Andy Partridge: Providing XTC's Rhythmic Oversight

May 17, 1998
by Todd Bernhardt
A Chalkhills Exclusive

I got the chance to meet Andy Partridge on Feb. 19 [1998], when he attended a show in New York celebrating the release of Yazbek's second album, Tock, which features a song co-written by the two friends. When I found out several days before the show that I might have the chance to meet Andy, I knew I had to find a way to say something more to him than, "Wow, I really like your music" — though, of course, that's the truth.

Then it hit me: I had written for Modern Drummer magazine before, and knew they had a column, called "A Different View," in which musicians who are not drummers talk about drumming and the drummers they've played with. An e-mail or two later, I found out that there were XTC fans on the editorial staff, and that the magazine would indeed be interested in an interview with Mr. P.

I pitched the idea to Andy when I met him at the Yazbek show, and he agreed, asking me to call him when he got back to England. On March 6 we talked for almost two hours. He was gracious and funny — of course — and had some pretty interesting things to say. The original interview yielded a transcript of about 18,000 words; I whittled that down to an article of about 4,000 words for the magazine, but was frustrated by the fact that I had to get rid of so much good stuff — so much "Andy" — in order to meet the limitations of a printed publication that deals with a specific instrument. So I came up with this "Web-sized" version for the devoted XTC fan.

I've done some light editing, which means I've removed some of the redundant language that always finds its way into spoken conversation, and I've moved around some of the questions and answers to make the piece "flow" better. I've also left the intro that I wrote for Modern Drummer, but the interview below is three times as long as the MD piece and, in my opinion, retains more of the wit that is Andy Partridge.

One final note: As far as I know, Dave had not left the band at this time, and Andy made no mention of it to me.

I hope you enjoy the interview. I know I did.

Pop iconoclast Andy Partridge talks about the drummers that XTC has known and (mostly) loved, the business of music, and the role of rhythm in his life.

In 1977, with punk and new wave dominating the musical landscape in England, a distinctive quartet known as XTC — made up of guitarist and singer Andy Partridge, bassist and singer Colin Moulding, keyboard player Barry Andrews and drummer Terry Chambers — began attracting the interest of record companies with its brand of melodic, hyperactive pop music.

Partridge, the band's principal songwriter and public persona, was from the beginning a force to be reckoned with. His frenetic guitar playing and hiccuping vocals on XTC's early efforts were full of dissonance and a rhythmic tension and energy that kept the band from being pigeonholed with other acts of the era. Later, as his writing calmed down and became more lyrically and melodically complex, XTC's influence began to be more widely felt — in fact, many of the bands making up today's Brit-pop revival cite Partridge and XTC as influences, and he has remained in demand as a player and a producer.

Working from its base in Swindon, an industrial town nestled in the heart of bucolic Wiltshire, XTC signed with Virgin Records and began a rigorous cycle of recording and roadwork that ended in 1982, when Partridge called a halt to touring after increasingly severe bouts of stage fright got too intense for him to endure.

The execs at Virgin were aghast — no more touring surely would mean commercial suicide for the band, which had been selling more albums with each release and playing bigger venues with each tour. But the outspoken Partridge was adamant. "Why should I work at something I don't enjoy?" he said at the time. "If I'm going to do that, I might as well shovel shit for a living."

The decision to stop touring weighed heavily on Dave Gregory, the guitarist and keyboard player who replaced Andrews in 1979, and down-to-earth drummer Chambers — neither were songwriters, and both enjoyed the time on the road spent supporting each new album. Gregory adjusted, but the issue came to a head for Chambers during the recording of 1983's Mummer, when he called it quits and moved to Australia. Since then, five drummers — Peter Phipps, Ian Gregory, Prairie Prince, Pat Mastelotto and Dave Mattacks — have played on the albums that the band has recorded as XTC and as psychedelic alter-ego The Dukes of Stratosphear.

Ironically, XTC found its greatest commercial success during this post-touring era. The controversial "Dear God," from 1986's Skylarking, introduced many American fans to the band, while singles like "The Mayor of Simpleton" and "The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead," off 1989's Oranges and Lemons and 1992's Nonsuch, cemented the band's place in the hearts of critics and on the American college charts.

But with the release of Nonsuch, Partridge and the band's shaky relationship with Virgin reached another turning point. Fed up with the terms of their deal and frustrated by the label's reluctance to renegotiate it or release them from it, XTC — in another act of what many called commercial suicide — went on strike. Band members supported themselves by playing on and producing other artists' albums, but refused to record any new music for Virgin until an agreement was reached. That moment came last year, when the company released the band from its contract and XTC set up its own label, Idea Records.

The band — with help from ex-Abbey Road engineer and producer Hayden Bendall and drummer Prairie Prince, who played on Skylarking — is now in the midst of recording the sizeable backlog of songs that Partridge and Moulding have written, and plans to release its first recording on Idea by the beginning of 1999, with a second album following closely on the heels of the first.

Modern Drummer caught up with Partridge during a break in a busy schedule that's been filled with recording sessions and the business of arranging distribution deals. Sitting in his kitchen sipping tea and nursing a sore throat, he talked in the way only Andy Partridge can about the drummers he's played with and the changing nature of rhythm in his music.

TB: Could you give me a quick rundown on what the band has been doing since the release of Nonsuch in '92?

AP: Well, Nonsuch wasn't so much released as sort of dribbled, like somebody who can't make their mouth function correctly — we just came out of the corner of Virgin's mouth, like an embarrassing thing of spittle at a high-level meeting or something. And as usual, there was no promotion — you know, Virgin went through the usual motions, and I guess we were guilty of that as well.

I felt very frustrated. I think the final straw was the fact that they put out "Wrapped in Grey," a song I'm immensely proud of, as a single in England, and I thought, "My God, they're putting this out as a single — finally, a song I really like, as opposed to the most obvious thing or the most banal thing." But they got cold feet suddenly and withdrew it after about 5,000 copies - basically suffocated it in the crib. That really frustrated me, and I thought, "Oh God, this is just another sign of their indecision of what to do with us."

And our deal with Virgin was appalling. We were on the label from '77 until something like '94 or '95 until we actually went into profit, and they were doing fine out of us. So we said, "Look, would you please make our deal sensible? We need to make some money now, because this is stupid. Or let us go, so we can get a better deal with someone else." And they would do neither.

The only power we had was to strike, so we said, "That's it, we're not going to record any more music." Everyone said, "You're just hurting yourselves," and yes, we were, but it was the only power we had — to withhold our services to them. Because, I mean, if we had farted in the buff, they'd have owned it. Any noise that came out of us, they owned.

TB: [laughing] Why do you think it was to their advantage not to let you go?

AP: They thought we'd just get sick of being on strike.

TB: They were calling your bluff, then?

AP: Sure — they said, "Fine, you go on strike," and so we did. It went on for five years or more, and I like to think that eventually, out of embarrassment, they had to let us go, out of feeling that they were denying us a living. They had all of our back catalog to date, so what was there to be gained? I think they woke up and saw that they were being greedy and irrational by suppressing us.

TB: Were there any particular negotiating moves or people that you brought into the process that you think facilitated getting out of the deal with them?

AP: Yeah, we were managing ourselves up to about three years ago, and then we brought in a chap called Paul Bailey who obviously had more time on his hands to sit with lawyers. I mean, in the meantime, we were still trying to make a living — we were doing projects with other people, I was co-writing with people. I did the Harold Budd album; I translated a record for Herbert Grönemeyer, a German singer; I was still writing songs, you know, XTC material, or material we would do. And productions, you know, all sorts of bits and pieces. Dave was playing in Aimee Mann's band for a while, and having a brief love affair to boot — until she booted him! — and we basically just kind of were filtering along while all this legal nonsense was going along in the background. But eventually Virgin gave up and said, "Oh, for God's sake, go" - which was wonderful, which was the result that we wanted.

TB: And then you talked to various record labels. . .

AP: We didn't want to get into the same stupid-deal situation, where we take a fraction of a fraction and they keep 90-something percent of it. I mean, our deal with Virgin was negotiated way back in the '70s — we got something like 13 percent, but then they'd take off 10 percent for breakages, 25 percent for packaging. If it was considered back-catalog, they'd slice the royalty in half further. We had to pay the producer's royalty out of our tiny slice. So you can see why we never made any money.

TB: Unbelievable.

AP: Well, it was your average record deal, you know.

TB: Now, you guys did actually make money on 25 O'Clock, but then it was eaten up in your lawsuit with Ian Greed [Reid], right?

AP: [laughs] Yeah, right. Actually, no, we didn't make money with 25 O'Clock, I think what happened is the money that we made with 25 O'Clock just went to the debt that we'd incurred by borrowing money to fight the court case with our previous manager. I mean, really, we never went into profit until a few years back. And that is not huge sums of money. I live on an average street here, and I know people in this street with average businesses, you know, computing businesses or — what does that other fellow up the road do? — an electronics business. I mean, they're just average Joe Schmoes.

TB: So you're not the rock star living in opulence?

AP: No — I walk along the street and people say [in old-biddy voice], "Oh, he doesn't dress like a millionaire, does he?" Basically [laughing], there is a reason for that.

TB: So Idea Records then sprung from your heads, fully formed.

AP: Well, we decided to become a record company, because the difference between walking through the door at a record company saying you're the "artiste" — I hate that word, but I can't think of another! — saying you're the "act" — there, that sounds even worse, just like you're a performing poodle or something — and saying you're another record company is phenomenal. Just the way they treat you, the business terms they're prepared to give you. We've gone from taking a tiny, tiny slice of royalty to potentially being on a par with whoever distributes us.

Now, I don't know whether that's going to be the case in America. In fact, I know it's not going to be the case.

TB: Do you guys have a distribution deal in America yet?

AP: No, we don't have a deal in America. We're talking to people. In fact, that was part of the reason for me being in New York [in February] - meeting these people and saying, you know, "Here are some demos and do you like this, sign us up, please, please." We don't want a massive advance. I mean, advances are crazy. You can blow them in an evening. You can go out and have a big dinner and buy everyone a round of drinks, and there's your advance gone. We just want a fair royalty for our labors.

But it's strange — you call yourself a record label and other labels are then prepared to sort of talk to you on a par and think about sensible royalties, whereas if you go in and say, "Yeah, I'm the one who makes the music and I'm the act," they just say, "Well, you know, here's your tiny sliver of royalty." It's weird, cause it's purely a state of mind. I mean, nothing's changed. We don't have an airline or an office block with our name on it in neon. It's still the same three Herberts, and we just said, "Hey, we're a record label from now on," and everyone's started treating us totally differently.

TB: Well, perception is everything, right?

AP: There you go.

TB: Somebody like Robert Fripp, for instance, with Discipline Global Mobile — I know that Colin had talked to him at one point and I don't know if you have as well — really seems to be getting into the business end of things and trying to control his destiny completely, and then there are also people who have set up record labels by name only and basically work out distribution deals and let other people handle the business end of things. Where do you guys fall on that spectrum?

AP: We're falling somewhere in between the whole lot, I think. In America we won't get just the distribution deal, we'll probably go through another label. In England, we go through a small indy label called Cooking Vinyl, but it's got great distribution, so they're taking a slice basically for the use of their distribution-type assets.

I hate all this business talk — it's so dry, but I suppose I've got to do it.

And in Japan, we have more of a normal deal, which was just the way that the cookie crumbled over there, but it's still a reasonable deal for Japan. It's more your "artiste" tiny slice, but at least it's counterbalanced by the fact that we'll have something better in Europe and something medium-better in America.

TB: Well, and there is the fact that your time is worth something - how much time could you actually be able to devote to going over to Japan and burning your own distribution channels? So maybe it's worth giving up a little more money over there.

AP: Yeah, well, as I said, the Japanese deal is more like a conventional record deal, but then again, they did fund, or they are funding, the making of this record. They're funding part of it, and we're rapidly running out of cash because these studios are so expensive, blah, blah.

TB: And it's so easy to spend a lot of time there.

AP: Oh, it's just, you know, you sit in there changing your strings and you look up at the clock and you think, "Fuck, I've just spent 200 pounds changing my strings." And you stop for a cup of coffee, and you think, "Shit, I've just spent 50 pounds drinking that cup of coffee!" Cause that's what it is in terms of the time you're in there.

TB: Absolutely, and you want to pursue your vision and get things right, because it's going on tape and it's going to be there forever — but you've got to balance that against what you can afford.

AP: There you go, yeah.

TB: You've been credited with drums and percussion on some of the albums you've played on or produced, such as the Martin Newell album. Do you actually play the kit or is most of that programming?

AP: [The Martin Newell album] was programmed though pads. That's me hitting drum pads. Most of the things I do myself involve programming, but I've always tended to think like a drummer. My father had a drum kit that he left set up in my bedroom as a kid. He would go to work and I would sit there and very quietly play the drums, or attempt to. I didn't want the neighbors saying, "Oh, I heard your son was drumming," because he'd probably tear into me for playing his drums.

TB: That's a terrible temptation for a child, to leave it set up that way.

AP: Oh, it was terrible, because it was a full-sized Premier kit or whatever, there in the corner of my bedroom. But I used to tinker very quietly on those, and I was always hitting things. When I had my first tape recorder - which I won: Monkees Monthly had a competition to draw a Monkee, so I drew a caricature of Mickey Dolenz and won 10 pounds and I put that toward a 13-pound second-hand tape recorder — because I really didn't know how to write songs and stuff at the time, I would tape cranky renditions of myself and my friends playing other people's stuff, but I would sometimes strum on the guitar. I knew three chords, and fortunately they weren't the kind of the correct three that you're supposed to know for the three-chord thing. And sometimes I would drum — you know, I would sit there with knitting needles and play on top of washing-up bowls or, actually, a great sound was made by the metallic top of a paraffin stove that we used to have in the living room. It had a kind of loose, hi-hat rattle. When you really hit it, for the back beat, it sounded like a big, metallic, totally wound snare. It kind of went, "chink-chinkchinkchink-DANG, chink-chink-chink-chinkchinkchink-DANG," you know. Forget the bass drum, you'd just have to imagine that, or stamp your foot on the floor. This paraffin heater became my main source of fake drum kit in the early years.

But my ear has always been drawn toward the percussive nature of things, whether it's things being hit, or blown or even sung. I was always drawn toward those short, transient sounds, the way they relate to each other and the way they fit in amongst each other. My whole guitar style evolved, I think, because I wanted to be a drummer, and I would chop and slash and try to work between what the drums were doing, a) so I could be heard, and b) because I liked the funk and I liked working the holes that the drums left.

I have to say that I got into melody much, much later. I was always into rhythm, and I'm probably the fussiest of the band when it comes to rhythm things these days.

TB: XTC is lucky in that, with Colin on bass, you already have half of a great rhythm section, no matter who your drummer is. Could you talk a little bit about Colin's approach to working with drummers?

AP: He's a very melodic player. In fact, he gets compared to Paul McCartney probably more than anyone else in terms of melody — his bass lines are little tunes. But he's extremely old-fashioned — and I mean that in a good way — in that he sits there with that bass drum and is "down" on that bass drum, so that that it can become the attack on the front of his bass note. It's a real old-school way of thought, but I think it hasn't been bettered in terms of rhythm-section glue.

TB: Does he follow the bass drum or does he insist that the bass drum follow him?

AP: It all depends on the demand of the vocal. The vocal sets where the feel is — it's like this person walking, and you have to feel where to put the paving stones. You have to anticipate where their feet will fall, what speed and what style they're walking in, and say, "Okay, that foot's gonna fall there, that's a good place to put that solid bass-drum thing," or "it's better if you put the bass drum there and there to anticipate them stumbling forward from that point." It's almost like you have to aid the walking voice.

TB: At the same time, I notice that he's very rhythmic in the way he approaches some of the guitar parts that he writes — songs like "Wake Up" and "The Smartest Monkeys."

AP: Yeah, I think he likes those tumbling cyclical things — stuff like "The Meeting Place," the [imitates guitar riff], he loves that kind of thing. "Sacrificial Bonfire," [imitates guitar riff], he loves those, guitar-wise, he loves those churning, cyclical things that use open strings and closed strings that chime off each other. He loves all that. But as a bass player, it's much more old-fashioned — but when I say old-fashioned I don't mean that in a derogatory way.

TB: What is your approach to drum parts and to drummers, and how do you think that's changed over the years?

AP: Well, my tastes have changed over the years. At one time, I was really inspired by people like Drumbo — John French, [Captain] Beefheart's drummer. I loved the inventiveness, the hand-down-your-throat, grab-your-organs-and-pull-them-inside-out kind of approach to his drumming. And Devo touched on that as well.

But what infuriated me about Beefheart's music is that they would never stay constant. They would do, like, four bars of one pattern, then four bars of another or two bars of another, and it would keep changing rather annoyingly, I thought.

TB: Right, it never locks into a groove.

AP: Yeah, it never locked into any sort of groove at all. It was anti-groove, which was very brave and very commendable — why do drums have to be in a groove? — but I like grooves. But I also like the inventiveness of Drumbo. So, I think in the early days I would try and suggest that the drums played inventive patterns or, inverted commas, wrong things. Like, for example, "Making Plans for Nigel," the drum pattern on that, which sounds very inside-out and wrong, is basically a conventional kind of pattern. It's just shifted all to different drums.

I think we do less of that now. I get thrilled these days more by implied rhythms than where things are struck. You get this wonderful, exhilarating buoyancy — it's not where the incidents are hit, but the implied pulse between all these strikes that lifts you up. I find that much more exciting than Western thump-whack drumming these days.

TB: Have you listened to a lot of jazz, and are you influenced by it? I've always heard that in your music, and I didn't know whether that was something that you actively pursue or something that you soaked up when you were younger.

AP: I did listen to a lot of jazz when I was younger. My father had bebop records around the house — Charlie Parker, Oscar Peterson, basically the straighter side of bebop. Then a friend of mind got me into the more out-there kind of stuff — Sun Ra, Albert Ayler and others, which I liked immensely. And then I sort of blundered into stuff on my own, like Tony Williams' Lifetime. Their album Emergency is one of my all-time desert-island disks, I think.

TB: It is a great album.

AP: That is so thrilling, that recording. I don't listen to so much jazz now, because I tend not to listen to much music now. I think what happens is, when you don't have the facility to make music, you soak it up. It's like you eat. And then when you have the facility to make music, you can then crap out all you've eaten. So I'm probably getting rid of all the musical stuff that went in me when I was younger.

TB: [Laughing] Do you find that your songwriting goes through cycles, or do you have a constant output now, since you're able to just go out back to the shed and "go to work," basically?

AP: No, it does go in cycles. Sometimes for months I don't write anything. And then something will come up — a word phrase, a chord structure or something, and then suddenly two or three songs fall out. I haven't written anything now for almost a year, which is really unusual and would normally frighten me, but we have so much material to be picking from, I'm not worried. And I have to get rid of this material before I even think about writing any more.

TB: Do you make yourself go out the shed every day and try and do something?

AP: No, no, not at all. I don't go in there for weeks sometimes. When I go in there, it's all cobwebs, and of course, I've forgotten how to use the gear out there. I'm a bit of a Luddite when it comes to equipment in any case. But right now, making the album — it's definitely output rather than any new invention.

TB: When you were thinking about a drummer for the new album, what attributes were you looking for?

AP: Well, we had a load of names for this record, I mean, people came to us. We were contacted by Michael Bland — a friend of his contacted us and said, "Look, he's a huge fan and he would love to play," and we got rather excited by that, because we think we like his drumming; you're never sure on Prince records whether it's mechanical or a person.

TB: I've seen him play, and he's amazing.

AP: Yeah, I've seen a few live tapes and things on TV, and always think, "Whoa, this fellow's really whacking those tubs," you know. But what really settled us on Prairie this time was a lot of material of disparate styles we're working on, just because of the length of the time that it was all written in. And we know that Prairie is a bit of a chameleon, and can work different styles.

We'd been doing a long series of interviews for an upcoming book [written with music editor Neville Farmer and to be published in the fall by Hyperion Press] specifically about our songs — how they were recorded, that kind of thing — and in the process we had to listen back to everything we'd recorded, which I haven't done for years. I mean, I don't play our records. Why should I? It's like messing around with your own turds — you've got rid of them, it's for other people to appreciate the weight and bouquet of them!

But we were obliged to listen, to comment on what was going on, and when we got to Skylarking, Colin and I were doing the interview that day, and we started saying, [sharp intake of breath] "I love that drum fill there, and I love the upside-down-ness of that roll or the fact that that rhythm there has got that kind of lazy feel to it — that's great." We were in the process of deciding who we were going to work with, and I think we sort of looked at each other and said, "Why don't we just give him a call and ask him over?" And lo and behold, he was free to come and work.

TB: Let's talk about Terry Chambers, your original drummer. You've been quoted as saying that he was "not one of life's musicians," yet at the same time his drumming was an enormously important element of XTC's sound, especially on the albums where you guys worked with Steve Lillywhite and Hugh Padgham [Drums and Wires, Black Sea and English Settlement]. That huge, gated drum sound of his influenced the way drums were recorded throughout the '80s.

AP: Terry was a naïve, a primitive. Because he had no formal grasp of different types of music, he was unfettered and could make mistakes or could play supposedly conventional things wrongly or with a different feel to how other people would play them. We'd work on songs, and he'd sort of sit there and say, "What sort of thing do you want then?" And I'd say, "Well, try this and this and this." Then he'd try it, and he might get it wrong, or he might say, "Well, that's good, but it's easier if I do this." And I might think, "Well, that's really inventive, he's misheard what I've asked him to do, or he thinks where I'm counting 'one' is in a different place." Of all the drummers that we've played with, he's been the one that's been the most primitive, but probably the most thrilling for inventiveness, because he would blunder into these things.

But sometimes in the studio, if you played music with him, you would put him off. He used to program himself, basically. He would get into this sort of cyclical roll thing, and he'd say, "Okay, take [record] this. You just strum an acoustic guitar, that's all I want, or just yell where you want the changes to be. Say 'chorus now,' or say so and so." Sometimes he'd just banish us. He'd say, "Look, I'm gonna go and just do this, and you let me know when there's enough." Or "I'll do this, and then I'm going out for a drink." And he would just go in and drum. If you played with him, you'd put him off, because he'd listen to the music. But what he wanted to do was lock-in to the cyclical groove that he had programmed himself to do, and that was how he drummed.

TB: It's very interesting to hear you say that, because I've often wondered about that — playing along with your albums myself, he seems so constant on some songs. I mean, songs like "Travels in Nihilon," you know, it's just amazing that he sets up that pattern and never wavers from it the whole way through. Or "It's Nearly Africa" . . .

AP: For him, that was no problem. I think that was his forte. He would lock into this cycle and just go for as long as you wanted.

I don't think Terry got into his stride, or I don't think any of us got into our stride, on the first couple of albums, but Terry certainly didn't have his own feel together yet on White Music or Go 2.

TB: His stamina is amazing on those albums.

AP: Yeah, it's amazing.

TB: I mean, when I want to get big forearms, I sit and I play with White Music. Songs like "Neon Shuffle" and "Science Friction" are just. . .

AP: Yeah, they were all like, you know, done in very few takes as well. The whole album was done very quickly. He was really teaching himself to sit and drum. And if you had a few weeks off to write a new album, you'd get into rehearsals for that new album, and he'd have forgotten how to drum.

TB: So he didn't sit down and practice every day.

AP: No, not at all. He'd go and work on a building site. Or go and take himself off to the seaside, or on a drinking binge or something. And then he'd come back a few weeks later and then he'd have to remind himself how to drum. He'd sit there for a few hours, and say, "Look, give me a little time, I've got to remember how to do this."

But he never had a real personal style on those first few albums. I think the only thing that you could say that was a signature in the drumming of those first few albums was the very savage punctuation — like, for example, he would hit bass drum and cymbal and then he would hold the cymbal, so you'd have that kind of [imitates cymbal choke] kind of thing, and he'd use a lot of that punctuation, almost like aggressive kind of punctuation marks in writing. His drumming would be a long stream of normality and then you'd get a whole bunch of exclamation marks, almost like someone whacking the punctuation parts of a typewriter needlessly at the end of a sentence or something. I think that was a fast track to sounding tight.

TB: His drumming is very precise on those albums.

AP: Yeah, it's almost as if it was like, sort of, boxing punch-moves or something.

TB: Did you play with a click track back then or do you play with one now?

AP: No, never back then. Play with one now, which probably sort of suffocates some of the playing sometimes, but we never did then.

TB: Do you make a point of not playing with a click on some songs?

AP: Sometimes we do, yeah. On other ones, I think it's important to have that, to take away the worry of having to support not only the playing, but also everyone else's tempo. You know, you're carrying the whole band on your shoulders, and with a click track you don't have to do that, because you know the click's going to stay in-time, so you just have to have fun.

But Terry's playing on the first couple of albums was, I think, this stamina mixed with a real boxing kind of punctuation. And then he started to fall much more into this cyclical style of playing, from Drums and Wires onward. He'd like to get himself into these patterns of things, and you can hear that on, certainly, you mentioned "Travels in Nihilon," that's a good example of that. But also things like "Burning with Optimism's Flame" [imitates drum hi-hat/snare riff], he'd get into that — that was a pleasure for him to play, and I know it was a pleasure for us to play along with that. Suddenly, when we'd play that live, everyone just couldn't resist grinning like an idiot, because it was such a joy to play, the buoyancy of that.

TB: Did he come up with that pattern, or was that something you suggested?

AP: Probably between us. Because I think I was — I was not jealous of him being the drummer, but I always wanted to get involved in a big way, because for me that was my background, too. You know, I was learning about melody as I stumbled along, but I think I intuitively knew about rhythmic things.

Let me see, what else can I mention on Black Sea or Drums and Wires. . .

TB: Well, from a drumming standpoint, "Scissor Man" really stands out for me on Drums and Wires, and also "Millions."

AP: "Millions" is, again, one of those cyclical things that he and Colin got into.

TB: You were talking about upside-down approaches to beats, and that's one of them.

AP: Right, that's one of them, yeah.

TB: And then "Scissor Man" has that ska influence to it. . .

AP: "Scissor Man" is kind of like a bad dream of ska, you know, it's kind of like a nightmare version of ska, because it's got a lot of that fast-ska scaffolding. But then he's playing and he's sort of self-dubbing - he's leaving stuff out and putting stuff in and we know that we're catching reverbs and echoes, and he's supplying stuff that's going to go into that. It's almost like ska meets vaudeville, and it's a bad dream of both.

TB: That must have been nice for you as a songwriter, though, to know that you're playing with a drummer who is willing to leave space for you.

AP: Yeah, he got into that. Terry was not the most — and I'm trying not to sound derogatory — but Terry was not the most delicate of people, and you really had to lean on him to converse with you. And I mean that in terms of language and his drum language. He drummed for himself, and you used it as a cushion on which to put your music. He never spoke too much to the rest of the band. He would speak musically to Colin, but otherwise I think we had to find the holes and spaces that he left to use. It was just a case of, I think, his personality — it was his personality made into drumming.

TB: Some other things on Black Sea that stand out for me are "Living Through Another Cuba," and "Rocket from a Bottle."

AP: I think "Rocket from a Bottle" was a case of me trying to get Terry to imitate [Velvet Underground drummer] Mo Tucker [imitates beat] — you know, that kind of real idiot cardboard-box kind of drumming. But he also put in these little cyclical tumbles and things within that.

TB: And the hi-hat.

AP: And the hi-hat, like in the wrong place. And "Living Through Another Cuba" — he'd bought this roto-tom, because I was constantly badgering him to play rimshot snare, and so he bought the roto-tom so he could get that "dang, dang" kind of feel without sacrificing the snap of his snare. You know, in a lot of reggae bands, they set up a roto-tom — it's "dial a rim shot." And he got into that.

TB: Did he make a point of listening to ska and was he influenced by that? Songs on English Settlement like "Down in the Cockpit" and "English Roundabout" seem to reflect that.

AP: Yeah, I think he liked some ska and some reggae. I think he liked some dub-reggae, because of the exciting cinematic effects of dropping snare drums into mile-long reverbs and real rinky-dink rolls and the way that bass drums would be wound up to maximum with nothing else in the way.

But he came from the heavy-metal side of things. His favorite bands were people like the Pink Fairies, who were sort of anarchic hippy metal monsters - I mean, there was no kind of black leather and studs, it was kind of loons and dope, but still sort of anarchic metal stuff. But that was his favorite band of all times. And then he came up with people like — oh God, what were they called, they had that album called Death Walks Behind You, what were they called? Atomic Rooster, I think.

TB: Oh yeah, Carl Palmer's first band.

AP: Yeah, he loved Atomic Rooster and things like that. So that was really his musical background, was more the metallic side of things. And so any other forms of music, like I say, he had license to do anything with, because he never really had a grasp.

TB: Let's talk about Mummer and The Big Express with Pete Phipps. The delicacy of his drumming on "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" really stands out for me.

AP: Yeah, funny that you should mention that song, because we rehearsed that with Terry, and he couldn't grasp the lightness I wanted him to play that with. He had lots of other things on his mind, like the girl he had got pregnant and wanted to live with in Australia, and I think the boil broke while rehearsing that number. He just put the sticks down and said, "Look, I can't play this stuff, and I'm leaving in any case."

TB: Oh, that was the actual song you were playing?

AP: That was the song, yeah. I wanted this feel, these nattering little clay pots scooting around, and I think he wanted to go thump-whack.

So we were left in a panic, thinking, "Who the hell are we going to get to go in the studio with us in a short while? We've got all this material, and no drummer." And Dave Gregory reminded us of a drummer in a band that had toured with us not too far back. They were called Random Hold, sort of a cross between Peter Gabriel and Soft Machine, and their drummer was Pete Phipps, who was also one of the two Glitter Band drummers. Dave rang him up and said, "Look, we're stuck, are you busy?" And he said no, and came down, and although we'd only known him as this kind of monolithic, tub-thumping kind of drummer, he also has a very light side, which comes through on things like "Ladybird," "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" and things like that. He was very split — he could drum very light and jazzy, and then. . .

TB: Hit stuff like "Funk Pop A Roll."

AP: Yeah, he could really lay into that stuff, kind of like an aggressive machine. He also handled stuff like "Human Alchemy" very well, which needed a Terry-type rhythm. And the other side of the coin was that he handled something like "Ladybird" great, which just needed this stuff breathing around.

TB: And he does a great job on "Great Fire," with its shift between 3 and 4.

AP: Sure, the tension between, "Is it a waltz or isn't it?" [laughs] It's a waltz in four, I don't know what you call that — an injured donkey.

TB: The drum machine seems to make its entrance with The Big Express.

AP: Yeah, around about the time that we blundered into discovering the Linn Drum. I think it was a case of not knowing whether we wanted to work with a drum machine or a drummer, and I think that's a record where the areas are clearly delineated, what's a drummer and what's a machine. I think, for example, I think it sounded really beneficial on "Train Running Low on Soul Coal," because you can do those big crank-down steam mechanical grunts and puffs with the Linn Drum, but then again, when it gets into the "think I'm going south" sections, you have that wonderful tom roll that Pete Phipps did excellently and we all felt immensely thrilling to play with. Then something like "This World Over" is all Linn Drum.

TB: Oh, I thought that was a mix of live and machine.

AP: It's all programmed, I sat at the back kitchen table programming that with a Linn Drum, and I wish I hadn't now, but I couldn't think of any other way to get this moronic insistence that I wanted for that song — although I wanted the chords felt, I wanted the drums to be rather moronic.

"Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her" is Linn Drum triggering off samples of everything from milk bottles to rulers being twanged. And there's stuff like "Wake Up," which is almost mechanical, but it's actually Pete Phipps playing, almost mechanically. Plus you have those big, groovy holes in there [imitates intro bass/drum pattern], which I think are great.

TB: Yeah, absolutely. It seems like your drum parts get more complex from this point on, with more percussion. Do you think that's a result of saying to yourself, I don't have to write for Terry Chambers any more, and because I've got these machines, and because we're a studio band now, we can do all these different things?

AP: I think so. You don't have to say, "Well, we now have to tour with two Caribbean drummers and somebody to play a milk bottle on every fourth beat" or whatever, so it does broaden your horizons, and I think from around about that point there's more experimentation going on sounds-wise, certainly, with the drums. You know, you're not just restricted to "the kit."

TB: Even so, you guys went back a couple of decades and decided to take on the mantle of the Dukes of Stratosphear. . .

AP: Yeah, that was something that I'd wanted to do since the late '70s. I'd just liked psychedelic music as a kid, and thought that whenever I grew up I was going to be in a band that was going to be like that. And then you grow up, and then you're not. So it was a way of kind of rewriting a little bit of fun, fake history there.

TB: Right, living out the fantasy.

AP: Oh yeah, I think most bands do it at one time — Zappa did Ruben and the Jets, the Beach Boys had Carl and the Passions, Roy Wood had Eddie and the Falcons, you know, they were all, I think, music they heard when they were kids. And then when you grow up, you say, "Oh, yeah, that's a bit of fun, let's do that. Let's be the band we should have been, that we thought we were going to be when we were kids."

TB: Why did you choose Ian Gregory to play on those albums?

AP: Purely financially. I think he did it for a couple hundred pounds - and a beer [laughs]. The budget was microscopic. I think the budget for the first one was something like 4,000 pounds. I've got a feeling that John Leckie did it for free and just had a royalty out of it.

Obviously, we knew of him because he's Dave's brother, but also we figured the fact that he's an amateur — and this is going to sound terribly condescending, and it's not — would kind of bring a sort of naïve energy to these songs as well. And he worked out great, actually. He did have this kind of naïve energy, and it did sound like a lot of the kind of drumming you have on '60s records, where those people were in the studio for the first time in any case.

TB: How did you get that authentic '60s sound? Did you do anything special?

AP: Probably used just three microphones — one on the bass drum and then a pair over the top. Which is, you know, no more than John Bonham or Ringo used.

TB: Did you guys actually record that on a four-track, or did I read that you wanted to but weren't able to?

AP: We wanted to record it that way — in fact, there was a beautiful old four-track machine that I think belonged to Edgar Broughton that John Leckie said, "Great, we can use this and it'll sound really authentic," but we couldn't get it, and he said, "What we'll do is record it on a 24-track tape because I can get a great rate at a Christian studio in Hereford," which is sort of middle west of England, and so we went up there, and the owners thought we were a Christian band. And we got this incredibly cheap rate for a 24-track studio, and we just mixed it all kind of in the style that you'd do reduction mixes on a four-track. You know, you'd fill up four tracks and then you'd bounce them to one track of another machine, and then you'd fill up the other three tracks and then bounce that, so we kind of did it in the same kind of way - you know, we'd pan it in the same way and used the effects that they used.

TB: Right, very low-fi.

AP: Well, it was just a case of not bothering to necessarily hi-fi up what we'd recorded. We used old mic's and guitars and amps, and didn't put on this super-high treble and super-low bass — pushed everything through a Fairchild limiter, and there you go. It sounds like those records.

TB: Psonic Psunspot sounded much less primitive to me.

AP: Yeah, that was done in a different studio with slightly more modern gear, and so I think we strayed a little from the truism of old gear and old stuff. It still sounds reasonably in the ballpark.

TB: Are there any songs from either of the Dukes albums — the 25 O'Clock EP or the Psonic Psunspot record — that stand out for you from a drumming standpoint?

AP: No, because they were meant to be simple. In fact, that's me drumming on "Pale and Precious" — we were coming to the end of the session and we hadn't recorded that song, and Ian was nervous about it for some reason, and so he thought, "End of the session, I'm going to drink." [laughs] And he got drunk and couldn't drum, basically. I can see him now, sitting on the floor of the studio with his back against the wall going [in drunken voice], "Oh, I hope I haven't let you down, I'm so drunk." And I went and did it.

TB: You did your best Dennis Wilson imitation.

AP: Yeah, I thought, "Well, Dennis Wilson can't really drum and neither can I, so it should sound just like him."

TB: In 1986, you released Skylarking, which was produced by Todd Rundgren and featured The Tubes' Prairie Prince on drums. It also was the entrée to XTC for a lot of people, especially in America.

AP: Yeah, we never thought we were ever going to be accepted by Americans — then "Dear God" came along and suddenly America became our biggest market by far.

A lot of the tracks on Skylarking, if not all of them, were cut to clicks in Todd's studio outside Woodstock and then we flew to San Francisco and Prairie played to a sort of rough sketch of the music, with guide vocals and such. He played along with the click going and the music and fit himself into the music, as it were. So that was kind of tricky for him, but I think he did really well.

I think Prairie's strong point is the sort of savage way that he grabs fills. He grabs them and they come out of nowhere, and they can be really, almost wrong-sounding but very inspirational. There are a few rolls in "Summer's Cauldron" and things that are way across, right across the time feel, that are very thrilling. And you know the one I mean in particular, the [imitates triplet-feel roll at end of chorus toward end of song]. When he did that, everyone looked at each other and went, "Oooh." It was one of those sharp-intake-of-breath moments.

So that really is, for me, one of the big strong things about him — that he can grab stuff off the shelf right by the scruff of the neck, and the way he grabs it is very thrilling.

TB: He also seems to have a knack for playing for the song as well. Even though he's got all the technique he wants or needs, he's not afraid to lay back on a more-simple song where less drumming is required.

AP: No, he's very chameleon-like, which is also one of the reasons that we chose him for this record we're doing now, because there are a lot of styles of stuff that he's had to handle. I mean, there's quite a lot of chameleon-like stuff on Skylarking as well, stuff like the very dark, kind-of pagany stuff on "Sacrificial Bonfire," to him fitting in with samples of Victorian machinery on "The Meeting Place," or "Season Cycle" — he did a nice job on that as well. Nothing out of the ordinary, but it just fit like a glove.

TB: Yeah, that's sort of what I mean — he just serves the songs so well.

AP: That's it, there you go. Stands there with silver platter and offers you whatever your heart desires, and can probably drum it.

TB: [laughing] Right, "May I help you?" You were talking about the way that you recorded Skylarking, and I wanted to bring that up because that seems like such an unusual way of doing things, of adding the drum parts last.

AP: Yeah, well, it was a case of having some time in Todd's studio and getting the tape booked and the songs marked out and kind of mapped where we were going. And we couldn't really make any more inroads until the drums were down. Todd was saying things like, "Well, can't you put the bass where the bass is supposed to go, and then we'll get Prairie to drum at that point, put his foot where the bass is?", and Colin was saying, "No, I can't do it that way, I want the bass drum there for me to get behind." So we did something like a month's worth of mapping and sketching, and Colin especially was all at sea, because he needed that foot coming down.

TB: Were you playing along with programs that Todd had done, or a click?

AP: No, just a click. You know, sort of hi-hat ticking along, or hi-hat and side-stick clocking along.

TB: That must have been difficult.

AP: It was difficult, because although you map the shape of the song, you don't get anything like the tight placement that you need for the bass and drums, and even for some other instruments as well. To some extent, we came to the limit of what we could do in terms of mapping, and then we needed those drums. There's such a load of different feels that you could put in until the drums were on, and then you know exactly where you can put your other things.

TB: How do you prefer to go through the recording process? Do you like to record drums first, or do you prefer to record a couple instruments at once, or. . .

AP: I'd rather we're playing as it's going to be played — you know, you work out the groove of it and figure out where things are going to fit and so forth — but then all of the [initial] recording is slanted toward getting the best possible drum performance. And at the moment [for the new album], we're recording a lot of the drum performances into Pro Tools [editing software made by Digidesign]. And so, rather than editing on tape — you know, "Isn't take three great there from there onwards, but isn't the end fill of take one great" — instead of chopping 24-track tape up, we've been doing it in Pro Tools.

TB: Tell me about Oranges and Lemons. You guys really sort of pushed technology to the limits on that album.

AP: I think we just about did everything that you could do at the time, technologically. I mean, there's sampling, there's programmed stuff, there's live playing — I don't know if we pushed technology, we just used what was available at that point. I wouldn't say that we necessarily did anything new with it.

Pat Mastelotto was recommended by Paul Fox, the producer. And [laughing] although he was in Mister Mister, we forgave him!

TB: [laughing] That's funny, because I bought one of their albums after hearing Oranges and Lemons, saying, "Well, you know, I like his drumming on that, I'll check out this album," and I think I ended up giving it away after the second or third listen.

AP: [laughs] Yeah, I think Pat actually gave me a few Mister Mister records, and I think the same fate befell them. But he was good, very keen. I think he was a fan of the band. In fact, in rehearsals for Oranges and Lemons, he'd say, "Hey, let's run through so-and-so," and he'd name some old stuff, and he'd know all the drum patterns, and we'd be racking our heads to remember the chords and lyrics. And he always arrived early every day in the studio to try stuff out and to make suggestions.

"Garden of Earthly Delights" is him playing along with programmed percussion, which is also the case on "Across This Antheap." In fact, he's playing two kits on that — at the end, where you have this sort of big, orchestral-sounding coda thing, he's actually playing a mono drum kit, just something on the backbeat.

TB: "Poor Skeleton Steps Out" is another song that stands out for me. He seems to be hitting a lot of unusual stuff on there.

AP: Well, things that you might think are drums and percussion on that song may be things like guitars with paper threaded through the strings, making it go [imitates sharp, dry percussive sound]. And something that sounds like a vacuum cleaner starting up is an electronic cymbal set to "ascend," and there's also a sample of a tabla playing along.

So, there's him playing with programmed stuff, and then there's him playing screwed-up kits. For example, on "Scarecrow People," he's playing a very screwed-up-sounding drumkit — you know, ultra-dead bass drum and junk percussion. We'd laid out a load of stuff — hub caps, ashtrays, bottles, saucepans and things — on a table, and he's drumming along on it.

TB: It sounds like Nonsuch was sort of a step back from that - it's a much more organic, straight-ahead album.

AP: Yeah, we were very pleased with Oranges and Lemons, but I think we thought it was to some extent — this phrase isn't really right, but I can't think of a better one — it was overproduced and maybe a little too busy in places, although now that's what gives it its sound. It's a busy, busy record with a lot of stuff screaming at you.

But I think on Nonsuch we were trying to rein-in some of the technical side of things a little. We worked with Dave Mattacks on that one - Ian Gregory went to see Fairport Convention, bought a program and read an interview with Dave Mattacks in which they asked, "Is there anyone in the music business that you'd really like to work with that you haven't?" And he said, "XTC." So it was a case of, "Well, phone him up." That was a happy accident

His drumming is extremely solid. He also does that wonderful thing where he's the master of the one-beat roll — you know, you have measure with four beats, and where someone might go [imitates busy, multi-tom roll], he'll go, "space, space, space, thump." Or he'll put it on something like "four-and" or "three-and." That's his idea of a roll — which is really thrilling, because you just ache waiting: Where the hell is he going to put that beat?

TB: Absolutely. It's a very subtle album, the drum parts are deceptively simple, I think. Songs like "The Smartest Monkeys" and "Omnibus" - when you actually sit down and try to play along with them, you realize that there's a lot going on there.

AP: "Omnibus" twisted his head a bit [laughs]. He had a bit of trouble with that. You know, I'm trying to sing him this pattern [imitates drum pattern], and the poor devil, who's used to playing folk rock most of his life, suddenly has to turn his head inside-out and do this "wrong" drumming. It came out quite well, but it took a bit of getting, that one.

"Smartest Monkeys" for him, I think, was easy, because he just set the metronome running in his head. It's full of those one-beat roll things — one time he'd put it on the "four," and the next time around he'd put it on something like "four-and" or "three-and." And you'd just fall around laughing. Sometimes you couldn't play, because he'd go and put this "thump" in, and he'd put it in a really funny place, and we'd just fall about laughing because it wasn't where we thought it was going to be.

TB: I love the way that he and Colin lock-in together on that song. It's really compelling.

AP: Yeah, on "The Smartest Monkeys" it's me that's not performing too well. I'm restricted to chug along with a set speed of echo, which is really difficult to do.

TB: The Drums and Wireless CD covers the music up to Nonsuch — could you tell me a little bit about those BBC sessions and how you guys approached those?

AP: Well, the earlier stuff is Terry drumming, but from then on they're programmed drums, because we couldn't get the drummers required in the time allotted. You know, they'd say, "Can you come up in a few days time and do a BBC session?", and we'd say, "Shit!" because we'd know we couldn't get hold of that person to drum because they'd be doing another project or out on tour or whatever. And so mostly Dave Gregory and I would sit around with a drum machine saying, "Can we come up with an approximation of what we've done on the record?"

TB: On the songs that Terry drummed on, did you guys perform those live in the studio, or. . .

AP: Yeah, in fact, they're all performed as live as can be, because you have to do those sessions literally in a day. You do something like four songs in a day. You do the music in the first part of the day, and then the vocals and then you mix and then you go home at midnight — if you're lucky. But the earlier stuff is Terry drumming and then we'd program. It wasn't totally satisfactory, the programmed stuff, but I think we thought the sessions were important to do, so for reliability and so we wouldn't have to rehearse with a stranger to play these things, we'd get the program as near as possible to the playing.

TB: You said before that the new album is going to be a mix of styles, and that you needed a "chameleon" like Prairie Prince to handle that.

AP: Although the album that we're working on now has conventional thumpwhack drumming on it, there are a few things that use the implied rhythms I was talking about before. There's a number called "Green Man" that that has a really nice percussive buoyancy to it. We've done it with samples of various African and Arabic percussive things, plus Prairie is drumming on a couple of kits. "River of Orchids" has no drums on at all, but I think it's intensely rhythmic — it's full of string plucks and offbeat trumpet playing, and the vocal skids across this jumping straight feel in triplets. Then there are songs like "Playground," which are more straight-ahead rock things.

TB: I really like the way you use the handclaps in "I'd Like That" - I guess that's pretty much the only percussion in there other than the bass drum and the way you approach the guitar rhythmically.

AP: Well, I couldn't decide what we were going to do, drum-wise. So the demo is just me hitting my legs to keep time. It's a bass drum just thumping along, because I know that's going to be the tempo of it, and "If I hit my legs, we'll think of something to do later on." Except nobody could better that. And so, basically, we sat Prairie down and made him hit his legs. We haven't put the hand claps on yet — I want it to go into a kind of Flamenco area, very exuberant at the end, so we'll probably do something like that on the finished recording. But nobody could better any idea of drumming on your legs, not even Prairie. He said, "I really love the leg sound, so I'll do that then."

There's a song of Colin's called "Frivolous Tonight" that is almost Kinks-like in its simplicity. Prairie did a take but wasn't quite sure of it, and on the last day that he was with us, he said, "Look, give me one more shot at this," and he did it in one take. All the slowing-down and speeding-up that was needed, he got bang-on.

TB: "Church of Women" — are you keeping that on the album?

AP: Yeah, but I don't know if that's going to make the first record or the second at the moment. We haven't even edited his drum takes on that yet, so I can't really tell you any more about that.

TB: Just for my own benefit, are you planning on playing the guitar solo on that, or are you going to give that to Dave?

AP: No, that solo really annoys me on the demo.

TB: Does it really? I love that solo.

AP: I tried so many different things, and I thought, "Oh, fuck it, I'm just going to mess around, and I'll just tell Dave that he's got to come up with something of a certain nature in here." So, for the demo, so it would sound sort of complete, I just kind of noodled with this heavy-metal nonsense. And everyone's turned around and said, "Oh, I really like that solo," but seriously, it was just to stop the tape from sounding like a big hole there. I put a load of stuff in and sat down with Dave and said, "I want something here, but you're not to play anything like that."

TB: Let me ask about the orchestral stuff — how are you approaching that from a percussion standpoint? Things like "I Can't Own Her" or "Your Dictionary"?

AP: "Easter Theater" is going to mixture of programmed and played-live stuff. "Your Dictionary" doesn't have any drums on it. No drums on "River of Orchids." No drums on "Knights in Shining Karma."

On "The Last Balloon" we tried a kit, but it all was too intrusive-sounding. I wanted him to play kind of exploratory sounding drums, with brushes and cymbals and stuff, but it just seemed to sound too intrusive, so I think we're just going to work on the ride cymbal, I don't think there's going to be any other kit in there.

We've recorded a very dead-sounding kit for "We're All Light," but that's one of the ones that we haven't edited up all his takes off, but I think it's going to be — because of financial and time considerations — on the second of the two albums. But I'd like these to come out very close to each other, a couple of months. We're going for almost that Wailers kind of funk to it, almost the kind of jumpy funk that Bob Marley and the Wailers would do.

Hayden Bendall has really pressed me to do "I Can't Own Her," which I wasn't prepared to do.

TB: Oh, you didn't want to do that song?

AP: I didn't want to do that. I thought it was too soppy. And he basically pleaded with me to do it. And so we've done it, but we've done it in a very different feel to the demo.

TB: How did you change it?

AP: It's just solo piano with harp — I mean, not harmonica, but harp - and we're going to attempt to sort of orchestrate it with feedback guitar, make an orchestration out of feedback. Whether that's going to work or not, I don't know, but that's one of the experiments that we're due to do in the next few weeks.

TB: And "Your Dictionary" is going to be on there?

AP: Yeah, I was a bit tacky about that one because of the viciousness of the lyric, but everyone who's heard it has said, "Oh, we've got to do this." So I'm just prepared for some shit from my ex-wife about that. That was written five years ago, so she can't blame me.

TB: You know, the rawness of the emotion on that song is what attracts me to it. I think you probably know that you're a very clever writer - one of the things that I really like about you is the cerebral nature of your music, but at the same time this is. . .

AP: Yeah, it's a hurt song.

TB: Yeah, there's an honesty to it, and I think the end redeems it, too.

AP: Yeah, the end redeems it because it sort of closes it all up and says that's the end of that, let's start afresh. And it doesn't need to be any longer than that. We did actually record a string quartet already, but we dumped it because [laughing] it sounded so out of tune. Just couldn't get the bastards in tune! So we'll have another go, we have some time booked at Abbey Road.

TB: I've heard all the James and the Giant Peach songs, and I just thought they were so great. Being the father of a two-year-old, knowing what a vast wasteland children's music is nowdays. . .

AP: It is.

TB: . . .I was wondering if there was any reason why you guys couldn't go into the shed and, for a very small amount of money, come up with a children's album that could be very profitable for you and definitely add to the music that's out there for children. I don't know what the deal is with the James songs, whether you still own them or whether Disney would jump down your throat if you tried to use them. . .

AP: At the moment, they're just in limbo. I mean, nothing's been done with any of them, because they were written specifically for that film. Disney doesn't own them, because they offered such a pathetic deal — they wanted to pay me $30,000 for all four songs, and that's it, for four songs.

TB: [sarcastically] Well you know, Andy, they don't have much money.

AP: They don't have any money, sure, the mouse doesn't earn much. He's only a mouse. He should get a proper job.

They wanted to pay $30,000 for all four songs and that's it, no royalties at all, not on videos or anything. Nothing. Forget it. These negotiations went on for nearly a year, and then they turned around and said, "Well, we're going to use Randy Newman in any case." And I thought, "Well fuck me, why did I waste all my time?" So, yeah, I have four songs about giant peaches that aren't doing anything.

TB: Well, that's why I was wondering if you could make use of those.

AP: Well, I considered changing the lyrics to "All I Dream of Is a Friend," and I'd written up a thing called "The Living Room," but I'm not totally happy with it. And then somebody pointed out that it sounded a bit like a song by Spanky and Our Gang, and that really put me off.

TB: Hmm, haven't heard that [song].

AP: I've also tried to rewrite the lyrics to "Everything Will Be Alright," which Dave says is our version of "Your Mother Should Know," and I can't get away from the giant peach lyrics. Each time I try I keep mentally coming back to them.

TB: Well, the only suggestion I could give for changing lyrics would be "The Stinking Rich Song," because I used to sing that to my son when I was changing his diapers, and we called it "The Stinking Poop Song" — but I don't think you'd want to go there.

AP: [laughs] No, I still keep catching myself humming "Everything Will Be Alright," and I'm afraid we're passing up a huge hit single — I don't know.

But I'd like to be asked to write other songs for other things. At the moment, a song of mine is being done by Verve Pipe for the Avengers film. I don't know if it's going to make the final film or not. Brian Vander Ark has finished off the lyric there.

TB: They actually do my favorite song on Testimonial Dinner. Their version of "Wake Up" is, I think, very cool, very innovative.

AP: I really liked Sara McLachlan's version of "Dear God." I think her version is much spookier than ours. It's really nice. And I love Ruben Blades' version of "The Man Who Sailed Around His Soul." That's so cool, I have to say it.

TB: Why did you guys pick "The Good Things" to record on that album - assuming, of course, that you are in fact Terry and the Lovemen?

AP: Well, David Yazbek said, "Why don't you do you do one of Colin's songs, because most of the bands have picked your songs," and I said, "Okay, fair enough." And we didn't know what to do, so we thought we'd do a song that had never really been recorded, that was only in demo form. And we recorded it above a motorcycle showroom in Swindon, at a little place called Drive. It's not there anymore. It was a little tiny box of a studio, and I think we brought in more of our own gear than they actually had in there. It was a very primitive studio.

TB: It's actually quite a nice-sounding recording.

AP: It didn't come out too bad — if you'd have seen where it was done, you'd have thought, "Jesus, is it possible to make music in here?" But poor old Chris Sharrock was thrown into the deep end, and I know he was struggling with all of the subtle time shifts in that. He's a very good drummer, but I don't think it was his style of drumming at all.

TB: Well, I appreciate your time today. . .

AP: Yeah, I was just looking at the clock and I was trying to think of a way to say I've got to go. . .

TB: Yeah, I realize I've had you much longer than the hour I originally asked for. The only questions I'd like to ask to wrap up are, are you guys going to actually do the back-of-the-pickup-truck tour that's been rumored, and will I be your drummer?

AP: [laughs] Well, Prairie Prince said that if we don't use him for this, he'll kill us!

TB: Good, that would be even more reason to come by and follow your truck around. Maybe you could get the XTCheads following you, like Deadheads.

AP: [laughs] Well, I think I'd like to do the tour, but we'd have to see the practicalities of it, and I've got so many other immediate worries - getting this album finished, because we're running out of money and time. The next thing is to find an American record company, because right now it's not coming out in America. So those are two enormous problems that have got to be surmounted. And then we could address things like, "How the hell do we promote it?" So maybe, the answer is, maybe and hopefully.

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Copyright 1998 Todd Bernhardt