The Departure of Terry Chambers

Issue 3, Spring 1983

Andy Partridge muses over the departure of Terry Chambers in an exclusive Limelight interview.....

Limelight: Were you surprised that Terry decided to leave?

Andy: Yes and no. I think we wouldn't have been earlier on in the year, because he went over to Australia to stay with his then girlfriend who was pregnant (all very scandalous!). We thought, "He's being a long time about this Australian sojourn", he was over there for months. He wasn't ringing anybody. We were getting snatches of letters he'd sent to relatives saying he'd be back soon, but he never wrote to us. We had a lot of new material and we wanted to start rehearsing. He eventually came back. He looked a lot thinner and he looked as if he had a lot more pressure on his shoulders; he had a kid and they'd decided to get married.

He was up for rehearsing and he was very enthusiastic about doing the album; so we thought, "Great, he really hasn't gone away, he's just had a long holiday and he's come back ready to start again." We got into rehearsing (we were rehearsing the album in a British Railways Institution building, which is like the scenery store of a theatre, quite dilapidated) and you could tell that his mind wasn't on it after about four weeks or so. You'd ask him to drum something and he would forget it two minutes later. We had the most strenuous time.

Then one dinner time he put his sticks down and said he didn't want to do it anymore. This was what we had been waiting for months earlier. He gave so many reasons, I think really it was none of those at all. A nebulous, all-covering blanket book of reasons. He said he was sick of struggling and he wanted to go and live in Australia. He didn't like not touring, because that was the only thing he enjoyed, seeing as he didn't write songs, he didn't get a kick out of not writing, and he didn't enjoy being in the studio, because he wasn't a very creative person. He then started putting his drumming abilities down and said that he was fed up with just "getting-by" and he felt that he was shamming us and the public. He said that he didn't think the new material was any good. He didn't like the policy of wanting to do more films and things. He found it difficult to grasp the new material for the first time ever (we couldn't understand it, because in a way the songs are simpler than ever). We chatted for about an hour and we asked him if he'd thought about it and considered it and he said yes. He just said "All the best, well I'll be off then" and wandered out the door and that was the last we saw of him.

Limelight: So was he married at the time?

Andy: Yes, he got married in Australia just before he came back. He bought a house on an estate on the outskirts of Swindon and I know his wife (Donna) wasn't happy. It was permanently pissing down with rain and she'd come from a very sunny clime; lots of tropical fruit and surfing. She was stuck out in a kind of Western Front a few houses the size of rabbit hutches. So she was a lot of the instigator to get back to Australia. I believe that he left for Australia a couple of weeks after that.

Limelight: Have there been echoes of the split with Barry Andrews?

Andy: No, it's not the same as Barry, because Barry really wanted something else his own thing. He wasn't content with being a session man for the other three, which is a bit cutting, because he wasn't really and he had as many ideas as anyone. Barry wanted his own group to follow his own ideas. Terry just wanted out permanently and I think when he puts his drum sticks down that's possibly the last time he'll touch a pair, unless he gets involved with any bands in Australia.

Limelight: So what is Terry doing now?

Andy: Apparently, Dave saw his brother (who's a cab driver) who said that he's not working and he's living with Donna's dad and the kid. So he's bumming over there as opposed to bumming over here! I know that when he went over to Australia earlier in the year, when we thought he'd left, he was tinkering around with some Australian bands. He played on some tracks on the Icehouse album. I don't think he's playing on "Hey Little Girl", despite the fact there's a drummer sat there (on T.O.T.P.), I think it's a drum computer.

Limelight: Barry was described as making up 40 per cent of the XTC sound. How important was Terry?

Andy: Well, my maths is non-existent! If he was the same amount, it'd leave 20 between the other three! I think he was a great part of it. In some ways, because some of the songs were written for Terry, we almost tried to imitate his sound on a few tracks.

Limelight: Will you miss Terry?

Andy: Yes. Not so much socially, because we never used to see each other socially, but musically it would have been interesting to hear what the whole album sounded like with Terry drumming. I'm reasonably happy with the way it'll turn out.

Limelight: Do you see the other members of the group on a social level?

Andy: Occasionally, yes. I never used to see Terry. I suppose my interests are relatively artistic and creative whereas Terry's were just kind of drinking every night, football and physical sports. Me and sports are like oil and water, I'm just a weed. So we had no interests like that. With Colin I share an interest in books and literature and things like that. With Dave it's kind of musical and there's lots of room to socialise when we do, but with Terry I'm afraid there was no place for the key.

Limelight: I remember an interviewer in a music paper a couple of years ago saying that if ever there was a T.V. serial made about you, in the same way that Laurel and Hardy share the same bed, you would also get in the same bed together, because there was that sort of relationship between you - without any sexual connotations.

Andy: (laughs) Yeah, we all used to joke about getting in a big bed. When we were touring, people would say (silly voice): "what d'ya do after the show?" We'd all turn round in unison and say we were going to get into a bed. Even before that interview (in fact, the interviewer might have heard us saying that) that was what we used to say and we were aware of it as well. In the same way as The Beatles circa Hard Day's Night and Help! and The Monkees; people assume that you all live in one big house. It is like that mentally, you all live in the same mental house, but

Limelight: So to some extent, and with Terry quite a large extent, it was more of a working relationship.

Andy: Yes. He was certainly the odd one out personality-wise. He'd rarely do interviews when the other two wouldn't mind. If Terry did an interview he inevitably ended up getting drunker and drunker and assaulting the interviewer. So we never used to give him the interviews after a while because we knew it would end with assault. He was much more boisterous and couldn't handle the questioning, he found difficulties in verbal fencing.

Limelight: So how do you see Pete Phipps fitting in?

Andy: I know it sounds small and narrow-minded, but because he doesn't come from the same town, I don't think we see him except on the very rare occasion. So there's not very much social getting-about there.

Limelight: Presumably you get on when you have been recording.

Andy: Oh Yeah. We get on very well. He's a very amiable kind of fellow. He's not averse to trying out strange suggestions like rattling bits of chain or playing along with a drum box and using one bonk of the electronic drum as opposed to the one bonk he was doing on the drum and allowing bits to go bonk if you tap it with your fingers, which Terry would have balked at if anyone had suggested it.

Limelight: Do you see Waxworks as rounding off any particular stage in XTC's career other than "Chambers-era XTC"?

Andy: No, the music is constantly metamorphosing, changing from one shape to another. It's like plasticine. One week it's a chair and the next week it's a statue. It's like lego really; hundreds of components and it can be anything that you want. I suppose it does round off the Chambers-era. I didn't think of it at the time, but I suppose it has. It wasn't our intention to release it. It was totally a Virgin idea. I suppose it puts the cap on the Chambers-era, but it wasn't intended as being like that.

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[Transcribed by Marcus Deininger, thanks to Mark Fisher]