Dancing About Architecture

"The River", WXRV, Boston
May 2000 [exact date unknown]
Andy Partridge interview

Anonymous Interviewer: Well, all right. Hey, I think, I think the caller is on the line. Is the caller on the line?

Andy Partridge: The caller is on the line.

AI: Hey!

AP: He's on the line, he's on the phone, he's on his horse, he's under the table, he's on it.

AI: Wow, you are talented. Andy Partridge, from XTC, on the line. And we'll say it again, XTC has a new CD, this, well it's called Wasp Star, Apple Venus Volume 2, which is in stores May 23rd. And by the way, folks should know you can see Andy Partridge from XTC on an upcoming installment of VH-1's "The List." Andy, welcome back.

AP: Hey, you missed me, obviously!

AI: What do you mean, I missed you?

AP: <chuckles>

AI: Oh, I see, like I missed you. Yeah, yeah.

AP: Yes, you missed me. [unintelligible]

AI: Oh, yeah, that mind of "missed." Yeah, yeah, absolutely.

AP: I like girls who fake it. Fake it.

AI: Well, we're not faking anything here, Andy, let me tell you. Uh, well, let's talk about the new CD, first of all. Now, you actually had the songs on Wasp Star, Apple Venus Volume 2, written and in the can for several years now. Why did you wait a year after doing Apple Venus Volume 1? I know Apple Venus Volume 2 is very different from Volume 1, why did you wait a year?

AP: Well, originally, it was intended to be a double disc package. You know, we'd been out of the public eye for a while because of all this legal nonsense with our ex-record company, and I thought, well, when we reappear in the public consciousness we'll hit them with quality and quantity, so I said let's take the best of all this material we've written and do a double-disc package. But when we started everything, it was all going to be called Apple Venus, you know, the whole project was Apple Venus. We started everything, but I think terribly underestimated how long this would take, and how much money it would need, and blah blah, we've run out of producer time, we've run out of cash, we've run out of band member, uh. . . run out of soda. . . yeah we just. . .

AI: <chuckles>

AP: Yeah the whole thing took, more time and effort than we had ready, so we thought, OK, let's work on the orchestral acoustic stuff, make that Volume 1, and as soon as we've got that settled, we'll get back into the studio and carry on and record the rest of the stuff as Volume 2, Wasp Star.

AI: I think it was really good that you didn't combine the two, 'cause obviously Volume 1 is just, very different than Volume 2.

AP: Sure, but I see them as kind of same coin, two different sides.

AI: Absolutely. Now how did it feel, making Volume 2, with, you know; I mean, people should know this is like a good old-fashioned, in-your-face, rock-n-roll, electric guitars, and, crashing drums; how did this feel after being inundated with this huge orchestra, and flutes, and violins?

AP: Well there certainly wasn't the smell of rosin heavy in the air.

AI: <laughs>

AP: But Apple Venus 1 was a very difficult birth. I mean, Apple Venus 1 was kind of, you know, teams of divers in rubber suits with calipers and lots of oil, . . .

AI: Wow.

AP: and, you know, explosives and stuff, "We'll get this thing out!" Very traumatic. But Volume 2 was just so, such good fun, and so easy, it was like a greased banana, you know, an oiled banana firing out, "Stand back!" <imitates rifle shot> It was such an easy delivery. It was real great fun to do. I think it was the most easy and the most fun we've ever had in the studio since sometime in the 70's when we were just kind of, ludicrously naïve and glad to be in the studio.

AI: You know, I've already heard, in fact, after we talk, I'm going to play "The Man Who Murdered Love," which is the first single from it. The first time I heard it, I loved it immediately, and it really had that good old "XTC feel" to it. Would you agree with that?

AP: Mmmm, yeah, pretty much, pretty much. Pretty much.

AI: OK. Uh, I was reading your bio, and you compare your songs and your music to buildings and architecture. I thought that was a very interesting comparison.

AP: Well, I just like to think of a well-constructed song is like a great building. I think it's got all the aspects that good architecture has. There's so much bad architecture out there, but there's so many bad songs as well.

AI: Yeah.

AP: And there's somebody at my hotel door!

AI: There's somebody at your door right now?

AP: There is right now. Live on the air. <shouts towards door> Go away!

AI: Is there somebody there that can answer the door?

AP: No there isn't, but never mind. I think "go away" will suffice on that.

AI: <laughs>

AP: Uh, yeah, you have. . . a great building has. . . it works, it has balance, it has . . . uh, it obviously works, 'cause it doesn't fall down, um, and I do want to say, "balance," I don't mean it's like paladial architecture, where you just fold it all down the middle and you get a mirror image, I mean, you know, there are strutcures that mirror other structures on the other side, and then you have, oh, I dunno, there's enough detail that it doesn't crowd the building, and then you walk up to it, and you can disappear into the detail forevermore. But I think that's like a good song.

AI: Yeah.

AP: I think a good song is like a beautiful piece of architecture. I get the same thrill when I hear a great reconstructed song, a great song that really touches me, and see a great building. You can get touched by good architecture.

AI: That's really a very interesting comparison, and I never put those two together, and when you explain it, it makes total sense. Let's talk about some of the songs on Volume 2. Now, you have, on one of these songs, the inspiration for one of your songs, "We're All Light" is what it's called, the inspiration was the same woman who inspired you to sing "Seagulls Screaming, Kiss Her, Kiss Her," which came out, XTC fans will know this, back in 1984. Lyrically, how does the message in this song. . .

AP: Well, "We're All Light" is a real "up." I mean, "Stupidly Happy" is another just daftly "up" track. But "We're All Light" is very positive. And a couple of journalists have said to me, "You're being sarcastic here, aren't you? You're just being kind of. . ." And I say "No, no, I'm saying I'm really positive." I'm a very positive person. You have to be, to come through some of the kack I've been through, you know. But it's a real positive message. It says that these are dark times and there can be bad storms, but we are light, we can radiate greatness and light and goodness, and hey, while you're at it, come on in with me for the evening! You know, so it's a sort of a philosophical chat-up song, if such a thing exists.

AI: I like that. I like that. I look forward to hearing that. Then you have another song called "Playground," you sing the lyric "you may leave school, but it never leaves you." What is that all about?

AP: Oh, you know how cruel school can be. You know it's just a training ground for the great big cruel outdoors, you know the great big cruel grown-up world. You learn it all at school. You learn how to avoid being bullied, you learn how to bully, you learn how to get people to do stuff for you, you learn how to hit on the weaker ones, you learn. . .

AI: Were you a bully in school, Andy?

AP: Sorry?

AI: Were you a bully in school?

AP: I wasn't a bully, I was picked on, but that's how I developed a sense of humor, 'cause they can't really hit you if they're laughing.

AI: True.

AP: Also I was a very good runner.

AI: <laughs>

AP: <also laughs> Makes you creative, if you get bullied, I think. You have to look for other outlets. You can't go around, you know, whacking other people if you haven't got the bully gene in you. But, uh, school kind of teaches you to be a cruel adult, and you go on to be a cruel adult and you just repeat the same stuff. Unless you're aware of it, and you break that cycle.

AI: And of course, as you point out, it also teaches you the survival skills.

AP: Mmm.

AI: Yeah, how to fend off your enemies, you know. There's another song on here, that I thought was very touching, too, that I guess Colin, Colin Moulding, your partner in the band, wrote a song called "In Another Life," which I guess is a plea to his wife.

AP: Well, he says it's kind of a thing of him and his wife accepting each other's foibles, and each other's kind of wrong bits, you know, each other's toenail clippings and . . . you know, don't pick your elbow scabs, [we need?] company, but he says it's also dashes of his parents, and how they, you know, should have accepted each other more for what they were.

AI: Hmm.

AP: And so I think it's a kind of a cross-generational thing. It's his marriage, and saying it to his wife, and also the suggestion that his parents would have had a happier life if they'd have just accepted each other's foibles and learned to love each other and live with it a bit more.

AI: By the way, we're talking here with Andy Partridge from XTC, Wasp Star, Apple Venus Volume 2, in stores May 23rd. And by the way Andy, you're quoted as saying that Colin, Colin Moulding is the handsome one in the band, and that he occasionally sees himself as the Working-Class Casanova?

AP: <laughs>

AI: Oh. . . What's that all about?

AP: Not if his missus gets hold of him! <laughs>

AI: <laughs> Man!

AP: No, he's the good-looking one. I'm the one that looks like a potato.

AI: I think. . .

AP: I think I'm "file under ‘Interesting’." He's the, he's the good, he's the kind of, the kind of Byronesque one.

AI: I'm willing to bet you there are women out there listening to me who would totally disagree with that in terms of your appearance.

AP: Send 'em round.

AI: <laughs> Good comeback!

AP: I draw the line at hunchbacks, but send 'em round.

AI: <laughs> Oh, man. Um, and you're gonna be, people should know, too, that you're going to be on VH-1's "The List," you're taping an episode of that, I guess, this Saturday, huh?

AP: Yeah, Friday or Saturday, I'm not too sure, but I'm not going to tell you what I've picked.

AI: Yeah, the subject is "Overplayed Songs."

AP: The most played songs.

AI: Yeah, we'll have to watch that. Do you know when that's going to be aired?

AP: Now I've got a real killer.

AI: Wow.

AP: That no one else is, I feel good that no one else is going to get this. And I feel that it is the ultimate winner of this show, 'cause you think you know what the most played song is, but you're looking in the wrong place. I've got it.

AI: Oh, I can't wait to see and hear that, the most overplayed song. Do you know when this episode will be on VH-1, "The List?"

AP: I don't know, it's kind of jinxed, if I'm on it, they'll probably scrap it, or the tape melts, or something.

AI: Oh, come on, now.

AP: <laughs> No, I did "Space Ghost" last year, and then look what happens, the show explodes.

AI: <laughs> Come on, you can't think that way. You know?

AP: Oh, it's called self-deprecation, I think.

AI: Yeah. And you're. . .

AP: Self-defecation.

AI: Oh, no, no. And you're a positive guy, remember? So. . .

AP: I am, I am, but you've got to laugh at yourself, or else the positivity just dies.

AI: Well, you make us all laugh, so much, that's for sure. Uh, and we talked about this last time you and I talked, as a lot of people know, XTC is not a touring band. And when we talked last, you pointed out, I thought some very interesting, some very true and valid points, as to why going to a live show for listeners is not as rewarding as listening to the CD. And I thought it would bear repeating some of those points. As you see a live show, I thought you made some very good points about it.

AP: I can't remember what I said! I mean, personally, I'd rather. . . people. . . Our art is in the record. That's what we do. We squeeze our soul 'til it squeaks, and it drips onto that record. And if you want a chunk of our soul, take that record home, play it, take any of our records home, play it, that's where you get to shake hands with our. . . the deepest parts of our soul.

AI: Yeah.

AP: But live, it's no. . . there's no connection; it's some other thing; it's not a good connection. It's a more surface connection, if any. It's more about the audience, noise, it's more about the drink, it's more about the idol-worship thing, which actually gives me the willies, I have to admit. I don't want anyone worshiping me for any reason.

AI: <laughs>

AP: Or else you're out. But if you really want to get in contact with our soul, you take the art home, you take the art home and witness it for yourself. And that's us talking to you, personally.

AI: There's a certain intimacy, and a certain privateness, if I can coin a word, to being in the studio, and doing a CD, and of course there's that musical precision that you really, really, it's very rare to get that, in terms of the precision, I think it's very rare to get that live. And I love live shows, but you just don't see that, or hear that, very often.

AP: I actually think live shows, I must say that I think that the best, the best live bands are probably kids in their early twenties.

AI: Well, why do you say that?

AP: Because it's a gang thing.

AI: Mmm.

AP: It's. . . being in a band is a gang thing. You're young, you're in. . . you're in this gang, I mean you could be in the army, or the navy, or the air force or something, but you're in this musical gang. Instead of knives, you've got your guitars, and you're all there together like the Four Musketeers, you want to go and see the world, you want to drink it dry, you want to make love to all their daughters and deafen all the dads. You know, it's you and your gang doing this. And it's very much, rock and roll bands are gangs.

AI: Mmm.

AP: And I think the best audiences for this also are people of a similar age. Who maybe, haven't got the ‘oompha’ to do that for themselves, so they want to go along to the gig, and wash themselves in the kind of essense that comes off of the people who are the same age as them, and have got the energy and the guts to be up there doing it. But I think when you get older, you don't want to be in a gang, you want to be individual, you want to be explaining what's inside your soul.

AI: Yeah.

AP: You don't want to be part of a group that's doing these experiences for the first time. I think the best live rock and roll bands are young kids, I really do. And then you get out of that gang thing when you grow up, and then you get into more, more of a craftsman thing, you want to make better and better songs, you want to make better and better records.

AI: Yeah. And of course, I think being in the studio is, is, I mean, that, that is the obvious place for that.

AP: Yeah, that's where I feel at home.

AI: Yeah, precision, and there's that obvious intimacy that you can evoke from the studio, that's very hard to do on the stage of a huge. . .

AP: Mmm. Live is a different thing. It's an adrenalin, it's a rush, it's nothing to do with music.

AI: <laughs> You make some very interesting, perceptive observations on this whole social thing that goes on at live shows. That is interesting, I never. . .

AP: The whole live thing. . . what you get from a big, live gig, is the same oomph that you get from going to watch a wrestling match, or. . .

AI: <laughs>

AP: . . . attending a Nuremburg rally, or. . .

AI: You now, see, that's what you said last time!

AP: . . . a religious revival meeting.

AI: Yeah!

AP: It's communal "Oomph." It doesn't matter who the little insect is up on the stage there, that doesn't really matter. It's all to do with the mass of electricity coming off of all those people, going "On ya, on ya, on ya; gimme, gimme, gimme!" all at once.

AI: Yeah, yeah. Well, you put it like nobody else can put it, and it's. . . it's very poignant. You make a lot of sense. Well, we look forward to seeing and hearing the CD come in to our studios, and May 23rd is the date for Wasp Star, Apple Venus Volume 2, in stores. . .

AP: Got to be a bit careful with that title. You can't say it with borrowed teeth.

AI: That's, that's right. <laughs>

AP: George Washington could have never have said that.

AI: That's right.

AP: Wooden teeth would have been everywhere.

AI: Now what is that from, anyway, that "Wasp Star?" What does, does that have any meaning or anything?

AP: It's the Aztec phrase for Venus.

AI: Oh, no kidding?

AP: It's what they call Venus, is they call it the Wasp Star.

AI: Mmm. And of course, I'm kind of glad you put it in there, too, because it's just something else for the listener's perceptions that differentiates Volume 1 from Volume 2.

AP: Sure, we didn't want to cause any confusion. We didn't want, you know, radio stations who didn't play Volume 1 because it was kind of strings, and, very out of, out of the, sort of off the track of what was being played, we didn't want to give them the chance to say, "Oh my Christ! More strings! Don't play it."

AI: <laughs>

AP: So we thought we'd give it a really compact, kind of descriptive title, that described the music.

AI: Well, we played Volume 1 here, and we loved Volume 1 here.

AP: You're one of the few stations that did. It was our least played album.

AI: Yeah.

AP: But I think one of the best, if not the best.

AI: Yeah, no, it was an incredible album, and we loved it. And from what I've heard of Volume 2, we're looking forward to that, and from what I've heard so far, I love that, too. So it's, you know, the rock side of XTC. In fact, we're going to play you out, now. We're going to play this "The Man who Murdered Love." Can you just tell us briefly what that song's about?

AP: Well, I'm the hero in the song, I murder love. He hasn't worked, he hasn't worked at all. Nobody's employed him. Nobody uses love anymore. Nobody loves anyone anymore. There's so much kind of "unlove" going on, he comes to. . .

AI: What do you mean by that, there's so much "unlove" going on?

AP: You know what I mean? Just not enough love in the world right now.

AI: Just too much selfishness out there.

AP: Just too much selfishness, and hate, so Mr. Love says to me, "Look, I haven't worked at all for, ever. Please, put me out of my misery, please, kill me. You'll do humanity a favor. They don't seem to want this love stuff any more. Do me a favor, kill me." So I kill him, and he thanks me, lays down, and dies, and all Heaven erupts, and thanks me, and says "That's it! You've freed humanity from all the pain and heartbreak that love can bring. You're a hero! 'Cause they never use that stuff in any case, so you've just disposed of something that, you know, they're never gonna miss it, 'cause they never use it!"

AI: <laughs> Wow, that's a, nice little, interesting, different kind of fairy tale.

AP: It's a dark, silly little number.

AI: It really is, it really is. And you emerge the hero, you're wearing the cape.

AP: Yeah, I'm a hero murderer. I did everyone a good job, I bumped off love.

AI: <laughs> Andy Partridge, it's been a joy to talk to you again. We extended the invitation to you last time, we'll do it again, anytime you're in Boston, please feel free to come on up here and see us, our door's always open to you.

AP: OK. Just remember, do what you will, but harm none.

AI: Words to live by, from Andy Partridge, from XTC. Andy, again, thank you.

AP: Thank you!

AI: All right. Have a good day!

AP: All right.

AI: Bye bye!

AP: Bye.

Push Once

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

Transcribed by Dave Rutherford at The Evil Petting Zoo