JAM! Music
March 5, 1999

Friday, 5 March, 1999

The XTC Interview

TORONTO - Thanks to XTC fans from around the world, JAM! Music recently conducted a very special one-on-one interview with frontman Andy Partridge. Armed with a dozen or so questions -- chosen from 10-times that many submitted to us last week -- we ended up with what we think is a highly unusual and revealing session, which we've reproduced in its entirety below.

In addition, from the fan questions that we did use, we've chosen, at random, 10 people, each of whom will receive a special copy of XTC's outstanding new album, Apple Venus Volume 1, autographed by Andy Partridge.

You can check out the winners' list here. If your name is on the list, you will be contacted shortly by someone from TVT Records/Universal Canada, who will be mailing out your prize.

Meanwhile, enjoy the interview. If you have any comments or questions, I'd love to hear from you via e-mail. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. We couldn't have done it without you.
- John Sakamoto, Executive Producer, JAM!

Q: XTC seems to like to name their current release after a portion of the lyrics from their prior one:

- Apple Venus from the song "Then She Appeared" on their prior Nonsuch album ("Then she appeared/Apple Venus in a half-open shell"

- Nonsuch from the song "Chalkhills & Children" on their prior Oranges & Lemons album ("I'm skating over thin ice/While some nonsuch net holds me aloft")

- Oranges & Lemons from the song "Ballet For A Rainy Day" on their prior "Skylarking" album ("Orange and lemon raincoats roll and tumble")

I'm curious if this is/was a conscious effort on Andy's/the band's part?

- Wes Long, Gastonia, N.C.

A: It wasn't originally. It was pure coincidence, probably a sub-conscious kind of thing. You have a certain caterpillar track of words that kind of trundle around in your head, and I think that some of them may have trundled around the front, gone around the back, and you've forgotten about them but they're still connected to the track, if you see what I mean. And with 'Oranges And Lemons', I wanted to call it after a nursery rhythm. I was actually thinking of 'Song Of Sixpence', which is part of 'Sing A Song Of Sixpence', and then when we got to L.A. (to record) and I was just assaulted by the kind of citrus brightness of L.A., everything seemed to be citrus and I thought, well, 'Oranges And Lemons' is perfect really because that's the colors you see everywhere. That still has a nursery-rhyme connotation. Then somebody pointed out that that's NEARLY like the first line of 'Ballet For A Rainy Day' (sings: 'Orange and lemon raincoats roll and tumble"). And then Nonsuch, yeah, that was from 'Chalkhills & Children'. Um, that was just pure coincidence.

Q: That's quite a coincidence.

A: Yeah, but, as I say, it's all connected to my caterpillar track, it's all in my head. So it's come and gone at some point. It's all connected and it's going to come 'round again somewhere.

Q: Will you perhaps subtitle Apple Venus Volume 2 with a lyric from Volume 1?

A: Well I heard about this idea and it WAS just coincidence, but I thought we should do we actually go back and check out and see if there IS a lyric. So apple venus is a phrase from 'Then She Appeared', which initially meant nothing more than the idea of a beautiful woman, a natural beautiful woman, an "apple venus". Originally the album was originally going to be called The History Of The Middle Ages, which NOBODY liked, but that I thought was very truthful, because I AM middle-aged and so is Colin (Moulding) and so is Dave Gregory (who left XTC during the recording sessions for Apple Venus Volume 1).

But Dave Gregory was very, very difficult and upset about the inference that he's a middle-aged man. He can't handle it. I think he feels a lot of his life had been robbed by diabetes and it's a very touchy subject for him to be considered old. And he was the oldest one in the band, (but) if you'd have said, "We're all middle-aged men now" in an interview, he'd immediately leap up and say, "But I'M not." (Andy laughs.)

Seriously though, he would get very, very aggressive about it. So we had a bit of an argument about that and he said, "You know, you're not to call it The History Of The Middle Ages", and I didn't know what to do. Then I found this illustration of a peacock feather and I liked all the hints at the centre of the peacock feather. There seemed to be an apple, or it was either a uvula of an singing mouth, or it looked very vulvic and female and I just thought, this is a beautiful image for this collection of music. I mean, what you call a bunch o' songs? Bunch o' songs. Sounds like a chain, doesn't it? Dunkin' Songs. Songs R Us. But timing is tight, and I thought yeah, I will go back, and I want to use this feather, the inside of this peacock feather, and so I will be mischievous and I will take their suggestion and I'll go and look at a previous lyric, and I combed through and I found the phrase "apple venus", and I thought, that just sums it up perfectly. It's vulvic, it's fructose, it's a rubber band to tie the whole bunch o' songs up with.

Q: Do you think you might pull the same thing with Apple Venus 2 then?

A: No, Apple Venus Volume 2 is just going to be Apple Venus Volume 2, because it's all the songs written over the same period of time.

Q: You've said Apple Venus Volume 2 will be out this fall. When can we REALISTICALLY expect it to be released?

- J.D. Mack

A: Realistically? If we finish equipping the studio and getting it all working in April or end of April -- actually I think the promotion of this record now seems to be going on longer then I considered -- so maybe May we'll start it fresh, give it a few months, I would like to have it out by the end of the year but what I think is going to happen is there's going to be so much millennium cack, a sort of tsunamai of millennial muck, out there. I've got a feeling that it probably won't see the light of day until early 2000.

Q: Have you actually recorded the material already?

A: No. We've actually attempted, to some state, all of the songs, but I mean some of them are just a drum track, some are a drum track with a few guitars on, some are just a sketch for where things are going to go. I think we're going to be looking at them because my memory is that I'm not really happy with the way we sketched them out very quickly, and I want to do a much better, pleasing job, a much more subtle job, so I think we're really going to be really starting afresh.

Q: With the departure of Dave Gregory, are there any plans to use outside guitarists on Apple Venus Volume 2. And on the same note, will the very talented Prairie Prince (the drummer on Apple Venus Volume 1) be brought back across the water for AV2, or will a suitably 'noisier' drummer be found?

- David Hathaway

A: No I wouldn't find a replacement for Dave Gregory because, to be truthful, the only thing that Dave did that I couldn't do was play keyboards. So we would ask, we know a few keyboard players that we could ask to come and play, that I think would do it for us. But I mean, I enjoy playing guitar, so there is nothing Dave could play that I couldn't play. And apart from not writing (i.e., notating) music, I can arrange by explaining things to other people who can notate and work those things out, so I can arrange things. So we're not looking for a permanent replacement, but it might be marvelous if someone entered out lives and we found them indispensable, but I'm just going to take it "ex-alcoholically" one day at a time. That sounds terrible, doesn't it? I'm not an ex-alcoholic, but you know what I mean. Just take it as it comes.

Q: What about drum-wise. Will you bring Prairie Prince back?

A: No I think I'd like to use a different drummer. I think Prairie did a pretty good job on Volume 1, but I'd like to move on and try something fresh.

Q: You have proven to be a good producer for other artists, yet XTC has never produced one of their own albums. You've had your share of feuds with producers -- at this point Partridge interjects, "Only two!" (Todd Rundgren and Gus Dudgeon, come on down) -- and certainly have enough studio experience over 20 years to helm your own projects. How come XTC has never done a self-produced album?

- Michael Riches, Vancouver

A: Well we do, we do produce. We tend to go for engineer-producers, you know? These are producers who don't so much arrange your music or tell you what to do as they set up microphones, twiddle controls, and ask you if you feel comfortable and do you want to do another take of that. So we end up really producing ourselves. And the role of producer can be anything on a scale of nought to a hundred. I put Todd (Rundgren) up in the 70's somewhere for this abilities as a fantastic arranger and (being) very good at being intuitive and tuned into what we want. Then someone equally as good a producer but the other end of the scale I'd put towards a twenty or something is John Leckie who sets up microphones and just gets a great vibe going, knows nothing about music, knows nothing about whether you're playing the right chords or the arrangements of what you want. He just lets you go and captures it. So you can go from one end of the spectrum to the other and get an equally good job out of somebody. But we tend to go for the mike-setter-uppers and the knob-twiddlers, rather than the executive who sits at the back and puffs his pipe saying "That should be a flattened tenth, not a flattened ninth", you know? We tend no to go for that sort of people.

Q: Do you think there's an argument to be made that XTC has been overly generous is handing out production credits in the past?

A: I think it has been an expensive "ego necessity". Because certainly Dave and Colin did not like me producing them. So to some extent I have to think of a producer as a translator. And it's no good me telling Colin that he's out of tune or would he try another take of that vocal or whatever. He'd probably tell me to stick it up my ass. Because he's completely contemporary with me, he's come all the way along with me, we went to the same school, we lived two streets away from each other as kids. It's no good me producing him, he would resent that. And the same with Dave Gregory, it would be no good me producing Dave Gregory, he would resent that. So what would happen, instead of ME saying "I think you're out of tune, can we tune up and try one more take with a bit more vigor", I'd lean over and say that to the producer and the producer would say, "Yeah, I think you're right, and he would touch the talk-back (button) and say that to them and they'd say, "okay", but if I'D say it, it would be, you know, f--- yourself. So it's a translator. That sounds very cynical, I know, but it's just how one juggles egos, which is as much a part of producing as anything else.

Q: Further to your relationship with Colin in the studio, have you and Colin ever tried co-writing a song together, or do you see yourselves trying that at some point?

- J. Greaves

A: We kind of got near it in the early days, but there's a funny wall that came down between the pair of us where I think we felt we were impinging on each other's art. And rather than art by committee, I would rather -- and he would rather -- would rather make it a pure, personal thing. We can kick a song around together, but the actual forming of a song, the actually forming of the clay before you start molding it into the shape, the clay, has to come from one person for it to be stronger.

Q: How much back and forth is there if you're kicking a song around with Colin? Is it to the point where he's suggesting maybe you should change this chord progression or ...

A: It's not usually so much that, it's usually more in an ornamental way, or an atmosphere way. He'll say: "Do you feel this is too fast?", and I'll say, "Well, all right, let's try it slower, and instead of me playing higher I'll play lower and dirtier and that might give your vocal more space". So whatever it is, we push and pull it until it feels right. Colin likes things to be kicked around more than I do because -- and it's not being derogatory, I don't mean to be derogatory -- but I think he's a little less sure what he wants to do with his songs and feels there could be something in it which he can't envisage. And so we tend to pull his songs around more than mine. I'm a bit more bull-headed and I have a clearer idea of how I want it to go. I suppose that makes me a bit more dictatorial in terms of my songs. With Colin he's a little clearer. "Let's try this way, let's try it that way". It's just the two personalities.

Q: I purchased Apple Venus at Tower Records in Manhattan, where Colin and Andy were doing a signing, and I nearly jumped out of my velvet pants when I saw the following on the back of the album, right under the track listing: "Do what you will but harm none". That's the Wiccan Reade and something that holds a lot of meaning for me. Why did you decide to put that on the back of the album?

A: I think it's just a fantastic creed, I really do. I think it should be written on top of every building, on the back of every envelope, it should be everywhere, on every sheet of toilet paper, and if everybody could obey it, what a fantastic world it would be. Everyone would be free to do what they want to as long as they weren't harming anyone else in that process. I think it's a wonderful creed.

Q: Do you know much about the Wiccan philosophy?

A: A smattering of what they get up to on their coach party trips out to the seaside, yeah (Andy laughs). I have a smattering of knowledge of that sort of thing, but I also appreciate, not in the way of sacrificial-lamb stuff, but I appreciate paganity. Is there such a word? If there isn't, there is now. Paganity. I'm interested in the pre-Christian appreciation of the land and the spirit of things, spirits in animate things and inanimate things. I think it's more of a natural wanting to believe in something natural and something tangible rather than Christianity, which I think is totally fake. Maybe well-meaning, but it's held together by a terrible web of fibs and stealing other people's good stories.

Q: Was it really necessary for Andy to "murder the Dukes Of Stratosphear in a bizarre kitchen accident"? For my part, I'd like to think that Sir John Johns is not in fact dead, but quietly retired in Bora Bora, weaving hammocks and sofas from bamboo and coconut rind. And there are a few of us hoping for (gasp) a reunion album.

- Rick Mealey

A: This person knows more than I do, actually (Andy laughs). At the moment I can tell you that a friend of mine, way back when we did the "25 O'Clock" album, he actually wrote a film idea where he put together all of the songs into a story. And it's a really silly kind of inconsequential piece of fluff of a thing -- I mean, he only put together all these daft songs, and they ARE daft, they're all homage jokes -- he put them all into this film plot where the moles from the Ministry Of Time come up in their earth-burowing, Big Ben time machines and steal a 25-hour clock that's been made by this fellow's Uncle Alfred. I mean, he's woven together all this stuff from all the songs, and it's very good. But he's actually got people interested in making a full-length animated film of it. So we COULD be seeing that. And I don't know whether the film will involve just the songs from 25 O'clock or some from (the Dukes other release) Psonic Psunspot, or we MAY have to do some new ones. But this is all in the air at the moment. I don't really don't want to go back to the Dukes, because I feel I've done it, and how many times can you tell the same gag? You know, why did the hippie cross the road? How many times can you tell that?

Q: What is the name of the friend who's doing this?

A: His name is Steve Somerset.

Q: Is he a filmmaker?

A: He used to work for Godley & Creme's company.

Q: Does he have a title for this cinematic masterpiece?

A: Just "25 O'Clock". They're talking about it at the moment. I think he's meeting with, oh, (Jim) Henson's puppet workshop. There's a possibility of doing that, I know he's seeing some more traditional cel- animation people, so it's up in the air how it's going to be done at the moment, but certainly animation as opposed to live people.

Q: Have you ever considered the possibility of doing other types of writing other than songwriting?

- Nick Lacey, Winchester, Hampshire

A: I'd love to. Not write a book, because other people's fiction bores me and I find real life much more fantastic. But I would love to make some puppet films, actually. Puppets have a real intense otherworldliness to them. And I was heavily affected by puppet TV series as a kid, you know, way before "Thunderbirds", all the stuff WAY before that. It seems to be the biggest impression on me, television-wise, was puppets.

Q: What series did they have in England back then?

A: Oh, Rag-Tag And Bobtail, Twizzle, Four Feather Falls, Super Car, Stingray, Space Patrol, which was my favourite. That was very bizarre. It never made it all around the world, but that was a really, really good one. Wonderful music. There was very scary musique concrete that used to play in Space Patrol. Wonderful. I'd love to make some puppet films.

Q: I was wondering about all those songs you wrote for the "bubblegum" project (after Nonsuch, XTC recorded an album's worth of fake bubblegum-pop tunes from 1970, under 12 different aliases) but which Virgin wouldn't let happen. Will these songs, as well as the "Peach" tunes (four songs written for Disney's 1996 animated movie, "James And The Giant Peach"), ever see light in the near future?

- Travis C. Schulz

A: Because some of the bubblegum demos were demoed on a different format which I don't own any longer, I can't mix the demo tapes of them. I only demoed about five of them, I wrote about at least a dozen, but I only demoed about five of them. I don't really want to finish it off now. It's like I've become too well known for failing. So I think it's turned to a hard, stale stodge on the back burner or back burners. But there's lots of other things I'd like to do. The Peach tunes may come out, the demos of them may come out, on this series of demo records that we're going to be putting out. We're going to be putting out all of our demos on CD form in some way.

Q: Will this be through TVT (XTC's current label) or on your own?

A: Well, at the moment we're umming and ahhing on how we're going to do this because TVT are a little bit lukewarm about the idea. I think they probably feel like we'd be flooding the market, but I think like a limited addition for people who like what we do, it would be fine.

Q: When would you be doing this?

A: I was actually, just before we came away, finding out some stuff and basing it down so it could be remixed and cleaned up a bit a little bit. Because some of these tapes, the oxide is falling off, little old scrappy old cassettes and things. So I guess after Apple Venus Volume 2, we'll be seeing the first batch of them.

Q: Are you going to do it chronologically?

A: No, I'm just going to blitz them with whatever makes a good bunch at a given time. I think we're talking about at least six CD's, maybe even more, because there's also the songs we've never recorded that are still left.

Q: If people would ever stop asking you to play live, do you think you might change your mind about playing live?

- Bob Crain

A: It's when they least expect it, we may.

Q: Are you being serious?

A: Maybe. I can't predict. I may wake up one morning and say, "Yeah, I really fancy doing that". At the moment, I don't really fancy doing that. And also it IS a pain in the ass that people keep asking me. It's like ... I'm trying to think of something comparable. I can't think of anything comparable.

Q: It's just a reflection of the depth of the desire that fans have to see you.

A: Yeah, but is that for hero-worship purposes, or do they think they're going to get some transcendent musically experience, which I don't think they're going to get, and I don't want to allow them to have the hero-worship thing because THAT makes me uncomfortable. I mean, this in-store will make me uncomfortable. (Shortly after our interview, Partridge participated in a 3 1/2-hour in-store Q&A in the packed basement of Tower Records in Toronto.)

Q: Over the years, loyal XTC fans have been deprived of any video releases (with the exception of the "Look Look" compilation). Will there be a compilation video release, or footage of the band performing live?

- Ken Cruickshank, Durham

A: Well, "Look Look" is a bit of an abortion, to be truthful. It should've been called "Bocchus Belong Look Look (Ed. note: I'm guessing at the spelling and would welcome a correction from anyone who speaks fluent pidgin English), which is pidgin English for "television". And it should have had the cover depicting a head made of fish by (Arkin Baldo?) and instead Virgin took one of their employees and slapped a little wet herring around their faces, cut the title back to just "Look Look". And there should have been a volume two, which I wanted to call Video Rideo which is Latin for I saw and I laughed.

Q: Are you making this up?

A: No this is completely true. So Virgin are sitting on lots of sort of videos there, but they just can't be bothered to get off their asses and put them out, which is crazy, because they're losing revenue.

Q: I'm sure you've made lots of money from selling your past recordings. (This comment brings arched eyebrows from Andy.) What do you think of the direct publishing, via MP3 format, of music by artists, which cuts out a big chunk of the existing music industry.

- J.D. Small

A: Just quickly, we were on Virgin records for 20 years before we went to recording royalty, so we were in the red for 20 years. And I don't really understand the rest of the question.

Q: Well, a lot of acts are doing this now, making their music available in downloadable form on the Web.

A: I don't know enough about it to comment. I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to computers.

Q: How important do you feel the Internet is in fostering lines of communication between a band and its fans? Do you see the band developeing their use of the Internet in the future? I have found the XTC web sites invaluable as a source of information for progress reports on the painstaking wait for the new album.

- Kevin Monahan, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia

A: We haven't actively sought to generate Internet interest, but it seems like the weeds have sprung up on their own, and it's made a rather attractive meadow all by itself. But it's nothing we planted. We've just let it be and we end up with this wonderful meadow space of all these different sorts of wild flowers and weeds and stuff. It's rather attractive, but it's nothing we've done to cause it, if you see what I mean.

Q: It's remarkable, considering you have released any new music for seven years.

A: I don't want to touch it. I don't want to plough it up and say, "Yeah, let's make this, you know, a five mile by five mile stretch of agri-chemicals, with GM-modified rapeseed, or whatever. I'm just going to leave it, this wild meadow.

Q: You've said that even though you had control of much of the songwriting and recording of Apple Venus, you have little desire to make a solo album. After 20-plus years of recording with XTC, why wouldn't you try recording a solo album?

- John Aissis

A: Purely because XTC is something that I've worked towards, Colin's worked towards and, to a lesser extent, other people who have sort of dropped off the boat were working towards. Certainly I'm working towards it, and it seems that more people know XTC than know Andy Partridge. XTC as a sort of, not a corporate thing, but almost like a product brand. People talk about us as being the BAND doing this or the BAND doing that, and I told them it's not a band it's more a BRAND. Hopefully it's a guarantee of some sort of quality of music. That sounds a little pompous, I don't mean it to be, but I think the XTC brand name is more important than me as a person. It's also something I can hide behind, a little mask I can get behind. People can tell the truth from behind masks much easier.

Q: You did some producing for Blur. Could you tell me more about that, because it sounds like a fascinating combination?

A: Well, when they asked me they were a pretty unknown band at the time (1993). It was for their album Modern Life Is Rubbish. And I was very flattered that they asked me and it was quite a good rate I was being offered and I suppose I did it for the wrong reasons. I did it for vanity and a little bit of money, which are two terrible reasons for doing anything. I think they wanted to sound like XTC, to some extent, and I thought I did quite a good job with them. I've still got the DATs of the recordings now, and they sound fine to me. But obviously the record company had something else in mind because they were saying, "It's not sexy enough. The drumming's not sexy". Look, Dave (Rowntree) isn't sexy. He doesn't drum sexy, he gingerly just hits them. I think the band were finding their own feet. They were drinking too much, fighting too much between themselves, smoking too much dope, and so was the record company, and everyone was trying to make decisions on this stuff stoned and/or sober the next day, and it was so much to-ing and fro-ing, I really didn't know where I was. But I did see a lot of us in them, the way they interacted in the studio, and they're my favorite, I think, of the newer groups, just because I think their heart is in kind of the same direction as ours is: song-based, not so much novelty-sound based, or hysteria-fashionable based. It's much more songs.

Q: Did you do the entire album?

A: No I did three numbers with them, but I didn't get the job because the record company deemed it sounded too much like XTC. (Andy laughs.) So you work that out.

Q: I'm going to delve into some of the more irreverent ones, if you don't mind.

A: No, great.

Q: If you were to drop dead tomorrow, what would you have written on your gravestone?

- Steve Purves, Norwich, U.K.

A: I told you I wasn't well! Or, I can see up your dress from down here. Or just plain, WILL YOU GET OFF! Ouch, this rock's heavy.

Q: (Flipping through more questions) We've got so many questions about touring ...

A: I don't see touring as necessary, I really don't. We make records. I don't see the connection that if you make a record you have to tour. If you make a sculpture do you have to tour? If you make a film do you have to tour? If you write a book do you have to tour? If you paint an oil painting do you have to tour?

Q: Will there be a video for "I'd Like That" (the first single from Apple Venus Volume 1)?

A: I'd like to, but we don't have any money at the moment. And I don't want to thow away money, which was the case with Virgin where they would throw money left, right and centre at ROTTEN video producers in our name and then give us the bill, and we wouldn't get any input and we'd get the bill, so we ended up with rotten videos AND the bill. I would like to, but when we're a little more awash with money.

Q: Recently, you went through a period when you were effectively deaf for six weeks (through a combination of an infection in one ear, and a broken eardrum in the other). Out of curiosity, did you do any writing during that spell?

A: No. I just knid of mooched around going, "Oh, my God." People actually rang me up and shouting down the phone or faxing me would say, "Can you come and produce my record or do this?", and I'd write back and say, "I'm deaf!" And I don't know whether they believed me or not. It sounds like a fake excuse but band rings up and say can you produce this or faxes and says can you produce this and I have to fax back and say no, "I'm deaf". Sounds like a terrible lie but it was true.

Q: I'd read somewhere that a rapper, Willie D (from the Geto Boys) was covering "Dear God". Is that true?

A: That's right, he's doing "Dear God. I've heard it and it sounds NOTHING like our "Dear God."

Q: How do feel about someone radically re-interpreting a song of yours?

A: Well, EMI wanted to charge him the whole 100% of the writing just for their own greed and I said "No, he's interpreted it so differently we should share. But EMI don't want me to do this, so at the moment there's a battle between EMI and his people.

Q: Are you intrigued? Happy about the way it turned out?

A: It sounds like most other raps to me, you know, somebody doing their thing over a solid funky rhythm and then every. I don't know, 24 bars there's a little girl singing (adopts tiny, pinched voice) "Dear God, dee dee dee dee dee dee dee ..." It's a little alien art form to me, and it doesn't connect totally. But it's a pretty good thing. Whatever it is he's doing it sounds pretty decent. I certainly don't like the violent, sexist rap but it doesn't seem to be too far down that alley.

Q: Here's an odd one: I live in a small cottage in the middle of a field on some farmland in Yorkshire, England. A couple of months ago, a cow broke down a fence in my back garden and got in. It deployed its crappy cargo (which I'm sure it must've been saving up for six months) just about everywhere it could, and feasted on the few neatly planted shrubs that there were on display. What's the most memorable or funny "run-in" you've ever had with an animal?

- Simon Hogg, Leeds, England

A: All right. Um, memorable? This is a terrible confession. When I was a kid of about 11 or 12 years old, I came up with a concept of "something licking your penis". So I came up also with the concept of a dog licking my penis, so to lure the dog, I crushed a biscuit in my hand, rubbed the essence of the biscuit on my penis to attract the dog. When no one was looking, I stuck out my penis with biscuit essence rubbed on, and instead of slavering and licking, the dog started going snap, snap, snap, snap (much laughter here) and I withdrew my penis immediately, never to try anything again of such a nature. So that's possibly my most memorable encounter with an animal.

Q: Only possibly, eh? There might be a MORE memorable encounter than that, is that what you're saying?

A: I could think deeply about it. There may be some others. Not to be recommended.

Q: Andy, whatever became of drummer Terry Chambers? Rumour has it he was killed in an auto accident with an 18-wheeler carrying bavarian creme, on the way to audition with the Dukes Of Stratosphear. Please confirm or deny this rumour.

A: No, he's still alive and well, and he rang up Dave Gregory about a year or so ago and woke Dave Gregory up with the sound of Terry's son drumming down the phone and was basically pleading for (XTC) to get back together and go out and cash in, which for me is suicide. So Terry, I think he still drums a little bit for pleasure but I don't know if he drums with anyone. And last I heard he was doing casual labouring jobs.

Q: Was "River Of Orchids" (the first track on Apple Venus 1) a bizarre prediction-come-true, given the sea of flowers that accompanied Princess Diana's funeral procession in London? (Andy: "Ooo, spooky.") Do middle-aged guys from Swindon give a toss about the Royals?

- Stephen Porter

A: I think the royal family are a wonderful addition to the tourist industy. And that's it. I think, unfortunately, they made too much of a hobby of killing things for pleasure and they are the reason there is the class system. It's the hierarchy of ass-licking all the way up to the royal family. That's the class system, that's the pyraimd of, "We're superior" right down to, "You're inferior", and that's the reason we have a class system is the royal family. So keep them on, strip them of all their powers, keep them on as tourist magnets, I say. And I feel very sorry for them as people., their in a zoo. Kurt Vonnegut couldn't have written it better. They're trapped in a zoo. Everything they do is for public gaze, and they're like some freaky animals. I don't envy them in the slightest.

Q: It's difficult for North Americans, I think, to fully understand the concept of the British class system.

A: It's because of royality, and that's how the whole pyramid works down. If there wasn't royality then the whole pyramid would collapse and there'd be no class system. There would only be a meritocracy, I guess.

Q: "Dear God" is so potent, full of relevance, and my favourite XTC song. If you could ask God one question, what would it be?

- Sam Green, Vanderhoof, B.C.

A: Why are you such an evil bastard at times? What did you make the devil for? That's two questions.

Q: Andy, with the seemingly endless creativty of XTC and its members, have you ever considered adding some multi-media content to your CDs? Case in point: the paper theatrics of the "No Thugs In Our House" single. How about some visual treats and historical minutia?

- Michael T. Hamm, Halifax, N.S.

A: I've thought about it, but nothing appeals to me that I've seen other people do. Everything I've seen of other people's is just extremely cheesy. It all looks like poor relation to computer games to me, and I'm not attracted to it. So until I saw something that was really great, I wouldn't consider it.

Q: Apple Venus 1 consists of orchestral pop, and Apple Venus 2 will be the electric guitar songs. Were there any songs that could've fit on either.

A: Yeah, there's a certain sort of element you could blur some stuff one into the other. To say all the orchestral ones were written at one end and all the electric ones were written at the other is not totally true because there was a sort of smershing over of styles to some extent, you know? Nothing goes bang and then cuts off like that. I always thought that our albums, each one had stuff that could have been on previous albums or stuff that could go on the next one, so there's no hard and fast cut-off. They all have a long, continuous stream to them.

Q: Can think of an example?

A: There's stuff on Nonsuch that could have gone on Apple Venus. "Rook", "Wrapped In Grey", "Bungalow".

Q: What about between Apple Venus 1 and 2?

A: Maybe no, because we purposely we bent the colours to fit the pallet we wanted on Apple Venus Volume One. And we're going to bend the colours a little bit on the stuff on Volume 2. Volume 2 will be electric. I hope it doesn't bore people. It's back to a much more basic approach.

Q: Have you decided on all the songs that'll be on Volume 2? "Playground"? "My Brown Guitar", "Church Of Women", "We're All Light", "You And The Clouds Will Still Be Beautiful" ...

A: You've got most of them there. "The Wheel And The Maypole", "Wounded Horse", "Stupidly Happy", "In Another Life", which is one of Colin's. "I'm The Man Who Murdered Love", which I always wanted to record and we never got the chance to do. "Boarded up" (another one of Colin's). There's a couple of others and I can't think of what they are. We're going to record just about the right amount, try and settle on the fact before we even jump in.

Q: Have you considered a producer at this point?

A: I think we're going to be working with Nick Davies again, just because he seems to get things engineered and functioning well. Working in Colin's garage. We actually recorded the last half of Volume 1 in Colin's living room and in his hall. The acoustic guitar sounds great in his hall. But we've boarded out and done out his garage, so we're going to be working there.

Q: How useful did you find digital editing systems in recording Apple Venus, and would you consider using computers for audio recording in your home studio?

- Daniel Prendiville

A: They're immensely useful, espically for the orcestral recording because when you record an orcestra you have to record this big monolythic lump. Then if they're good bits and bad bits you have to take this sort of strata-like slices out of that monolythic lump and use those or replace those. So digital editing is perfect for that. But we don't own any digital editing stuff, it's all rented or owned by other people.

Q: Are there any tracks that didn't make it onto Apple Venus 1 that might show up as future B-sides?

A: No, we recorded just the songs we wanted to do, just for financial reasons, no other reasons. And also to maximize the time we had in the studio.

Q: Will you be able to spend more time on Apple Venus 2, since you're recording it all in Colin's house?

A: Yeah, a lot more because we won't be looking at the clock going 10 pounds, 20 pounds, 30 pounds, 40 pounds and so on. Or 1000 pounds, 2000 pounds.

Q: Has signing with TVT proven to be the right decision?

A: Yeah, I just wish they wouldn't work me so hard. I've done more interviews for Apple Venus Volume One over the last four months than I've done for the last three or four XTC albums on Virgin. I don't mind, I like talking as long as I don't have to play. The whole public appearance thing really bugs me, and I am fretting probably needlessly about this in-store today.

Q: Yet you had a tremendously successful in-store in New York recently?

A: Sure that was good, but there wasn't a question and answer. In Chicago, there was a whole thing where there's 350 people in an amphitheatre-type space. They put out chairs and a microphone stand. I felt like a standup. I felt like Robin Williams or something. I walked out and I thought, oh shit, there's all these people looking at me and a mike stand. I felt very difficult, very difficult. I got through it okay, but it wasn't pleasant and it's the sight of things I'd rather not do.

Apple Venus Vol. 1 cover

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[Thanks to John Sakamoto and Ted Harms]