XTC no longer Britpop virgins

May 2000
Sweet Spot



XTC has been making followers of Britpop ecstatic for more than 20 years now, and thanks to the back-to-back punch of albums Apple Venus Pt. 1 and Wasp Star (Apple Venus, Pt. 2), the group shows no signs of slowing down. The pair of records were envisioned by guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding - who've crafted more catchy tunes in their careers than just about anyone - as companion pieces, with Wasp Star more electric in nature than the orchestral-leaning Pt. 1. With two albums of ecstacy to enjoy, fans screamed ‘Dear God’ in delight.

Soundbreak: It's Soundbreak and I'm very pleased, very very pleased to have the members of XTC here ...

Andy Partridge: Quietly orgasmic, I believe...

Soundbreak: ... Here in my Soundbreak studio.

Andy Partridge: In your antechamber.

Soundbreak: Andy Partridge.

Andy: Ja wohl.

Soundbreak: And Colin Moulding.

Colin Moulding: [silence].

Soundbreak: [laughs].

Colin: You said that very sensuously.

Andy: I like the way you said that. That's the dirtiest my name has ever sounded.

Soundbreak: And I just wanted to say... So, in the seven years that you worked when you were having a staredown with Virgin Records were you writing music the whole time?

Andy: Sure, storing up. We wrote about four albums worth of stuff. And Apple Venus Volume 1 and Wasp Star ...

Soundbreak: Which is what we're listening to now.

Andy: Wasp Star is the best I think of that four albums' worth of music.

Soundbreak: Did you sort of take from everything that you had saved.

Andy: The cream floats to the top, or is it the scum floats to the top?

Soundbreak: Both of them do.

Andy: And we wipe it all off and use the best stuff. So that other stuff falls by the wayside.

Soundbreak: Do you gentlemen listen to much music now?

Andy: Yeah, but not so much. I don't go out of my way to listen to stuff now, it kind of finds me.


Soundbreak: What are you listening to right now, Andy?

Andy: '20s music, syncopated jazz I love. And the funny little gay man who brings me my breakfast in the hotel, I had the Andrews Sisters on this morning and he thought [in stereotypical gay voice], "that was a fabulous way to start the day". So I was happy with that. New music kind of finds me. I must get given about half a dozen CDs a week, so I don't really need to go and look for it. It comes through my letter box really.

Soundbreak: Colin, let me ask the same question.

Colin: About new music?

Soundbreak: Yeah, what are you listening to?

Colin: Well, I've got a son in his early 20s, and if he thinks I might like something he'll usually put it my way. I quite like Supergrass 'cos they don't take themselves too seriously, which is a good thing. And I think Blur, what they do is pretty good, as well.

Andy: He's really super, Supergrass.

Soundbreak: Supergrass is super.

Colin: They're quite good groups, I think.

Soundbreak: What have been your influences?

Colin: Lately, kind of show tunes, I think.

Soundbreak: Like from The Music Man?

Colin: Oliver. Lionel Bart is a favourite of mine.

Andy: Who Lionel Barted? Colin wants to be Ethel Merman. Let's have the truth out.

Colin: My Fair Lady and stuff like that.

Soundbreak: I'm a huge fan of My Fair Lady.

Colin: Never got into it because it was your parents' music and you didn't want to get into your parent's music because it wasn't hip. You were into more heavier things like, I don't know, Black Sabbath or something at the time, so you didn't entertain it. But now I find myself liking all that stuff.

Soundbreak: What do you think about all this thing with Napster and how Napster's going down. Do you think that that people who do listen to music and take music from the Internet are actually robbing from ...

Andy: They are because we spent 20 years waiting to go into profit. We were 20 years on the Virgin label and we never made a penny profit from the sale of our records, just because the deal was set up so badly and we had such a pittance in the first place. I think anything that takes the rent away from the people who make the music, the people who make the stuff in the first place, whatever the art is, write the book, make the film, sculpt the sculpture, whatever it is, if you're taking their rent away and they've waited 20 years to make some money, a wage packet, and I think that's wrong.

Colin: I think record companies will find a way around it, they always do. Where there's money involved they always find a way.

Soundbreak: Joe Schmoe over at Virgin Records is basically reaping your profit while 20 years later you ...

Andy: We never made a penny from the sale of our records until 20 years after signing. So they were making plenty, but it's just the way the deal was set up.

Soundbreak: Fascinating.

Andy: So you have to be really careful what you steal because you may be really stealing from somebody that doesn't have it.

Soundbreak: Right. I suppose there are a lot of troubles between artists and the actual record labels, right?

Andy: Usually.

Soundbreak: They're the bad guys.

Andy: They're the bad guys.

Soundbreak: You're the good guys.

Andy: They make far too much money.

Soundbreak: Absolutely, I always think so.

Andy: It was sort of an enforced thing. Everyone knows that whole strike story by now so I don't really want to go into it. You don't know the strike story?

Soundbreak: I don't know the strike story!

Andy: [sotto voce] Feigns not knowing strike story.

Soundbreak: [laughs].

Andy: Yeah, we needed to get out of our deal with Virgin Records, so come '92 we said, "Look, we're not going to make you any more discs, you have to let us free." So a five-year staring contest ensued, and they blinked, I guess.

Soundbreak: [sotto voce] Bastards!

Andy: They blinked and we won and we got out eventually. But in that time we stored up a lot of stuff which made up Apple Venus Volume 1 and now Wasp Star.

Soundbreak: A lot of bands seem to break up and fight. You guys still seem to be getting along. Was there any threat of a break up at one time?

Andy: Is there any threat of breaking up?

Colin: Well, we use the vehicle of XTC for our own ends. The pair of us, I think. XTC is the brand name. We write our own songs and sing our own songs through it. Of course we collaborate in the final stages of each particular song, and then it becomes more of a team effort.

Andy: XTC isn't like the Beatles or the Monkees. We don't all live in one house. We're not 18 and we [don't] all live in one row of terraced houses. We're not together or anything. Make no mistake, it's a brand name through which, it's a hole through which we squeeze our souls. Our art comes out through that cooky cutter shaped like XTC.

Colin: It's not the same animal that it was back in '82.

Andy: Or '77 or '92.

Colin: It's mutated into something quite different.

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

[Thanks to Leila Attari, transcribed by John Relph]