Quotations from Chairman Townshend: SXSW

Brian Cady brianinatlanta2001 at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 17 07:41:24 CDT 2007

Gathered from multiple news sources:

"I came up with this idea called 'The Lifehouse Method,' which is a system where you would go to a computer, you enter data about yourself, you share some stuff about how you feel, you put a picture up, a photo and you get back a piece of music. It's a bit like when a painter paints a portrait, you are the sitter. You just have to sit and keep still. He paints or she paints and you sit. Again, it's your f@#king painting. 'Can I have a look?' 'NO!' So the artist is king. Nonetheless, the portrait that is produced is very, very authentic, because it's been channeled through, hopefully a great portrait painter. So I thought 'If this software could be really fabulous, we could do this in reality.' This was 1971."
"You enter data about yourself, you share some stuff about how you feel, and you get back a piece of music," he said. "There was no computer in 1971 big enough or powerful enough to do what I wanted it to do, and of course, there was no Internet."
"So I got together with Roger Powell, who played with Todd Rundgren, a guy named Tim Sousta, who became the composer-in-residence at Cambridge University who introduced me to Stockhausen and a few other highbrows in modern music and people from the BBC radio phonics workshop. And I realized that of course there was no computer in 1971 big enough or powerful enough to do what I wanted to do. And there was no Internet. So of course everybody that I talked to about this kind of looked at me and went 'Nice idea, but I think you're nuts. I think you should go get treatment.' That came later. It was a huge crash for me. I came up with this idea, I thought it would be wonderful and I've had to wait for thirty years for you guys to have computers powerful enough."
"I just call it 'The Method,' I've dropped the Lifehouse bit. You come to the website and we give you a piece of music that's yours, completely unique. In fact we allow you to own a third of the copyright. So if Coca Cola decide to use it for their next commercial, you might get rich."
He hopes to bring all of the songs created together for a combined "symphonic suite", for lack of a better term. "We'll bring it together and play it at a big celebration. Not exactly a festival, but a big event. We gather, we share our music with other, actually in the flesh and we see what it sounds like. My idea is that it will probably sound terrible, but who knows? It might sound like the sea, it might sound like a plane going by, it might sound like the gentle undulations of the ocean. It may sound terrible. It may sound beautiful. I don't know."
"I hadn't read this book, but apparently Arthur C. Clarke had described something like I'd described, which was a grid where everybody gathers for survival in order to communicate and live through entertainment experiences. That is what The Lifehouse was about. It wasn't quite like the Internet. It was a bit like real reality TV. It was a bit about living your life through the lives of others, vicarious living. Living as a ballet dancer, but never having to learn ballet, just sitting in a suit and saying 'I'm a ballet dancer.' A bit like a videogame, a kid's videogame, more like that. Writ large. The other side of it was the idea 'bang!,' I thought, 'If everybody is connected what would be interesting is what would they share? What would they share musically and how would they produce the music that they would share?'"
"I've got a foot in the old established camp and a foot in the new camp. Lou and I onstage at Joe's Pub, looking into each other's eyes ... at one point, he said, 'Is it okay to sit down?' I said, 'Sure!' You don't know how f*cking huge that was to Lou Reed, to be told that he could play and sit down. He's a couple of years older than me!" 
"It matters in that club at that moment. What is music but the dividing of time, bringing yourself into the present. What is meditation? What is Zen? What is nirvana? What is truth? What is God? What is love? What are these things but things that happen in the f@#kin' moment.  But what do we do with [live music broadcasts on] the Internet? We delay them! You can have it later, when it fits into your work day. F*ck it. I want it live! If I can watch, for fifty bucks a boxing match on a cable show live from Vegas and watch two poor muthaf@#kas beat the sh!t out of each other, why can't I watch my buddy Mac around the corner with the Bump Band? Why can't I watch him live? Why do I have to wait? I want to be there when he's there and I want to share it when he shares it because I know that when I exchange emails or I'm in a chat experience or I'm on a blog and I send somebody a message and I immediately get a message back I think 'F@#k! They're sitting at their computer now!' I'll switch on my little mic and I'll play you a song. I've done it. I've played songs to one person. I've made up songs for one person. This is possible today. Why is it that the industry who control the Web, who control the commerce, who control the credit card streams, who control everything now, they're the new boss, why are they telling us that we can't have it live?"
"I've been thinking about this for such a long time," he said. "The gathering that the Internet offers is meditation. You lose yourself when you're listening to good music."
"[Live music] is the moment we make that contract between the artist and the fan. We need more of that."
 “What we brought to that three-legged chair was not anger — it looked like anger — it was frustration. And a demand for answers which, to this very day, we’ve never had,”
"The Who's music did something to fill the gap of lack of information from the past and asked, 'How do we go on and avoid making the same mistakes?'"
"I wake up today and this anger, this symbolic guitar smashing ... the violent noisy acts -- they're not valid anymore. They're not appropriate,"
"I’m not saying music shouldn’t have edge. But if it's going to be political, let's make it f***ing political. Part of the reason was that I didn't understand politics at the time, although I'm not sure if I do now either."
"Before I came to Austin, I spoke to a record company CEO in New York and he said "Rome is burning". He said the CEO's lack of foresight meant he couldn't understand why there are no stars today. "You have to want for that," was Townshend's response. "You just don't wake up and 'bing' you are Christina Aguilera. She worked for Disney since she was 8 years old".
"I think The Who are an anomaly like the (Rolling) Stones. Bands today shouldn't even go there. It takes time to build something like that, but now record companies just ask, 'Where's the hit?'"
On hearing a Who song on the radio for the first time: "I knew that I'd, in a sense, I'd been captivated by hearing something that I'd written for the kids in my neighborhood," said Townshend. "I'd written it for them and about them on the radio, and I supposed I felt like I'd been voted in."
Townshend says he has always preferred Who's Next's follow-up album, "Quadrophenia." "It's purer, it’s complete. I had complete control. It hurt the band a bit. I don’t think I will ever surpass it. It's full of energy. It's also simply a story of a kid who has a bad day. It rains and he goes and sits on a rock and he contemplates the future and the present. He decides to do something he's never done before; he prays. That's the end of the story.”
The band originally reunited to “to help John Entwistle with his money problems, but I think he spent it all on cocaine."
On the Concert for New York: "We were proud to have those (works) that could provide an outlet," he noted, "but I would like to think that we never need our music to do that again."
"John's death opened up new possibilities for Roger and I," he said. "We have a new chemistry and it enabled us to make a new record. If John were alive today, it would have been much tougher to make a new record".
“(Starkey) and I have extraordinary chemistry based on the fact whatever I do, he’s already doing it,”
He says he is comfortable in The Who these days "because I can get out anytime".
"I can tell you what happened with Franz Ferdinand, I mean King Ferdinand. Sorry to malign such a great English band, wait they are Scottish, I've done it again".
-Brian in Atlanta
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