Senses Working Over Time

A conversation with Terry Chambers

July 5, 2002
by Todd Bernhardt
A Chalkhills Exclusive

In late February 2002, inspired by an advance copy of Coat of Many Cupboards that I'd managed to acquire, I contacted Paul Culnane, a member of Chalkhills' Aussie contingent, with a proposition. In a journalistic coup that I must admit I was bit jealous of, Paul had interviewed Terry Chambers several years before, and had become friends with Terry and his family. He'd kept me up-to-date on the activities of the Chambers, most especially Kai, who in his mid-teens had decided to follow in his dad's footsteps and now, pushing 20, was recording songs with a group called Starpark (you guessed it, a reference to his dad's early years as a drummer).

My proposition was this: Given that the boxed set was about to be released -- in essence, the first "new" release in years with Terry playing on it -- I suspected that I might be able to interest Modern Drummer magazine in a "Where Are They Now"-type article about Terry, with Kai and his budding career providing a human-interest twist. This would, I reasoned, help give Kai some exposure, and would perhaps even help spark some interest in the boxed set and XTC's back catalog.

Being a good sort, Paul agreed to broach the topic with Terry, who -- despite past reluctance to revisit the XTC years -- was surprisingly open to the idea. After a brief call on March 8th to work out the logistics of the interview, we talked for two-and-a-half hours on March 15 (for me; it was the next day for Terry, who is 16 hours ahead of me -- or, I'm 16 hours behind him, depending on your perspective).

Despite the soothsayer's warnings to Caesar about the ides of March, the conversation went very well between us, fostering a friendship that I hope continues far into the future. Terry is a tremendously warm and down-to-earth guy, very funny, and very willing to talk about anything, whether it's related to the band or not. Talking to him reminded me how much a band -- in this case, the early XTC -- is a collective product of its individual personalities and talents. Terry's no-nonsense approach to the drums was the perfect foil at the time for Andy and Colin's songwriting. It provided the foundation for the band, the muscles and bones that propelled the beast forward, on stage and in the studio. It provided the certainty that enabled the other players to do what they wanted, with the knowledge that their footing was secure. Whatever your opinion of their albums and various stages, there is no denying that XTC became a different entity when Terry left. In my opinion, that alone demonstrates the importance of his contributions to the band.

As an intro to this obsessive-fan-length interview piece, I've included the introduction that I wrote for the initial, optimistic-writer-length article I submitted to Modern Drummer. (The magazine liked the piece, but wanted something for their News section, so I eventually whittled the 24,000-word interview down to 400 words.) As with the other interviews posted on this site that I've done with members of the band, I've done some light editing -- 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. It's long -- hey, we covered a lot of ground! -- but I hope you'll find that it's an entertaining read.

As usual, my thanks to John Relph for shoehorning this on to the Chalkhills server, and my thanks again to my insane pal from Oz, Paul Culnane, without whom, etc.

Senses Working Over Time
(or, How Terry Chambers learned to stop worrying about XTC and love the drums again)

Twenty years ago, when he walked out of a rehearsal and away from the band that he helped create, Terry Chambers didn't see much future for Brit-pop innovators XTC. Suffering the effects of a relentless cycle of roadwork and recording, leader Andy Partridge had pulled the plug on live performances. Old friend and producer/engineer Hugh Padgham, who was busy helping The Police and Phil Collins churn out hits, had been replaced by producer Steve Nye. And the band's songwriters -- guitarist Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding -- had written a new batch of material decidedly different than XTC's previous catalog.

Chambers, already unhappy with the decision to stop touring, wanted to wait for an opening in Padgham's schedule, to keep developing the drum sound and approach featured on such era-defining songs as "Making Plans for Nigel" and "Senses Working Overtime." But Virgin Records, the band's label at the time, wanted a new record, and so Chambers settled in with the band to start work on Mummer, the follow-up to XTC's seminal double album English Settlement.

Things didn't work for long. Chambers and Nye didn't get along (Partridge himself calls Nye "grumpy but gifted"), and the drummer wasn't crazy about the move toward songs that didn't necessarily benefit from his sparse, hard-hitting style. After recording two songs, he called it quits, moving to his wife's native Australia and -- except for a brief stint with Aussie band Dragon -- turning his back on the music industry ... and the drums.

Now, in a manner of speaking, Chambers is back on the drum throne. XTC has just released a four-CD retrospective of its 15-year career with Virgin Records, titled A Coat of Many Cupboards, that prominently features his playing. And his son, Kai, has taken up his father's former calling, becoming a well-known drummer in the Sydney/Newcastle area, most recently with Valanti .

Relaxing with a cold beer on a hot Saturday afternoon at his house near Newcastle, New South Wales, Chambers looked back on his times with XTC while looking forward to his son's burgeoning career.

Terry Chambers
"Lord Wackingham"
Then (above) and now.


TB: Well, let's start at the beginning, let's talk about you growing up in Swindon...

TC: Oh shit, you want to go back that far? [laughs]

TB: Yeah! Now, of course, I've read the biography of you guys...

TC: Well, all that history up until the band got together, the pre-band history, is pretty accurate, you know? Dates of birth, schools went to, names of parents, where we lived and all this type of thing, that's pretty close to the mark. I don't think I've got any argument with any of those things there.

TB: You were very keen on football, growing up?

TC: Soccer, yeah. I actually tried out for Swindon Town Football Club, they're a professional team now dwelling in the second division -- I don't know, it was a bit of a toss-up, really. If I'd made the team, perhaps that would have been the way of the future, but around that same period of time -- I was about 14, and, you know, you're sort of on that voyage of discovery, really. You're discovering yourself as a person -- soccer was the game that I played since I was 7, and obviously when you get to 14, other things come into your life. You start to see girls in a different way, you know? They're not just somebody you pull faces at, they're not just easier to push over than the other schoolboys, that sort of thing [laughs].

And I suppose that at that point, I was listening to radio -- we're talking about 1968-69, I suppose, so it was a period of time where, musically, a lot of the Heavy Metal stuff was coming out -- the Zeppelins, the Deep Purples, the Black Sabbaths, and all that. I think my earliest musical memory was on holiday somewhere down in Devon, and I think was during the time when England won the World Cup, because my father and I were watching that through a radio rental window, you know what I mean? The game happened to be on, and in those days, if you were staying in a bed-and-breakfast, there was only one television room, rather than the TV-in-every-room type of place. So, for us to watch the World Cup in '66, we had to go down the local high street and find a shop window with rental TVs that had the game going on. [laughs] It was a massive crowd out in front, I mean, it was a holiday-making situation, it was quite bizarre, really.

The point I'm getting to is the fact that the hit song of the time was "You Really Got Me," by The Kinks. It just sort of struck a bit of a nerve with me. Suddenly I discovered that there was stuff other than Cliff Richard, Tommy Steele and stuff that was just, I dunno...

TB: More mainstream, maybe.

TC: Yeah, The Kinks had a rougher edge. I thought, "There's alternative stuff here." They were, I suppose, the alternative music of the time, so I'd say that was the first time I'd really noticed something on the radio. I thought, "Geez, there's an edge here, this is a little bit more threatening, a bit more risqué and out there." And I suppose that was the time that I started to become interested in music, really.

The next time was about '69, when there was a turning point in my career, when sports became a little bit less interesting, and music and girls became more interesting. Music and girls went together a little bit better than girls and soccer! [laughs] In '69 there were an amazing number of bands around --everyone seemed to be getting a record deal, and there was this abundance of music. The music was taking a different angle at that point, too -- it was heavier; different messages were being relayed out lyrically. Plus, the whole Hendrix thing was happening. It was like, Shit! Instead of somebody just strumming their guitar, somebody was thrashing the thing [laughs] and experimenting with it -- it wasn't just a thing with six strings and few chords involved -- it was really being exploited to the Nth degree.

TB: Yeah, I remember that time really well ... you're about as old as my older brother, who's five years older than me. When I was growing up I desperately wanted to be like him, and I remember him bringing home these albums, and listening to them and being gobstruck by the fact that, as you say, you could take a guitar and really say something with it and make it do so many things.

TC: Yeah, my brother was two years older than me, so there was a little bit coming from him, too. When you're that age, two years older might as well be 20 years older, you know what I mean? You obviously appreciate that because you've got one five years older.

He was discovering this stuff, too, whereas my sister, being 12 years older than me, was into Cliff and Tommy Steele and that type of material. And even The Beatles -- I don't know, I considered them to be my sister's thing, you know? Although, as the years went by, I could appreciate that had it not been for some of the things they did, some of the things that I was listening to probably wouldn't have happened either! But by that stage of the game you couldn't actually put this jigsaw together, you know?

I wanted to play piano, of all things, to begin with, and Dad said, "Well, we can't afford one of those, so you're not going to be doing that" -- thinking, of course, that it was going to be a wooden, semi-acoustic bloody piece of furniture, rather than a smaller electronic thing. As far as Dad was concerned, a piano was going to be a grand piece of furniture -- [imitates stern-dad voice] "It won't fit in any of the rooms, we can't get it in, it'll be too big, you won't stick with it, and basically it's not happening." So that was that. I think it was probably considered to be a bit wimpy, too, and Dad was pretty much a -- he was quite a beer drinker, Dad, he's been dead for almost two years now, God rest his soul -- he was a bit of a beer drinker, and I suppose I followed his trait in a way there [laughs]. When he got up with a hangover, he used to drop a raw egg into a cup there, put a bit of Worcestershire sauce on the top, and swill it down! That was his remedy for getting over the night before! [laughs] That was obviously back in the days when you could drink and drive, and he was a fucking taxi driver! [much laughter]

TB: [laughing] So, did he have any instruments that he preferred you to take up?

TC: Well, no, he had no musical ... well, actually, Dad used to claim to play the harmonica, but I don't remember ever seeing him do it. I think he was quite interested in music in a way, but I think it really extended to having a sing-song around a few beers. [laughs]

TB: Did your parents play music much in the house at all?

TC: No, not really. It wasn't a musical household, unlike Partridge's, whose old man was a drummer, and obviously put me to task on numerous occasions! Andy's old man was a jazz drummer, and a damn good bloke. Never actually got to see him play, but he was more of a brushes man -- "stirring the milk," we used to describe it as. Actually, my grandmother on my mother's side played the harp -- she was Welsh, so she played the harp. My mother was born there, and there's a little bit of Scottish on that side of things as well, so maybe I should have taken up the bagpipes or something! [laughs] But there's not too much call for that, unless of course I was lucky enough to play with Rod Stewart or Alex Harvey --probably could have gotten a gig there, but very infrequent!

TB: [laughing] So, how did you make the move to drums?

TC: I was walking down the road one day -- we used to go to the Saturday morning pictures in town, and you had to walk past this music shop to get to the cinema -- when I saw this sparkling drum kit in the window, an old Broadway kit -- God only knows what happened to them. It looked so beautiful and blue and chrome and sparkling, and I can't remember how much it was now, but it was considerably cheaper than the piano! [laughs] At the time I had inherited my brother's job of stacking the shelves in a grocery shop three nights a week, and was earning more money than I could spend. I'd actually gotten a nest egg! I had, I dunno, 40 or 50 pounds, which was sufficient to acquire this drum kit. And I thought, "Well, bugger it, I don't need Dad now, I've got the money. I'm just going to walk home with this drum kit, and it'll be there." [laughs]

Basically, that's the way I worked it. I drove me mother mad, and my next-door neighbor, who was a retired school teacher. When I was playing this thing -- or attempting to, or learning -- he'd be out in the garden next door to us, marching up and down in his garden hitting this biscuit tin with a stick of some sort, with a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" attitude, you know what I mean? And I thought, well, fuck him, I can't hear him, and I wasn't even aware that he was doing it, until Mum said, "Listen, I don't know what's going on, you're creating a bit of a reaction here, the next-door neighbor's even joining in! [laughs] It was incredible.

TB: [laughing] So, right away, you were inspiring audience participation! That's a good sign.

TC: [laughs] Yeah, but for all the wrong reasons! It was like, "This guy can't play for shit, I'm going to have to overpower him with my biscuit tin!" I don't think he had a musical note in his body, but I just let him get on with it. I think Mum had words with him about it, and I think he realized that he wasn't going to win the battle, because I was in the confines of the front room thrashing the living daylights out this thing to the best of my unmusical ability at that stage, and he was just making a fucking row for himself, really! And he obviously wasn't as interested in doing it as I was, so sort of I beat him on both fronts.

TB: [laughing] Were you playing along with music, or just playing on your own?

TC: My sister had an old mono set, with Cliff records that I'd pinch off of her while she wasn't there -- because they were all working while this was going on, I was doing this after school, you know? I'd put these things on, and try to work it out from there. I'd say to myself, "What's he doing there? It sounds like -- no, it doesn't sound like that one," so I was trying to distinguish the difference between a bass drum, a snare, a tom, and all the rest of the paraphernalia that went with it. And eventually, I'd go crack-crack-crack when the snare seemed to be happening. It was sort of like learning by numbers, really! [laughs] I more or less got to a stage there where I thought, "Yeah, he's hitting this now, and hitting that now and, thump-thump-thump, he's going down there somewhere." So I had to train my own ear to pick these things out, to copy them.

Obviously I was drowning this little record player out, so it was just a question of listening -- "Hang on, he's going thump-whack, thump-whack, thump-whack, thump-thump-whack," or whatever -- and then copying it. I'd listen a bit, play a bit, listen a bit, play a bit. Because this was way before the days of -- I'd never even heard of headphones and stuff like that, which is funny. That was a thing that came later on. I don't think I'd even seen them before we got to the studio, to be honest -- "What are these things here? Stereo heaven! When I get some money I'll have to buy a set of these!" [laughs]

TB: Had you ever seen other drummers playing, so that you knew that, typically, drummers would cross their right hand over their left...

TC: That's an interesting point, really, because when I got this kit home, I thought, "Well, how the hell do I set it up?" I was trying to remember how I'd seen this thing set up in the window of the shop, but I had no idea, really. I thought, "Hang on, am I going to play this big one with my right foot or my left foot?" I had no idea. I thought, "Well, I better go this way," because just it seemed a little bit more natural to me. If you pick up a guitar, you've either got a right-handed guitar or a left-handed guitar -- but with a drum kit, it's a little more versatile, as you know. I mean, there are some damn good left-handed drummers about.

TB: Oh yeah, and there are right-handed drummers who set up in unconventional ways, to be able to lead with either hand.

TC: Yeah, they play the hi-hat with the left hand and so on. Talk about starting from scratch! [laughs] A daunting task.

TB: But you figured it out, and I guess it was good training in the end, right?

TC: Well, yeah. It forces you to think, "This thing's not responding too well," and you realize that there are springs involved with these things, and that you can adjust the springs in the bass drum pedal and the hi-hat as well, so it comes up at a more-convenient time according to your speed of playing, and all that. Once you set things up, and you get playing, and experience some different techniques, you think, "This is just not responding when I want it to," so it gets to a stage where you explore this first kit to its limits.

And I think at that point that I started looking around for another kit, thinking that "I'm enjoying this." The first kit wasn't a kit that was ever going to grace a stage anywhere, that I thought would react sufficiently to get me into a band, you know? It was a bit rough and ready.

TB: Right. But it allowed you to build the coordination, and to figure out how a kit works.

TC: Yeah. At that point, there were school dances on, and there were a few local bands around, too, so we started going to a few of those, because we were at the age where we were starting to get out and about a little bit more. I used to watch some of these guys and think, "Oh yeah, I've obviously got this set up right, he's got his right hand crossed over the top of his left hand, his left hand's hitting the snare, the bass drum's played with the right foot, the hi-hat's there, two toms there, the ride cymbal seems to be relatively in the same position," you know? It seemed to be the standard way to set a kit up for easy playing.

TB: Yeah. It's interesting that you describe your approach that way because -- both physically and musically -- you got yourself into a situation where, by having to teach yourself, you forced yourself to analyze it more than if someone else had shown you.

TC: Yeah. It sort of started me thinking, "Well, what does everybody else do?" And then you start watching other people, and saying, "Well, that guy's got some good ideas, that's nice, I like that." As you said, you analyze different playing techniques, and start to pick up a little bit more.

TB: So, you'd discovered drums and were beginning to watch local drummers, looking at their setups and watching what they did, and wondering why. What more-famous drummers were you looking at and influenced by?

TC: Well, as I said before, it was the Heavy Metal thing -- the Led Zeppelin thing, the Deep Purple thing, you know, Thin Lizzy ... oh, the list is endless, really -- Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, those types of bands. King Crimson. There was just an explosion of bands, and every one of them seemed to be good at what they were doing, on their own level. There was such a diversity of songs and sounds, and I thought, "Shit!" I mean, it was a bit daunting, really, because all these guys were so bloody good. I thought, "Christ, how am I ever going to cope with this?" Because up until that point, I was just trying to keep time. And these guys were doing all sorts of fancy frills and fills -- and fills and frills, you know what I mean? [laughs] It was unbelievable. I thought, "God, I'm never going to be able to do this! I'm going to be old and gray before I do that" -- and I'm old and gray now, and still can't do it! [laughs]

I started going to see bands at that point -- we actually had a school trip down to Bristol, and watched Deep Purple in about 1970 or '71 -- they'd just released "Strange Kind of Woman" and were playing down there -- and it just blew me away. It was the first real big concert and band that I'd seen, and it was so loud, and so exciting, and people were swinging off the curtains at the back of the stage, and everybody was jumping around -- nobody was sitting in their seats, people were jumping around, throwing their heads around -- it was unbelievable. Within about a fortnight I think Black Sabbath or somebody like that played down there, so my brother, who was driving at that point, said, "Shit, we're going down to this," I said, "Right on! Let's go there." [laughs] Mate, we were into it. That was it.

TB: You wanted a piece of that.

TC: Well, yeah, I just had to be a part of it, in any way, shape or form. And after a show you'd come home and be inspired, and think, "Shit, I know this is not going to be as loud as them, but I think he was doing this," and you'd go [high frantic voice] BASH BASH BASH BASH, BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG BANG, Brrrrzzzzzzzzzzp! [laughs] And it made no sense whatsoever, of course, but it made me feel good!

At that point in time, my hair was growing rather long, too, because everyone else had fucking long hair, so I thought, "Well, I've got to be a part of this, too." The image was changing, from the schoolboy image into, you know, somebody who could potentially bluff their way into a pub. Because, at that point, there was no such thing as ID or driver's licenses, and if the owner of the pub -- well, it depended if he had a packed house or not -- but if he just wanted people in there to sell beer to, there was a good chance you'd get in, you know? And the defense would be, [pub-owner accent] "Well, 'e looks 18 to me!" [laughs]

TB: Who would you say were your biggest drumming influences during that time? From the groups you mentioned, you're talking about Ian Paice, John Bonham, Bill Bruford, Carl Palmer...

TC: Bill Bruford, yeah, Bill Ward from Black Sabbath, Brian Downey from Thin Lizzy, and I must mention, of course, The Pink Fairies, who never really got international success, but were an underground band playing along with Hawkwind, and I had the privilege of seeing them on numerous occasions at the Swindon Polytechnic, at which Andy Partridge was a student. They had two drummers in that band -- Russell Hunter, and Twink, who doubled on drums and lead vocals. They were a real big influence, sort of on the rougher edge of the Heavy Metal thing. They were heavily influenced by Hendrix, really -- lots of echoed guitar, that type of thing. It was a bit more free-form than some of the bands that we mentioned previously -- these guys would just sort of play, and if it was meeting with a good reaction from the crowd, they'd just sort of extend these songs to 18 minutes or something if the vibe was right. And when people seemed to start to lose interest, they would resolve it, get back into the riff, and then get out. [laughs] So, a bit more experimental, rather than sticking to a four-minute, well-organized song.

TB: Right, closer to the jazz philosophy.

TC: Yeah! You know, it's more of the hippie thing.

TB: Andy was talking about "The Snake," and saying that he liked it, and Dave Gregory says that the solo on that song is one of his favorites.

TC: Yeah, Kai's band actually does a cover of that, as an encore. Should the set reach that far -- you know, it's probably about their third encore, if the set goes that far! [laughs] So the legend goes on, and it really is a piece of music worthy of listening to.

TB: Well, let's talk about your entry into the band scene -- you know, the transition from being someone in the audience to being someone on stage.

TC: Well, we got into a situation there where, as I said, we started frequenting pubs, and there were a few pubs uptown where they'd allow long-haired people to get in, and mingle around in the music scene. During some evening there, I met Colin Moulding! In a pub, the Stage Door, I think, or one of the pubs uptown. We had sort of similar interests -- he had hair as long as, I think it was [bassist] Dennis Dunaway in Alice Cooper's band -- he had the longest fucking hair you could imagine! [laughs] He used to be able to tuck it into his belt in back. I think we were wearing hipsters then, too, so the hair was probably two or three inches longer than the waist! [laughs]

I thought, "Gee, this guy's got a bit of an image," and he didn't mind a beer either, and as it happened, he played bass! So there were three things that I was quite interested in -- he's got an image, this guy; he plays bass; and he drinks beer. Seemed like the kind of guy I wouldn't mind hanging around, so we became acquainted. By this time, I was out in the work force -- I got a job at a firm called Bamburger's, selling paint and wallpaper. I'd left school pretty much in disgrace -- first three months on the dole, not doing anything. Really, by this point, I was smitten by the drums, and just wanted to be like these guys I'd been watching, rather than going out and working for a living.

While I was working there, there was a guy who came in, and I had pretty long hair -- why the fucking hell they employed me, God only knows -- he came in and asked, "What's your story?" We started talking, he asked what I was interested in, I said "Drumming, but I'm just learning," and he said, "Well, me nephew plays a little bit of guitar." This guy's name was Steve Phillips -- he lived a little bit out of town, but his old man owned a pub, and one thing led to another. The pubs used to close in the afternoon at that point -- there were restricted drinking hours, you know? -- and he said, if you come over on a Sunday afternoon, we can have a bit of a go. I can't remember how I got over there, I think my brother piled all this shit of mine into his Mini Minor, and we went over there and had a bit of a go.

He had a bass player turn up -- he name was ... well, he called him "Slim," his real name was Brian Mills, and he was called Slim because it was Mills spelled backwards. [laughs] And I thought, "Well, that's quite an interesting thing." So, that was my first experience in looking at things from a different angle, really! [laughs] Things began to come together a bit, and I was still seeing Colin out and around, and he was messing around with some other guys at the time, too. Anyway, at one point, I said to Phillips, "I know another bass player who will turn up," because this Slim character -- decent enough fellow, but he'd be there one minute, wouldn't turn up the next, and just seemed to have this unreliability about him. Colin said, yeah, he was up for playing, you know, and eventually Colin, meself and Phillips got this thing together.

Well, having done that, me and Moulding seemed to sort of strike a bit of a chord there together, for want of a better word, and he said to me, "I know this Partridge character, you know, he's always playing in a few other bands, and he's got another guitar player there, and a few deadbeats that he's knocking around with -- maybe we should see him." So we lined Partridge up, closer to town -- Colin's old man was the janitor of a school, and he was a pretty reasonable sort of fellow, so he said to Colin, "Here are to the keys to one of the classrooms, you can go in there and set up." So, fuck me if the school didn't know what was going on! [laughs] All these bloody long-haired louts in the classroom there, setting up their equipment. I mean, Moulding had a 100-watt WEM stack, which used to kick it out a bit, you know?

TB: I bet, yeah.

TC: I mean, back in those days, I think that sort of helped me develop my technique in a way, because I had to try to level things out with these guys [laughs], and you certainly weren't going to do it with brushes, that's for sure!

So, we got this thing together with Partridge, and Partridge had this WEM [effect box] -- like, a taped-echo thing, you know? He'd play his guitar, and it would repeat itself, and I went, "Shit! We're really getting into it here." He played it more as a sound device than as a guitar, you know? I don't know if he really could play guitar to an extent, but he managed to bullshit his way through there, and I thought, "This is very interesting and exciting." I think we sort of thrashed out these riffs for a while, and things seemed to blend pretty well.

And I think he was looking at me and Moulding, and thinking, "Well, they have the image thing pretty well right" for what we were doing at the time. We had reasonable equipment, too, which was a big bonus, because there's nothing worse than people lobbing up with shit equipment. By this time, of course, I'd got me second drum kit.

TB: Which was...?

TC: It was a Premier kit, which looked a bit more presentable, with reasonable cymbals. So, gear wise, we were starting to take shape, you know? Image wise, it was beginning to happen a bit, and we were certainly all the same age, within 12 months -- musically, we seemed to be heading in the right direction, and it seemed to be fun! And, as a result, we said, "Let's get together next week," and the thing really kicked off from there.

Partridge brought this character along named Dave Cartner, who was an old school mate of his -- those three all went to school together, I was from a different school. And that was the first band.

TB: So, you were saying that when you started playing with Colin, you felt a connection right away.

TC: Yeah. I dunno what kind of player I was, you'd have to ask him about that, but things seemed to start and stop in reasonably in the right spots, you know? [laughs] We seemed to be heading in the right direction. Some of these things really came off, which was really exciting! You know, we'd be together on timing -- one, two, three, FOUR -- even in the very embryonic stage of this bloody thing. Yeah, it was a pleasing thing.

TB: And so you guys started practicing and, I guess, playing out...

TC: Well, it took a while. We had to start work on what sort of material we were going to play, and all that.

TB: When you were first working out these songs, would you just play them, or would you talk about them first? You know, if somebody brought a new song into the group, would they say, "Here's what I'm thinking, and here's why I'm thinking it," or would they just say, "Let's have a go at this and see what everybody plays on it"?

TC: The ideas for originals pretty much came from Andy -- Colin wasn't writing too much at this point, we were still trying to work out what the fuck we were doing. Andy would start playing something -- I don't think he'd specifically say, "Hey, you guys, sit down and have a listen to this and see what you think," I think he just sort of meandered into these things -- and we'd just sort of follow along, and pick up on it. It was like, really, "Well, I'll start this thing off, and just jump in when you feel the need or have had enough!" [laughs] I mean, he'd have a tempo there and some sort of chord structure, and everybody would be plonking along, and I'd keep a little bit of time at whatever the tempo it was, and from that point of view, we'd just get it down in some sort of basic format. Then, once we became more confident with the structure, we'd start to make it a bit more interesting as well -- we'd say, "Let's make the chorus a little more 'up,' or whatever," or "there's a bridge or solo part there" -- we'd start to structure the thing at that point, you know?

And basically, that's the way we went on and wrote the songs, as I recollect it. I mean, they may well have a different idea, that's the way I was thinking, anyway, I don't know what they were thinking! [laughs]

TB: [laughs] Now, with Cartner, that was both Starpark and The Helium Kidz, right?

TC: That's right, yeah.

TB: And you had a singer for a while, right?

TC: Yeah, this Steve Hutchins character. I think Andy felt that he was lacking a little bit in the vocal department, you know? The girlfriend that Andy had at the time said she knew this singer from south of London, and we thought, "Oh, there's going to be a bit of a problem here, with the locations," because it was probably 80 miles away from where we were living. I mean, we were all living within about five miles of each other -- if we wanted to practice, we'd all be there within 15 minutes or a half an hour. But with this guy, we had to arrange for something like a weekend, because we had to go to London, or he had to come to us, and everybody had a job at the time.

So we decided to get this guy in, the attraction with that being that he apparently had a few connections in the business. We thought, "Shit, if we can get this guy in, and get some sort of demo done, maybe he can put this into the right hands" -- especially since, living in London, it's going to be easier for him than for us three country fucking bumpkins, you know? Lobbing up there with straw hanging out of our hair, and this type of thing -- I mean, at least he spoke in the same sort of language -- the difference between us and Londoners, you could spot us a mile off! [laughs]

So there was a double intent there -- we could get this vocalist in and, if we got a demo done, maybe he could open a few doors in London. Mind you, there was absolutely nowhere for us to play original stuff in Swindon. There were just possibly two places, the rest of it was, if you didn't do bloody covers of, you know, Elvis and all the other stuff that was going around at the time -- Bee Gees, and god only knows what -- the list is endless, and the disco thing was coming through. If you weren't doing [imitates disco beat], this type of thing, you were just nowhere, really.

TB: Did you guys play covers?

TC: Yeah, we did covers.

TB: What sort of stuff were you doing?

TC: I've got to think about that ... actually, someone reminded me of one the other day -- one of Partridge's numbers was "Fireball XL-5," we did a version of that.

TB: Yeah, that's going to be on the boxed set.

TC: Is it? Well, that's interesting, because I was talking to someone the other day, and they said it was the only thing that never got recorded, but obviously that's wrong. Other covers? [pause] Oh mate, you've got me there ... I think Andy would probably be a better one to ask about what covers we did. There were a few classics [pause] -- well, anyhow, we did a version of "All Along the Watchtower," which actually made the first album, so there's one.

TB: When you did covers, did you try to rearrange them, as you did with "Watchtower"?

TC: Well, not in the case of "Fireball XL-5," because I don't think there's much you could do to it, unless you do, like, a Reggae version of it, which would really detract from the whole point of the song, in my opinion. It's got that weasely keyboard about it, and obviously that was played a little later on -- Cartner, at this point, had moved on, and we'd got a guy called John Perkins in there playing keyboards. And this is where the keyboard thing started to come into it, hence the "Fireball XL-5" keyboard-oriented list of songs that escapes my memory at the moment. Then Perkins left -- it was a little bit of a musical-direction difference mainly between him and Andy -- and we ended up with Barry Andrews.

TB: Why did Cartner leave?

TC: He was married, Cartner -- well, so was Colin at the time -- and his missus was putting the pressure on him about, "It's the daytime job, and the mortgage, or it's this activity that you're pursuing after work," you know what I mean? It's the wife and mortgage, or it's the band. Cartner decided that work and mortgage were the way to go, so we replaced him with John Perkins, who was a keyboard player, so we started to move in a different direction. I think Andy had had his guts full of guitar players, and said, "Well, why don't we try this angle." Colin and I were pretty easygoing about it.

Eventually it became reasonably clear that his keyboard playing wasn't Brian Eno enough for Andy -- it wasn't experimental enough, it was more traditional Wurlitzer piano sound, and Andy wanted something a little more adventurous and artistic. So Andrews came in.

TB: Right. Let me ask about that, because obviously the direction of the music was changing during this time. I've heard the demos that you guys did with Steve Hutchins, and the amount of distance between that stuff and White Music is pretty vast. Was that something that was subtle, or did you guys talk about this and say, "We're going nowhere doing this stuff, we've got to try something new"?

TC: I think it was just a natural progression, people getting better at their individual instruments. I think we were getting better as a band collectively, and the thing was starting to become its own "being," rather than being a collection of people who were influenced by other people. We started to develop our own sort of sound, you know, and I think these things probably take about three or four years to develop -- or back then they did for us ... maybe we were slow learners! [laughs] We were obviously still seeing other bands, still listening to stuff, and getting influenced by everything around us. All this started to come into the music.

TB: What was it like when Barry Andrews joined the band?

TC: Andrews was a little more punk than the rest of us, really. His angle was really sort of in the London thing, you know -- which we weren't really against, because London was where it was happening. So we thought, "Well, this guy's head's in the right direction." He was a little bit more leather and Ramones image, and we were a little bit more, um ... well, we didn't really have an image, to be honest! [laughs] At this point, we'd dispensed with the -- I should really tell you that we'd gotten rid of the loon pants, and I think we went through the boilersuit image by that point as well -- we'd sort of come out the other side there with very little at all. And Andrews was sort of leather-jacket and hole-in-the-knee jeans and pumps and all that, a Joey Ramone-type of thing.

I think really Andrews should have been playing guitar, because I think he would have been --[laughing] he would have had the right image. I think the keyboard restricted his jumping around a bit. He wanted to crash to his knees and slide along the stage, and all that stuff. [laughs] But you can't do that when you've got a fucking semi-acoustic upright piano. That was heaviest fucking thing in the world to lift on and off a stage, I can tell you that!

TB: Yeah, I'm sure you did your share of it!

TC: Yeah, that was the sort of thing where everybody else wanted to go to the toilet at that point. "I've gotta go, I'm busting meself!" [laughs] Yeah, perhaps there was a little bit of sense in what my father told me earlier on, before I took up drums. Perhaps he could see this happening in the future! [laughs] [Dad voice] "Shit, I know how heavy these suckers are!"

TB: [laughing] That's right, he was thinking of your welfare.

TC: Yeah.

TB: And so, you guys developed this very distinctive sound -- you did the 3D-EP...

TC: Yeah, it sort of came -- a lot of it came off of Andrews's keyboard stuff, too, you know, this sort of quirky keyboard thing that was going around with bands like Elvis Costello. This was very much the sound at that point -- it's sort of like you were either playing the real punk stuff, like the Pistols, The Damned, The Clash, these types of bands that were guitar-oriented -- or you were slightly away from that -- where we were, with Elvis Costello, The Stranglers, those sort of guys -- which involved a keyboard player. So you were either a guitar band, or a guitar band with a keyboard player, which left you with a little bit of an option.

TB: Right. A little more melodic.

TC: Yeah, you know, as long as you had the keyboard player there sort of trashing the keyboard, it was almost acceptable. But it was sort of not quite punkish enough, because if you had the intelligence to play a keyboard, you weren't a real punk. [laughs] It was like, "Hang on, this guy must have had some sort of formal education!" Whereas the Pistols thing, and the guitar-oriented bands, would just sort of get up there and not care whether things were in tune or not. With a keyboard player, you really have care about that sort of stuff.

TB: In addition to Barry's distinctive sound, Andy had a really distinctive, cutting dissonant tone in his guitar, and you and Colin developed a very punctuated, tight rhythm section, with lots of stops and starts and accents.

TC: Yeah, I think that was just really the way that Andy wrote these songs, you know? You listen to the songs, and they sort of just came from the guitar, really. To a certain extent, it's like "you're a tight band if you can start and stop at the same time," you know? Most of the good bands are able to do this. So I think a little bit of that came into it. If you could actually hit the bass drum and the cymbal at the same time, and catch the cymbal -- you know, the old [imitates cymbal choke], that type of thing -- and also, close your hi-hat at the same time, to sort of bring this thing to a tight sort of finish -- you know, it was like, "the tighter and sharper, the better."

Andy wanted things to be cleaned up a little bit, I think, rather than things sort of washing over from one instrument to another. It was a little bit more organized, you know? You know, it was a bit ironic, really, because at that point we had a thing called "Dance Band," and that's probably the last thing we were! Unless you were involved in some sort of spastic ... you know, I don't know how you could really dance to any of our stuff.

TB: But Andy was trying to write "dance" songs all the time, like "Spinning Top" ...

TC: Yeah, he was. I mean, he seemed to think that you could dance to this. I mean, I don't see it, meself... [laughs]

TB: "Neon Shuffle" is supposed to be another one...

TC: Yeah, well, I think actually "Neon Shuffle," if you listen to the rhythm of that, I think it's really based on stuff that -- rhythm-wise, I think it was just a speeded-up version of a Four Tops rhythm, really. That's the way I see that. I mean, if you want to start getting into a little bit of that, I see it as a speeded-up Motown rhythm.

TB: Interesting.

TC: Yeah, basically that snare-drum rhythm, just on the beat.

TB: Except played at quadruple time.

TC: Well, that's right. I mean, you'd have to be on bloody tablets to try to sort of equate the song "Neon Shuffle" with anything the Four Tops did [laughs], but I'm just telling you, those are the sort of things that went on! It's like, you know, let's get this old Chet Atkins thing out, and [laughing] see what happens from there! Let's play it backwards, or turn it round, what else can we do to this thing?

Put it this way -- Andy would have an idea, and he'd say, "Well, look, I feel it sort of needs a bit of a ..." You know, you take songs like, say, "Millions" and that -- well, it needed to have a Chinese influence, you know? That's what the song was about, so obviously you start picking up the small cymbals and you get a little more delicate with it. The songs are actually starting to be put together, and you're thinking about what you're singing about, more so than you realized.

I think he just started writing better songs then, you know? Rather than it being a fast song, or a slow song, it starts to have a little bit more content -- it has a subject. And later on, toward the end of the thing, things like English Settlement, when you get things like "Senses Working Overtime," you're really sort of crafting the songs more than the earlier stuff. You're just getting better at your job, and you're a little more wise and worldly, and you've got a little more of a feel for a topic, really.

TB: Yeah, let's talk about some of the songs, because this is exactly the type of stuff I'd like to get into your head about, and I think the fans -- of which I am one, of course -- would be very interested in knowing what was going on in your head when you were approaching some of these songs.

TC: Rehearsal wise, we'd arrange a day, and I'd be completely blank. [laughs] I'd just go in there with no ideas whatsoever. Just go in there with a complete, open mind [laughs], especially when we were starting from scratch. Andy would probably strum out a few chords.

Later on, of course, Andy and Colin -- and Dave, of course, who came in a little after this, you know -- they'd go around to each others' houses and start working on these things before we even all got together, so I'd be the last one to hear any of this stuff. I wasn't going to go in there and see how things were progressing -- you know, you get two guitar players together, they don't want anybody in there just sort of thumping around. I was never one of those guys you saw sitting in the corner who would just tap around with a tambourine or play on a pillow. I think I would have just gotten irritating to them. [laughs] It would have slowed the situation down dramatically. Probably the best way was for me to stay well away until they'd gotten the thing reasonably up together, and say, "Look, it goes like this." I'd put something to it, and Andy would say, "It needs an African feel," or "Imagine you're on a sinking boat," or something like that. [laughs]

TB: On the early albums, where you guys were more or less in the same room, and probably developing a lot of these songs on the road, or during soundchecks or something...

TC: Well, I don't really think that happened too much. Not too much came out of the road, to be honest. You'd get yourself fixed on what you were doing at that point in time, and Andy would really prefer to get the live touring thing out of the way and then go home, in the confines of his bedroom or his backyard or whatever, and relax and read a book, and write his stuff there. There were no "on the road again" songs to my knowledge, anyway. There could have been a few things that possibly came out, where they thought, "I'll make a mental note of that," but I don't think anything was physically written in the bus driving along the road.

TB: If we could talk a little bit about the early songs, about your approach on those, and how that changed over the years -- one thing I've noticed about the early years is that, on a fair amount of songs, you would choose to hit the snare on all the beats, and you'd offset it with the kick. So, on something "Science Friction" or "She's So Square" or "Hang on to the Night," you'd go [imitates beat], you know? What were you thinking there?

TC: That's a difficult question, really, because I think most of those things just seemed to come a bit automatic for me. Like I say, whoever was writing the songs -- say, Andy or Colin -- would say, "Well, you know, you're the drummer, but rather than boop-bap boop-bap, I'd rather have bap-boop bap-boop," do you understand what I mean? And then, they'd probably say, maybe during the chorus or bridge or solo, "I want it to be the opposite of that." And sometimes, we'd try that but then would say, "How about, what you played in the chorus, we'll do that in the verse." We'd just chop the thing around completely, and quite often, it's quite-simple rhythms actually played on, perhaps, unorthodox drums.

Take the "Making Plans for Nigel" thing, for example -- a very simple rhythm, but just turned around. If you actually played that rhythm on the hi-hat, snare and bass drum, it really would be [imitates beat], but the hi-hat would be playing the eights, whereas I was playing the eights on the floor tom. It's a shit-easy rhythm, really, just punctuated by the two beats on the bass drum at points -- it's just the way you approach the thing, it's just looking at a simple thing from a different point of view, instead of playing it straight-ahead.

As I recall, in "Making Plans for Nigel," I actually started off playing it pretty much straight -- sort of hi-hat, snare, bass drum -- and I think Colin said, "I want it to be bassier." And we just sort of turned the thing around -- I don't know who actually made that decision, I just started playing the thing on the floor tom rather than the hi-hat, and the thing sort of developed from there, really.

So, it's basically a matter of looking at quite simple rhythms from a slightly different approach. A "Can we make this a little bit more interesting, rather than it being just straight four-on-the-floor" type of thing. I'd hate to think that people think we went into a big thing with rhythms perhaps in the same way that Devo did -- I think they really looked at it. I don't think we looked at it to the extent that they did.

TB: You just wanted to take the standard stuff and see how you could twist it sideways a little.

TC: Yeah, not being different for difference's sake -- because quite a lot of the stuff is still hi-hat, snare, bass drum stuff. It's simple stuff, but what seemed to fit at the time. I mean, stuff like "Crosswires" -- [imitates beat] -- I mean, I could have put that [imitates ride cymbal pattern] on a cowbell, or they could have played it on a keyboard, it could have been anything ... I dunno, that's a pretty frantic bit of work, that -- I will admit, it's not one of my favorites. It's hard to say really. [laughs] You've got to forgive me, because this is 20-odd years down the track, let's not forget that!

TB: I was listening to the albums over the last couple of days, and looking for patterns in your work, and another thing I noticed was that you always seemed to be very tom-oriented, and very willing to ride on the toms, as opposed to just doing the standard ride cymbal or hi-hat. Where did you get that from?

TC: Good point. I suppose it really was a deliberate thing, I think it was a band decision to get away from that standard hi-hat, snare, bass drum thing -- you know, the whole "Hang on a minute, it's the chorus, so we need to go to the ride cymbal here" thing. That seems to be a pretty standard way to go, and we wondered if we had to go down that road, you know? On occasions we did it -- obviously, "Neon Shuffle," "Atom Age," those are pretty well up in the ride cymbal/hi-hat situation. But I think that's due to the fact that the songs are pretty top-end anyway. But some of the other stuff there, I think they wanted a little bit more down-below, you know, on the old elephant/whale-fart end, as opposed to the fire-engine bell. And also, making it a complete danceable song! [laughs sarcastically] Yeah. Sure.

I mean, it's so easy to pick the chorus -- "Oh, he's on the ride cymbal, this must be the bloody chorus." We just wanted to make it difficult for the listener! [laughs] "Hang on, is he in the chorus or in the verse? I dunno, where the fuck is he?" And it probably made it just as difficult for the rest of the members of the band, too, by the way! [laughs] Or anybody who's going to try to do a cover of it!

TB: [laughing] That's right, you've got to keep people on their toes!

TC: Yeah, yeah.

TB: Now, you like to ride on the kick drum, too. There are songs like "The Rhythm," where you're going [imitates eighth-note beat] on the kick. Did you ever think about getting a double kick, or...?

TC: No, not really. I think if we'd done another album that would have been a possibility, but Andy wasn't real keen on the double-kick situation, you know? Basically, he was a fours and eights man, really -- keeping it pretty simple down below, so it would allow a little bit more experimentation over the top. If you start getting into that type of thing -- you know, you really need a three-piece band to do that. We were in a situation where we had two guitars, plus keyboards as well, and three-part vocals, so a lot of double-kick stuff would be a little bit messy, I think, for that type of arrangement. It's just an opinion of mine, you know. I'm probably contradicting myself, because Deep Purple's done a fucking good job of double-kick, so has Thin Lizzy and everyone else. But, to justify that, all I can say is, we were writing different songs.

TB: Exactly. I mean, there are actually two questions in there. Would it have worked in XTC? No, probably not. But were you interested in playing around with that? Yeah, you probably were, right?

TC: Yeah, I think so. I mean, Andy used to frown on that thing, because he didn't really want the drum kit to get too big, you know? [laughs] He was quite happy with it being lots of bits and pieces, and subtle things like small cymbals and a few roto-toms, but he didn't want these bass drums starting to get bigger and bigger-- the massive bloody drum kit and drum riser situation. I think he wanted to keep that in check a little bit. [laughs] "Make do with what you've got, for god's sake!"

TB: [laughing] Exactly. He talked to me about his approach to all that, and one of the things that he liked to say -- and it really comes out in listening to the music -- is that he liked to find the holes, and work those holes, that you left in your drumming...

TC: Yeah.

TB: ...Either with his guitar or with his voice. And a lot of times, he sings triplets against the fours you're playing, or he does that with guitar, or whatever, and it probably would have been a lot harder to do with a double kick.

TC: Yeah, I totally agree with everything you say there -- I just played to make him look good! [laughs] No, you're absolutely right. Actually, earlier on I probably failed to mention Simon Kirke as a drummer -- you know, with Free and Bad Company.

TB: Sure.

TC: I mean, speaking of emptiness -- he was a big influence, too. You can't probably hear that in my drumming, but it's there in the subconscious, you know? When you start talking about leaving gaps and holes and stuff, he's the first one that comes to mind, really.

TB: I absolutely do hear that in your drumming.

TC: Do you?

TB: Yeah, one of the good things -- I've probably played along with you, and your albums, more than any other drummer, which is kind of a weird thing, you know, that here I am sitting here talking to you about your drumming...

TC: [laughs] Yeah.

TB: It feels like I've got some of that inside me, too, because you've been a big influence on me.

TC: What you need to do, Todd, is cut the middleman out and just go listen to those drummers I told you about earlier! [laughs]

TB: Oh, well, I've done that, too!

TC: Can you see any connection there? Because what I did, I sort of strived to do that. And what you've ended up with is a concoction of everything I've told you before. God only knows where it got me -- well, I can tell you where it got me, it got me to the bottom of the Earth! [laughs] Literally. I've drummed my way into the colonial outback. They've sent people here -- I just sort of did it meself!

TB: [laughing] I think every drummer is a soup of all their influences -- I mean, that's the whole point, you put all that stuff in, mix it up, and you come up with something that tastes a little different. But you can still taste all the ingredients. I mean, it was good for me to play along with you, to hear those holes and the discipline, because I grew up listening to prog drummers -- Bill Bruford, Carl Palmer, early Phil Collins...

TC: Yeah. In the end, I stopped listening to them. I thought, "Well, I'm never going to be this fucking good, so I'm just going to go me own way now." [laughs] "I've learned all I can learn off of these guys," [laughs] I could just never kind of catch up with them, because every time I'd think, "Well, I'm sort of getting on top of this," they'd bring another album out and take it to a new level. So I could never win! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Well, if it's any consolation, I remember seeing an interview with Bruford back in 1980 -- it was right when King Crimson had gotten back together and put out Discipline, and they had asked him for the five albums he was listening to at the time. One of them was Drums and Wires.

TC: [stunned pause] You're kidding.

TB: Nope.

TC: Well mate, that really is a jug handle, if I may use such a term! I mean, that's unbelievable!

TB: [laughing] Yeah, so, a bit of a turnaround there, huh?

TC: Well, I mean ... I'm not even worthy to talk of the man! [laughs] The man is a living god! I mean, if he was a Greek, he would be a god for sure!

TB: When you were talking about seeing these drummers play, and just being totally discouraged, that's the way I feel -- on one hand, it's really inspiring, but on the other, I never want to pick up drumsticks again.

TC: Daunting! I was lucky enough to see Bruford play with Yes before Alan White, during The Yes Album and Fragile days.

TB: I never did see him with them. That must have been something.

TC: Ahhh, mate, you know. Well, Tony Kaye was playing keyboards with them the first time I saw them, and Rick Wakeman was doing keyboards on the second one, which was the Fragile thing, and wow -- what can you say?

TB: Yeah, that was some lineup.

TC: Ahhh, I mean, I still buy their CDs now, you know. My wife hates all that stuff -- I mean, she listens to Michael Bolton! [laughs] But you know, I just sit in the back with a few beers, as you would, and put on all that sort of stuff. You know, just go off into me private world, basically! I just love it, I still love it, even today. That stuff just still does it for me, those albums from the '70s.

Actually, in fairness, I've probably only mentioned English influences, but having said that, there are American bands like Grand Funk Railroad, Edgar Winter, these sort of people. I mean, "Frankenstein" is almost permanently on our turntable. The Grand Funk live thing, Kai's been listening to that. That solo by -- what was his name, Brewster, Brewer?

TB: Don Brewer, I think.

TC: Yeah. I mean, are you kidding? Absolutely great. And another three-piece.

TB: Yep. Singing drummer, too.

TC: What a album. Of course, the James Gang -- love them. Oh -- I'm trying to just pluck names out of the head, I'm sorry, I've probably forgotten a heap, but there's certainly a lot of American bands, too. Montrose, Sammy Hagar, these sort of guys -- obviously I'm talking guitar players now, but those sort of things are just fantastic. New York Dolls, Lou Reed...

TB: Right, and that kind of stuff was a big influence on you guys early on, right?

TC: Yeah.

TB: Because Andy was big into that.

TC: Yeah. Actually, Andy was probably more influenced by the American side than perhaps Colin and meself. Andy was a little bit more -- I dunno, he just sort of seemed to have more access to this stuff, you know?

TB: Yeah. Well, he worked in a record store, didn't he?

TC: Shit, I don't know if he did or not! I mean, he was working as an artist at the time, a -- what was he doing, sort of writing labels up and this type of thing, I don't know what job you call it now...

TB: A graphic designer.

TC: Yeah, that type of thing. I think he was more into that type of field. Plus, he was going to college as well, so I think his circle of friends seemed to be more influenced by a lot of the American imports. He was sort of getting into that, and really introduced that stuff to Colin and meself. We ended up doing a support gig for Johnny Thunders, actually, in the outbacks of Wales. It wasn't with the New York Dolls, it was [guitarist] Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers -- him and [drummer] Jerry Nolan, and I forget who the other two guys were now, but we did support for them. That was during the [says sarcastically] punk thing, too -- in the outbacks of bloody Llandrindod, Wales, if I remember rightly, in the backwaters of fucking nowhere. [laughs] It was just a waste of their time and ours, and their money!

TB: [laughing] Well, let me spring one of Colin's anecdotes on you then, since we're talking about Wales -- he was saying that, in the early days, before you guys were signed to Virgin, you were playing in Wales, in "one of those colorful places in the valleys," something like the Cuma Pioneer Club. He said it was a real workingmen's club, hard-drinking crowd, and after you guys finished the set, you sort of did the rock-star thing and threw your sticks into the audience.

TC: Yeah, I think you've got the wrong club there, I think it was Tonypandy Worker's Club. And I smashed this guy's beer...

TB: Yeah. He said you guys left the stage, not knowing what had happened, when suddenly the club manager was pushing you into the dressing room, because you'd smashed the pint of a huge miner who was none too pleased, and he was on his way backstage to let you know...

TC: Yeah, that's a true story. He and his friends came back and said, "We only want the drummer"! [laughs]

TB: [laughing] That's what Colin was saying...

TC: And these bastards were going to send me out there, too! [laughs] "We only want the drummer!" They were virtually pushing out, the sods!

TB: [laughing] Colin said, "We didn't pass him out in the end, but don't think we didn't think about it!"

TC: [laughs] Geez, the sort of guys you'd really want to be in the trenches with, I can ya! I learned a little bit about the rest of those characters on that particular day, I can tell ya that. [laughs]

TB: But he said that, in the end, you did end up going out and talking to the guy and becoming friends with him -- you bought him another pint.

TC: Well, I think that was probably the right thing to do, you know? I think we calmed the situation down.

TB: We were talking about technique a little bit and some of the songs. There was a time there where you worked a lot with the hi-hat on the offbeat, the "and." Andy likes to call it "pea soup." I guess the first instance of it that I hear is on "Meccanic Dancing" and then on to songs like "Helicopter," and Generals and Majors," and things like that.

TC: Yeah, well, "Meccanic Dancing" being another one of Andy's "dance" songs. So danceable! Still got me stuffed, even now, but [laughing] actually, if you see Andy Partridge dance, the reality of it would probably come out! You'd say, "Yeah, it's danceable! If only anybody else could dance like this, if he could just get the whole world to dance like him, he's got a hit!" [laughs] I'm just sort of imagining Andy dancing again, because he did do that from time to time, I mean, he was a pretty fun guy to be around, but his dancing technique, I can assure you, is hilarious. I mean, if he ever had any dance coaching whatsoever in his life, I would imagine John Cleese was his teacher. [laughs]

Yeah, he wanted to do a dance craze himself. If he could have written the Mashed Potato, I think he would have done it.

TB: [laughing] There you go. Now, was Andy saying, "Do that a little bit," or were you getting drawn into other music that used a technique like that, or...?

TC: I think at that point, we'd done a couple tours of Germany and Europe, and I think it was a bit of European feel. They had this mechanical disco-type of thing happening in Germany. One thing springs to mind -- Can, the band from Germany, was a very big influence with Andy. And they were pretty mechanical, you know? And a lot of this German disco stuff was very disciplined, it was very German, for the want of a better word. It was precise -- it starts here, and it finishes exactly at three minutes, because that's what the radios play -- that type of thing. Eno and Bowie were doing a lot of stuff in Germany, and Cologne seemed to have a bit of a scene going, too. Andy was very interested in that.

I think some of these songs -- like "Meccanic Dancing," for example -- were probably a result of what he'd been listening to in Europe. We weren't doing this from sort of a commercial angle, because listening to the song, you say, "This is commercial suicide!" [laughs] But you can see, there's an influence there.

TB: Right. Another thing I notice at that point is a technique that became a lot more prominent in your playing later on -- picking a pattern and pretty much sticking with it throughout the entire song.

TC: Yeah, once again, that comes from this emptying-out thing. As things became a little bit more experimental for Andy, playing an empty drum pattern allowed him the room to put some ideas on top later in the recording process, if he wasn't sure of exactly what he wanted to put down himself. If I'd put in drum fills, and they were recorded there in certain spots, it didn't allow him very much space to have an alternative thing there later. So it became pretty much a set pattern -- he'd say, "I'm going to do this, and if we leave it a bit open, that will leave us a little bit of scope later on." So things were actually getting solved at a stage where some of them were actually getting put together in the studio, in a "let's see what we can come up with" type of mode.

There was a basic song there, and a lyric, but he just wanted to leave a few options open by restricting -- well, I say restricting, but I mean that in the nicest sense of the word -- what the drums were doing. Because obviously, if I'd been "bang-crash-wallop" all the way through this thing, he'd have had to try to pick the pieces out of that, you know? Instead, he'd say, "Well, I've got an idea for a bit of a keyboard part here, but I'm not sure if it's going to work, so get this down, I know that's the rhythm that I want, and there will still be room for a little bit of percussion later on if the rhythm section needs a shuffle along at some point in time." So I think that's the way the thing worked -- well, it did for me, anyway. I thought, "Well, yeah, I can live with that."

TB: A lot of young drummers have the horrible temptation to overplay, but it sounds like you were perfectly happy at this point to just support the song and do only what was needed for the song.

TC: It could also come down to lack of musical ability, too! [laughs] I dunno, it's a tough one, really. Actually it's funny, because John Leckie got me one day -- I was dwelling over the sound of this cymbal, saying "Now, I want the cymbal to sound like this, and like that," and it was driving Leckie mad. He turned around and said in a sort of laconic voice, "Do you think this is going to sell any more records?" And I had to agree with him, in the end! [laughs] Probably not. So, let's fucking move on! [laughs] You know, I got put in me place there. He said it in the nicest possible way, but he'd probably had one of those days in the studio that you get.

TB: And that's the role of the producer anyway, right? To provide that reality check.

TC: Well, yeah.

TB: So you mention John Leckie, that's Go2, that's where I first notice this cyclical drumming, with "Battery Brides" and "Life Is Good in the Greenhouse." But then you guys have a big change in the band -- you change producers, you lose a keyboard player, you gain a guitar player. How did you see things changing there?

TC: Well, I think the first album went out virtually as we'd always rehearsed it -- there weren't too many changes. We just sort of bashed it down in pretty quick time.

Go2 involved a little bit of different songwriting. Colin got involved a bit more, Andrews got involved, we went to a different studio to do it. It was obviously going to be a bit of a moving-on situation. Well, it sort of got to a stage where Andrews wanted a bit more input from the songwriting point of view, and Andy felt that his songs were heading in the wrong direction -- so, as a result, Barry left. I think Colin and meself, and perhaps Andy as well, felt that the first two albums probably lacked a little bit in guts, really. I think one thing we did learn there was, the more music you actually put down on vinyl, the quieter it became. We were quite a loud band playing live, and it really never came across on those albums, you know? Despite the fact of "Play this album loud or not at all" being brandished about, that really wasn't sufficient, we really wanted the thing recorded properly.

That's where we got the Drums and Wires thing happening. It just became a bigger sound all around. It was a less-quirky type of album than the previous two. Having got out of the keyboard situation back into a guitar-oriented situation, we'd turned nearly full circle, you know? The keyboard on the first two albums was the second lead instrument -- on Drums and Wires, Dave was a guitar player who could also play keyboards. I mean, it was a vast asset and a move, and musically it was a better thing, because Dave could do the difficult stuff while Partridge played the rhythm and sang! [laughs] So, you know, Andy was happy with that, and Dave was a quiet sort of fellow who did what he was told [laughs] and so it was okay! And he was a local too, so it just worked out pretty good, really.

TB: How was it different working with Steve Lillywhite vs. John Leckie?

TC: Well, we loved what Lillywhite had done on the Ultravox album, and he'd done a bit of work with Peter Gabriel, too. He seemed to get a better drum and bass sound, while Leckie was a more guitar- and vocal-oriented sort of producer. So, I don't know, we opted for a change -- we realized that John Leckie wasn't going to be our George Martin, so we just thought perhaps it'd be good for everybody if we went somewhere else. This was going to be the third album, and the first two had done okay -- well, the first one had done okay, the second one looked as if it was not as good. Now, we didn't know whether that came down to the songs, or what was happening, but something had to change at that point.

So there was a personnel change in the band, a different songwriting technique, and we went elsewhere to do the album -- The Townhouse. We used a different producer, and different engineer -- it was the first time we came into contact with Hugh Padgham. We all seemed to hit it off, and I think the album shows that everybody's pretty happy and content with what went on. And it spawned our first real single success, in "Nigel," you know? It seemed to be quite a good move for everybody, really.

TB: Right. How was it with Dave Gregory in the band, as opposed to Barry?

TC: Dave fit in pretty well. I mean, he did do a bit of an audition, I suppose you'd call it. When we said to him, "Do 'Statue of Liberty' " he said, "You want the single version or the album version?" [laughs]

TB: [laughing] That's a good sign!

TC: I thought, "Fuck me, I don't know the difference between the two meself! I've just sort of blundered me way through." And I thought, "Shit, that's good enough for me, if he knows the difference between that." And I said to Partridge, [laughing] "Well, it's your call now, mate, that'll do me!"

TB: [laughing] Talking about Drums and Wires and some of the songs on that -- you mentioned "Millions," which is one of the songs that's always jumped out for me. You said that you and Andy talked about it, and that he wanted a Chinese influence.

TC: Yeah, you know, we didn't want to go full-out on that song. We just wanted to give it a little bit of a hint that -- obviously, you know, I'm not a percussionist, I'm a bit of a thumper and whacker, really...

TB: Yeah, but at the same time, the pattern on that song is a very cool, different drum pattern. It's not your typical rock-and-roll drum pattern.

TC: Yeah, I think we must have sort of discussed this a little bit. To tell you the truth, I can't tell you exactly how that came about, but Andy's doing this [imitates guitar hook], which is pretty Chinese-y, and I think small bells and small cymbals just came into it, really. Obviously, the snare drum couldn't sound like a rock snare drum, so we really went for the old "just drop the snare off and really tighten it up a little bit," so it's got a little bit of a ping there.

I dunno -- four guys from the West Country of England doing interpretation of what Chinese music was all about! [laughs] We weren't saying, "Hang on a minute, this is the way you guys over there should be playing this stuff!" [laughs] You know, that wasn't the thought. Once again, I think Andy was drawing from more parts of the world for ideas. Instead of saying, "Oh well, I'm just going to sit in me bedroom and write a song about these four walls," you know -- I don't know what the hell he was reading at the time there, but he was obviously looking at the big picture, really, and just getting inspired by -- I don't know if there was any political activity taking place over there at that point in time, or whether he felt we should have somebody sort of, like, pulling a rickshaw on the front of the album.

There's a possibility! Actually, Partridge himself, with one of those hats, pulling a rickshaw on the album, that would have been perfect! [laughs] And, you know, the other three members of the fucking band should have been in the back!! [laughs] So that's why that album didn't sell, mate, it was the wrong fucking cover! [laughs] It would have been a million-seller, in China, had he been pulling the rickshaw, with all the gear on, and the rest of the band sitting in there like The Beatles, dressed in them Sgt. Pepper's outfits. That would have been perfect.

But anyway. I never got much input on that album, obviously! [laughs] It's easy to look back on things, isn't it, and see where you went wrong!

TB: [laughs] That's right, 20/20 hindsight!

TC: Yeah.

TB: On "Scissor Man," it sounds like you were looking out at the world, too, because there's some dub stuff going on there. Were you listening to reggae or Jamaican stuff at this time?

TC: Once again, I think that's probably something you've got to blame Andy for. You know, there were a lot of reggae bands coming through at the time there, and we were playing with The Police, and you know, that was a bit of a feel going around there. So I think that was a little touch of the cap to the reggae thing. Once again, sort of the emptier thing there, too, allowing more room for other stuff to come over the top, the "get away from the old thump-crash" thing.

That was true for "Scissor Man" and "Millions," and also -- I don't know if you've come across some of the Homo Safari series -- they were always going to be B-sides, really, but they were a little bit empty and a little bit more experimental. We didn't expect them to be a hit singles, they were more like, "It's a B-side so let's have a bit of fun," you know?

TB: How did you approach that more-experimental stuff? Just sort of keep an open mind and see what happened?

TC: Yeah, pretty much. I mean, in some songs things started to get a bit emptier and emptier for me -- just allowing a little bit more space there. It just sort of seemed to be a progression, you know? The drums seemed to be getting a little bit lighter-on, all the time -- instead of having the big beefy drums from some of the other songs there, there was another section of songs that were running alongside those, but had a lighter, emptier sort of feel to them.

I think the bigger drum sound probably culminated in English Settlement, while the lighter-weight drum thing seemed to continue on, you know? I sort of went out with the big drum sound, really. [laughs] With English Settlement, the lighter-weight, percussive-type of thing seemed to have carried on.

TB: Yeah, hints of the bigger drum sound still come back every once in a while, but speaking of big drums -- in my opinion, Black Sea is where it all comes together. The drum sound on that album is just enormous.

TC: Yeah, "Respectable Street." "Burning with Optimism's Flames" is probably one of me favorite XTC songs, to be honest. It was a great thing to play. I just loved playing that song live. It was, I dunno, sixteens on the hi-hat...

TB: Yeah. How did you come up with that pattern?

TC: Well, I dunno, really. [Fake annoyed voice] Fuck it if I know that, ask somebody else! Ask Bill Bruford! [laughs] I don't know, to be honest. Once again, I think it was one of those thing where we put the thing together, it probably just sort of started with fours or eights on the hi-hat, and we thought it needed to be a little bit more nippy, a bit more delicate -- hence a few more notes on the hi-hat. Because the bass drum and the snare drum are pretty much rock solid, you know? Once again, it's relatively empty, because outside of the knitting that took place -- as we used to describe it sometimes -- on that hi-hat, the rest of the song is reasonably empty, it's sort of thump-whack.

I think it was just a question of lightening up those parts there, because it's quite a busy vocal line over the top of that. Partridge was fitting quite a few words in, so it needs to be a little bit lighter on rather than thunderous underneath. I don't think you would have heard the phrasing of the song on top of that.

TB: Where did that huge drum sound come from? Was that you and Padgham and Lillywhite putting your heads together and saying, "C'mon, we can make it bigger and bigger"? You know, you listen to songs like "Paper and Iron," and it's just enormous.

TC: Well, I don't know -- you'd have to blame John Bonham a little bit for that, I think. We wanted to get away from that weedy punk thing that was just sort of all rattling around, and have a substantial sound. So, it'd have to be the Bonham-type influence there -- just a bigger, more open, more ambient sound. A more realistic sound. Rather than drums being closely mic'ed up, give them a little bit more natural air and have some ambient microphones in and around the place -- more room mic's, rather than close microphones.

This probably worked with those emptier drum patterns, really. If you're going for a big ambient drum sound, it really does restrict the patterns that you play -- you need to play a more open and empty rhythm or pattern, because if you're playing lots of tight stuff, one sound tends to run into the other, unless you've got the beauty of being able to combine the lot, with close mic'ing and ambient mic'ing.

You really have to have the big picture in mind when you're doing it, when you're recording all of that stuff. Quite often, when you've got four members of a band, an engineer and a producer, there are six people who have probably got six different ideas. You've really got to cover your options when you're recording, so that you can sort of pick and choose a little bit during the mixing time -- otherwise, you're stuck in a situation of, "Well, shit, you should have told me this a month ago!"

TB: Was there something special about The Townhouse that made it a particularly good for drums?

TC: Well yeah, they had a a stone and glass room there that was just -- you know, most of the studios up to that point were all carpeted and everything was just dead as a doornail. Lifeless. But this room at The Townhouse, when you played the drums in there, it shattered everything. You just had to bloody bring this beast under control. It was a great place to play drums. I mean, just acoustically, we said, "Yeah, this is the drum sound we want! Let's fucking get this down on to tape, without doing too much about it."

It just sort of livened the whole thing up, rather than being the old carpeted-out bloody room with all the dividers, where you just feel like a bit of a goldfish, you know? You get really hot in those places, too. The Townhouse had a good-sized room, too, where you could actually get out behind the drum kit and walk round without sort of pushing everything over. They were like fucking telephone booths, some of those other places -- you get out from behind your drums, and you kick your drink over, and kick a microphone over, and [pissed-off engineer voice] "Ah, fuck me, that microphone's moved!", you know. Not room enough to swing a cat.

But The Townhouse obviously comes at a price. We were in a position there where -- well, under false pretenses, might I add! -- where we thought, "Oh yeah, we can afford this." But we didn't realize that all the time we were paying vast amounts of money, and they're all recoupable, and there's a money trail there, and ... shit. We thought it was all under control, you know, but that's where the mismanagement comes into it. We should have been made aware that -- "Hang on a minute fellas, look, if you're going to go this way, then..." -- you know, it was never brought to our attention that things were costing so much. But that's another story, anyway. [laughs ruefully]

TB: Now, what kind of kit were you playing then?

TC: At that point, I was playing Tama drums. I'd picked up a bit of a sponsorship -- we went to Japan, and came up with some sort of factory deal there. Primarily it was Tama drums and Paiste cymbals. I mean, I wasn't given anything, but we got a reasonable rate, and if for some reason or another we were in a place where we needed to do a TV show or something like that, Tama would come along and provide a kit for the dummy run and all this business that used to take place -- you know, the bloody miming routine -- while my regular kit was probably being set up where we were playing live later on.

And that point in time I started getting into the Snyper, which is sort of like the effects...

TB: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. I first noticed it on "Love at First Sight."

TC: Yeah, well, the bigger-drum thing started to come into it then, you know, the "blue whale at 100 fathoms farting" kind of sound -- I think that was the way it was described then. Once again, it could only be used in those things like "Life Is Good in the Greenhouse," and stuff like that, where there's a very empty bass-drum sound. It just needs to be one beat every so often, rather than eights. They should have instructions on there saying, "Play this once every four beats, and not any more frequently than that." [laughs] But that's something that everyone's got to work out for themselves, really.

TB: Now, is that what you were using on "Runaways," on the kick drum?

TC: Yeah, "Runaways," that's exactly right, yeah. Yep, that's the type of thing that lent itself to that type of rhythm, you know? Although it's probably only me and you that are familiar with that particular song, but uh... [laughs, imitates Modern Drummer reader] "Oh, I don't have any idea what that song is all about, but I'll go out and buy it!" Read the magazine first, then go out and buy the album! [same voice] "Oh, that sounds like an interesting song, I got to go out and spend $30 on this album now!" [laughs]

TB: [laughing] Now, going back to Black Sea and some of the songs on there -- "Living Through Another Cuba" has this great snare sound, and you've got this really weird background percussion going on -- could you talk a little bit about that?

TC: Once again, it's the world of Andy Partridge. I think that, with that song, you've tripped to America, Bay of Pigs, Kennedy, Cuba, this type of thing -- you know, the potential for World War III. The Snyper was used in that as well, as a bomb sort of sound -- the old [whistles to imitate bomb falling], rather than the actual boom itself. Just trying to get something around the lyrical content, trying to make the thing a little bit relevant. And perhaps, I dunno, a little bit of Calypso [laughs], up on the hi-hat thing.

TB: [laughs] Right. Twisted Calypso. You had picked up a roto-tom around this time, too, that you were using for effects.

TC: Yeah, just sort of a lighter-weight dimension to the standard three-tom set-up, you know? It gave me a more top-range sound, really, that was mainly there to punctuate, just put a few full stops and commas within the song, so to speak. [laughs] Rather than using cymbals to punctuate the end of a certain section of a song. Sometimes you'd use that, perhaps, with the cymbal, so there'd be snare play and then it would be just another beat, a lighter way of making a point. "Dynamics" is the word I'm struggling to get to. It's a little bit more dynamic. And again, I suppose the songwriting was heading in that direction.

TB: Yeah. Before you did go into that completely on English Settlement, there's the last song on Black Sea, which is probably one of the heaviest songs you guys ever recorded -- "Travels in Nihilon." How the hell did you do that? I mean, it's just that pattern over and over and over, it's just relentless, and it's right on. Did you just go into a trance or something while you were recording that? [laughs]

TC: [laughs] Yeah, well ... good point! I don't know how many times we actually went through it, I don't think we did too many takes on that. I think it was, like, "Well, you better make it count this time, because I can only do this so many times." It's not like one of those songs you can play 20 or 25 times and say, "Well, we'll take the best out of this." I think we might have only played two or three times, and that was probably it.

I'd like to point out that we'd never done any of that stuff to a click track or any of that -- apart from that "English Roundabout" thing, which was just that repetitive rim-shot thing. You know, all those other patterns, and that type of thing, was just sort of done -- if you were good enough to play 'em, it was good enough to be done, you know? No point in, or chance of, putting some sort of sequencer thing over the top of any of that, because there's just no way in the world -- when you get into the nitty-gritty of the thing, things probably speed up and slow down, but we were after more of a feel thing, and making sure that the song was right and we were happy with it, rather than it being absolutely precise, so that you could actually turn the lights out to it, you know?

Yeah, it was just sort of a repetitive rhythm there, it would just sort of build on a volume level, rather than anything else. It was just sort of building up toward the end of the earth, I suppose. You know, rain -- actually, it was just a shower curtain, as I recall, at the end there... [laughs]

TB: Oh, is that how you guys recorded that? Water just coming down from a shower curtain?

TC: Yeah, I think when you listen to it, it sounds like that, rather than real rain. I don't know if you can record rain well, so we just sort of rigged something up at The Townhouse studios.

TB: Let's talk about English Settlement, which is when the transition was starting to happen to the more-acoustic stuff. The roto-tom is very evident on that album, you've got songs like "Yacht Dance" and "Down in the Cockpit"...

TC: "Jason and the Argonauts."

TB: Yep.

TC: That's Andy going through his Greek phase. Geez, he's covered a few continents, hasn't he? [laughs] When you think about it, I mean, he's covered the Far East -- I don't know if we ever did too much with the Middle East, though -- perhaps that was yet to come. Although Homo Safari, I suppose, would cover that. He's just about touched base everywhere, really.

TB: [laughing] Yeah, you've got "It's Nearly Africa"...

TC: [laughing] Yeah...

TB: "Snowman," you're in the Antarctic...

TC: Yeah, left no stone unturned! Yeah, I thought there were some great songs on that album, that's why it sort of turned out to be a -- I don't think in America it turned out as a double album, but it was a double album in England. I think Epic was jumping up and down, saying [asshole American record-exec voice] "Ah, double albums don't sell out here, you guys ain't big enough for that, you're not fucking The Eagles, you're not Grand Funk, you're not this, you're not that. We're just putting a single version of it out."

We went to a bit of trouble with the cover -- in England it's got an embossed thing on it, a little bit more sensitive and all that -- and Epic wouldn't go along with that, so they gave you guys a bit of a watered-down version of the whole bloody thing, to be honest. But that's the price you pay, I suppose, for being in the hands of one company in England and Europe, and another one elsewhere. You're at sort of loggerheads -- you know, they know their market better than you guys do, despite the fact that artistically you might say, "Well, this is the whole thing, we want this to go worldwide like this so nobody gets underdone," you know what I mean? Everybody gets the thing that it should be.

You do bow to pressure to a certain extent, and say, "Hey, America's the biggest market." There was pressure on us to say, "Well, these guys know their market, just go with it." And that was it. I'm sure it's still going on now. But from our point of view, we were a little bit disappointed with the fact that they even printed the letters in black and -- you know, it just gets into a little bit of detail there. We're trying to get around to them, but you're sort of accusing your own people of being ignorant to the fact that this thing should be embossed, and they're saying [same voice], "Oh yeah, but we know the market. It stands out better like this!" and all this business. I thought, "Oh well, okay." And, of course, they chopped a few songs out...

TB: Plenty of imports made it over here, luckily.

TC: Yeah, but the fans have really got to be devoted to do that, it really does restrict your sales there, because a lot of people just say, "Well, I'm going to go in there and buy what's on the shelf."

TB: A lot of people consider that album your masterpiece. I mean, certainly, Black Sea and English Settlement...

TC: Well, yeah, when we got to the rehearsal stage for Mummer, it got to the point there where I just didn't think the songs were as good as the last album. You've really got to make sure that they get better all the way along, I think. And Andy was saying, "Well, this is a move in a different direction." I didn't think it was a step in the right direction. I thought it was commercial suicide where we were heading, and basically, I was in a different sort of situation personally, as well. There was a bit of pressure from there, too...

TB: Was your wife in Australia at the time?

TC: No, I think she was with me over there at the time -- look, without getting too involved in that, that wasn't really the thing. I just didn't think the songs were as good as the last album, really. At that point, we'd just done this tour over in the States, Andy had fallen ill, he pulled the pin on the live situation, went home, wrote a bunch of songs, and I thought they were the writings of a man who was probably not writing to the best of his ability. I don't think I should put it any way other than that. If you can read between the lines [laughs] -- I think he wrote better songs during the English Settlement time, when he was a happier guy, than when he had this nervous breakdown. I think the songs, as a result, didn't quite measure up.

TB: What do you think of the later catalog, the XTC catalog after you'd left?

TC: Well, I haven't really listened to any of it, to be honest. I mean, a couple of things on the radio. I certainly haven't gotten much of it, only the stuff that came on that "Fossil Fuel" thing. I don't know, most of the songs that ended up on Mummer were pretty much quite similar to the way we'd already demoed them before, despite the fact that Peter Phipps had taken up the role. You know, it was like, "Well, this is how the demo went," and I'd played on this demo and he covered a lot of that stuff, plus put a few things of his own there and probably changed it a little bit, due to the situation in the studio -- but primarily, I think, "Love on a Farmboy's Wages" and stuff like that was pretty much the way I was sort of doing it with them, anyway.

They started working with this Steve Nye guy, too, and I didn't take to him too much, either. I would have liked to have done the album again with just the band and Hugh Padgham, which we did with English Settlement.

After Andy's breakdown, I went to Australia, sort of rested and recuperated there to find out what the next step of the situation was going to be. They obviously went back to England. Then Andy started writing songs and this is what he came up with. After a while, when he said "We're going to do a bit of recording," I went back to England and started rehearsing this stuff. We did ... oh, what did we do...

TB: You did "Beating of Hearts," and "Wonderland."

TC: Yeah, those two. I think there may have been something else -- I don't know whether it made it or not. But that was it, we recorded those with Steve Nye, which was -- I don't know. I wasn't particularly happy, you know? I really wanted Hugh to do this album. If he wasn't available, we should have just fucking waited and done it with him, because I was happy the way the whole thing went with English Settlement, and even if Hugh wanted an extra few dollars for it, I think it was a step in the right direction, because you were on a winner! I reckon he was a winner, you know? He's gone on to prove that. He worked with The Police on our recommendation, you know?

TB: Oh yeah?

TC: We were on tour with them, and they said, "Listen, we're going to go in and do an album -- do you know anybody that can do it?" And we said we were happy with Hugh, and as a result of that, they brought him up and he did the job, and he did two bloody albums with them. Obviously, his fee was going up all the time, but mate, you know, he would have worked with us anyway, because as a result of working with us in the earlier days, he'd gotten other work outside of that, you know? I would have been happier doing it that way meself, but [sighs] you know, time to move on, different songs, different time, that was then, this is now, and ... you know, they went with it, and I got out! [laughs]

I think time heals all wounds, really. I suppose there was a little bit of discomfort in '82 when I pulled the pin, but it's been 20 years now, or almost, and we're more mature, more adult now -- perhaps we're getting ready for the next world! [laughs] I didn't want to go to the grave thinking that we should have patched this thing up...

TB: When you were last back in England, you guys got together and everything went fine, right?

TC: Yeah! I think they were genuinely pleased just to have a chat and reminisce over past things. I mean, we're still friends. You know, we still exchange Christmas cards and pleasantries, I mean, it's not like, "Next time I see you I'm going to beat the living fucking daylights outta you" situation, you know! [laughs] It was never really that, even when I finished.

The day I actually marched out from a rehearsal session, Andy rang me back that night and said, "Look, do you want me to more or less scrap this stuff and start afresh?" And I said, "No, Andy, your heart's already in this, you've got to go with what you go with," you know? I mean, that was about the biggest compromise that I think he ever really offered at any point, and it's sad, really, to think that it took such a big decision on my part to bring him to say such a thing.

TB: Looking back on that time, what would you say is your favorite album?

TC: English Settlement, I think. Then probably Black Sea. Yeah, I suppose they sort of...

TB: Sort of working your way backwards?

TC: Yeah [laughs], you know, I think we progressively got better.

TB: So, what was your favorite song, or favorite songs, to play?

TC: I think "Burning with Optimism's Flames" was one of me favorites. Certainly "Senses Working Overtime." I think "Nigel" would have to be in there, because of the fact that it was probably the first one to get a good reaction. I'd say those would be me top three.

TB: Any come to mind as songs that you didn't like to play?

TC: "English Roundabout" used to irritate me.

TB: Really?

TC: Yeah.

TB: I wanted to ask you about that, because you did a really smart thing in that song [Terry laughs] -- it's an odd-time song, but you spread out your pattern over two measures, so that you're actually playing an even pattern -- because it's in 10, it's an even number, rather than an odd number.

TC: Yeah, you've obviously analyzed it more than me! I don't even play it, to be honest. I don't know, it was one of those things that just didn't do it for me -- it was like, it was about as far as I would go with the repetitive-pattern thing. I mean, to me, it was repetitive, but it wasn't interesting. Some of the other stuff may have been repetitive, but I found it more interesting.

TB: Any other songs that come to mind that you didn't really enjoy playing?

TC: [long pause] "Melt the Guns" was another one that didn't really turn me on too much.

TB: So you don't care much for the side-sticking stuff, I guess. Not hard-hitting enough?

TC: Well, I dunno, it just doesn't -- you know, I think there's room for it, but I don't really go much on that type of thing too much. I sort of tolerated it, but that was it, really. It was like, "Oh yeah, okay." Fine, you know, it's a bunfight. I would have sooner tried something else.

Yeah, there are two good examples, I think. And they have to be one by each, so I'm not going to offend either one of 'em [laughs] by saying, "Well, pick one from you and one from you that I didn't particularly like."

TB: [laughs] You're being a diplomat, a politician.

TC: Well, you brought it to mind, I'd forgotten all about it, to be honest! [laughs] Now that you've brought it up, I won't be able to sleep tonight! I'll be thinking about [imitates opening riff of "English Roundabout"], I'm not going to sleep now...

TB: I wanted to step back to English Settlement a minute, and talk about "Snowman," because I think the pattern for that is very cool.

TC: Yeah, actually, I must add that to the list of good songs as well, I think. That and "Life Is Good in the Greenhouse" are sort of probably -- I don't know, I'm interested in that type of thing. It's sort of like an empty thing, it's just got a bit of a feel about it. I did enjoy playing both of those songs.

TB: And you were doing different instrumentation in that, too, because you were using the roto-tom...

TC: Yeah, there's other things in there as well -- we started bonking things around the studio that were not normally used for musical notation. You know, hitting lampshades and different bits and pieces. Like "Towers of London," too -- anvils and things start coming into it, and what-have-you. You know, just things that are perhaps a little bit out of the ordinary.

TB: Let's wrap up then, and talk a bit about Kai, your son. Did you teach Kai to drum?

TC: In the early stages, yeah.

TB: And was he banging around on your kit, or did you just buy him his own kit right away?

TC: We acquired an old kit, you know, and he just sort of said, "I want to give it a go." I said, "Look, you know what this is going to be like. It's going to be this, it's going to be that, it's going to be something else," and anyway, he went ahead with it.

TB: Despite your warnings?

TC: Well, yeah, but I don't know, he's taken to it. I thought, "This'll be six months and it'll get out of his system, and then, you know, he might start playing the oboe or something." But it never happened, and he's continued on and on. I'm glad he did, because it's created an interest for me now. Whereas I was just sort of like, lamenting on the past most of my days, he's been playing for about five years now, so...

TB: Are you playing any more?

TC: Well, I can never get on there, mate! [laughs]

TB: You can just pull rank on him, and...

TC: The only time I get to do anything is if, you know, he says, "We need a bit of tuning on these drums here." I might go sort of [weakly] "thump-thump-thump, tweak-tweak-tweak, ding-ding-ding-ding," just sort of do it so he can hear it and see whether he likes the sound or tone of these drums, and that's about the extent of it. "Right, I'll get off!"

But it's working out pretty well. Everybody's really pleased with what they've achieved with this EP and hopefully we can open a few doors and get a career off and happening, and perhaps we'll even be lucky enough to come over and see you!

TB: That would be wonderful.

TC: But they might get a more efficient tour manager by then, though.

TB: [laughs] Are you their tour manager now?

TC: Well, I dunno, sort of. That, and a roadie, and the drink bringer, and the sandwich maker, and the shit kicker, and...

TB: [laughs] Just basically watching their backs?

TC: Yeah, you know. Just trying to sort of steer the ship in the right direction, and make sure they don't get as badly bitten as I did, really. You know, if they can learn from the bloody tragic experiences that we had, it'll be to their benefit. I don't know if they take any of it onboard, but they're pretty good, they listen, you know? We get on pretty well.

But they're young guys, they've obviously got their own ideas and all that. Sometimes I come up with an idea, and they say, "Yeah, well, we thought about that, and that's exactly why we're not doing it!" [laughs] Oh fuck! Yeah, right. So I sort of cower off into the corner and take the top off another bottle of beer and sit down there and shut up. [laughs] So, it's time to hand over the reins, mate! [laughs]

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