‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ is most probably an assortment of words arranged into a familiar order for self-confessed ‘Z-Lister’, James Haskell, but despite his self-deprecating style of humour, the phrase couldn’t be further from the truth. Since hanging up the scrum cap of a glittering sports career at the highest level, the Windsor-born ‘deckchair’ (a nickname familiar to regular listeners of his various podcasting escapes) has traded in his 77 caps for the England rugby team (including Grand Slam success in the Six Nations, and a 2017 call-up to the legendary ‘British & Irish Lions’ tour), for a modest afterlife as a DJ, producer, author, public speaker, and judging by his brand-new tour, stand-up comedian, too.
“That’s why they call him ‘Big Dick!”
So what has this 193cm man-mountain learned from representing his nation at several World Cup tournaments, and how is he now adapting to life on the decks in front of 80,000 fans in a packed Twickenham Stadium, or to Fatherhood via the 2022 birth of his daughter ‘Bodhi’, whom he then named his track on Mark Knight’s legendary Toolroom Records after. As one-half of a celebrity power couple alongside his wife Chloe (daughter of U.K television’s iconic presenting powerhouse pairing, ‘Richard & Judy’), Haskell jokes about his father-in-law’s oversized genitalia during a comedy routine involving a silk dressing gown. It’s a typically explosive monologue from the one-man barrage against ‘Cancel Culture’.
“If I’m going down, you’re all coming with me!” he bellows into the mic during a superbly impressive two-hour stint on stage in the Oxford leg of his ‘Sex, Tries & Videotape’ tour. Bringing the show to various venues around the British isles, Haskell quips that his days of wild tour buses are over, and he’s instead caught between the purgatory of various hotel stays in a David-Brent-Life-On-The-Road-esque manner, and commuting back home for the ‘night feeds’. Don’t be fooled by this meek and mild new beginning though for one of the most outspoken figures in the public eye. Launching into several raucous tales, including 7 prostitutes servicing a French dinner party under the table as ‘dessert’, and a fierce vodka drinking competition with Prince William, ‘Sex, Tries, and Videotape’ isn’t for the faint-hearted. We caught up with the man himself, fresh from a sing-song on stage, in his Oxford dressing room amid a surprisingly modest rider of Ready Salted Pringles and singular bottles of Corona…
SO JAMES, WHAT WAS THE THINKING BEHIND THIS TOUR? AND YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO SAY ‘MONEY’…
(*Laughs*) “Well for me, all the stuff that I do in my post-rugby life involves performance and showing off, really. I enjoy all of it and it doesn’t feel like work at all. Of course that nervousness is there… Will they laugh? Won’t they laugh? But I’ve always done a lot of after dinner speaking in places, so it made sense, why wouldn’t I just do my own tour? My plan is to share these stories, and new stories, every couple of years!”
“If It’s good enough for Pete Tong…
It’s good enough for James f**king Haskell!“
HOW DID THIS LINE OF WORK OCCUR FOR YOU? WAS IT ALWAYS A CONSCIOUS DECISION TO DO THIS ONCE RUGBY ENDED?
“Bizarrely actually, I was always kind of nervous. But despite that, I always really enjoyed giving things a go, even from school and being encouraged by my Dad. But for me, the priority now is my DJing stuff because I enjoy it so much and by doing that work, you get to travel, too. I really left Rugby with no vocational skills, other than being able to drive a digger, so now here I am, telling these jokes and making people laugh.”
YOU RECENTLY PLAYED A DJ SET AT TWICKENHAM STADIUM, WHICH MUST HAVE BEEN A REALLY COOL CROSSOVER OF THE TWO BIGGEST PASSIONS IN YOUR LIFE? HOW DID THAT GO?
“Yeah that was so cool! It was packed with 80,000 people, and when I got asked to do it… To be honest, I almost said no, because it seemed like a bit of a hiding to nothing. The people there are this really eclectic mix full of Middle Englanders, who probably didn’t even know I DJ! Older people, too, so what sort of music are you supposed to play to these people?! I ended up going in with some classic vocal house, things like Stardust, and Modjo, and the reaction was amazing. The feedback was that people really loved it, so much so that I’ve been asked to do a few more, but will I? I’m not sure. Because you’re never going to win everyone over in that crowd because they’re not ‘music people’ and those are the hardest type of gigs to play. But then I thought, well ya know what? It’s good enough for Pete Tong, so it’s certainly good enough for James f**king Haskell! You have to accept that you’re not there to educate, you need to turn up and play something they can dance to, else people will shout ‘Turn that racket off!”
YOU BECAME A FATHER FOR THE FIRST TIME LAST YEAR. HOW HAS THAT CHANGED YOUR LIFE, AND THE DYNAMIC OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR WIFE, CHLOE?
“Well in any Mother’s life, her whole existence changes quite dramatically because it is a big physical change. For me, it’s more about supporting her with care and love. For me, I’m certainly much more interested in kids now that I’ve had one, I didn’t give a f**k about children before, but now I’ve discovered a love which I didn’t know ever existed in me. Chloe told me about a toddler who ran into Bodhi and gave her a bump on the head, and when I first heard that story it was like a f**cking dagger in the heart! I feel like, if anything happened to her, I couldn’t rationalise it. I look at her and I’m just like, Oh My God, I love you more than anything, you’re the best thing ever. Maybe it’s just because she’s my first born. I’ll be more relaxed by the time we have a second, and the third can be brought up by the dog.”
SO DOES THAT MEAN WE’LL SEE A LITTLE JIMMY JUNIOR ON THE FIELD FOR ENGLAND ONE DAY?
(*Laughs*) “No no no no no. I’m glad we had a girl because I don’t want someone having to feel like they need to emulate me and that toxic masculinity. I’m quite a distinct personality so I wouldn’t wanna put that one someone, and though Chloe‘s already talked about having more, I think a 2-year age gap is okay, but a 3-year gap between kids is even better so let’s see what happens!”
YOU WERE VERY VOCAL IN YOUR SUPPORT FOR YOUR FORMER HEAD COACH EDDIE JONES, WHO WAS RECENTLY SACKED BY ENGLAND AND HAS NOW BEEN HIRED BY AUSTRALIA. BUT ENGLAND ARE IN A REAL STICKY SITUATION NOW WITH THEIR PERFORMANCES ON THE FIELD SO IS THIS A CLASSIC CASE OF ‘BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR’ NOW THAT HE’S DEPARTED?
“Look, I think Eddie was forced out the media, he was forced out by the fans too and maybe he didn’t explain himself or his decision to them as much as he could have, but Steve Borthwick is definitely the best man for the job. Coaching international rugby is tough, but England are in a development stage right now. They’re trying to find the right combinations, and it’s tough because in recent weeks they’ve come up against top, top class sides like France and Ireland who are number 1 and 2 in the World, so England just need to focus on themselves for a bit and enjoy their Rugby. Don’t focus on the media, just listen to Steve and focus on each other.”
“KNOWING EDDIE (JONES) LIKE I DO… AUSTRALIA WILL PROBABLY F**KING SMASH IT IN THE WORLD CUP!”
WE’RE HEADING INTO A WORLD CUP LATER THIS YEAR AND RIGHT NOW IT LOOKS LIKE A TWO HORCE RACE. CAN ANYBODY CHALLENGE IRELAND OR FRANCE FOR THE TROPHY THIS AUTUMN?
“Well I think New Zealand will be up there! They always are. Australia will be up there, it’s almost written that Eddie will face England again with the Wallabies, and I think even England are a side who are a ‘World Cup Animal’, they can raise their game if Steve has enough time with them between now and then. But on current form, they’re not getting out of the pool stage. You have to remember South Africa too, they’ll be a threat, but it’s probably between Ireland and France. For the Aussies, it will either go spectacularly well, or it will blow up. But knowing Eddie, they’ll absolutely smash it!”
Tickets for the forthcoming dates on James’ UK Tour can be purchased via this link.