PETE TOWNSHEND FAN INTERVIEW APRIL 2010
Martin.Bailey at netsoltech.com
Mon Apr 19 13:25:21 UTC 2010
Some bits that caught my eye:
He doesn't like people wearing T Shirts with "The Who" on?
On the Superbowl performance:
"But maybe some journalists are just too nervous to face one and half hundred million people on live TV and play a series of bum notes like I just did in Miami?"
"I wanted to be in a band that sounded more like The Band I suppose, or Crazy Horse, or the Doobie Brothers"
He wanted to be more like Neil Young?
"I think I am inspired to perform that RAH version of Quadrophenia again in a similar way"
"By the way, I wore untinted glasses at the RAH so I could read the score"
Perhaps he'll play Quad again on the next tour?
As well as some Floss songs...? And all the hits...? Will it be a 4 hour show?
LOL @ "I'll pass on nuzzling Roger's cleavage".
"And the hat I usually wear, but forewent at the RAH, of course contains special hearing equipment,
and also hides my extraordinary and embarrassingly abundant new head of hair that has been implanted using electrolosyisical membranonic infrasupcraneous insertion techniques.
Isn't it amazing that we can get a man on the moon but we can't help poor old Pete Townshend to grow new hair or fix his dodgy hearing? "
Is this for real? Or is he joking? Has he really had a hair-weave?
"And I did a free radio commercial for NASA in 1968."
Surely it was US Air Force?
17th April, 2010
PETE TOWNSHEND FAN INTERVIEW APRIL 2010
PART ONE OF FIVE
Kate234: Do you recognize a (big) difference between the youth of your generation and the youth of now when people between 15 and 30 come to your gigs?
PT: As an artist I hope I respond to what's going on inside an individual audience member rather than the way they look. But I've always been interested in fashion, and there have times I've been a fashion victim (thankfully I mainly skipped the hippy look). No regrets, even for some silly '80s haircuts; we all had them. We have become older while a whole range of fashion looks have passed by. The one I wish had passed sooner, but seems to have stuck, is the rock 'n' roll 'I have the merchandise' look. You wouldn't catch me wearing any of the glamorous items they sell on this website. I bite the hand that feeds me perhaps? You buy a t-shirt, I make about 2¢ after tax. Only young Japanese kids or Emos seem to be able to wear a t-shirt with some decrepit old rock band's slogan or ikon on it and still look cool. But our audiences today have a whole range of looks. People dress more as individuals I think, partly because there are fewer tribes out there now. Or maybe there are many more tribes, and I just see a homogenized blur? So if I do manage to look a little deeper into your soul from my eyrie on stage what do I find? In the '60s our audience members feared the end of the world from a massive hydrogen bomb conflict with Russia. It was a certainty between the years of 1959 and 1962. Then in the mid-'70s they were told their planet was soon going to freeze over. Now they are ashamed to use heat in their homes, drive their cars, or explain to their kids how it's OK for them to fly to see Grandma 2,000 miles away. So what I see mainly is a desire to rise above fear. Right through my career there has been relative peace, no world wars - though I will not deny that many good people have died in local conflicts, in confined war zones as well as the streets of Shepherd's Bush. The price of this global peace has been a sense of shame I think, that we in the West live a good life, and can check our spiritual condition, or our social disaffection, as a matter of some importance. We, rather you chumps out in the crowd, look for art - especially music - to help you take a stance. So in some ways, although the setting and conditions are different, audiences today have the same problem our audiences had when we first started to perform: they feel impotent to change the course of human events. I quip about Shepherd's Bush, but of course it is the sanctity of our little local world that matters most to us. We feel especially useless to deal with the small details around us (especially over-complicated recycling bins), and our elected leaders always seem to be so clumsy and see things in such black and white. That has not changed since the end of World War 2. So our music works pretty well today. Younger people are often surprised that they can feel some comfort or release in our music. We in the Who are surprised as well. It's been gratifying for me to be able to chip in and help you all with your confusion about the difference between aluminum and aluminium. One is recycled in bins found in the USA, the other here in the UK.
Jokapaikanapina: I was wondering, being as experienced a performer and musician as you are, do you still get nervous before shows or when publisizing albums?
PT: Still? I have never been nervous, at least not in the way that I've seen others get nervous. I would admit I sometimes get slight diarrhoea but I don't really know how to spell it. Actually my nerves manifest as extreme boredom and I often fall deeply asleep just before we get our thirty-minute call. I'm like one of those little animals from Australia or the Burmese jungle who, when you threaten to attack them, pretend to be dead. I've put this down to the fact I grew up at my father's feet, and he was a touring pop musician in a post-war dance band. When he went on stage he would pass little tiny me to some gorgeous female vocalist to nuzzle her cleavage, or let me lay to nap with my head next to the drummer's bass-drum-pedal. I feel safe backstage, even safer on stage. That might be why I am such a big mouth, and so reckless on stage: I really do feel safe. An ex-army sniper once threatened me. He was a crazy Vietnam veteran, who claimed I'd defamed the USA in some interview and he would shoot me from the hills while I sang FACE THE FACE on stage at Oakland in 1989. I wasn't nervous, but the extremely poor review in the Oakland newspaper the next day did suggest I had nodded off to sleep during that particular song whereas at previous shows I had run around the stage like a wind-up toy. There is a downside to this insouciance of mine, in that I find it hard to pretend I am always happy doing what I do. Making music is 'play' after all, and people around me hope that I'm having fun doing it. But I don't have any fun at all performing. It is fulfilling, and therefore makes me happy overall, though that doesn't always show on stage.
When publisizing an album I enjoy interviews and talking about what I've tried to do, almost as much as doing it. I think I am still a little bit of a conceptual art student in this respect; I'm as excited by the manifesto as the end result. I think that's why I am occasionally disgruntled, or even confused, by critics who simply dismiss something I've done because it hasn't worked (in their view). Projects that fail are as important and as necessary as those that succeed. But no journalist has ever made me feel nervous. I can write about music as well as most music critics, better sometimes. None of them can do what I do. The bastards, the parasites, they are all slimy vampiristic scumbags. I may go a tad too far. Given the right breaks, the right advice, they could approach what I do. For example Neil Tennant once asked me if I thought he could make a decent pop star (he was then editor of a pop magazine). I said anyone could, especially anyone who loved and understood pop the way he did. But maybe some journalists are just too nervous to face one and half hundred million people on live TV and play a series of bum notes like I just did in Miami? Pussies.
Irelandwho: Given the rigid structure of a piece like the Albert Hall Quadrophenia show, do you find that limiting in that you're tied to backdrops, storyline etc, or does the narrative give you the option of getting into the piece a bit more than a "normal" sequence of songs ?
PT: I am going to put my foot in it here and be honest. I have gone on record in saying that Roger's work on the concert version of Quadrophenia that he and Aubrey Powell developed in 1997 is quite brilliant. He took a muddled and confused plot (the version seen at Madison Square Garden in 1996 directed by Frank Nealon and written by myself) and gave it chronology and clarity. I still feel that to be true. However, for me, part of Jimmy's journey in Quadrophenia is that he is a muddled hero, he loses track of time, where he is, who he is, and what is going on around him. When he ends up on the rock in the finale he shouldn't really say "I knew what it was I needed" as he does in the current concert version. I would think he knows less at the end of the opera than at the beginning. I would prefer a more chaotic and open-ended presentation that allowed the audience to make their own choices. This issue also became central to the way that the six-month UK Quadrophenia Theatre tour of 2009 unfolded. The original team - Tom Critchley and Jeff Young, knowing how I felt about all this, wanted the piece to be open to interpretation, to work like a rock song works, and that created what I thought was an exciting and engaging confusion about the story, or lack of it. The producers were extremely uncomfortable with that confusion, and quite early in the tour tightened everything up. This made the theatre experience more conventional, and safer, but perhaps undermined my original brief to myself, that Jimmy should be everyman. We in the audience should feel able to get inside him. It's not about being a Mod, or about being a post-war kid, it's about being young and feeling as if you are going mad. Not everyone knows how that feels. Quadrophenia is not meant to set Jimmy up as an example of a lost soul we can feel sorry for, he is meant to provide us with a mirror.
Sdwhofan: Your brother Simon played a few songs during Roger's tour that were amazing including a near perfect rendition of 'Going Mobile'. Will he be included in any upcoming Who projects?
PT: I'm a big fan of Simon and have enormous respect for him. He's also one of my beloved younger brothers, so I feel lucky to have him work with the touring Who band, but he might have more scope when working with Roger. At least I'm not there getting in the way. His own music is wonderful, he has written some extraordinary songs that stand up even when played very simply as people who watched IN THE ATTIC would attest. Whatever the Who do from now on will involve Simon, but I hope he doesn't stop working creatively on his own music.
Sdwhofan: Also, would you consider doing a solo tour? It would be great to see you perform some of your solo stuff in smaller venues like Roger's tour.
PT: I've done a fair bit of solo work. I could get snappy now and say I don't want to do solo shows that might make it even harder to fit in future Who shows. Roger enjoys performing. I don't as a rule, but I have had moments of joy on stage working solo, just as I have working in the Who. I'm good on my own. I know that. I've proved it. But at the moment I'm not for hire.
Jbiggs: I've heard you say during interviews that you initially hated touring with The Who as the band weren't making the kind of music which you wanted to make. What sort of music would you have made at the time, had you gone in a different direction?
PT: I wonder if what you say I said is exactly correct? Or did I say what I really meant? Can I change it now? Does that make me a liar? Could I consult a medium? Will you give me a blood sample? I think both Roger and I found the early days in the Who very hard, and quite lonely sometimes. Keith and John created a clique that was tough to break into. Both Roger and I had more catholic musical tastes than they did. We both found their tastes in music to be eccentric and strange. Keith liked Jan and Dean, real surf music. It was OK, some of it was delightful, but it lacked a certain necessary fang. John liked Brass Bands, real ones from the Welsh mining towns, and also the band Chicago with many brass players, and he was a complete sucker for the Beatles. As the band's writer I felt torn between writing for Roger's powerfully macho R&B voice (that admittedly became much more versatile during the recording of TOMMY) and Keith and John's love of surf music's vocal harmony and the Beatle's musical complexity.
I wanted to be in a band that sounded more like The Band I suppose, or Crazy Horse, or the Doobie Brothers. I also liked the Small Faces' sound, and the Kinks. The Who seemed to make records with a sense of aimlessness, a lack of musical direction, and I suppose we really didn't worry too much about the music, but more about how we put the music and the stage shows across. If we had been better musicians, or more focused and unified, maybe we wouldn't have been so anarchic. We were showmen, even stuntmen, more than musicians. When I wrote the music and recorded the demos for WHO'S NEXT (Lifehouse) I made sure each track felt musically 'cool' to me. I served the songs. In the studio each Who member (including myself) felt the need to stamp each song with some flash and splash as though the songs weren't enough. To be honest I would probably have hated touring with any band. I just hated touring. Still do. I know people who work in banks whose faces light up when I ask them about their work. I wish my face lit up when people ask me about touring. On the upside my face will light up if you ask me to tell you some Keith Moon stories. John Entwistle was funny too. He methodically cut up all his food before eating it, and he had nine Rottweiller puppies with his favourite old dog and kept them all. They all grew up of course and as big as small horses would run up to you in the most friendly way when you visited his house, barking, frothing at the mouth and looking as though they were going to rip you apart before they fell on you and licked you all over.
Snugglysara: Did the recent TCT Quad gig inspire you to want to tour again? I miss you and Roger when you're not on the road!
PT: See the answer above. I think I am inspired to perform that RAH version of Quadrophenia again in a similar way, in gracious and auspicious surroundings. I fancy the Taj Mahal, or the ballroom of Buckingham Palace. But for me, this version of the story feels a little wooden now to play on a long and extended tour. It's like a one-man TV show by a Keith Moon look-alike with extremely po-faced musical interludes. And there really aren't any jokes in it. It would suit St Paul's Cathedral perhaps. So I am not inspired to take it out on the road. In fact the very thought of touring it is making me want to settle down for nap with my head by Zak's bass-drum-pedal. (I'll pass on nuzzling Roger's cleavage). Between 1996 and 1997 we did Roger's revised concert version of Quadrophenia at 75 shows in the USA and Europe. When I got bored and stopped, Roger felt that we were just about to break even. Just. I think at the end we were each presented with a bill for about £2,000 each. One more show, show 76, and we would have become billionaires. It's an expensive production, even when presented with less glitz than it was at RAH for TCT. Roger, with Aubrey Powell, has been tireless and brilliant keeping the concert version of Quadrophenia alive. I wish this particular version didn't depend on me to perform in it. But let's face it, it does. By the way, I wore untinted glasses at the RAH so I could read the score. Someone had to. In fact the dark-glasses I usually wear on stage these days have prescription lenses so I can see my guitar neck, but not all you ugly bastards in the front row. You know who you are. So now you know about the glasses. And the hat I usually wear, but forewent at the RAH, of course contains special hearing equipment, and also hides my extraordinary and embarrassingly abundant new head of hair that has been implanted using electrolosyisical membranonic infrasupcraneous insertion techniques. Isn't it amazing that we can get a man on the moon but we can't help poor old Pete Townshend to grow new hair or fix his dodgy hearing? And I did a free radio commercial for NASA in 1968. Dave Marsh called me a warmonger. Fuck 'em all.
Kirk: Since the de-commission of Oceanic Studios, what are your home studio spaces looking like these days?
PT: My home studio hasn't changed much since Oceanic closed early in 2009. Oceanic was set up like a pro studio, and I didn't use it much myself. Any pro studio will do for me when it comes to that phase of recording. It was nice to have Oceanic because I could keep a lot of my personal music stuff there, and didn't have to book in advance. But the majority of my creative recording is done at home in my main house in London. I am probably going to do a piece with Tape Op magazine soon, and we will go into some detail about my home set ups. What is more challenging is trying to create spaces and conditions that are inspiring to write in. That has less to do with studio kit than the extramural resources that might be available. I have a place in the nearby countryside for example that is a good place to walk with the dogs and has a room that contains only a piano, very little else. The whole house is dedicated purely to the idea that sometimes I need to go down there, take a walk, maybe swim, drink some tea, then play the piano for an hour or two before I drive home. That is a bigger luxury to me - because of course it is indeed a great luxury and is costly and redundant as a proper home - than any amount of technological stuff I could set up in a home studio. Right now, because I am working with a very complex surround sound project, my little home studio feels hard-pressed and rather over-stuffed with equipment. That dedicated room in the country with only a piano is a wonderful place to go and be reminded that music is music not endless wire. That said, there is a fair bit of endless wire inside a good piano.
You people who know me as a guitar player may be wondering, what's with the room dedicated to a piano? He plays guitar. Well, I riposte, the great thing about a guitar is that it's portable. You can take it to a mountaintop if you wish. And I do that sometimes. It's not possible if you want to write music on a real piano. Having a dedicated 'clean' space for a piano is the best luxury and nurturance I could give myself as a composer.
To be continued.
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