by Anita M. AlksnisOn a walkway and moving fast All I get is transistor blast Someone leans in my direction Quizzing on my station selection What do you call that noise That you put on? THIS IS POP! We come the wrong way We come the long way We play the songs much too loud THIS IS POP!
With this tune, one of the best singles of the past decade, Andy Partridge sums up the essence of pop music culture.
It expresses a band's feelings while giving a double perspective from the listener as well. Who hasn't been asked by Mom, "What do you call the noise that you put on?", or been told that their music is "much too loud"? From a band's view, it's hard to name one that hasn't "come the long way". XTC is certainly one whose commercial success has arrived "the wrong way" with a different instrumental lineup, although this classic song is as valid now as when it was recorded with the original band members. The 45 version of the song is so raunchy and boldly defiant that no one's going to argue that it simply, inherently defines pop.
As Andy explains to each live audience, Pop is what XTC is all about and that's increasingly the band's direction. Gone are the "frenzied", "jerky" and "painfully experimental" sounds of Barry Andrews' keyboards, replaced by the multi-layered extensions of Dave Gregory's added guitar. The rhythm section of Terry Chambers on drums and Colin Moulding's bass is still together after six years. Completing the lineup is Andy Partridge on guitar and principal singer, along with Colin. Andy could perhaps be described as "the leader" of the "dance band of the Eighties."
I listened to demo tapes of four brand new songs (courtesy Steve "Sings like a true Volga Boatman" Warren, XTC's sound man), and found them almost tailored to the AM hit formula. Newcomer Dave Gregory responded to this "accusation" of sorts:
"It's not a conscious effort to go commercial. Obviously we want to make some money and we've got a huge debt to pay off still, and if it is sounding more commercial, then good, but it's not a conscious effort to do so. The music's a lot simpler since I joined and it's more like a rock group than an experimental group, so to speak. There's not so much avant-garde influence because it's basically Andy's; I tend to leave all the creative stuff to him and I take care of the meat and potatoes end. So maybe the simplification process has been a good thing. It's probably not annoying as many people as the old lineup did."
"I didn't think so, no. I loved it. I think it probably alienated a lot of people. It's what the record companies call 'annoyance factor'. Anything from a guitar solo outwards becomes an annoyance factor because basically when it comes to selling a record, they think of a good beat to dance to and somebody singing a song; anything else is superfluous. I think Andy and Barry were always experimenting together at the same time. They didn't really compliment each other. You know, there was no restraint on either side. They used to go a bit over the top sometimes, I think, especially live. So as far as the simplification goes, I mean, that's gone. It's more like a 'beat' group."
Out of the unlikely Wiltshire railway-town of Swindon appears this group whose popularity in Toronto is unmatched in the rest of the world, although their fame is by new spreading everywhere. Their first two albums, White Music and GO 2, each sold 5,000 copies in Canada, while their latest, Drums and Wires, containing the hit single "Making Plans for Nigel," has gone gold with 50,000 copies. Dave is puzzled by this "overnight sensation":
"You see, Drums and Wires in England has sold only marginally more than the other two, and that was obviously on the strength of the single. It's doing better in other parts of the world, on the continent and in Australia as well. I can't explain this Canadian boom. It's amazing. We're all knocked out."
It's unfortunate that the excellent material on XTC's previous waxings didn't capture the attention of the general public, but I'm hoping this third effort's success will create a fresh interest in it. So does Dave:
"It was superb stuff. I can't understand it either. They're great albums, and the singles as well. God, it's such a shame the other albums didn't sell. I mean 'Are You Receiving Me?' I think is one of the best singles of '78."
Four years ago XTC was virtually ignored other than by a cult following, perhaps because of their limiting "annoyance factor", but now they play large venues with journalists vying for their attention. Again, that's pop. Twenty years ago who would have thought four Scouse lads would alter the whole business of music and its importance in popular culture? In fact, the individual members of XTC have been compared directly to the Beatles. From New York Rocker last year:
"Could it be? Four bright young lads from Swindon- a Beatles for the Eighties? One fantasizes: Andy- cute features and glib charm- as Paul. Barry (ex-keyboardist)- weighty demeanor and high art affinities- as John. Colin- star-handsome and dark, brooding good looks- as George, who the Germans at Hamburg's Star Club used to call "the beautiful one". Terry- just right, just drums, a regular fellow- for Ringo...?"
This is a very notable association during a period in which several bands purposely make themselves out to be successors to the Beatles, while XTC conjures up the least likely semblance. It is perhaps their style and commanding live performance that hint at the presence of such predecessors.
Yet in Toronto the recent critical response was surprising, with Jonathan Gross still finding the music "difficult" and Peter Goddard commenting that "after a few songs, everyone started to listen because, it seemed, there was no other option. What XTC was doing, like it or loath it, had such complexity, with textured guitar parts whining loudly through multi-sectional songs, you were forced to listen and listen hard."
No matter what the critics had to say, the kids loved it, and that's what counts to the band:
"There are all sorts of things to be taken into consideration of what counts as a good gig, but I suppose audience-wise Toronto must have been one of the best. We did a gig at Trax in New York which was supposed to be a press gig. They were all sitting around with dummies with scrutinizers eyeballs on and their notebooks and things and there were all these security men around making sure that nobody danced and Andy told them to 'get out of it and have a night off. It doesn't matter what your bosses have told you, I'm telling you to get out, everybody get up and dance' and from that moment on it was great. That was a good gig in the end and it wouldn't have been had he not said that. We can't stand playing for these; well, I mean, it's going to sound bad in print, I know, we don't like playing to, I was going to say, posers (there is much hesitation here from this very polite gentleman to use that oft-abused term), but we feel really self-conscious. We're not the sort of band you sit and watch. You have to get up and react to it."
Unfortunately, XTC's gig at Guelph University War Memorial Hall was a fiasco, with the Fire Marshall threatening to close down the show if anyone stood up and danced or moved up to the front. Perhaps the friction and body heat involved in dancing might have caused the "rubbing two sticks together" effect. The band almost wouldn't go on stage with these absurd restrictions. As it was everyone sat there obediently, as if they were watching a lecture.
"We feel really self-conscious when we're being scrutinized like that. It's terrible. We can't do our best. We need a lot of help from the audience. I mean the gig is the audience, after all."
Other dates on this tour have been met with similar problems, if not worse: P.A.'s arriving an hour before the show, technical sound difficulties, and personal complications like Colin Moulding's ear infection. In Montreal, the sound system was so weak as to be inaudible past the first ten rows of punters, among which there were a couple of spitters.:
"That's why that gig was no good for me. If someone spits at me I just can't handle it. The only place we've been spat at previously, recently, was Paris. So I don't know if it's something the French are good at. There was another kid gobbing at Colin, but this bloody kid, he was a really good shot. I come off like a snowman. He didn't hit my guitar, but it went all over me trousers and on me neck as well. I had a mouthful of gob and I was going to get him back. I was so angry. That's where my professional capacity ends, I'm afraid, when people start spitting."
Obviously some people don't know what to expect of XTC and go to their shows with a 1977 mentality for an Eighties band:
"We seem to attract such a cross-section of the public. I think the first two albums, and obviously that was before I joined the band, had a lot of punks as a basic following and the general 'scene', so to speak, is changing. It's a much more sort of normal "rock-pop" group now."
This shift in direction has been instigated by Andy. He decided on the two guitar format employing the talents of Dave Gregory, who, although he had been informally linked with the band in Swindon, was rather surprised to be recruited for it;
"Previous to joining XTC, my studio experience consisted of one day in the BBC studios doing some test recordings for EMI. That was with a group called Alehouse, in 1975. We were sort of Wiltshire's answer to the Doobie Brothers. It was that sort of thing. It was allright at the time. The others I think wanted to turn it into a heavy metal band and I didn't want to have anything to do with that. I wanted to get into more tuneful things. Anyway, to cut a long story short, we went the way of all flash, we broke up. That was in '76. Then I joined various bands, working at a day job, playing weekends for beer, and out of the blue Andy phoned me up to tell me that Barry was leaving and would I like to audition for the band? A big surprise because Barry was a keyboard player and I didn't think they'd want to work with a guitarist. The band was at a very low ebb at the time. It was on the verge of splitting up. It was either going to sink or swim and I think what they wanted more than anything at the time was a stable personality to keep them together as people, rather than some genius musician who would probably only add to their problems. So they picked on me, and here I am! It's amazing really because in the past year I've done more than I have in the previous 26. It's just a dream come true.
"We did 'Life Begins at the Hop', that's the first thing I did with them. We were rehearsing in our manager's cellar for a new single. That's the very first thing I did in the studio and shortly after that we did a tour of England, that was about 23 dates to promote that single. Until Nigel got into the charts we were playing to half or three-quarter full halls. We went to Australia and Japan, we came back and went straight on the road, did a nine date tour with the Yachts. It was really bad. We were playing to half empty halls. I remember playing in Wolverhampton to about 200 people in a place that holds about 1,500. It was really depressing."
When the Yachts were in Toronto, they told me that it was because you had come back from Australia, which was so successful, that you tried to do things on a larger scale.
"That's right. We were the conquering heroes. On the road in England again and it was the same old story. Then Nigel suddenly began to infiltrate the charts, thanks to the BBC playing it, I'm sure that's what did it. It started off slowly, in fact it was just bubbling under when we did the Yachts tour. Then we got on Top of the Pops and the BBC got it on their playlist and that made all the difference.
"We did another tour after Christmas on the continent and every date was sold out. It's ridiculous, just on the strength of one single, you know, after three years of trying, so hopefully things will look a bit brighter for us now. I just hope we can follow Nigel. It's not the easiest of singles to follow up."
Will that be "Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down", one of the demos?
"We've heard the mix and we didn't like it. It's a good song, but it's not quite right. There's too much in it. We did that with Phil Wainman who did the Boomtown Rats thing ("I Don't Like Mondays"). He was chucking everything in there. We even had Steve Warren singing on it. That was his bass voice. He sounded pretty good actually. It was overdubbed and overdubbed, and there was my guitar which was very heavy and was only supposed to come in at one or two places. He had me playing it all the way through and we had 3 or 4 synthesizer tracks as well. I certainly hope we can remix it. While we were doing it, we had this great bass and drum sound, the best I had heard since This Years Model. When they sent the finished article over for us to listen to, which was when we were in the States, we just couldn't believe what had happened to it. There's just too much in there. The thing is, I think they want to put it out as soon as they can. It's a bit daft really because we aren't there to promote it and we haven't got a video so they might just as well wait till we get back.
"The trouble with Phil Wainman is that he's not the sort of guy who likes his work to be messed around with. He doesn't take kindly to having his work remixed."
Sounds like a bit of a Phil Spector type who takes over and overdoes things, like with Leonard Cohen and the Ramones.
"It was a bit like that. Andy and Colin didn't like him at all."
Why did you work with him then?
"Well the thing was Virgin Records wanted another hit from us, and he's got a good track record. Don't get us wrong, I mean he produced a lot of good singles for the Sweet, things like Little Willie and Ballroom Blitz, great pop songs, and we thought perhaps he can pull something out of the bag for us. We were doing three tracks in three days and they wanted a hit single and two other songs, which is asking a bit much. He was telling us at the time "Play this all the way through the song and we'll take it out in the mix." But he never took it out, and unfortunately that's the way it came out."
You can see why XTC don't want to use Wainman as producer for their next, most crucial album, but who will they choose?
"The one bloke I'd really like to work with the band the way I see it going, is Nick Lowe, because he really knows how to get a great sound out of the instruments. He's got a really simple way of producing, he doesn't clutter things up. I don't think he likes the band because we've approached him a couple of times and he's always been too busy or not available. He's obviously in the position to produce who he wants to produce.
"I wouldn't mind using Steve Lillywhite again. He was great to work with. The thing was Drums and Wires was hurried. We had to get it done in a fortnight. There were a lot of remixes, and because Steve was rushing it, it suffered a little. Even so, I don't think we could have afforded to stay in the studio much longer. It was a very expensive studio. (Virgin's Townhouse). It just about emptied the coffers.
"I'd love to think we could produce the album ourselves, but I know we'd only wind up arguing. I think it would be nice to perhaps do it ourselves and use a good engineer like Hugh Padgham as a referee, because that's basically what it is. On Drums and Wires most of the ideas were Andy's but we were all contributing and Lillywhite was there as some sort of mediator more than anything. He's credited with producing it but really I think it was about 50/50. Most of the ideas were there in the first place before we got into the studio."
Andy Partridge is the force behind XTC. He is the major song contributor, although Colin Moulding's efforts have been chosen for the last two singles, Nigel being the one that really made it for the band. Andy possesses that creative restlessness manifested in most of his songs, so he is always busy experimenting and reworking:
"Andy's produced a dub album in the style of GO+. It's called Takeaway: The Lure of Salvage, and it's mostly tracks from Drums and Wires done with a treatment, plus one unreleased track from the White Music sessions that never came out, a song called 'Refridgeration Blues'. He's changed the title to 'Commerciality', put some different lyrics to it and done different things as well. 'Heatwave' he's redone, and the rest is from Drums and Wires."
I heard a mystery track called "Somnambulist."
"Yes, that's a very rare collector's item, that will be, because I don't think it will come out in any other form than the B side of the American single that isn't going to sell very well. I'll tell you how it came about:
"When you do Top of the Pops in England, the Musicians Union insist that you go into a studio and record to the track again especially for this TV thing; you know, you mime, but you're supposed to mime to a different track to prove that you've played on the record. They have a chap from the union who comes around to your studio and supervises your session to make sure that you're doing it. So what usually happens is the lady or whoever it is from the record company who's there with you, you know, you'll start doing the track to all intents and purposes, you'll be laying down rhythm tracks, and then she'll suggest: 'Why don't you come out and have some dinner just for a couple of hours,' and you say 'Allright.' It's all completely play-acted really. So out they go and they say 'I'll need a finished thing in 20 minutes', and you know obviously you're not going to finish the thing in 20 minutes. So what you do is just switch the tapes from the master, which is what we did. As soon as the M.U. guy is gone, the rest of the studio time is yours. So this is what we did. Andy got the synthesizer in the control room and said, 'Well we've got a couple of hours in here; let's see what we can come up with.' It wasn't a case of what we could come up with, see what I can come up with, that's basically how it turned out. So he's there with the synthesizer and that's what he came up with. (Somnambulist)."
I thought it was quite good. It's sort of a Gary Numan, Fad Gadget effect only it's very sleepy and minimalist like its title. Was it done with a rhythm machine and synthesizer alone?
"Andy got Terry to make a bass drum loop. What he does is just play it a few times and the engineer makes a loop of the tape and he puts it on a machine which keeps going around so you just get the same rhythm going on and on. It's exactly the same as what he did for "Bushman President" which is on the back of Nigel. He just sort of built the tracks over that. In fact he was there until about two o'clock in the morning. He was supposed to be out by eleven and the old engineer was getting tired, but he was fair enough. He stayed there and saw it through. By the end of the evening we had a track. It was great. He dubbed in the vocal line later at the Takeaway session.
"What happens now is when we get back to England, we'll have a few weeks off, literally, to write the new album and rehearse it, and for about three weeks we'll be put into a studio and be expected to deliver a classic. I think so far there's about six or seven songs written. They're very simple songs actually, even more simple than the Drums and Wires ones. There's 'Officer Blue' by Colin, that's got to be rerecorded. 'Don't Lose Your Temper', by Andy. (My favourite of the new ones). 'I Overheard', another of Colin's, and 'Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down', by Andy. Andy's got a song called 'Rocket from a Bottle' which was being considered for the single but it was too close to 'Message in a Bottle'. It's a shame because it's a good song. There's 'Respectable Street', which is a great little tune about hypocrisy, about people who like to think they're respectable but are really no better than people who aren't considered respectable. I don't know, it's very difficult to explain. Wait till the song comes out."
From the new material I've heard, I think the next album should be excellent.
"With the right producer we'll do it. It's no problem at all, but I think it will be even simpler than Drums and Wires when it comes out. We haven't got anything like 'Millions', for example, which is very produced, had a lot done to it. I don't think we've got another 'Complicated Game'. I think that was the strongest song. It was a real killer."
There was quite a mixup about who wrote that song. The disc credited Andy, while the lyric sheet named Colin as composer. The error was corrected on Canadian pressings.
"How could they possibly make such a terrible mistake? Well I can tell you now, it's Andy's song. It's funny because the vocal he did was done in one take. He had to do it in one take because by the time we finished it he was exhausted. He came into the control room and just sort of passed out. We just left it at that; and the guitar solo as well. He went in there with his guitar and he had two Marshall amplifiers that were wired into each other and he turned both of them up to number ten! It was so deafening and loud and he had his headphones on, run the track down to get a level, hit the guitar and he was playing all these silly notes and by the time he was finished, he said 'I've got to do it again. I can't hear me cans. I couldn't hear the track in me cans!' And we said, no it's great, that is the one. So it was the first take on vocal and guitar. It was the best one."
That's amazing, it sounds like it's really thought out and perfected.
"The first takes are always those with the most fire, the most spontaneity. The more you take it, the more you get pissed off with a song. It gets to be a chore if you're churning the same thing over and over again. If you get it in one take it's usually a really good one. But 'Complicated Game' is unique in that both the guitar and vocal were first takes.
That's unusual because most bands tend to overdo things. Sort of "the more, the better" mentality.
"Yes, this is something we're trying to get away from as I've said, and it's once again why we'd like to get a hold of Nick Lowe to do the album. He's the sort of guy who says 'right. Bash it down and we'll tart it up later in the mix.' Like the Feelgoods for example. They used to go into the studio and put the rhythm tracks down. They might spend a bit of time doing solos and vocals but the basic tracks have been bashed down while it's hot and fresh. That's how he works, and I think he really knows how to bring out the best. I think the work he did with Costello is fantastic. I thought This Year's Model was one of the best produced albums ever. It's just so direct and full of balls. It's just great."
XTC have certainly "come a long way", and because of this, they have to go a long way, touring England, the Continent, North America, Australia and Japan. Their schedule has become incredibly tight, centering almost entirely on the business of music and perhaps not too much pleasure. Dave rather enjoys following the roads that girdle the globe, though, with some exceptions.
"I don't mind touring actually. I get very depressed at home if I'm not doing anything. Sort of entombed in my little house, I get really bored. I do miss touring because you do get to see places you wouldn't see otherwise, but I hate soundchecks and I hate photo sessions (with every fibre of my very body), and I hate being hungry. Those are the three things I can't stand about touring."
Such is the price of fame. Colin's song "Limelight" expresses the joys, hopes and fears of successful musicians (who will be wedging in a return gig at Massey Hall on March 10th):I'm in the Limelight Big on my block now I'm in love with myself Please don't break the spell Or give it to someone else I am a success At least for a short while I make decisions Influence people
It's taken a lot of time and hard work, but XTC is finally "in the limelight". From all indications their success should last much more than just "a short while". If it doesn't, I'll be very surprised — but after all this is pop.
[Thanks to Melanie Bouchard]
The Toronto Star
October 20, 1980
British band too tough on the old brain waves
By Patricia Hluchy Toronto Star
You're likely to walk out of a concert by the British band XTC feeling edgy. Instead of the usual head-ringing stupor that comes from a good dose of loud and driving rock music, an evening with XTC imparts a slight cerebral tingle.
It's not that this quartet from Swindon put on a lousy show at the Masonic Temple on Yonge St. Saturday night. It was as musically smart and polished as you could want, and electrifying enough to keep the pogoers beneath the stage going strong for more than an hour.
But this is a band that goes for your noggin' instead of your guts. Many of the songs are social critiques, but not the simple, self-righteous protest songs that rock music abounds with.
XTC's lyrics are subtle and ambiguous, and they're often paired with a dissonant sound and rhythmic complexity that makes even a simple pogo difficult.
And to further complicate things, the band from time to time will play one of their simple, transparent pop tunes, convincing you this is one of the most paradoxical rock groups around.
"We missed you," lead singer Andy Partridge told the 1,500 people packed into the hall, and what might have seemed from another band to be a phony attempt to appease the audience rang true.
For one thing, XTC doesn't go out of its way to pander to the audience. They don't talk much between songs and they display little warmth. But XTC has one of its biggest followings in Toronto, and the band's third album, Drums and Wires, went gold in Canada before anywhere else.
Saturday night's show was XTC's third visit to Toronto, after drawing full houses at the Edge last year and at the Music Hall last February.
Organizers booked the Olympium in Etobicoke for this latest performance, but less than half the 2,500 advance seats were sold.
Great for parties
A good half of the songs in the hour-plus set were from XTC's latest album, Black Sea. The new material came alive in performance, but it lacks the hooks and quirkiness of the best of the first three albums.
And unlike much of the earlier stuff, these new songs are eminently danceable — great for parties, but the rhythmic innovations are gone. The biggest applause of came for Reel By Reel and making Plans for Nigel, two of the best from the third album.
They played two anti-war songs, in the vein of Barry McGuire's Eve of Destruction, from the new collection. Looks like war may be making a comeback in rock. In General And Majors [sic], Partridge pointed his guitar at the audience like a machinegun as bassist Colin Moulding sang, "Your World War III is drawing near." The effect is disquieting, to say the least.
Lead singer Partridge is the only member to have a strong stage personailty, and it's a neurotic one. He moves spastically, repeatedly pointing at the audience and contorting his face, while spitting out lyrics.
It's not a magnetic stage presence, and perhaps that helped prompt the departure of several people during the last 15 minutes of the show.
[Thanks to Kenn Scott]
University Radio, Bath
Andy Partridge interviewed on University Radio Bath, 1980.
This is an excerpt from the forthcoming CD release on This Is Pop.
Catalogue Number TIPCD 1. Release date early 2001.
The interview was conducted by Steve Auger.
Steve Auger: ...Steve Lillywhite has been your producer for a lot of your material.
Andy Partridge: The last two albums and a couple of singles. Before him we used John Leckie...and I'm speaking through the biscuit now (Andy is trying to consume tea and biscuits throughout the interview!). Before him we used John Leckie, who was recommended to us by Bill Nelson, Be Bop Deluxe, he did some work with them, and we've also used one offs like Phil Wainman, who was the Sweet's producer. He did 'Wait Till Your Boat Goes Down' which was my favourite of all the tracks and the least favourite with the public, because nobody bought it.
SA: I bought it!
AP: Good man!
SA: Can I ask you how important you think that the choice of producer is to the final outcome of the record? How much is it XTC or the effect of the producer?
AP: I think 90% us. We never let producers make any structural changes to our music. We only give them the music and they then mix it, usually under our supervision as well. So it's a bit rotten on a producer who gets involved with us because we tend to loom over them all the time. I'd personally like to mix them but it would be wrong to impose my taste totally on the band so we get a producer in as mediator or like a sifter - we throw all the ideas in and he has to sift them out and stop us from fighting with eachother and biting eachother on the leg and things like that, 'cause we have a lot of ideas and they do need sifting.
SA: Do you think of yourselves at all as a particularly LP oriented band as some groups are?
AP: Mmm... wierd question. Yeah, sort of. I'm pouring another cup here, playing Mummy, trying to get the atmosphere right. I suggest anyone listening to this should make themselves a cup of tea and just get the flavour of things going...
SA: This interview does sound particularly good over a cup of tea...
AP: Right! No, I'd say equally a singles and album band. I think our albums are more important 'cause they've made far more inroads than our singles have, especially in other countries. I do like singles and I'd like to think that our albums are composed of potential single material - you know, all the tracks could be singles. That's why we tend to work within a three minute, four minute framework.
SA: Somebody said that the songs that you write you don't write them to be particularly difficult to understand or deep, and yet somehow people would say that they seem to come out that way, not immediately appreciable..
AP: We never build a song for a purpose. The only time we ever did anything on purpose was quite an innocent thing, an electric re-recording of "Ten Feet Tall" for the American charts. But we never do anything on purpose, we just write whatever comes out and rehearse it the way that it just falls out. Nobody's told what to play, everybody plays exactly what they want to and we never sit down and try and make things difficult to understand or easy to understand, we just do them as they come out. Certain songs demand certain treatments and they seem to scream it when you rehearsing it. They say 'Do me like this! Do me like this!' and there's no other way that you can mess around with them. So we just try to do things as naturally as we can. It's just our personalities.
SA: There's one song in particular that mainly for my own interest I'd like to ask you what the idea is behind it. That's the last track on Black Sea - "Travels In Nihilon".
AP: "Travels In Nihilon", originally a book title by Alan 'Loneliness Of The Long Distance Runner' Sillitoe. It's nothing to do with the book title, it's just a great title. Nihilon means state of nothingness if your thumbing through your dictionary right now. Its about how the media basically fox young people into believing that the latest trend is going to save them or what have you..gonna be the saving grace, it's gonna pick rock 'n' roll up, it's gonna make pop music 'it', you know...you must be a mod, you must be a punk, you must be a hippy, you must be a pirate...all of those trends. And people do get serious about them. And I know I got serious about them when I was younger. I think the last thing that I got demi-serious about was punk. After all it's only another media game. The sell you all the items, they sell you the records and you will buy it. And the younger you are the more your judgement is fogged by the fact that you think that you're finding something ultimate and you're not. And it happens every so years the media finds something they want to sell to you, and it's not really about that at all. It's about music basically, a lot of it revolves around music and "Travels In Nihilon" is about how people are continually japed into believing that there's something to believe in ... and there's not. It's just music and it always will be music, and they shouldn't try and sell you these funny things that have nothing to do with music.
SA: How do you feel that your music has progressed in the time that you've been together?
AP: It's got simpler. We never play anything complicated. Good Grief! These biscuits have got instructions written on the back in Arabic. Have you seen this? Arabs obviously eat a lot of Golden Crunch. Um, we never did play anything complicated. If anybody out there says 'Oh, come off it. I can't work your chords out' and all that well, they're very, very easy because we're very lazy people. We tend to play things that are drastically stupid to play. I mean they're just throw your hands on a guitar and they come out like that. We are getting simpler, dropping more things out of the music...easier rhythms. It's like the pieces of a clock, everybody plays a simple, unornate piece but the way that they fit together it keeps the motion going.
SA: I think it was on BBC2. There was a TV programme showing the making of "Towers Of London". Now that's pretty unusual, I've never seen that done for a band before. How did that come about?
AP: It was actually BBC Brest....Bristol...West. BBC Breast I nearly said. Yes, BBC Breast 'phoned us up, because they quite like us - heaven knows why - but they 'phoned us up and said 'Look, are you going to be making a new record soon' and we said 'Yes, we're just starting our new L.P.', which was Black Sea, at the time. And they said 'Can we come and film it?' and we said 'Well, yeah, sure. Just drop by and have a look at what it's all about'.....
Copyright © Darryl W Bullock 1991, 1999
Swindon Evening Advertiser
Thursday 28 February 1980
XTC HIT AT HOME TOWN
Swindon's a gritty place say Pop Four
Swindon's globe-trotting rock band XTC are attacking their home town from far-away New York. The band are currently touring the States, where they told the press of the apathy, hatred and resentment Swindonians allegedly feel for them.
In an article syndicated for American newspapers, bass player Colin Moulding said "The last time we played Swindon it was really apathetic. There's a basic hatred for us there." He was speaking of a Christmas show at the Brunel Rooms which sold out within days and in which the band were shouted back for a brace of encores.
Guitarist Andy Partridge was quoted as saying: "The people in Swindon resent us because we got out of the place, and they are still stuck there."
Andy, who has just released a solo album of studio recording experiments, described Swindon as "a gritty little concrete industrial blob". Speaking about the hostility they encountered when the group first "made it" to London, he said "If you come from Swindon you're a stupid hayseed. They treated us like dumb country boys trying to be clever."
The group are in the States on a lengthy tour promoting their latest album Drums and Wires, which was recently released there. A single, Ten Feet Tall, written by Moulding, has also just been issued.
Something to shout about?
Pop group XTC have been shouting their mouths off about the town their origin in an American newspaper, the Tribune. According to songwriter Andy Partridge, Swindon is "a gritty (possibly an error of transcription) little concrete industrial blob". Motive for the attack appears at the end of the article by newspaper columnist Rolling Stone. "There's a basic hatred for us there. The people in Swindon resent us because we got out."
So there we have it. Swindon doesn't do the boys enough homage to fit their standing. Shame!
But is it true? Along with a number of other famous sons and daughters, Swindon has followed the boys" career with more than a little interest. If we're not all shouting that they're the greatest, it has probably got more to do with personal taste and opinion than prejudice.
The lads have come a long way over the last decade and should have outgrown the temptation to be petty. As far as Swindon's concerned, all of us here in this gritty little industrial blob will wish the group all the best for the future.
We may be growing up, but at least we're mature to that extent.
[Thanks to JP Nicholls]
The Toronto Star
January 18, 1980
XTC pops up from underground
Colin Moulding: One of two songwriters for band XTC at the Music Hall, Feb. 2.
If the word out on XTC continues to spread and record sales continue to grow, this bright, inventive British band due in at the Music Hall Feb. 2 will have pulled off a rock 'n' roll first — it'll be the first cult band to gain a widespread following without having to give up its underground credentials.
Guitarist Dave Gregory, the quartet's newest member, told me he noticed a considerable change in the band's following even in the year he has been with it. "We aren't attracting quite so many pinheads and leather freaks as we used to," he explained on the phone recently, the day after the band's opening date on its current North American tour. "At least, in England, this is the case. We seem to have a more sophisticated audience. In North America I'm not sure who'll come to see us. Our first crowd could have been at a country 'n' western club. They were all sitting at tables, eating and drinking, and as if we were a floor show. Curious."
Several British critics, in generally ecstatic reviews of the band's third album, Drums & Wires (Virgin), have credited Gregory's arrival to replace keyboard player Barry Andrews with changing the band's musical direction for the better.
"As a predominantly two guitar group," wrote Paul Morley in New Musical Express, "the XTC have considerably updated, rearranged, and extended what they once were." Mike Nicholls, in the Record Mirror, claims that the new guitarist has helped freshen the ideas from the band's two chief song-writers, Andy Partridge, guitarist, and bassist Colin Moulding.
According to Gregory, who arrived three years after the band had first formed in Swindon, Wiltshire, "fitting was quite easy, the most difficult part being having to play keyboard parts on guitar."
Drums & Wires, despite the complexity of its material, came rather easily to the band, said the guitarist.
"It only took two weeks to record and mix, where Go 2 (the band's second album) took five weeks. We feel some of the tracks could have used some more attention and were hurried over, but otherwise we're happy with the results."
[Thanks to Kenn Scott]
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