet For My Valentine, Howard Marks, John Cooper Clark, the cast of Torchwood, Pete Doherty and Adrian Edmondson. In 2011, his anthem F@ck the BNP again charted in Amazon at no. 3, raising money for a local antifascist group
Cosmo’s album is Picket Line Party – Adventures in Austerity Britain, was released in 2012. Part CD, part book and part blog, it examines people’s fight back against the government’s programme of cuts and other issues. Described by the Guardian in Pick of the Week as “George Formby-style rants against the far right and other musical hectoring”, it draws on a wide range of musical styles including music hall and something called country protest! With the music available for free download, Cosmo proved that file-sharing can be no impediment to sales. He also released an album of children’s songs in 2012 called You’re Gonna Get Marmalised!, and a comedy album recorded on a cheap keyboard from Maplins called I Can’t Believe I’m Still Doing This Stuff! At the same time, he released an album of contemporary folk songs called Vote Nobody.
In 2013, Cosmo visited Palestine, and the blog about his experiences there got turned into a short publication called Welcome to Occupied Palestine and the album Hiraeth. Since 2015, he has been involved with collaborations and community projects in Cardiff where he lives. One of these is Music Without Borders, where musicians who are or have been refugees, asylum seekers or migrant workers perform alongside musicians from more settled communities in the city. This has seen Welsh language folk-punk material played alongside Iranian flamenco! It lead to a Welsh communities award and countless collaborations since then.
He played “second bass” the punk band Trigger Warning and the Safe Spaces (‘T.W.A.T.S.S”) , a satirical punk outfit that performed songs about mental health, trigger warnings and trans rights, amongst other subjects. He also worked with long time collaborator Flapsandwich from Tantrum Records in the outfit Bingo Wings. Their first track, a dance remix of a Hungarian language drinking song Cosmo’s dad had taught him growing up, got featured on the Walesonline website and nearly crashed the site because it had so many views!
Cosmo released a retrospective album I Think You’ve Got Issues! in 2018. It was produced by Charlie Francis, who has also worked with Bert Jansch and REM.