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Sunday, March 28, 2010


Andy looks at guitar playing and players -- Part III

Andy looks at guitar playing and players -- Part III

Over the course of several months, Todd Bernhardt and Andy Partridge are discussing Andy's approach to the guitar, examining his history with the instrument, his influences, and why and how he does what he does with it.

Because this conversation is ongoing, this is your chance to Ask Andy your guitar-related questions. We can't guarantee that we'll get to each one, of course, but we'll try. Ask away!

This week we focus on XTC's first two albums, which featured Barry Andrews as Andy's musical foil. As for the song of the week, a couple of weeks ago we posted "Set Myself on Fire" as a good example of Andy's early guitar style. This week, we post a version of the song recorded live 17 September 1979 at The Rainbow, with Mr. Dave Gregory on keyboards and second guitar. This version was released in October 1980 as the B-side to the Towers of London 7" single in the U.K., and is a fantastic, more aggressive approach to the song (as Andy mentions below).

TB: So, we've gotten through your formative years, and where we stopped last time was at the doorstep of XTC -- "At the Doorstep of Ecstasy."

AP: [laughing] Sounds like an Edwardian novel! [post voice] "By Toddington R.J. Bernhardt, Esq." A real bodice-ripper! I can see the reviews now.

TB: [laughing] So, dear readers, when we left you, Young Andy Partridge had found Barry Andrews, and realized that finally, here was somebody who approached the keyboard the same way that he approached the guitar. So let's go through the first two albums, and talk about the different songs from a guitar-playing point of view.

AP: This is going to be tricky for me to talk about, because once the professional career of XTC takes off, it's not about guitar-playing as such -- it's about the new skill of songwriting. Because nobody's going to buy guitar licks. It becomes a different skill. It's about -- "Right, you've just finished your first album, what's your next one going to sound like?" "Oh my god, I've got to write up a whole new bunch of stuff! Plus I've got to tour the first one, plus I've got to do TV and interviews and radio" and all that.

It became very rapidly about a) surviving on the road, physically and mentally, and b) finding new material. It wasn't about learning the guitar anymore. The guitar skills suddenly went way down the ladder on things to acquire.

TB: But at the same time, I'd imagine that you kind of organically got better and better as a player, because as you say, you were living on the road and using this as your weapon every night...

AP: I never got better because of being on stage.

TB: Really? I would have thought that the discipline of having to play all the time would at least make you better technically.

AP: I'd be playing all the time at home, and would be finding new things at home. Whereas, you're not finding new things on stage. What you're doing is reproducing the same thing round and round.

The one good thing about being on stage for the music is that the band gets tighter, because you play this stuff under pressure every night, to increasing amounts of people. So the band as a unit gets tighter, and that's a good thing.

But your playing, if anything, suffers, because you're not being creative. You're being a human jukebox -- which is ironic, given that this was the name of one of my early bands! Suddenly, you're on television and you're in the magazines and papers, and you're touring around, and you are a human jukebox. You're playing the same songs every night, over and over and over and over, until you're going insane with it. You can almost do it in your sleep.

In fact, I used to get into a weird autopilot mode on stage -- you know that weird thing where you walk from point A to point B, and if it's a journey you do a lot, you suddenly "wake up" 20 minutes later, and you find you're near your destination, but you don't remember the walk? You're really in a gone place -- you're not mentally present in what you're doing, because it's a repetitive thing, and so your brain clicks off and goes on autopilot. I used to get that on stage! I used to kind of wake up a couple of numbers later, and there hadn't been any mistakes or anything -- the numbers had been delivered -- but I'd been on autopilot because it becomes that familiar, what you're doing.

I can still go over to the corner, pick that guitar up and play every song in the early sets that we used to do, note-perfect, because it's a matter of muscle memory. It was athletic, not about creativity. It was a ballet you did every night, a ballet for your fingers or throat or even your legs -- you'd find yourself doing the same movements on stage every night. It became total choreography.

TB: We've had talked about songs like "Battery Brides" where you'd work yourself into a trance, but I didn't realize it extended beyond that.

AP: Oh yeah, to quite violent songs! You'd go through a couple of songs in the set, at any point in the set -- usually not at the start, because you'd have to get into the feel of things -- but because it was the same set over and over, I would blank out for a while. I'd kind of "wake up" a couple of songs later -- "Ooh, I don't remember playing that song, but we must have played it!" [laughs] It's a weird sensation.

TB: Tell me about sound checks and time spent off-stage. You and I have talked about a couple of songs that you'd written on the road -- I know you generally didn't do that, but there must have been times when you were sat there with a guitar in hand, and were able to discover things.

AP: It was not usually in a social situation, as in a sound check. Sound checks were dicking-around time -- as in, "Hey, what's that number that it's the charts at the moment, that number by Chic?" "Oh, how does it go?" "It goes like this." And suddenly you'd find yourself riffing on a Chic thing for five minutes. Or somebody would have just bought that Iggy Pop album, The Idiot. "Oh, I love that one called 'Sister Midnight'!" So we'd run through the riff of "Sister Midnight" for five minutes. It was just dicking around while they got microphone levels and monitor levels and things like that.

TB: Were you not working on new songs?

AP: Occasionally I would bring something up that I might be messing around with in a hotel room. But I didn't get that much time to myself, especially later, because there usually would be interviews or a radio station-- or two or three -- that you had to be taken to, or even a TV show you had to go and do.

But occasionally, some new things would come up, and I would bring them up in sound check. I remember that "Leisure" was always being kicked around in sound check, because it came from that doomily jaunty initial riff -- I'd start playing it in sound check, and the other guys would kick in, and I'd think, "Hey, that sounds really solid when you put other instruments in it." So, maybe the next bit of free time I'd have on the road, I'd have a guitar in the room, and I'd think, "Yeah, let me work up some lyrics for that bit, and what's it sounding like?" Then you get into your songwriting schtick and all that.

The new ideas didn't always come to fruition -- I remember, in the latter days of Barry Andrews, I was always getting them in sound checks to try out this thing called "Jazz Love." All I can tell you about that one is that some of the lyrics were, "Jazz love, jazz love, drum and wire" -- and I think we know where that phrase ended up. Some of the chords went on to become "It's Nearly Africa." So nothing's wasted -- the song itself doesn't survive, it's kind of goofy, so it dies, but the phrase "drum and wire" goes on to become Drums and Wires and a few of the chords go on to become "It's Nearly Africa." I'm the great recycler! [laughs] I was doing my Green bit even then.

TB: [laughing] That's right -- "Making musical sausage for 30 years now."

AP: [laughing] Meat for the masses! Everyone wondered what happened to those girls in the front row at the gigs. They were never seen again. And the band are eating Scotch eggs for a week afterwards!

TB: [laughing] So, the guitar became more of a tool, a means toward an end.

AP: It was a means toward an end. I stopped exploring what the guitar could do, and I took what I knew it could do already -- you know, this thing of blundering into my own chord universe. Because I was such a bad learner of other people's songs -- I'm not too bad now, I guess -- that encouraged me to find my own things. The arrogance of not being bothered to learn other people's stuff means that you can't actually play other people's stuff, that's a failing, but the strength of that is that you're forced to find your own things to play. That crapness at listening to and learning other people's songs made me into more of a discoverer -- it forced me to blunder into totally new areas, which brought up a hell of a lot of songs. That was one of my major songwriting techniques -- the blunder.

But when we were playing live, it was just the machine gun -- you had to kill the audience. An hour-and-half, hour-and-three-quarters later, you'd run off and put the machine gun down. The next night, the roadie would change all the strings, and you'd go out there with your new ammo and gun them all down again. I would imagine it's a bit like having a rifle in the army -- you get to know it and love it, but it's just for that one job. I didn't find myself using it to create much, back in the hotel room -- if I took it back to the hotel room at all. Some days, I wouldn't see it for weeks, other than having it in my hands at the gig.

TB: Really? It would stay with the rest of your gear?

AP: Sometimes I'd carry one with me, but sometimes I wouldn't. It all depended on what kind of mood I was in. Not with the guitar, but with the situation -- if it was a big long tour, and it became really crushing, you'd be like, "Oh, I don't want to see that guitar again." In the same way as, "I don't want to see that bass player again," or "I don't want to see that keyboard player again," or whatever. Things you could do to sort of escape -- "Okay, I won't take my guitar in the hotel room, and I won't hang out with [chuckles] other members of the band. They'll go off sightseeing, and I'll just go and do the radio interviews." That became the break from the crushing repetitiveness of everything.

TB: Let's look at some of the songs you have from the early days. "Science Friction" was your first single.

AP: Yeah. What a stupid song that was. Really, really childish. Based purely on the fact that I'd found the similarities between the two words -- "Oh, this sounds like Science Friction, er, Fiction. 'Friction'? Ooh, it's heat. Oh, ha ha ha, that's good." How childish! It's like a really poor kid's essay at school. "I'll substitute the word "friction" for "fiction" every time!" You'd get "3 out of 10 -- See me" as your grade! Not really the great white burning hope of a new Punk universe, you know?

TB: But it got you a single and got people to notice you.

AP: It got us on some TV shows! We were on a very famous TV show for kids called "Magpie." Of course, every young boy fancied the Magpie presenter -- Jenny Hanley. And so to actually get on the show was something -- and to come away with the t-shirt!

So, yes, that was something. As for the guitar, as you know, in those days I liked that kind of scratchy skank guitar. I was determined to be heard, and if I was playing downbeats all the time, I knew I'd get lost in the bass and drums, so I looked for the funk between what the bass and drums were doing. That was most likely the upbeat, which propels the song along rhythmically better.

TB: Does that mean you would write the song, show it to the band, and then re-write your part, to get out of their way? I would imagine you wouldn't write it with that skanking feel, because maybe they'd then accent the same beats as you.

AP: You know, I think I did write them with that in mind! How it fell out at home for me would have to be how I played it, because I was even crap at learning my own things. How I grabbed it initially -- what became the initial spark of it being created initially -- I would have hung on to that. So, if I was stamping my foot on the beat, then my guitar playing would be on the off-beat, because I'd be thinking, "This is where the drums are going, where I'm stamping my foot."

I wasn't smart enough at that time to re-arrange myself. I could hear what the others were doing, and if it wasn't quite right, I'd try to guide them in rehearsals toward what I heard in my head -- "No, could you make that more melodic," or "You're getting in the way there, could you play an octave away from me at that point," or "Can we try this drum pattern out" -- whatever was needed. That was the "demo." At that time, band rehearsals were what later became the demo, where I'd experiment with that stuff myself. In band rehearsals, you're doing it with people. They're almost like your session men. I know that sounds cruel, but that's how it worked.

They'd be coming up with ideas all the time, too. They'd be suggesting, "What do you think of this? Do you like the sound of this?" "Ooh, that's nice -- yeah, that's better than the idea I had. Let's put that in." I was always very well open for any ideas anyone had. If they were better than the idea I brought up, I had no problem with using their idea. It wasn't, "Well, my idea's best because it's my idea!" No, if they've got a better one, that's going in the song.

TB: That's the reason why you go into a band in the first place. You want that additional input and perspective.

AP: Sure. That additional input is key. I miss that now. I miss the situation where I bring up an idea, and someone says, "Yeah, that's not bad, but try this -- this might be better." That way, the clay gets squeezed to a higher and higher peak. It's very difficult to do that on your own. You have to have a sense of -- not conflict, but there has to be...

TB: A sense of objectivity.

AP: Objectivity and input that is, let's face it, better than you were initially thinking would be right for a song or for a pattern in the song.

TB: Sure, because it's a new dimension. It's not all just coming from one place.

AP: Exactly.

TB: So, let's talk about the solo on "Science Friction."

AP: [laughs] This was a time where I didn't feel confident enough about playing. I just wanted to make a noise, I think. I was still stuck in thinking things like, "Okay, this is a short, sharp song, so therefore the solo or any kind of melodic break that I'm responsible for on guitar has got to make a thrilling noise." So, I found myself falling into -- and it's not something that was originally a natural thing for me -- a lot of old, almost-'50s Rock-and-Roll cliches.

TB: You kind of start with that on this song -- sliding down the neck with that interval...

AP: That's really a lock-off of an old '50s Rock-and-Roll record -- but those records meant nothing to me!

TB: But then you kind of turn it around and do that thing where you find the harmonic on the string while you're picking it.

AP: That's Rory Gallagher's legacy, you see. He was good at squealing. It was like, "Well, if Rory can make it squeal, so can I!" [laughs] You trap a tiny little bit of plectrum right close to your nail, so you're hitting the string twice -- once with the plectrum and a nanosecond later with your nail, so it creates that squeaky harmonic.

TB: Right. The first person I really heard doing that was Robbie Robertson, from The Band.

AP: Yeah, Rory's really good at that. He'll play almost whole solos like that.

TB: So, is there anyone else besides Rory whom you'd cite as an influence on that solo? Anybody that comes to mind?

AP: No, not really. At the time, Barry's crazy keyboard sounded to me like some sort of nightmare fairground, and what do you hear in a nightmare fairground? You hear a kind of calliope from hell and, over the cheap sound system, old Rock-and-Roll records. So, that sort of essence of old, reverb-y Rock-and-Roll guitar -- I felt very pulled to that on the first two albums. You can hear that all the way through the little guitar spots on those albums.

TB: And you were even doing that vocally, weren't you.

AP: Yeah! I'm part Buddy Holly, part Steve Harley. "Why do you sing like Steve Harley?" Well, I'm trying not to, but I did it because of the crappy PAs -- you can't sing 'ee' sounds, you have to sing 'aw' sounds. But don't even get into my voice -- that's a whole other interview.

TB: Right -- you wanted to cut through, and you were learning to sing, and everything else.

I had posted "Set Myself on Fire" as what I thought was a good example of your early guitar playing. I wanted to ask you your opinion of that song, and also ask a more general question regarding how you felt about Colin's songs -- did you feel kind of liberated or free to be more expressive on the guitar on his songs?

AP: Yes, absolutely. "What's he singing about? Oh, okay, so I'll play this." You could dive in with your own impressionistic kind of things. Whereas Barry or Dave might be the one lumbered with learning the chords, yours truly here preferred to sort of skate over the top, either using repetitive patterns or little signature things here and there.

So, in "Making Plans for Nigel," Dave would be the one doing the real work of playing the chords -- that G, E-minor, B-minor, I think they are -- and me, I got to find those little weird repeating patterns. I gave myself the luxury chocolates, if you see what I mean. [chuckles] I'd raid the box first, and then it'd be, "Dave -- or Barry -- you play the chords, because I have another idea of I want to do here!"

TB: Well, it's only fair, because you were having to play the chords on your songs while you were singing, right? You couldn't do the fiddly bits there.

AP: Yeah, there's that, but there's also the fact that I was so shit at learning things! If you wanted to get a song down quickly -- "We've got to rehearse this song quick, because we've got to go through two songs tonight." "Okay, if you want this learned quickly, you should let me find something I can learn on my own, rather than trying to learn something you want me to learn." It was a necessity thing. It was really difficult for me to learn other people's stuff.

TB: Do you think you've improved on that?

AP: A little. A big step for me was doing that Beefheart tribute thing [Fast & Bulbous: A Tribute to Captain Beefheart], which you see people arguing about online. Some of them think that it's actually Beefheart doing it. Which is great!

TB: It must have been tough to do.

AP: Dave was doing the thing where he takes his favorite tracks and recreates them, so I thought I'd try the same thing, and throw myself in the deep end by picking apart a Beefheart track. I went for possibly the easiest thing on Trout Mask Replica -- okay, maybe "China Pig" is easier, because that's just sort of a slappy Blues thing in one chord -- so "Ella Guru" is the second-easiest thing.

Jesus that was difficult to un-do! I had to copy the drums, which change every couple of bars. So, I had to work all that out, and try to program it into the Korg DDD drum machine, which is what I had access to at the time.

Then, with the pan on the stereo, I was trying to figure out what the guitars were doing, but it was really, really difficult. Of course, I didn't know at the time that they were using different tunings! So, I had to not only pick out what they were playing, but learn it in conventional tuning!

TB: And you just about broke your fingers doing that, probably.

AP: Oh, absolutely! But it's like an anatomy lesson -- "There, we've killed the frog, now we're going to cut it up. Oh, that's how it works."

TB: Did that give you some insights into Dave's guitar playing, and why he does things like Remoulds? There are a lot of people out there who follow that approach, where they will dissect another song to get inside the head of the songwriter or guitar player or whomever.

AP: It does give you a picture of how a certain band works. "Oh, okay -- he uses more of that tone. Now I'm really looking at it, really listening to it -- he's got that tone, and he kinds of fits inside it with a slightly spikier tone. He's playing down there, the other guitarist is up here, yeah, they're not in each other's way -- what's the bass doing? My god, he's playing part chords and part runs!"

So yeah, picking out the Beefheart thing was quite a learning curve for me. That gave me a whole new appreciation of listening, and I think my listening skills actually improved just doing that exercise.

TB: Sure -- like anything else, the more you do it, the better you get at it.

AP: Yeah. That, for me, was a big jump in being able to pull apart other people's music, because I was thrown in the deep end. After all, it was something from Trout Mask Replica. That is the deep end musically, I assure you! [laughs]

TB: So, let's step back to "Set Myself on Fire." Tell me a little bit about the guitar part on that song.

AP: This song, as far as I can remember, was virtually brought up in the studio. I think it was a last-minute addition. Maybe we kicked it around in rehearsals once or twice before being in The Manor studios and making the album. I don't think we played it live before then, because we decided on the shape of it as we were recording.

We recorded quite a few tracks that we never used on that album. It's amazing -- we did the album in something like 10 days, but during those 10 days we were also away doing TV shows, then coming back to the studio; we were doing interviews with the press, then going back in to the studio; we were playing more songs than we needed, just in case we found something we could use that we weren't suspecting would be usable; we were trying out some Dub techniques -- that was a hell of a busy 10 days!

This song came up in the studio, and it was a case of trying things out. For example, I think Barry used a Wurlitzer piano for the first time. That's not his normal piano on that, if I remember correctly. It's more that brown, low-end of the Wurlitzer. And we didn't know what was going to happen in the middle. That was literally improvised.

TB: Where you're doing all the slipping and sliding?

AP: Those little part-notes. I was enjoying dubbing myself singing, in "All Along the Watchtower," so I kind of enjoyed dubbing my guitar playing, by kind of self-punching-out notes as I'm playing. I like the idea that it's going to kick into the echo, and you'll hear these little holes and stuff. And the idea of little flames licking up -- to me, that sounded flame-y.

TB: So again, it's back to what you were talking about before -- where you're trying to show your own impressions of what Colin's singing about.

AP: Yeah, yeah, exactly. You're doing this impressionistic instant painting. [mimics fast internal dialogue] "Okay, he's singing about setting himself on fire -- flames, flames, the guitar's got to sound like flames." So yeah, that came up very quickly in the studio. When we worked on it live, subsequent to doing the album, it grew to be quite a monster -- as is shown on the version that came out on a B-side somewhere, with Dave in the band.

TB: So, let's jump around to some of the other songs in your early catalog. "Heatwave" is also something that pops out at me, because you do that...

AP: Oh, I loved playing "Heatwave."

TB: There's that cool little, quasi-Asian guitar pattern you play in there -- where did that come from?

AP: That's the little Rock-and-Roll Chuck Berry thing again. I'll grab a guitar and show you what I'm talking about. Hang on, I'll put you on speaker so I can use all three of my arms to play the guitar. [Plays classic Chuck Berry riff] That is the top-two-notes Chuck Berry thing, right? But, instead of it being in the '50s, at the Fun Fair, I went up another note and played it in a major fashion, which is a bit wrong for Rock-and-Roll.

Instead of the tone-and-a-half Rock-and-Roll interval, you make it two tones, and it becomes quasi-Chinese, quasi-Martian. I wanted it to be different, but I still wanted it to smell a bit of Rock-and-Roll fairground.

TB: How about "Neon Shuffle"?

AP: That was a song that we'd had when Steve Hutchins was in the bad. There are some demos out there, and we're playing it much more solid Rock-and-Roll, less jerky and less squeezed up. The more we played it, the more squeezed up and jerky it got, and by the time Barry Andrews was in the band, and we're cutting it as the final track on White Music, it had become very squeezed and mannered.

TB: I remember seeing a video of you on a local Swindon TV show, doing a version of this with Jon Perkins on keyboards, but with you singing.

AP: I'm singing it, yeah. So, we played it as the Dave Cartner-era Helium Kidz; then we played it as the Snakes incarnation, which was myself, Terry, Colin and just the singer, Steve Hutchins; we're playing it when Jon Perkins joins that combination and we're momentarily a five-piece; and then Steve Hutchins is out, and we're playing it as a four-piece XTC with Jon Perkins; then he leaves and Barry joins, and we're still playing it! So we're squeezing it for two years.

But the actual chords that make up the main riff are quite exotic. It's a C7, but you're throwing in a three-note creation of a G chord in there as well. If you were to play the chords placidly, they're very different-sounding. In fact, I revisited that very chord change for the song "Beatown." Slightly different key, I think, but same approach. It was too good a chord change to waste on one song! [laughs] Because I felt I discovered that chord change myself. I'm right on the octave, and it's the notes D, G, B -- you're dropping that over the top of your C7.

TB: The other thing that struck me, guitar-wise, on White Music is "X Wires," ["Crosswires"] where you and Barry battle it out.

AP: Oh, you know, as far as I was concerned, "Crosswires" was not even in a key. And the more we played it live, it got more and more free-form and away from even the patterns that were rehearsed. Let me pick up the guitar again -- [plays first interval in song] there's that interval, which just says "Emergency, out of the way!" That's the notes of C and B. And I guess the other chords I'm playing are centered around C-minor.

But, live, it just became a Jackson Pollock painting where everything was permitted. The only thing that was the same every night was the drums. Colin's bass playing would be roughly the same, but then he'd go into odd things. Sometimes he'd sing the lyrics or just make noises, and definitely, Barry and I would be fighting each other with musical brushes and cans of paint.

It became so outrageous that if you didn't listen to the drums, you wouldn't know where you were in the structure. Every night, we'd blow this thing out of the water, by taking it as far as it could go. I really used to look forward to that in the live set, because it was anarchy. I never really knew what the chords were to it! [laughs] You'd capture it once, in a recording, and then that was it. You forgot that, and live was a different thing.

Funny you should mention that -- I really used to love playing that live!

TB: Did you guys develop that live before you took it into the studio, or did the studio come first?

AP: I think it existed before we recorded it -- because we're pretty tight on that in the studio. So, I seem to remember kicking that around live before we made the album. But certainly, after the album was made, you feel like you've captured that, so you feel as if you can then do anything with it. That song became a launch pad for Barry and I to battle each other sonically. It was very thrilling to play live.

TB: So let's look at Go 2 a little bit, and then take a break, because Dave's entrance into the band was another watershed in terms of guitar playing.

AP: That was another big jolt, yeah.

TB: You and I have talked about "Meccanik Dancing" before, but obviously one of the big things about that song is the way it announces its arrival -- and the album's arrival -- with those dissonant chords.

AP: Like I say, every time I pick up the guitar, I try to play something I've never played before. And that means being willing to make mistakes. Because you don't know what you're playing, everything you're going to be playing is going to be a kind of mistake in your thinking. But that's one of the building blocks of creativity -- the willingness to make mistakes.

Ascending, it's the notes of C, B, A, then the notes of G, D, E -- and you slide up to the first one -- and it becomes this little piece of machinery. It's modern-sounding. Because the song's about people pretending to be robots, so you have this piece of modern, machine-sounding repetitive tic. If you heard it on a piano, played in 1920, you'd think it was very "moderne." [posh voice] "He's obviously synthesizing the factory, as the futurists see it, as a way forward." No, it was just a great little tic that I blundered into.

You throw your hands on, you don't know what you're doing, and you've got to be willing to grab something if it's a good mistake. If it's a bad mistake, you don't use it. If it's a good mistake, you've created something.

TB: "Battery Brides" is quite a different feel from this. I know, certainly live, you used to concentrate on using harmonics and other things to create a trance-like feel, but is there anything else that you remember about it in terms of guitar?

AP: I was a pretty new convert to Philip Glass around about that time. I'd known about Terry Riley since the late '60s -- things like Rainbow in Curved Air, In C and other things, but I was a pretty new convert to Philip Glass, and I did like repetitive patterns. To make this the dream state that the little Woolworth's checkout girl is in, the repetitive pattern was my solution.

So to be truthful, "Battery Brides" is a piece of ersatz Terry Riley or Philip Glass, but played on Barry's Krumar organ, with a little repeat echo on it. Not a million miles away from "Baba O'Riley," I suppose. Which, of course, contains a reference to Terry Riley in its title!

It was also the idea of playing these repeat things and dream things on the guitar. I'd bought myself a flanger pedal, and you could make that nice dreeeeam-sounding guitar -- you'd play harmonics into the flanger, and it becomes the sound of electronic heaven. You know, it's like the modern-day version of a harp -- when you get to heaven now, they give you a Les Paul and a flanger pedal. [laughs] "We're modern up here now -- you don't have to play a harp! Unless you want to go in the Joanna Newsom ghetto over there -- they're still into harps."

TB: [laughs] So, this would be a matter where the effect influenced the song and your playing?

AP: Effects are very important, and they can drive my approach. The other thing that drove my playing was the repeat, rhythmic delay on the organ, almost like a little ticker-tape machine spewing out tape or something.

TB: "Crowded Room" strikes me as different from the rest of the record, because it's almost a power-chord type approach.

AP: Yeah, that's a real Rockist-type song. Not my favorite one to play, that, but Colin wanted to play it live, so we did. It was just an excuse to crank it up to 11.

TB: You guys used to end sets with it, right?

AP: Yeah, because it was easy to play. You didn't have to think. It's just G, E-minor, G, E-minor. The reason I enjoyed playing it was because we used to sneak "Millions" into the middle of it, because that song's in this kind of modal G, and Terry was able to slip into his pattern.

TB: Since we're talking about Go 2, you actually came up with the guitar riff for "Millions" as part of a Barry song, "Things Fall to Bits."

AP: Exactly. It was a pretty decent song, actually. All of the songs he brought forward were good songs, and Colin and I both felt threatened that "our band" was being hijacked from under our noses by this person who never wrote anything for White Music, and then suddenly he brought up seven songs for Go 2!

TB: There were that many? I didn't realize that.

AP: Oh, yeah. I was a real bitch, because I went to Virgin and went, "Look, these songs aren't really us, are they?" And luckily, they agreed with me, and said, "Well, we don't think you should put some of these on." But I felt that my band was being stolen from me. I couldn't see what a good songwriter he was -- they were great little songs.

TB: As the guitar player in the band, did you approach Colin's songs and Barry's songs differently from each other?

AP: No, very similarly. Barry would usually have the chord work in his songs, and I'd be doing the motifs. So, for "Things Fall to Bits," he had the chordal work, and I found that little Chinese-sounding riff. I thought, "Well, things fall to bits. What things fall to bits? If they're made in Hong Kong, if they're cheap imports, they fall to bits. So I'll come up with something that sounds cartoon Chinese." Which then became the motif over the top of "Millions" later.

"Things Fall to Bits" had excellent lyrics. It was about things being made to be disposable. But there's Barry coming back from the pub with Terry very drunk, and insisting on Terry doing backing vocals, just because it's a matter of, "Oh, power to the people, man -- you've got to involve the drummer." It was like, "C'mon, Terry can barely stand, and you're getting him to do the vocals?" It was just street-cred gone stupid.

But, on Go 2, I think the guitar doesn't stand out as much because the song is gaining importance. When Barry walked out of the door, a lot of the sense of musical adventure walked out as well, because of Barry's irreverence. You know -- the kind of irreverence that would purposely fuck up a track by insisting on putting a drunken Terry Chamber doing vocals on it. But that irreverence would also be very healthy, because he would also challenge you by playing usual things that were really "ouch" -- in fact, very "ouch" at times.

And then, he'd have an attitude of, "I'm not going to play the organ on this tour -- I've bought a saxophone."

TB: Kind of like Spud Taylor!

AP: [laughing] Exactly! Kind of like Spud.

TB: That's funny -- it's so different compared to Dave's role in the band, where he was the traditionalist, and the man who brought all the "book learning" to you guys.

AP: Oh yeah! When Dave came in, the Virgo came into the equation, and brought all the discipline with him.

TB: Which was good for you guys, in a way.

AP: Which was great for us! When Barry walked out, I thought, "Jesus, that's the end of us! That's our sound gone. That's our musical adventure gone." And then Dave came in with all his square-ness and ability to do it by the book, and that opened a new era for us. It was good, because it was chiming with my desire to be a better and better songwriter. You need the discipline if you're going to be writing good songs. You don't need to be exploding everywhere.

TB: And he provided a really good foil for you, in that you were already unconventional in a lot of the ways you approach things, and he provided balance.

AP: Sure. He became the square mirror, if you see what I mean. And also, he could play like anybody. You know, you'd say, "Can you do something that's a little bit Hendrix-y there, just in that little bit?" "Oh yeah, you mean like this?" And of course it'd be just right. He could do anything. "You want that bit kind of like Skunk Baxter? Alright." He could play like anybody. But that's fodder for the next interview!

11:51 PM

©2010 by Todd Bernhardt and Andy Partridge. All Rights Reserved.