an interview with XTC's Andy Partridge

May 2000


As XTC's Andy Partridge told VH1.com's Linda Laban, the cork is out! As a result, over the last year, XTC have been nothing short of prolific. Their new record, Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2), is out on TVT Records; it's the final chapter of a project seven years in the making. The trilogy of albums began with last year's Apple Venus Volume 1 (their first since 1992's Nonsuch) and the “unofficial” Volume 1 demos, Homespun. This fervent activity is the result of copious songwriting done while XTC - long whittled down to the creative duo of singer/songwriters guitarist Andy Partridge and bassist Colin Moulding - were battling Virgin, their European label of 20 years. With a new label and a new album that delves into the band's familiar pastoral pop territory, XTC are well on their way to reclaiming their lofty pop perch.



VH1.com: Does it feel good to be out in the sunlight with these songs that you and Colin were holed up with whilst your legal wrangling was sorted out?
Andy Partridge: Not to get too medical, but it was like you ate a big banquet and then had a cork banged in your ass and weren't allowed to go! The cork has been allowed out and it feels lovely.

After the acoustic, orchestral setting of Volume 1, Wasp Star kicks off with a definite electric guitar riff in “Playground.”
It goes for the pop throat straight away. What's the word I like to use? [Adopts a self-important tone] “A narrower palette.” If you think of Apple Venus as colored, IMAX sensation, this is maybe more monochrome TV-sized play, but hopefully still valid.

Besides you and Colin, who else is playing on Wasp Star?
Two drummers, some cuts with Prairie Prince - he played on the original Apple Venus sessions. Then Chuck Sabo played on the last track “The Wheel and the Maypole,” and a string quartet and Kate St. John [of Dream Academy] on oboe. She was excessively pregnant. I thought, “Don't push too hard, else we'll have to pay session fees for two of you.”

You went back in and recorded Wasp Star straight after last year's Apple Venus press tour?
We had a couple of tracks done we were sort of happy with, but largely we thought, “No, we've rushed it a little bit with these electric ones; let's record them again and do them properly.”

You recorded it at your new studio at Colin's house?
It's his garage and coal shed. He had to sacrifice his car. He's got a rusting car, but we've got quite a nice studio.

The two volumes are emotionally very similar.
It was all written in what was the worst and then the best of times for me. Bit of a roller coaster emotionally: divorce, illness, can't work with record company, legal battles, little bit too much booze on the quiet, possibly... Then, [sings] “falling in love again,” and all the time writing songs and going completely nutty because I'm thinking, “Oh, my God, is anyone going to hear these tunes?”

If there's an overriding feeling on Wasp Star, it is optimism.
It is, it's up. There are some dark moments on it, but generally it's really looking up. “Stupidly Happy” says it all really. Not the deepest song I've ever written, but attractive in its own way.

It's extremely bouncy.
Bouncy to the max! It's a sort of an inflatable jumping castle in your own brain. It's my favorite cut on the album, that and “We're All Light,” because it sums up the optimism. I am really very much an optimist.

“I'm the Man Who Murdered Love” is more cynical.
Just a wee bit...a wee bit “cineplex.” It's an observation that people could be nicer to each other. We seem to be loving each other less and less these days. It seems to be a colder, harder world. Would anyone really miss love?

So with love gone, you free everybody up to be ignorant road-ragers and the like.
Exactly! Feel free to be complete arseh*les, because that's how you're behaving in any case.

The song “Standing In for Joe” documents an affair with a best friend's wife and has a much darker story line.
That's our Colin. He wrote “Standing In for Joe,” “In Another Life,” and “Boarded Up.”

You wrote the slow-hand blues “Wounded Horse,” which is the other side of “Stupidly Happy.”
“Wounded Horse” was one of the earlier ones written in the electric vein. I was still smarting from being rejected, but I didn't want to be too bitter like in “Your Dictionary” on Apple Venus, because I'd already got that side. So I thought I'd work on a song that had a traditional blues feel to it, but was almost vaudeville-type blues. The kind of thing that might have done in the '20s and '30s, those kind of chord changes, but done on modern guitars.

What next? Will you go with an orchestra or keep it to this format?
To be truthful, Volume 1 was a huge window in the buttocks to record. But this one was a complete and utter pleasure. The first one was a difficult birth, with a team of divers going in with forceps and dynamite to get the baby out. This one was, “Stand well back, there's a greased banana shooting across the room.”

Does this mean you might shy away from more complex instrumentation and arrangements in the future?
No, you get compulsions and you have to do it. All bad things, you are meant to learn from them; if you don't learn from them, you is stupid.

Any time frame for the next album?
Not at the moment, it's all gloriously blank. It's very freeing, a little bit frightening but also a little bit aahhhh.



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