120 Minutes with Andy

14 June 1992
120 Minutes

[Here's the 14 June 1992 120 Minutes as I hear it. --Greg O'Rear]

[Portions of this interview were also broadcast on MTV Australia on 19 September 1992 — Ed.]

DK = Dave Kendall, dim host. AP = Andy Partridge, humorous and arrogant guest.

DK: I'm Dave Kendall and we are spending the next 120 minutes on MTV in the company of Mr. Andy Partridge from XTC. Andy, what's the most outrageous thing you've ever done in a park?

AP: (laughs) Cut! (laughs)

DK: Oh, come now!

AP: I understand this is a family show. Um... (laughs)

DK: Well, you said you'd been asked the same questions in the past three months; I'm trying to throw something different at you.

AP: The strangest thing I've done in, uh, I may be doing it in a moment, actually. I've a large drum of Agent Orange, and a kind of a pump-action spray thing here, and see if we can defoliate some more of your beautiful greenery. Uh, actually, I think we're on top of a roof of a building, so all that wind.... Uh, what can I tell you? What have I done in a park that's printable, showable on television? I need time to kind of self-censor this.

DK: Then perhaps we should leave it to the viewers' imagination...

AP: Their wicked imaginations.

DK: ...while we take a look at the brand new video from Material Issue. This is "What Girls Want". Lots more comin' up with XTC.

[Video: Material Issue, "What Girls Want"]
[Video: The Sundays, "Here's Where The Story Ends"]

DK: The Sundays with "Here's Where The Story Ends". The story will begin again for The Sundays on September 1st; that's when they release their new album. Stick around on MTV's 120 Minutes for videos from L7, The Breeders, Wire Train and lots more. We're here with Andy Partridge from XTC, and we're gonna....

AP: With this fine old New York china, here, look at this (a plastic cup).

DK: The very finest.

AP: Sectioned through narwhal tusk, I think, with this lovely wine straight out of the tap.

DK: Now, being in Central Park like this reminds me of the set for one of your most famous videos which was "Dear God." First, can you tell us--this originally was not intended to be one of your biggest-ever hits, right?

AP: No, it was hidden away on a B-side 'cause I thought the song wasn't good enough. Arf! Arf! And you bought it! (laughs) No, it's such a massive subject: how the hell do you kind of cut it down to three and a half minutes? Human belief is worthy of at least a boxed set, I thought, and I thought we did the song "Yaah, I failed," so we stuck it away on a B-side and, you know.... Anything about God and stuff like that is bound to upset Americans, so I guess you lot got upset about it.

DK: And then it resurfaced on the second pressing of the Skylarking album, right?

AP: That's right. The record company, because it was making a bit of a noise, you know, said "If you don't have it on your album, take the album back to the shop and you can swap it for one with it on" but I think a lot of people, actually, just went and bought another, you know, they have two copies of the record. Stereo! We once played a gig, actually, in some club in the west of England where they claimed they had this stereo disco, and they had--this is totally true--they had all these Teddy Boys, these aging rockers, they had two albums exactly the same, and they were putting them on, and they had a mic by one little Dancette (?) and a mic by the other little Dancette, and they were coming slightly out of synch, you know, at the dance hall. Great! That's what--that's true living stereo.

DK: True XTC stories you'll only hear on MTV's 120 Minutes. Here's the XTC video for "Dear God."

AP: No!

[Video: XTC, "Dear God"]
[Video: Cocteau Twins, "Heaven Or Las Vegas"]
[Commercial break]
[Video snippet: XTC, "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead"]

DK: Videos from L7, Ian McCulloch, and a brand new one from The Cure in the imminent "to be" here on MTV's 120 minutes. Andy Partridge of XTC: you've been around actually since before The Cure, '73 you first started playing?

AP: Absolutely! Can you hear me over these kids being dismembered down here? (looking down at the kids) Can you turn that chainsaw down to a mild...? (laughs) Uh, where was I? We were discussing lard or something, were we?

DK: We were, and right before that we were discussing The Helium Kids.

AP: (adopts cringing Robert Smith voice) Oh, The Cure! Great! I'm saving up to have my lips cut off! Just like Robert! Oh lovely! Oh crikey! (adopts Andy Partridge voice) Uh, yeah, no, we've been going since, uh, '73, 1873, actually. Yeah, we were The Helium Kids before THIS, but, you know, please forgive us, we'll be good.

DK: What do you think of some of your early compatriots such as The Cure who, and how do you think they've evolved, and do you see any kind of pattern between the way they've turned out and you guys?

AP: Difficult to say, because I don't like pop music. I don't listen to it, and the only pop music I listen to is the stuff that we make while we're listening--while we're making it. I don't even listen to it while we've made it, you know, so you get rid of the feces and it goes. It's for other people to mess around with your turds later.

DK: What is your music of choice, then, in a jazz or classical vein?

AP: Actually, all the last year, to be totally honest, and I don't understand why, and I don't understand anything about it, but all I've bought is what you'd call "Early Music"; you know, like late Mediaeval, early Renaissance kind of stuff, and I don't know who composes...(adopts Southern accent) composes this shit (bleeped). (Andy accent) I don't know who composes, who sings, who'd make records of it now, for what reason, and I don't understand, but I go in the record shop, "Hey! Early Music, (adopts thick accent) yeah, that's for me!" So, it fills me with air, it's great.

DK: Well, okay, here's a new video that might or might not fill Andy with air, it's...

AP: Methane! It'll fill you with methane!

DK: This is The Breeders with "Safari."

[Video: The Breeders, "Safari"]
[Video: L7, "Pretend We're Dead"]
[Video: Ian McCulloch, "Lover Lover Lover"]

DK: "Lover Lover Lover" from Ian McCulloch, shot in Spain where Depeche Mode shot "Personal Jesus," and where they used to shoot a lot of spaghetti westerns. okay, interview with Andy Partridge of XTC becomes stream of consciousness. Spaghetti!

AP: (Some gibberish in backwards-masking voice) Oh, hell, I've gone backwards. Hang on. (More backwards stuff)

DK: Comin' up on MTV's 120 minutes, a video from XTC, the latest, "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" and...

AP: ...the flicker book of the novel of the ironing board cover.

DK: Exactly! And the brand new one from The Cure. Stick around.

[Commercial break]
[Video snippet: XTC, "The Mayor Of Simpleton"]

DK: On the 120 Minute horizon videos from The Levellers, Juliana Hatfield, and a brand new one from The Cure. Andy Partridge of XTC is my co-host on 120 Minutes.

AP: Sun! I'm not used to all this sun nonsense. I'm a kind of fog worshipper. I like to lay out it the hail, bask in sleet and stuff.

DK: Which is why you decided to be born in England, I take it.

AP: I'm totally (adopts fuddy-duddy accent) British to the core. (Andy voice) I'm sweating so much if I had a soap-on-a-rope I'd really be clean by the end of this interview (makes singing-in-the-shower noises).

DK: It's been ten years, Andy, since XTC have been on tour....

AP: (adopts mock-hurt voice) And you never wrote! Ah, you bitch!

DK: I'm sorry! (laughs) A lot of people are wondering: are you ever gonna go out on tour? I mean, what do we have to do to persuade you?

AP: The weird thing is I'd like to flip that around and say, "Why the hell do you need us on tour?" What's the big thing where you HAVE to be part of that kind of stupid circus thing? Why do you have to... I mean, what do I do with my carcass that's brilliant that anyone would want to see? You can go into a record shop and buy a slice of my soul. Why do you want to see my pork wobbling around in front of you?

DK: Because it's more intense, the whole atmosphere of your band, yourself, and your record coming together, enjoying the experience with other people.

AP: Oh, come on! You're up on stage masturbating, the audience is down there masturbating. There's no LOVE to be had; it's just a circus. Sorry. What I do that's real and what I do that's good is write songs and make records. But live? Forget it.

DK: So that's a definite "no."

AP: It's a definite "maybe no" as they say in record companies everywhere.

DK: Well, thanks for teasing us. Here's a brand new video from Wiretrain. This is "Stone Me".

[Video: Wiretrain, "Stone Me"]
[Video: Juliana Hatfield, "Everybody Loves Me But You"]

DK: "Everybody Loves Me But You" from Juliana Hatfield, during the watching of which I asked Mr. Andy Partridge of XTC to remove his plastic cup so as not to interfere with this idyllic nature scene, and Andy came up with a very good point:

AP: Environmentally crap. Do you realize that this cup is gonna be here for a million years longer than any of the stuff you can see around you? That's a little scary.

DK: What did you think of the recent Earth Summit in Rio? Do you think it's the kind of thing we need to do more of?

AP: Oh, sure, you have your leg cut off and you put a Band-Aid on it. Really useful! I mean, what a cosmetic... what a waste of time! It seemed kind of obvious like the big problems nobody wants to address. Cars are messing the world up. You know, 80-90% of the world's filth comes from cars, and nobody wants to do anything about it, 'cause everyone owns a car, and "Oh, I'm not gonna say anything 'cause I've got a car, you know, I'm not gonna..." People have to look at themselves. They're the problem. It's not him next door that's the problem. They're the problem, I'm the problem, you're the problem. It's...has to be...you know, you have to look in the mirror.

DK: Well spoken. Comin' up on MTV's 120 Minutes the latest video from XTC, "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead", and a brand new one from The Cure. Stick around.

[Commercial break]
[Video snippet: XTC, "Grass"]

DK: Welcome back to MTV's 120 Minutes. We are just five minutes away from a brand new version of The Cure's "Friday I'm In Love."

AP: (mocking tone) Boy, are we excited about that!

DK: Sunday, we're in the park and Andy Partridge of XTC is actually gonna take us to one of his favorite toy stores here in Manhattan.

AP: Yes. Oh, what a tease. You come all this way... I'm absolutely, I'm fresh out of money, and they take me to this kind of filth-porn-sex palace of old toys. So, it's a real tease. It's gonna put a little wet spot on my trousers when we go in there.

DK: Send your donations, please, to.... Before we get to that, we're gonna take a look at the XTC video "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead"...

AP: ...a little thing we knocked up, we chiseled earlier...

DK: ...and Andy, did you originally decide "okay, I'm gonna write a song about a mythical Jesus-JFK-type figure", or were you staring at this Jack-O-Lantern...?

AP: Jesus Jones figure. (laughs) You can tell what HE (Dave) does for a living!

DK: Freudian slip!

AP: Your Freudian slip's showing! No, I didn't. I felt sorry for this Jack-Of-Lantern I carved for the kids, and I couldn't bear to put him in the bin, so I stuck him on a post in the garden so I could see him every day. He looked really, really great, you know. Nicer than most people I know. Then, the poor thing started decomposing, you know, getting all this grey ooze out of his mouth, and his eyes were getting all green and furry, and I thought (silly voice) "I'll immortalize him." So I started to write a song about a perfect thing with a pumpkin head, and if you're perfect, you tell the truth, and if you tell the truth, you have power, and he got so much power the government had him bumped off. So, that's a lesson not to tell the truth.

DK: Here's the video: XTC with "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead."

[Video: XTC, "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead"]

DK: "The Ballad Of Peter Pumpkinhead" from XTC. Andy Partridge, did you see the movie "JFK" before you wrote that song?

AP: No, your honor, I did not see the movie. I still haven't seen it. I didn't even particularly know it was in existence when I started the thing, and everyone says, "Ah! That's JFK!", and, no, so I must see it. But he's only one interpretation. All sorts of people have said, "Oh, Peter Pumpkinhead, it's Jesus Christ, it's JFK, it's John Lennon, isn't it? It's Joan of Arc, isn't it, Andy? Oh, we know it's about the Pope, 'cause the pumpkin head is the headwear (?), right?" You're allowed to read whatever martyr you can read into it, so it's an all-martyr, it's a tall martyr song.

DK: Did you have much input into the shooting of the video? Were they some of your ideas?

AP: Yeah, it was literally the only video that we've done to date where we were actually taken into consideration. This seems to be a big thing -- I've got my serious head on now -- it seems to be a big thing in OUR history, certainly--I'm sure in a lot of other bands' history -- where, if they want input in video, they find that they've ended up funding some filmmaker's concept of maybe is not anything to do with what THEY wanted. It's a strange industry. You think you're being listened to, then the door shuts down, and you find you're just funding this person's step up to making a feature film or something. But I'm not too crazy on videos in the first place, so if you really want to enjoy MTV, you reach over to your contrast control, turn it right down so the screen goes black, and all the music should sound that much better.

DK: Thanks for the advice, Andy. We're gonna be talking more with Andy Partridge of XTC in the second 60 of MTV's 120 Minutes. Coming up in the second 60 of MTV's 120 Minutes, the latest videos from The Levellers, KMFDM, and Lush, plus brand new ones from Spiritualized, Peter Murphy, Swans, and right here, from their concert at London's in Kilburn National Theatre in March, here's The Cure with a live version of "Friday I'm In Love."

[Video: The Cure, "Friday I'm In Love"]
[Video: The Levellers, "One Way"]

DK: The Levellers' "One Way" on MTV's 120 Minutes. Stick around for videos from Lush, KMFDM, and brand new ones from Peter Murphy and Swans. My co-host on 120 Minutes tonight, Mr. Andy Partridge from XTC...

AP: ...in light not...

DK: ...in one of his most favorite places in the entire world, right?

AP: (scream of delight) Actually, I've gone all weak in the knees. It's not his (Dave's) presence, it's the presence of these little, ultimately smaller individuals over here (indicates display case full of figurines). Look at all this stuff, this is, this is just...bahhh! It's porn, filth, thing, toy, heaven, sex for me, look! This stuff, this stuff's better than sex, so don't you feel sorry for my wife? Look at it. Look at these tiny little people with their tiny...look at the pimples on that one! It's...this is...ah, I'm ung gah (adjusts mouth) speechless. It's speechless and difficult because--I've put my serious head on for a second--in the (adopts ruling class accent) position of elder rock statesman...

DK: (likewise) Yes!

AP: ...Braah! British Parliament, blah blah, (Andy voice) uh, that I seem to have dug for myself here, it's tricky to have my kind of music head on, be in a place like this which is a really utter, big love of my life, 'cause it's like being a connoisseur of ice cream is one thing, and being a connoisseur of pork is another, and you put them on the same plate and you're not sure whether it's gonna happen as a (smacking noises) taste sensation.

DK: What you're saying is you get mighty passionate about the kind of toys we see here in Burlington Antique Toys.

AP: Right, so I'm really tempted just to sort of turn my back on you now, open the cabinets and start...

DK: I'm used to it.

AP: ...and rub my (shudder) rub my face in all these little figures.

DK: You have a collection of these at home, back in Swindon, right?

AP: Yeah, many thousands, causing structural damage to my attic even now.

DK: All right, well, we're gonna leave Andy here in toy heaven for a few minutes while we check out a brand new video from Spiritualized. This band features three former members of Spacemen 3 (Andy begins to hide behind Dave), and their brand new video is "Run."

[Video: Spiritualized, "Run"]
[Video: Rise Robots Rise, "Talk Is Cheap"]
[Commercial break]
[Video snippet: XTC, "Ball And Chain"]

DK: Welcome back to MTV's 120 Minutes. Stick around for videos from Lush, KMFDM (a miniature figure hoves into view attached to Andy's hand), and a brand new one from Swans. I'm being.... (laughs)

AP: Stick 'em up! Look at that.

DK: Andy Partridge of XTC, can you explain to, like, a culture-free Neanderthal like myself, what's exciting about this figure?

AP: Okay, I'll just adjust your brow, then, maybe slightly less Neanderthal. This is, for me, this is great. This is a figure I really like. You see him there? Actually, he looks a little bit like my dad now I've taken a closer... Daddy! It IS you! This is made by a company called Johilco, and it's one of the, if not the, nicest figure they did. It's called something like "Sailor On Guard" as you can see. And he's so staunch and reliable, but...

DK: What time period is he from?

AP: I think the original is probably made in, (consults shopkeeper) where's the expert? The 30's? 40's? (Shopkeeper's reply is inaudible)

AP: Right, okay.

DK: A World War I sailor.

AP: So, there you go...just everything. The way the bandolier's falling, the chest, the whole pigeon-chested sort of (takes deep breath) stiff upper nasal cavity of the thing. He's lovely, look at that! Isn't that better than all these people pretending to be, you know, with their wah-wahs and flares and stuff, you know?

DK: If you could figure out a way to make your living from this, you would probably chuck this whole rock thing in the garbage bin.

AP: Don't tempt me! Don't tempt me! (holds up figurine) I mean, this is the only heavy metal worth considering in my opinion.

DK: Well just going back towards the rock thing, briefly...

AP: Oh, damn! Damn!

DK: ...your latest album is called Nonsuch, which means, actually, "without equal". Is that the...?

AP: Yes, I have to confess, it was a mistake I made. I found this great picture of this palace that Henry VIII had instigated. He had a marvelous palace built in the early 1500's called Nonsuch. I found this great picture of it, thought "That's beautiful!", and I thought the word "nonsuch" meant "doesn't exist", and I thought, how sad, calling a palace Doesn't Exist Palace, and now it doesn't exist, you know, it was just the most architecturally beautiful, perfect thing. We started to get the album together, and then I looked up in the dictionary, and I found it meant "without equal." Gasp! So it's turned into like we've said a really boastful thing, but, (makes shy gesture) "Me, oh!" (laughs) So, I don't mean that we're, (mock embarassed tone) I don't mean, I didn't mean to say, Your Majesty, we were without equal. (laughs) But it's a nice poignancy to think that no matter how high you think your art is--that's art with a capital F, by the way--that someday it's all going to cease to exist in any case, and isn't it better to play with toy soldiers now while I'm alive rather than when I'm worm cake?

DK: And with that, we'll go to a video. This is a brand new live video from Peter Murphy, and it's called "Keep Me From Harm."

[Video: Peter Murphy, "Keep Me From Harm"]
[Video: KMFDM, "Money"]
[Video: Lush, "Superblast!"]

DK: "Superblast!" from Lush, the third clip from Spooky. Don't go away or you'll miss videos from Swans and Midnight Oil and XTC, also. Now, Andy Partridge, you're almost behaving like a kid in a toy store.

AP: (makes hyper gesture) Yes, I'm sorry about the dribble here. I have to stand level so I drool equally out of both sides. If I lean....

DK: Symmetrical drooling.

AP: Symmetrical drooling is where it's at.

DK: Andy, you're the face of XTC, as it were, but your songwriting partner in the band is Colin Moulding. How did you split up the songwriting on the latest album Nonsuch?

AP: Ah, well, I write all the good stuff and when the biro's nearly empty I let him have it, so.... He writes the quality, and I kind of get stuck with the quantity, by the looks of things. Damn him! And he's better looking than me, and he's got hair! Don't you just hate that? (laughs)

DK: Coming up, more with Andy Partridge of XTC here on MTV's 120 Minutes.

[Commercial break]
[Video snippet: XTC, "King For A Day"]

DK: Welcome back. XTC's tenth album Nonsuch features a song called "Books Are Burning." Andy Partridge, are you referring perchance to a book such as The Satanic Verses?

AP: This is part of the inspiration for writing the song. Can you still believe in this Mediaeval age we're burning books? I mean, WE're not burning books, okay? (indicates himself and Dave) Blameless on this, okay? But you see Muslims in the streets of London burning copies of this. What can you write in a book that can't be allowed? It's, what the hell, why this ritual murder? Well, in his case, they'd burn him really if they caught him. But books are obviously still getting up people's noses because the Christian Right in America are saying, "Uh! We must be, we should be destroying C.S. Lewis' Chronicles Of Narnia", the kids' book. That's, come on! Do you know the reason? (adopts judgemental tone) "It promotes devil worship." Oh, come on! You know, censorship is unknowing. Censorship is denying knowledge and there should be knowledge, there should be.... Get rid of the censorship, get rid of religion. Religion is backward. If you want to put the world in the dark ages, let's have more fundamentalism.

DK: You might actually make a video for the song "Books Are Burning." Are you thinking about that?

AP: I'd love to. My perfect video for it would just be a list of so-called "banned books" by whatever you are: Christian Fundamentalist, Muslim, Buddhist, whatever, for whatever... (a dog barks; Andy laughs) I do these great dog impressions. Ah! It's in my trousers. (dog again) Ingrid! Shut up! (laughs) The whole video would just be a list of banned books. i think that would be perfect.

DK: Okay, well here's a brand new video from Swans. It's actually probably their most accessible video they've ever made, and it's called "Love Of Life." We'll be back with more of Andy Partridge from XTC.

AP: I don't know why.

[Video: Swans, "Love Of Life"]
[Video: Midnight Oil, "Sometimes"]
[Commercial break]
[Video snippet: XTC, "Wonderland"]

DK: Welcome back to MTV's 120 Minutes. I'm Dave Kendall and my co-host is Andy Partridge from XTC. Andy....

AP: Let's get really brain-dead. Play something by Roxette.

DK: We'll see if we can arrange that for you, Andy.

AP: Aren't they just GREAT? Don't you just LOVE them?

DK: It's been, what, five years since we've heard from The Dukes Of Stratosphear, which is a project, I believe, that you're not totally uninvolved with.

AP: Yeah, my favorite band. Oh, if only we were as good as them! Boy, can they click that wah-wah down.

DK: What was the idea behind The Dukes? Will we ever see them again?

AP: The idea behind The Dukes was they were the band that we all wanted to be in when we were at school. And then you grow up, and grow out, and fashions change, and blah blah blah blah na na na na and you don't get to be in that band, and we thought we'd like go back and repair a piece of history and make the band that we would have all given our right arm to be in. (mockingly) I'd give my right arm to be in Def Leppard! No, they're the band we all wanted to be in, so we thought we'd repair history, and make a good alternate history. But, no, you shouldn't be seeing them anymore. We've killed them off horribly in a bizarre cooking accident involving a rusty whisk.

DK: Could this be something to do with the fact that maybe you're happier with what you're doing in XTC than ever before? How do you feel about Nonsuch?

AP: How do I feel about it? I'm immensely proud, dit dit dot dot. We do our best. I'm immensely proud of it, and if I have to, if I get hit by the Great Steamroller of Agamemnon tomorrow, and the band falls to pieces, I would be very proud if that would be a monument or a kind of an epitaph for the band, but I have to think that way about every album we make, or else it's not worth doing. If you don't do the best you can do every time, why bother?

DK: Indeed. Well, let's take a look at a video from an earlier XTC album, this is from English Settlement which came out back in '82, I believe?

AP: (adopts old fogey voice) Back in '82, after the great Punk Wars.

DK: This is "Senses Working Overtime."

AP: You're ringing! It's ringing! (Andy nudges Dave) Stop ringing! There.

[Video: XTC, "Senses Working Overtime"]

[At this point, my tape ran out. Can anybody fill in the remainder?]

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

[Thanks to Greg O'Rear, Wes Long and Paul Culnane]