RVG Interviews Iain Lee.

Our next RVG exclusive interview is another celebrity special, this time we spoke to Iain Lee about his love of retro gaming and much more besides. For our readers from around the world, who may not be familiar with Iain’s background, Iain is a famous TV and Radio presenter in the United Kingdom and recently stared in ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!

Like our previous exclusive interview with Dave Berry this one was building on my curiosity as to whether celebrities are hooked on gaming (retro gaming in particular) as much as we are.  Read on and enjoy!

RVG

Hi Iain, firstly thank you for agreeing to chat with us, can you tell our readers a little bit about you?

Iain

Thanks for asking me, I am thrilled! A little about me…sure. Well oddly most people know me now, if they know me at all, for stealing strawberries on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here a couple of years ago. A very strange and surreal experience that made me look cool to my kids for about 9 days. But my real job is a radio host, that’s how I’ve paid the bills for the last 16 years and I love it!

RVG

How did the Thumb Bandits hosting gig come about?

Iain

I met Aleks Krotowski at some gaming do, I have no idea what it was. She was one of the three hosts of Bits, a late night gaming show on Channel 4. I was vaguely lukewarm in terms of showbiz having finished a programme called The 11 O’ Clock Show fairly recently. We chatted, I loved games and I said it would be cool if we worked together at some point as I was a huge fan. She spoke to the producer of Bits and suddenly we were in Glasgow filming a TV Series. I really don’t remember much of the in between stuff. But I got the gig cos I am a massive gamer.

Here enjoy the first episode.

RVG

What was it like filming this show?

Iain

Really? Not great. It wasn’t the show we were told it would be. We wanted to do a kind of Top Gear for gaming, a serious show that had humour but wasn’t overtly silly. I was told we would have a lot of creative input in the show. When it came to it, we had very little and sometimes had to refuse some stuff because it was just piss poor and unfunny and obviously filler. One of the things I wanted to do was have Manic Miner legend Matthew Smith on as games reviewer. We were told that would work and when we kept asking how it was going reaching out to Matthew, we kept getting fobbed off until eventually we were told it wasn’t going to happen. There was too much speeded up footage and nonsense. Now, that’s how I remember it, a great disappointment. Fun people to work with but not one of my favourite shows. So I am amazed when today people come up to me and tell me they loved it. I’m not going to say they’re wrong, and as I’ve got older I’ve softened my opinion of it.

RVG

Do you have any anecdotes from those days?

Iain

I do remember that we had filmed the first 5 episodes and the production company were all thrilled with them. Because we were in Glasgow, we were miles away from Channel 4. After those eps had been done, a commissioning editor from the channel came up to have a look. They were furious because they hated the set we were using and demanded that we reshoot the episodes we’d already done. Man alive, that was tedious and expensive. The whole of the rest of the series budget was spent on building a new set and refilming. So the episodes looked a bit tatty.

I also remember getting a lot of flack because I reviewed a game that I didn’t like and everyone else did. It was Max Payne and I thought it was lousy, so I said it was lousy. Well I got a lot of flack from fans of the game but even worse, games companies threatened to not give us betas any more or games to review unless we said only nice things about them. Aleks and I were furious and refused. It got very tense. In the end, I capitulated a little and gave an OK review to a really terrible wrestling game just to offer some sort of compromise.

RVG

You have a love for gaming, what type of games are you favourites and why?

Iain

Fun ones. Games where you can just dive in and play. I hated RDR2 because after 3 hours it still wasn’t fun. It was dull, I like pick up and play. At the moment I am digging PUBG although I haven’t played for a while. I do like the whole Battle Royale thing. I don’t play Fortnite but I get a lot of pleasure watching my kids play it. I’m a sucker for a good driving game, especially if you can cause damage. I think that comes from playing Sprint in the arcade with my dad when I was a kid. Superb game with a real steering wheel. That felt like magic to my 9 year old hands.

RVG

What computers and consoles did you grow up with?

Iain

I had a Binatone, of course, I think they were standard issue to everyone in the UK in the 70’s. But the first gaming machine I had was a Dragon 32. Man, I loved that so so much. I was teased mercilessly for having that (and later for having Betamax) but you show me a game better than Alcatraz…actually, that’s probably pretty easy but when I was little I loved that game so much. There was also a great game on there called Strategic Command. After that we got a BBC Model B, obvs, and Elite on there is still the greatest game of all time in my opinion. After that I kind of stepped away from gaming, I felt I’d grown out of it and discovered beer and other stuff. It wasn’t until a few years later when I saw WipeOut on the Sega Saturn that I became addicted again.

RVG

Are you into the retro gaming scene at all?

Iain

Yes! It’s my big love at the moment. I had a huge collection WHICH I GAVE AWAY about 10 years go. I seem to be spending my 40’s buying back everything I chucked in my 30’s. Recently I’ve bought a Saturn, a hacked original Xbox, a hacked PSOne, a modded BBC Micro, N64, PS2, GameCube and Dreamcast. I’ve started a retro channel on Twitch where I chat and try and play as many old games on there as possible. It’s a lot of fun and I hope your readers will check it out by clicking the image below.

RVG

Are you into Arcade or Pinball Machines and which would you say are your favourites?

Iain

I love a good pinball machine, I have fond memories of a Star Wars one that Mackenzie Crook and I used to play in Edinburgh ‘hmm, extra ball you have’ is always a favourite phrase. And the greatest arcade game of all time has to be Defender. What a machine. I met the chap who made it for my documentary Thumb Candy (not to be confused with Bandits). Now that was a good show and you can watch it here.

RVG

Can you tell us how the Thumb Candy Documentary came about?

Iain

Thumb Candy happened during the 11 O’ Clock Show. I was popular at Channel 4 and they very kindly gave me a vanity project. TC was it. I worked with James Bobin who had directed me on 11OCS (he’s since gone on to Hollywood and made the last couple of Muppet Movies and loads more). We were both massive gamers and thought it would a rather good jolly to travel the world and meet our gaming heroes. And that’s exactly what we did. Still rather proud of that one. It was my first serious thing and maybe I didn’t get the tone quite right but I got to meet all of the main players in gaming at the time. Unfortunately it can never be shown on TV again because I think we only had the rights to a lot of the clips in there for 3 screenings. A shame as it would a great little historical piece now. But what a gas going to Japan and Seattle and San Fransisco. A highlight for me was driving around where Atari used to be and having Al Alcorn point out where they used to buy their drugs!

RVG

If you could have been involved in the gaming industry back in the heyday, which Software house would you have worked for and why?

Iain

I do remember trying to start my own software company at the age of 9. The plan was to make educational games for the Dragon 32. I didn’t get very far as I couldn’t really programme it, but I remember spending a lot of time designing the covers for the cassettes. If I’d have had the skills, I’d have loved to work with Ocean. Everything they did seemed so classy and cool.

RVG

Do you attend any of the many retro gaming events that happen and around the UK?

Iain

The thing that got me back into retro was taking my 9 and 7 year old sons to a retro market in London earlier in the year. It triggered something in me that I have not fought and have allowed to take over my very being, my essence if you will. This has got me hot for retro and I am diving into the stream of nostalgia like a crazed fool on a hot day jumping into a crystal clear, cool lake. I haven’t been to many but plan to get to some when I can. I’m available if people want to invite me. Ooh, and after a break of quite a few years, I’m thrilled to announce I’m starting a regular column for the awesome Retro Gamer magazine. Can’t wait. Love that mag.

RVG

Revival Retro Events 2019 event is in 3 weeks, I am sure Craig Turner would welcome you with open arms again if you have the spare time to attend?(Walsall in the West Midlands)

Iain

I would LOVE to go to Revival but it’s tricky. I went last year and had a blast. Met some amazing people, did a Q&A with Mr Biffo and was made to feel very welcome.

RVG

Can you tell us more about your up coming articles for Retrogamer Mag, what can we expect to see and read about?

Iain

I have no idea what the RG articles will be just yet, I’m waiting for the muse to grab me. They’ll be pretty personal reminiscences and sharing my love for all things retro. I love that mag so much and feel so honoured to be allowed back.

RVG

What are you up to these days?

Iain

I host The Late Night Alternative radio show every weeknight from 10pm on DAB, app and www.talkradio.co.uk. It’s a silly phone in show that avoids all the usual phone in show stuff. For example, last night we were asking about drunk ebay purchases, and being in people’s houses without them knowing. If you stopped listening because the show got too heavy, please come back. It’s funny again. There’s a podcast for that, as well as my other podcast with my friend Katherine Boyle called The Rabbit Hole. It’s a rude, NSFW live show that we tour around the country and is a lot of fun. Look on Acast, iTunes or your usual podcast provider.

RVG

Can I say a huge thanks for chatting to us!

Iain

And thank YOU for allowing me to prattle on about something I absolutely love. I really want to be as big a part of the retro gaming community ass possible so thank you for the time ti wang on.

Finally

Just to so thank you to Iain for taking the time to chat with us, to say I am humbled is an understatement, thank you so much fella and keep on retro’ing.

I hope you enjoyed reading this opening celebrity interview, keep checking back for more in the near future.

Follow Iain on Twitter.

zapiy

Retro head and key holder of RVG.