Working from the Inside

A conversation with Colin Moulding

May 23, 2000
by Todd Bernhardt
A Chalkhills Exclusive

In March, I was lucky enough to get a dub of an advance copy of Wasp Star. It knocked me out. I had listened to the demos for years, but I loved the band's full-blown production of the songs, and was especially impressed by the drumming on the album.

I knew Prairie Prince had recorded some of the tracks during the previous Apple Venus Vol. 1 sessions, but there had also been talk on Chalkhills about Chuck Sabo, a session drummer whom the band had brought in to re-record many of the songs. Searching the Internet brought up no information about him (I later learned that this was because his last name had been misspelled on Chalkhills as "Szabo"), so I thought he would be a great candidate for Modern Drummer's "Up and Coming" column.

With this notion in mind, I was presumptuous enough to fax Andy and ask him for an interview that would support an article I planned to write about Chuck. Having interviewed Andy before for the magazine's "A Different View" column, I thought my chances of a response were fair. Sure enough, I got a call from XTC's rep at TVT Records and, after working out the details, I called Andy at home on April 10 [2000].

The TVT rep had told me I could get Chuck's contact info from Andy. He didn't have it, but Colin did, so he gave me Colin's number. I contacted Colin by fax and, with nothing to lose but my pride, asked for a bit of his time to discuss Chuck and the new album. To my elation, he agreed, and I called him on April 14th [2000].

Though I had asked for a half-hour of his time, Colin -- relaxed and friendly -- ending up talking with me for almost two hours. He's a very different interview than Andy. Mr. P. anticipates the end of your question (as well as the next two you're about to ask) before you're halfway through it and will tear off on a blue streak of insights, puns and tangents. Colin, on the other hand, lets you finish your question, quietly considers it, and then answers. Andy's answers are forthright, full of wit and free of worry about what others may think. Colin's answers are full of quiet intelligence and qualifying phrases that let you know that what's he's giving you is his opinion, and his alone.

This is not to say, of course, that those opinions aren't firm -- they are. Colin obviously has strong beliefs, and is a smart, funny and talented guy. He's the perfect foil for Andy. He's the other side of the XTCoin.

As with the Andy interview, I got far more information than I could possibly use in the article about Chuck, so I've distilled the interview down a bit into a more readable form -- meaning I've removed some of the redundant language that always finds its way into spoken conversation, fixed the grammar here and there, and moved around some of the questions and answers to make the piece "flow" better. Here it is, courtesy of Ringmaster John Relph. I hope you enjoy it.

Colin Moulding

A conversation with
Colin Moulding

TB: Things must feel pretty good to you right now: You've just finished your second album in as many years -- and it's a great album -- and you have a little break before you need to go on the road to support it. Have you been doing a lot of interviews, or have you been able to enjoy this little break before the promo tour and the work starts?

CM: I've not been doing that many interviews. Andy handles most of that -- people mostly want to talk to him, I have to say. That doesn't bother me -- I'm happy for him to do the talking. I'm kind of flattered that anybody wants to speak to me at all [laughs]. So this is kind of a lull period when thoughts turn to what we're going to do next. With that lot out of the way, you're thinking, "Well, what now?" Of course, the public are not thinking that, because they've not seen the product yet, but we played the last note on it at the end of January. So here we are in April, two or three months down the line, and I think our thoughts are turning more musical, toward what we're going to do next.

TB: I was talking with Andy about that, and he said the same thing he said two years ago, which is that he hadn't written much of anything lately because he's been so focused on getting these two albums made. Has that been the case for you as well? Have you been doing any writing, or have you really been more concerned with output?

CM: When you've got all this stuff in the pipeline, you use all your efforts to get it out. There's not really much room for thinking up something new. Until that happens, you can't get another delivery in the back door, if you know what I mean [starts laughing].

TB: [laughing] Right.

CM: Tough to put it that way! You've got to dispatch the goods out before you can get some more in the other entrance, if you know what I mean.

TB: Absolutely. Do you think having this full-blown studio in your garage is going to make a change in the way you write and demo songs? Your demos typically seem more spare and less produced than Andy's.

CM: Yes, I don't really feel the need to actually make them polished. I think as long as all the main parts integral to forming a canvas for the lyric are there, then that's all that's needed, really. For me, all the polishing and making the sounds good and, basically, making it sound like a record, has to be done later. For me, the most important thing about the demo is getting the idea down, and I haven't got time to mess about with whether there's enough 5k [Hertz] on the vocal, or whether the bass sounds too boomy, and that we've got the right this and that. I'm not all that enamored with that way of working. I find it inhibiting.

When I do a demo, I'm thinking about writing the song at the same time, so if I come up with a guitar riff, or a line, then a minute later, I'm singing it for real, for the demo, you know? So for me, it's a process of discovery while I'm doing the demo. I daresay the process is different for Andy. And I very rarely go back and make things better, because there's just no point. You know, when you explain things to people later on, and we're making the record in the studio, then it's a bit more exciting. If everything is worked out down to the finest increment, and there's no room to maneuver, then it's not very thrilling.

TB: Right. It becomes a matter of mechanics.

CM: Yes, it's just repeating what you've done, really. Lifting the demo and putting it on to the record. You could just as well do that. But it's much nicer if there's an atmosphere of discovery in the studio, I think. Gets people jumping up and down, I think, when somebody adds something, maybe something that you haven't discovered for yourself. I think that's what being in a group is all about. You get together and bounce ideas off each other.

TB: Absolutely. The whole concept of creating a whole that's greater than the individual parts.

CM: Yeah. As long as the song is written and all the words are in place, and the melodies and stuff, and perhaps one or two harmony ideas, and all the chords are worked out or pretty much, then that's all that you need do, really. I don't think musicians thank you all that much if you're telling them exactly what to play, especially if you're getting them in to add something to what's already there. I think musicians respond better to being nurtured rather than being told what to play.

TB: Do you think you will continue to do your demos on lower-end equipment, just to get the idea down quickly, or do you think you'll take advantage of this new studio you've got?

CM: I wouldn't use it for ideas, because it's just too complicated a procedure. You'd have to turn on about 10 switches before you could play a note! I've got a little Portastudio, a little four-track sound-on-sound thing -- it was the first Portastudio to come out, back in '81, and I'm still using it to work out the songs because I know it and it's easy to get things down very quickly. You can do four tracks in 10 minutes, and when you're getting ideas down, you don't pay too much attention to the fiddly stuff. If you want to know how things will marry, and quickly, then that's all you need, I think.

TB: I assume you use some kind of drum machine. Have you upgraded that over the years, or are you still using one of the early ones?

CM: No, I've got the Proteus E-mu System module, and it's got drum things in there. I had earlier models, but I always found the sounds in there too "hard." I never start with just drums as the first thing. I think it's fatal to do it that way.

TB: What do you usually start with?

CM: I think you've got to start with the accompaniment instrument, and then a voice. Then you get a feel for the rhythm. If you start with the drums, there's always the feeling that you're going to be too heavy-handed, and it may not need as strong a backbeat as what you've put down. Sometimes I even just slap on me legs. On the demo for "Frivolous Tonight," it's just me slapping me legs, because I couldn't be assed about with the drum sounds. . .

TB: [laughing]

CM: Well, you know what it is with triplets -- it's always dotty getting a decent triplet, isn't it?

TB: That's true, it's hard on a machine.

CM: Yeah, and I thought, putting in all those little triplety beats, the best thing is to put them in on your lap. Why not? Because I think feel is more important than whether it sounds like a drum or not.

TB: You say you want to start with the accompanying instrument. What is that, typically, for you? Is it guitar, or bass, or piano?

CM: My piano technique is of the one-fingered variety. I've used sequencers before, but I get frustrated with them because they're so stiff -- you spend hours and hours trying to make it not stiff, and you think, "What am I doing? I've spent four or five hours trying to make it sound like a drummer."

But it's usually guitar. I have written a couple of songs on keyboard, and they turned out okay, but that's kind of more by accident than anything, I think. It depends on what you're playing. Sometimes you play guitar, and you think, "Yes, this probably would sound better on piano, but I'll just put it down, I'll play the guitar like a piano." Do you know what I mean?

TB: Sure.

CM: You just sort of play it like a piano, and you do a lot of imagining, just to get it down. I think that's the essential bit, you know. Get it down as an illustration to other people, and let the keyboard player jump in and play the proper chord.

TB: I'm surprised that it's not more often the bass -- that you don't get a song because of a great bass line you think of. Or is that something you did in the early days and is not as true now because you're not touring?

CM: There are one or two songs around bass lines in the early period, I think. They've probably got more leanings on rhythm, rather than melody, and melody's become very important to me over the years. And that's why I need the full chord, so to speak. I'm just not getting enough from playing a bass line, you know. I think those songs I did write in the early days around a bass line were probably more rhythmic kind of "champing" songs -- stuff like "Dance Band," for instance, that's probably the earliest thing I ever wrote, because I didn't play guitar all that well in those days. So, that's understandable, really -- you have to use whatever means is at your disposal.

TB: It's surprising in a way to hear you say that, because you're a very melodic bass player.

CM: Melody has become more important to me over the years, yeah. I've always tried, whenever possible, to play a melody, but not for the bass to go off on its own and do its own thing. I think it's always got to be integral to the song. That's what's it there for -- you're playing on a song, after all, you're not just performing like an acrobat or a juggler, it's not a party turn you're doing. You're supporting the sentiment of the song. It's important that you remember that.

TB: To follow up with a question I had about your demos -- I was wondering how different the recording process was for this album, with Dave Gregory not involved, because it seems to me that in the past he played a big role in the arrangement of your songs, more of a role than he did with Andy's. This is especially apparent to me on Apple Venus Volume 1, where, if you listen to the demos on Homespun, and then you listen to the full-blown production, it seems like Dave contributed a lot to those. I was wondering how his departure affected the way you approached the full production of your songs for Wasp Star? This time, it seems that the finished songs are closer to the demos.

CM: Yes, well, the thing is, all the chords were written out for Apple Venus Volume 1 -- we knew what the chords were. When Dave came to put his Kinky keyboards down, a lot of the little curly bits were suggestions made on the guitar. You know, take something like "Frivolous Tonight," where he plays the piano. There're all the things like the [sings patterns from verse and intro to chorus], there was a little wiggly bit in the middle -- I mean, those sort of things were done on the guitar, and just transferred to the keyboard.

TB: That's what you mean by playing the guitar like a piano.

CM: Yeah, but whose idea is it? I mean, the idea was construed on the guitar, but it's taken for the keyboard. Obviously, they are going to be different, but if you take it idea-for-idea, you think, "Well, yes, this idea has been created here but made mature here."

TB: Did you find that your approach changed without Dave there? That the responsibility for really fleshing out the songs was more on your and Andy's shoulders? Or did that just feel natural to you anyway?

CM: I think that Dave's putting it around a lot that most of what you're hearing on Volume 1, especially the keyboard songs, they're all his ideas, which is totally wrong. Although the ideas were played by him, Andy and I were in the studio when he played and, to be honest, a lot of the ideas were suggested by me and him, but played by Dave. So it's not strictly true, what he's advocating. But with Volume 2, it's different, obviously, because a lot of them are more guitar-oriented things. We're not strictly keyboard players, we're more guitar-oriented people, I suppose, so it's going to be a lot easier to handle the credits.

TB: Another question along those lines -- we were talking about Andy and his approach to demos, and he seems to have pretty definite ideas about his songs and the parts in them, and the produced songs usually don't stray too much from the demos, though on Wasp Star there seems to be a looseness that he says was due to it being less "composed" than Apple Venus Volume 1. When you work with Andy on the bass parts to one of his songs, how much freedom do you typically have to work with and change the parts?

CM: He leaves all the hard stuff to me! [laughs] That's the sum of it. Andy will say to himself, "Oh, that's too complicated to work that out, you don't have to do that." If it's a thing with just a couple of chords, then he'll have a go at it. And if there's anything there that we can use, then I'll use it.

TB: So it's pretty wide open, then? He doesn't say, "Look, I really want you to play this line here"? I mean, for instance, something like "Mayor of Simpleton" is obviously a composed bass pattern that he wanted you to play. But on "Playground," I noticed that the line strayed quite a bit from what his demo bass lines were.

CM: Well, as I say, if there's anything good that he's played, then you think, "Yeah, that's quite good, why don't we bring that in?" It's all for the betterment of the song, really -- if there're any "duty bits" that he's played, and I feel like I can develop them in whatever way and add something of my own as well, then that's the way it turns out. There's no hard and fast rule about it -- you know, if there's something good, then we'll use it. It kind of works both ways, really.

TB: True for the way he contributes to your songs, then?

CM: Well, something like "Easter Theatre" on the last effort -- the horns on the last verse, those were my suggestion. It's kind of a bat-and-ball thing, really. Usually, when the writer has done his demo, it's kind of forged in his mind. You don't take it any further, unless somebody puts in something that starts your imagination going off. When it becomes open to the band and the producer and the recording session, very often somebody will put in a suggestion, saying, "Well, something more can be done here." And that will start the group suggesting stuff -- and when I say the group, I mean probably Andy and myself and the producer, or whoever is in the room. That'll start the whole process off again -- somebody might say, "Well, what about this?" and somebody will follow it up with something else.

TB: Which, again, is one of the benefits of being in a band situation.

CM: Yeah, you couldn't call us a band, I suppose, being a two-piece, but I'm really not talking about band, I'm talking about whoever's in the room. The engineer as well -- it's all fair game, really.

TB: I've noticed a change in your vocal approach over the last two albums, and it's a change that I think began with Skylarking and then really blossomed, in my mind anyway, with "Bungalow," on which you become a full-blown crooner. I've always thought that "Bungalow" is the best song that Berlin-era Bowie never wrote.

I was wondering if this change in delivery -- the fact that you're singing lower, and a little huskier, and in a more intimate tone of voice -- is the result of your adapting to your voice changing over the years, or has it been a conscious shift in style from your past delivery? Or is it a little of both?

CM: I think it's a lot to do with not playing live. When you play live, you have to sing out. And if you've got awful monitoring, which in our early days of playing live we almost certainly always did, you sing out and you construct songs that are in a certain key, a key that you can really sing out in. But when you're sat at home in your armchair, and you're sort of [mumbles] mumbling in a lower kind-of key -- they're not singing-out keys. They're kind of more -- well, if you like, crooner keys, where you're singing lower and there's a lot more bass response to your voice. But, I mean, if you asked me to sing those songs in a live situation, it would be pretty much impossible. But that's not a problem [laughs] because we don't play live, do we? And that's okay by me.

But I think that's principally why my vocal delivery has changed, because you're constructing songs in a different environment, you know. You're not bringing songs up at sound check anymore. You're composing them in your living room, and you're huddled over your acoustic guitar, and you're singing from the throat -- you're not bellowing.

TB: Right, from the throat rather than the belly.

CM: [laughs] Yeah, you start bellowing in your living room and people are going to think you're mad!

TB: [laughs] Do you think that the lyrics also dictate the range where you place the vocals when you sing a song? You know, the nature of the lyrics -- whether it's about something more intimate and slice-of-life -- which you seem to have been attracted to lately.

CM: Yeah, I think you're possibly right. If the lyrics are more conversational, then they're going to be more of the Lou Reed variety -- you know, kind of a word-in-your-ear type thing. Storytelling, or whatever. It's kind of a "Gather round, I've got something to say" thing, not shouting out statements or slogans or huge bravado choruses or whatever. It's more of an intimate thing, which I think you want to do as you get older. You want to speak to people on a one-to-one basis, you know.

TB: Instead of making pronouncements.

CM: Yeah, you want the lyrics to count for more, I think. They're not so throwaway -- more conversational, I suppose.

TB: What about Chuck Sabo's playing attracted you to him, why did you think he was right for the record, and what do you think he brought to the table, so to speak -- what did he add to the sound?

CM: I didn't know he was going to be right for the record, really, until he was doing the record. Because we're not in the scene, down here in Swindon, we have to rely on producers and other people we know to say, "Oh, you ought to use so-and-so, because they'd be right for this." And that's what we did. We relied on Nick Davis to come up with somebody, because we don't know who there is about, and what their styles are.

I think Chuck's probably one of the best drummers we've worked with. He's not a basher -- he doesn't hit them all that hard. But he doesn't need to. When you're recording, very often -- it sounds a bit strange -- but, the harder you hit them, sometimes, the less-loud they sound. When you've got a microphone by a drum, it's not how hard you can hit them, it's the way you hit them.

TB: Yeah, I know exactly what you're talking about. You can choke a drumhead by hitting it too hard.

CM: Exactly, that's what I mean. He chooses his moments well, and he's obviously got thoughts in the back of his mind about the song. It's not just "start him up and switch him off." He's quite suss in that respect.

What else can I say about him? He just proved that he was exactly right for what we wanted.

TB: I think what Andy was saying about him that struck me was that he was impressed by how "tight yet loose" he was -- that he was very "on" and very precise, but at the same time had this great, loose feel.

CM: The beats he played were ever so precise, but not in a mechanical way. Lots of little beats, but very brought-up sharp. He'd do these sort-of double bass-drum things, kind of [imitates 16th-note bass drum hits], that sort of thing. Very precise on those. Those little half beats really make a thing swing. And little taps on the snare that you wouldn't expect. You've got the on-beat and the backbeat going, but there's also the little rim-shot things tapping along. Not all the drummers do that -- certainly none of the heavy-metal ones do it! You know, those little taps in-between beats.

TB: Sure, little grace notes.

CM: Yeah, really helps things skip along. And he's one of those, you know. Dave Mattacks is another one of those people who can put those in, but I don't think he's quite as precise as Chuck, who's made an occupation out of it.

Yes, a different type of drummer than what we've worked with, really. We've never worked with anybody with quite so much precision and a different way of looking at it.

TB: Do you feel that his playing changed your approach to your parts on this album, or were your parts pretty much down already? I guess that gets to a broader question of how you work with a drummer on an album. When I talked to Andy two years ago, he said, about you: "He's a very melodic player . . . His bass lines are little tunes. But he's definitely extremely old-fashioned as in -- and I think in a good way -- that he sits there with that bass drum and is 'down' on that bass drum, wants to know where that bass drum is falling, so that that bass drum can become the attack on the front of his bass note. It's a real old-school way of thought, but I think, personally, it hasn't been bettered in terms of rhythm-section glue."

CM: Yeah.

TB: So it sounds to me like you want to be very involved with the drummer during the recording. I guess I'm asking about the interplay between you and Chuck -- how did he inspire you, and how did you inspire him?

CM: The interplay . . . well, I do my bass last. What we'll do, when we lay things down in the studio, is I'll go in and put an acoustic guitar down, or -- it depends on whose song it is, of course -- something next to a click. And that's all the drummer gets. When he goes in and does his bit, all he's got is a guide vocal and the accompaniment instrument, which might be a piano, usually a guitar.

TB: So you don't play a scratch track with him while he's playing?

CM: No, we've done it before, but we usually put him off! [laughs] Actually, on this album I did have some guide bass, on one or two tracks, which I'd put on during the previous session. But a lot of it was the newer stuff, which we hadn't touched. Just an acoustic guitar, click and voice -- voice is very important because you have to play to a song. Of course, we used a programmer as well.

TB: Yeah, Andy told me a bit about him -- Matt Vaughn?

CM: Matt Vaughn, yes. Chuck would usually put his drums down, and if there needed to be some kind of percussion thing going along with it, then we usually asked Matt to deal with all of that -- he had all of the sounds onboard, you know. Or, in the case of something like "Standing in for Joe," I'd slap my knees and he'd put that into it. But a lot of that little half-beat stuff and small beats, Chuck would do that himself. In something like "We're All Light," that's all him. Bloody good job, I think!

TB: Yeah, absolutely. So, if you were putting down your bass part last, it sounds to me as if there was ample opportunity. . .

CM: Well, there are other parts to go on. Usually, I'm the last to do my stuff, but -- obviously, there's a guide vocal on there, but instrument-wise, I'm the last one to put mine on, and then we do the vocals for real. I like to do it that way, because then you can get by with the minimum. Very often, when everything's on, you'd be surprised what the least bass is that you can get away with. Very often, a lot of the notes that the bass player might play -- especially in a live situation, I found it all the time -- are not needed. Perhaps lower notes on a guitar would have played them better -- a better register or something. It's like the Beatles, really -- I think Paul McCartney used to put his bass on last, or so I heard. Mainly because of the restrictions of the four- or eight-track recording.

TB: Yeah, I'd heard that once they had the ability to do multi-track recording, he wanted to do that to make sure that -- for the same reason you're talking about -- his bass fit in perfectly with the rest of the song. He also wanted to make sure that, from a melodic point of view, the bass supported the song, too.

CM: That's right. I think you'd be surprised at what you could get away with if you've got everything in place. I used to play far too much in the early days. I listen to a lot of my playing and think, "Bloody hell." I know full well that I would have played a lot less. Usually, the simpler it is, the stronger it is, so the playing would have been stronger.

But it's gone, so you don't worry too much about it. But that's the way, to put your stuff on last.

TB: So, did Chuck's playing, since it was down already, cause you to shift your feel on any of your parts?

CM: Yes, it probably did. To be honest, Chuck probably didn't play all he could have if he was playing it live himself. He probably was thinking, "Well, those funny little beats, you can play those on a conga later. I'll just play the backbeat and the bass drum. Perhaps a little bit of hi-hat." A lot of drummers think this way now, because they know that, with drum machines and programming and all that, they've got to work hand-in-hand with these guys. They don't need to play the whole picture. It's like in the orchestra, you know -- you have to advocate, "Well, you do this, and I'll do that, because you'll make a better job of this, and I'll make a better job of that." You've got to put that sort of hat on, and I think a lot of good drummers do that nowadays.

TB: It's funny that you're saying this, because I've found that to be true for drummers, too. It's often a mark of maturity that they realize that, sometimes, simpler is better.

CM: Yeah, you don't always need to play a fill. And the right intensity of the fill is important. Perhaps it just needs one little drop snare or something. I think playing the song is very important -- to know the intensity of what you've got to play at a particular time. Usually, having a good guide vocal is a big thing. If you've got a good guide vocal, you know how the vocalist is expressing himself. If he's sort of shouting, "Here comes the chorus!", then you know you need to do a big flurry. If he's just introducing the vocal, then it's just a little skip on the snare -- you don't need all the fanfare at that point.

TB: I've noticed that you're very rhythmic in the way you approach some of the guitar parts that you write -- for example, in songs like "Wake Up," or "The Smartest Monkeys," and even in "Boarded Up" -- you seem to like these cyclical, repeating patterns, much like Terry did in the older days, where he would get into these repeating patterns, like "Travels in Nihilon."

CM: Yes, well, Andy likes repeating guitar things as well! I suppose the backbone of "The Green Man" -- [imitates oboe pattern] -- it's like that all the way through, but you have other things coming and going all the way through, so you get a feeling of build and separation and sections, you know. I suppose "Stupidly Happy" is just one guitar riff, at the end of the day.

TB: Exactly, that builds and builds. . .

CM: Yeah, which is a kind of a skill in itself, I suppose. We're all kind of passionate about a good riff, you know. [laughs] Who isn't? Most guitar players like a good riff. You're following in people like Zeppelin's footsteps, I suppose. They're masters of finding the good riff, you know. And riffs came to the fore really in the early '70s/late '60s, I'd say. Nirvana's done some good riffs as well -- you know, you can't hold down a good riff! [laughs] If you can come up with a good riff, you can probably write a song around it.

TB: Right. It gives you a good foundation.

CM: Yeah.

TB: To talk about some of the specific songs, your songs on the new album -- I know Prairie is playing on "In Another Life," and it's this very tom-heavy, tub-thumping type of pattern. Andy told me that you guys ran the drums through a fuzz box, and that there's no bass on the song, because you liked the effect on the bass drum so much that you didn't want to cover that up. I wonder what that says about your songwriting approach and the way it's changed over the years, that you're willing to leave the bass out of one of your own songs?

CM: Didn't know what was going to happen there, in the bass register. Was a little bit confused. The demo's not got any bass on, and it sounded okay. But I was kind of thinking all along that I'd have to put some bass on, just to stop it from turning tinny, you know [laughs]. So we put the bass drum through this D/I box, this Pod thing that everybody's got now, and drove it through this box, and got this huge, great big thump, you know, like somebody hammering on a wall. It's one of those marital songs, you know [laughs] -- I thought, "There's a connection there." Sounded good and it seemed to fit with the acoustic. The problem came when we tried to put the bass on -- a simple, thumping bass, but it didn't fit quite. It didn't sound very classy while it was playing, and I thought, "Well, it's probably classier to leave it out altogether." So we mixed it with that in mind. We mixed it to sound as full as we possibly could without the bass.

TB: And it does. Until he told me about that, I frankly had not noticed. And I'd listened to the album pretty closely.

CM: That's a very good thing. Because I was a bit worried about it, because on the album, it comes after "Stupidly Happy", which is a kind of a real, all-out going-for-it number.

TB: Right, with a double-tracked bass.

CM: Yes, you noticed.

TB: Yeah, you're in the upper and lower registers on that one.

CM: Yeah, exactly. So, I thought, "After that low bass, what's going to happen with this song?" But it seems to be okay. It seems to hold its own, I think. We got away with it this time [laughs].

TB: [laughs] I find the lyrics on that song really charming. It's sort of what you and I were talking about earlier -- you seem to have found your niche as a slice-of-life writer, somebody who's an observer of the ordinary, who makes it extraordinary by observing it in a lyrical way.

CM: I've always liked writers that did that. I suppose what comes to mind is somebody like Ray Davies. I've always liked that observation-type writing. Never, ever sort of lost the need or the want to do it.

TB: So it's an intentional emphasis on your part, it's not just what you find most inspiring most often?

CM: I'm getting better at doing it, I think. Never too late to learn -- I always felt that, occasionally, lyrics became a bit of a problem for me, and I've been working on spending a bit more time over them, and getting the right setting for them. It's just getting better at what I'm doing, I think, rather than any conscious effort to take on a different style. I don't think my style has changed that much -- if you'd lay out something I did like "Bungalow" or "Dying" or one of those end-of-side-two songs, there's a similar style there. I wanted to make them better.

TB: Even "Wake Up" is that sort of observational song -- it's just more aggressive in its musical approach.

CM: Yes, possibly. I don't know whether that connects with people. That's the sign of a good song, I think, is whether it connects. Maybe it does, I don't know.

TB: I've always thought that was a good set of lyrics, especially as I've ridden the train into various jobs -- "you get to know a morning face," you know, all the other things that go along with that.

CM: Yeah, that's right. That's what I wanted to do. Make that connection with people who go to work and go on the train. . .

TB: Or the bus, or whatever.

CM: Yeah, and see those faces that you see every morning. . .

TB: But don't talk to! [laughs] That's the stupid thing about it, you know? Everybody's in their own little world and reading their paper, but they all know the same faces, because you always catch the 8:15 or whatever it is. Sort of silly.

CM: Yeah, it's very -- I must have succeeded on that one, then, but don't always get the mark, don't always touch the imagination. Not all the time. We don't always succeed, but we try and get there if we can.

TB: That's the secret, to keep trying. One question about "In Another Life" -- is that Andy huffing away on the harmonica during the hook? Do I hear that correctly?

CM: That's me.

TB: Oh, it's you?

CM: And, don't know whether I should let you into a secret or not. . .

TB: Oh, absolutely you should! [laughs]

CM: [laughs] Yeah, we performed a bit of a trick on that one. I'd played a harmonica on my demo, and couldn't think how to do it again. Couldn't create what I'd created on the demo. I thought, "I'm totally buggered here," because whatever I did, I couldn't repeat it. With these Portastudios, you've got a pitch control, so I don't know whether it was a G harmonica that I'd slowed down to G-flat, or whether I had an E and sped it up. We tried both, and neither sounded like what I was playing on the demo. I thought, "No, that is the sound, I can't settle for anything less."

So, Nick Davis said, "Well, if that's what you want, then we've got to lift it off." So we isolated the track from my Portastudio, which I'd done some time ago -- knackered tape, it was in quite poor condition -- and managed to get it onto the main master. What you're hearing is kind of seamless, I think, I don't think people would notice this, but the riff that you're hearing is the same riff every time. When you hear it later on in the song, you're hearing the riff that you heard in the first four or eight bars of the song.

TB: Andy told me you also did something like that with the drum hook in "We're All Light." He said that that was lifted off his demo, and then heavily processed.

CM: It sounds just like a fill from a hip-hop song, a rapping song or something.

TB: Which is essentially the effect you guys were going for, right?

CM: I don't know what we were going for there! [laughs] Why should it sound hip-hop? I don't know. Why couldn't it have been a normal, less-muddy sampled sound? I've never understood why it should have been that quality of sound, because it sounds cut-in, but I think that's what he was looking for. Do you know what I mean?

TB: Oh yeah, I know exactly what you mean. I can understand his approach on that -- it almost makes the lick stand out more, because it is so obviously not an organic part of the song.

CM: Yeah, that's right. He said, "That's the way it's got to be." I thought, "Well, that's a bit strange." I know we could have made it fit a bit better into the "sonicness" of the song. But he said, "No, I'd like it to sound as though it is cut in." I've never really understood.

TB: Well, maybe it'll be more radio-friendly here in the early '00s, and that was the kind of effect he was going for.

CM: Well, I hope not. I hope it's not a case of why don't we get a bit modern [chuckles] and sample some rapper's snare drum or something, just to get on the radio. I hope it doesn't sound like that. I'm sure that wasn't his intention.

TB: No, I don't think so. I think he wanted it to stand out as a hook, and by doing that it does sort of "pop."

CM: Yeah, I suppose so.

TB: "Boarded Up" -- Andy had told me that the percussion parts on that are basically you and him walking around and knocking on the bodies of acoustic guitars and doing things like that. He also said that you're playing an unplugged electric guitar that was closely mic'ed, and that had a D/I on it going through a tremolo into the board.

CM: Didn't use much of the tremolo -- it was kind of three sounds. There was the tremolo, there was the mic'ed up sound, and there was just the non-tremolo electric sound. Used probably a bit more of that, the non-tremolo -- didn't want the tremolo -- during the mixing session.

TB: I find it to be a very spacious song. I can hear where the song could have justified a full-blown Apple Venus Volume 1 treatment, but you chose to keep it very spare. It's like you can almost hear the big, empty hall.

CM: I think if we had gone for that it would have sounded very ordinary. The chords are very ordinary, but the treatment isn't. And that's why I got away with it, I think. I could have turned up the guitar to full fuzz [laughs] and gone down that route, but I don't think it would have survived and got on the record. It's mainly the treatment and the atmosphere of it that makes you think, "Well, there might be something there." Not so different from the demo, but there's not a lot more you can do with it. It's more in the mood and the lyric.

TB: Yeah, absolutely. In the TVT press release, it says that you wrote the song about Swindon, and there are these great "boarded up" and "boarding up" puns in there that support that, along with other lyrics. . .

CM: Yeah, got to have a little bit of humor in there. . .

TB: In the same release it says that Andy sees the song as about yourself.

CM: No, absolutely, you've got it all wrong! [laughs] I know, he said that this is an expression of the years that we spent unable to get a deal, or sorting the legal side out, and that I felt boarded up, and my wife had an illness and all this, and that's why I wrote the song. It's nothing to do with that at all.

TB: It's just pure Swindon?

CM: He said, "Well, it's got to have something to do with us on a subconscious level," and I said, "No, no, no, not at all." [laughs]

TB: Well, I thought it might have been a metaphor for the band. You know, the fact that the band was boarded up during that period.

CM: You're kidding! Oh hell, I don't want that getting out [laughs]. No, not at all. It was kind of the woodiness of the demo, and I thought, there's something here that has to do with wood -- you know, the moping kind of footsteps on boards -- and I thought that it would be a good vehicle for something like this. Like walking through a ghost town or something. You're walking on the veranda of a Western town, with a tumbleweed or something [laughs]. Not quite like that, but you get the impression. So it's probably the woodiest song to date!

Yeah, the sparseness is kind of appealing. But I certainly think that if you had added the full treatment, it wouldn't have been a worthy contender.

TB: "Standing in for Joe" has a lot of little interesting breaks and percussion throughout. In playing along with it myself, I found it really easy to slip into a shuffle beat, but that's obviously not what you wanted. Andy told me the story of you slapping out the "Baby Love" beat on your thighs, and how that made it into the song.

CM: Yeah, that's Diana Ross, I suppose.

TB: [laughs] Showing off your Motown influences?

CM: I don't think I've got any! [laughs] Once Chuck had done his stuff, I said that's all good, but it just wanted a hint of [imitates pattern]. A bit of a triplet thing in there, not a lot, which Chuck was rather thinking that somebody else would supply -- and rightly so, I don't think that was his job. So we got Matthew Vaughn in, who said, "So, what are you looking for?" I went in the studio and tapped it on me legs. He said, "Do that again," he put the microphone on and recorded it. He said, "Alright, I've got it, you can come in now," so he put it in the computer and gave it a stir [laughs], and out popped that little one. Just what the doctor ordered. We processed the sound and made it thicker, and it did the job.

TB: How do you deal with it, in the studio, when a drummer or producer "hears" a different beat or feel than you're hearing in your head -- for example, if a drummer says, "Oh well, this should be a shuffle." Do you go in and say "No, no, that's not it," and sort of slap it out on your thighs like that, or do you take another approach?

CM: You've just got to come out and tell them, really. Can't let it go down the line and be wrong. It'll make you miserable, and they'll get miserable through you complaining! Yeah, I think most drummers know when they're delivering the goods. They can tell by the look on your face! [laughs]

TB: [laughs] Do you do a lot of preparation before recording? Do you rehearse?

CM: No, never rehearse. Never. I think when Terry Chambers left the band all those years ago, that was it for rehearsing, because after that you'd just have an acoustic guitar in your hand, and say, "Well, it goes like this." Or we got this sound-on-sound equipment that we could use to demonstrate things, you know -- it'd just be you and the band in a rehearsal hall, and you could show the band the chords and stamp out the beat with your foot. That was it.

When you've taken the position that you're not going to play live, and you haven't got a drummer, then [laughs] nobody wants to rehearse! It's a bore. Hence, you get recording equipment, and you try to do everything, you know -- well, not do everything for real, but kind of knock it up, so they'll understand what you're after.

TB: Right. Giving them a general idea.

CM: That's right.

TB: And then you sit around and prepare by talking about the song?

CM: Yeah, we talk about it, and what we're going to use on it. We might not have all the bits at our disposal, but you leave that to the studio occasionally. It's not essential to actually think it up there and then. Very often, if you want some brass on a song, you just demo it with one note or something, to give it a flavor of what you want. You don't need to play the entire part, because you know the root for it. This is true for cello, or any of those kind of orchestral things. Try the flavor and see if it works. If you like the flavor with the guitar, then the full part can be thought up later.

TB: I've got ask -- what's the story with the lyrics of "Standing in for Joe"?

CM: Quite a few years ago, we did this Dukes of Stratosphear thing, which you may or may not know all about. . .

TB: Oh yeah, absolutely.

CM: Andy thought it was a good idea that perhaps we did a similar thing, but kind of a different genre of music.

TB: Oh, the Bubblegum album?

CM: The Bubblegum record, yeah. We'd be lots of different bands, kind of a sampler album. We'd be all the bands on it, calling ourselves different names, and we'd write some tunes for it, in the mode of the Archies' "Sugar, Sugar" -- real stomping choruses, kind of sweet to the ear.

TB: So this song was originally for that?

CM: Yeah, it's been around quite some time. I'd had it on the back burner quite some time. People quite liked it, but it didn't fit the mode of what we'd been doing. "Then She Appeared," from Nonsuch, was another one of those, I think, as was "Dear Madam Barnum." So I felt no compunction about bringing it up -- I thought, "Well, if he's doing it, why can't I?"

TB: Well, it's certainly a good enough song. The same thing happened with "Big Day," which was originally supposed to be a Dukes song, wasn't it?

CM: Partly true, partly not. I had it, but I didn't know if it was a good song or not. Sort of demo'd it, quite liked it, but was probably a bit too self-conscious to bring it up. So I just let it stay on the tape. Then this Dukes thing came up. I didn't actually write it for the Dukes.

TB: Ah, okay.

CM: The Dukes thing was written in an air of "Well, it doesn't really matter, we'll tart it all up in the mix." I thought the song had a little bit of psychedelic tendencies, so I didn't feel too badly about bringing it up at that stage, but they said, "Oh no, it can be thrown in and tarted, we've got to use that for the next album." Tell you what -- I went away kind of feeling rather chuffed after that. I thought, "My God, maybe it is alright." So, that's what happened there. But "Standing in for Joe" was written especially for the Bubblegum sessions.

TB: I think it's one of the more radio-friendly songs on the album.

CM: Yeah, I think it's quite good. It's a little bit J. Geils Band at the end [laughs], but I think it's quite a good melody, and it's kind of got a country-and-western sentiment to it -- relationships, infidelity, you know.

TB: I wonder if you're going to get a lot of questions about the lyrics, especially since you guys paired it with "Wounded Horse."

CM: Yes, that's what we thought, we thought they'd go well together, because they're kind of sister songs -- sentiment-wise, of course. Nothing like each other musically.

TB: I talked to Andy at length about his songs on the album and who played and all that, but are there any of his songs on the album that you think either Chuck or Prairie's playing really stood out on, or where they really inspired you?

CM: Chuck's playing on "We're All Light," with those double bass-drum beats -- very funky, I'd say. But I think also Prairie deserves a mention, particularly his fills on "In Another Life," that [imitates fill] for the end of the bridge sections, and also in the beginning and the end of "My Brown Guitar," where he does all those fills -- very Keith Moon, where he does as many tom fills as possible [laughs]. But certainly amazing stuff.

TB: Andy was saying how much he admires Prairie's ability to have his way with a fill. And he said you guys would just sit in the control room and laugh, because it was so inspiring.

CM: Yeah. We'd choose the best bits, of course. That's what digital's all about.

TB: He said you did quite a bit of editing on this album, and that this was the first album where you really took advantage of that.

CM: Oh, it's brilliant, I think. Before, you couldn't do that -- you had to get all tense about the red light. You'd think, "This is forever and cannot be changed." Of course, you know it could change, but you'd have to do it all over again, and that would probably get you into a bigger state. Or you could drop in, but that's not the same, because you know you're dropping in. That's the thing -- when you're recording digitally, you're doing a performance. You don't know which bits you're going to keep, and that's more inspiring, because you've not got the magnifying glass on you. There used to be a stigma about doing it all in one go, and whether you could or not. But now, we don't give a toss about whether we get it all in one go. If it's a good bit, let's use it.

TB: And it's a way of using the studio itself as an instrument, right?

CM: Yes. Thank God I don't have to do it, but somebody does it [laughs]. No, we just point a finger and say, "That's a good bit, can we lift that piece out?" And the skilled people do that sort of thing -- well, Nick Davis, basically [laughs]. He does all of that, he's always the kid on the [Otari] RADAR. He chops it up and makes it sound natural. And that is the thing -- to make it sound natural. If it sounds like a horrible drop-in, then that's no good. But if we've got good bits that we'd really like to keep, we always try to use them and stick them together. Cut and paste, I suppose you'd call it.

TB: There you go. That's it exactly. [pause while we talk at the same time] Now, I. . .

CM: Yeah, I'm sorry, go on.

TB: No, please, you go ahead.

CM: No, I'm rabbitting on, I've said what I needed to say.

TB: [laughing] Okay. Yeah, I just wanted to ask a couple of general wrap-up questions and then I'll let you get back to your life, already in progress.

CM: Alright.

TB: I know TVT is going to push "The Man Who Murdered Love" as the single. Do you agree with that, or is there something else that you saw as the single?

CM: Not me favorite, I have to say. Quite a good tune, but not me favorite.

TB: What did you think was going to be the single?

CM: When you say that, you mean in America, don't you?

TB: I suppose so, because that's your most-lucrative market. Ideally, there would be one song that screams "single" for every single -- so to speak -- market.

CM: Our markets are America and Japan, probably in equal number.

TB: Does Pony Canyon decide what's going to be the single there, while TVT decides what's going to be the single in America?

CM: Well, we're paying half, so I guess we'll have some say! [laughs] The thing is, radio people don't always know what's good for us, and they get it wrong occasionally. You know, if they were so good at picking singles, then why didn't they pick "Dear God" kind of straight off the bat, and not through the back door? It was really the public that chose it, calling into stations and saying, "Like that tune, could you play it again?" So that was how that one worked out. So, they don't always get it right. We don't either.

TB: It's hard to predict.

CM: It is. We have this problem every time we make a record -- what we're going to go with. Because it's not always cut and dry, you know. I think if I had to choose, I'd probably choose "Stupidly Happy."

TB: That's what Andy had said as well.

CM: Gets you going, I suppose.

TB: "We're All Light" seems to stick out in my mind, and inspires me to shake my butt the most.

CM: Yeah, you might be right. I don't know, I really don't know. I wouldn't blame them if they did get it wrong.

TB: Well, hopefully the sales will be strong enough that you can try more than one song.

CM: But as we're spending a lot of money on the video, it would be nice to get it right!

TB: Oh yes, there is that. So you'll be doing a video, and you'll be doing a record-store tour like you did last time?

CM: I think so. There was a plan afoot to actually play off the back of a lorry.

TB: Now, is that really going to come to pass?

CM: I suggested it about five, six years ago, and we said, "Yes, we'll do that," but we haven't gotten around to it yet.

TB: [gushing] That would be brilliant. I would love to see something like that. That would be so great.

CM: We would have to get Chuck over and it might be a lot of fun, I don't know.

TB: [conspiratorially] Well, you know, if he's not available, you have my number! [laughs]

CM: [laughs] Yeah. Maybe other musicians, but I don't know, maybe we could handle it as a three-piece.

TB: There you go -- it could be a power trio, right?

CM: Yeah [laughs]. But I think mainly it will be to go to the stores and meet the people and do radio -- radio is obviously the biggest thing. But, as for the single, it's not my choice, I have to say. It would probably be more enjoyable making the video for "Stupidly Happy" than it would for "The Man Who Murdered Love." "Stupidly Happy" has a certain tension about it. Things being left to the end -- starting small and getting bigger and bigger. I enjoy it because it does that.

TB: What drummers haven't you yet played with that you would like to play with? Is there anybody that comes to mind immediately?

CM: Oh no, not really. I can't think of any. I don't know anybody, to be honest.

TB: Are there any players that you admire, just from listening to their stuff, that you would say, "Yeah, he would work really great with us"? For instance, in my mind, somebody like Pete Thomas would be a really good drummer for you guys, because he's technically quite good, but he knows how to serve the song.

CM: He's the guy with Elvis?

TB: Yeah, with the Attractions.

CM: Yeah, somebody else mentioned him, actually. We did something in New York about seven years ago called "Cherry in Your Tree." It's a song of Andy's that I think he had knocking about for the Bubblegum album.

TB: Right. You did that with Brian Doherty, right?

CM: [sounds surprised] Yeah. He mentioned the rhythm section of the Attractions -- the bass player . . . Bruce, is it? And the drummer that you mentioned. They're very good.

TB: Another guy that I find really inspiring is -- I don't know if you've ever heard the band Morphine?

CM: Morphine -- are they a metal act?

TB: [laughs] No, even though the name sounds like it! Actually, they were out of Boston, and led by a guy named Mark Sandman, who was a bass player. About the only way I can describe them is that they're very hip. Sandman played this strange, rubbery neck-sounding two string bass and sang, and they had a sax player who played who played baritone and tenor sax, and their drummer was a guy named Jerome Dupree. Andy was talking about Chuck's feel, and how he's "tight yet loose" -- this guy Jerome has an amazing, greasy, fatback, loose feel about him, but he's always right on the beat.

CM: I think American drummers are generally -- well, they're different, they're kind of more funky than the English. Worked with a couple of guys on the Sam Phillips record, going back a few years.

TB: Yeah, I have that album.

CM: Yeah, I worked with this guy, supposedly in the band that worked with . . . what's his name -- oh, my memory's getting terrible -- you know, the gangstery-type delivery singer, what's his name -- oh, Tom Waits. The man had worked with him, young drummer, used an enormous bass drum, enormous thing it was, as tall as him. There was a certain swing he had that was quite amazing. [I think he's talking about Michael Blair; Mickey Curry also played on the album.]

TB: How many songs do you play on that album?

CM: Four. I play on four.

TB: She doesn't list who plays on what, but because you have a co-producing credit on "Baby I Can't Please You," I knew you were playing on that.

CM: Yeah, played on it and came up with a lot of suggestions for the texture of it.

TB: Do you remember the names of the other songs you played on, just for my own interest?

CM: Yeah, I think I do. "Baby I Can't Please You" . . . "Same Rain" was one, kind of Indian-sounding thing. What else . . . "I Need Love," is it? [sings some of it] That one. And then the fourth, which I think is the best one I played on, is "Same Changes."

I was quite pleased with that one because, on three of the songs, I tried out this new bass, which T Bone Burnett gave me, a Vox bass. Got to the session with my usual Wal bass, and he said, "No, I don't want to use that." That was kind of a shock, when you've used it for the last 10 years! [laughs] I said, "What do you want me to play then?" He said, "Well, we'll get some basses here in the morning from the music shop," and when I came in the next day, there were about 15 basses all lined up, and it was kind of "choose your weapon." I tried them all, and they all sounded crap, but of course the last one didn't. The last one was the Vox Apollo, and it sounded really quite good.

TB: Did you use that on the new album?

CM: I used it on the new album, and I used it on Apple Venus I as well. On Apple Venus I it sounds really good.

TB: The song on that album that really stands out for me is "The Last Balloon" -- I was sure you were playing a double bass on it.

CM: That's the Epiphone. I've had that for years. We do an old trick with it -- we just put the damper on, and you get that [imitates notes], that sort of dying slide. I don't know how it does it, but I used it first on a track called "Ladybird," off the Mummer album. I use it for anything remotely jazzy -- out comes the Epiphone. Can't play the double bass, haven't really tried -- it frightens the life out of me.

TB: [laughing] I don't blame you, it's a big monster.

CM: Yeah, and I didn't get on with fretless things. They're a nightmare live, you know. You have to be right on the intonation, or it sounds horrible.

TB: Now that you're a two piece, are there any other musicians that you'd like either to bring into the studio to work with you in the future, or do you have any other plans for collaborations outside XTC?

CM: Don't worry too much about musicians, to be honest. Probably worry more about songs than musicians. Never took to the musician or session-player thing. You're a hired hand, you're dispensed with after. You take your money and you go -- it's a pretty soulless thing to do. Of course, a lot of musicians have to do that, because that's the way they make a living -- that's important. I think that's a noble thing to do, but not for me. I'm more interested in songwriting. It's more fascinating for me.

Of course, I like playing bass, enjoy it, you know, but once the bits are down, you don't think about them any more. A good tune is obviously important -- it sets the theme for the lyric and whatnot, but I mostly think about the sentiment of the song more these days, and song construction. That is more fascinating -- you know, how does Brian Wilson, Ray Davies, the Beatles, or Burt Bacharach construct their songs? It does follow a certain pattern. You can get too analytical about it, of course.

But I don't think, "Oh, that was a great drum fill, who's he?" If I stumble across somebody who's a good player then that's good, but I don't go out of me way looking for people who are great at doing things like that. It's nice to be a well thought-of musician, and in the early days, that's what I used to strive for. But that's not what I care too much about now. More the communication of the song.

TB: It sounds like you're very happy with what's going on in XTC now. You guys are away from Virgin, you're more in control of your own destiny -- it sounds like the future's pretty bright.

CM: Yeah, it's my outlet, really. Probably on me own, it would take a considerable amount of time to make up something in a solo capacity, and I'm not sure whether I want the responsibility. As you get older, your goals change. You think, "Do I want all the responsibility of talking to all those journalists [laughs at the irony of talking to a journalist about this], and going on TV if you can get it, and radio, and. . ."? Wouldn't want that, I don't think. That's the worst bit about it, explaining yourself after you've done it.

TB: [laughs] Present company excepted, of course, right?

CM: [laughs] Well, I suppose you can accept that some interviews can be quite painful, especially the foreign ones -- they take everything so literally, you know. You have to explain to them, "Well, no, this is a pun," or "This is a play on words," or something like that. You spend half your time explaining that to them. Sometimes you just can't get through to them because of the language barrier. Not that what we're conducting right now isn't a perfectly civilized thing, but it can be quite painful. Of course, there's the nerve aspect as well -- the nerve aspect of going in front of a microphone on radio and TV and stuff -- never got used to that end of it, really.

So, I wouldn't want to be leader of a band or something, or even a solo thing. Obviously, if the band falls, then I'd still want to carry on writing songs. I mean, I'd have to. But as long as I have a vehicle for my songs, that's all I need, really -- a window to the world. I think that's the way Andy feels about it as well.

TB: Apple Venus 1 did pretty well for you guys, and you're now starting to make a little money off your music, I hope?

CM: Well, we formed this company, and it's a lot more complicated than we thought. We said, "Well, let's set up our own record company, and we can be in charge of our own destinies." Of course, it's a lot harder than that -- setting it all up, dealing with the company routine of VAT, and the like -- we don't like to let all that get out of our grasp. Because that's the problem -- if you defer it to other people and things go wrong, you can't blame them. So you try to be in control of everything, and it does get in the way of the creative end of it, really.

But I think at last we're getting some recompense, yeah. It took some time, didn't it? [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Too long.

CM: Bad job at the end of it.

TB: Yeah, and I hear you guys are still struggling with them, because they're claiming ownership of some of the demos and stopping you from doing the Fuzzy Warbles thing.

CM: Yeah, they want to put out a boxed set, and if you come up with the demos, they open them instantly. They want everything, you know -- they're not only very content to let you bring yet more material up, they're also going to slap a copyright on it. You can't use it, and they'll own it. Well, we weren't having any of that, so we said, "Well, don't bother with the boxed set then, we're not interested." Of course, then they start to talk seriously. You always have to try it on, you know.

TB: So does that mean the death of Fuzzy Warbles, or is this just a standoff now?

CM: We're going to give them some demos for the boxed set, and hold some back for the Warbles and try and make it a good package on both ends of it. Because, at the end of the day, a lot of the fans will probably end up buying the boxed set, and we want to make it as good a package as we can. If we went against Virgin and said, "Look, we won't be giving you anything," then they'll probably just release what they think should be on it. It would probably be a hodgepodge of all sorts, not a good package, and probably everything that the fans had heard before anyway. Better to try and work from the inside.

Go back to Chalkhills Articles.

Copyright 2000 by Todd Bernhardt