Evening Standard on In The Attic
brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sat Feb 10 07:36:44 CST 2007
Off the record: David Smyth's column
By David Smyth, Evening Standard 09.02.07
What is in Pete Townshend's Attic?
The Who may have this week announced two Wembley dates, but rumours abound that they are to give up touring? Don't fret too much. You'll still be able to see Pete Townshend, alive and well and delivering biscuits on the internet.
When not bashing out classic riffs he's playing teaboy, sound man and sidekick to Rachel Fuller, his girlfriend of 10 years, in the enjoyably unprofessional webcasts she hosts at www. intheattic.tv.
Whether they're in a tiny room in Townshend's Oceanic recording studio, or backstage at various gigs around Europe and America, the pair can be seen nattering about random topics and jamming acoustically with whichever of today's hottest bands happens to be nearby.
Fuller, 33, started the show last year as a boost for her own singing career, but with Townshend loitering in the background, audiences of up to 35,000 are logging on and guests including The Kooks, Razorlight and The Flaming Lips are signing up.
Next Wednesday, 19 of the show's best live songs will go on sale in the iTunes store. By bands including Editors, the Zutons and the Raconteurs, the recordings are lo-fi and bracketed with confused chatter, but offer a unique, spontaneous take of plenty of recent hits.
And yet Townshend's relationship with the internet hasn't always been such a rewarding one. Fascinated for some years by its potential, in 2003 he received a police caution for accessing a child pornography website. Then last year he was pressured by the press to take down the fictional story he was blogging, The Boy Who Heard Music, because it contained a sex scene between teenagers.
However, he continues to see the web as an inspiring medium. He enthuses about music sites such as Pitchfork, Prefix and MySpace and loves the idea that thousands of people are watching his cheap, scatty chat show.
"That mobilisation of masses of people at a particular moment is what makes the internet so interesting," he says, when we meet in his riverside studio. "Last summer we were doing In the Attic to 10,000 or 15,000 people, then I was going straight out and playing to the same number of Who fans in a big field."
With just one static camera and no director, there is no pretence of professionalism. This week the pair were due to go live to the world at 4pm, but they were still chatting to me with five minutes to go and their special guest, Andrew Stockdale from Aussie rockers Wolfmother, hadn't shown up.
It's the show's haphazard nature which means that it can be presented anywhere - this year there are plans for a broadcast before the Who's set at Glastonbury, during the Texas SXSW festival (where Townshend is a keynote speaker) and on stage at New York's Public Theatre with Lou Reed, as well as in the Richmond studio, when they can be bothered.
"There's no camerawork trying to make me look cool," says Fuller. "It takes all the pressure off, and that's what's rare about it, the informality."
The couple have definitely tapped into something. What we want from our heroes is that lack of pretension, and constant access. We don't expect to hear from them only when they have a new album out.
Musicians as big as Patti Smith and as grumpy as Brian May now run their own blogs, and to see someone as worshipped as Townshend simply sitting nodding along in the background, jamming with The Fratellis or bringing in tea, adds a fascinating human dimension to the rock-god illusion.
-Brian in Atlanta
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