The Gospel According To Animal Jesus

Swindon New Music
Issue 2 - 1986

"Animal" resides in an Olde Town den, the "old man of the mountain". Thus spake "Animal".

"I started producing records, some time ago, with Tom Dolby, working on the double A side single, ‘Leipzig’ and ‘Urges’. It was all very rudimentary. There was no drummer, so I ended up drumming. When I finally mixed it, he found it too aggressive. So he remixed it himself, a lot softer. A bit sugary, in my opinion, but it did get him a recording contract."

"Animal" was also instrumental in the rise of Dolby's subsequent singles "Europa and the Pirate Twins" and "Radio Silence".

"After that I did an album with Peter Blake [sic, actually Peter Blegvad], ‘Naked Shakespeare’, for Virgin. And once again I got to play on that. For no better reason than there weren't any other musicians available."

Peter Blake may seem a bit dodgy but he played his part in "Animal's" rising status as a producer.

"Then I produced China Crisis for an American film."

Hollywood, beyond?

"Oh, God! What was the next? ...Doctor and the Medics. No, not THAT single. The one before..."

A Pinteresque pause.

"Called, ‘Miracle of the Age’. They were more like pub-rockers then. I really had to push them into psychedelics. They kept looking at each other and saying, ‘Shall we?’ and I'm saying, ‘go WEIRD, kids!’"

In "Animal's" study I sit back in my cane seat. Similar, I muse, to the one used by "Mr Tracy" in "Thunderbirds".

"Rough trade rang me because the owner, Jeff Travis, liked the production on the Peter Blake album. And he thought that style would do great for The Woodentops."

He refers, of course, not to those wobbley 50's puppets but to the successful purveyors of 400 mph folk/pop.

"He sent me their first single ‘Plenty’, (Morrissey's favourite) which I thought was a bit stiff. The B side, ‘Have You Seen The Lights?’, showed a bit more promise. They then sent me demos of songs like ‘Move Me’...I thought, hey! this sounds better, so I agreed. We recorded ‘Move Me’ in,...ah...(that really was a lost weekend; I just remember being awake 24 hours a day)...a stately home somewhere south of London, owned by a member of The Spencer Davis Group. And, although things kept breaking down and The Woodentops were either drunk or stoned, we managed to get some tracks going. One of them, ‘Steady Steady’ still gives me the shivers.

"There was also a sort of skiffley number called ‘Do It Anyway’ which turned up as the B side of the wonderful ‘Move Me’. The following single, ‘Well, Well, Well’ had John Leckie engineering. yes, John very kindly offered so we got him in to help. The record company thought the first mix was too aggressive".

Jeff travis is obviously looking for new compact-disc kings.

"So they called in some 12" disco producer to soften it. it's still OK but woolly and tame. Personally, I believe that an aggressive song should reach out and tear your ears off!".

Andy Partridge puts his head around the door and asks if we would like some refreshments. He brings in some coffee and I take the opportunity to ask him about "HIS LATEST ALBUM". (The type on my Petite 990 has worn so thin that "his latest album" prints only blank spaces and I resort to a biro.)

Far from the factory hooter, deep in the heart of California, XTC joined, briefly, the LA set -

"That was because the producer, Todd Rundgren, has his own studio on the East Coast. I didn't really enjoy the experience, to be in a foreign country for a long time in the monk-like existence of a recording studio and with the added pressure of having a producer. We've produced ourselves so often, it wasn't exactly enjoyable to sit back and have to say, ‘What do YOU want?’".

I assume Todd was a bit on the raw rock'n'roll side but Andy assures me otherwise.

"Out of all the songs we offered him he chose mine and Colin's softer and more pastoral numbers. Although there was a lot of friction between him and me (I wanted to pull the album one way; he wanted to pull it in the opposite direction), he is a bit of a musical genius! It took us three weeks to write a string arrangement for one of our songs - We gave him three songs and he did them overnight!".

I'm sure Tchaikovsky would have been impressed.

"The rest of the album we recorded on the West Coast." (Where else?...Ed.) "In the old Tubes studio. In fact we used the old Tubes drummer".

Andy is called away to talk to Norwegian Radio and "Animal", who has remained strangely quiet, whispers to me that he might produce the next recording for Perennial Divide (last issue's cover band). And, grinning slyly, he takes the opportunity to surreptitiously show me a photograph of Andy, his alter-ego, when he looked like Brian Eno.

David Tuck.

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[Thanks to and transcribed by Jonny Stephens]