XTC in the Press: 1999


Your Dictionary (demo)

Album: Homespun
Genres: Alternative,Rock
XTC was Brit-pop before Brit-pop was cool. Hear an Andy Partridge work-in-progress in this bare-bones version of the scathing tell-off, "Your Dictionary."

Critic's Review: * * *

XTC showed its dark side on the 1998 album Apple Venus, Pt. 1, and "Your Dictionary" was one of its blackest moments. Cupid dips his arrow into acid, then shoots it straight to the heart in this bitter anti-ballad aimed at an ex-spouse. Taken from Homespun, a collection of XTC demos, this stripped down version of the song loses none of its sting; if anything, the exposure lends Andy Partridge's uncluttered vocals even more virulence.

Jackie McCarthy

Jackie McCarthy is the former music editor of Seattle Weekly, and writes about music and other topics for CMJ New Music Monthly, Seattle Weekly, and Resonance on paper, and CDNow and Wall of Sound on the web.

©1999-2001 MUSICBLITZ. All right reserved.

Wall of Sound
by Gary Graff

Sound Off

"Let me pull up the psychiatrist's couch here," says XTC's Andy Partridge as he prepares to discuss the British pop group's new album, Apple Venus, Vol. 1, and the unintended seven-year hiatus that preceded it. One can fully understand Partridge's reference to therapy. Since 1992's Nonsuch, the highly regarded but commercially unsung XTC has staged a "strike" against its former record company, Virgin, and withstood a false start on the album and the loss of a founding guitarist Dave Gregory. Partridge, meanwhile, suffered a bitter divorce and an assortment of illnesses that included a burst eardrum. Over time these were all resolved, and Apple Venus, Vol. 1 - a quiet, orchestral pop album that reflects, with no small lyrical bite, on the group's maladies and misadventures - has been released to the usual critical hosannas. Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding even journeyed across the pond to promote its first release of original material for its new label, TVT Records, though thanks to the former's continuing stage fright, there's no hopes of actual XTC concerts. Instead the duo is hunkering down to finish Apple Venus, Vol. 2, a more upbeat pop effort that they hope to release later this year.

A tough patch over the past few years, eh?

Oh, hell yes. I think that over the last seven years I've gone through more pull-you-apart stuff than most people go through in a lot longer amount of time, unless you're at war or something. We weren't allowed to work - legally, if XTC so much as farted in the bath, then Virgin would have owned it. I went through a divorce, a lot of illness, and had to bring my kids up more or less single-handedly for half the year. I did learn to cook; that's one good thing. And I did fall in love again, which is great. And we made this album, which was very traumatic, but hopefully the grief and rage was channeled in some way into the music - in a way that made it better, of course. I certainly felt the day we finished it as if we pushed some sort of mountain of golden dog s--t over the precipice; it was gold, but it really smelled, too, because of all the stuff we'd been through.

Apple Venus had a false start at the studio owned by Chris Difford from Squeeze, didn't it?

Andy Partridge

That's right; it's in Kent. He and I had been co-writing some stuff there, and I thought, "Wow, this is wonderful." I said, "How much would you charge if we let [rented] this place out?" He said, "Oh, it would just be X pounds." I can't remember the sum, but it was something dirt-cheap. He said, "I'd be honored for you to do your album here. You're my favorite band." But when we got to the studio, the mixing desk was in pieces on the floor, and we then wasted three or four days waiting for them. So we went home, and he was very apologetic - "I'm sorry. You're my favorite group. I'm so embarrassed. Please come down again and everything will be working and you can take the remaining time for free as compensation." So we went through two more weeks of this . . . and finally went down and took the 10 remaining days - and still nothing was working fantastically well. We were all pretty fed up, and near the end of it he came down and said, "I want payment for the studio," and we all thought, "Whoo, this is expensive 'free' studio time." And so we decided to pack up and just go home. We left our tapes there to be collected that evening, and he stole them and basically was holding them ransom until we paid for his free studio time. He still has the tapes, the initial recordings, out there in Kent.

What was Dave's reason for leaving the band during the sessions?

Dave has been on the slippery slope of unhappiness with the band for a long time, and this long period in the fridge was bad for him. He was playing the odd session with people but basically sat indoors, in the dark, rotting. When we started doing the album in earnest, nothing was right for him. He didn't want to record an orchestral, acoustic record. He said "This is your solo album, and I don't want anything to do with it." He didn't want to sign with TVT, he didn't want to do the book, he didn't want to make a video - everything was a big negative to Dave. It came to a head last March; I said, "Look Dave, why don't you take a break? Instead of me sitting there trying these vocals with you shaking your head, why don't you just have a break while I get into some singing." He just took that as permission to go. The next day he delivered a letter saying that he was out. He's playing on a few things [on the album], but he left before we could really get into the majority of the playing.

One track on the album that's drawing a lot of attention is "Your Dictionary," which is a pretty caustic rebuke directed towards your ex-wife. Has she heard it?

Oh, no. No! I played it to my daughter, who's 13, and she said, "Daddy, you can't let mummy hear this. She's gonna die." I said, "Well, look, I didn't write it to hurt your mum. I wrote it because I was upset, and I had to let the pus out in some way. I had to pull the cork out of the top of my head and let just let some of this evil out of my head or else I was going to go crazy." She said, "Well, just don't let her hear it. I won't take a copy home with me, and don't let her hear it. It'll destroy her." But, as I said, I didn't write it for that reason. I wrote it as some therapeutic thing for me.

You also helped put together Transistor Blast, the concert box set, while you were working on Apple Venus. That didn't rekindle your interest in playing live?

No. Quite the opposite; I kind of felt quite content that I got a lot of that out of my system, actually, a lot of that jumping around and sweating for public entertainment. It was interesting, though; we were working on this fat, greasy, salacious orchestral record, and I was sitting in my kitchen with the odd day off with cassettes upon cassettes of this stuff the BBC sent me, guffawing myself stupid, just laughing myself into a coma at this really jagged kind of naive - hopefully charmingly naive - young stuff. It's like naked baby photos, I guess.

Copyright ©1999. Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

December 16, 1999
Heavy Rotation

1999 Millennial Greetings | XTC

Considering that it's a foregone conclusion that life as we know will cease to exist in a couple of days, Spin.com thought it would be "fun" to compile Millennial Greetings and year-end lists from various musicians and artists who might just make our collective impending doom a bit more enjoyable.



Your message of hope/doom to fans on the eve of the century's end is:

The next 100 years has to be better. Surely it can't get any worse than the last 20th century mass murder years.

Where are you going to be at the stroke of midnight for this coming Y2K New Years?

At the stroke of midnight? Stroking, I hope.

Do you have a New Year's Resolution? How long do you expect it to last?

To retain my semen more. I'll probably last as long as the first sexual encounter.

Who do you feel is the most important artist of the 20th century?

Probably Picasso, but I would have liked it to have been Alfred Wallis.

What do you think is the most useful invention of the 20th century?

The microchip.

The most useless?

The micro chip, (The stealth bomber).

Nineties trend you don't want to come back to visit in 2010 in music, fashion, etc.?

Logo clothes.

If you could play anywhere for a millennium party where would it be?

In my front room.


Favorite records of 1999?
Shelby Lynne, Your Lies
Block Timing Is Everything

Favorite records of the Century?
Judge Siu, Both Albums
Beatles Rain
Tony William Lifetime and Emergency Album
Captain Beefheart Trout Mask Replica
Huelgas Febus Avant
Pink Fairies Snake
Beach Boys Vegetables
Louis Jordan Choo Choo Cha Boogle

© 1999 OnRadio.com. All rights reserved.

December 13, 1999 - December 19, 1999
by Erich Boehm

Revivals, youngsters dominate Brit pop

LONDON The U.K. music industry may have to wait until the next millennium for the next mega-band to come along, but the current scene still boasts its fair share of world-class acts.

Against a backdrop of chart-dominating dance pop, young bands such as Travis and Gomez are making their mark. Meanwhile, a handful of old-timers have delivered surprisingly good comebacks --- "pulling up their socks," as one exec puts it, not just cashing in on past glories.

Scottish band Travis can be justifiably described as Radiohead lite, but it is nevertheless carrying the commercial banner for guitar-oriented pop at the moment.

With catchy and well-crafted tunes such as "Why Does It Always Rain on Me," the quartet has scored with "The Man Who," their second album. At 900,000 units in domestic sales, it's the biggest success so far for Independiente, the young, quasi-indie label half-owned by Sony.

Gomez, on the other hand, is more of a critical fave.

The five-piece --- hailing mostly from the Liverpool area --- owes plenty to the seminal swampiness of Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Band. But they are original, part of which is attributable to the unique character of chief singer Ben Ottewell's engagingly rusty voice.

The Virgin band's acclaimed second album, "Liquid Skin," is nearing 200,000 copies sold in the U.K. The previous record, "Bring It On," won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize.

Then there is the return of the old guard.

Over the past few months, Paul McCartney ("Run Devil Run"), Eurythmics ("Peace"), Pet Shop Boys ("Nightlife") and others have released albums that are sometimes outstanding --- and at the least, respectable.

"They were always high-quality artists," says Paul Conroy, prexy for Virgin U.K. "It's a quirk of fate that they've all come around at the same time."

Best in the fun category is Madness. Featuring the original seven-piece lineup, "Wonderful" (Virgin), the band's first studio recording since 1984, has recaptured the raucous working-class spirit of the early days with songs like "Lovestruck" and "Drip Fed Fred."

Bryan Ferry takes the award for class with "As Time Goes By," a collection of jazz-era standards. The ex-front man of Roxy Music and solo artist --- a Roxy reunion is a moot topic --- takes on "I'm In The Mood For Love" and other timeless songs as if he was born to it, somehow managing to seem both purist and contemporary at the same time.

The inside word is that Ferry originally had delivered self-penned material, an album that got nixed by Virgin execs for not being up to scratch.

But it is XTC that win out for artistry. The one-time New Wavers went on strike after Richard Branson sold Virgin to EMI in 1992 because of differences over what the new regime expected of the group. That seven years in the wilderness, and a new deal with indie Cooking Vinyl, produced "Apple Venus Volume 1," with the second volume due in April.

The return of XTC, reduced to singer-songwriters Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding, was greeted with a deluge of critical accolades. Songs like "Easter Theatre," for one, are glorious, arguably art rock without the excesses that makes so much of the genre laughable. Sales, however, have been better outside than in the U.K.

The reality is that the British market is in a particularly fluffy phase, driven by radio and music TV that is largely playing it safe with disposable, if clever, fare.

"We're firmly in the area of pop at the moment," says John Kennedy, chairman and chief exec of Universal Music U.K. "Singer-songwriters have been in short supply over the last few years. I think we're waiting for a new era of long-term artists."

Copyright 1999 Reed Elsevier Inc.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

November 2, 1999
Signal: Music Byte

"Your Dictionary"
...from Homespun

When I was young I used to fail almost all my spelling quizzes because my lazy arse couldn't give a damn, and cause I just didn't see it as fun. Mind you, "Mickey Mouse" was the first word I could spell when I was about 3 or 4 only because it was part of a song. See, the thing is that, with a mind like mine, you need music, a jingle, or some sort of catch to get me to learn something, especially something like spelling. I suppose that I was a bit ahead of my time, since I knew all along that there would be something called "Spell Check" that would make spelling tests nearly obsolete. In fact, the last time I wrote with my own bare hands was when I sent a friend a letter with a package of drugs, I mean, music, three weeks ago.

XTC's "Your Dictionary" song off their latest Homespun, would have helped me considerably. I would've learned to spell words like "F-U-C-K" and "S-H-I-T". This would have led me onto a spelling frenzy in my early years.

So next time you breakup with your loved on, listen to this song. It will help you feel good about your decision as it written as a big "Fuck you" to singer Andy Partridge's ex-wife.

by Sarah Lewitinn

© 1999 OnRadio.com. All rights reserved.
[Thanks to Ben Gott]

The Dallas Morning News
September 26, 1999
Thor Christensen

The Artist Also Known As...

Rock 'n' roll is all about being yourself. But what if part of you yearns to be somebody else?

Enter the alter ego. Country singer Garth Brooks is stirring up attention by reinventing himself as the fictitious rocker Chris Gaines on a new CD that hits record stores Tuesday. But he's hardly the first musician to cop a pseudonym.

. . .

The Artist: XTC

The Alter Ego: LSD-drenched mock-hippie band the Dukes of Stratosphear

The Reason: This exercise in late-'60s Beatlesque psychedelia served as a breather to XTC's usual exercises in mid-'60s Beatlesque pop.

The Outcome: Three delightfully trippy discs, including one EP (1985's 25 O'Clock) that outsold the XTC album that preceded it.

© 1999, The Dallas Morning News.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

XTC - Making Plans for Nothing

XTC is legendary in their single-minded drive to make music their way regardless of the cost, whether the price exacted is on their popularity, their tolerance or their budgets. Much of this has to do with the sensibilities and personal ethics of founding member and compositional genius Andy Partridge. After suffering through financial losses, bad management, and lukewarm reviews while XTC was attached to Virgin with a contract that seemed created mostly to take advantage of them, they just stopped recording completely. They were hoping to stalemate Virgin into capitulation to their request; Partridge's plaintive "Let my people go." The competent "Nonsuch" (1992) proved why these senior members of the Virgin label had lasted so long (circa 1978) and was their last gasp before shutting down completely to sit out in pained silence. Partridge comments, "In fact they[Virgin] were selling our records from 1977 to 1997 before WE went into profit. They went into profit many years before- in a great fashion, you know. They'd made millions out of us but we never saw that because of the nature of our ropey deal." Finally, two years ago that rope was cut and fans waited cautiously for what was to happen next.

In a way, XTC and even more so Partridge, is a little like the Wonka candy factory, becoming less and less attached to human involvement as they see the nature of mankind, and the nature of their own shortcomings, pervert their gifts. After years of dispensing both peppery and sweet treats, delighting puzzled fans and flummoxing corporate types- they just stopped producing altogether. One is reminded of the old street vendor's phrase in the aforementioned Roald Dahl classic "Nobody ever goes in--nobody ever goes out". One imagines all sorts of wonderful and terrifying things happening inside of this mysterious imaginary palace of musical horrors and miracles for those silent years. Partridge makes the analogy even more vivid, "I was still writing for five years while we were in the fridge legally. I couldn't stop writing songs even though I didn't know if any of them were gonna be heard. I'd grown this extra orifice through which to live life through and it won't heal over. I'm stuck with this." In other words, Partridge is fully conscious that he is a bigmouth, an asshole and may possibly have a third eye or even a gill. His analogy explains both his sensitivity and his reputed insensitivity in one blow with his frustrating ability to be a charming, self deprecatory, misanthropic grouse.

There is, of course, the line of thought that it was the very nature of the harshness of their deal with Virgin that kept XTC always searching for more- keeping them lean, creative and driven. Partridge agrees to a certain extent, "It certainly kept us hungry. I mean, not physically hungry but hungry for, you know, - that side of the engine was kept running by that- and still does to some extent. I know we'll be rewarded one day. And I'm a little frightened. If the size of the reward was too great- it may take the steam out of the engine."

When Virgin relented and XTC was free to share their music again the current "Apple Venus Volume One" was released in Feburary. And once again Partridge and crew bend the minds of those who are compelled to listen to them with an ornate, thick, orchestral confabulation with the promise of a more guitar based "Volume Two" to follow post haste. This time they are on their own label, Idea, quickly hammered together with the realization they stood a better chance of making deals if they were less a band and more a company. "It was really a tool to get record companies to be sensible with us." Partridge confesses, "I can't remember who said it but we were visiting lots of labels and we're getting sort of conventional kinds of offers and somebody said 'Well, if you were a label they'd treat you differently. And they did. Suddenly we were getting much more sensible offers." He chuckles richly as he adds, "So I think all bands should consider this."

Partridge, in interview, displays all his grand colors and subtle shadings, he is remarkably open, generous with his time, thoughtful, affected both positively and negatively by the odd comment or harsh question and is, both delicate and ferocious in his determination to write what he wants to write and be what he has to be. After his problems with drugs [Valium] and women [left his wife] and his alarmingly serious nervous breakdown on tour fifteen odd years ago, XTC has refused to play live. While this would have signaled the end of any other band, they have continued to build a very diverse world-wide fan base and create cascades of remarkable sounds as album after album came out of rustic Swindon, England, their home town, while they have never left home to play one note live. They continue to be a very real force in music and hold influence over young musicians with their far-sighted earlier work.

All is not sweetness and light in the Partridge universe, as even a cursory glance at some of those ironic lyrics poking out of his poppy packaging will reveal. Conspicuous by his absence on "Apple Venus Volume One" is long-time guitarist Dave Gregory. Partridge explains the evolution and diminishment of Gregory's participation, "Dave was hired in a panic, we were a touring band with a lot of touring commitments and he was the only musician we really knew. Although he did play keyboards he was predominantly a guitar player. So he was hired and immediately fitted in because we knew him. You know, he came from the same town. I'd known him for years before. In fact I used to go and see bands that he was in- the sort of starting act and I would sort of stand and watch and think 'Wow! I'd love to be able to play guitar.' You know, I'd be, like, 14 and he'd be, like, 16 on-stage and I'm thinking, 'Wow. I'd LOVE to be able to play electric guitar.'

"So he was hired in a time when we needed him- the table needed a fourth leg, originally. And when we were touring he was very important to the touring band, you know, he carried a quarter of the burden live, and really pulled his weight with that side of things. But as soon as we stopped touring his role diminished to nearly nothing- has to be said. And as much as you try to involve him in the process of recording, he knew he was an outsider. He didn't write songs, he contributed very little to the songs in the recording stage. He was mostly told what to play and occasionally given a free hand with the odd solo here or there. He liked to write everything down. He might write out several solos and have them rejected before the one- he'd be bullied into something a little better. All this sounds very tough but it's true.

"And this was, over the years, I think. His involvement became less and less. It really dried up for him. It's a shame. Because it would have been nice if he got involved you know, if he wrote songs or if he came forward and said 'I'd really love to arrange this song in this way or that way' but he didn't He was the quiet one in the corner.

"There was a little sadness because, after 25 or whatever it was, years of knowing somebody, you realize you don't know them....He was just negative about everything. Didn't want to do the orchestral record [Apple Venus], didn't want to spend money on the orchestra, didn't want to find a TVT, didn't want to be involved in the book. He didn't want to do this, he didn't want to do that. It was like everything was a negative with Dave and it became impossible to work with him in the studio...But when he left it was a funny sweet and sour mixture of 'Well there goes a big chunk of my professional life walking out the door' plus 'Ah! Thank Christ! Thank God I don't have to carry that monolith of being responsible for this man's life anymore. That was a strange feeling. A strange big dollop of sweet and sour."

When asked where XTC is at right now Partridge puzzles over this. "I don't know where we are...I mean...seeing as I'm kind of stuck inside this goldfish bowl I don't really have a picture of what shape it is. I'd have to be way outside it. Because I can see what goldfish bowl I was in 20 years ago or 10 years ago but it's trickier seeing the one I'm in now. I just hope that we continue having our parallel reality career. I don't think it's the sort of career that's much to do with the music business or the music thing in general. It seems to me that we have our own set of rails that we run on and you either like it or you don't, if you know what I mean.

"It's not like we're on the main line track and people [are] standing at the station just waiting to get on us. We're a different beast altogether." He admits that XTC emerged from what would be considered an adolescent dream of life in rock and roll, "I think we evolved into- I mean when we started, I had the same kind of naive visions, I think, as I did when I was, like, fifteen. You know it was all gonna be like "A Hard Day's Help!" and we were all gonna live in one big house, you know- plug into the wall and say "I'm great!" and be driven around in Rolls Royces being fed chocolate cake for the rest of our lives and have every waking moment filmed, you know and never fight and life was gonna be rosy.

"The un-naiving process is very violent and very sudden and your goals, of course, change as the years go on. I mean, I've already achieved a million times more than I thought I would but I've not achieved the kind of naive goals that I had. But....I'm not interested in those anymore."

Still reflecting on the artistic rewards of his efforts and goals he remains focused on the present and adds, "I still haven't done what I want to do. I'm searching, groping around in the fog for what I want to do. "Apple Venus" is one of things I want to do. There are millions of others but I know there's a goal in the fog there somewhere. But I many only achieve the goal accidentally, I don't know."

The range of fans that XTC has garnered in their 22 year history has become something of an amalgam of cosmic misfits, pop-tune aficionados, electronic music experimentalists, grunge rockers and misanthropic philosophes. Partridge's own assessment is somewhat shy of the full group but still fairly accurate. "Who do we appeal to? I'm not too sure. I mean we've had letters from 15 year old girls or 50 year old red-Indian sculptresses or 25 year old tattoo artists or 80 year old gardeners. I don't know, we must appeal to all sorts of folks. Generally- generally, I think our audience is mostly male and they're mostly kind of university or professional age and they're mostly American." He laughs, "They're not English. I mean, we can't get arrested over here. A fair sprinkling of Japanese people like us, I can't explain why that is."

He is somewhat wary of the on-line fan sites that dot the information highway and says "I don't have access to the internet but occasionally people have sent me- I think twice- people have sent me big telephone directory-sized wodges of paper saying 'oh this is what they're talking about lately' ...and uh...it's very perverse. I mean a third of it comes under such stupid hyperbole that I don't believe it. You know they say 'This band's better than the Beatles. Greater songwriters than Brian Wilson, McCartney-blah blah blah' all this kind of stuff and I don't believe it at all that so that's a third of it-goes in the bin.

"Another third of it is so wrong. Because it's the misinformation highway. Chinese Whispers gone awry. Electronic Chinese Whispers. Just the rumor and the factual shit is so wrong. So that third of it goes in the bin.

"Now we have two thirds of it in the bin. And the other third of it can be so critical and these people set themselves up and judge and jury over you- that I feel very indignant. Some of the stuff I've read has just been so painful and unnecessarily swiping that I tend to not believe it because they don't know me as a person. They don't know that this is not what I've attempted or whatever. So that goes into the bin as well.

"So that's three thirds. So if you add up three thirds of what I've read of stuff they talk about on the internet I think it's all been bad, personally."

Actually the internet, specifically the XTC fan page "Chalkhills" is where I ran into the information that Aimee Mann was dating Dave Gregory. Partridge confirms this and volunteers a little more information besides, "It's very strange that she was dating him and ringing me up and trying to get inside of my pants at the same time. It was very worrying because I didn't want to tell Dave. She'd send him out for cigarettes or something and then she'd get straight on the phone to me. It lasted, I don't know, like four months or something with Dave. I couldn't tell Dave. I would have destroyed him. 'Hey your girlfriend's calling me making lewd suggestions while you're out buying her cigarettes."

When I mention that the only way any XTC fan could ever hope of catching a live gig would be if they saw an XTC cover band he becomes a bit quiet for a moment. Partridge is particularly sensitive about this issue and he pretty well acknowledges this is true with a low, almost shaken, "Yes." The subject is quickly changed to bands that have covered XTC with some success most notably Primus and Crash Test Dummies and he recovers his equilibrium when asked how he feels about it, "That's okay- I mean if they can get something out of those songs. I don't know. It's just clay- the can wangle it around into a shape they're happy with. I'm fine with that. It doesn't fill me with pride or horror. Neither. It's fine. It's some clay if they want to use it.

"I know that the Crash Test Dummies are big fans because, well, the first evidence I had of that was I came down to breakfast one morning and there was an 11 page fax spewed out all over the floor from a hotel room in America somewhere where Brad was on tour and he's written this kind of, dissertations on our music, you know, really analyzing it. Chord changes and blah blah and all that. So I guess he's a fan.

"[I felt] honored in a funny sort of way. I mean obviously making music for a long time we're gonna rub off on somebody somewhere. Some of these people may be musicians themselves who then go on to make record and I guess we're an influence of some sort on them but again- I tend to not have strong feelings one way of the other about it....I don't run around going 'Yahoo! Wahoo! Brilliant!'...It's kind of flattering. It's just generally flattering."

Would XTC ever be persuaded to do a side project, maybe as Dukes of Stratosphear, that would play, once again, some of their own music? "No. Not for me. I mean, other people want to do it. I heard that Brian Jonestown Massacre would like to go out on tour as the Dukes. But I don't know if anything will come of that. I said I'd ever write them some new Dukes material if they want to fill up a whole set with Dukes stuff." Kinda makes you want to call these guys and start bugging them to do it, doesn't it?

It has to be noted at this point that Partridge released an album in 1982 which foreshadowed almost every musical trend towards dubbing and did it better than most bands will ever do now. It was called "Lure Of Salvage" and released under the moniker of "Mr. Partridge." There is nothing quite like it. It truly gives you an idea of the depth of the brilliance of Partridge's self absorption, generosity of spirit, sense of humor, casual brilliance and terrifying genius. While "Lure" was admittedly "off the cuff", Partridge expands on the "Lure" dub experience and his eventual return to more traditional song writing. "I found the whole surgery aspect of dub very interesting. And I think I got it out of my system. It taught me a lot of lessons and [I] went on to use those lessons in sort of mainstream music making. I don't get the desire to bash our music about through a mixing desk anymore. If anyone wants to do that, they're quite welcome. You know, if they want to do that to our songs they can do it. I'd rather grow songs from scratch. I find that much more thrilling- the sort of gardening aspect of it rather than the welding torch aspect."

And how does he feel about '90's dub? "Well, anyone can do it and people are frequently blinded- or rather deafened- by the fab panoply of sounds that everyone- my dog, my mother- has access to. They're somewhat blinded by it. Personally I'm much more interested in song writing which you don't need a computer to do. You just need an instrument and a pencil and a piece of paper. And the ability to sort of hook your soul, like, in some way with this pencil.

"I think that's much more gruesome and much more wonderful than messing with a computer. Messing with a computer and sampling is a bit like making art with, like collage, with scissors and paper. Where you're cutting up other people's photographs. It can be kind of cute and quaint and interesting but I'd much rather make pictures with the physical process of making the marks yourself, rather than cutting up someone else's music."

It seems to me that it would be nice to have some sort of radio tour or something that would get the music to the people. Partridge agrees but says "Not with Apple Venus Volume One. I don't want to go and do, kind of, not shoddy versions but go and do stripped down versions of that with acoustic guitars. Everybody and his uncle does that kind of thing now. It was brand new at one time but I don't want people wagging fingers going "Look who's jumped onto the 'unplugged' bandwagon". You know, when I started the fucking thing rolling in the first place. So I don't want to have that waved at us but I also don't think the material we've done on Apple Venus Volume One would be so delightful if it was deconstructed. The material for Volume Two possibly because that will be much more immediate- kind of electric guitars and stuff and there's a possibility of doing something with that but we haven't quite decided what that will be.

"We started to record a whole mess of stuff intending it to be a double CD set and very quickly ran out of time and money and decided, quite early on really, that we should concentrate on doing the orchestral acoustic side of things," Partridge further explains, "Which Colin was in agreement with and Dave Gregory wasn't. That appalled him, which is one of the reasons he yanked himself out. So we have some parts of Volume Two recorded but I haven't heard them for a while and I don't know if any of it's gonna be usable or whether we should just start again from scratch or whether we'll carry on working with the bits and pieces we're recording plus new recordings. So it's supposed to start again in April."

The electric promise of the new material on Volume Two leads me to ask if this is a return to the "roots" of XTC or are these songs going to sound nothing at all like the last time they plugged in? Partridge responds thoughtfully, "The electric material was written between '94 and '96. I think to a large extent I've got the orchestral thing out of my system for a while and honestly felt like just hearing cranked up noise again. And the songs that came out ...were shaped by that and shaped to accommodate that. So I guess to some extent some of it may sound like we did before.

"I don't know. I'm gonna let it come out just how it wants to come out and if it sounds 'brand new us' then it will and if it sounds 'old fashioned us' then it will as well. You see what I mean? I'm just going to let it appear and do it's own thing and we'll see where we stand at the end of it.

"I think, from looking at the materials, some of it's joyous and some sounds slightly maudlin or not maudlin but slightly miserable in places. There's one called "Wounded Horse" which is very damned, there's one called "Playground" which is one of the better songs, I think, I've ever written, but again it has a large slightly depressing feel to it. We'll have to see. I'm not quite sure- the thing is we haven't really started getting the ingredients together, let alone cooking it."

Partridge is very enthusiastic about trying new things. His usual eccentric modus operandi seems always to be painting the future with a baroque sense of style, somewhat as if DaVinci was imagining what a personal computer would look like. "I'm very interested in the future...very interested in finding new ways of exorcising all the music that went into me. New ways of ghost killing. That's thrilling. I'd love to get to grips with new ways of making songs. I don't know what that would be but maybe I've touched on it with "River Of Orchids". For me that was a new way of making a song. "I'd also like to indulge my kind of banal bubble-gummy side and there's a couple of those on Volume Two that will be like that. There's one called "Stupidly Happy" which has one chord for four minutes. One bass note, one chord and it's very infectious. Well, it has to be, you can't get away from the one chord. You know, I've never done anything quite as banal as that. It's in me. I know it's in me. I can delight in it. There's all sorts of facets I'd like to get to grips with so the future is really unknown. Very exciting because of that"

Andy Partridge going minimal? Becoming the Mayor Of Simple Style? How? In writing style or in how the music is executed? Partridge's voice animates with fear and excitement, "Both. I'd very much like to- it takes a real brave person to do that. I don't know if I'm brave enough[to be minimal]. It's an area I would like to look at. I mean, I have a reputation for being heavy on detail and ornament but I would also like to look at music with a lot of space- so you can put your arms into it."

Since only Partridge is capable of predicting his musical future, it is interesting to close with some observations on the past. I ask him which release he thinks stands the test of time. "I think "White Music" sounds dated to me, not so much musically as personally. I think it's a point were we hadn't ever commenced to grow and it was a sort of charming naive burst of energy and so consequently I don't naive as it may be an charming as it may be, I don' like it held up as a great slice of XTC. I think "White Music is dated a lot. Also some of the technology on "Big Express" for example the drum machine sounds a little dated now. But I don't think the songs do...It sound kind of, almost cartoon '80's in some places. It's like looking at naked baby pictures. But you know it's gonna be hard to escape that, you know. You're the product of any given time that you're in- at any given time." Surreally true. Like being given time with Andy Partridge- at any given time.
[Ian Rans & H. M.]

August 1999

[Thanks to Ian Rans]

The Plain Dealer
June 12, 1999
By Wilma Salisbury, Plain Dealer dance critic


The Repertory Project turned the theater into a classroom Thursday night at the Jewish Community Center in Cleveland Heights.

The subject was the children's house on an Israeli kibbutz of the 1960s and '70s. The source materials came from the experiences of Israeli choreographer Neta Pulvermacher, who created the evening-length piece, "Five Beds/Children of the Dream," to memorialize her childhood in a Utopian community. Though intended as a gift to her son, the work speaks to a larger audience as a poignant remembrance of an idealistic social experiment that was ultimately abandoned.

The children portrayed by six members of the Repertory Project are energetic playmates who march like soldiers in heavy work boots, belly flop on their beds and crash to the floor while standing in line. They play classical tunes on flutophones, sing the "Internationale" and raise their arms in the communist pledge of unity. When they are not running, jumping or practicing military drills, they lie on their backs daydreaming or hide beneath their narrow cots.

Ellen Ressler Hoffman takes the leading role as Pulvermacher. The only dancer who speaks, she directs the singing and mimes the character traits of a nose-picker, a wallflower and other group members. Dancers Gail Friedberg, Greta Fifner, Cara Perkins, Heidi Selz and Nikki Sikora do not emerge as specific characters. Yet, they suggest the individuality of each child beneath the regimentation of identical striped pajamas and rigorous routines.

Pulvermacher's voice is heard on tape reminiscing about the beauty of the Israeli landscape. She tells the legend of a red poppy field and recalls the chocolates given to a girl whose brother committed suicide. The accompanying tape plays bits and pieces of music ranging from a Beethoven string quartet to original works by Israeli composer Yuval Gabay.

The movement style, weighted and tense, is almost devoid of grace. Except for the few tender moments when the children rest on the floor or offer comfort to one another, the dancers are dynamos fearlessly hurling themselves across stage.

The 50-minute piece progresses in quick shifts as the choreography segues from intimate encounters to explosive actions and the lighting by Dennis Dugan changes from stark white to shadowy darkness. Some scenes lag, however, and the choreography is not consistently compelling. More educational than entertaining, the production provided plenty of impetus for a serious post-performance discussion about the values of kibbutz life and the communal ideal.

The only other dance on the program was the premiere of "River of Orchids," a whimsical solo excerpted from an evening-length piece Pulvermacher is creating in collaboration with the English rock band XTC. Costumed in black biker shorts, sports bra, purple cellophane skirt and green dunce cap, Pulvermacher looked like a charming contemporary elf. Batting her eyelashes and undulating her torso, she flowed across stage in a continuous line of clearly articulated movement that was cleverly supported by Andy Partridge's accompanying music of watery plops and pizzicato snaps. Though the meaning of the dance was ambiguous, it gave a tantalizing taste of a promising work in progress.

Copyright 1999 Plain Dealer Publishing Co.
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Western Daily Press
June 1, 1999
by Barry Leighton

Bands aid Kosovo

DRUMMER Kevin Wilkinson, his wife Marilyn Fitzgerald and musician David Marx could not sit back and watch footage of refugees pouring out of Kosovo without doing something to help.

In little over a month they had organised an amazing Band Aid-style show at Swindon's largest rock venue, the Oasis leisure centre, and on Sunday their labour of love paid off when nearly 1,000 people responded.

The Swindon trio had persuaded top names in the rock world to perform for free, including original Band Aid star Midge Ure, charismatic former leader of the Waterboys Mike Scott, madcap rocker John Otway, Eighties synth-pop star Howard Jones and ex-members of Swindon's finest XTC.

There were buckets of emotion when former Ultravox singer Ure led an all-star band through a rousing and apt Give Peace A Chance at the climax of the show.

Afterwards David Marx said: "It was a great show, I am proud that Swindon people turned up and supported us."

Copyright 1999 Bristol United Press
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Music Monitor
May 1999
by Wes Long

The Good Ship XTC XTC

All aboard! We will be pulling away in mere moments. Prepare for the ride of your life on the good ship XTC. Be sure to secure your belongings, fasten your shoulder harnesses, and take your Dramamine, as this ship's course is marked by treacherous waters. Icebergs, waterfalls, and minefields abound on this journey; pitfalls aplenty, en route to the promised land of Apple Venus. Not to worry though, Richard Branson, the wealthier than thou, one time captain of this vessel, (yes, he's the one who nearly ran the ship aground on her Virgin voyage) is currently piloting balloons. At the helm now is the undeniably able captain Andy Partridge, aided by his ever ready first mate Colin Moulding. So, step lively, passengers, this voyage begins now.

The creation of any musical release is a bit of an adventurous journey, but XTC's trek towards the completion of Apple Venus Volume 1 proved to be a bit more arduous than most. It began in 1992, when reluctant frontman Andy Partridge's proposal for the band's next release, a bubblegum spoof project along the lines of their successful stint as the Dukes of Stratosphear, was met with something several fathoms beneath contempt at Virgin Records. Andy decided that the combination of that and the inequity of their age old contract, which had made millions for the then Branson-run label and little for the band, was grounds for a strike. "We had the world's worst deal," Partridge says, and asked Virgin "can you make our deal a bit more sensible...I don't want to remain in poverty for the rest of my life." A staring match ensued, in which Virgin eventually blinked first, though it took them five years to do it. Within that time, Andy says, "I went through a very painful divorce, and had a lot of illness, drank my prostate to bits, literally, went deaf for a while due to an inner ear infection...didn't know if I was going to hear again or not, and then I went out and fell in love again. They say that the best music is either made out of extreme misery or extreme joy, and I've been on the roller coaster with loads of both for the last five or six years." He had written some of the best music of his career, a lot of it, and was now free to shop it around. XTC formed their own company, Idea Records, and inked distribution deals (with TVT in the US). Then the real trouble started.

Andy wasn't the only one writing amidst the difficult Virgin anti-holiday; bassist Colin Moulding had songs to contribute as well. "We had over forty songs which were the albums we should have made in '93 and '95," says Andy. Partridge, Moulding, and long time guitarist extraordinaire Dave Gregory had to come to some sort of decision. As usual, the three didn't see eye to eye on what tunes to record, or on how many, or what format to record them in. Andy wanted to throw all the songs together in a giant sprawling double album, half orchestral, half electric, though the rest of his band, and virtually everyone else who had a say in the matter advised him otherwise.

As it had always been in the past, Andy's will was the way. The band enlisted the production talents of Haydn Bendall, who had recorded their 3D EP some twenty-odd years prior. The lads knew that they would have to conserve money, since twenty plus tunes, some of them backed by an orchestra, would be expensive, and they didn't have much of a budget to work with.

As luck would have it, Andy knew that Chris Difford, of Squeeze fame, had a new studio that XTC could use at a discount rate. The lads booked some time at Difford's studio, and arrived to find it in disarray. "The mixing desk was in pieces on the floor. We waited around for a few days, tempers boiling, and finally told him that we'd come back when he got it fixed." Difford promised his studio would soon be fully functional, and told XTC to enjoy the remainder of their studio time free of charge to make up for the trouble. The lads took him up on his offer, only to have a bill given to them at the end of their session. "I told him to take the bill and shove it up his ass. And as we were packing to leave, he stole all of our tapes, and we had to start from scratch again."

Now forced to book time at a decidedly more expensive, yet fully operational, studio, they became aware that they only had enough money to create half of the conceived double release. Thus Apple Venus Volume 1. "This album was incredibly jinxed. On top of everything else, our producer left the project midway, and we ran low on money and had to finish recording in Colin's living room. But for all the setbacks, I think we've created one hell of a great album."

Worst of all, at least for longtime XTC fans, halfway through the recording process, Dave Gregory handed in his pink slip. Dave had arrived on the XTscene just in time for their groundbreaking Drums and Wires, and he was the one member who could perform multiple tasks for the band--keys, guitars, background vocals, string arrangements--and do them all quite well. Hell, he was probably the first member who could read music, and he spent the next twenty years putting the finishing touches on Andy and Colin's music. But times had changed, and Andy, who once relied on Dave to flesh out his material, was now quite confident and competent, with computer programs allowing him to produce highly polished demos in his home studio. Suddenly the word 'invaluable' didn't seem to define Dave's contributions anymore. The idea of creating a mostly acoustic/orchestral release rubbed the guitar-mad Gregory the wrong way, and the fact that all the string arrangements had already been worked out by Andy just seemed to push him over the edge. "It seemed quite sudden at the time but I think he had been willing himself out of the group for the last few years. There was a lot of anger welling up out of him. And I think he just wanted to make an album where he plugs into the wall and plays his guitar. We were both becoming really unhappy. It was good for everyone that he left."

And now we've reached our destination. On behalf of Captain Partridge, I welcome you to Apple Venus. I'm sure you'll soon forget the rough XTseas that plagued our journey. For those of you brave enough to venture these waters with us again in the future, and for those still retching over the starboard rail (I told you to take your Dramamine), this story doesn't end here. Apple Venus Volume 2 is slated for an early 2000 release, and the lads are reported to be studio bound as we speak. Though Mr. Gregory departed the band, he did contribute a bit to Apple Venus Volume 1, so this new effort will be the mark by which his loss is judged. Who knows what perils lurk in the murky depths ahead? Until then, thanks for riding with us, exit to the right, and have a nice day.

[Thanks to Wes Long]

CNN Showbiz Today
May 26, 1999, Wednesday 4:00 pm Eastern Time

XTC on CNN Showbiz Today

MORET: Fans of the band XTC don't get to see them very often. The Brit group doesn't tour and they rarely makes TV appearances or music videos.

But there's been an XTC sighting. Paul Vercammen talked with pop music's great disappearing act about their new record and book.



PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Seven years after this ditty from XTC's record "Nonsuch," rock recluses Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding are resurfacing.

ANDY PARTRIDGE, GUITAR/VOCALS, XTC: "Green Lantern" was good.

VERCAMMEN: But don't expect to see these comic book collectors and remaining members of XTC in concert. XTC still doesn't tour.

PARTRIDGE: We don't really give a damn if people don't like what we do. As long as we're earning enough money to keep our heads above water, to carry on selfishly enjoying writing and making music, then damn it.

VERCAMMEN: These English tunesmiths have made a new CD, "Apple Venus: Volume One," which played in the background at this rare photo shoot.


You see, XTC hasn't completed a new music video yet.

PARTRIDGE: We're regular people. We don't -- we're not interested in any of this celebrity "sheesh."

VERCAMMEN: Perhaps critical acclaim is the main reason XTC's new record label, TVT, puts up with a band so cool to self-promotion. That, and a legacy of melodic pop such as 1999's "Mayor of Simpleton."


Two decades worth of XTC's songs are decoded in this just released book, including a new song, "Your Dictionary," a definition of discord written before Partridge's divorce.


PARTRIDGE: When you get thrown away by somebody -- your marriage, you know: "I don't want you anymore," you're just going to feel like scum. I just wanted to write something to alleviate the pain. The pressure was building up inside my head.

VERCAMMEN: Much of XTC's new material is layered with orchestral arrangements.


PARTRIDGE: It's just a different way of looking at it. It's just not electric guitars going "karang." It's orchestras going "eeh, eeh, eeh, eeh, eeh."

COLIN MOULDING, BASS/VOCALS, XTC: It's still pop music. It still has melodies.

VERCAMMEN: XTC will follow "Apple Venus: Volume One" with a guitar based record and promises to make some racket, but certainly not a public spectacle.

Paul Vercammen, CNN entertainment news, Hollywood.


copyright 1999 Cable News Network
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]

Jefferson City News Tribune
Sunday, May 2, 1999

XTC clears obstacles to stay together

NEW YORK (AP) -- Twenty-five years have passed, so Andy Partridge finally feels comfortable confessing.

During his teen-age days in England, the singer for the rock band XTC used to scatter David Bowie and Iggy Pop records around his room when his friends came over to visit. He had an image to protect, and Bowie and Iggy made him look cool.

What his buddies never realized was that before they came over, Partridge would be listening to his dad's old albums of Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Now the story can be told.

"You get older and more comfortable with yourself and you say, 'Sure, I like a lot of the music that my parents liked,"' he said.

It's a telling admission since Partridge and his partner, Colin Moulding, have emerged from a seven-year exile with an album his dad could probably appreciate. "Apple Venus, Volume I" leaves the traditional instruments of rock 'n' roll behind for a sound Partridge describes as "orchustic" -- orchestral and acoustic.

The combination is heralded by the plucked violin strings and dissonant horns that form an extended intro to the album. It's not easy listening music, however. Dedicated followers will see the parallels with XTC's artsy, tuneful rock that's made songs like "Dear God" and "Senses Working Overtime" cult favorites.

"I think some XTC fans will think of this stuff as possibly a jump too far," Partridge said. "If they fall off, I'd rather like that if they can't handle it, if they're not tough enough."

One person who has already abandoned ship is Dave Gregory, XTC's guitarist for 20 years. His departure, partly because he didn't want to play this kind of music, just added to XTC's catalogue of woes during the 1990s.

For seven years, XTC refused to record until they were released from their record contract. Partridge also suffered through a divorce during the time on the shelf.

After years of silence, suddenly there's a flood of XTC material. The band says it's a way of thanking fans for their patience. "Apple Venus, Volume 2," an electric rock 'n' roll record, will come out later this year. "Transistor Blast" is a box set consisting of live recordings from XTC's early days.

© Copyright 1999 News Tribune Co. All rights reserved.

March 15, 1999

XTC To Begin Recording Apple Venus Vol. 2


XTC will waste no time recording the follow-up to the recently-released Apple Venus Vol. 1, their first studio album in seven years. The band will return from Japan, where they are currently on a press tour, next week and begin recording Apple Venus Vol. 2 in April, which is already written and demo'd.

  TVT expects a much quicker recording process this time around, as Vol. 2 is a collection of straightforward, plugged-in rock songs rather than the unplugged, orchestral-heavy tunes of Vol. 1. The album is expected to surface by the end of the year. Tracks on Vol. 2 may include "Playground," "My Brown Guitar," "We're All Light," "Ship Trapped in the Ice" (about the band's five-year feud with Virgin Records), and "The Man Who Murdered Love," among others. The band will commence recording the album as soon as the finishing touches are put on bassist Colin Moulding's home studio on his farm in Swindon, England -- a welcomed change from Vol. 1, which the band recorded parts of in Moulding's living room.

  The release of Vol. 2 raises the question of a longstanding touring rumor perpetuated by lead singer Andy Partridge himself in an issue of Modern Drummer last year. Partridge has expressed interest in a flatbed truck tour, which would involve the band pulling up outside radio stations in selected cities and playing a free show on the back of a flatbed truck that would simultaneously be broadcast live on the radio. The reason the rumor is connected to Vol. 2 is because the songs are much more easily rehearsed and played live.

  A spokesperson from TVT expressed hope in the tour, although it is nothing more than a rumor at this time.

- - Kevin Raub

[Thanks to Wesley Hanks]

Music Week
March 13, 1999

Japanese breakthrough for XTC

XTC's recording career with independent label Cooking Vinyl has got off to a strong start internationally after the band made a rare UK breakthrough into the Japanese Top 20. Their first Cooking Vinyl album Apple Venus - Volume 1, handled by Pony Canyon in Japan, debuted at number 14 there last week to be outsold by only one other international album, the multi Grammy-winning The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill. Though the band have not overcome their much-documented phobia about playing live, Cooking Vinyl international manager Nikki Demol says they are giving their full support to promoting the album. In February they visited key European territories, while they completed a two-week US trip last week and are in Japan this week. Easter Theatre, a track from the album, is due to be released internationally as a single in April.

Copyright 1999 Miller Freeman PLC
[Thanks to Wes Hanks]




Yippie! Nytt XTC-album!

Coveret er gjenstand for debatt og frie tolkninger blant fansen... Men blir det dette coveret i Norge mon tro?

Apropos XTC

XTC: Wasp Star (Apple Venus # 2)

XTC: Venus Apple Volume 1

Andy Partridge? XTC? Remember...? Nå kommer bandets første studio-album på sju år.

Partridge og Colin Moulding er i disse dager i Statene for å promotere albumet. "Apple Venus Volume 1" er litt forsinka, men den norske distributøren (MNW) lover at det skal være i butikkene førstkommende mandag, 1. mars.

XTC er et ikke-turnerende pop-orkester, og slik vil de fortsatt ha det. Moulding og Partridge har ikke en gang med seg en kassegitar på sin pormo-tur. Partridge vil i stedet lese noen linjer fra boka "XTC: The Exclusive Authorized Story Behind the Music".

"Dear God" i rap-versjon

XTCs store hit fra 1987, "Dear God", kommer forresten i remixa utgave - signert rapperen Willie D (ex. Geto Boys). Den dukker opp på hans kommende solo-album.


Wall of Sound
Release Dates
January 21, 1999

XTC: Apple Venus Vol. 1 (TVT/Idea)
It's been a long seven years for XTC's Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding. Following the release of 1992's Nonsuch, the band disappeared from view due to a legal battle with its former British label, Virgin. Once liberated, XTC commenced recording of the dozens of songs written while on hiatus, only to have longtime guitarist Dave Gregory depart near the end of the sessions due to creative differences. But 1999 should be a year of spiritual rebirth for Partridge (who also went through a bitter divorce recently) and Moulding, as the duo XTC will release two albums, Apple Venus Vols. 1 & 2. While the second disc (due later this year) is electric in nature, Partridge describes Vol. 1 as "orchustic," meaning the 11 songs are acoustic at their core and most feature string orchestration. The result is a grand, sweeping album that still resonates with XTC's masterful power-pop sensibilities and plenty of lyrical bite, especially when Partridge reflects on his acrimonious breakup in "Your Dictionary." Moulding contributes two songs himself, "Frivolous Tonight" and "Fruit Nut."

[Thanks to Stephanie Takeshita]

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23 September 2018