Pete interview in The Telegraph

Dereck Evans delbut98 at
Thu Mar 26 17:26:46 UTC 2009

Wow, what an upbeat, positive interview. 

--- On Thu, 26/3/09, Brian Cady <brianinatlanta2001 at> wrote:

> From: Brian Cady <brianinatlanta2001 at>
> Subject: Pete interview in The Telegraph
> To: "oddsandsods" <oddsandsods at>, "Relayers" <Relayers at>, thewho at, thewho at
> Date: Thursday, 26 March, 2009, 1:47 PM
> The Who's Pete Townsend talks over life, love and new
> tour Endless Wire
> By Kathy McCabe
> March 27, 2009 12:00am
> IN A frank a personal interview with The Daily
> Telegraph's Kathy McCabe, The Who's Pete Townsend
> talks about life, love and the love of music on the eve of
> the band's return to Australia.
> Q: Your Australian promoter tells me your touring decisions
> these days are steered by potential enjoyment factor. Does
> that mean a good mix of indoor and outdoor shows,
> particularly if one of them is a winery?
> Ah, I don’t drink alcohol any more, so I won’t be
> touching the wine. In this case we responded to the offer of
> this tour partly because it seemed exciting to come at the
> time of the Formula One racing, but also because we had
> planned to come to Australia when we did our world tour
> behind Endless Wire in 2006 and 2007.
> That tour ended up being so exhausting that we needed a
> long break, and eventually had to face the fact that we had
> promised to come back, and we needed to make that promise
> good.
> Without opening up a strange one-sided dialogue here, I
> don’t perform for enjoyment.
> I certainly don’t tour for fun. I am almost unique in
> this.
> I don’t really know any other musicians like me. I grew
> up backstage with my dad who played in a post-war dance
> band, so I always feel at home at a venue.
> Backstage, I get sleepy, and want to curl up and snooze. I
> never get nervous, whatever the event. I feel quite detached
> until I walk on stage, and then some gear inside me clicks
> and off I go like a wind up doll.
> As I move around, the adrenalin flows, and I start to get a
> little high. I often don’t smile, but if I do – and I
> sometimes laugh without reason – I’m afraid it’s
> because I suddenly feel the whole business of music for
> ‘entertainment’ is ridiculous.
> But as soon as I come off stage I withdraw quickly, and go
> back to feeling sleepy. I hope we entertain, but we think we
> have a higher purpose too. I might say some more about that
> later.
> In truth I probably put financial gain ahead of pleasure in
> selecting shows, tours and venues.
> I still live off performing to some extent, though I
> obviously can live by my song-writing alone if I care to.
> When I do a tour, I often buy myself a stupid car before I
> go on the road, so it is waiting when I get home like a
> reward.
> Or I come home and spread the money around my family,
> staff, friends and charities. It’s not guilt about money,
> I feel that being paid to perform is right and just, but
> royalties from songs tend to feel like windfalls. So there
> can be abundance.
> The really big tour from 2006-2007 was actually a poor
> earner as the dollar was so low when we finished. I also
> spent rather a lot on charter flights for me and me alone.
> I knew it would be last time I could ever justify
> chartering private planes. I’ve stopped now forever.
> It’s not just about the pollution. I want to age with some
> dignity. I want to be part of the human race. So I get in
> line and take off my boots.
> Q: What or who is driving the momentum for The Who to stay
> on the road during the past few years? 
> For a while I was perfectly happy not performing with The
> Who. From 1982 to 1989 I felt the Who did not exist. I let
> the band go, in my heart. However, Roger Daltrey had other
> ideas.
> He would not let go. He worked on me constantly to go back
> out with him and John Entwistle, and when I finally did in
> 1996 with Quadrophenia I realised my long-frustrated dream
> to play that great work of mine in its entirety at last,
> with a narrative movie to explain the action.
> We sort of drifted back into doing the rest of the Who
> material at the end of Quadrophenia, to create a friendly
> ambience for long-time fans.
> This particular phase of Who work is still driven by the
> release of our last studio album Endless Wire. I’m not
> sure how many tracks from the album we will perform in
> Australia, but we are doing at least three songs.
> At one time we were playing four or five, which is a lot of
> new songs for us. After the shows with you, I am settling
> down to try to write something new and different, or just
> something………my song-writing process feels very
> different today.
> I don’t write for something we call “The Who”, with
> all its cumbersome history and theatrical stage songs. I
> just write music, or poems, or lyrics, or songs. If they
> work for Roger, or for me, we will record them.
> I may never manage to write such a song again, but as
> Endless Wire featured some of the most recent and least
> anthemic songs I’ve ever written – just the songs that
> came to me as I stumbled through a novella I was writing
> called The boy who heard music  – there’s a good chance
> we’ll find something when I’m done doing whatever I do
> in the summer of 2009.
> John’s death in 2002 was also a factor in the return to
> serious touring. That 2002 tour was the last I ever intended
> to do with the band, and my mission was to make enough money
> for John so that he could get out of debt.
> He had some back tax, and a double mortgage to juggle. He
> died the day before the tour was meant to begin. I felt his
> mischievous and wonderful sense of irony in that.
> “You thought you’d give me handout Pete. Well now I’m
> giving YOU a handout. Take my share, and tour without me if
> you dare.”
> It felt like a gracious gift from John, in the best of
> humour, even though his passing was really tragic. You’d
> have to have known him as we did to understand.
> Roger and I were thrown together. We had been respectful,
> and friendly to each other, but we had never been great
> friends. We had never managed to find a way to live with how
> different we are, and how differently we think and work.
> With John gone, we were on our own, no distractions, no
> excuses that we were working to help John pay his debts. We
> had to decide whether to go on, just the two of us, or take
> the opportunity to stop. Suddenly, I realised I wanted to go
> on.
> I had always loved playing with John, but his passing would
> mean a new phase for me on stage, more space. John filled a
> lot of air with his huge sound and his extraordinary
> playing. Now I can be a real lead guitarist, and I’m
> learning fast.
> Q: I was blown away by how powerful the band was on the
> last Australian tour. Is there alchemy at work in this
> line-up or graft ie dogged rehearsals?
> The alchemy is there. It has new shades with the new
> line-up too. We don’t rehearse much at all. We often
> don’t always do sound-checks.
> We save our energy and focus for those two hours and
> fifteen minutes on stage and don’t let up for a second. 
> Roger and I are old men. We’ve been doing this for years.
> We don’t need to practice; we need to catch fire and rise
> above the pain. I’m glad you liked our shows last time.
> Pino Palladino played on Endless Wire, and is now starting
> to amaze even himself with his explosions of energetic
> creativity. It’s a really great band.
> John Bundrick, on Hammond and keyboards, is a genius. Zak
> is getting better and better, and more musical every show we
> do. He says this is the hardest work he’s ever had to do,
> but we can’t keep him away.
> My brother Simon is still with us, and is a joy to work
> with. He plays more and more guitar, and at first I found
> that tricky.
> Now I am enjoying it, and we are finding interaction to be
> intriguing. He’s been a Who fan and guitar player since he
> was seven years old.
> Q: Do you use soundchecks at all for working up new songs?
> Will there be another album? 
> I think I’ve covered this. But yes, if we do soundcheck
> we might work up a new song, or a variant to an existing
> song. But Roger and I both like to make stuff up on stage.
> The album? Why not? As I said, I just need to write and see
> what happens.
> Q: Congratulations on the J.F. Kennedy Center Honours
> recognition. Are you a bashful award recipient? And what
> does this kind of recognition – and the recent Grammy
> nomination - mean to you now at this point in your life?
> The other awards have mostly come quite late in my career,
> apart from the first proper gold album with Tommy. The
> Kennedy Center Honor meant a lot to me. To be so recognised
> in the USA, where our music had most of its roots, was quite
> a shock. What about Bruce Springsteen? The Rolling Stones?
> Age seems to have something to do with it – most of the
> honourees over time have been in their sixties or seventies.
> Maybe Bruce is too young, but one day he will be honoured.
> As for the Stones, Keith Richards wouldn’t arrive on time,
> and so Mick would simply have had to refuse the honour.
> I’ll bet it has been discussed. Since we returned from
> Washington carrying our ribbons, I have had to fight the
> feeling that for me it spells an end, or a beginning.
> I have even had to fight the feeling that it portends a
> surge. It was an amazing weekend of special events in which
> none of the recipients have to “sing for their supper”
> as the organisers like to say. We went to the White House,
> met President Bush and his wife Laura. I liked them both
> very much.
> In the mode we met them they were like Hollywood stars –
> gracious, easy and extremely kind.
> My best moment was when during the Gala performance the
> wonderful soul singer Bettye LaVette sang an astoundingly
> moving version of Love Reign O'er Me from Quadrophenia
> and Barbra Streisand who was sitting beside me turned to me
> in wonderment: ‘Did you write this beautiful song’.
> Q: How emotional is the process for you when revisiting the
> archives for DVD releases? What do think of Pete Townshend
> The Younger?
> Unless the great Barbra Streisand is gazing at me in awe I
> feel no emotion. This is my work. I have a function; it has
> been the same throughout my career.
> When I see myself I don’t see an actor, or someone
> learning a craft, I see a young man providing what the rock
> audience who followed the Who expected from me. I came to
> expect it from myself.
> I made music that was useful to my audience that in those
> days was mainly young men.
> Now I have a 19 year old son. Sometimes when I see myself
> in film from the early days I am reminded of him, the body
> rather than the face (he is quite a bit more handsome).
> I have always resisted the documentaries about the Who. I
> tried to stop Kids Are Alright.
> I played no useful role in Amazing Journey. Yet these are
> the main vehicles for all of the amazing archive footage I
> so earnestly gathered over the years and protected in a
> special archive. Also – with Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp
> – I actually helped to make the films in many cases, or
> commissioned them. I nurtured friendships with filmmakers,
> and we let them into our private world on stage and
> backstage whenever we could.
> Of course the fact that a lot of our filmed and televised
> interviews descended into insane humour at the insistence of
> Keith Moon adds value.
> Q: In the history of rock, there seems to have only been
> two uniforms; T-shirt and jeans or the suit? Why are you
> generally more comfortable in the latter? Are they tailored
> or off the rack?
> Ah! There was the boiler suit and Doc Martens for me for
> many years. After the psychedelic absurdities I decided to
> go anti-fashion. I first wore a suit on stage in 1989 for
> the band’s 25th anniversary tour.
> Many of my friends thought I looked like a twat. I had a
> pony-tail, suggested by my beautiful and elegant wife,
> obviously in an attempt to keep the groupies away from me.
> She was unsuccessful in her mission, and our marriage
> unravelled a few years later. I was quite handsome in 1989,
> though not as handsome as I am today.
> I am currently wearing my Clash outfit on stage: very tight
> pants, black boots, black shirt and a kind of black surfer
> Volcom trilby with dark glasses.
> I love to wear a suit sometimes, and I buy them off the peg
> from Prada, I’m a very ordinary shape. But when I wear a
> jacket I get fed up with the way it interferes with my
> arm-swing. The arm-swing has a limited life I fear, I am
> starting to sense my arm is about to leave its socket.
> Q: Which collaboration did you find most revelatory during
> the Attic Jam sessions you did last year? How did you soothe
> the nerves of the younger contributors to the shows, I must
> say it would have been daunting for them to play in front
> of/with you.
> The whole thing was a revelation. I started it purely to
> keep my fabulously supportive partner Rachel happy. She
> agreed to come on the road with me for two years, as long as
> she could continue to do her In The Attic show, which had
> been webcast once a week from a studio, and occasionally in
> Live shows at various venues.
> We took it on the road in an Airstream caravan with a
> satellite dish. It was great for me, I was never bored at
> the prospect of just another Who show because I knew before
> the Who went on I would meet someone new on In The Attic,
> hear them play, talk to them, play with them, and possibly
> play something new or rare myself.
> It became one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever
> done, but also quite tiring. I did have to go out of my way
> to make younger performers feel at ease, but even my
> contemporaries like Lou Reed, needed be welcomed and made
> comfortable.
> I most enjoyed performing with Rachel. She is a genius
> musician. The last Attic Jam was a few months ago at the
> Troubador in LA. I remember every moment with every artist.
> Every one was special, but it is the friendships I made
> from 2005 to 2008 on all the various incarnations of
> Rachel’s show that are most important – E from Eels,
> Billy Corgan, Sean Lennon, Martha Wainwright, Ben Harper,
> the Fratellis – and many more.
> These are people I now feel close to. The really young ones
> like the Kooks, Editors, Amos Lee, Rachel Yamagata, Joe
> Purdy, Willy Mason, Mika, Adele – I have been blessed to
> meet them and join in their triumphs and struggles.
> The music business has always been tough, but today there
> are some incredibly talented people like those I mention
> above who are fighting for attention and time, and working
> as hard as anyone from my early years. I felt the honour was
> all mine, and I’m not kidding.
> There was a very, very cool young Australian musician who
> was one of Rachel’s first guests on her web-cast show
> prior to the tour. We played together. I will ask her for
> his name tomorrow and send it on. (Best Buy in the USA are
> releasing the highlights from the 2006/7 shows on DVD,
> release date is next spring.) (musician was Andrew Stockdale
> of Wolfmother)
> Q: When you are performing now, does it occur to you that
> there is probably a huge contingent of the audience who are
> seeing you for the first time? On the Australian tour, this
> will certainly be true. Does that impact at all on how you
> approach the show?
> Of course, and many of the crowd are also much younger than
> we are. We play the famous songs partly for that reason. But
> I like to play the famous ones because they are so easy for
> me – they sort of play themselves. I can weave in and out.
> I really love performing to a new audience.
> I like to see whether the Who’s rock function works for
> new people.
> And often it seems to work very well. We have always made
> music that has been aimed at providing a kind of cathartic
> channel for our audience rather than express some inner
> feelings of our own.
> Even as a solo artist I have always tried to keep myself
> out of the way. I have been offended when critics have said
> I have indulged in sentimental autobiography or indulgent
> heart-searching in my song writing. A lot of the time I was
> writing about them! Yes, songs about critics.
> In Tommy there was autobiography, but I only realised that
> years later when I tried to understand its enormous and
> unexpected success.
> It has its roots in the difficulties of my rather typical
> post-war British childhood: parents trying to find
> themselves after a frightening and traumatic time, and their
> growing kids wondering how they would ever be able do
> anything to match their parent’s courage. New audiences
> hear Tommy, and find a different story, their own story:
> that is what matters to me.
> I want the music to have function. If Abba’s music is to
> help us sing our way through a grey day, the Who’s music
> is probably better to stop you driving your car over a
> cliff. Both are important functions, but I always want to
> feel I have helped you see something about yourself, not
> something about me. Abba and the Who are closer than they
> might first appear. Love Reign O'er Me and SOS are both
> songs about the search for intangible love. Not a small
> subject.
> Q: Have you ever seen anyone windmill better than you? 
> Nah!
> Actually, I take that back. In 1982, soon after I left the
> Who for the long sabbatical I judged an air guitar
> competition for a London evening paper.
> One of the competitors was a young woman wearing a mask.
> When she windmilled, certain other body parts came into
> play. Needless to say, she won. She married my friend Roger
> Taylor of Queen. Bloody drummers. 
>  -Brian in Atlanta
> The Who This Month!
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