Unnaiveing In Ecstasy   an interview with Andy Partridge

Don't you know, we're all light?
Yeah, I read that someplace
Yeah, on a bumper sticker someplace.

On Tuesday 6th October 1998, I [Paul Culnane] had the pleasure of speaking by phone with Andy Partridge, from his home in Swindon. The previous evening I had spoken with Terry Chambers, former drummer for XTC, and if that experience hadn't already put me through the emotional wringer and exhausted me completely, my chat with Andy, and its consequences, sure did!

The purpose of the interview was primarily to promote the new book, XTC Song Stories to Australian audiences, and was arranged with the help of the book's co-author, Neville Farmer, and Sean Body, from the publisher, Helter Skelter. Parts of the chat were included in a 3-hour XTC special, broadcast on Australian radio; other bits were used as the basis for a piece in the national broadsheet press. But only here at The Little Lighthouse you can read the complete transcript of the full, ninety-minute conversation. We didn't just talk about the book, the topics were wide-ranging and peppered throughout with Andy's wry humour and philosophical take on things. What an experience! What a revelation! There's much to learn and enjoy from this conversation, not the least being that Andy is a most generous, friendly and extremely funny guy (for those of you who didn't know that already).

So, without much further ado, let me share the whole thing with you. On with the show! ...

p@ul culnane 1998

The copyright in the material on this and subsequent pages is owned by the author and is provided exclusively to The Little Lighthouse with the full consent of said author and Andy Partridge. Any unauthorised use of this material such as copying, quoting, or reproduction in print or on other websites, or in any other manner, in whole or in part, without the copyright owner's permission, is expressly forbidden, and if you want to try something sneaky, it'll be limp spaghetti at ten paces, let me assure you! - all you have to do is ask nicely...

Acknowledgments:Many thanks for help, patience and encouragement through this whole thing, go to my good friends and fellow XTC enthusiasts, Mark Strijbos, Peter Fitzpatrick and Dominic VanAbbe. Special grateful thanks to Neville Farmer and Sean Body for making it happen, as well as to Andrew Lambkin for allowing my demented ravings to be broadcast on his radio show. And of course, Andy himself for giving his time so generously to us.

Me no Michael Jackson!

Paul Culnane (PC): I'm now welcoming with great pleasure Andy Partridge who's consented to give we Aussies, one of XTC's biggest fan bases...
Andy Partridge (AP): Is that "wee" Aussies as in tiny little Aussies, are you only broadcasting to midgets today, is that the idea, is that the theme of the show here?

PC: Munchkins?
AP: [laughing]... Munchkins, yeah, ha ha

PC: [sings] We're off to see the wizard... but yeah, look, I've got Andy on the line as you can hear...
AP: He does! He lieth not, I'm here, laid out in regal splendour, covered head to foot in lard and being wafted by old copies of Time Out

PC: Just a normal Tuesday evening for you Andrew?
AP: Absolutely!

PC: [laughs]... We're here to mainly look at this fantastic new book that you and Colin and Dave Gregory have ordered... er, have authored...
AP: Ordered a copy of, ha ha ha! I can read your mind, how's that?!

PC: Have you got your copy yet mate?
AP: It's a book! They lied to me, they said it was gonna be a collection of sort of toilet paper with a spine, in handy booklet form. You can read it? The swines!

PC: Possibly so, because if you don't like the book, you can use it for that purpose
AP: You can do that, yeah, well careful, I think they've printed it on very cheap paper, so I should imagine you'd get a really inky arse if you tried wiping yourself with it

PC: That'd be a worry, but I would suspect that any self-respecting XTC fan will be delighted with this book as I have been. Neville Farmer [co-author of the book], who I've been in touch with, Andy, has told me that it's already number one rock book in the UK
AP: Well we probably don't have much in the way of competition, Vera Lynn's memoirs aren't out this week... yeah, I think that's the only time we've been number one... no, actually that's the second time we've been number one in anything, I think we were number one in New Zealand a long time ago. We thought about making an album and went straight to number one in New Zealand... we booked the air tickets to New Zealand and went straight to number one

PC: Well, y'know, if you score a number one in New Zealand, then that's one small step towards world domination, I would've thought!
AP: One small step towards being nice to sheep

PC: [uncontrollable laughter]... You're just gonna make me laugh during all this, aren't you?
AP: Ha, I'll do my darnedest, yeah

PC: Oh, good onya mate!... I must admit that I'm thrilled with the book, except that it's too short
AP: It's too short, yeah, well he was given, Neville was given one of those - not a gagging order - you know, they said, you've got 'X' amount of words to do this in, and people just shouldn't let us off the leash, 'cos, y'know, once we start talking in interview we can talk up a storm. But the poor devil only had like a certain amount of words per chapter to deal with and obviously a certain amount of words per book, and I think he felt a little bit frustrated that what he had to throw out was probably a dozen times as much as what he was allowed to put in... but it's a start

PC: Well I must congratulate you on the book as it stands
AP: Well, I mean we didn't do much to it, we just sat there and talked and poor Neville had to go away and make sense of it, so it was a kind of, er, labour of love or labour of lust, or a bit of a hobby task for him to sit down and chop up all the stuff we said, but he was somewhat restricted by the amount of words allowed by the publishers

PC: Well ultimately I think he's done a great job, and, er, the vibe of the band comes through in the conversations, it's very casual
AP: Hey, dead "caj", we are!

PC: Yeah? So you were sitting round with a couple of, you know, mugs of Horlicks to er...
AP: Yeah careful! I don't wanna encourage that sort of behaviour in young people. Horlicks abuse amongst the young is an increasing subject of concern in Britain... We just sat around with a tape recorder and he'd torture us horribly by forcing us to listen to our past albums, and then say things like, well what do you remember about this track, why was it called that, who's playing that, you know, blah blah blah blah... and we just rambled on, as was our wont

PC: Yes, and I think Neville is to be credited with teasing it into a decent read
AP: Teasing it into a beautiful fondue. Well, it's no Shakespeare but it'll plug a gap, hey?!

PC: Well yeah, and that's why it's number one at the moment over there. And hopefully, a similar response here, because there's a fan base over here in Australia that possibly you're not aware of, in terms of its extent
AP: What, both him and his wife?

PC: [chuckles conspiratorially]... Yeah, someone up in Newcastle and his wife
AP: Ha Haah! Paul! [makes sound of slap to face]... Have you been chatting to our Terry 'ave ya?

PC: Yes I have
AP: Shocking, he's got the Aussie accent, I never thought I'd hear the day

PC: Do you reckon he has??!! No, he's got the thick Wiltshire burr, still!
AP: Noooo!...

Andy with guitar
A man and his guitar

PC: Oh come on!
AP: No [laughs]... He came back to England in 1992 to see his family, and dropped in on us in the studio while we were making Nonsuch, and I must admit I thought he had a thick Aussie accent and then within the week he'd lost it and was back to real hayseed stuff. He's probably got more than a bit of Aussie twang back in it by now

PC: Oh yeah and he's got a couple of, in my talking with him, he's adopted a couple of the local vernacular terms which is quite disconcerting, to hear it with that Wiltshire burr that you guys have got
AP: Well Terry's a bit of a sponge on the quiet, I mean you could take a cab ride in New York and twenty minutes later he'd get out the other end and he'd be speaking like he was born in The Bronx, you know...[both laughing]... it's one of his hidden talents, I don't think it's intentional, he's just got a thing for fitting in with people and, er, tends to end up sounding like them, y'know?

PC: Well he's a bit of a bower bird in that respect, yeah
AP: Yeah

PC: Well, about the book, I've made a couple of notes here, but let's just wing it, and, um, y'know, maybe I can just throw away my script if it sounds like too much of a wank, Andy, but I enjoyed the format of the book... er, for our listeners and readers, it's set out in a nicely concise style, which in each chapter, dedicated to each album, looks at the history surrounding the band at the time, and then goes into some interview "panels", talking about producers and so on, and then goes into it song-by-song... but the thing that I found really tantalising, apart from reading back on the genesis of all the different songs throughout your career, was talking about the new stuff that's about to come out!
AP: Yeah that was an unusual one. Because Neville thought that by the time the book was finished the new stuff would be out... in fact it's finished, we put the icing on... virtually the cherry on the top, a couple of days ago...

PC: ... at Rockfield Studios...
AP: ... yeah, he thought to include a whole bunch of new material, you know, and talk about that, which was... actually it was trickier talking about the new stuff than it was talking about the old stuff because when you hear the old stuff, you know, it brought up memories and it brought up things that you thought you'd forgotten but hadn't, they'd just been put on a shelf, some dusty shelf in the subconscious somewhere... But talking about the new stuff was really tricky, because I'm not far enough away from it yet to really get a handle on what a lot of it is really about - you just get the surface

PC: I can imagine, yeah
AP: You need to get away from it before you can really grasp it. I mean sometimes you can get away from something, and it'll go pow! and hit you between the eyes - "my god! That's what it's about, of course it was!"... er, but with that new stuff, I'm not quite far away from it yet

PC: Oh well, that might take a little time for you, I gather that might be the case with living with any new album, it might take a period of time to do what you just said...
AP: Yeah, you gotta forget about it, basically, before you can remember it

PC: [as is his wont, labouring the point]... Yeah you wanna walk away from it for a while?
AP: Yeah, not return to a vomit, the dog returning to his vomit, yeah, you wanna get away from it for a while

PC: Well given that, talking about the new songs, which I found tantalising, having been one of the privileged few to have heard some of the bootlegs that have been circulating among the...
AP: Actually there's so many bootlegs out there, that when you say "privileged few", I think you mean privileged few continents, 'cos there's just so many, y'know, people have just snuck this stuff around... we've been fishing for a record deal, we have all our record deals in place now, but over the last year or so, fishing for a record deal, and these demos have been around. They've obviously been sliding off of record company desks and into the odd copying and editing room and so on, 'cos everyone says to me, "y'know, I've had the demos for the new album for a year now"... so yeah, they've been around for some time

PC: There's a lotta people out there though... or at least, when I say "out there", I'm on the Chalkhills mailing list which no doubt you've heard of, the discussion list on the Internet, where people dissect...
AP: Ha ha! Dissect me, like a huge rat, dissect me like the water-vole that I am!

PC: Oh yeah, but a very cuddly water-vole!
AP: Oh very cuddly, horribly cuddly; actually too damn cuddly, I gotta get on that diet!

PC: Oh, come on! I reckon, well, considering this radio program, this interview here is going out on your birthday on the 11th of November... Happy Birthday Andy!
AP: Yes, and I don't look a day over 97!

PC: Well! I was going to remark that, er, unlike certain rock stars, pop stars, musicians, you've, er, aged with dignity, if you'll allow me to make that remark?
AP: I've aged... no, it's with dig, you've aged with dig, it's like archaeological dig. Actually, I don't look too wrinkly, it's not the wrinkles that are the problem. I think I've un-aged in some aspects horrendously, like my brain is like a 14-year-old's, which is kinda disturbing when you're my age, but I'm more worried about things falling to pieces on me internally than I am externally

PC: Well, yeah, I hope everything is intact and in working order on the outside at least
AP: [laughs] Well it was in working order when it belonged to the other chap before I had it

PC: Ha ha, oww, I see!
AP: [laughing]

PC: So you've done a remake of The Kinks' Percy?
AP: No, no, I wouldn't do that. I wouldn't do that. Me no Michael Jackson!

PC: Omigod! That would be tempting fate... please don't do that Andy
AP: I wanted his old nose and I rang up the surgeon and said "give me his old nose!" I wonder how old his nose is now... how old's Michael?... is he...

PC: Oooh, shivers, 40, I think he turned?
AP: Something like that...

PC: It's a frightening thing...
AP: I wonder what [age] the rest of him is?

PC: [just beside himself with laughter]
AP: You know there's a little person made up of all the stuff they cut off of him, don't you?

PC: [almost speechless]... No, I don't...
AP: Yeah, all the little bits they've nipped and tucked off of him, it must be enough for another little person... there's some little miniature little black soul singer somewhere, about nineteen inches high, of all the great bits that they cut offa Michael Jackson, he's got his own little career going somewhere

PC: I daresay he'd be a collector's item if he really does exist!
AP: I'm sure he's out there

The Misinformation Highway

PC: .ahh, a couple of songs not mentioned in the book! I'm really frustrated about this Andy!
AP: Oh really? What did he leave out?

PC: Ooooh, some things missing in action... now, something that keeps on recurring, that gorgeous thing called "My Train Is Coming", for instance?
AP: Well that's not been officially released, I mean, that was written originally for the film Buster

PC: Oh yeah, the Phil Collins film, the Great Train Robbery film?...
AP: Sure, and I think that someone at Virgin actually asked me to contribute something to the film, and I think a lot of people actually contributed songs, but, er, Phil Collins, you know, was going through his megalomaniac phase and nothing was allowed in the film that he didn't have anything to do with, you know he was either producing it, or singing it or playing on it, or whatever, so "My Train Is Coming" was put to one side, and then...

PC: Well I've heard a number of versions of that, which, of the most recent I've heard, among... I think I've heard three versions... the most recent is so "Hard Day's Night" - Beatles...
AP: Yeah! And I'll tell you why that was done, because a little while back there was a film called That Thing You Do...

PC: Whoah yeah!!
AP: ... and they were fishing for songs for that film and somebody said, you wanna put up "My Train Is Coming", and I thought, mmm, yeah, that's not a bad idea, so I re-recorded it so it sounded like everything from the Hard Day's Night album, and sent it in, but you know, again, I think they just had that one song didn't they - they didn't have any other songs?

PC: Oh yeah, the song from The Fountains Of Wayne guy, Adam Schlesinger?
AP: There you go... so it got dropped twice, so that's God's way of telling me that it's never gonna get done, you know, so it's kind of a lost iced gem

PC: Well, maybe a b-side down the track [unintended pun], keep that in mind
AP: Or a c-side I think... PC/
AP: [almost in unison] I do like to be beside the seaside! [laughter]

PC: Ah, couple of other ones... "Blue Beret", that you paraded for a while when you did the acoustic tour to support Oranges and Lemons?
AP: Sure, that was not a bad little song, I quite like that tune. It was put together to be a kind of self-contradictory song... all the lines seem to either contradict or suggest another line that then went on to contradict the previous one. We never recorded it officially, but I think Verve Pipe, an American band, did it

PC: Yep, Verve Pipe, Brian Van Der Ark...
AP: Yep

PC: ... who we'll come back to, if I may, a little later?
AP: Alright

PC: Just one other song that I think is an absolute gem, it's one of Colin's, and I think it's a song that he really should have run with and developed more and kept it on his agenda: "Where Did The Ordinary People Go?"
AP: That song was written for Nonsuch and just didn't make the great democratic arena of slicing stuff up and, er, I think at the time we all thought it was a bit too Joe Jackson or something... or Jesse Jackson, I dunno, but we didn't wanna do it and it just got lost along the way. But, you know, we have tons of songs like that. I think we throw away as much as we record

PC: Yeah, but you're a band that... I've discussed this with my friends, my fellow XTC aficionados if you like... your b-sides and your "throwaways" are what other groups and outfits would kill for to have as a-sides!
AP: Now you can't be so cruel to INXS, stop it, I won't allow you!

PC: You just don't like the compliments too much, do you?
AP: [audibly smiling] No, I get uncomfortable

PC: Oh, please don't, because I'm trying not to be gushy but I'm trying to say, yeah, there are people who do appreciate that dimension of the band... and, we get enough... well, we haven't had enough since...
AP: Yeah, you haven't had enough in the last few years 'cos we've been, you know, in the fridge legally, but we're coming outta the fridge! So beware, the monster from the fridge is coming forth again

PC: Oh my goodness, is it gonna be a big sort of tentacled spinach or something?
AP: Ha ha ha! A big-testicled thing, yeah!

PC: [laughing] Oh, well, we'll talk about Testicle Dinner [the tribute album, Testimonial Dinner] in a minute, too, if we may? [which unfortunately we don't get around to]
AP: Okay, Testicular Dinner, sure

PC: Umm, with the book... 'cos Neville said "concentrate on the book", so I'm trying to do that...
AP: Concentrate on the book, concentrate on the book!

PC: ... ahhh, I find it interesting that only one song from your officially-released catalogue doesn't get dealt with... that's a song from the album The Big Express called "I Bought Myself A Liarbird", and there's just a note in the book that says "can't discuss because of a legal agreement"
AP: Yeah, they call it a gagging order. Our ex-manager, our original manager, Ian Reid made us sign a gagging order that we wouldn't talk about what an arsehole he was, so we don't...

XTC anno 1992

PC: But you just did!
AP: No, no, we don't! We're not allowed to say what an arsehole he was, so we don't ever mention that fact, we don't ever say how greedy he was and how he ripped us off shockingly 'cos we're not allowed to say that so we don't say that...

PC: [laughing] Well, listeners can judge for themselves...
AP: Yeah, you can imagine what a wicked beast he was, but, as I say, we're not allowed to talk about any of that, so I best not

PC: Well, let's not
AP: Alright

PC: But prior to our interview tonight I played the song, y'know, reading along with the lyrics, but I'm struck by the musical side of it which surely you could talk about? Now, that's probably a lesser song in your repertoire but it's a favourite of mine, and I really love that insidious, sorta circular guitar figure
AP: Well, it was played on an electric guitar, if you want the boring ol' details, it was played on an Ibanez Artist

PC: Oh!
AP: Tuned to the chord of E, it's not conventional tuning, it's tuned to bottleneck tuning, and I think I was actually originally dicking around, messing around with playing, like the intro of "Across The Universe" or something like that

PC: Oh yeah!
AP: And I was messing around with this bottleneck tuning on a cranked-up electric guitar, and I thought, ooh! that's a really nice little variation thing there, and then suddenly before you knew it, bleuaaghh! - this song came out about our ex-manager

PC: It just spat out?
AP: Yeah, it fell out pretty quickly, I seem to remember

PC: It's a nice song and pity that you couldn't have talked about the musical side of it, at least, in the book but then again, we've got those space limitations there
AP: Yeah I thought that it was very smart of Neville to put in that we couldn't talk about it, 'cos people can imagine... I mean gagging orders are insidious things, they're only put on by people who don't want you to tell other people how evil they were! You know, there'd be no other use for a gagging order as far as I can see

PC: And I gather that there's still ongoing litigation and crap that you've gotta deal with, probably till your dying day, mate?
AP: Actually, no, we're relatively free of him, which is a good thing. I've no idea where he is now or what he does, I've no interest, and, er, I don't feel too bitter, and it's kinda pointless, y'know... why devote nice braincells to bitterness?

PC: Quite so, turn the page!
AP: Yep!

PC: Um, I've listed three other songs that are covered in the book, two of which are my particular favourites that I'd like to talk about, and one that has a really curly question from Mark Strijbos who I mentioned earlier, and he's a delightful guy, he's just such a, ooh, "trainspotter"?...
AP: He carves his own website does he, carves his own website from the finest ivory?

PC: Oh yes, and you should see it sometime, you should find a place that would call up the website and go and have a look because it's friggin' amazing! It really is good!
AP: No, I stay away from these websites because it's a bit like you've died and you're kind of there at the wake or something and you get all these people talking about you. I mean, once upon a time somebody printed up a load of stuff like, like six months' worth of chat from one of the websites [Chalkhills] and I was amazed and shocked and delighted and upset and all the emotions, it went through the gamut of every emotion, just the amazing stuff that people talk about. Talk about the misinformation highway, I mean, half of it was wrong, it was some great Chinese whispers, some really inventive guess-work... plus there was some immensely personal stuff that you'd think, well, do people, are they really interested in that side of somebody? And I don't dive into that on purpose now because, as I say, it's like being dead and having people say these things about you. So sure, the nice things are nice, but the nasty things are really painful sometimes... I don't wanna know what people are saying about me

PC: So you'd prefer to keep a good distance from all that sorta stuff...
AP: Yeah, was it Robbie Burns?: "an awesome power, the gift he give to see ourselves as others see us"... I don't want that gift, I don't think it's a gift at all, I think it's painful to get an insight into how others perceive you... I'll keep my little computer unplugged, I think. Actually I don't own... I own a computer, but only to run a musical program; I don't go anywhere near the Net or anything. Bit of a luddite like that...

PC: Bit of a luddite?
AP: Yep

PC: I must admit, I am too, but I've gotta use it at work and so, the temptation is, of course, to er... when I first got hooked up to the Internet, the first... not even the Beatles... the first band I typed in to search for was yours!
AP: And you came up with a site that sells, like, sex gear in Holland somewhere?

PC: Oh, you've got that choice, yeah! [laughs]
AP: Hah ha, yeah, I think there's a Swedish heavy metal label called XTC as well

PC: And there's all, y'know, drug sites...
AP: Oh yeah, there's all that sorta stuff...

PC: ... yeah, the Ecstasy drug and stuff, but, I mean have you... [explanation: the author has *always* experienced difficulty pronouncing the following word, whether sober or drunk, and I made a few passes at it here!]... patented your name?
AP: Have I painted my name on a little Ecstasy tablet, with a tiny brush? Actually, no, I should have done, shouldn't I? I should have been on royalties for every tab sold, it would have made me a few bob!

PC: Well there's all these "power drinks", these "XTC" kinda sporting drinks with er...
AP: Yeah, it's kinda like ten tons of sugar compressed down with a drop of moose-gland added in there, and you drink that and you can run very fast but your teeth decay within nanoseconds!

PC: Oh, I want that drink!
AP: I want that drink - I want those brown stumps!

PC: [laughing] Well, that doesn't have to happen with this little black duck; I've already got the brown stumps, y'know?
AP: [laughs] So what was this "curly question" that Mark Strijbos asked?

PC: Yeah, about "Jason and the Argonauts": he sent me this really nice article from Melody Maker from about 1979, that talked about... it was quite an extensive article about your first visit to Australia...
AP: Mmmm?

PC: ... but on the way, you were bailed up in Bahrain, apparently; your flight sort of was stalled or something like that...
AP: Mmmm?

PC: ... and you've got Terry Chambers saying, "ow, do you reckon that these fuckers in kaftans would 'ave our 'ands orf if we asked for another drink?!" [sic]... which is *so* Terry...
AP: [gleefully] Ah, the colourful Terry Chambers!

PC: And, given that, er, Mark Strijbos posits the question, that there's a line in "Jason And The Argonauts": "In a land where men force women to hide their facial features, and here in the west it's just the same but they're using make-up veils"... and he's got this theory that, possibly that might have been written out of that experience, and that the song had its genesis in that trip?
AP: Not necessarily that one trip, no, I mean it was just really the amount of touring we were doing and suddenly I was seeing the world, and lots of it, and it just made me think about all the new stuff I was seeing, and some of the old stuff, y'know, some of the stuff in your own back yard suddenly looks different when you go around the world. You go off around the world and your own country looks different - your neighbours start to look different. You start to approach things you did everyday in your life differently when you see how other people do them and... it just broadens your outlook... which you can also do by a large mallet if you smash it on the table, you can broaden your outlook like that... it's more painful to do it with a mallet!... but it was just a song of just a lotta things I'd seen, y'know, from touring, and the fact I was really thrown in at the deep end. It was like, I'd always wanted to see the world, and then... suddenly, y'know, from '77 onwards I was seeing the world, although I was tending to see the hotel rooms of the world, the world as such, y'know

PC: Oh, the Holiday Inn is really the world, isn't it?
AP: Yeah, exactly, I was seeing Holiday Inn wallpaper of the world, which is mostly orange, and I was seeing, like, rental PA systems of the world, things like that... but just getting thrown into the deep end and getting into touring and different viewpoints on things, and "Jason and the Argonauts" is a kind of a journey song, y'know...

PC: A bit of a travelogue?
AP: Yeah, er, a bit of a travelling log, yeah... captain's travelling log that is!... but, it's a song about un-naive-ing, y'know?... discovering things and yourself, and...

PC: "Un-naive-ing", that's a lovely term!... erm, could be a good song title perhaps?
AP: Er, except I dunno if I could spell it

PC: Aw, you can wing it?
AP: Er, yeah, I could wing it!

PC: Oooh, thanks for that insight, I think Mark will be pleased with that!

Now Wash Your Hands

PC:... um, two other songs I wanted to mention... first of all, my favourite introduction to XTC, and I think a lot of our Aussie listeners and readers will, er, probably (if they're as old as me); might remember this: er, we saw that clip that Russell Mulcahy did, that you describe in the book, rather vividly, as being chaotic and weird, the clip for "Are You Receiving Me?"...
AP: H-hmm?

PC: I heard that song, and that was me, I was hooked! I thought: "punk Beatles"!... that was my take on it. Have you got any comment on that, Andy?
AP: We probably were at the time... We got kind of swept in with the whole punk thing, just because we came through the door at the same time. It wasn't necessarily "punk", it wasn't necessarily "new wave", it wasn't necessarily "new"; we were just four young kids who, er, the door had been really been bashed in by the whole kinda punk rock thing, and we just wandered through, kinda dazed, and "hey! we're here as well!" So, we were seen as the whole part and parcel of the punk thing... and I suppose our energy at the time kinda contributed to that, and the fact that we were rather irreverent? [says word unsurely, as you or I might]... Is that the word? Yeah, irrelevant will do! An elephant!... We were rather an elephant at the time... [mutual laughter]... So, we kinda got swept in with the whole punk thing but, but you know, as we got better at songwriting and, er, explaining ourselves and making more of our little time on the soapbox, we grew away from that and... yeah so I suppose "punk Beatles" is probably a pretty fair as hell description as anything else that was ever flung at us... and that's having no paper to wipe it off !

PC: Yes! Unless you use the new book
AP: Unless you use the new book? I think it's suspicious that every chapter is headed, "now wash your hands"!

PC: [of course, laughing like an idiot]... Erm, one other song I wanted to cover, which is a particular favourite of mine, and you might find it surprising that I'm dwelling on earlier songs... but, okay, I'm still with you, and so are so many of your fans, but... "No Language In Our Lungs"... I thought, in the book, the description that Dave gives of... Dave and Colin; Colin makes comment of the recording being such that you can "put your hand into the back of the recording and feel the space"...
AP: Hmmm...

PC: And that's a marvellous song... erm, from my favourite XTC album, Black Sea, and also, um, run with this, Andy, but let me comment: I heard or read somewhere that the day after John Lennon died, you were doing a concert... and, er...
AP: We were actually playing in Liverpool!

PC: In Liverpool? You remember the night?
AP: Yup!

PC: And didn't you segue into "Rain"?
AP: Yeah, we did it from "Towers Of London"

PC: Oh, you did it that way?
AP: Yeah, the end of "Towers Of London" is kind of around the same sorta tempo as "Rain", or it used to be when we played it live... and we agreed, kinda uselessly, but we wanted to... we were all really shook up, you know... and we wanted to do something in a pathetic way that kind of said, yeah, we're shaken up about it; and my favourite Beatles song, I think, is "Rain"! And so we agreed to kinda busk the end of "Towers Of London" into "Rain"... that night, and, er, that was very tricky to do because, er, it was very difficult to sing...

PC: Had you rehearsed?
AP: Well, no, we basically spent about two minutes in the sound-check saying: okay, we'll do this, this and this and kinda just wing it, just busk it... and it was really very, very difficult to do... it was very difficult to sing when you're crying... tears are squirting outta my eyes and I was trying to sing "Rain" and I just couldn't do it, it was very difficult!

PC: Oh, my God, yeah... um, because I know that it's not just The Beatles, but that whole era, you know, your love of The Kinks, The Small Faces, all that mob...
AP: Yeah, it was the stuff I cut my flares on, y'know... British pop with a slightly psychedelic edge!... it's really my cup of acid spangles, I suppose...

PC: Oh good, but I hope you haven't had too many cups of acid spangles?
AP: No, no, I never went near the original stuff, y'know, just tooth decay, that's about my drug of choice I think... or saccharine...

PC: [Andy has made Paul laugh uncontrollably yet again]
AP: No, I've always valued my brain too much... I didn't wanna mess up my brain. I never went near drugs. I drank a bit, too much at one time, but nothing on the kind of illegal substances front

PC: Which is probably just as well, because you've emerged intact...
AP: Well nobody ever creates on drugs, it's a real big stupid myth... that people who take drugs create... they don't!... they take drugs and then they turn into vegetables ... or, er, how can you play the guitar when your hands are turning into two ironing boards or giant lobsters or whatever...

PC: [almost incontinent with mirth]
AP: You can't do it, you know, you create and then you go and get drunk; you create then you take drugs... or you can't create so you get unhappy so you cheer yourself up - you drink or take drugs. Nobody ever created on drugs, they always fell to pieces when they took drugs. They created before drugs or a while after drugs, but not *on* drugs, y'know? And I don't honestly think that drugs are a creative liberator at all... I think that the idea of being "liberated" is much more potent than taking any drug

PC: I'm glad you said that, because, readers, Andy says, "just say no"...
AP: Just say "nein!"

PC: Yeah!... or ten...
AP: Nine or ten, whatever you can get!

PC: Heh heh... there's a lovely passage in the book, towards the end... um, I don't know if I mentioned what this book's called?! It's called XTC Song Stories - the exclusive authorised story behind the music...
AP: That's enough to put you off, isn't it? The words like "exclusive authorised"... that really just says "stay away!" I wish they hadn't put that on, but you know, me no publisher, so...

PC: Well I daresay that people haven't stayed away with this book and it's been eagerly anticipated... but there's this lovely passage towards the back, in the kind of epilogue that Neville's written, that starts to talk about the "fan-base", and I want to ask you, Andy: what's yours and Colin's perception now, of just who you're pitching your stuff to? Who, you know, have you got an idea of who's out there?
AP: I think at one time we used to have an idea, but these days I've learnt to become much more selfish. I write for myself, and if anyone else likes it, I don't care what shape they are, what colour, creed, or... make, what brand, what political, what gender, whatever... I don't... y'know, whoever likes us, likes us, whoever doesn't like us, doesn't like us. It's not obligatory, you know, I don't really wanna know about who likes what we do, because I make music absolutely purely for myself. And if anyone likes it, fine, that's a good little thing! But, no, I try not to have perceptions, 'cos they always get overturned; you know, fan mail or letters or whatever you wanna call it, arrive occasionally and they can be from anything. They can be from 15-year- old girls, they can be from a 55-year-old Red Indian sculptress! They can be from a 30-year-old bank manager, they can be from a... I've no perception of who likes our music and I'd rather keep it that way

PC: And in view of that, you mentioned before, you're not interested particularly in hearing about what's happening on the Internet, which is this burgeoning new technology that's taking over, and, er, there's a lot of people about there... er, your fan-base, by my perception, which could be entirely wrong, is that there's only a small percentage of ones who are hooked up to the Net, but there's all these other people out there who are champing at the bit to hear more XTC, they love XTC and they wanna hear more... For instance, can I tell you? October last year, our major "alternative" radio network here [Triple-J], ran a three-hour show, where it was a big phone-in fest and they played heaps of tracks, and live material from both your 1979 and 1980 [Aussie] tours, and you begin to realise the scope and the depth of the fan-base. There are people still interested in hearing... now knowing XTC's *not* dormant, they're not doing a "comeback", they've always been here, they've just been sitting on their arse for six years...
AP: Hmm, [laughs]... Well, not sitting on our arses doing nothing! I mean, this is gonna be kinda dull, but let me do this for two minutes for anyone who doesn't know... Ahm, this is a quick sorta talking biog bit here... From '92 till now, lemme see, how can I do all this so I can get it through quickly? We were very depressed with Virgin Records' non-activity on promoting our records, we were also extremely depressed that we weren't making any money at this game, because our deal was so appalling with Virgin. So we said to them, "look, would you please make our deal more sensible, or can you release us and we can go and sign with another record company and get a decent deal, and we can make a living doing this?" 'Cos things were getting really bad - Colin and Dave were collecting rental cars for a living, or y'know, Dave would be playing in Country & Western showbands or things to make a few pennies. Things were getting really low, and they wouldn't release us, so we said, "we're going on strike". So that was all we could do. We refused to make any records for Virgin although we were still contracted to make records for them. And basically, that's what we did, and in that five years they just sat on us and said, "no, you're not going" and we said, "nope, we're not making any more records". And in that time we wrote and wrote, er, I got divorced, er, had several bouts of illness...

PC: You had an ear problem?
AP: Er, I went deaf for awhile, that was kind of frightening... erm, fell in love again, all sorts of things. Played on other people's records, co-wrote with other people, because I could still do that contractually. And then eventually, Virgin said, "oh for God's sake, we're letting you go", which was fantastic news. And then all the material that we'd written - we spent about a year finding ourselves record deals we liked - and we've just finished recording Volume One of this material; and that should be around in January. So it's not that we haven't been doing anything, we've legally been put in the fridge, but as I say, we've come forth from the freezer of hell, and we're allowed legally to make music again

Partridge playing his new Partridge guitar
© Fano Guitars

PC: Thank you very much for explaining that to our readers. But, how did you get to, er... during that time, you put out at least one piece of music under the name XTC while this fight or litigation was going on, called "Cherry In Your Tree". Now, how did you manage to do that?
AP: Well, that was recorded pretty much near the start of the negotiations to get free, so they allowed us to release that. But basically, though, they were stopping us from putting songs out; we realised very quickly that anything we recorded would put us in further, you know, in the shit with Virgin and would make it harder for us to get out, so it was a case of, we really had to gently cut off our own noses to spite our collective Virgin face. We could have recorded all we wanted but it just would have been more of a gift for them!

PC: Yeah, which you would have been reluctant to do by that time
AP: Oh exactly, so that was really the last kinda thing that snuck out; and I did that as a favour for a friend of mine...

PC: David Yaz, er, er... [memory blank]
AP: David Yazbek, yep! So he said, could we do some music for this TV show that he was involved in, did we have anything that sounded, er, not too challenging for kids. And I said, well, I've written this bubblegum album that I don't think Virgin are gonna let us do, so we'll take one of the songs from there and re-record that - or record it, initially, because it was only in demo form - so we did that. And the actual show was called "Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?" and it was kinda like a kids' quiz program - they have music involved with this program - so we did the song "Cherry In Your Tree"

PC: Which is quite marvellous, actually...
AP: It's okay, it's a little, er, it's kinda between two stools, because I would've... it was written to have been done in a really early seventies, very banal kinda bubblegum style, which I have a soft spot for. But we ended up just playing it not stylistically squeezed towards one way or another. We just ended up playing it pretty normally, but it's not a bad little tune, it's very simplistic, and hopefully kids do like it

PC: I think, it sounds like you had much fun doing that, er, 'cos it's so catchy and poppy and light
AP: Yes, a breakfast cereal of a song!

PC: Heh, er, quoting [paraphrasing?] you: something about the side of a cornflakes packet? [it was actually a record sleeve - refer earlier discussion about "Liarbird"] ... but no, you can't discuss those lyrics, can you?
AP: Nah, you can find truth anywhere, truth is actually not one thing, 'cos that's kinda where we're going here, talking about truth... no, truth is not one thing. Two people can look at a colour and you can say, "what colour is that?" One person can say, "well, it's kind of a pinky-bluey colour"... another person can say, "it's lilac, isn't it?" And somebody else can say, "no it's more blue". Another person who might be colourblind might see it as grey, another person who's blind might not see it at all, do you see what I mean? I mean truth is just something different to each individual person [who] has got a different truth, so there's no one truth, so beware if people say, you know, this is the truth and we have the truth; our so-and-so is the truth. 'Cos no, everyone has their own truth, so...

PC: Well that's right, and I'm not gonna get into a Dear God discussion here, because...
AP: Phew!

PC: ... that's happened many times before
AP: [breathing heavily and gratefully into the 'phone] Thank you!!!

PC: Ha ha, "thank God, you said?"
AP: [laughing] Yes!

PC: Well, I hope that came out loud and clear because, well, that's self-evident
AP: I tell you what, can you forgive me for about two minutes, I have to pee or I'm gonna die!

PC: Well, cor, oh, brilliant! Because, me too!!
AP: Okay, I'll put the 'phone down here and be back in about two minutes and then we'll carry on and I'll be a somewhat lighter individual I assure you

PC: Oh, me too mate, good onya
AP: Okay, put a disc on! [Long gap of (relative) silence; not quite two minutes... PC returns to 'phone first, picks it up... ]

PC: Hellooo?... [conspiratorial aside] Er, readers, Andy takes longer to piss than I do! [Sound of door slamming in distance - this is real nitty-gritty stuff!... Andy picks up 'phone... ]
AP: Hey!!

PC: Hi mate
AP: Ohhh, that's better

PC: How did that feel?
AP: Ahhh, I feel somehow lighter of soul!

PC: [chuckling] I'm glad to hear it... Andy, can we move on to the new album; "stroke - s"; because there's two?
AP: Er, yep

PC: And I believe you've completed the mixing at Rockfield Studios in Monmouth [Wales] with Nick Davis, who did the mixing for Nonsuch?
AP: Yep, that's right

PC: Have you completed the mixing for both albums?
AP: No-no-no-no, what's happening is, we actually started the recording of all the material that was chosen... when I say all the material I mean half, about 21 songs, about half of the material we had to play with for these albums

PC: [You're working with] a total of 21 songs?
AP: Yeah, we started recording 21 songs with a producer called Haydn Bendall ... he's a very nice chap, possibly the nicest person who I think I've ever been in the studio with, and he is painfully slow, I'll give him that. Lovely person, ten out of ten on the person front, one out of ten on the speed front. Things were going very slow, I mean, very nicely-recorded and stuff, but not the speed I'm usually used to working at; but because things were going so slow, we decided that instead of the double album which we'd planned to put out, financially we were not gonna be able to get the stuff finished in time. So we concentrated on all the orchestral-acoustic songs, and we said, "look, let's make that volume one", and as soon as we can, we'll work on finishing and recording all the electric material and that'll be volume two. So volume one is finished, we're mastering that in about three weeks' time, so, er, all that stuff's ready to go; that comes out in January. And then as soon as we can, I mean I'm talking about literally within a few weeks, we are starting work on the electric material and that'll be... the first work we'll be doing on that is actually some building work as we're gonna be building our own little studio

PC: That's at Colin's place?
AP: Yeah, volume two will start with a trowel and some plaster and a soldering iron and stuff!

PC: Oh my goodness! [In hindsight, your correspondent *could* have used this opportunity to ask whether the band intended to sample some building sounds into their new recordings, but without that presence of mind, perhaps another day... ] Er, can you describe to our listeners and readers how the two albums differ?
AP: Well, they're gonna have the same title, which we haven't... I can't be too naughty and give away all the potentials, but, we haven't quite decided on the title yet [since mooted, of course, as Apple Venus], but there will be, "ur-ur-ur-ur, volume one", and, "ur-ur-ur-ur, (the same title), volume two", and volume one will be the songs with the orchestral and acoustic side to it, songs like "River of Orchids", I mean these titles are not gonna mean anything to people, um, "Easter Theatre", "Green Man", er, sheesh, "Last Balloon"...

PC: Which was one of the titles of the chapters in the Song Stories book
AP: Yeah, in fact "The Last Balloon" was gonna be the title of the album Nonsuch until Nonsuch came out at the last minute. I really liked the title, so I had to write a song called "The Last Balloon", which I did

PC: You had the title first?
AP: Yep

PC: Oh, and it's a gorgeous song
AP: Well, the recorded version... you're talking 'cos you've heard the demo no doubt, but the finished version came out really... I'm really happy with it, and the most wonderful flugelhorn-playing, as opposed to my rotten keyboard-playing, on the demo, but the most wonderful flugelhorn-playing from Guy Barker, who we've worked with several times in the past... he did all the trumpet on the Nonsuch record...

PC: Yes, I recognise the name...
AP: Yeah, he did some great playing on "Last Balloon"... but, er, so, volume one is gonna be all orchestral-acoustic stuff, and volume two, which will come out in the middle of next year, will be all the electric material... well that won't be *all* the electric material... it'll be stuff like "Playground", "Stupidly Happy", "We're All Light", "Wounded Horse", sheesh, can't remember the titles now, but it'll be the electric guitar-powered stuff

PC: Okay, well, I think, the first album (just my opinion, mind you), the first album, from the likes of Peter Fitzpatrick and so on - recognise his name? [fellow XTC fan who had the privilege of witnessing an XTC recording session at Abbey Road!]...
AP: Yeah, sure

PC: Er, he's reported some tantalising, y'know, pointers towards this album and says it's gonna be brilliant, and that's gonna be something that the fans will have their minds blown by...
AP: Well, we're really gonna piss off some people, because they're gonna say, well, "this isn't rock & roll, and this isn't something I came to expect", and then other people that know nothing about us will hear some of this stuff, hopefully, and say, "oh, I like that, I have no pre-conception about this group 'cos I've never heard them before, but I like what this record sounds like". So that's how things go along, y'know, we upset some people and they drop off along at the back end, and then we delight some people, some new people, and they kind of join on along at the front, and really, that's how the snake moves along

PC: Well, I like that, I must admit, as a fan, I like that, Andy... and then there's the carrot dangling for that kind of really nice, get back to, the rock guitar-orientated kind of ...
AP: Yeah! Volume Two will be much more simpler... I mean, "Stupidly Happy" is possibly the most moronic thing I've ever written, but it's really appealing

PC: Oh it's gorgeous!
AP: [incredulous] Have you heard it?

PC: I have a friend in Melbourne, Dom, a great friend of mine, a fellow XTC fan; he says, "that's the single!"
AP: Ah-hah!!!

PC: That's his opinion
AP: Ah, it's frightening what people can get hold of these days, I mean, you can't even sorta blow yer nose without somebody saying, "yeah, I got a copy of that"!

The Cult Of Personality

PC: Yeah, well, it brings me to, er, nice segue... brings me to, er, how you gonna go with this? When you bring out the albums and "market" them, you've got your own new record label, IDEA, distributed through Cooking Vinyl in England...
AP: TVT in the States, er, Pony Canyon in Japan...

PC: What have you got, by the way, for Australia?
AP: Er, I'm not sure who we're being distributed by in Australia. I have a list of our distributors in Australia, but I can't remember who the hell is doing Australia, er, I could find out for you, but right off the top of my head I can't remember

PC: Can I make a suggestion?
AP: I think it may already be tied up, but you can try

[Author's explanation/caveat: the following dialogue refers to a record company I refer to as "they". Now, because here in this interview, I don't explain myself as distinctly as I should have - a hazard of the spontaneous interview process to which I'm unaccustomed - Andy erroneously ends up believing that I am criticising Festival Records, who currently distribute the Cooking Vinyl output for the likes of The Church and They Might Be Giants, among others. I am referring, when I say "they", to another Australian distributor who picked up the distribution rights for another Cooking Vinyl artist, Stephen Duffy, whose latest album they tampered with, detrimentally. That was *not* Festival, who I'm trying to recommend to Andy, but due to the nature of our conversation, and my lack of clarity on the matter, Andy possibly ends up thinking that Festival are the ogres; they're not! The other company (who'll remain nameless - because I don't want to get into any more shit with them over the Duffy affair), should not - if the planets are correctly aligned - have anything to do with our heroes' output! Festival will do a good job for distribution in Oz, I feel sure. I'll try to straighten that misunderstanding out with Andy in due course... well, these things are *important*, aren't they? Whatever territory you're in!]

PC: Your fellow label-mates, They Might Be Giants, and The Church, among others, are being distributed here through Festival. Now, let's pray that would be the case [for XTC], because, when Stephen Duffy's Cooking Vinyl album, that you were involved with., came out here...
AP: Mmmm?

PC: ... they butchered it to buggery!
AP: Oh dear!

PC: You know the album?
AP: Of course, I was on it!

PC: Yeah, I'm gonna get to that... er, he suffered by them butchering the tracklisting, with all the segues, and they changed it around and really stuffed it up big-time!
AP: Mmmm?

PC: So, I dunno if it's set in concrete for you?
AP: Beware Festival?... well actually, I think we had dealings with Festival in the past, but...

Andy Cool

PC: Oh, early days, Festival distributed Virgin, and your stuff, here
AP/PC: [unison] Yeah...

PC: Well, be that as it may, we'll see how that pans out... um, question: are you gonna do some singles?
AP: Er, we don't have any plans to... we're gonna be playing this by ear, because we don't have a great deal of success with singles, it has to be said. And I think that the people that like the band generally are probably not singles buyers. Having said that - like I said earlier - I don't really have a concept of who "the audience" is for the group, but they tend not to be single-buying people, I think we can get that bit straight. So, what's gonna happen is, we're gonna put these albums out and if there is an inordinate amount of radio play on one track or another, then we may consider making that one track a single, because to some extent the radios will already be "voting", with their... voting with their knobs! ... I think...

PC: [laughs]
AP: ... yeah, and saying, "we're gonna be playing that track", so, you know, that may make it a single. But we don't actually plan to put any singles out

PC: Okay, so you're just gonna "wing it" on the album?
AP: Sure, yeah, hopefully the album should stand up for itself and, it's like I said, unless stations pick up on one song and play one song to pieces, er, ignoring all others, we may think about making that one song, whatever it was, a single, but no plans to at the moment. I just wanna get the album out and think of the album as one whole thing

PC: Are you thinking of... I know there's budget restrictions here, but, are you thinking of any promotion like TV? You did a marvellous doco called "Play At Home", and also "At The Manor", this is going right back...
AP: Yeah, but they were all things that we were approached to do. They weren't things that we came up with, they were things like, "would you allow us to film such-and-such?", or "would you let us come and film blah-blah-blah-blah?", and, I mean, there's a hundred and one things that I might like to do, but I dunno whether we could get funding for them, so I'm really... you know, I'm open to offers, if there's anyone out there with access to cameras and they wanna come and do something on the band, sure, I'm pretty much open to that. But, er, we're not great publicity-seekers, this is obvious by now at this point in our career

PC: Oh, absolutely
AP: There's more photographs of "Big-Foot" in existence than there are of this band, so, we're the kinda "Nessies" of the pop world. Really, the albums are... that's what I want people to see of the band. I don't care if I never get photographed again! Or never filmed again, that's no loss to me. And it's always such a personal disappointment as well, you know, you think in your mind that you look like a cross between, kinda Steve McQueen and, er, Mel Gibson or somebody like that; then you see yourself on film and you think, "Jesus, I look like the Nazi molester in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Ronald Lacey", y'know? PC/
AP: [both laughing]
AP: It's always, ha ha, such a personal disappointment, so I don't care if I never get photographed or filmed again, that's not important. The music's important as far as I'm concerned, but not the cult of the personality

PC: Well, okay, do you think that you can put out an album, or two albums as this is gonna be, but to... I reckon, you need some kind of support, the way things are "marketed" these days - I hate to use that word, even?
AP: Alright, well I don't wanna use any of the corrupt support that's the mainstay, certainly in England, but, I don't wanna use any of that kinda thing, like "buying teams" and stuff, you know, where you put down fifty thousand pounds and then you have people that go around the record shops with your money and buy your singles back again to the tune of fifty thousand pounds, to buy you into the charts. That's a common occurrence, and that's so stinkingly corrupt...

PC: Like Brian Epstein allegedly did with "Love Me Do"?
AP: Er, that was kind of, I think, done on a small scale, maybe even unknowingly, but certainly it's very intentionally corrupt in Britain right now and I guess the same thing for Australia and America, whatever

PC: To an extent, yeah
AP: Yeah, and so I don't wanna do anything like that, you know, I'd rather not be involved in any stuff like that. That just fills me with disgust, and it's nothing to do with music, as far as I can see!

PC: Yeah, so you're purely putting out your musical - pardon the term - your musical product...
AP: Yep, our "musical shoes", or our "musical flip-flops", or whatever we're selling here

PC: Well, there'll be a few buyers... we've got a couple more minutes, mate, er, if you'll indulge me?...
AP: Yep!

PC: ... and then I'll leave you alone... um, I wanted to just touch on a couple of other things and then say goodbye and say thanks. Over the recent years, I guess in the XTC "hiatus", you've collaborated with a few people? Can I just put some names to you?
AP: Sure, and I can bat them back into your court!

PC: Okay! That sounds great... er, some collaborations that I've enjoyed... er, Brian Van Der Ark from The Verve Pipe, where you've co-written a song for The Avengers soundtrack...
AP: Yeah, all those songs that were financed for that film, not one of them went into the film! The producer or director or whatever decided he wanted incidental-type music, so I think they made an album of all the tracks they originally financed to go in the film, er...

PC: "Songs inspired by"...
AP: "Songs inspired by", there, that's the heading! ... yeah, so Verve Pipe did a song of mine that I had lying around, and Brian Van Der Ark came over to write with me, and we sat down and came up with about twenty ideas or so, this was one of them, this was one of the things. I said, "look, Brian, I've got this great song that I can't finish, and you might be interested". And I played it to him and he liked it and went away and sketched in most of the vocals, it was a song called "Blow You Away", and it's hovering on the album, as you say, "songs insipid by, The Avengers"!

PC: [laughs] Well, by all accounts, the film's quite insipid
AP: Yeah, er, ah, our success rate with dabbling with film things is not a great one, I have to say... Times Square: ouch!!... yeouff!!... so yeah, Brian Van Der Ark, he was one the collaborations, who else are you gonna hit me with?

PC: Cathy Dennis?
AP: Cathy Dennis, yeah, she of the ginger hair and ginger teeth... er, her management said, would I like to write with her, and I said why the hell not!... and she was very sweet, and very shy...

PC: She's a spunky thing! [Note: that term means something slightly different in Oz; it basically means, "she looks good", but Andy picks up on the alternative, British meaning of the word "spunk", and says... ]
AP: Sorry?

PC: A spunky girl...
AP: That had crossed my mind!... and then I passed her the tissues and we talked no more about it! But, er, she had some, er, she just sat and I played a load of ideas at her, and that's basically what I do, is just brainstorm ideas at people, and then she taped or wrote down the ideas that she liked, and I had a song I was messing around with, called "Am I The Kinda Boy That Could Be Your Girlfriend"...

PC: In male terms?
AP: Yeah, and she liked the title and some of the word ideas, and she said, "could we work on this?", and I said, well, I only have some of the lyric; I didn't actually have any actual music, and I kinda brainstormed some music to her and she said, er "I like that bit, I like this line and that line", and she took the music and took the lines that she liked and sketched in some lyrics until she was happy

PC: Did you produce that with her?
AP: No, I didn't. Actually, Dave Gregory played guitar on the finished thing, but she already had a producer for that album, so that was a job I didn't have to fulfil

PC: Oh, okay, coupla other names, Andy... I'm gettin' more pissed [as in inebriated] here now!
AP: Ha ha ha!! You don't say?! [laughing uncontrollably]

PC: Well, I needed, needed, yeah...
AP: You needed some "Dutch Courage"?!

PC: I needed some "Dutch Courage", but I'm... am I still coherent?
AP: [chuckling] Er, yeah, just about!

PC: Okay! Erm, Iva Davies, homegrown guy who, with his band Flowers, supported you on concerts in 1980
AP: Yeah, they did! He's, er, he's... another Australian who lives in Tokyo, Ray Hearn, who used to tour-manage us at one time, he called me up, he actually put me together with Harold Budd, but he called me up and said that he was looking for collaborators for Iva; Iva wanted to bounce off of different sorts of writers. And, "would I be interested in writing with Iva?" I mean, I'm interested in writing with anyone! I don't... I'll give anyone a shot, y'know?... I find it inspiring, hell, it might even be lucrative! I just like to write, y'know? So I said, "yes, of course, send him over". So he came over and we spent a couple of days ensconced in my little garden shed, and fired about half a dozen ideas or whatever his way, and he went away and polished one up and I think it's on a forthcoming album - it may even be out already, actually, I'm not too sure

PC: I don't think so yet, but he's done a magnificent version of... oh, shivers, my memory's gone on me again...
AP: Ah, "Complicated Game"

PC: Yeah, yeah!
AP: Yeah, I got to hear that recently. He did some album called The Berlin Tapes or something

PC: The Berlin Tapes, which was a thing he did to accompany a dance troupe thing
AP: Right, yeah, I got to hear that recently. I also heard a hillbilly version of "Complicated Game" which is a riot, and I'm damned if I can remember who did it! It's like sorta fiddles and banjos...[mimics hillbilly music] "ying diddle ying diddle dee-dee- dee, yee-ha!" and this kinda thing [laughs]

PC: Oh my goodness!
AP: Yeah, so I got to hear that recently as well. That was somewhat different to Iva's version; it's an American band but I can't remember what they're called - something like The Red Devils or something like that. Something Devils, The Stained Devils, something like that, I can't remember, but they did this hillbilly version of "Complicated Game"

PC: Well there's a lot of cover versions out there of XTC material...
AP: Actually, funnily enough, "Complicated Game" is one of the more covered things. A South African all-girl band did a version in the mid-80s...

PC: Get outta here!
AP: Yeah, I never got to hear that one, I only got to hear about that one. And I know that a Bavarian oompah band covered "Making Plans For Nigel"...

PC: [merry laughter]
AP: ... and changed the lyrics to "Making Plans For Otto", and, like, went to number one in the Bavarian regional charts with it

PC: Ohh, what did Colin think of that?
AP: Er, I dunno, ha ha, I think he's still shivering from the thought, y'know?!

PC: Oh yeah, goodness me, I mean, one of your biggest proudest moments being, er...
AP: Biggest, proudest, fattest, vainest moments! And there it is, you got a bunch of Bavarians trampling it to the floor [chuckles]

PC: Oh my God, yeah! Which brings me to, er, I wanna talk about Stephen Duffy in a sec [which, sadly, we never do]... but, um, cover versions - have you heard, or are you aware of, Andy... Primus, an American sort of, er... well, they've covered you twice
AP: Twice? I knew they did "Nigel" some time back; I dunno, what else did they do?

PC: They've just put out a thing called Rhinoplasty, in which they repeat that theme of that EP that contained "Nigel"...
AP: Mmm?

PC: ... but now they've done a carbon copy of "Scissor Man"
AP: Whoah! No, I've not heard of it!

PC: I'll send you a cassette of it
AP: Is it a good version? Or does it wank?

PC: It rocks, no it doesn't wank. Oh, well, you're asking for my opinion? Or for our listeners' opinion?
AP: I'd like to hear it! So, maybe you can find it and play a few seconds of it

PC: Er, right now?
AP: [laughing] Why not? [much mirth]

PC: [never one for subtlety when hyperbole will do just as well, thank you] Oh, man, it'll blow your mind!
AP: Well not right now, we should do some chat 'cos I'm looking at the time...

PC: Yeah, I know, er, I'll do that with you another time
AP: Alright. Actually can we do, like five more minutes, 'cos I really have something else happening very very shortly

Always Keep The Tissues Handy

PC: Sure, you've got a kind of date for 2.30[UK time]
AP: Yeah it's already 2.30, let's get a few more minutes and then I should run. So is there anything else we can... any sorta big things that we haven't touched on?

PC: Let me see, I've got my notes here... I think we've covered... Oh! Okay, I've got page two, but don't let that sound daunting. Umm, because this is going out in Australia, are there any nice memories from your visits here, that you'd like to share?
AP: Lemme see, ooh, what does Australia sum up to me? ... Errrr, lotsa fruit and vegetables, great short skirts on schoolgirls, but I'm not s'posed to say that

PC: [chuckles] You won't be censored on that
AP: Okay, no, it's just that I'd never seen skirts so short! It was kind of shocking, and they still have it, you still get the soap operas over here and the schoolgirls still have short skirts

PC: Oh yeah! Isn't it wonderful?
AP: I go for more your older type lady now, I go for more your sorta grand dame type. Now, lemme see, what else about Australia, good things about Australia... errm, yeah, the odd drive-in cinema or two - that's an interesting concept, 'cos you could never make that work in England

PC: Did you get the chance to 'sus' that when you were here, then?
AP: Yeah, as I say, it's a concept that we can only dream about. 'Cos, you know, you'd have a drive-in cinema in England and you'd start projecting the film, and first of all, it'd have to get through the rain and then ten minutes later it'd have to get through fog, and you know, just the weather changes so constantly in England, you'd never be able to get through a whole hour-and-a-half film! You'd never see all of it, you know? So that was kind of interesting... let me see, what else? The size of the pubs!!... are ludicrous! They're like kinda, Kublai Khan had decreed the pub size in Australia!

PC: [laughs]
AP: They're just vast, y'know?

PC: Oh yeah!
AP: Stanley Kubrick's 2001 kinda pub theme thing, you know, they're all enormous. And pubs in England, they're little tiny grubby places, but pubs in Australia, every one I went in seemed to be an aircraft hangar, with a bar down one side - just vast places

PC: Well, we need that!
AP: Obviously you need that sorta thing, yeah, obviously... er, what else? Let me see, er, some more positive... actually, the last time I was there - it's not a positive thing but it made us... we were gagging with laughter every time it came on TV, it was the campaign about "Don't let Australia be a failure". And I thought that was really weird, kind of gee-ing the nation up! You know, it's like saying [adopts posh British accent], "Come on Britain, pull your socks up!", this sorta stuff... but it was really funny, every few minutes there'd be [adopts Aussie accent] "Come on Australia, don't be a failure"...

PC: [laughing hysterically] Oh, say that again! That's beautiful!!!
AP: [laughs, and uses really exaggerated Aussie accent]: "Come on Australia, don't be a failure"... it was great! You know, the only words that rhyme with Australia, that's the problem! [mirth]

Take your pick

PC: It's like tryin' to rhyme with orange...
AP: Derail ya! One of the only other words that rhymes with Australia... derail ya... see, you can talk about gears and things [Disraeli Gears?], but yeah, it's like, rhyme "orange" and rhyme "month"... now lemme see, what else can I remember about Australia that's a positive thing? Ummm, yeah, empty! That was good. It was empty, like you'd go, you'd be in the streets of Sydney at 5.30, and they'd be empty! And it was shocking, it was like there was a scene from On The Beach or something...

PC: Which was filmed here of course
AP: Yeah, well there you go, it was just like Sydney at 5.30 in the evening. You know, there was just waste paper blowing down the street, there didn't seem to be any people or any cars, so I mean, you'd never see that in your average English town, so I mean, England's tiny and everyone lives on each others' shoulders; but in Australia, there's so much room, I guess everyone just clears off at 5.30 or whatever, so I was really pleasantly shocked how empty the place could be...

PC: Was it a bit surreal?
AP: It was - it was like a dream. Now, you're in the street, and there's just paper blowing around, and there's no people! And you just see like one person a half a mile away, and then maybe another person, going down that street, and then, it was really odd, it was like being in a dream! But that was kinda pleasant, 'cos as I say, in England, everyone's kinda just completely in each other's pockets, and you can't get away - there's no space in England, literally

PC: I dunno whether you'd find that to be the case, these days, now?
AP: Yeah, maybe not, but that was unusual... and the air was good, too

PC: Yeah! I think we're lucky here, mate
AP: Spoiled, totally spoiled!... so, what happened to Hanson, she didn't get in?

[Explanation: AP's and my conversation took place just after a federal election held in Australia. The "Hanson" Andy refers to is a candidate, Pauline Hanson, who achieved worldwide notoriety for her rather controversial views - she got wider coverage than the main protagonists internationally... I was intrigued that Andy brought the matter up]...

PC: No, she lost her seat (ooh, err!)
AP: Ooh, err, missus! Yeah?

PC: [laughs] There was a complete swing against her in the polls
AP: Well, that's comforting

PC: Yeah, that was comforting, because there was this danger that she would be a dominant figure. But, no, she's, pardon my words, she's fucked!
AP: Yeah, she sounds like Mrs Mussolini from what we can gather over here, y'know?

PC: Yeah, and she's had a lot of coverage... she's a ratbag!
AP: [laughing] There's a phrase I haven't heard for a long time

PC: It's a good phrase that sums her up perfectly
AP: [still chuckling] It's a good phrase, yeah!... Paul, I'm gonna have to run. I don't wanna do this, 'cos we're getting on like a house on fire here, but I'm gonna hafta go!

PC: Oh, it's been brilliant, okay, let's wind this up... Andy, er, it's down to just you and Colin now
AP: It's down to a toupee!... as opposed to a three-pay!

PC: Er, I didn't want to press you about the "open wound" about David leaving?
AP: No, that's still a little bit sore at the moment, so that's "good-onya" for not doin' that!

PC: But now you've got just you and Colin; who's gonna do the keyboards, and the arranging?
AP: Well, to be truthful, the string arrangements on this album were mostly m'self, and two tracks were arranged by a friend of Haydn's, and I did all the other string arrangements, so we're not really a big loss on that front... and on the keyboard front, either Haydn or Nick Davis played the keyboards on most of the record, because... Dave played on a few things before he left, but, so, shoosh, thankfully, we've got a guitar album comin' up next! So I can do that stuff!

PC: Oh, looking forward to both the albums
AP: Okay, well, I'm gonna run away

PC: Let's wind up here properly ! ... I want to thank Andy Partridge for letting us into his world, and being a really groovy interviewee...
AP: A groovy Cat!

PC: Well, thank you very much, emphasise that!
AP: Okay Paul, I'm gonna wing my merry way

PC: Any final words?
AP: Any final words? Be good to yourselves, and always keep the tissues handy

PC: Always keep the tissues... "Andy!"
AP: [admonishing] Paul!!... earthling humour - I practice!... okay Paul, I go!!

PC: Thank you so much Andy!
AP: Alright, cheers, folks, bye!

© 1998 Paul Culnane / The Little Lighthouse

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