Diamonds Outta The Dirt   a rare encounter with Terry Chambers


On Monday 5th October 1998, I [Paul Culnane] had the pleasure of speaking by phone with Terry Chambers, former drummer for XTC. He had kindly consented to an informal chat after I had tracked him down and had enjoyed a couple of earlier conversations with him.

The reader may not be able to tell from just reading the following transcript, but when the conversation commenced, I sensed a slight, shall we say, distance on Terry's part. This was in great contrast to the tone of two or three previous very relaxed and congenial chats we'd had, and it put me off guard. But as Terry was at pains to point out, he really wanted this to be the last intrusion on his and his family's privacy, which perhaps explains his initial reticence. I think that's pretty fair and certainly to be respected - after all, as he remarks during the following interview, his participation in XTC was 16 or so years ago. Indeed, and some of us might find this remarkable, he was surprised that people would be interested in what he had to say after all this time!

But ultimately Terry seemed comfortable enough to share a most interesting conversation, and I feel privileged and humble that he let me (and therefore "we" as fans) into his world for a short time. People who have followed XTC throughout the band's career will know how rare it is to hear from the man who is often regarded affectionately as their powerhouse "engine room" (together with their redoubtable bass-player, Colin Moulding), and arguably (or unarguably, depending on one's stance), the glue that kept them together and grounded in those critical and seminal early years.

It may also be hard for the reader to perceive from plain text, how, as this interview progressed, Terry unbent considerably and allowed his natural lively, jovial, enthusiastic, friendly and very funny old self to emerge for us! He provided some entertaining anecdotes about "the old days", together with some quite revealing observations about his XTC chums, and considerably more. Ultimately, in this, and previous chats I had with him, the conversation was fantastic - just like having a proper yarn with a good mate down the pub. Why, this encounter could well have occurred at one of Terry's old watering holes in his hometown of Swindon! That it happened over a few bevvies (at least on my part) on the final day of the traditional Aussie labour day long weekend in October '98 doesn't diminish the poignancy and the potency of its contents.

To make the transcript flow more easily, I have taken the liberty of editing repetitive remarks, most of the "ums" & "ahs" (mainly mine!) and certain other less relevant statements, but in general the whole chat remains intact. Where deemed necessary, I've added explanatory notes in square brackets [i.e., not part of the original conversation]. I truly hope that readers will enjoy this full transcript of our conversation. If you're a true XTC enthusiast, I'm sure you will, and then some!

The copyright in the following material is owned by the author and is provided exclusively to The Little Lighthouse with the full consent of said author and Terry Chambers. 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 consent, is expressly forbidden, and if you wanna be a ratbag about it, then believe-you-me, I can be too!

Acknowledgments: Many thanks for help, patience and encouragement above and beyond, blah blah blah, go to my good friends and fellow XTC enthusiasts, Mark Strijbos and Dominic VanAbbe. And of course, Terry himself for giving his time so generously to us.

p@ul culnane 1998

The Final Nail In The Coffin

Paul Culnane: G'day Terry
Terry Chambers: How ya goin'?

PC: Good mate, how are you?
TC: Alright

PC: We'll just make this a relaxed thing, sort of... um... have you got half an hour for me?
TC: Yeah mate

PC: ... just feel free to say anything you want to say - it's your chance to say your part of the story...
TC: I dunno if it's relevant now, we're talkin' about something that took place about 16 years ago, so... put it this way, I'm not out to sell anything, so I don't see any point in advertising XTC where I'm gonna get no financial gain out of it... mate, I just wanna put the final nail in the coffin so to speak, and get on with the rest of me life.

PC: Well good on ya mate, best of luck with all that and, er, let's just keep chatting, eh?
TC: Yeah okay mate

PC: ... um, how have you been lately?
TC: Well, I've been pretty well, you know

PC: That's good, and did you enjoy the long weekend?
TC: Ah yeah, I helped some friends of my wife's move... sorta did a bit around the house, that was basically it...

PC: Just pottering around?
TC: Yeah

PC: Terry, have you got any particular special memories from your time with the band that stand out as good moments, either as live concerts or particular favourite albums that you'd like to share with us?
TC: Well, like I say, I think we're going back a fair while now. Nothing that really springs to mind at the moment. I suppose Drums & Wires, Black Sea and English Settlement were the high moments I suppose as far as I was concerned, recording-wise anyway, and I think most of the best touring took place around there... in fact it sorta finished around then anyway

PC: Well yeah - it finished around then and in fact after the famous stage fright incident...
TC: [chuckles]

PC: ... that was more or less it!
TC: Well basically, yeah, that was the end of it as a live entity - dead and buried

PC: And I gather that took the wind out of your sails particularly - correct me if I'm wrong - but, the word is that was your main impetus, being on stage playing live and touring
TC: Well to me, playing in a band and playing live, that's what it's all about, that comes first. It doesn't matter who you are, that comes before... well the majority of bands anyway, they play live before a recording contract. Back then anyway, I dunno, there's a lot of acts these days that are just put together on an image thing, but back in those days so to speak, you had to sorta be a worthwhile working band and a recording contract was basically a dream

PC: You had to prove yourself, cut the mustard so to speak
TC: That's right, you had to prove that you could do it before you were regarded worthwhile to record. I mean I think that goes back, oh jeez, you know...

PC: Well, I think, didn't you cop your Virgin contract around late '77, early '78, something like that?
TC: Yeah we did. It was on the back of live work basically we got that contract

PC: With that in mind, can you recall those days when people were approaching you, you know, A&R people were coming out to the gigs? Was that nerve-wracking, knowing that you were being watched by record executives?
TC: I dunno, we sort of, like... we paddled our own boat in that regard, I mean we knew that in order to get something like a bigger audience... there wasn't that many places to play in Swindon where we were and the type of thing we were doing, we were trying to do... I mean, we were the same as any other band, we had to do a certain amount of covers in order to get work to start with, y'know? And we also wanted to introduce some of our own stuff that we were doing, some of the stuff that never ever made it to records, some of this early stuff that Andy and that were sorta like playing around with - he was even messing around with songs there before he actually joined our band. I suppose he'd nutted these things out to a certain extent... I mean they weren't really good songs but, you know, we just wanted to play our own stuff, and the thing with it is, London being the cosmopolitan city that it is, it just attracts everybody and, you know, they were more open to interest - we came from a country town and unless you played, I dunno, "Blue Suede Shoes" or summat like that, they weren't really interested, y'know?

PC: Very competitive?
TC: Especially from the point of view of agents booking you for a show, unless you played something that people understood, you just didn't get on and that was it

PC: In a way you're sorta bashing your head against a brick wall
TC: That's true. I think as a result of the "revolution", so to speak, of '77, you know with the Sex Pistols and the punk thing... I'm still an advocate that that whole situation gave everything a good kick in the guts which it needed because in the mid-seventies things were just getting stagnant

PC: Stagnant and very bloated some might say?
TC: Yeah it was just too "Creamy", you know what I mean?

PC: Yeah, long jam sessions and self-indulgence...
TC: Cream to the extent that it had turned to yoghurt [laughs]

PC: Ha Ha! That's a nice...
TC: Or cheese...

PC: Well, pretty solid rancid blue vein cheese perhaps
TC: Yeh

PC: You started out, er, you made friends with Colin Moulding the bass player, playing at places like The Stage Bar Tavern in Swindon's Old Town with another guy called Steve Phillips and that was the sort of, I gather, the genesis of the band, and then later on you met Andy
TC: Well, the way that turned out, I was working at the time, fortunately there were jobs - you sorta left school about 15 and just got some sorta bum job - I was working in like a Mitre-10 type of store, they were called Bamberger's, they were sorta like a builders merchants... anyway I scored this job selling paint and wallpaper and what happened was, a chap that came in and saw me, I sorta had long hair and so on and I suppose he sorta assumed that I was like a young yobbo into the music! And he said "what do you do?" and I said, "I sorta like, just, I like drinkin' beer (heh) and, er, playin' drums"... [he said], "well a friend of mine, his son plays guitar and that, and his father runs a pub called the Bollenbrook Arms at Hook", (it's a pub just outside of Swindon)... in fact my brother now runs that pub, I mean it's a long story but we'll get to that at the end I s'pose...

PC: Sure, Dave's bought a pub, eh?
TC: Yeah

PC: Amazing
TC: Yeah, but it goes on: and the funny thing about it was, [the visitor to the store] said "oh he plays guitar" and all this sort o' business and one thing and another, so anyway he [the young guitar player, which may or may not become obvious, reader], came in and said "look, y'know, I play guitar" - I actually met him but I can't remember exactly how it worked out but through this painting and decorating thing, I mean I had no artistic, heh, I couldn't slap any paint and wallpaper meself but anyway we met and I went over to his place, and there was a village hall there, Hook Village Hall... I can't remember exactly how I got over there - I had these drums and I think my brother might've taken me over there in the back of his Mini with the stuff

PC: So you'd be about 19 or 20 around this time?
TC: No, I think it was a bit earlier than that, probably 17 or 18, summat like that I think - I mean, dunno, I'm a bit hazy on that but I think it was pretty early on in the piece... well no it must've been earlier than that because I'd only just left school so it must've been some time between 15 and 16

PC: Oh okay, so you were a bit of a prodigy?
TC: [Laughs unsurely] Well I dunno... well I think the reason we couldn't play in the pubs was that they had restricted hours back then but I think they're open all day now, but I don't think his father was interested... 'cos we couldn't play anyway, I mean we were just messin' around and thrashing and all this sorta stuff so we never really had - it was just somewhere to go out and expend your energy really. And anyway, Steve Phillips had this place all set up and he was actually trying to organise a band as well, you know he had Brian Mills and that - you know, Slim who I think I've already mentioned in a previous phonecall

PC: Oh yeah, Slim, he's over in Holland?
TC: Yeah he is, yeah. I haven't got his address with me at the moment, I was gonna tell you about that to give to that fella over in Holland [Mark Strijbos] 'cos I'm sure, heh, he could do with a friend over there
PC: Oh sure!

TC: Anyway, cut a long story short, Slim didn't really cut the mustard, I mean we must've sorta started getting summat going there and Steve Phillips had met Colin Moulding somewhere along the line, I think out drinking somewhere...

PC: Always the way [laughter]
TC: ... and he said to me, "oh well maybe we'll get this bass player in", and he brought Colin along and then the three of us were working together, you know? And Colin and myself after a period of time, we seemed to have mutual interest in music and, heh, and beer and women and whatever else...

PC: Ha ha, the three essentials if you ask me!
TC: ... and to cut a long story short, he said to me, "look, maybe, you know, I know this fella, this Andy Partridge, he's already playing in another band, maybe we should get involved with him, he seems to have a few ideas and a few contacts and plays around, and maybe we ought to give him a go, so... I can't exactly remember how it happened after that, but Andy Partridge, Colin and myself... Partridge brought along this character called Dave Cartner so basically, that was the band that... we actually got ourselves our first few gigs as a result of that band, so...

Just An Image Thing

PC: By the time the four of you got together you were The Helium Kidz weren't you?
TC: Well, I think we were Star Park before that which was the band that Andy Partridge had originally before. There was a character called - forget his name now - Wilson was his name, he was the drummer, Andy was playing with him and there were a couple of other guys that used to sort of hang out on some sort of electronic devices making all sorts of obscure noises, you know, very prehistoric sort of Brian Eno sorta stuff I s'pose [chuckles]. But anyway, these blokes, they were obviously no-hopers... I mean they're probably bank managers now or running computer software places or summat like that... they may well be making a lot of money out of things now...

PC: Probably making more than you or I maybe mate?
TC: Ha ha, well it wouldn't be hard to guess them making more than me but anyway, [Andy] decided that in a musical directional thing, we were the way to go and at that stage of the game I had me own drum kit, Colin had his own bass and bass guitar set-up, you know, we had our own gear so back in those days if you had your own gear you were going pretty well

PC: Yeah, you were ahead of the game in a way
TC: Yeah, at least if you had your own gear there was a certain amount of commitment already made

The Helium Kidz, Terry in front

PC: Oh, quite so, and er, in those early days - you mentioned earlier Terry, that you were doing cover versions and among the sorts of bands that influenced you and your pals were bands like Free, Jethro Tull, Pink Fairies - a big favourite of yours?
TC: Yeah, very big favourite of mine, yeah

PC: They had two drummers?
TC: Yes, absolutely, astonishing!

PC: I believe that's where you sort of started to develop your style, you know, listening along to John Bonham and the guys from the Pink Fairies
TC: Yeah, The Pink Fairies were basically a college band that used to do the college circuit in England you know, with Hawkwind. Hawkwind probably ended up selling more records - they ended up, you know, Lemmy - Motorhead - Lemmy Kilmeister, he played bass with them for a while, went on to form Motorhead and that, and Paul Rudolph that played guitar with The Pink Fairies, he went on and played bass with Brian Eno and stuff so I mean, some of those people there did actually end up continuing on and some of them are probably similar to meself and just sorta disappeared into the void, you know [chuckles]

PC: Well what made you decide - jumping right ahead to modern days now if I may?
TC: Yeah?

PC: What made you decide to hang up the drumsticks mate?
TC: Well I'm still sort of actually playing a little bit with my son - er, musically that is - hah!

PC: Oh, so you've got the Pink Fairies line-up of two drummers!
TC: Yeah, but we've only got one kit and he tends to sort of muscle me outta that, but y'know, I'm still keen, but it's just the hassles of getting involved with management, agents, going out there... actually, I'm doing it for myself now, rather than going out there and having to please other people

PC: Well, isn't that much more rewarding for you at this stage of the game?
TC: Well it is for me, yeah. My son finds that a little bit frustrating, he wants to go out and show the world how good he really is, you know?

PC: Would you stand behind him if he really wanted to develop a career in music like that?
TC: Yeah, you know, I'm encouraging him because I think that just 'cos possibly I had a bad case of possibly not fulfilling an ambition, that's not to say that he won't -hopefully he can learn from my experience - I don't want to spoil where he can go with this because I think it tends to squash your own enthusiasm, you've really gotta let it run wild, to get the best out of it

PC: Oh sure, and of course, while you were with XTC, and not just you, but the whole band had a history of being shafted by management and labels and what have you
TC: Yeh, see, to begin with, all we wanted to do was just go out there, and to get paid at the end of the day for summat you actually enjoyed doing was just a joke, really! We were just pleased to be there and to think at the end of the day, if half a dozen people clapped you'd think, "oh shit, you know, well, there's half a dozen there, there's four of us on stage, that's ten of us, that's double figures, that's pretty good!"

PC: We're havin' a good time, yep, heh heh!
TC: Yeah! Basically I think that's what motivates people to do these things - if you haven't got that motivation, if you... you know there's too much, as far as I can see these days of just saying musical ability doesn't count for anything. You gotta look right, dress right, it's just an image thing; I mean, that's fuckin' shit!!!

PC: Yeah, you're not interested in that in the slightest
TC: I'm absolutely not interested in that whatsoever! We never had an image as XTC, it was probably our downfall, y'know? Record companies try and mould you, trying to put you into purple pants and everything else, saying it'll come up good on TV, I mean, Christ, we had no idea about that shit!

PC: And it's good that you didn't, because I think that in a way, like if you look at a picture of Duran Duran, say; they've dated, and the music's dated, you know, to use an example...
TC: Yeah, sure...

[and at this point, readers should try to understand that your humble interviewer may have been grasping at straws to find an example, for he retains a reasonable amount of affection for the aforementioned band just slagged... there are far worse!]

PC: ... whereas the five albums you played on, and let's include the first two... but particularly that lot that you did with [the producers] Lillywhite and Padgham, you know, Drums & Wires, Black Sea and English Settlement, they still stand up as timeless albums today, and are highly influential!
TC: Yeah, it's like I was saying to you before about how I think we were a little bit in advance of Seinfeld, y'know just to go off on a tangent; he made a series of, we'll make a movie about nothing, y'know?

PC: Yeah that was his idea
TC: I mean, we tried to make music there out of no image. Everybody had to have an image... The Beatles started all this shit - well they didn't actually start it all, I s'pose there was Elvis, I mean the line goes on and on and on, don't it really?

PC: Exactly
TC: Y'know, you come up with a different image... fortunately for them, financially fortunately for them, they had an image that stuck. Like, they all mellowed after a while and got into what they really wanted to do, let's face it, look at, say, John Lennon's image at the end, compared with where he was in the beginning there with winkle-picker boots, the ol' collarless jackets and all this sorta stuff, all four of 'em dressed the same, and then the next thing you know they're smoking dope and he's wearing his funny little round glasses and kaftans and all this gear, you know what I mean?

PC: And that was only in the space of two or three years when you think about it
TC: Well yeah that's right, the whole thing sorta wound up in about '69 so, didn't last that long, did it? It was only about seven years wasn't it?

PC: Yep, a very short period for a band
TC: We lasted five, that wasn't too bad [telling chuckle]

PC: Yeah, and of course, not that you're with 'em any more, but XTC are going to be entering their 21st year next year
TC: Whoa, so you're... I mean it's only people like you who keep this thing going [chuckle]

PC: Yeah, well, there's a lot of interest from the fans, Terry! That's the strong thing
TC: [Jovially] Well we wouldn't be holding this conversation if it wasn't for people like you because as far as I was concerned, this whole thing was finished, like I said to you before, it was just bizarre that we should even be worried about talking about it, y'know?

PC: Well yeah, you expressed that when I first rang you a couple of months back and...
TC: Now that I'm a multi-millionaire that is, I mean why should I be bothered, you know?...

PC: Yeah!
TC: ... hah hah!!!

PC: But, you know, on that score, I appreciate the time you've given me, and, um, I know that my fellow fans out there will find it very interesting to hear from you, and would join with me in wishing you the best... but we're not over yet - we've got about fifteen minutes - whaddaya reckon mate?
TC: Yeah yeah, I'm up for it now, yeah

Between Genius And Arsehole

PC: Um, er, changing tack... oh, you mentioned something earlier about your intentions - you and your pals - in the band... there's this great quote from your old nemesis, Partridge... uh, there's a video compilation of all the clips that you made in those early days, and he starts off by saying: "well, our main ambition was to be rich and famous, and have lots of beer in the dressing room... well, we've had the beer in the dressing room"...
TC: Yeah, heh heh

PC: ... then it goes straight into a song, y'know?
TC: [chuckling] Yeah...

PC: So, that about sums up the topsy-turvy career of XTC, really, over the years...
TC: Yeah, well I think Colin Moulding and m'self drank most of the beer though!

PC: Oh really?!!
TC: Oh hang on, in all fairness though, Barry Andrews had his share I think! ... Andrews was pretty good on the tooth, ha ha ha!

PC: Oh well, what a motley foursome you were
TC: Yeah

PC: Yeah, oh, I was gonna say, I don't expect you to remember this because, er, you know, big whirlwind of touring and, quite a few years ago, but I actually met you backstage at a show in Canberra [the author's hometown] that you did in 1979 and, I was trying to wangle...
TC: I wasn't even born then...

PC: Pardon?
TC: I wasn't even born then!

PC: Oh, come on!... '79??!!
TC: Alright, keep going...

PC: Ah, you were a young buck mate. But I came up to you and you said "what's that?" (I had a cassette machine with me) - I said, "oh, I just wanna grab a quick interview", and you said, words to the effect of, "sod that for a lark, suck more piss"!!!... or something like that
TC: Yeah, well...

PC: And you threw a can of VB at me [VB = Aussie Victoria Bitter beer]... and then it degenerated into a conversation about kangaroos, girls, and, er, Australian sunshine I think
TC: The mind boggles - kangaroos and beer? Ah, listen, that's probably why there's so many road accidents over here, the kangaroos are drinkin' so much beer...

PC: [chuckles with glee]
TC: ... they dunno when the cars are comin'... No, but I remember that because at the time - was that the first time we were out here?

PC: Yeah, you did two tours out here, yep, that was, er, the Drums & Wires tour
TC: I think I spoke to you before, that was the time that we heard the news in Canberra that John Bonham had died actually

PC: Yeah! Wasn't it the night after or something like that?
TC: He always wanted to play with XTC as I understand it, but...

PC: [foolishly incredulous] Is that so?!
TC: Hah ha!!

PC: Where did you get that from...[then realising] You're just trying to have a lark here...
TC: Oh no, I'm, er, dreamin' mate! [laughing]... er, no, that was just a tragic time and, er, I was just stunned for days, you know, just couldn't believe that an idol like that could ever die!

PC: That's right, invincible, a bit like Moonie
TC: And like, Led Zeppelin have never been the same since, you know, it's um...

PC: You can't recreate that kinda chemistry...
TC: Yeah, yeah, you know it's like the Who, they tried to replace Keith Moon, you know it's like, um, I mean I dunno why we're talking about drummers, I suppose it's because I was one once, but, they've done tours since - The Who have done tours since, and Page and Plant have done tours - you know, try to bolster their stage show with, well, not just *a drummer* but they've had to add so many other people to it just to make the thing work and...

PC: To make as much noise...
TC: ... never really worked. I think Kenney Jones played drums for The Who; despite the fact that Entwhistle and Daltrey and Townshend were playin', you know it just never worked did it really? They made some records and that but...

PC: Well did you see "Live Aid", remember back in 1985, with everybody, um...
TC: Nah, I saw The Who back when Moon was playing with them

PC: Did you?!!
TC: Yeah, I saw them at Oxford Theatre, yeah

PC: You lucky sod - how explosive would that have been?
TC: Well it was sensational - things like that sort of inspired me to be a - huh! - a beater of the meat so to speak

PC: Well, mate, I reckon you rose to that on many occasions!
TC: Well, y'know it's inspirational characters - Keith Moon, Bonham, Simon Kirke...

PC: [again interrupting foolishly] ... who also played with The Who incidentally...
TC: Huh?

PC: Who's also played with The Who in later days incidentally
TC: Simon Kirke??!

PC: Arrgh, sorry, Simon Phillips I was thinkin' of
TC: [kindly] ... ah, Simon Phillips, yeah...

PC: [desperately trying to redeem himself]... Simon Kirke [drummer for Free, and later, Bad Company - very fine drummer], a great tub-thumper!
TC: Oh, yeah! Inspirational!

PC: A great feel, he had [true, but PC just sounds like a right wanker now!]...
TC: Bill Bruford...

PC: A bit more technical there, more of a "technician"
TC: Yeah but people sort of aspire to be that good, I mean, just sensational, y'know!!

PC: Well, in the light of that, y'know, and we won't draw too much on your drumming, but we're having a nice chat, but mate, er, to reach your aspirations, as turning in a good performance - whether it be on stage or in the studio - things have come up [for discussion] - things like Travels In Nihilon...
TC: Yeah...

PC: Or ah... Optimism's Flames?
TC: Yeh?

PC: And Andy has sorta been quoted as saying that you have a unique style, where you used "punctuation marks" - you used a kind of a...
TC: [as though he's heard this before] - yeah...

PC: ... he was saying, er, "his drumming would be like a long stream of normality, and then you'd get a whole bunch of exclamation marks, almost like someone whacking the punctuation parts of a typewriter needlessly at the end of a sentence"...
TC: Heh...

PC: I think he was saying that affectionately mate????
TC: Andy... he's a man of words, ha ha!

PC: He loves to play with his words
TC: Yeah... you know, very clever, and er, Dave Gregory thinks he's a genius, but as I've said to you before, I think that word's brandished a little too often these days. Yeah, extrovert, I mean, Andy Partridge is a lotta things; there's no doubt about that! Put it this way, Andy Partridge is somewhere between genius and arsehole, right?

PC: Oh, okay! Where would you put him on the scale?
TC: Oh, I dunno, I think, towards the genius side, y'know [said with an evident, but not entirely quantifiable form of - affection!]

PC: Oh, okay [slightly gobsmacked by this revelation]
TC: Look, he'd agree with what I'm saying there - he's an arsehole sometimes but he is a genius other times, but, um, you can't term people as being that all the time, you know?

PC: You spent a lot of your youthful years with him, Colin, Dave, Barry and so on, er, are you in touch with the fellas these days to any extent?
TC: Oh, I spoke to Dave Gregory recently, I s'pose within the last month; I'm not in contact with Andy at the moment but we do exchange Christmas cards, erm, that's about the size of it really
PC: And when you were back in Swindon about '91 or thereabouts, to I believe tidy up your move back to Australia with your wife...
TC: Wait a minute?

PC: You dropped into the recording... back in about '91 I understand you, er...
TC: No, I was already over here [Australia] by then, I went back to see my parents

PC: Ah is that what it was, beg your pardon!
TC: Yeah, '91, that was in '91, it was 6 or 7 years ago I s'pose, and principally my parents are getting a little bit aged

PC: Ah, don't they all?
TC: Well yeah, I mean my father will be 86 in November and in fact my mother is 80 next month! So um... not actually next month, I think it's next week, thinkin' about it, yes it's October now!

PC: Well you better pull your finger out and give her a call or somethin' mate!
TC: Yeah, well once we've finished with this we'll probably have to (laughs)... but, yeah, so I went over to see them, there was the old house there, and it was probably the right thing to do having been over here for nearly ten years

PC: 'Cos you're pretty settled over here now
TC: Well, reasonably settled, yeah

Baggy Pants And Goatee Beards

PC: Terry, obviously our readers will be aware that we've had some phone conversations before this one, and they've been just as informal...
TC: Sure, yeah

PC: ... you did say to me that Marc Hunter, the lead singer of Dragon, had just passed away, and that's another part of your resume if you like; you were invited to join Dragon for a period of time and I gather you told me that the time you were with them, I think your words were "it wasn't a pleasant experience". Do you want to expand on that for us?
TC: Ah, well...

PC: Without getting libellous or anything!
TC: I dunno, I think I sort of plugged a gap, basically

PC: For them?
TC: For them yeah, I mean I think they were obligated to do this tour, things didn't work out with the drummer that they originally had

PC: Well they lost a couple of drummers to deaths and stuff... lifestyle...
TC: Yeah, it's a sad set of circumstances really, and it was a little bit different for me, there was a lot of four-on-the-floor sorta stuff and there wasn't a lot of scope for me to actually do what I felt needed to be done, y'know? On occasions there were times where it was sorta like "ah, you're playing this too fast"... What I was trying to do was sort of bring some of these songs up into the 80s, that needed a little bit of live kick - as a result of them being written in the 70s, you know? I mean if you're gonna go out and tour ten years later... stuff like April Sun In Cuba, Are you Old Enough and that, maybe they just needed injecting with something other than... heh, maybe they needed a bit of energy so to speak...

PC: Yeah, exactly!
TC: ... and kept up to date! Otherwise you may as well just be goin' around playing the RSLs, you know? [RSL = Aussie servicemen's clubs]

PC: Well did you get the feeling that your ideas and contributions were being valued enough?
TC: Nah, mate, not at all... look, it was like this with them, basically, "we had a number one single back in 1974, look, how can you improve on that?" You know what I mean? So, "this is the way it is, that's it! That's the way that people love it"... There was only one way to play it

PC: Oh well, no, I would've thought that if they're gonna ask a new drummer in, particularly someone with... you had a good recommendation, a good calling card, and also XTC was a band that, er...
TC: But the two bands were incompatible really. I shouldn't have been playing in that band. I mean I got them out of the shit and it got me out of the shit inasmuch as we fulfilled their commitments on the tour...

PC: ... the Body and the Beat tour...
TC: ... I got a couple of dollars out of it, playing, that was it. It was basically, "righto, you finished the gig, now go to your room" [laughs]. Know what I mean?

PC: So, not much camaraderie either?... Like, were you an outsider in a way?
TC: Not as much as it used to be, I mean, I can't say too much because, you know, I went down to Marc's funeral, and Todd [Marc's brother, Dragon co-founder] was there and that, and it's a sad set of circumstances and I'm sure, you know, that was the way it was, I was only in there for... it was just a ship that passed through the night really

PC: Oh sure mate, and I'd be the last one to want you to say any sort of untoward statements, even if you've got ideas that way, but your career as a musician, as far as we fans know, your heyday was XTC if you'll allow me to say that, and then there was Dragon which had a great following in Australia and New Zealand and so on... but, you know, that was it, then?
TC: Yeah...

PC: But you're still a young man!
TC: [laughs]

PC: Well you were when you left [Dragon], but, er, I'd like to think ('cos you're about the same age as me), I like to think that we're still young men! But you know, you don't wanna go prancing about the stage in lycra tights in one's forties, do you?
TC: [laughs]... I dunno, I was thinkin' of getting a band together to do just that!

PC: You reckon?!!
TC: Well let's face it, it can't be any worse than some of the shit you see on the TV at the moment!

PC: Oh my goodness yeah!
TC: You know, they're all prancing around in baggy pants and long jackets and all this sorta thing, dancing in sync, you know. I think Freddie Mercury in his tights, I think it's the time for it to come back!

PC: Alright, well we'll take that as a prediction for the next phase of rock music's...
TC: What goes around comes around, you know that. I think I've seen the circle go round twice. They're back into long hair and bloody goatee beards for chrissake!

PC: Yeah, what a surprise!
TC: Yeah

PC: We gave that away yonks ago
TC: That's why I don't go out at night, I'm afraid somebody's gonna pick up on my image and say "hey, maybe this is the next thing"

PC: Well what is your image at the moment?
TC: I'm not gonna tell you what I'm wearin' at the moment! [hearty laughter]

PC: You're gonna keep that under wraps?
TC: Absolutely

PC: You're a short-haired man these days, mate?
TC: Yeah

PC: And, er, keepin' trim and fit?
TC: Well I dunno about trim or fit... ahh... reasonably I suppose, for a person of my age. You know I don't have to go to the blood bank every week these days, just once a month

PC: [uncontrolled laughter]
TC: That's not to give, mind! [laughs]

PC: Oh yeah, to take, to get a withdrawal...
TC: [chuckling] Absolutely

Terry, Andy, Dave and Colin anno 1979

PC: I reckon if I went to the Red Cross, I'd cause a recipient of my blood to become an immediate alcoholic!
TC: Ha ha! Mate, I can't go, I've had glandular fever so I can't give, so I'm just a taker now

PC: Oh well fair enough. Are you alright there, have you gotten over that?
TC: Oh yeah, that was when I was about fourteen. But once it's in your system, you know you just sorta carry the virus. I've had shingles and all this sort of stuff since I've been over here too, so... I'm a real bad case!

PC: Oh well, as long as you're still standing, to quote Elton John
TC: [laughs] Yeah I'm still standin'. I'm doin' the right thing, I'm just keepin' it to meself, y'know?

PC: Way to go... Er, you were talking about current bands and artists and image and synchronised dancing and all that sorta wank, but then again, you've got a delightful family of three...
TC: You said that, you used the term "delightful"...

PC: Oh okay, allow me to...
TC: Yeah, you keep goin', go on...

PC: [laughs] Um, you've got an elder son, 16, Kai, who's a drummer, you've got [daughter] Cori on guitar...
TC: H-hmm

PC: ... and I guess your little daughter, Abbi is on backing vocals!
TC: No, actually, today she was over at the brother's place [brother of wife Donna] and she was playing some sorta pennywhistle thing [chuckles], and we were trying to encourage her to whistle the old Dixie song, y'know, [launches into impromptu whistling version of Yankee Doodle Dandy - much laughter]

PC: Oh, that's great!...
TC: [laughing]

PC: ... well, what sorta music do they dig? Y'know, like, does Kai sort of say, hey Dad, I'm enjoying, you know, Rancid or Pearl Jam or something?
TC: Well, you know, I'm trying to influence him on his drumming obviously, getting him listening to some of that good old stuff from the 70s, but he's got his selection of CDs of current music, current bands and all that, that he listens to with his friends and all that, y'know?

PC: Does anything turn you on that you've heard of recent times? Either through your son or just listening to the radio or whatever?
TC: We heard this Bee Gees song the other day, and... er... are you still there?

PC: Yeah...
TC: Hah! That was a joke!

PC: I know mate, you're killing me with your jokes!
TC: Er, yeah, I'm sorry...

PC: That's alright, I'm enjoying it
TC: I'm on fire here tonight... but, er, he's listening to his stuff, I couldn't give you a list of them, I mean, whatever's goin' around, y'know?

PC: But you still keep up with your listening... do you collect anything, or are you happy with your collection of stuff from your favourites?
TC: When I get the chance I go fossicking through second hand stores - most of the stuff that I'm interested in collecting is still only available on vinyl and will never ever reach CD, unfortunately...

PC: Yeah, that's one of the drawbacks...
TC: ... I'm still sorta scratchin' around for "that", and, you know, a lot of stuff that I used to have over in England, now and again you pick a diamond outta the dirt, so to speak, over here, as regards vinyl, but it's very hard to come by on CD - a lotta the stuff you'll never get

PC: Yeah, I s'pose it's only what's considered marketable - it's back to the old executives with ponytails and pinstripe suits!
TC: Yeh, it's a shit business mate!

Flogging Your Arse

PC: For the aspirant to be a musician and just enjoy playing, but then to make a career, you've gotta go through that whole gamut of dealing with guys in suits, and lawyers and the whole package
TC: As I see it, the unfortunate thing about it in this country is, you don't even have Countdown or Sounds [seminal Oz rock video TV shows] anymore, at least Molly Meldrum and, er, what was the other character's name?...

PC: Donnie Sutherland
TC: Yeah, at least they had a human element to it and at least there'd be a little bit of life, even if it was mimed, stuff goin' on there for an hour on a Sunday or summat like that... now you've just got stuff goin' all night long and it's just a repetitive thing really, I mean, how's that gonna inspire somebody to get up?... I mean it's killing the whole thing, it's just got a stranglehold... the music business is just strangling itself! Like, what it's trying to do as far as I can see, it's trying to make a quick killing, if it doesn't work, dispense with them and we'll bring another one on, you know what I mean? Out with the one we have in the platform heels, now we'll have the one in the ponytail and the frizzy hair... we'll have lemon jackets... now lemon's out, we'll put some blue on next week, what's the colour of the week, you know, how do they come up with it?... I mean, A&R people, back when we were playing, their lives depended on going out there night after night, searching for talent...

PC: Yeah, underline that word "talent"...
TC: ... and now, they may as well go to a modelling agency and find somebody that looks alright, "hey, he's got the look", you know, is he the look of '98 or '99 or whatever it is? Grab hold of him, and we can mould ya. I mean, do you wanna be manipulated like that? No self... er... er...

PC: Self-respecting?
TC: ... no musician!... would do that, you know?

PC: I think there's still a pocket of resistance there though, there's still people who resist all that kinda record company machinations...
TC: Yes!

PC: ... and we're still getting good music through despite all that image based stuff, and if we can hang onto that and encourage those people...
TC: But the only way that's gonna happen mate, is if clubs in town kinda open their doors and encourage local talent. I mean, we've got a band in this town here at the moment called silverchair [lower case, 'cos that's how the band likes it], ... what's happened with them is, they made an album, it was like a bunch of sixteen year old kids who said, hey "yeah, this is good", you know? And they're even being manipulated now! Now they've disappeared off the face of the earth. If in 1978 or '79, we disappeared off the face of the earth for eighteen months like they did, somebody else would have taken our place and we'd have been history. What's happening is, they're being controlled by somebody, god only knows who, but what's happening is, they're saying we'll wait till the market's right, we'll go to America and all that, well, I mean, it may all work out okay for them, but don't you think that those people, they're actually genuine entertainers, they should be out there entertaining... I'm not saying they should be out there flogging their arses off like, say, Jimmy Barnes or Cold Chisel or anything like that [popular, hard-working Aussie rock "icons"], or The Angels... I mean Cold Chisel's probably a bad example, say the Angels, y'know?

PC: Who just slog year in, year out...
TC: Yeah, you know, you've gotta carve a living out of it but you're not gonna get people's respect for... y'know, there's a fine line between floggin' your arse all around town, and findin' "ah shit, not them again!" And you're absolutely denying everybody, because what's gonna happen, somebody else like Savage Garden or somebody else is gonna come up under your guard and say "hey, yeah, we're gonna give the people what they want". You're in a supply and demand situation, you know? You owe it to them not to disappear. I mean, let's face it, Pink Floyd can afford to do that, they can come out and do another album, say this year, and they can say, well, this is the first album Pink Floyd have done for ten years, you know it's gonna sell. Fleetwood Mac can do that. The Rolling Stones, mate, are probably the apex of all bands really because they're still making albums, they're still touring around...

PC: Still makin' a motza!
TC: You know? I mean they're still... they obviously, I mean Christ! They must love what they're doin'! You know it's no good goin', er, "we'll go back when so-and-so's not playin'", I mean it's this marketing thing, I mean for chrissake, if silverchair don't watch what they're doin', they're gonna, like, disappear, as a result of inactivity, really!

PC: Sure, and this is before they hit 20!
TC: It's no good saying, hey, we're gonna play six gigs in Australia now. I mean they wouldn't have played any more gigs in Australia than I have, and I only toured here twice from a foreign country!

PC: Exactly
TC: And that's - I wouldn't say that's actually playing to the people that are, y'know, putting the butter on your bread... I think you owe people, and that's only my belief, and I'm not even in the music business anymore and that's probably why! But, to me, I think there's certain sorts of principles that you still should live by... give the people what they want, without saturation, y'know, 'cos people can get pissed off too, there's no doubt about that!

PC: Like The Spice Girls perhaps... a bit of saturation there?... But we're not here to knock anybody...
TC: No mate! I'm not here to knock anybody, I mean, look, I wish 'em all the best, you know. It's just like, all the management and the strategy... everybody's different, I mean, obviously I wasn't in control of my own destiny otherwise I wouldn't be in the situation I'm in at the moment! I mean I hope for them that things are alright but it just seems to me that just given these little tasters every now and again's not enough. silverchair have left school now, they're professional people... y'know, you gotta live and die by the sword now mate, you're out there!

PC: Live and die by the sword mate, it's a battle!... Terry, we might wind up...
TC: Um-hmm...

PC: I think we've got enough, um, thoroughly enjoyed talking with you. I very much appreciate all the time you've given me on behalf of my friends who are big fans, and, er, be assured from me mate, trust me on this, we'll leave you alone...
TC: Alright old mate, yeah

PC: ... but my mate in Holland [Mark Strijbos] has just posted off a present for you, I don't wanna give too much away, maybe a CD and a book... He's probably the number one XTC fan in the world!
TC: Yeah?

PC: ... but if I hint by saying the Paradiso in Amsterdam?
TC: Oh, yeah, I remember it well!

PC: Do you remember that show?
TC: The Para? Well we played there several times, yeah! We played there with the Talking Heads, we played there on our own as well, so I remember the Paradiso, yeah, sure!

PC: Oh mate, then wait till you get this recording, its brilliant!
TC: Well I dunno who recorded that but I'd have to give credit to Steve Warren [XTC's live sound engineer] over that... is it basically off a cassette or was it recorded, er...

Poster for the March 1982 Paradiso concert

PC: Yeah it's off an FM broadcast! So it's all stereo and everything, with all the effects...
TC: Oh yeah?

PC: Like, you do an eight-minute version of All Along The Watchtower
TC: That must've bored the shit out of them!

PC: No, it's very concise!
TC: Huh!

PC: Believe-you-me, once you get your hands on it, I recommend, put on the headphones and just bliss out, because it is so good! And the band... it's English Settlement time, there's a couple of songs from that...
TC: It was unfortunate really, 'cos the English Settlement tour was probably shaping up to be the best... you know, 'cos we had such a good catalogue of songs at that time, there was just sorta like an hour and a half of good songs, you know, which got rid of some of the crap... there was a bit more quality comin' through, y'know? And there was gonna be a full-on hour and a half of... every song was gonna be a good song, y'know! It was just getting better and better and it's unfortunate that it ended the way it did, but that's the way it goes, I s'pose

PC: Yeah, that's history, and I agree with you; it's tangible, when you listen to that show at the Paradiso, I think it's about March '82, and the band is absolutely cooking with gas! A little souvenir for you, 'cos you're rocking, you really are, not to take away from the performance of the other guys, but it's a pleasure to listen to, and I haven't had it outta my CD player ever since I got it
TC: Alright! [Chuckle]... anyway, I'm goin' for a piss!...

PC: Okay mate, I'll wind up now
TC: Alright buddy

PC: [gushing] I'll thank you, thank you, Terry Chambers!!!!! All the best for the future...
TC: Alright mate, take it easy!

© 1998 Paul Culnane / The Little Lighthouse

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