Acoustic Radio Tour vs. KROQ

KROQ 106.7 FM, Pasadena

Dramatis Personae:
The XTC guys: Andy Partridge (AP), Colin Moulding (CM), Dave Gregory (DG)
Dusty Street: A very annoying female DJ with a voice that sounds like she's been smoking since the age of two (KROQ)

KROQ: Ah, three members of XTC to KROQ - gentlemen, will you please introduce yourselves to the audience?

DG: (very faint) From left to right we are, I'm Dave Gregory -

(Some confusion about DG's microphone ensues. . .)

AP: There you go. Look, he's got his speaking head on now.

DG: I'm Dave Gregory, and to my left is -

AP: To his left, and immediately to the right of Colin Moulding, is Andy Partridge.

CM: Well, you've said it, haven't you. . .

AP: Ah, I've spoiled it now, really! Go on -

CM: I AM Colin Moulding.

AP: He IS Colin Moulding. ADORE HIM!

KROQ: Yes, absolutely, we do adore you guys, and I can't tell you how really thrilled we are to have you guys come up and do this. To sit across the board from three beautiful acoustic guitars -

AP: (laughing) Well, to sit across the board, actually - that's a little bit of fun -

KROQ: Oh darling, and boy are my legs tired, you know? At any rate, you're gonna play a song for us, and then we can chat a little bit.

AP: Oh, could do that.

KROQ: What's the first song you're gonna do?

AP: Oh, my goodness me. Well, here's a tune that's lurking on side nineteen of - no, I jest, arf arf. Here's a song that's on the album Oranges and Lemons, and funnily enough it goes absolutely nothing like this, this is "Scarecrow People."

(Strangely enough, "Scarecrow People" follows.)

KROQ: (applauding) YEAH! All right! Oh, guys, brilliant, much more so than - [than who? - ed.] - I'm really enthralled here. Tell me a little bit about -

AP: Phew!

KROQ: Yeah, I know. And you can't even sit down because you moved the chair, you silly man.

AP: Yeah, that's right, I've got me arse jammed against the wall, and I'm going. . .

KROQ: I do that to people, I don't know why. Tell me a little about, when you go in to record, what the process is, because there's such a distinctive XTC sound, and I'd like to know a little bit about how you guys get to it.

AP: (sighs heavily)

DG: Disclose our secrets on the air?

AP: Trade secrets coming out!

KROQ: I tell you what, lie to the people, they won't know the difference.

AP: Well, the truth is, there is no secret. It's just the three of us, our three donkeyesque personalities. . . We sit round, the band is fueled by copious cups of tea and coffee, and we thrash the songs out like you're hearing them now, they get worked up, usually on, like, acoustic guitars. . .

KROQ: Yeah, I can see you guys sitting on a porch or something like that, doing this, with the three of you. . . (AP laughs) You must have no neighbors.

AP: No, we don't have porches in Swindon. . . can't afford 'em. . . No, the band's fueled by copious cups of tea and we just bash through the songs until we like the feel of them, and then we get in the studio and try to capture that in some way. I mean, there is no secret - the secret is that there isn't one.

KROQ: Ah, and also it is just the fabulous way that you guys, somehow, whatever it is, that meshes between you, because it does have a certain sound that is so recognizable. Um, I was wondering - how do you pick a producer? Or do you?

AP: Uh, sometimes we do, sometimes they kind of find us out. . . like for example Paul Fox, the chap who produced Oranges and Lemons, this new album, he really came to us through - Virgin, you know, kind of laid the usual thing on us, "Who do you want to produce the album?" And - it's not like - we don't have like a list of people - "Ooh, I'd love to work with -"

KROQ: No, I think more so, it's like the qualifications that you look for in a producer, what are some of the qualities that you look for in a producer.

AP: Well, we used to go for "engineer" producers - producers that had come up through how to set the microphones up and twiddling the knobs -

KROQ: They knew the whole thing from the bottom up.

AP: Right, but these days we tend to gravitate towards musical producers who - you know, if I say to him, "I'm in a quandary - should it be (plays chord) or (plays another chord)", I want them to tell me - I want them to have an input and tell me, "No, I think that second chord is darker, that goes more in the mood with that part of the song, blah-blah" - engineer producers frequently can't do that.

KROQ: Yeah, isn't it strange how the technical and the - I guess, whatever it is, the talent side of it don't mix that often.

AP: That's right, but then again you get the musical ones and they don't know how the hell to set a microphone up or what button to touch on the desk. [Hmmm - ed]

KROQ: Well, you should know that by now, you've been doing it long enough, guys!

AP: (laughing) Yeah - I've learned to count 'em - count all the buttons. . .

KROQ: I'm gonna do a couple of messages here and then we are going to be back with another tune from XTC live on KROQ!


KROQ: - take your microphone off when we start talking in the studio! This is Dusty on KROQ and XTC is in the booth with me -

AP: Booth, it really is a booth, it's like a little sex booth, this place.

KROQ: Oooh, I like the way you say that, Andy!

AP: You can cut out the word "booth," if you like.

KROQ: Ah-ha! I see your flower's wilting, so -

AP: I am, I'm really wilting - we did this, what they call an "in-store appearance" today, and when you've meet [sic] and sort of fallen in love with one and a half thousand people, it sort of takes it out of you a bit, in one afternoon.

KROQ: Meet and fallen in love with!

AP: Well, you know, you gotta love 'em, I love 'em all, cos if it weren't for them, folks, it'd be pointless making records.

KROQ: Although tiring, it is beneficial. We're gonna have another song from you, and it will be -

AP: Yeeeahhh, could do. Well, look, here's the Queen's Own Band of Amassed Donovans' version of - hah! And if you could see us sat here - the three John Denvers -

KROQ: Oh no, please don't ruin it for me, man!

(Opening riff of "The Mayor of Simpleton," sounding a little weird)

AP: Whoah! A little bit out of tune. (Tunes one string, plays chord) There you go. (Plays chord a couple more times.) I'm bound to mess up on the lyrics, so if you know the missing line, write in - ring in immediately. (Plays opening riff again.)

KROQ: Or make up your own.

AP: Right.

("The Mayor of Simpleton" - with all lyrics intact. :-)

KROQ: (applauding) Ahh, brilliant. Gosh, this is such a treat. Tell me a little bit about -

AP: How you tune this guitar up! If anyone's got a perfect E, will you ring in and sing it now!

KROQ: (singing) Eeee! No, if I had a perfect E, I wouldn't need this job, you know what I'm saying? What is one of the things that you think really keeps this band together, cos longevity in rock and roll is such a rare thing.

AP: Phew! We're addicted to making records, totally addicted. It's the only drug that we do. We're totally addicted to getting in that studio, making records, and - I can't explain it, it's now so firmly under the skin that we can't stop.

KROQ: And that brings me to another point - it's like, each record that you do has so much difference in it - what is different about this record than your last one, and how do you make that difference?

AP: Goodness. . . (DG says something in background)

CM: (?) What is different about it?

KROQ: What is different about it - I mean, obviously it must get better every time you go in the studio.

DG: (very faint) Oh yeah.

KROQ: You know, because things get easier - whatever problem that you had with one album is obviously solved by the next album, and then another one would crop up - but what about this album -

AP: This album was - put together, played, just everything about it, we were in, I think, a really positive state of mind, and I think that this album is made with verve, which is kind of down on the last couple of albums, the verve level, the verve controls, only at number three. . . On this one, the verve control's right up there - that was the reason it was called Oranges and Lemons, it is played - I don't know what the Italian term you put on music is, but it's played briskly and brightly, and really, our state of mind, I mean, we were making an album that we knew the public out there was actually waiting to hear. That's the first time in our history we've ever done that, because we just don't sell enough records, and we'd been running on empty now for twelve years, and then suddenly we get the idea that the public is waiting to hear this record, because Skylarking did so well for us. And the state of mind was great, because it just made you want to get in there and kind of crank that thing up and go (yells) YEEAAAYYY!!

KROQ: But how has the technology advancement that they have in the recording studio helped or hindered what you'd like to do in the studio, because obviously if you've got a lot of equipment, people have a tendency to want to use it whether they need to or not.

AP: Well, machines - (DG starts to talk) Sorry, go on. [Finally! - ed]

DG: (very faint) We do tend to fill up all the available tracks on the tape machine, that's one of the problems actually. . .

KROQ: Talk into the microphone, honey-bunny - you talk into that one, that's your very own, right there. Yes.

DG: (sounding chastened) I was just going to make a point that the more tracks you have in the studio, the bigger the temptation to fill them up is. So with this album, we were using two 24-track machines, with 48 tracks to mess about with, and pretty much all of them we used up. So there's an awful lot going on, and it becomes very difficult actually editing out the stuff when it comes to mix the thing - the decision-making process is -

AP: Makes it tougher.

DG: Yeah.

AP: In some ways, technology makes things tougher. The thing about technology is, it's only machines, and machines are only good when they're in the service of man, they're not any good as machines. You can't just poke them and say, "Be wonderful for me, machine," because it won't.

KROQ: It only gives back what you put into it.

AP: Exactly. And too many people are like, just click that On button, and push that drum machine on, push that sequencer on, touch that synthesizer patch, and they think it's going to - they think it's called art. It's not, it's called turning a machine on, so let's get it right. You only get out of that machine at the other end what you put in.

KROQ: (applauding) Yay! This is KROQ FM, Pasadena Los Angeles, Rock of the 90's, Street on the ROQ with XTC playing live in the studio. And gentlemen, can we have another song from you?

AP: Well! How about, ooh, some oldies but Mouldings?

CM: Rottings? (AP laughs)

KROQ: I love it darling, do it to me, do it to me!

AP: Well, if you can remember (old man voice) way back when, when men were men, and a few women were too. . .

KROQ: And Margaret Thatcher wasn't there. [Wrong! - Historical ed]

AP: That's right, when men were men, and so was Maggie. . . This kind of thing was running rampant round the world, I expect you had a few wax cylinders that, uh. . .

(Intro to "Senses Working Overtime" - CM taps his guitar in time)

AP: The wonderful Colin Moulding actually building a guitar next to me here, he's tapping away, one hopes he's going to get it finished by the end of the first verse. . .

CM: You never know.

AP: Here we go. (Intro continues) Oh yes, I must point out that the first verse of this song is totally erroneous, it seems to hint that there's dairy products whirling around in the upper atmosphere. It's completely wrong. So here we go.

(Medley of "Senses Working Overtime," "Grass," and "Love on a Farmboy's Wages")

AP: (over outro) Whoah, there, Nellie!

KROQ: (laughing) I love it.

AP: Remind me never to buy these "stay-in-tune" strings anymore - from Mel's Stay-In-Tune Center.

KROQ: Yes - don't you love the lies that they tell you? What are your favorite instruments to play when -

AP: Usually in-tune ones.

KROQ: In tune ones, that goes for obvious - I mean, the acoustic sound is so brilliant (AP tunes guitar in background) - is it just so different that it doesn't matter, or do you prefer -

CM: It's whatever the song dictates, you know - if the song says, "Hey, acoustic guitar on this one, please!" then we do it.

AP: You mean, why are we playing acoustics right now?

KROQ: No, because we can't have the band in here, that's why.

AP: Well, sure, but also -

KROQ: But I do wonder why - or if - you have ever performed for people in this fashion, as you are now with three acoustic guitars.

AP: Ah, no, not really. We thought we'd try this kind of thing out. I rather like the honesty of three acoustic guitars, no smoke bombs, no flashes. . .

KROQ: Love and Rockets is about the only other band that I know that actually brings out acoustic guitars - well, maybe with the exception of Lou Reed. (AP struggles to speak in background) And it's so great to hear it, because - (old lady voice) I'm one of these old people used to hang out when only acoustics - the fine-tuning of it - but the attitude that you approach an electric according to an acoustic [?] is I guess what I'm trying to get at. How does that change in your mind, because the harmonics of the strings are different, the sound is different.

AP: Well, you just have to think smaller. You can get swept -

KROQ: For an electric or for -

AP: For an acoustic. You can get swept up in the sound of an electric guitar, it can lift you up - you can get quite dizzy.

DG: And you can get away with murder on it!

AP: (laughing) You can get away with murder! Yeah, the acoustic one says, "There's the bum note!" With the electric one it just goes wheeoooo! and you can get away with loads. . .

KROQ: You can always fake it as just being feedback, right? Ah, can we do one more song, guys?

AP: Well, we'll do a couple -

DG: Can we tune, can we check our tuning?

KROQ: Why don't you check your tuning.

AP: You do a commercial, we'll check our tuning.

KROQ: Do a commercial? Well, I didn't even get one ready!

AP: We've got loads of songs to play. We're not leaving now.

KROQ: okay, but wait a minute, while I get these commercials together, I just wanted to ask one more question - have you recorded or actually, have you released, all the songs that you have written and recorded, or are there things still in the can that have not been released yet.

AP: Ah, not recorded things, but we've got lots of written songs that were only demo'd and never recorded.

KROQ: And also, how do you decide -

AP: We could play you one, if you like.

KROQ: I would love it.

AP: I'll tell you what, you put a commercial on, I'll tune up, and we'll play you one.

KROQ: Oh - see, that's what I was getting at. Sneaky, aren't I?


KROQ: And we are here live in the studio with XTC as they are tuning up. I guess that I could really say that it's my fault, guys, because I was the one that asked the question if they have a song that they haven't put on a record yet, and of course they said yes, and of course - where's that Stevie Wonder, "What key, what key?"

AP: Ha! Stevie Wonder's favorite color - corduroy! Arf arf!

KROQ: (laughing) And XTC live on the ROQ - and what's the title of this song for us?

AP: Well, the title at the moment - there's a very long intro, which is called "Colin getting his act together slowly but surely" (as Colin tunes up in background) and uh - (announcer voice) the fabulously hairy Colin, folks - yes, win a night of illicit sex with Colin - (Colin says something, AP laughs) - all you have to do. . .

KROQ: Oh really, I thought he borrowed his hair from Don King, the boxing promoter. (General hilarity)

AP: Oh yeah, Don King's short a few pubes. . . okay, how are you doing there, our Col? (More tuning noises) That's close enough for rock 'n roll.

KROQ: Oh, I knew you would say that. (More chords)

AP: That'll do. Right! Okay! Yay yay! (whistles) okay, well, here's a tune we never got round to recording, and when you hear this, you'll know why. It's called "Blue Beret." Here we go.

("Blue Beret")

KROQ: Ohhh, I love that! That's wonderful! So what makes the decision when -

AP: Cash! I know what you're going to say, it's cash!

KROQ: No, but I mean, when you put down an album, how do you decide what songs are gonna go on and - why that one isn't on is beyond me, but -

CM: Well, we didn't have that problem with this album, because we put everything on this record, so. . .

KROQ: I thought you put everything on the "Senses Working Overtime" album - I kept looking at it and it kept going on and on and on -

CM: It could have gone on longer, actually.

KROQ: So what was the first double-album set you've done, that's what I mean. Andy was looking very strangely at me.

AP: Uh, it's English Settlement. Actually, we did have some leftovers - that was one of them - and the reason they never got on there was just time. Time equals cash equals. . .

KROQ: Because I think occasionally and maybe particularly back some time ago - because I do an import show and I get records - it seems that there's tunes that are on English records that are not on American-released albums.

AP: Oh yeah, I don't know whose bizarre workings they are, but. . .

KROQ: So when you do the album, what makes the decision as to what tunes you're going to do?

AP: Well, we usually sit round with a dartboard and a set of darts - no, hopefully you write too much material, and hopefully all the cream comes to the top and you just scrape that off. So, the more milk you have, the more cream you're going to have. Can we do some more? A couple more songs?

KROQ: I was gonna say, if you could please play some more, I would be thrilled.

AP: All right! Get your matches out at home and you can join in on this one, and remember such things as!

(Medley of "Great Fire," "Dear God," and "Big Day")

KROQ: Oh, guys, thank you so much. I mean - I haven't ever, in my entire career, had my headphones on this long, and all I can say is, my ears are sweating!

AP: I'll lick 'em out for you later.

KROQ: Oh darling, please! At any rate, the last thing in the world I want to do is kick you guys out of here, do you feel like doing one more song? But I do have to do my import show eventually.

AP: I tell you what, you do a really quick ID, I've put some sort of sex device on the guitar called a capo -

KROQ: Oh yes, I remember those, but they sell them at the Pleasure Chest or something. Yeah, we'll do that, and we'll be back with XTC in a moment.


KROQ: Back live in the studio with XTC on KROQ and the gentlemen have been kind enough to grant us a song or two more. Andy, tell us what we're going to hear.

AP: Well, I'm going to hand you over to the wonderfully bountiful Colin - our hostess for this evening. . .

CM: Here I am, folks!

KROQ: And highly vocal too, I might add. [Sarcasm? - ed]

CM: Yes, yes, this is called "King for a Day," folks, so if you're out there, tune in.

("King for a Day")

KROQ: Oh guys, I've gotta say this is the most pleasant hour I've ever spent at KROQ. It's brilliant of you to come.

AP: Aw, shucks! If this was color radio, you could see us blushing.

KROQ: No actually, I gotta tell you, it was really nice because I haven't had to do jack anything for the last hour. . .

AP: Just throw another compact disk on the barbecue.

KROQ: Yeah, just throw another disk on the barbecue. Well, I do have the Wire album coming up but I know you have one more song - I can see this look in your eye - this man does not want to leave this studio.

AP: AAARRRGGH! Don't DO that to me!! Actually, we're going to get ourselves in trouble. . .

CM: You can play a commercial, we'll play more.

KROQ: No. I'm not going to play a commercial. Of course I gotta play a commercial - okay, one more song after this commercial?

AP: (dubious) Uhhh. . . could do.

CM: Have we got any?

AP: I don't know, have we got any more?

CM: I don't think we've got any more, folks!

KROQ: Okay, then forget it, that's it. If you haven't got any more, that's it. No, are we being serious here or what? Can I say good-bye to you or what?

AP: Ah, yeah, we might have another one.

DG: What have we got?

AP: (hopefully) Ah, we could do a smattering of things from Oranges and Lemons, maybe?

KROQ: (laughing) You should have seen the look on his face! I'll tell you what, while we discuss this, because I don't think there are three opinions here that are similar, we'll do a couple of commercials and we either will or will not be back with XTC live, and we will do the new Wire album right after they either do or don't do this next song.

DG: (faint and desperate-sounding) I like Wire! (Everyone laughs)

KROQ: Somebody is real tired and wants to go home now!

AP: He's got to sit with his head next to my guitar, that's why he likes Wire!

KROQ: This man is going, "Get me out of here, I need to get back!"


KROQ: Damn, son! This life is too hard for me, man. At any rate, one more song - they keep claiming they don't have any more songs, but we know better than this - Wire [sic] on KROQ, and - just go for it, guys, we don't have to explain anything.

AP: Okay, this is kind of semi-rehearsed, but you can imagine how good it could have been. . .

KROQ: Yeah, they rehearsed it while the commercials were on!

AP: Here we go. After you, Señor Grrregorrryy!

(Intro to "One of the Millions")

AP: I wish I could play that bit. That's why he got the twiddly bits.

(Medley of "One of the Millions," "Pink Thing," and "Garden of Earthly Delights")

AP: Hah! I told you, that was rough! We have to learn them tunes.

KROQ: I have to say, man, for something you just pulled together, it was brilliant. XTC live on the ROQ, I can't tell you, gentlemen, how very thrilled I am, and now I'm spoiled, so you have no alternative but to come back some day.

AP: All right, you're on.

KROQ: And great new album, we love it to death. Is there a chance of seeing you live and in person in L.A. at any point in the future?

AP: Oooooh, well, you never know. It used to be "No," but a couple of years back I didn't think we could even do anything as daft as this, so you never know. It's turned into a capital Maybe.

KROQ: Let's put it this way - you play, and we won't raise the curtains so you don't have to see the audience.

AP: You stay at home, and I'll come and play in their living rooms.

KROQ: Guys, thanks so much - coming up after this - we love you very much.

AP: Thank you.

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

[Transcribed by and thanks to Natalie Jacobs]