An Interview with XTC's Andy Partridge

by Tracy Marshall

Like a lot of other kids in the late seventies and early eighties, I was listening to the newest bands, like Blondie, Talking Heads, X, English Beat, Fear, Squeeze and XTC. Listening to music, talking about music and most importantly, going to the live shows of the groups we adored, was how we defined our lives. I had different favorite bands at that time, but XTC was a group I was, what some might define as, insane about. I played the shit out of those records - when an XTC song made it onto the radio, the world would stop so I could sing along. I was a member of a special-elite group of individuals who was smart enough to love them. So, when I heard they were going to perform, I did as I had in any other "I have to see this band or I'm going to die kind of way"; stand in line, saluting my favorite band with Mickey's Big Mouth between cop drive-bys, playing their music on cheap boom boxes over and over again (we needed a lot of reassurance in those days)..... not unlike people standing in line for Phantom Menace tickets today. We got our tickets. Pure Gold. Anticipation.

I got a chance to talk to Andy Partridge recently, who's promoting the latest XTC release, Apple Venus Volume 1 - a lush, mature, orchestral pop album. It had been 7 years between albums, with a contractual strike and bittersweet victory against Virgin in the interim. Released, finally, on TVT, and another album nearly finished, life goes on for Andy. Life goes on for me. It's twenty years later and I sat down to talk with an old friend....

Tracy Marshall: Hello Andy! I want to thank you for taking the time. I want to tell you that I've been a big fan of XTC for 20 years now.

Andy Partridge: Oh my goodness, you're showing your age, gal!

TM: I'm not afraid to show it, I tell you.

AP: Yeah, yeah, yeah! That's what I like!

TM: First of all, I want to tell you that I was at the show, at Santa Monica Civic in California 1982, and Jules and the Polar Bears opened, and I was absolutely thrilled out of my mind that XTC was going to play, and you didn't. For those who don't know, if you wouldn't mind telling me what happened, and most importantly, how are you gonna make it up to me?

AP: Whew! Father a love-child? (Laughing) What happened was, I was on tour against my wishes. I didn't want to be on tour. We made the English Settlement album, and I didn't want to tour it. Loyal idiot that I was, and still am to a large extant, I said "I can't let the band down, I can't let the record company down, I can't let our incredibly corrupt society down. I'll do something." So I went out on tour, and my subconscious started to make me very ill. And we did the European leg of the tour, and things were very weird for me indeed. I felt I was dreaming the whole tour. And I did it sort of reluctantly, but I started to get a lot of physical symptoms: cramps in my stomach, sickness. Really didn't want to be on tour. And I got to a show in Paris, and I had a massive panic attack during the first song, when I went on stage. I thought I was gonna die. I had never had a panic attack before in my life. It was all very degrading and embarrassing. It was one of those live things that are televised, and radio and such. I didn't know what was happening. I thought "Oh my god, I'm going crazy!" I went to see a hypnotist; he tried to regress me or something.

TM: That was your first choice, a hypnotist?

AP: No actually, first choice was getting my stomach looked at, because I thought it was ulcers. And they couldn't find anything, even after that really horrible thing where they shove a camera down your throat.

TM: Yikes!

AP: So they couldn't find anything, and it was really crazy, so my second choice was a hypnotist. And he just... he tried, but nothing really happened, and I foolishly, foolishly agreed to go on the American tour. I did one gig on the American tour, which I think was San Diego, and that was really unpleasant. The following night I was so wound up and so... insane. I was actually petrified of going on stage. I thought my life wouldn't work. I went to meet up with the rest of the band at a coffee shop before we went to the gig. It was horrible. It was just my subconscious trying to say that I wasn't happy. Why couldn't I stop? I didn't want to let anyone down.

TM: And you haven't toured since.

AP: I haven't toured since, and it's been wonderful. I have a life!

TM: Do you think by not touring it's hindered your career in any way?

AP: No. Everyone thought it would, early on, and even I thought, well, that's it, you know. Put a big dent in the career. But it's not. We don't sell bucketloads of records, which is fine. Well, possibly we could sell bucketloads of records, that might be a nice surprise, but it's not anything I go to bed praying for. No, it hasn't hindered it in the way I would like it to go, and the way I would like it to go is kind of how it's going, where we have lives, which is great. There's nothing starry about it at all. Not too much pressure on us. We've actually been putting ourselves out there a bit more lately to promote this record, and it has been kind of strenuous. Lots of public appearances in Japan, where you have to get up on stage with a microphone, and you feel like some sort of half-assed Robin Williams.

TM: You can't just sit and sign autographs?

AP: Well, after a while, we insisted that that's what we wanted to do, and not all this getting on stage and have them grilling you. Live torture session, really.

TM: Do you have more male fans than females?

AP: Not in Japan, actually. It's about 50-50, which is very reassuring, that there's a balance. 'Cause I thought we just appealed to computer nerds. Do you really want to go out, just appealing to computer nerds? Not really. But when we came to the States recently, and did lots of in-store signing things, I was much pleased that, excepting New York, where it was mostly male, everywhere else was pretty much 50-50. Maybe 60-40.

TM: The Dukes of Stratosphear might throw the percentage, though. That seems like a boy record to me.

AP: A lot of musicians like us, which is really silly, cause we're not great musicians.

TM: That's a wonderful compliment.

AP: Yeah, I suppose they like... Seriously, if you could see our musical ability, it's really abominable.

TM: So all the orchestration is just a cover-up for not playing?

AP: A lot of thinking people like us.

TM: Are you going to do any more Dukes of Stratosphear stuff?

AP: Well, that was all a big joke.

TM: It's not a joke to some people! I wanted to ask you, well, it's been seven years since Nonsuch, and I was wondering, why so long, and how much work did you do musically in the interim?

AP: Are you sure you want to know this?

TM: Yes, I do.

AP: All right. It was so long because we had to get away from our Virgin deal, which was never gonna make us any money. We were on the Virgin label nearly twenty years. We only went into the black literally the month we left. So our deal was very, very badly stacked against us, with permanent negative equity. I didn't want to work with them anymore, I didn't promote the records, because our deal was so bad that we were never going to make any money. We said, "Can we go, please." They said, "No, you can't." They were making plenty of money. So we went on strike. We told them they weren't having any more music from us then. That's it, we're not recording anymore. And it was a case of let's see who breaks first.

TM: Is that unusual for a band to do?

AP: Yeah, since we did it, I've only heard of one other person who's done it, and that was Michelle Shocked. Apparently she did it to get out of her deal.

TM: I know that Dave Gregory quit, sort of suddenly. It sounded like he quit while you guys were recording Apple Venus Volume 1. Is there any evidence of him on the album?

AP: Yeah, mostly what he doesn't want to be evident, which is the piano playing. Keyboards and guitar. He considers himself a guitar player. He's extremely miffed that I wanted to use an orchestra. He felt it personally blocked him out of being a musician on the album, which is crazy, because he's probably on the album as a musician more than I am. We got all his piano playing done, and then things got really bad and he left. He'd been planning leaving for some time.

TM: It's funny because your albums over the years have always seemed so layered and orchestral in the arrangement, so Apple Venus seems totally natural with the orchestra. I'm wondering if you would like to pursue a non-rock recording, with the symphony or a smaller ensemble? Something like how Elvis Costello did the Brodsky Quartet album.

AP: By the time Elvis brought that record out, that really miffed me actually, because I'd had all the stuff written for Apple Venus Volume 1, and that was the direction I was wanting to go in. I thought, "Oh shit. He's beat us to the post." This stuff was all written by '94.

TM: How about show tunes? Do you have any interest in writing show tunes?

AP: I love 'em! I do love the writing. I actually think that some of the stuff on this record sounds like it comes from a musical already, which is fine by me, because I think some of the best music ever comes from musicals. Look at My Fair Lady. There's not a bad song on that record. Great songs! Look at West Side Story! Fantastic!

TM: I used to listen to that album all the time.

AP: Yeah! You know, that stuff is considered so square, and I think it's some of the greatest songs ever. All right, call me a cheese merchant here, but I love Oliver!

TM: You're a cheese merchant! So Apple Venus Volume 1, leads me to believe that you're recording a Volume 2, or there's going to be a Volume 2.

AP: Well, it was supposed to be a two disc set. We did actually start the other songs, but it got the point where we were running out of money and time with our producer. I could see it coming on the horizon. You could see the kitty going down quick, and I could see the speed with which our producer was working. I could see what was going to get achieved and what wasn't going to get achieved, and I said, well let's just concentrate on the earlier material, which is this acoustic orchestral stuff. That just pissed off Dave Gregory no end, and he up and went. It's crazy actually, because if had waited another six months, he'd be doing the electric record.

TM: The Volume 2 is the electric record?

AP: Much more electric, much more up-front. Dare I say, it's slightly banal in places, but that's because we want to be.

TM: Are you going to work on a video? I heard something about that.

AP: Yeah, quite reluctantly, I have to admit, because I hate every one of our videos.

TM: Really? Do you have more creative control on this one, or how does that work.

AP: I would have said yes, but let's see. I dislike videos intensely, so we'll see. I dislike pop videos enormously. I actually think they've contributed significantly to the degeneration of the quality of music.

TM: I was going to ask you who your favorite Spice Girl was, but I think now I won't.

AP: My favorite Spice Girl was Geri, because she had big lips, big tits and a big ass. If you're going to look at the Spice Girls, because there's not much to listen to...

TM: How did you like working with Todd Rundgren on Skylarking?

AP: I didn't, but he's a bit of a genius, even when he's not in his jeans. I think he's a fantastic arranger, he's a pretty good producer. He doesn't have, how shall we say, the diplomatic skills to be a great producer. I think he did a fantastic job, but he and I didn't get on.

TM: Well the album was wonderful. It had a consistency throughout.

AP: It flowed very well from one song to another. We sent him all our demos, and he picked the songs he thought flowed well together. With a couple tweaks and changes, we agreed with him, and I think we were all of one mind musically. No matter how fantastic Todd is musically, he's just not very good with people, and unfortunately we got to hear all the bad people stories after we'd finished. Everyone we met that had worked with him had the same tale.

TM: Maybe that was fortunately, and not unfortunately.

AP: Maybe it was fortunate, because if we had met all these people before, they would have put us off. He did a great job, I have to say. I've kicked him enough in the past. But he doesn't get on too well with people.

TM: Around the Nonsuch release date, wasn't there a promotional card game distributed? Did you create the game?

AP: No! I wish they'd asked me actually. They came up with it, because they knew I liked games, and some wag at Virgin came up with the idea of doing a game, and they went ahead and created it and finished it, and set me up for an interview with it, and said, "There! You like games!" And I said, "Yeah, I love games! And why the fuck didn't you ask me to do it?" So yes, there is one, and I have to say that it's a pretty crappy game. It's like a guessing thing, well not even guessing, it's just remember which card is laid down. A brain-damaged wog could do it.

TM: There's a name for that card game. I forget what it is...

AP: Yeah, it's called the Brain Damaged Wog Game. (laughing) I love games, and they didn't ask me, which really peeved me.

TM: Have you created any of your own?

AP: Yeah, quite a few. I did have a phase some years back of trying to sell them, but it was harder than trying to get a record deal. They just didn't want to know. You'd ring people up and you'd say I've got half a dozen good games, and friends and family, they all love playing these games. And most of these companies would just say "Don't bother."

TM: I guess if it's not the yo-yo or Trivial Pursuit, they're not interested.

AP: The Trivial Pursuit people had the same problem. They had to do that game themselves! Honestly, it was harder than getting a record deal. So I thought, well fuck you all, I'll just keep 'em at home and play 'em with the kids and stuff.

TM: Do you have any hobbies? Would that be considered a hobby?

AP: Yeah, in fact, I do a lot of things that have nothing to do with music, because I consider music to be the difficult bit where you have to sort of sweat your guts out, scoop your soul out with a spoon, and start dolloping your soul all over the place. That's tricky, that's hard work. So to relax I futz around with toy soldiers and stuff like that.

TM: Really, it's funny because I'm an artist, and I don't want to bore you with it, but some of the work that I do are dioramas on open books, encyclopedias. And I'll pick something out of the encyclopedia, like the A-M is American Frontier, and I built on top of it, with teeny little models little Indians and I build little houses out of photographs.

AP: I could be more anal than you here. What size figures do you use and where'd you get them from?

TM: Well I think it's HO. They're about as big as the first digit on your finger.

AP: Those are a giant size. I've painted with brushes on figures six millimeters high. Six millimeters is about the size of an average grain of rice.

TM: On Telegraph Avenue here, there's all these street vendor booths, and there's inevitably an artist who will write your name on a grain of rice.

AP: Oh, sure. Yeah. My thirteen year old daughter goes big on that sort of thing. I challenge one of these guys to put a mustache on one of my figures.

TM: What are the models? What do they look like?

AP: I make my own. I can make them very model-like and statuesque, but that doesn't appeal to me. I enjoy making them rather lumpy and naïve. My favorite types of figures are figures that were made in Germany approximately 100 years ago. And they were made unanimated. They were cast in one position. You had to sit with a pair of pliers and bend the arms and legs to get the desired position. Then you had to solder in bits of equipment, like a broom or a gun or a bucket or whatever they were doing. They were so naïve, I mean, they were little pieces of folk art. If you ever see them these days, you can't afford them; they're just too damn expensive. So I thought, "damn it, I can make those!" So I tend to go for these real naïve looking ones, which please me no end.

TM: Do you cast them?

AP: I make a master figure, like a little tiny sculpture out of wire armature, right. I make the figure itself and dress it in epoxy resin, epoxy putty, you know, and file it and chisel it. Then a friend of mine in Yorkshire has a business casting stuff, and he casts them for me. I let him sell them, and he casts them for me for free.

TM: What do you cast them out of?

AP: White metal, which is a mixture of tin, lead, and antimony. I cast them, and then I animate them afterwards, like they did in Germany, with pliers and solder in their equipment.

TM: Do you work with any other medium in art?

AP: I paint occasionally. I paint pictures. The last things I was doing were sort of bastardized versions of theatre settings from the sixteenth century. A friend of mine found some wood in a skiff, and dragged this wood home, and I coated it. I don't even bother buying acrylics. I buy house emulsion, it's the same stuff, plastic paint. So I go around the hardware store and get half a dozen tins of primary colors and paint these pictures. There you go.

TM: I love shopping at hardware stores, actually. It's one of my favorite pastimes. They have so much cool stuff.

AP: They have all these things that you don't know what you do with them. Little trays of objects, and you think, "WHAT is THAT? What do you do with it?" You can always think of things to do with it, but it's probably not what it's supposed to be for.

TM: Exactly. Do you consider yourself more of an artist than a "rocker?"

AP: Yeah. I don't consider myself a rocker at all. The connotations are rather bad. I'm an ideas man, and I just happen to have a guitar. If I didn't write songs, I think I might try to make my money with painting, or sculpting, or whatever.

TM: That's interesting, because I always considered you an artist, because your music is so textural and layered. Honestly.

AP: I do think in terms of pictures. People say "Your music is so filmic." And I think it's not filmic at all, it's more theatrical. I think more in terms of flat, theatrical scenery and people in all these costumes and far too much makeup. That pleases me no end. But the thought of it being filmic, I find that slightly stale and dead. I'd rather think of it in terms of a more naively painted theatrical production.

TM: How much is the work that you do in making music and making art conceived in your head, gestalted, prior, and how much of it is affected by experimentation?

AP: What, the music?

TM: And art.

AP: I think, a lot of them are inspired by hearing something from your past, or something in your past being so very haunting, and you wishing to exorcise it and kill that ghost. Wishing to write something internally to yourself. It's almost like you're Andy the Vampire Slayer, or whatever, getting all these people from your past and climb over them and stick your little flag in their head, and say, there, I can climb higher than that. I hate to say it, but that's very inspirational. That's how you're stopping them haunting you. Does that sound crazy?

TM: No, it sounds normal and healthy. But I wonder, when that's past, does a certain respect for your history come in to play at some point?

AP: I like history, but I don't get weighed down by it. I'm rather irreverent with my own history. I find world history much more fascinating, but my personal history, I've only recently come to grips with the fact that the music we made 20 years ago is OK. I thought that stuff was so naïve and stupid and gangly and kind of awkward, that I could never listen to it. I had the assumption that I would be automatically appalled. I heard a load of it recently, because we had to go through these old BBC sessions to go in the box set called Transistor Blown. And it's the first time I had heard some of that stuff in twenty years. I was really trepidacious. I thought this was going to be terrible. But it wasn't! It was charming. It was charming because of its naivete.

TM: Like the figures...

AP: Right! I've completely forgiven myself now. I thought, oh god, it's gonna be such a junior smart-ass making all these noises. It's naïve art, it's naïve music, and they're doing their best to finish the picture off, but the perspective's all wrong, and the colors are a little off, and it looks a little flat, and the sizes are out of whack. But what the hell, they finished it off the best they could, and you got to love them for it. So I've sort of come to terms with the young stupid me. The old stupid me has come to terms with the young stupid me.

TM: Were you surprised by that?

AP: Kind of pleasantly. I laughed, for hours. It was a mixture of relief, that it was OK to like me. It's like your mother having these photographs that are you in naked baby pictures, or in the worst clothes choice you could ever have, or bad haircut, or acne-ridden. But it turns out you're quite charming in your bad clothing and acne. The relief was palpable.

TM: I don't know if you answered the question earlier, about do you want to work with symphonies or quartets?

AP: Well, we have worked with quartets in the past, and I wanted to work with something larger, just to get a sense of magnitude, and to be able to dollop this stuff around in big heaps if we needed to. On a lot of these tracks there's a 40 piece orchestra banging away, scraping, plucking, tooting, whatever they're doing. Well that was thrilling. It made the hairs on the back of my arms stand up. We had one day at Abbey Road, an extra long, strenuous tired crap day at Abbey Road which cost us twelve and a half thousand pounds, when we did all the orchestral stuff in one giant hit. We spent weeks and weeks editing it all to make sense later, but we recorded it all in one giant, long protracted session.

TM: That sounds more like jazz. You did an acoustic radio broadcast tour around the States in the eighties...

AP: We unwittingly started the "unplugged" thing. People have asked us to do it again, but everyone on earth now does unplugged. MTV didn't want to do us acoustic, originally, but I insisted they do us acoustic, because I heard what they did to bands when they miked them up and sent it through a mixing desk. They murdered them! So I said, we'll only play on your show if we can just have a couple of mikes and acoustic guitars. What can go wrong with that? So we did, and I guess the response was so good, that THEY suddenly came up with the idea of unplugged. It was just my reticence.

TM: Do you plan on coming over to the US any time soon?

AP: Yeah, in a couple of weeks actually. We're reluctantly making a video. GOD I hate videos. It's being filmed somewhere in New York, I don't know where. But I'm there under protest. I hate videos. (laughing) They've been responsible for really stupefying music.

TM: Do they have a script or something?

AP: It's for the song "I'd Like That" which TVT have a bee in their bonnet about. I'd rather come to grips with making a film or something or a theatre piece, personally. I saw a lot of ideas from the video company, and I didn't like any of them. I said why can't we just have stuff falling out of us, endlessly. You know, just open our mouths and stuff comes out. Objects, bicycles, flowers, buses, anything. Stuff falling out of your ears, out of your nose, coming out of your pockets. So we're going to try that. It could be rather gruesome, but we'll see. I don't want it to look like a pop video. My ideal video is a blank cassette.

TM: Do you hang out in any art scene? Do you have more artist friends or musician friends?

AP: No, musicians bore the pants off me. They really are exceptionally boring people. I don't have an art life, either. In fact, four companies are vying at the moment to make documentaries about us. And one of these companies sent me a videocassette of a documentary they just made about Björk, and there's Björk in her designer clothes hopping about the edges of an active volcano. She pops over to Africa for a day, with ethnic musicians, then she's back in the studio, and so on. This is what you call an art life, right? I get up in the morning, I go round to the store and get a bottle of milk. There are no volcanoes, there are no portable sequencers. I don't have a house in Spain, I don't pop over to Africa to jam. I don't have an art life. What the fuck are these people going to film? Me looking at some cartons of milk! I don't do art things. I just do them for myself. It's going to be the most boring documentary ever made, on any subject.

TM: And you try to convince them of that?

AP: I'm just going to tell them: Look, this is what you're going to get! I'm not an art thing. I don't have any volcanoes to skip around.

TM: Documentaries are inherently to me, though. I don't care what it's about, usually, it's just interesting to me.

AP: I like documentaries. It's my favorite thing on television, certainly. If we come over so horribly uncool, I might find that attractive. Anything with cool attached to it is just the instant kiss of death, as far as I'm concerned.

TM: Well, it's kind of hard these days not to be cool. You say you have a thirteen year old girl, and she's probably the most savvy ever.

AP: Oh! Well, she's just a thirteen year old, stupid girl. She's at the age where she's annoying the pants off me. She's making the same stupid mistakes I made, because you have to make the mistakes for yourself. She's living through listening to all these other groups doesn't she doesn't have a voice of her own, like every kid. Her favorite group is the Voice of God, and the lyrics alone are gonna save mankind. Now that I have a voice of my own, I'm just not interested in what these stupid, half-wit groups have to say. Most of them are just kids that haven't lived in any case.

TM: What are some of the groups that you can listen to?

AP: I don't listen to much music, actually. You don't need it. When you have an ass of your own to shit through, you don't need somebody else's ass. It's kind of pointless. Nobody's saying anything that I needed to say myself. I have my own voice to say what I want to say. I guess I'm doing it mostly through music. Everyone needs to find their own voice. That's the reason pop music has so much fake gravitas. People are endlessly fascinated by poor-quality pop music because it speaks for them, and they don't have a voice. They're either too young and stupid or too old and stupid, or they just never bothered to find themselves. It's why so many crappy acts get elevated to the status of royalty.

TM: Does your daughter listen to XTC?

AP: A few bits and pieces. I think she's more embarrassed by the reaction of some of the teachers. One or two teachers were just stupid fans of the band, and they just kind of embarrass her. I'm just square old dad to her, but these teachers are saying this wonderful hyperbole, and she can't put it together with dad, who she sees wandering around in his underpants, farting. I'm no Shakespeare to her. I'm just that parcel of lard at the breakfast table going "Clean your room!"

TM: Do you have any other kids?

AP: I have a son as well. He's going to be one of the characters on The Simpsons. They asked Harry to design himself and they'll animate him and put him in The Simpsons as one of Bart's friends or something. If he speaks he'll have to have an English accent and a lisp. He'll be this pudgy looking kid in glasses, cause that's my son.

TM: Are you proud of him?

AP: He's better than I ever was. It's going to difficult when he gets really frighteningly good. He may make his living at it. I hope he does, he's so good. He really shocked the people at The Simpsons when he sent his design in. Thrilled to be a potential Simpson. For Christ's sake, I gave birth to a Simpson character!

TM: I think The Simpsons is actually really funny. You've watched it haven't you?

AP: I prefer Ren and Stimpy. I'm a Ren and Stimpy maniac. But actually I may prefer King of the Hill. The Simpsons may be in the top five. The old Popeyes with three dimensional scenery are actually number one. They were made by the Fleischer Brothers. It's called Popeye and the Forty Thieves, was one. It was quite revolutionary at the time.

TM: I'm kind of crazy for my cat Jimmy. Do you have any animals?

AP: I had a dog, called Charlie, named after Charlie Parker. He's at the great kennel in the sky. I had a cat named Franklin, and someone gave him to us. Not anymore.

TM: What would you want on your tombstone?

AP: "I told you I was ill!" or "I can see up your dress from down here." Or "God, this stone is heavy!" or "Help, I'm in Hell!" A few years back, somebody sent me a postcard of a tombstone for an animal. It was a black tombstone, with a picture of a rabbit. On it, it said "Poor Penny, she never knew she was a rabbit." That was a real tombstone! (laughing)

TM: She never knew!

AP: I had two rabbits. One of them exploded internally. Really messy.

TM: When I was growing up, I lived on a little farm, and we raised rabbits. These little California cross rabbits, white with black spots on them. And they're really cute when they're little. And I was selling them to people, and I didn't realize that people were buying them and eating them! One day I came home from school, and at the time we had two dogs, a Great Dane and another dog, and there were dead rabbits all over the yard, everywhere. That was the Great Bunny Massacre.

AP: The first one I had, he was called Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and he got bloated. He had some heart condition and his heart blew up inside and flooded him with blood. It was a horrible way to go. The other one was called Tuesday, and he ate through all the electric cables. I was surprised he was still alive!

TM: I was in the 4H club. One more dead animal story, OK? I raised a steer, and what you do in 4H is you hope to enter it in the county fair. That was a big deal, so I had a little steer, and I raised it and hand fed it, and his name was Ferdinand. When it came time for the county fair, he didn't make weight, so we kept him, and my family ate him! (I didn't have any). And so I got another one, whose name was Ferdinand the second, who didn't make weight at the county fair either, and my family killed him and ate him!

AP: I have a few grotesque animal stories. Some people I knew at school, they weren't nice people, but they used to go down to the pond near our house. They'd steal a box of small drinking straws, and they would capture frogs on this pond, insert the straw in their ass, blow the frog up and then float it on the pond and try to shoot it with an air gun so it would pop.

TM: There was an artist, who I don't remember his name, but he lived with his dad, and his dad had this habit of killing the snails in the garden, smashing them or throwing them over the fence. His dad was a real American type, so what he would catch the snails and paint little American flags on their shells so his dad wouldn't kill them! (laughing) He later when on to do things like paint the electrical sockets in museums in New York and all over the place. He would paint them at home and then replace them in the museum, so he would be shown in the famous museums. Do you know who I'm talking about?

AP: No, but that sounds very much like something I always wanted to do but never did. I wanted to make doors about three or four inches high, with a door frame and a letter box and a door know, and then at night go and screw them to the bases of trees. There'd be these tiny little doors in the base of trees, really freak kids out. I wanted kids to go "Wow! Who lives there?" but I never got around to it.

TM: That sounds very Pooh-like.

AP: A bit, yeah, I suppose. But I always wanted the kids to see these doors. That's the sort of thing I would have wanted to see as a kid: a door in a tree. I may do it one day.

TM: I really want to thank you. I know you aren't at home, and have a lot going on.

AP: No problem, if you haven't got enough stuff, we can always rig up another one. This was my most enjoyable interview for ages, we didn't do too much bog-standard questions.

TM: Thank you so much, I had a lovely time.

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