Lightning Strikes Twice – Ed Quigley talks magic and music ahead of two Brian Lightning shows

Words by Billy Beale / Pics by Conor Wells, Rosie Sco, Ben Dornan

You might have crossed paths with Brian Lightning already.

Whether you’ve seen him in Grand Central Station wearing some ambiguous signage, performing songs and magic at various Birmingham gig venues, or simply a funny video on social media, the chances are that you’re familiar with the disco-era Pierrot and his bold black geometric face paint.

If you’re unlucky you might have had dealings with the dastardly Frankie S. Gasspipe.

On the 10 May ‘The Life of Brian Lightning’ will be a show celebrating the life of this mysterious magical crooner. One week later, on 17 May, ‘The Death of Brian Lightning’ mourns him. Both shows are at Digbeth’s Centrala – with links to more info and ticket sales at the end of this interview.

Life and death… music and magic? Who is Brian Lightning? Billy Beale caught up with the mind behind the character – musician and magician Ed Quigley – in an attempt to ascertain just what it’s all about.

“The idea for Brian came from a frustration with my onstage persona in previous acts and bands,” explains Ed Quigley.

“I was trying to act aloof and cooler than my own music, but it only served to make me anxious. But when I would do a magic show I felt more of a connection. It felt like ‘me’. Blending the two helps me feel more at home in what I’m doing.”

Artists throughout history have used personas to empower themselves and their work. Ed and his characters exist alongside Steve Coogan and Alan Partridge, or David Bowie’s various personas. But the fusion of sleight-of-hand and artful pop is something you’re unlikely to find anywhere except at a Brian Lightning show.

“Brian’s a vessel for me to communicate my ideas. I relate to him quite a lot. After a while it does feel like it’s just ‘me’.

“Frankie Gasspipe is where I can completely separate myself and dive into the character. That’s always good fun and gives me an opportunity to do more of the glam rock things I would do in my previous band Cave Girl.”

Quiqley adds: “We get compared to a lot of genre-defying artists like Alex Cameron or Gorrilaz. I think having the two characters, some songs lean more towards heavier rock and roll for Frankie Gasspipe.

“Brian has got more love songs and ballads. A little bit like Pulp’s more romantic songs.

“You write songs for yourself; you have to like it and if the audience don’t then they don’t. Whereas magic is the other way around. It’s all about what people will think and how they respond. That creates an interesting atmosphere to write in. The songs are still pretty personal, if not to me then to the character.

“I don’t think about how they come across to an audience in the way I do with magic.

“Occasionally we will write a piece of music for a trick. It can help keep the show flowing rather than talking through a trick for four minutes.”

It’s hard to say if the blending of music, magic, and theatre would work as well as it does if the songs were in a different style. The mournful whirrs of an old organ makes Brian and their songs seem like they were frozen in an unremembered corner of the late 1970s and only recently defrosted.

Ed Quigley continues: “It started with the organ I got from a charity shop in Kings Heath, an Electone FE30. It had bass pedals, drum machines.

“I could hear the whole show in its sounds. Because it has the vaudeville, circus-y sort of sound, it inspired me to create a character to fit that sound.”

Unfortunately, that particular organ won’t be attending the upcoming ‘Life’/Death’ duology of shows – held at the Centrala gallery and events venue on 10 and 17 May.

“The old organ has now died,” adds Quigley. “It died at the ‘Divorce’ show at The Sunflower Lounge. I think we’re all just amazed at how long it lasted.

“It went around the country with me for a year, up and down shaky stairs in venues. It was supposed to just grow old and gather dust and die in an old people’s home, not go around the country with a band.”

Divorce… now life and death. Why are the two May shows themed this way? Does it mark the end of an era or a new beginning?

“Kind of both,” tells Quigley. “It’s gonna mark the end of an era for a few songs and ideas and also the beginning of a different musical direction.

“I’ve always loved the idea of staging my own funeral. My mum’s coming in a black veil but said that fake tears were too dark.”

Preparing for the May shows at Centrala, Ed explains how the other acts were carefully chosen to suit the themes.

“For Life, we have Sancho Panza. They blend disco, rock and roll, new wave, no wave, and they put it all into a really great show. Like us, they obviously can’t make up their mind.

“The next band is Astles from Liverpool. Incredibly lovely people. Dan is an exceptional songwriter. I might have to ask them to reign it in so that we still look good.

“The other band on that show is the Ha Ha Hats who I think are an alien band from somewhere between Mars and Jupiter. I ran halfway across Birmingham to catch them because I’d gone to the wrong venue.”

But whilst both the upcoming Brian Lightning shows might grip the same narrative thread, the life and death of the titular artist, they each have their own story to tell.

‘The Life of Brian Lightning’ event on 10 May will be 1970s disco and glamour themed, but ‘The Death of Brian Lightning’ will be more of a funeral black themed affair – although we have been assured “it can be sexy”.

Quigley adds: “Firstly for ‘Death,’ we have Skinned. A project made up of Toy and The Horrors, two of my favourite acts growing up and suitably quite dark for the theme of the show. They describe themselves as ‘violent minimalist shoegaze for the discerning death’… need I say more?

“Also on the bill are local legends Dirty Hound. Fronted by Ritchie James who I used to play with in Cave Girl.

“Finally, we have Mash House, who I played with really recently. I’ve known them for years. It’s one hell of a show, a real party.”

If we can take anything from the weird and wonderful world of Brian Lightning, it would be foolish to expect that these upcoming shows will just be straight-ahead gigs. And surely, the magician has all manner of things up his sleeves?

“The bands have all gone in on the themes and there are some surprises for the ‘Death’ show that I won’t spoil,” admits Ed .

“I’m super honoured that they’re all travelling to the shows and that we’ll all celebrate the life and death of the band together.”

Brian Lightening will be presenting two shows in May at Centrala.

‘The Life of Brian Lightning’ takes place 10 May, with ‘The Death of Brian Lightning’ held on 17 May – tickets for both shows are available through Kikimora Records:

For more on Brian Lightning follow them on Instagram at

Or to check out their music on Spotify, click here.

For more on Centrala visit