Andy Speaks to Simon Potter

[source unknown]

(NB - I don't know who Simon Potter is - presumably a TV show host.)
[Actually, I think he was a radio DJ. -- John]

Simon Potter: . . . And it's time to welcome Andy Partridge from XTC.

Andy Partridge: Hi, Europe.

SP: Commenting on the old Bo Diddley-shaped guitar there, weren't you?

AP: Yeah, first time I've seen a shoe-box-shaped guitar for a long time now. . . Just put my lovely cup of coffee on your Hammerwright table there. . .

SP: He's been taking the mickey out of our designer studio here.

AP: Aw, it's very nice, you can't say that! It's very nice.

SP: We were talking about the possible disposibility, really, of Westworld's material - we were likening them to Sigue Sigue Sputnik, but do you take your music a bit more seriously than that, do you hope it maybe endures longer?

AP: What - the things that we do?

SP: Yeah.

AP: Yes and no. I mean, I wouldn't mind if our music was taken, played, and wssh! in the bin, as probably a lot of it is, and I don't mind if you want to sit and pour over the lyrics and the chord changes for years to come, you know - (gruff American voice) "What are these guys about? This is the best thing I've heard since . . ." whatever. But I don't care, it's how the individual approaches it. It's nice to be taken seriously on some things, and then on things we were just joking, you know, it's nice to be taken jokingly. But I really like Westworld, I must say. Got a nice direct sort of sound.

SP: The reason I asked you that, Andy, was because at certain times in your career, particularly with XTC, you seem to have undergone periods of re-appraisal if you like, and re-thought what you're doing. Just why have you done that?

AP: I think boredom, you know, you get bored with yourself and you want to change yourself, you want to try new things out. . . it's just like reading the same book over and over again, you read it once but do you want to read it again? Chuck that out, get a new book, try something different. . . It's really just - I don't want to get bored with myself, you know, I want to try some different things out, so we do try different things out - not all of them fall on appreciative ears, but. . . Phew, warm in here! (flapping noises)

SP: It's very hot in here today, I think they've turned up the lights extra-hot, just to make it more difficult for us. But - stay on that same subject - do you find it difficult perhaps to operate within the rock'n'roll circus, then, if you like, because at certain times it's -

AP: Oh, yeah, absolutely, yeah.

SP: At certain times it seems like you're just about to break big and then you take a year off or something. . .

AP: Well, we're our own worst enemies, really. Yeah, "the rock'n'roll circus," you've hit the nail on the head, it really is a circus, and circuses are usually peopled by freaks, and I don't consider myself a freak. I think we probably sell the peanuts in the rock'n'roll circus. Yeah, it's a - (gruff Cockney voice) it's a funny ol' world, innit, guv, the world of rock'n'roll! Um, I don't feel like part of it, do you know what I mean? I feel like some sort of observer or something round the edge. I mean, it's a nice enough - nice, that's a damning word to use - it's a nice enough world, the rock'n'roll - it's nice, rock'n'roll is nice. That's become an insult these days, really - "They were nice." Um, the rock'n'roll world is fine if you want to do that sort of thing, but we're not particularly into drugs - in fact, we're not into drugs, we're not into the groupie (American voice) "Hey, let's party!" thing, or. . . and if you want that sort of thing, there are plenty of bands offering that, and living that lifestyle, but we don't, we just write songs and we make records, and there you go. That's about it.

SP: And very much on your own terms, too, which is nice.

AP: Oh yeah, no, I don't want to bow to anyone else's - probably why we haven't been enormous. . . we won't behave.

SP: Good! We'll talk some more in just a moment, but let's go back in time for "Senses Working Overtime" from XTC.

AP: (old man voice) Oh, a few oldies!

(One "Senses Working Overtime" later. . .)

SP: "Senses Working Overtime," that was XTC for you there, and Andy Partridge from the group in the studio with me. Andy, you were saying that a lot of the video was done in slow motion and as a result the miming was quite difficult.

AP: Right, well, the whole track, we did several takes with the whole track sped up, you know - (high-pitched fast-motion voice) "Onetwothreefourfivesensesworkingover -" so we had to mime the whole song, and then slowed it down to the relative speed of the music, so I would say about 50% of that video is in slow motion, but it's been edited in, so you're not sure what bits are in slow motion, so (deep slow-motion voice) it has this strange graceful look.

SP: (laughing) I thought it was the coffee you were drinking, for a moment.

AP: (slow-motion voice) Strange graceful coffee.

SP: You're also heavily involved these days with a cult combo called the Dukes of Stratosphear. . .

AP: Yeah, they won't leave me alone, they're round my house every five minutes.

SP: Tell us about them.

AP: Well, we are The Dukes of Stratosphear, I mean, we have this Jekyll and Hyde existence - the good Dr. Jekyll, which is XTC, go about their everyday business, and The Dukes of Stratosphear are a band who - their favorite sort of music is late 60's kind of psychedelically-tinged things, and they just do that sort of music, they love that sort of music, and they spend a long time trying to authentically re-create that sort of music, and write songs in that vein. A great band. We lend their guitars all the time, they're a nice bunch.

SP: Must make you a raving schizophrenic, I'd've thought.

AP: Yeah, it does, yeah - we have these two careers, which is nice - we're considering taking a third as well, or a fourth. I think you should, I don't think you should be just - these are "noms de guitar," that we've adopted for these different projects. I'd like to go on and be several hundred people, in fact.

SP: (laughing) Are you fed up with the general election yet over here, because I certainly am. . .

AP: Well, I won't vote, I never vote. I just cannot - when I shut the bedroom door and you know, you're faced with your own conscience, I cannot come to terms with voting any of these turds into power, so I will not. And they say it doesn't matter who you vote for in any case, the government gets in, so why bother?

SP: But can't people then turn round to you and say, "Well, stop complaining and whinging about it, because you couldn't be bothered to vote for anyone else anyway."

AP: Oh, I never complain.

SP: Do you not?

AP: No, I don't even bother with politicians. Why complain about them if you're not even bothered by them. They don't bother me. It's all swings and roundabouts, you know - one lot gets in and gives the pensioners 5p more, another lot gets in and puts concrete down on kids' playgrounds. . . It's all this that and the other. . . Bah! Humbug! Where's the camera? Humbug!

SP: Yes, really exciting times here with the U.K. general election imminent, folks, I don't mind telling you. I read somewhere that you're quite reluctant to tour. Is that true, that you really don't like crowds and things?

AP: Yeah. . . No, I used to love performance at one time, I mean, around the sort of years that we were - our formative years - shall I speak quickly? Our formative years. . .

SP: No, it's OK, take your time.

AP: (laughing) He's not trying to take off in the corner. Our formative years, you know, like '75, '77, '78, and on, up to about '82, I mean, we used to tour constantly, and I really enjoyed it when we started - you know, the small sweaty clubs and you could - you had the audience right there, you just - ARRRRGGGHHH! You know, you could really get into it, and they got into you, and it was great, there was no baloney. And the larger the venues that we started doing, these Astrodomes and ice hockey stadiums across Canada and America and stuff - totally ludicrous, you didn't know whether there was an audience out there even, it was so vast, and it just started to depress me and - I'm sure I actually got into stage-fright, a form of depression with touring, because I didn't know whether we were reaching anybody, and this strange form of stage-fright where if I couldn't see the audience, I got petrified and that sounds stupid, but I just didn't enjoy it, you know, I just got five years of touring prison sentence, seeing the Holiday Inns of the world.

SP: Well, touring or not, you've got a new single out, which we're going to see right now, Andy, thanks very much for coming in.

AP: (French accent) A pleasure!

SP: My thanks again, Sir Andy Partridge, who's still in the studio over there (AP whistles loudly) - and he was telling me that the Dukes of Stratosphear have a new album out called Psonic Psunspot, spelt with P's of course, and a new single, "You're a Good Man Albert Brown," and the Dukes' CD, Chips from the Chocolate Fireball. I don't know, the Dukes take a trip, I reckon. More stuff from XTC later in the year, of course.

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[Transcribed by and thanks to Natalie Jacobs]