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Ask Andy your music questions

ANDY Partridge is a Swindon legend (butchers pronounce it leg-end, he tells us) — and now he's at your service, ready and willing to answer any of your music-related questions.
He first rose to fame with XTC in 1977 at the tip of the punk explosion and is still a highly respected member of the music community.
Everyone will remember hits such as Sgt Rock (Is Going To Help Me), and Senses Working Overtime and now, after 30 years, XTC and Andy have more than 30 albums to their name.
The band still have a loyal worldwide following and have even inspired tribute bands such as XsTatiC, The Fuzzy Warblers and the Simpletones to name but a few.
In September an XTC Convention saw fans descend on Swindon's 12 Bar venue to celebrate the band's music.
As well as being a singer, songwriter and guitarist, Andy has been a record producer, run his own label, been a broadcaster on radio, appeared on numerous TV programmes and written songs for other artists, as well as penning film and TV music.
He has worked with the likes of Stephen Duffy, Talking Heads, Blur, Jamie Cullum, Harold Budd, Thomas Dolby, Riuichi Sakamoto, Terry Hall, Cathy Dennis, Joan Armatrading, Robyn Hitchcock, and the list goes on.
What he doesn't know about the music industry probably isn't worth knowing.

Your Questions

Chatting on Chilean TV
Recently I saw a very old Chilean National TV interview to The Police

Stranger than friction...
Been a long time fan - I remember having Science Friction played to me in Flashback Records

The benefits of hindsight
The music business has always been sort of a fickle monster...

It's a tricky one...
I want to learn the three chord trick, do I have to cut off three of the strings on my guitar?

How do you feel about your songs in adverts?
I could ask you questions all the time, if allowed. Here's one...

Ever feel nostalgic?
Before anything, sorry about my English and now (from coast to coast) the question...

How's that finger of yours?
I'm waiting impatiently for some new fuzzy tunes but how is your left ring finger doing?

What would you like us to take away from your music?
It's been 30 years since 'White Music' hit the streets, and now it seems to be the general consensus that XTC were one of the most important and influential bands to emerge since...

A fundamental question
Why are women so different from guys?

Sounds like early XTC...
I'm sorry, but I assumed that he had asked you if he could make a 'SUPER-MASH' based on the music of XTC...

A game for your amusement
Hello me 'aul chipped china, it's Thomas your shiny silverback friend and co-writer from dreary old Dublin town!!

Imagine the decadence...
Dear Sir Partridge, As a long-time admirer of your supreme songwriting prowess, I have a somewhat esoteric question...

Would you listen to amateurs like us?
I've been an XTC fan since 3D-EP, and actually got to hang out with you guys after a gig at Georgetown University in Washington, DC during your "Drums and Wires" tour...

Remembering the old days
I now live out in Mallorca been here since 81(have found a nice 4 piece band) cross between the Who/Yardbirds have produce few demo's (own materiel) but been out of the business for over 30 years now where do i begin??

Advice on tinnitus
Very sorry to hear of your tinnitus, as I lost the hearing in my left ear after an assault in 2002 which put paid to my musical career, such as it was...

A musical shopping list
I've been into your music since about 2001 (I was born after 'Black Sea' came out, it's taken a while for me to catch up to your stuff)...

How would you do things differently?
I dabble in recording, but I promise not to say anything more about that...

Hello from Holland
I'm a Dutchman (& in my forties) and you guess: in possession of a lot XTC - and Fuzzy Warbles records...

How did you get to do that?
Question one: As a fan of The Residents, I'd like to know how you got to sing on their wonderful "Commercial Album", and do you still enjoy what they do?

Will Swindon ever produce another XTC?
I'm in an unsigned Indie rock/pop band from Swindon...

Do you know John?
This is a bit of an off topic question but I wondered if you have ever had any music dealings or connections with John McManus?

Would you like this tape?
I have in my possession a tape labelled 'XTC in concert' which I recorded from the BBC many years ago...

How can I sell my songs
I saw the piece in today's Advertiser about your Q&A on the music industry and would like to ask you for advice on some songs that I have written...

Looking for work experience
My name is Chloe Crabtree. I have recently graduated from Southampton Solent University...

Where should I send demos?
Where is the best place to go, or to send demo's to regarding old sounding and original TV music? Would anyone be interested?

An instrument of torture
Rooting around in the loft I discovered a mono tape 3Helium Kidz live in rehearsal at Hook Village Hall2

Changes in copyright laws
I had recently heard that there is to be a change in European copyright laws...

Scratching the musical itch
Have you any plans to go further with Monstrance?

Clasical bigwigs
Does Andy have some thoughts on why the creative life differs in longevity between the classical and popular genres?

Spanish nights
Why for you kick my donkey in the b******s?

Do you have a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley?
Do you have a contact number/email for the Wootton Bassett band UNCLE JACK please?

Driving along in my automobile
Track 18? 'Senses Working Overtime'? Not that it bothers me, but 'Driving Rock Anthems'?

Going solo
Is your solo album gonna be song like on XTC or stuff improvised like Monstrance?

Are gigs bad for your health?
I also have Tinitus, do you have any advice on how you control it?

Red silk pantaloons
Did you ever manage to zip them up?

Selling dreams
What's the difference between a musician and a dog?

What's in a muse?
Are you still inspired by listening to John Lennon?

Do you consider yourself sort of Renaissance Mid-age troubadour (Trovador)?

Helium Kids
My ex brother-in-law states that you used to come around his house in Dean Street...

Fan forums
Is the XTC Forum permanently defunct?

Is rock dead?
How can a musician survive in MP3 bubble gum world without losing his mind trying to catch his pension and royalties?

Don't trust Thickipedia
Q. Alright, I'll pull the string...

What's that chord again?
What's the second chord of "Holly Up On Poppy"?

Methods of compositon
What is your composition method?

Stop the pop
Do you have a microphone and software combination that you would suggest...

Chatting on Chilean TV

Q. Hello Andy:
Recently I saw a very old Chilean National TV interview to The Police (summer of 81 during the Viñas Festival, in a break), Stewart Copeland was wearing an XTCs Drums and Wires worn T-shirt.
There was some kind of sympathy or friendship between the bands?, how was that time?

Saludos Amigo, cuida tu dedo! (take care of your finger!).

Ricardo Juarez Reyes

A. Hola Ricardo!
There was in fact,quite a good friendship,and if its not too immodest to say,a little rivalry,between ourselves and the Police.
Sting could be found right down at the front at many an early London gig of ours,picking up tips on how not to do it.

We toured quite a bit with them at one time,around Europe and the US,and spent many a lively afternoon on a tourbus playing backgammon,talking music or simply giving ourselves ballache by watching porn.
Of course they were the headliners as they had better hair and trousers than us and we'd drop them off at a nice hotel and then rumble on to a crappy cheap motel on the edge of town that was our intended hovel du jour.

Stewart Copeland nabbed a Drums and Wires Tshirt from us and virtually lived in it for a couple of years,you'll see it in countless photos and film clips.
Incidentally I had Stings phone number when he lived in Ireland,it was 3.The little village he made his home obviously never had many phone owners.


Stranger than friction...

Q. Hi Andy
Been a long time fan - I remember having Science Friction played to me in Flashback Records - the proprietor (Alan) thinking it would be "right up my street"

As school DJ I can remember playing it at full volume before the students arrived at the Headlands Association Friday night discos. I can remember Colin's dad coming up to the stage and asking whether we (me and mate Kevin Wilkinson) liked that and when we admitted that we did, he proudly told us that his son was in the band. A quick name check on the sleeve confirmed this and I know how he felt - my 18 year old stepson is in a band, good local reputation - prospect of some form of deal is very imminent.

Then on to watching you gig around town including Xmas gigs, albums, singles TV appearances and the gut wrenching feeling when you pulled out from touring.

Never stopped supporting and never stopped "boring" people with music by the best band to have come from Swindon and the best band never to have made it "huge"

And then, last week, I saw Science Friction at No.7 in a survey of most valuable records. The story was about a resurgence in popularity of vinyl.....did it ever go away.....

So, how do you feel about one of your records being in the top 10 most wanted.

Andy Poulton

A. Oh most poptastic Poulton,trouble is aren't members of Al Qaida in the top ten most wanted aswell? For a song as daft as that one its quite a bizarre honour.
The bigger question is "how did vinyl get pushed out by CD's at one time?".

As for the stopping touring thing,that saved my sanity and kept my interest in music intact.
If we hadn't come off the road I think we might have split a year or two later as I was personally sick of the treadmill.
Then you wouldn't have got our later,and best material.


The benefits of hindsight

Q. Hi Andy.

The music business has always been sort of a fickle monster. In hindsight, why do you think XTC never received such enormous international acclaim? Outside of what I read about the very poor treatment you had received from Virgin, do you think not touring was a big part of it? Do you ever wish that you could have taken XTC back out on the road?

For example, just today I was listening to "Mayor Of Simpleton" and compared to some of the other trite on the radio waves at the time (Milli Vanilli anyone?), I'm simply dumbfounded by the fact that the song didn't chart higher than 72 here in the States and 46 over in jolly old England.

Lastly, and while I'm certain I know the answer to this, I'll try anyway. Is there any possibility an XTC video compilation on DVD might see the light of day? I'm certain with licensing that it's probably not the most financially viable idea, but I'm not sure how much longer my videotapes will hold up and hoped that it maybe at the very least you'd get a laugh from the question.

Thanks for your time.

Craig Marciniak Maryville, TN

A. Craig, Craig, let's not be vague, he's not related to Marshall Haig. I fully KNOW down to my bones why international ultra-stardom somehow slipped through my pasty Penhill fingers. It's a melange (good word) of not having the right hair or trousers. Not having the money spent on the promo wagon. Coming from England's "comedy" town, therefore we couldn't possibly be serious, certainly in the eyes of the sheeplike British critics. Touring too much and too intensely in the wrong places (greedy management needing quick money, no regard for strategy or our health). Crap videos. Not representing a "movement", eg. mods, new romantics, metal etc. and really because our music needed a little work to get into it, you have to do the chewing if you see what I mean.

As for taking it back on the road. No, we had to escape from our bad situations contractually and I personally became sick of the road, I wanted to grow.

We are negotiating with Virgin at the moment to do something with our (wretched) videos, but the way seems strewn with inter-band tangles and squabbles so please don't hold your breath.


It's a tricky one...

Q. I want to learn the three chord trick, do I have to cut off three of the strings on my guitar?

Andy Scott

A. Oh Andy of the Antarctic. You silly Billy, of course you don't. Everyone knows you can only play a three chord trick on the flute.


How do you feel about your songs in adverts?

Q. I could ask you questions all the time, if allowed. Here's one:
Here in 'President Kill'-country (US), I've noticed a lot more 'obscure' songs being used in TV commercials (Joe Jackson's "One More Time" in Taco Bell, The The's "This Is The Day" for M&M's, Tones On Tails' "Go" for Dockers).

People have noticed the double-edged sword of using songs in commercials, and for all the 'sell-out' cries, the fact remains, I would assume these artists have made more money now than they ever did when these songs first came out. I'm hearing "This Is The Day" more NOW than ever. There's the sadness of hearing The Who sell cars, then there's the joy of hearing The Flaming Lips finally being heard by a large audience by..... SELLING CARS!

Your opinion, and what if they came to YOUR DOOR, with a sack full of money?

Vincent Cannata

A. Yo Vinnie baby, I've always wanted to say that. Hey I'm up for my music being used to sell almost anything (not arms dealers overtly, although EMI make parts for missiles etc). It's only music, it's innocent, it's not an endorsment to use that particular type of burger or car, or indeed any burgers or cars. That's an individual's choice.

I personally think that some of our/my music would be perfectly suited to ads anyway, eg. Stupidly Happy, I'd Like That, My Brown Guitar, to name but three.

Colins Frivolous tonight was used both for a car ad and for a moist wipe ad in Italy and Sweden (I think, could have been Norway??). Interestingly enough about six or so years ago McDonalds came to me with a proposition to use Stupidly Happy on an ad in Australia, of course I said yes, doesn't mean I have to eat the crap. Then the buggers changed their minds, bah!

Let's face it, with the interwoven and global nature of modern life NOBODY can be purer than pure, or untouched by the distasteful side of any purchase. Think of the millions of bad or polluting connections of simply driving to a store to buy a CD.

Later Vin.

Ever feel nostalgic?

Q. Hi Andy:
Before anything, sorry about my English and now (from coast to coast) the question:
Despite the fact that you can record music more easily nowadays, and spread across the world (i.e.WWW or FFF or whatever) do you feel nostalgic about the old ways (Vinyls, reels to reels, stencils posters?) even to record on a diamond-gramophone direct master.

Do you prefer to work alone at your own way? Because seems difficult share moods and troubles with other people?

Another question: Do you believe that exist a Life Cycle on every new band? (example: noisy hyperkinetic avant garde: first records, jazzy-folky-tonky middle record calm moody down tempo experimental last records). I have a lot of candidates for this life-cycle. Ok that's all, I hope you can answer me.

Saludos ven a vernos!!!!

Santiago de Chile
Ricardo Juarez

A. Hola my little Chile bean. As anyone with an ounce of sense or a pair of ears knows, vinyl sounds much much nicer than any digital format. Smooth continuous analog wave versus chopped up and re-glued steps of sound. The difference between the Mona Lisa and a model of it made in small Lego. So I do think mankind has made a big step backwards preferring quantity over quality. I would personally prefer to work on tape for the sound, but then computers are fast for editing, damnit! What a modern quandary.

Recording direct to disc would be fine for acoustic music, but as soon as you put an electric instrument into the blend relative levels are meaningless.

Working with other people can be a great joy but also the biggest pain in the arse you'll ever experience. It's all down to the mix of personalities. Working alone can be just perfect or crushingly lonely and over methodical, especially if you are the player and the engineer, the arranger and the mixer. Take your pick amigo.

Ricardo,I would say you have the average band lifecycle down perfectly there. If I might refine it further,it usually goes - young gangs become calmer bolder individuals, who later form loose alliances.
Be happy. Andy

How's that finger of yours?

Q. Hello Andy,
I'm waiting impatiently for some new fuzzy tunes but how is your left ring finger doing? I felt sad when you informed your loyal audience on FW#8 that you were afraid to be close to the kazoos.
Warm regards, Thomas (age 51), Copenhagen, Denmark

A. Thanks for asking, my kindly ol' Danish pastry. Well Thomas my finger has healed to about 85% of its former bendy digital glory, as the specialists had predicted .I can play pretty much as I used to but I have to say it doesn't quite have the power of before and it gets tired more easily. Oh well,could be worse,....I could have tinnitus, {humour}.

The Fuzzy Warbles series is finished for now, hope you got the whole set? Right now I'm wandering around like a headless chicken wondering what to do with myself next. It's the dilemma of having achieved more than I thought I ever would in the music world. But at the same time getting nowhere near a lot of my dreams and now being too old to make them ever happen, and I don't mean just being able to afford that harem. Middle age is the weirdest place isn't it.

What would you like us to take away from your music?

Dear Andy,
It's been 30 years since 'White Music' hit the streets, and now it seems to be the general consensus that XTC were one of the most important and influential bands to emerge since. Looking back -- through the personnel changes, punk snarls, studio perfection, and orchestral musing -- it must be terrific to know that you and your bandmates have affected the lives of so many of your listeners in a positive way. What would you like us to take away from the music of XTC? What would you like to leave as your legacy? In 100 years, how would you like music historians to finish the sentence, "Boy oh boy, that Andy Partridge was ____________"? (And, yes, one of the choices can indeed be "cryogenically frozen"!)
With respect and admiration, Ben Gott, Connecticut, USA

A. Ben Gott, Ben Gott, has not got what's not. But what's not forgotten is gotten by Gott.
I thought I recognised that typing. What would I like people to take away from XTC's music? Well I guess the same un-nameable pleasure that I get from my faves, eg. Beatles, Bach, Bee Gees, Bacharach, Beethoven, Be bop, Beefheart, and that's just a few of the B's. Not that I'm in their league, we're talking pure delight here, not merit. A legacy,.....my children I think, and one hundred years from now music historians will say "Boy oh boy, that Andy Partridge was ONE OF THE SONGWRITERS FROM ENGLANDS PAST THATS BEEN FORGOTTEN ABOUT." I have no delusions about any historical importance or longevity. If I'm considered obscure now, then I'll be totally off the radar in ten years time.

A fundamental question

Q. Why are woman so different from guys?
From...Your biggest fan stateside, saw you at Painter's Mill Music Fair (Baltimore, Maryland) with my ex-wife in 1982, unfortunately can't remember anything about the show (except Joan Jett spitting at us)...Jackson

A. ___Solid Jackson
Why is day different from night, chalk from cheese or Manhattan from Swindon? {why does my spell checker kick in any time I type Swindon?....there its done it again.}. I think you'll find that the Joan Jet {Posus notalentia leatherkex} will spit as a defense mechanism when it fears an intruder may be on to her lack of ability in any area. Handle them gently using a pair of Deadboys or Dickies albums as gauntlets.

Sounds like early XTC...

Q. I'm sorry, but I assumed that he had asked you if he could make a 'SUPER-MASH' based on the music of XTC. I wrote him and he said he had to put the idea on the back-burner. Now, since I've got your attention, I'd like to ask you about one band who has 'ripped-off' the sound of early XTC, but in a more respectful way. The Japanese band POLYSICS has a song called "For Young Electric Pop", and it sounds like the entire "White Music" album squished into one song. Have you heard?
Vincent Cannata

A. Polysics, I hear and I flatter. They make good boy nature man go go soda you rike poppy a music,yes?

A game for your amusement

Q. Hello me 'aul chipped china, it's Thomas your shiny silverback friend and co-writer from dreary old Dublin town!!
I invented this game a while back whilst driving to crappy gigs in a crappy van and thought you'd be the pefect man to play it. Pick 3 bands of the most polar opposites to play at what would undoubtedly be the worst/best festival ever!! You're allowed 3 sets of 3, I'll start ya' off. 1. Stackridge - Megadeath & Freddie & The Dreamers. 2. Pete Brown & Piblokto - Stacey Latislaw & Jo Boxers. 3. Steampacket - Take That & Al Jarreau. Surely you can add to that rogue's gallery Partsy?? How much would a three-day ticket be for festival number 2 eh??
Love - Thomas.xx

A. Thomas,you little tinker.
Fancy hunting me out laid here in the grimey corner of the Evening Advertiser "Dungeon of the stars". You rascal ,I ought to put you across my knee and...wait, {thinks, would my knee really want to off itself in such a ghastly manner?}. Okay, I'm up for it. Here's the top three headline acts over the three days of "the anti-Wheely festival". Do bring biodegradable tent pegs and Watneys party 7's. Lothar and the Hand People - the Nolans - Magma Racey - Stump - Val Doonican The Joystrings - Iggy and the Stooges - Vera Lynne Wow! Now I need to lay down. You've brought out the satanic Michael Eavis in me. You Magners breathed fiend.

Imagine the decadence...

Q. Dear Sir Partridge,
As a long-time admirer of your supreme songwriting prowess, I have a somewhat esoteric question. Imagine for a moment that back in the early 80's, you had a string of platinum singles to your credit, became every bit as much a household word as Michael Jackson, and had to wade through $100 bills to move about your house. Do you feel you would have followed the same path toward deep exploration of the muse, or might you have been dragged down by the decadent fame-inducing ego stroke and actually not had as rich a career (in the right sense of the word)?
Tom Slack
(an old fart who is still writing songs despite 30 years of anonymity and who doesn't have to care the slightest if what I do next bears any resemblance to what I did before)

A. Slacky Slacky Slackster, Fame and riches at a young age has been the ruiner of many a young band.
Bit like being propelled straight to the top of Everest and finding the only way you can go is down.For me failure and rejection has been wonderful, its the acid in my battery. You cant underestimate it. Each time you bring out what you consider to be a killer album, the best ever, and its ignored, it really fires you up to make the next one EVEN better. Embrace failure and rejection they are your best friends.

Would you listen to amateurs like us?

Q. Hello Andy,
I've been an XTC fan since 3D-EP, and actually got to hang out with you guys after a gig at Georgetown University in Washington, DC during your "Drums and Wires" tour. You told me then that you were friends with Bill Nelson (since John Leckie had also produced the Red Noise album), and I've read that you were a fan of Be-Bop Deluxe. Have you ever considered collaborating with him? Also, how come the original "Homo Sapiens" is only available on the "Upsey-Daisy Assortment"? I've always loved it but don't want to buy a whole album for one song (I have a little monetary sense yet). I think you should put out a CD of the whole series.
One last thing - are you ever open to hearing about projects regular folk (like us) are working on - or is it too much like amateur hour, or are you too busy with your own stuff? I also understand you wouldn't want to be deluged by an giving a hasty answer.
I just want to say thank you for all the enjoyment you've given (and continue to give) us through your music and words.
Neal Buck

A. Neal Buck,Neal Buck,he really doesn't give a fig {I really must work on that rhyme.}
I think John got the job of producing Red Noise because Bill Nelson liked White Music, ironic huh? Bill and I would talk of collaborating a lot some years ago as we had a postal correspondence going, sadly this faded as I got busier and I've considered firing it up again.
I think the series you mean is Homo Safari. This all came out on a CD some years back. Get tracking on ebay.
If you want to send in your recordings to my record label APE you can get an address from the website ape.uk.net ,they'll get a listen and who knows? Strum on sweet strumster.

Remembering the old days

Q. Hi Rocky, how's it going??
I now live out in Mallorca been here since 81(have found a nice 4 piece band) cross between the Who/Yardbirds have produce few demo's (own materiel) but been out of the business for over 30 years now where do i begin?? ref UK &US recording companies.
Remember you guys I Booked several venues in Swindon from 69 until 77(Pete cousins Teenage polecats managed them) we got deal with UK records good old days
Remember your Gigs at the Birds nest seems ages ago, last time I seen you was in Some bar in wood st you just got back from Japan, so if you can give me any contacts or advice please any help would be great.

A. Stuey baby
The music industry is extremely unforgiving. If I were you I'd just make music with some mates in bars or private parties, just for your own fun. Save yourself the pain of trying to compete in a cutthroat business. Pop is like football, a young mans game. You and I are now more manager/trainer shaped.

Advice on tinnitus

Dear Andy,
Very sorry to hear of your tinnitus, as I lost the hearing in my left ear after an assault in 2002 which put paid to my musical career, such as it was. I'm left but naught but a ringing ('that no one will pick up) where once existed the joys of stereo, spacial location, etc... the worst is, it's not even exactly on pitch, more of an A++, if you get my meaning.
I know you spent time in hyperbaric oxygen tents, as did I, and I'm very glad to know it worked in your case. My question is: to what degree does it affect your composition and general music appreciation? Besides the obvious depression and despair, I've pretty much come to terms with my deafness, but I no longer put on the headphones and take off for an album side, nor can I write... On the other hand, I'm no longer resentful of the fact that music still goes on without (and within) me (to paraphrase George who channelling Yogi Bear). What do you do, how do you do it? Even remixing your demos must have been a bit difficult?
Thanks for your music, which filled much of my hearing life with so much pleasure,
don device

A. Dear Old Donny
You are so right, tinnitus is horrible with a capital AAARRRGH! Thanks to a clumsy studio engineer and a pair of headphones at full volume on the mixing desk I now have the notes of high C and D screaming in my ears 24 hours a day. Luvverly. The only time in my life I've ever had suicidal thoughts was within the first two weeks of it happening, there was no escape. Torture. It cant be a coincidence that my musical muscle has wilted since the event and I do find my desire to make sounds has almost ceased to exist. I would liken it to having your clear stream of musical consciousness polluted by a spill of fluorescent effluent. For the past year I've been following the Jastrebov {spelling?} method, which entails wearing a pair of hearing aid like devices, one in each ear, that emit a constant white noise. Over 18 months or so this is supposed to retrain the brain to disregard its own workings and although you will never lose your tinnitus it should bother you less. I've also heard that positive meditation can be very beneficial in coming to terms with losing your hearing and being given an unrelenting high pitched scream in exchange.
Good luck.

A musical shopping list

Q. Hello Andy,
I've been into your music since about 2001 (I was born after 'Black Sea' came out, it's taken a while for me to catch up to your stuff)… and now it's 2008 and I've gotten most of the XTC/Andy Partridge there is to get (within reason/availability here in the USA).
I'd like to ask, where should I go from here? (I'll mention that I have picked up on (and enjoyed) groups you've dropped in articles, 'Tony Williams' Lifetime', 'Blue Nile'… and I'm already a fan of Beefheart, Beatles, Kinks, Wire, Talking Heads, This Heat, Random Hold, Can, etc - groups I know you know or I know you like…)
I do enjoy seeking out things, but I thought, heck, ask Andy a question that he might actually enjoy answering (or not!?) and maybe I'll hear get to some stuff I wouldn't get to on my own.
Also, my girlfriend and I are planning a trip to England sometime in the near future.. Got any recommendations as far as records/CD shops go? I'd like to pick up some things that are harder/more expensive to pick up here in the US.
Thanks very much Andy,
Peter Mack

A. Peter Mack, Peter Mack, beat him on his sunburned back. How's it dangling? Right, here's a list of some stuff to check out:
Judee Sill - first two albums
Crazy World of Arthur Brown - first album
Miles Davis - Live Evil
Eric Dolphy - Out to Lunch
The Mothers of Invention - We're Only In It For The Money and Uncle Meat
Patto - first two albums
Sonny Rollins - East Broadway Rundown
Bad Plus - These Are The Vistas
Charlotte Hatherley - Deep Blue
That should be enough to wet your brain for now. As for record shops in England, you've probably more chance of finding rocking horse faeces. They are so few and far between that I haven't seen one in years. Your best chance would be to buy the magazine Record Collector and follow up some of the many second hand shows they have advertised in there. Good hunting amigo.

How would you do things differently?

Q. I dabble in recording, but I promise not to say anything more about that. What I'm wondering is, knowing now what you didn't know when you began in the music 'industry', was it worth it? How would you do things differently? Having skimmed through Without You: The Tragic Story of Badfinger, it seems like the just about the worst shark-infested waters imaginable.
Cheers, Thomas
PS Wrapped in Grey has kept me warm & smiling on even the darkest days - thanks!

A. Me ol' pal Long Tom. Was it all worth it? That's a bloody huge question. To get it down to a manageable lump I'd say YES… It has to be really as I can't do much of anything else.
For anybody thinking of getting into the music mincing machine, don't. If you REALLY must you must, but it can hurt like hell. Would I do any of it differently? Yes, ALL of it. But then I wouldn't be me then would I? It's no good torturing yourself about past "what ifs", remember only a dog returns to his vomit.
I'm sure the record business ranks up there with the drugs trade, the arms industry and the film world.
PS. It's a toss up between Wrapped in Grey and a duffel coat.

Hello from Holland

Q. Hello Andy,
I'm a Dutchman (& in my forties) and you guess: in possession of a lot XTC - and Fuzzy Warbles records. Unfortunately I was planning to see XTC in 1982 (PinkPop) but it never happened, alas.
At the time there were a few live shows on radio from the last XTC performances in Paradiso (Amsterdam) and in Brussels. I heard you play a wonderful version of All Along The Watchtower. It never ended on any record.
Did you ever try to bring out material like this on CD at your own label? And how about video performances?
I once saw a photograph of you performing as a priest in a Dutch TV program 'Popkaravaan' (late seventies or early eighties). Or is it all too embarrassing? I hope not & to find some video (DVD) material of the group anytime (Youtube is a poor alternative). And do you (still) have any connections to the Netherlands at all?
Hans en Erica

A. To Hans the mans and his little speculaas Erica. XTC's mangling of Dylan's Watchtower ended up on our first album White Music, but be careful, it's not a dish to everyone's delight. Bit like Marmite. Yes we did play Varas Popkaravaan but it sounds like you've got to lay off the Gouda, I wasn't dressed as a priest, I simply had a black suit and black wide brimmed hat on. Do Dutch priests go for that high plains drifter look then?
As for "is it all embarrassing?", sure, of course it all is but I wouldn't want it any other way. Isn't everyone on earth embarrassed by what they did in their 20s? They'd have to be or they wouldn't have any great memories for when they get old.
Regarding videos, Virgin records own them all, so address all complaints etc to Virgin records, which are now housed inside the magnificent soaring structure that was once Richard Branson's denture case.

How did you get to do that?

Q. Question one: As a fan of The Residents, I'd like to know how you got to sing on their wonderful "Commercial Album", and do you still enjoy what they do?
Question two: Will the project proposed by Mark "Go Home Productions" Vidler ever happen? I hope it does. Love his 'mash-ups', and, who knows, it could create a 'new-wave' of XTC fans!
Vincent Cannata

A. Hey! Vinnie baby. The simple truth of the Residents rubdown was that they were fans of XTC and came to some shows in San Francisco. At one of these gigs they approached me and asked could I come over to their studio to sing on a track of the record they were working on, the Commercial Album.
I was delighted and of course agreed. They chose for the me the suitably Residential nom de mic of Sandy Sandwhich, put some coal in the headphones and off we went.
I had no instruction as to how any melody for the song went (titled Margaret Freeman) but was just encouraged to get odder and odder. I have most of their albums but haven't kept up on their work in the last 5 to 10 years.
I'm lost as to what the specific "Mark Vidler project" in question would be? Sorry, fill me in some more daddio.

Will Swindon ever produce another XTC?

Q. I'm in an unsigned Indie rock/pop band from Swindon. We're making melodic music centered around acoustic guitar and piano, kind of in a similar vein to Keane and Coldplay. The genre "indie" stretches far and wide, but we believe the kind of music we're making is commercially marketable and falls within the "popular music" category.
Swindon seems to have a thriving music scene at the moment, with a lot of buzz centered around young bands like The Alfonz and the forthcoming Swindon Shuffle festival (which we hope to be taking part in).
You've been there, seen pretty much most of it and bought the T-Shirt etc. In your opinion, do you think Swindon will produce another XTC?
Lastly, I've just turned 32, the drummer is 30, the lead guitarist is 33, only the lead singer and bassist are in their 20s. Are we too old to get signed? Are major record labels only interested in bands in their teens/early 20s?
Damien Davis, Keyboards/Backing Vocals

A. Dashing Mr. Davis. Will Swindon ever produce another XTC? Great Zod, it was a weird, unforeseen miracle that it produced the original one. You might be stretching your improbability drive motor to meltdown expecting another old fruit. Times where VERY different then and musical events were and are usually a collision between coincidence, available canon fodder, current tastes and alcohol. But it's not an exact science so who can tell? There may be another (ahem) renowned band from Swindon but they won't sound anything like XTC. No need.
The brutal truth on the major label/too old to be signed thing is sadly likely to be a yes. But things are changing, not least the record industry,so don't lose heart. Age is less important to certain markets but I wouldn't count on selling bucket loads to 10 year old girls if you're over 25 and unwilling to jump through hoops.

Do you know John?

Q. This is a bit of an off topic question but I wondered if you have ever had any music dealings or connections with John McManus?
John, who I've never personally, met is married to my cousin and has in the past played for a rock band called Mama's Boys, and more recently with the folk/rock band Celtus. He's now mainly involved in writing film music scores, but has toured with a number of high profile musicians and bands.
Many thanks, Mike

A. Merry Mike. You see I'm rubbish on names, never ever forget a face but names go straight in and out again. So who knows? I'd advise him to buy gold though.

Would you like this tape?

Q. I have in my possession a tape labelled 'XTC in concert' which I recorded from the BBC many years ago. Would you like a copy on CD? I could drop it into Colin (I live just around the corner from him) if so.
Best, Martin (Failed and frustrated musician (bass player) who now listens instead) and Sue

A. Me ol' mucker Martin, and the delectable Sue too. No thanks, I'm lucky enough (or unlucky enough) to have copies of all our concert performances we did for the beeb. You could burn Colin's address on a CD though if you like, I don't have that.

How can I sell my songs

Q. I saw the piece in today's Advertiser about your Q&A on the music industry and would like to ask you for advice on some songs that I have written.
Originally, they were written for my own pleasure in the hope that one day I might put them to use in a band, but I am too busy to go down that route so I am thinking of selling them on.
How would I go about selling the songs that I have written to a producer/artist/label? Who would I approach and how should I present the song (i.e. barebones music, music & vocals, highly produced mix)?
How do songwriters get paid, is it on a royalty basis or do you just sell the rights? If so what are good terms of sale for a song?
Hope you can help, many thanks in advance,

A. Dear ol' DB, selling songs these days is notoriously difficult.There was a time when a person could pen a tune and have it covered (recorded) by an artist and Bob's your uncle, or he's your uncle and your mum if you're from Penhill.
These days managers and artists pull the great "co-write" scam, which means they or their artists insist on changing a word of the lyric and getting involved in the creation of the song, even if they've never written anything before.
So why do they insist on hamstringing the professional writer this way? Yep, it's so they can take half of any profit from the publishing income.
A bit like expecting a great goal scoring performance from Wayne Rooney but hes got to have a complete amateur tied to his leg while he's doing it.
You can try demoing your songs and sending them in to a music publisher, but be warned, it's a 99.9% chance that you will hear nothing. Your songs will have to be frighteningly good to receive any attention, and if they are then be prepared to suffer the "co-write"scam.
Good luck, Andy

Looking for work experience

Q. My name is Chloe Crabtree. I have recently graduated from Southampton Solent University. Whilst at university I studyed graphic image making, my course was quite diverse covering 2d illustration video production and moving image animation.
Basically I am looking for work exerience in the music industry, I am currently a freelance designer. I have produced a few music videos for my mates music production company in Devon and he has posted a video on his Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=26115980696).
Personally I am a big fan of bands like the wombats, bloc party, Scouting for girls, the killers and Razorlight. My dad used to be in a rock band back in the 70's and is teaching me the guitar, whooo!
My myspace page is also www.myspace.com/chloesgraphics - please feel free to view my work.
If there is any chance of work experience that you know of, I am currently living in Devon in Torbay but I can travel to Swindon.

A. Chloe, no such thing as work experience, you're either doing it or you're not. YOU GOT TO START HANGING AROUND WITH AS MANY BANDS AS YOU CAN (whoops, not shouting, caplock got put on by mistake) and be offering your services for free.
If you're good you'll make a name for yourself. I suspect you've twigged that Torbay is not renowned as the centre of the modern music universe. Get thee to London, gal. All you need is a stick with some cheese in a spotted hankie according to pantomime logic.

Where should I send demos?

Q. I'm a 23 year old keyboardist/producer of electronic music with around 20 years of keyboard experience (started aged three). I'm a complete 80's freak - I love anything 80's and early sounding. As well as doing original 80's sounding synth tracks, I'm also very much into producing music for TV programs and 80's style space legacy programs (although it's not really 'for' just yet - as most of my work is still on my multitrack recorder).
Where is the best place to go, or to send demo's to regarding old sounding and original TV music? Would anyone be interested?
I really like old sounding stuff - and enjoy producing really catchy early sound.
Best regards, Gary

A. Well Mr Gary of the keys, sounds like you feel you've a particularly narrow niche there. 80's style space legacy programmes, hmmm? All I can suggest is to bombard TV production companies with your work. Not so much the actual channels, Channel 4 etc, as they commission smaller bodies to make the shows. It's them you've got to make yourself a pest to.
But I would aim broader, don't think in such a narrow band. Hit more with a shotgun than you will with a dart.

An instrument of torture

Q. Hello AP
Long time no etc

Rooting around in the loft I discovered a mono tape “Helium Kidz live in rehearsal at Hook Village Hall”

Should I either
1. Preserve it for posterity
2. Publish it for the grateful nation
3. Send it to the then lead guitarist for incineration?

Best regards
Yours nostalgically
Graham R G Rawlings

A. Mister Rawlings,it is my duty to inform you that you are in breach of European human rights laws having in your possesion a device that could only be considered as a "torture implement".

Play this turgid rubbish only to anybody you would consider an enemy,it will drive your friends away. More sinisterly,how did you come upon this aural equivalent of Polonium210?,musical Ricin?

The mono equivalent of a pair of planes into the twin towers of any normal mans delicate hearing?
Well Osama Bin Rawlings,I recommend you have this terrible artifact sealed in concrete a thousand feet below Salisbury plain,.......or just post it to me for safe keeping.

Changes in copyright laws

Q. I had recently heard on BBC world that there is to be a change in European copyright laws for songwriters and performers and wanted to know how you feel about having further compensation if the law goes through.
As always I love you very much and hope you are doing well.
Cecile Bellamy

A. The thing with copyright laws is,my little bird of paradise, A: They are very boring and B: They are rather unfair on our side of the Atlantic.

In a nutshell,US copyright law says that you can earn a royalty for the sale of your art for something like up to 70 odd years after.
Then it goes into the public domain and is up for grabs.In Europe its only about 50 years,hence Cliff is losing out on any sales of his earliest material and soon so will the Beatles,and so on.

I think you'd all agree it would be nice for us old folks to get our pittance as a pensionwell its a pittance in my case,not so much McCartneys.

PS. The name Bellamy,no relation to one of my all time favourite artists Frank by any chance?

Scratching the musical itch

Q. Andy,
Your Monstrance project with Barry and Martyn seems to have acquired some legs. Best thing you've done in years, I'd say.

Have you any plans to go further with it or has it served its purpose by scratching that particular musical itch?

And if there are further plans, would they include live performance?
That's two questions...

Yours in celery,
Cardinal Biggles

A. Prendiville,Prendiville,he's the mayor of Splendiville.
Thankyou for the compliment old fruit,and yes i'd like to go further with it.

As in expanding the line up a little.Barry and I have spoken of maybe an acoustic bass player and/or a trumpeter.Who knows,the gateway to a whole galaxy of improvised mayhem might just have swung open.

I think we've ruled out live for the simple reason that only about a fifth of what we do is anygood,the rest is binned.

That wouldn't auger well for a live audience,ten minutes or so in every hours performance being ok,the rest ouch.

Clasical bigwigs

Q. Andy said in an interview that maybe he has retched the creative possibilities he has. it is a question that has been on my mind for quite some time about the longevity of classical composers composing versus the brief period that many song writers in pop/rock and related genres have.

Does Andy have some thoughts on why the creative life differs in longevity between the classical and popular genres?
from an early and baroque muisc lover
gordon balfour

A. Dear ol' mr.Balfourshawmsandaviol you early music fiend you.Lets see what we can do for you.

Rock and pop writers seem to have a short but exotic shelf life,bit like a strawberry.Where the classical composer was more potatoesque in his stolidity.Pop people have to make quick turnovers,catching a trend,knock this up quick before the group disbands,more more,quick quick.

Your bewigged concerto boy was usually paid by a wealthy patron to spendalmost as long as he wanted to write a piece in praise of the patron,their house,their marriage etc.Dare I say it one is a quantity writer,the other is quality,but of course some pop works have been earth shatteringly good while some classic ditties have been rubbish.

The modern climate is fast cook microwave generally,but not exclusively.

Spanish nights

Q. When on holiday in Spain many moons ago did the spainish farmer playing his mandalin say to me ( in a spainish voice ) hey you why for you kick my donkey in the b******s ?
from tonethelone

A. Well,why did you Anthony,come on .......we're waiting for an explanation young man?

Do you have a copy of Fly Fishing by JR Hartley?

Q. Andy
Do you have a contact number/email for the Wootton Bassett band UNCLE JACK please? Thanks

A. Yes thanks Rog.


Driving along in my automobile

Q. Hi Andy,
We've been compiling a 'Desert Island Discs' type music collection for our joint 50th birthday and needed some tracks that we only owned on 8 track. So, we thought about buying some collections such as 'the best 18 tracks to pick radishes to', or 'night driving music, watch out for the seals'. One we did buy was '18 classic driving rock anthems'.

Meat Loaf, Billy Idol, Deep Purple, Dr Feelgood, all excellent 'driving rock anthems' as it says on the box, but track 18? Senses Working Overtime'? Not that it bothers me, but 'Driving Rock Anthems'?

More puzzling is of the 5 artists pictured, XTC feature along with Mr Ferry, Mr Meatloaf and The Stranglers.
Martin and Sue

A. Driving rock anthems eh? Never heard of 'em.Are they a good group?

Going solo

Q. Hey andy my name is Alex and I was wondering if your supposed solo album was gonna be song like on XTC or stuff improvised like Monstrance?
Thanks for your time, and thank you for filling my ears with the greatest music ever written.

A. Dear ol' Alex,you seem like a smart bunch.This rumoured solo album of mine is just that at the mo,a rumour.Started inadvertantly in an interview with Billboard by Robyn Hitchcock,who i'm working with on and off at the moment.

Although I have the basic idea sketches of about 350 songs i'm not sure that I like the direction any of them are going in. Partly a desire not to repeat myself and partly a lack of confidence mixed with a dash of healthy disgust about the business of music.

Once I get my head sorted out on this matter there'll ether be a solo record,or not.
Sorry that I cant be more definite ol' chum but my skip of a brain is in a bit of a muddle at the moment on the next record front.

Its probably hormonal.

Are gigs bad for your health?

Q. Hi Andy,
Heard you some time ago on Mark Radcliffe's night time show a while back, not his show with Stuart Maconie, you were talking about TINITUS amongst other things and that you probably aquired yours as a result of "accoustic shock".

I also have Tinitus, possibly from to many loud gigs, do you have any advice on how you control it? and what can irritate it, diet, alchohol etc..
Viv Gough (Mr)
Wootton Bassett.

A. Howdy mister Viv. Sad to hearbut quietly that you have tinnitus too,more properly "tin ear tus" in my case maybe.

Yes,I was indeed given it with an acoustic shock administered by a clumsy recording engineer down some very powerful headphones at full volume.

Lots of loud gigs will build up over time to hearing damage and tinnitus so if you attend more in future do get some soft ear plugs.
Even the loudest of metal bands wear ear protection on stage,tuh! softies.

I tried lots of things to "stop hearing" mine,it never goes away so its more a case of teaching your brain to ignore it and more importantly ignore its debilitating mental effects.

For a year now i've been seeing a tinnitus specialist in London by the name of Jacqueline Sheldrake of 32 Devonshire Place, who has set me up with a pair of noise generating ear devices. Part of the Jastrobov method.
Although its a long term process the tinnitus bothers me less now and hopefully over the next year I'll learn to ignore it virtually completely,fingers crossed.

Track her down if your tinnitus plagues you greatly.

Good luck Viv.

Red silk pantaloons

Q. Hi Andy I used to work with you many years ago in the record department at Bon Marche (now Debenhams).

I remember that you had trouble with a pair of red satin loon pants - those were the days when you had long hair. Did you ever manage to zip them up?


A. Paulio, Were you the boyfriend of that stunningly beautiful girl Trudy who worked with me on the record counter? Come to think of it what man is going to reply "NO" to that question?

Ah! the loons of deathwell you try getting in to them,truly hip hugging, floor sweeping, bollock crushing trousers of foreverness.

These fashion failures just seemed to make my legs look like I'd borrowed them from a passing Flamingo, as I was a pipe cleaner thin 8 stone specimen of geekhood at the time.

As opposed to being a 12 stone specimen of geekhood now.

Selling dreams

Q. Hi again:
I supposed the answer for my last mail was NO, I need to buy the Heidi's tale first version according to my brother, you better read an ancient (Franco era) Spanish tale about What's the difference between a musician and a dog the answer is (obviously) : the dog knows when get quiet.

Circular times on its essence and shapes leads to the same, answers and questions they both take a long time to come but surely are the samecommunication doesn't matter perception.

Music talks me about frontiers and mood states, I saw a photographic show in the public library about the 80s and 90s era, and I thought the lost years I spent.

Surely and I hope you don't have to sell your dreams to see fame drew in the other people's faces.

An innocent guy

A. Probably not,no.

What's in a muse?

Q. Hi Andy,

Are you still inspired by listening to John Lennon?


A. Mister Steven,mister Steven,when he folds sheets they are quite even.

Well thats the musical content out of the way,now down to the serious matter in hand.I have to be honest with you old chap,I dont own any of Lennons solo recordings,only the Beatle material.Who, along with everybody else,I found inspiring/uplifting/humourous/fan quenching etc. at the time.

These days I tend only to listen to the Beatles on a technical front,as in "how did they do that particular thing musically or sound wise?"

People wrongly think i'm a Lennon fellow purely because of the specshis are a different shape to mine and i've worn this style almost continuously since 1957,quite a while before he thought they looked groovy.

But in truth i'm more of a McCartney man.More melodic than Lennon,equally as inventive,more innovative and the powerhouse behind the fabs from 1965 onwards.Oooh!,he had a better haircut than Lennon too.

Truth be,if Macca had been murdered instead,we would have seen his saintly stock rise in the heavenly trading index and maybe Lennon would have been rightly pilloried for making such a stinker album as Double Fantasy.Let the arguments commence!

Be well.


Q. Hi Andy
Continuing with a series of surrealistic questions while I was watching a little ray of sun passing through the window and making a stop in my little job.. have you ever figured out what happened, if you didn't have that breakdown in Paris while the band was almost at the top, or it was a final situation?

Do you consider yourself sort of Renaissance Mid-age troubadour (Trovador)?

Recently a bought a sampler (my dog make a piss on it after I sampled his barking) do you consider it (not the dog!) a valid musical instrument?

Take some great chilean wine

A. Ricardo, A la loco,a la loco,vino mucho,trabajo poco.

You are a surrealistic dude and thats for sure.You mean if I hadn't stopped touring would be have been as big as U2 or the Police? Yes and no.

I was being worked to death,constant touring,writing,recording etc. and our manager was insensitive enough to fail to see the affect on us all.

Mix in NO money from any live shows or record sales and the fact that I was struggling with terrible 13 years valium addiction withdrawal and you can see why I wanted of that treadmill.

Am I a middle aged troubador,no,not at all.I would say someone like Billy Bragg would fill that role much better.I prefer the quiet hermit life.

Anything is a valid musical instrument,whatever makes the noise Ricardo.

Helium Kids

Q. Hi Andy,
My ex brother-in-law states that you used to come around his house in Dean Street in your very early days as XTC and rehearse and generally mess about.

He also had around 4 or 5 old cassettes labelled XTC that he said were of you practising in his front room.

His name is Keith Bell - does this ring true to you?

I haven't seen him for years - the tapes are now in his Mums loft apparently!


A. Oh mister Colin,your ex bruv outlaw is telling you porkies.
Never rehearsed in Dean street,used to hang out in my girlfriends flat above ArtDEANS motorcycle shop,but thats one road down and under the bridge.Thats the only DEAN connection that I can think of.

Out of all the places the Helium Kidzwith a Z please used to rehearse that address is ringing no Keith Bells.

If there really are such tapes i'd be very tickled to hear them,but I bet they were made somewhere else,such as Hook village hall or in the garage of a roadie or front room of our London based singer Steve,that sort of venue.Get in that loft and call his bluff.

Fan forums

Q. Dear Andy,
Is the XTC Forum permanently defunct? Are you fed up with that style of fan interaction?

Would you like to increase the size of your..oops, hang on, that's not a music question. Sorry.

A. Les,Les he wears a fez. Whoops I mean keltik.
The XTC forum is at the menders.It crashed horribly and the company who hosts it for us are frantically trying to get access to all the data inside. To think,years of golden piffle and we cant get to it!

I'm not fed up with fan intercourse but it is a one man job,a certain bass player had to be prodded continuously to get off of his lazy arse and be involved.Now he's content not to do a bloody thing,just leave it all to muggins.

Ah well,its not such a chore and it means I get to have a good healthy rant now and again.

As for the size increase,well yes,but I do understand none of the treatments/tortures are permanent.

Be good.

Is rock dead?

Q. Andy:
My BBC English Course (on cassette!) is not working properly, but here I go again...

Personally I like that you guys don't turn in such a U2 or Police (they bored me) dinosaurs, How a musician can survive in Mp3 bubble gum world without losing his mind trying to catch his pension and royalties?

Here on my city I think theres no clear musical career only underground attempts, academics and philharmonics. We are not wild National geographic savage tribe who eats missioners, yummy yummy.

It seems that large (American-Japanese British) companies insist in controlling this issue and apply ancient "Elvis-era" policies; definitely the sex-drugs and rock roll system doesn't work well.

Do you think rock is on its last breath, or I am getting hysterical?

May be the smog and "pipeño-wine" are destroying my last neuron.
Yes sir, no sir.What do I do Sir?

A. Ricardo,Ricardo,he's made out of lard-o.
Phew! thats the playful insults out of the way,now to business.

"Is rock on its last breath?". Well matey,in my opinion YES.Its been on its last legs really since the seventies but seeing as there is the making of so much money involved its been kept alive artificially on a cash support machine by a greedy industry.Where are the innovators? Its all imitators!

Why is it that every musical act/band that you see sounds and looks like something from the early seventies,a supposed golden age of rock.The very term "indie" is a ghetto for people with a stunted conservatism that really has no place in NEW music,the belle epoch dreamers who con themselves and us,that they are inventing this stuff for the first time.

Probably the only new thing in rock was the open embracing of computers and samplers by the black music community in the eighties.The much needed shake-up of the net has fallen very quickly into the hands of "providers",record companies as we think of them are dying.Indeed,music has knowingly become SO downgraded that it is seen as fit for nothing more than a giveaway,a freebie vehicle for the more lucrative advertising.

It would be thrilling to see young folksand old making a true NEW music but this will have to happen outside the money mainstream.It will have to come from new or homemade instruments played by people free of the clutches of the past.It will have to come from people willing to break the old forms and upset our ears and sensibilities.

People not interested in fame,the black plague of the 21st century.To the barricades.

Don't trust Thickipedia

Q. Alright, I'll pull the string...

I found this on Wikipedia today:
2nd May 2008, Andy Partridge announced during a short interview with Mojo, that XTC will be back together before the end of the year and touring for the first time since 1982.

This is astonishing news to fans of the band who, whilst knowing that Partridge was speaking to Dave Gregory again, never thought XTC would play live ever again after so many dormant years.

Any weight to the claim?


A. Well me old Kev, somebody has got some crossed wires going for sure and what a mistake to read anything on Thickipedia. NO, we wont be getting back together again for any purpose in any forseeable future as long as I've still got a hole in my arse.

How do these rumours start? I suppose it's from the same source that gave the world snippets like "Andy wears armour and has a collection of more than 50 bicycles" (which journalists have actually asked me about in all seriousness).

Sleep well. Andy

What's that chord again?

Q. Hello Andy! Jeff Truzzi, from the XTC Forum.
It says here you're at our service, ready and willing to answer any of our music-related questions.

So, what's the second chord of "Holly Up On Poppy"? (The first being D major.) Is it(by any chance) ?

And since the Idea Forum has gone down go boom, don't you miss usmaybe just a little? We miss you.


A. Jeff,Jeff, he cooks on a NEF.

Of course I know who you are,and isnt it crappy that the XTC forum crashed and DIGITAL FOREST LTD havent fixed it yet,two weeks later.
I bet they'd love some complaining emails,hint hint.Now.down to matters musical.

Yes indeed you have the right chord,you do know that the bottom string is tuned down to D,making alot of those chords easier to get?.

Your transcriptions of my songs is legendary my house over, and I thankyou a million fold for your enthusiasm and skill.

Stay with it.

Methods of compositon

What is your composition method?

  1. Wake up in the morning (after a bizarre trip) with something in your head, suddenly singing ta da da du du , saying men this riff rocks! (Rolling-esque Method)
  2. Going to shopping an idea comes from a rotten eye of a tuna at the fish market, after a minute, like Clark Kent going to a public telephone cabin singing (the new song) into the answering machine of your house! (Costello-esque Method)
  3. In the loneliness of your house while watching TV, taking pieces from the beer-cereals-cheese cake jingles of the commercials, or whatever.(Lennon-esque method)
  4. As part of the rock-community spending some time at the Union-Rock-Syndicate while talking with your colleagues, writing in a little notebook every new phrase you hear from your retired-rockers, while saying everything counts ha ha! (Bowie-esque method)
  5. Working with the Powder Brothers looking for scissors and glue to hold part A with the chorus while looking in the big vinyl collection, or trying to make something hybrid between Mambo and Tango (Beck-esque method)

Ah ?


A. Ricardo,Ricardo,he's sculpted out of lard-o.
Sadly its a bit of method 2 mixed with a dash of method 3.and I taught Mr. Costello to sing into his answer machine.


Stop the pop

Q. Hi Andy,
Sorry to ask you such a stupid question- I'm a neighbour to you but haven't had the courage to ask you directly!

I've been trying to record my voice (I'm a hypnotherapist) onto CD via the PC (to reinforce sessions for those needing to relax and reduce anxiety, phobias or pain).

My old microphone headset picked up low level rumbles and my intermittent jaw click, popping sounds & sibilance (not relaxing for the listener!). Using “Audacity” software I cleared some of this but it took a lot of the richness from the voice and left it tinny and thin.

My husband gave me a decent microphone (Samson condensing podcasting kit with shockmount) for Christmas, but despite hours of trying different recording levels and positions and 3 different pcs, I'm no further forward and have sold it in frustration. Still sounded like a jumbo-jet was landing in the same room when I played it back.

I really don't know what to try next and I'm clearly a total novice when it comes to recording levels and frequencies- it's double Dutch to me. I need to set something fairly simple up so I can record stuff I write for people-but without having to set it all up each time - so I can leave it and come back when I have time, as I tend to make a lot of mistakes and need it to sound soothing.

Do you have a microphone and software combination (under £200 if possible!) that you would you suggest someone inexperienced like me could make something which doesn't irritate my clients to death? I'd be very grateful for any advice!

Best wishes,
Alex (Free Tibet)

A. Oh little Alex{free Tibet indeed},I have sympathy for your plight.

Trouble is the sort of professionally recorded things your trying to stack up against were probably done by trained engineers using 5,000 pound microphones through another 10,000 pounds worth of outboard gear, through very expensive convertors into a dedicated computer recording programme, in an acoustically flat sound proofed room.

In one short reply there's no way I can show you how to record voices beautifully, in fact even pointing you at more expensive gear is not going to help, you still need to know how to get the best out of it.

Its like trying to get a Rolls Royce performance out of a bubble car when one cant even drive. Let me see what might help.

Firstly you need to record in a small dead space. The room should sound not "reverby" like a bathroom or big empty room. If you need to make up a tent of quilts or wall of pillows to get the flat sound, do it. Under a table with a quilt hung over it is fine.

You will also need to make a POP SHIELD, this will stop Ps and Bs from sounding like explosions in the mic. Cheapest way is to go into a haberdashery type shop and buy a round wooden tapestry hoop. Then stretch over it a pair of tights {clean ones please} and clamp them in. This will make a wind break between your voice and the mic. Rig it up so that it's a couple of inches away from the mic and you'll hear the difference.

Rumble comes from low frequencies so basically you have to roll off the low end of your recordings to get rid of traffic sounds and the like. Do you have a recording page where you can alter the tone of your voice? If so, roll out all very low frequencies.

Also if you have any effects you can use then compression is a very useful tool. It takes down your loud sounds and brings up your quiet ones so your voice sounds more even.

Why don't you go and have a chat with a local studio for some pointers as well.

Good luck and let us know how you get on.

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[Thanks to Kay Stracey]
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Saturday, October 1, 2005

They're Still Making Plans...


BILLIE may have had more number ones but it is XTC who can lay claim to being Swindon's best musical export.

The band was lumped in with the post-punk New Wave scene in the late 1970s, but most fans will insist that they belong to a wider British tradition of intelligent guitar-based singles bands such as The Kinks and The Who — albeit that they have never, ironically, earned the accolades they deserve in their home country.

The XTC story started in the early 1970s when they formed as Star Park, playing as The Snakes, and then the Helium Kidz in 1973. The band toyed with two new names for a while, The Dukes of Stratosphear [Lawns — Ed.] — which would later become an alter ego — and XTC, and it was the latter they plumped for. After auditioning for Pye, Decca and CBS Records, the band — singer and songwriter Andy Partridge, bassist and songwriter Colin Moulding, keyboard player Barry Andrews and drummer Terry Chambers — signed with Richard Branson on the still comparatively youthful Virgin Records label in 1977.

THE START OF SOMETHING BIG The day XTC signed for Virgin in 1977. The band is pictured with the record company's boss Richard Branson, plus the mayor of the former Thamestown council Bill Turpin and his wife Marjorie.

Colin, who still lives in Swindon, says it was an exciting time — the band were pinching themselves that it was happening and were thankful to get out of their day jobs, which in Colin's case was being a groundsman for the council.

Charting singles — highest position in brackets (source: Guinness book of hit singles)
May 79 Life Begins at the Hope (54)
Sep 79 Making Plans for Nigel (17)
Sep 80 Generals and Majors / Don't Lose Your Temper (32)
Oct 80 Towers of London (31)
Jan 81 Sgt Rock (is going to help me) (16)
Jan 82 Senses Working Overtime (10)
Mar 82 Ball and Chain (58)
Oct 83 Love on a Farmboy's Wages (50)
Sep 84 All You Pretty Girls (55)
Jan 89 Mayor Of Simpleton (46)
Apr 92 The Disappointed (33)
Jun 92 The Ballad of Peter Pumpkinhead (71)

White Music (Virgin, 1978)
Go2 (Virgin 1979)
Drums and Wires (Virgin 1979)
Black Sea (Virgin 1980)
English Settlement (Virgin 1982)
Mummer (Virgin 1983)
The Big Express (Virgin 1984)
Skylarking (Virgin 1986)
Oranges and Lemons (Virgin 1989)
Nonsuch (Virgin 1992)
Apple Venus vol 1 (TVT, 1999)
Wasp Star — Apple Venus vol 2 (TVT 2000)

Waxworks: Some Singles 1977-1982,
The Compact XTC (Virgin 1985)
Live in Concert 1980 (Windsong 1992)
Rag and Bone Buffet (Geffen 1995)
Upsy Daisy Assortment (Geffen, 1997)

As the Dukes of Stratosphear
25 O'Clock (1985)
Psonic Psunspot (1987)

Because of how they looked and the time they were signed, XTC were, at first, lumped in with punk.

“We had tight jeans, drainpipe trousers and dirty daps (trainers),” said Colin. “They thought we were punk and basically there was a time when everything that was being signed for punk.

“It took them a while to realize that we weren't.”

But slowly the world caught on, and XTC found themselves afloat. After a few singles that failed to chart, critical acclaim followed for Life Begins At The Hop and Making Plans For Nigel.

“It was great to get some attention,” said Colin. “When we had the first couple of hits it was magic — we were invited on shows such as Crackerjack and we took everything to get our name over and the music that we were about. It was an exciting time.”

Having toured heavily for several years, the band decided to pull the plug on life on the road in 1982, as the stress began to tell on singer Andy Partridge, who suffered several illnesses and increasing stage fright.

Instead they became a studio-based outfit, but this did not stop their popularity, especially in America where they proved a hit on college campuses.

They became more reclusive, with Andy Partridge hitting the headlines in Swindon not just for music but for moving into board game design and slagging off his home town. In 1989 he said: “Swindon is a law unto itself. The people are not bothered about anything. They are so apathetic.”

Other pronouncements have followed, but anyone thinking about jumping on a bandwagon to give the man a rollicking should remember that not only have the band used the Swindon railway works railway hooter on one song — Colin's evocative The Meeting Place — but there are several references to the town throughout the tracks. Chalkhills And Children on Oranges And Lemons features the line: “Chalkhills and children bring me back to earth, eternally and ever Ermin Street.”

Colin says the appreciation the band reached in America in the early to mid-80s was another high point after the initial rush of being signed, but one of the facts that he is most proud of his entering the country's consciousness.

He says that in the years of Nigel Lawson's chancellorship when the Conservatives were in power in the late 1980s, he would open a newspaper and see the headline Making Plans For Nigel — and would know that he had been responsible for the phrase. Along with appearing on Crackerjack with the presenter Stewpot, he says that feeling is hard to beat.

The albums have got fewer and more far between, with 1992's Nonsuch and its attendant singles marking a brief return to the charts. The Apple Venus pair of records from 1999 and 2000 are the latest releases.

But the legacy is undiminished, and it could be argued that the stock continues to rise despite the inactivity.

The Guinness Who's Who of Indie and New Wave describes the music as “sparkling” and XTC as “one of the most original bands of the era”. It is a judgement that few of the hundreds of fans due to attend this weekend's convention in Swindon is likely to dispute.

XTC was launched on an unsuspecting world with the lineup of singer/guitarist Andy Partridge, singer/bassist Colin Moulding, keyboard player Barry Andrews and drummer Terry Chambers.

Around 1979 Andrews felt it was time to branch out on his own and left the band (he went on to form the moderately successful Shriekback) and was replaced by local guitarist Dave Gregory.

In 1982 Partridge decided XTC was no longer a live band and frustrated by this, Chambers left and headed for Australia.

XTC didn't replace him and used a variety of session drummers for recordings.

Gregory finally left the band a few years ago and XTC is now effectively a Partridge / Moulding duo.

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1 August 2005

Andy Partridge & Mid Life Crisis - The Roaring Donkey

by Flicky Harrison

REVIEW, SWINDON: FOR the favoured few a piece of Swindon music history was made at the weekend.

The lead singer of rock legends XTC, Andy Partridge, picked up his guitar for the first time in years to play with local band Mid Life Crisis at the Roaring Donkey.

For a musician to have his all time hero play with him on his debut gig is nothing short of wondrous.

Del Fry, songwriter and lead singer in the band said: “It was a great experience and an honour for me to have one of my all time great heroes play with my band.

“Most of our songs are written by me and Andy liked them very much. I will never forget it.”

Howard Tucker, former session musician and owner of the Guitar School in Old Town put the band together.

“I have known Andy for a long time and have never persuaded him to perform but when he listened to us it was enough to get him up playing and it was quite something,” said Howard.

The indie rock sound of Mid Life Crisis has an almost Latin feel at times.

The original songs are well crafted and catchy flowing in a melodic and lyrical style.

Clean lines and intricate riffs pour from lead guitarist Graham Cole while some fancy fingerwork from keyboard wiz Gillian Jacobs adds that extra dimension to a full sound.

Howard as always keeps his hands firmly on the reins inspiring and encouraging while boosting the rhythm section by playing bass.

Between the maestro and drummer Jamie Thurley the backbone of the band gave an exciting account of themselves and a pretty impressive drum solo.

I'll admit to being rather biased about this band but nevertheless the songs are strong, the presentation professional and the chemistry between the musicians is infectious.

It is a mix that works.

Everyone knows XTC and their ground-breaking songs but to see Andy Partridge playing and sing ing live two yards away from me was unbelievable.

Needless to say he is every bit a rock star and generous to his fellow musicians on stage.

Howard said: “Andy has always shown and given his ear to my guitar school project and I have the upmost respect for him as a performer, songwriter and producer.”

They say lightning doesn't strike twice but you can catch Mid Life Crisis at the Roaring Donkey in Albert Street on September 4 and who knows!

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  Evening Advertiser
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Saturday, August 1, 1998

Wonder Web

Surfin' USA?
For California read Swindon

by Graham Carter

WHEN WE were kids we used to listen to The Beach Boys and dream about going to California. Now the opposite happens, thanks to the power of the Internet. Over in California, they are listening to Swindon band XTC and dreaming about coming here.

XTC were belting out records from the late 1970s until 1992 when they fell out with their record company. Yet, despite six years off, their popularity has continued to grow, fuelled by a large fan base among Internet users, especially in the States.

They have spent the last six years dissecting every chord and every syllable of XTC's output and have helped to give the band a kind of cult status.

One such fan is Bob Estus who spends his weekends surfing in the Pacific Ocean close to his home in San Diego, California - and spends his evenings surfing the Internet, trying to learn more about Swindon.

The 34-year-old computer graphics wizard has never been to the town, but as a fan of XTC, he can't get enough of the place. He has spent the last six months compiling a 77-page Internet site which brings together the many references to Swindon in XTC's work. The site, called Roundabout and featuring a section called Go2 Swindon, offers an explanation of the lyrics to baffled American fans.

But Bob lives a life far removed from that of the average Swindonian.

"I work for Sony on PlayStation titles," he explained. "I make the little 3-D movies that precede a video game, as well as backgrounds, characters or effects needed in these games. It really is fun, but challenging work.

"I'm entrenched in the newer middle class suburbs. I do partake in that hopelessly clichéd California sport of surfing, but I have been known to whistle All You Pretty Girls (an XTC single) while waiting in the choppy interval between waves.

"The rest of my family doesn't understand the fascination with either the band or Swindon. But their music satisfies my needs for intelligent lyrics, catchy melodies, and impeccable musicianship. It always puts me in a great mood. The records are superbly crafted and inventive.

"And, of course, as an XTC fan you're continually hit over the head with 'XTC are from Swindon'. It's not long before you begin to wonder what this Swindon place is all about."

The idea for the website came after a real Swindonian, who happens to be my twin brother, began correcting misinformation that had been placed on the Internet regarding Swindon and references to it in the songs. One site actually refers to Swindon as "decaying", but Bob is better informed.

Armed with cuttings from the Evening Advertiser and photos of landmarks, he has been able to construct the definitive Swindon guide for confused XTC fans worldwide.

Now he is planning a make a "pilgrimage" to see the town in real life.

I asked him what will be on his tour itinerary.

"The Railway Museum would be a must-see," he said. "I would like to snoop around the old railway works too, take a walk up to the Uffington Horse. Maybe I'll try my hand at navigating the Magic Roundabout."

When he asked me whether he can take a balloon trip over Ermin Street, I'm pretty sure he wasn't joking.

Bob is definitely a case of a beach boy picking up good vibrations from Swindon - and if you don't understand that, ask your dad.

To visit Bob's site, just type come.to/roundabout in the address box. If you're from Swindon, it will make his day if you also post an e-mail before you leave.

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