By Lorraine Kay
Q. By the time we go to press this tour will be over, but I understand you will be back in the Spring of 2007?
Q. Do you plan to keep the show pretty much the same?
A. Yes, but probably with a few changes, maybe some new songs.
Q. I saw the Hope Bleeds DVD and I thought that show was awesome. Are any of the band members that were on that DVD on tour with you now?
A. Not the bassist because he is working on another project, which is a disappointment for most girls. By the way, his main instrument actually is the guitar yet he does bass part time. And the guitar player that I had on that gig, he also missed this tour. He’s on tour with another band. So I have another guitar player. But the two keyboard players and the drummer are the same. In fact one of the keyboard players is now doing bass when necessary.
Q. Who do you have playing on this tour?
A. Richard Beasley on drums – he’s been with me forever. Abe Fenton on keyboards. David Brooks also does keyboards and he is now the standby bass player. We only have about 4 or 5 songs on this particular tour where we need bass. The rest of it we can synthesize. And a man called Chris McCormack doing guitar.
Q. What can fans expect at this show?
A. We do about an hour and a quarter in the main set and then another three songs in the encore. The whole thing runs just under an hour and a half.
Q. Do you do any of the nostalgia stuff or do you primarily focus on the new album?
A. It’s primarily new stuff. We do do some old things. We’re doing 17 songs. I have a real problem with “nostalgia tours”. One of the things that haunts me here for example is people think that the only hit single I ever had was Cars from way back in 1980. And it sort of hangs over you and it’s a bit like a cloud and it quite often is difficult to move forward. Even some of the promoters are talking about me being a synth pop pioneer. Well that has a kind of nostalgic retro feel to it as if I’m going to be playing all these old synth pop so-called classics. It’s very difficult sometimes to get across to people that it’s been 25 years since Cars was written and it’s time to move on and I’m a very different person and the music is very different. I’m not angry about it, but nonetheless the vast majority of people in this country don’t know me at all. And the people that do know me most of those have known me from Cars. And getting over that – getting it across to people hoping that new people will see that things are different, the music is very different has been a real problem and that’s why I do very little old tunes. I’m very keen to push forward and let people know that what I’m doing now is very different. My whole stage performance is very different. Even on this tour, from the DVD that you’ve seen, I would say that the performance on this tour and the music is more aggressive than it is on that album and that was only three years ago.
Q. Are you finding that your fan base has changed much from Cars?
A. It’s fragmented in a way, in that there are clearly people still there that were interested in the early days and still coming along and in the main seem to be very happy with the direction I am taking now. I do think the fans turning out are largely familiar with the music I am doing now as well as the some of old stuff – the old fans anyway. And then there’s a completely new set of people. Every night after the show we meet with the fans out by the bus and we sign everything and just sort of hang out a little bit. I get a good feel from that of what people are expecting and whether they’ve been happy with what they got at the show. And it’s been very, very positive. I was talking to someone last night that had only gotten into me about two or three months ago when a friend of his played for him the Jagged album. That’s the only album he’s ever bought and he was asking me last night if I’ve done anything else. And I said “Well, I’ve actually done about 20 albums, I’ve been doing this since 1978.” And he was amazed at that. He was thinking we were a new act. And he was 18 or 19. And that is exactly the sort of thing that I want to hear. I want to see new people coming in that think I’m a new act, that think Jagged is a new album and that are into it for that reason without any history or pre-conception. That seems to be happening quite a lot, but I have a huge, long way to go if I am ever to be firmly established here. I’ve only had that one hit and that was a long time ago and it seems to me that every time I come here, because I keep having these ridiculous gaps between tours I pretty much start again each time. I’ve never really followed up when I’ve been here. So what we are trying to do now is get this tour done and come back in March or April and do another Jagged tour and just try to build up some sort of momentum. Then the next new album will be out next September or October of 2007 and we’ll tour that. And then just keep really, really pushing on. Because there are new people coming along and it does feel as if I’m moving in the right direction. And I just have to stick with a lot of effort. And with constant touring I could actually do something here. And that’s pretty much the thing of it. This tour so far has been very encouraging. Very, very encouraging. I consider this tour being very successful. I need more people, there’s no doubt about that, I need more media exposure, I need more people, obviously and the only way to do that is to keep coming and to keep building it and building it and try to get your momentum moving forward.
Q. Are most of the gigs you are doing on this tour in smaller venues like the House of Blues?
A. That size and smaller. The one we’re doing tonight in a bar is 20. The one we did in New York was a little bit bigger. We did the Chicago House of Blues, which is quite a big club; we didn’t fill it so we’re still struggling about that. In the main we seem to be doing between 300 and 500 people. In some places it’s been up to 1000 or 1200, but it is largely small.
Q. The Hope Bleeds DVD opens with a very dark and powerful song. Is that the direction that your music seems to be going these days?
A. Yes, very much that and we are trying to go faster and more up-tempo in the next stuff. We still keep it dark; we’re just trying to make it more aggressive, more energetic. So very much in the style that we are in now but a little more aggressive version of it. So if that works out for me I do think, I just feel comfortable knowing that it’s the right sort of music for me. It comes naturally for me to write it. It’s really, really good finding on a job, we can play it live and it’s good music to tour with. I feel completely at home here. But I still think I have more I can do although I’m very happy with what I’ve done – the recent albums, but I can do better. I’m still learning all the time how to do this or make it better. Although I definitely think the more aggressive up-tempo move would be excellent. Everything I am doing now, for the moment for the last two or three albums has been medium tempo, and I think I just need to make that more aggressive.
Q. Where is that dark sound coming from?
A. It just doesn’t seem difficult to find it, really. You look around and the world is a pretty bad place. I’ve to a whole load of anxiety in my experience from my entire life and I’ve got children now and that’s just adding to that. You look around us and the dangers that they’re going to face as they go through life and you worry about protecting them from that. And what they’re going to have to face. There are plenty of fantastic excellent lovely things in the world too. It really depends on what you find interesting to write about. Some people find it very easy to write about happy days and clouds and walking on the beach with the people they love. I don’t I find it easier to write about other dark things. That’s my interest. In terms of finding inspiration for it you only have to open your eyes and you’re inundated with that kind of thing. Look at the news. I just have a morbid fascination I guess for that kind of stuff.
Q. Your lyrics are sad and dark. Would you say that they come from personal experiences or just things you’ve observed?
A. A bit of both really don’t you think? I mean quite a bit of it is personal. The previous album in particular was very much so. During the making of that album we lost a baby and my grandmother died. There was a lot of bad stuff happening, really, really bad stuff. It made the album quite difficult to make. But lyrically for me it became very, very, very personal. But I think most songs; I’d guess are personal or I have a very strong personal attachment to them. So quite often it’s magnified and amplified because each song is like a painting up to a degree. There are those things that aren’t very personal; invariably they are about people I’ve known or things that happened around me. It’s all really self-obsessed I’d have to say. The thing I know most about from a writer’s point of view is me. And I’ve never, ever had the arrogance or felt that I had the intelligence or where withal around me to make political comment or social comment. I don’t feel qualified for that at all. I’m not a political animal. I’ve had a very singular kind of life. I tend to cut myself off from the world more than not so I don’t feel qualified to talk about it and it’s problems. So I end up writing about me and the way I see things and people around me. And I can’t honestly ever see that changing.
Q. Your songs basically deal with people’s emotions in their day-to-day lives. There are a lot of hurt people out there, and maybe you didn’t mean for it to be, but I think that it kind of speaks for a lot of those people.
A. One of the things that was a very pleasant surprise a couple of nights ago in our meet and greet a girl was saying that she’d had a terribly horrible life actually and she found that the music got her through it and it’d been really helpful. Now I’m actually amazed at that cause the music that I write seems just the opposite. I would have thought that if anyone were having a bad time that it would make it worst. It’s not particularly uplifting kind of music but it is surprising how many people would claim that it has helped them through various times and it might simply be that there is a common theme perhaps in what is happening to them to what I’m singing about. So they felt that it is a shared problem. I really don’t know what it is that people would find helpful. But some people do so that is a very cool thing. And obviously I don’t write just to specifically help anybody because it is very self-centered. So I can’t claim any credit for that but it is lovely to hear that it’s happened. And it’s lovely to hear that it’s happening more often and I’m genuinely surprised at how often people say that.
Q. What else would you like to see your fans come away with from listening to your music?
A. First of all it’s simply to forget their troubles for a time and just be entertained and whatever is going on in their life that may be unpleasant or they just want to get away from, the pressures at work or whatever it might be, just escape that for a while. It’s actually a very worthwhile thing. The other thing is I heard that Trent Reznor said my music inspired him to do some things when he heard my stuff. So if you can be inspiring in that way, if you can make people pick up and think I can do that or I want to do that, So That is another good reason for doing that. I have no musical training whatsoever. I am not musically gifted in anyway at all. I’m not particularly a good player; I’m not a particularly good singer. So if someone like me can get up and have a life – a really fantastic life doing this sort of thing without any major skill, musical skill, then I guess that is a good sign that anyone could do it. So that’s pretty much it. I’m not trying to change the world. I’m not trying to educate people with all of my worldly wisdom, I don’t even have any. I’ve had a very peculiar, fantastic but very peculiar kind of life so I see the world from a very protected place. I have been doing this my entire adult life. So there is a good chance that I don’t’ see the world quite the way somebody that works a nine to five job and has completely different kinds of problems than me. So I am not qualified to try to make people look at their lives differently because I don’t know. I don’t know the right way to do it. And I think that’s just honest, really. If I can entertain people for a while I guess that’s worthwhile.
Q. You say you don’t think you’re a good musician or whatever, so what motivates you to do it?
A. I love doing it. I absolutely love doing it. I love doing lots of things I’m not very good at. But I love doing them nonetheless. You don’t have to be great at something to actually enjoy doing it. But I do all of my own artwork on my records and I really enjoy it. I get a kick out of seeing the finished thing and knowing that I did that and it was my idea. The photograph was my idea. The font was my idea and the layout. I know I see other covers that are much better than mine and I think, yeah they are very, very good, but I enjoyed making mine. I even do my own posters sometimes. I run my own web site completely single-handed on my own sitting in my little room at home and I do everything. And I mean it’s not the best web site in the world and it’s certainly not the most interactive. But I really, really enjoy it. And that’s kind of my approach to everything. I’m not claiming to be the best at anything, and still I love what I do and I really enjoy it and that’s what I want to do for my life. And if other people like it as well and I’m able to earn a living from it, then everyone wins. It’s just a very cool situation.
Q. All of your lyrics are very poetic. Do you see yourself as a poet?
A. I never have, really, I really love lyric writing. I think lyric writing is probably my most favorite part of the songwriting process. My favorite part of the whole being in a band process is actually gigging and being out on a world tour which is what I am doing now. This is the most exciting part of it. But I’ve never considered myself a poet. Yeah, I think I can put words together reasonably well and create a mood even or an atmosphere with the words I use. I don’t think I’m a gifted poet, though, not at all, but I’m reasonably comfortable with the English language and can say what I mean,
Q. When it comes to writing your songs, what comes first the lyrics or the music?
A. The music always. The lyrics are the very last thing. I write the music almost always on piano with a drum machine in the background, The arrangement is worked out first, record that and add a few parts on top to give it some kind of structure and then I will sing the vocals to that music but it can be complete gibberish, absolute gibberish. It is very rarely that there are any proper words at all. I sing noises and sounds until the flow of melody is absolutely perfect to the music. And then I write the lyrics at the end and I make them fit that gobblely goop. I think one of the reasons very few of my songs rhyme hardly is because the phrasing is absolutely perfect for the music because of the back handed way I have about writing it. Songs that have had the lyrics written first have awkward phrasing, they have to make words fit even when they don’t really belong there because the words came first. So you’ll find some people will have a word like “street” and spread it over three or four different notes. But it was never meant to be like that.
Q. When you get down to the recording process. What computer programs do you use?
A. I’ve got ProTools now. ProTools and all it’s various plug-ins that come with it pretty much do everything for me now. It’s all plug-in software processing. My studio has gone from being a big room, absolutely crammed with gear, to a tiny little room with a desk, a computer, a keyboard and very small workstation with a DAT player in it and some interfaces for the ProTools system. I ‘m pretty much entirely software based now. It’s brilliant, absolutely brilliant and it’s the most powerful capable studio I’ve ever had. And I’ve had a new studio for each of the last three albums. It’s been developing and I’ve been trying to shrink everything down to more manageable size. To me the more technology you’ve got the more things can go wrong. The more time you spend fixing things and getting engineers out to repair things instead of being creative. It’s not perfect but it’s incredibly reliable considering it’s computer based. And computers are not the best things in the world normally for everything, but it’s very, very small and hugely powerful.
Q. Did you create your albums at your studio at home?
A. I co-produced it with Abe Fenton and he did some of the work in his studio up in the North of England. I did the bulk of it in my studio down in the south of England. We did have a guitar player come in and do some work on it. I did a lot of the guitar work on it but we did get the guitar player that I normally use. He did some work on it. And then, Drummer Jerome Dillon came down to do a couple of drum tracks, and my regular drummer did some drum tracks as well. There were a couple of people that played strings on one or two songs. There were a few other guest people, too. But in the main it was me and Abe Fenton that did 95 % of it.
Q. So it was primarily done digitally?
A. Yeah. Pretty much, yeah.
Q. You said Abe is in another part of England. Did you actually get together or did you record over the Internet?
A. No, it was all done by sending each other a DVD in the post. We’re not high tech enough to be going over the Internet yet. Now that broadband is becoming an everyday thing anymore I guess that is becoming much more sensible. But the next album with my broadband connection tripling speed, so we are slightly behind you, the Americans with our broadband system over there but it is getting much better very, very quickly. I’ll be surprised if this new album – if it’s not easily feasible to do things over the Internet rather than on a disk and it will be much easier. So I would much prefer to do it that way. Yeah, so I guess with the new album it’s probably going to be the way to go.
Q. How soon will you be starting on the new CD?
A. When I get back I’m going to do a special extended version of the Jagged album. Plus adding some new songs to it and some alternative versions of some of the original Jagged songs. And that’s going to be a double CD. Possibly a triple depending on how much stuff we end up with. That’s what I’ve got to do as soon as I get back. Plus on top of that I’m beginning to write a new album because I really do want to get that out by next September or October time 2007. I have to get on with that absolutely as soon as possible. But we also want to come back here again in March or April for another tour again. That’s another three weeks, maybe a month taken out of that schedule to do the tour. It’s pretty full on actually when we get back. But it’s exciting, I really do feel like we’re back in the thick of it again then.
Q. Obviously your music has changed over the years. In the earlier years was that you or was it record company producers or somebody influencing your music to the extent that you weren’t really doing what was you or true to yourself?
A. In the early days for the first 5 or 6 years it was absolutely me. Ridiculously me. I wouldn’t listen to anyone whatsoever. I was arrogantly, arrogantly me, I wouldn’t listen to anyone, anyone at all. Anyone – not in the studio not in the record company, not anyone. I was doing exactly what I wanted to do. Then it was just arrogance, which was way out of proportion to my age and my ability. And then in the middle years when things went badly wrong. It was at that point that I actually let them talk me into writing and that proved to be a major mistake. And I lost my way quite badly. And then come 1994 I’d give up on that and went back to becoming very isolated and focused again and just went back to doing it for a hobby. Actually I gave up pretty much and on any sort of commercial ambition for radio play and record companies. I didn’t even have a deal actually. So I was in a bad place, the record sales had collapsed the concert ticket sales had collapsed. I was badly in debt. And I just went back to doing it for the love of doing it. Everything that I had been trying for the previous 10 years hadn’t really worked. And I wasn’t enjoying myself. I didn’t even like the music that I was making. Everyone’s advice that they’d been giving me hadn’t worked out. So I was thinking I should go back to what I used to be before, just doing what I want to do and doing it for the love of doing it and making music that I wanted to make rather than making the music that I thought might get me on the radio. So I’ve got a very good attitude, getting on with my career the last 10 or 12 years and now that period in the middle when I weakened and lost my resolve and lost my arrogance really to a point. Except I never saw it as arrogance, but to me it was more determination. But in that middle period I did some terrible stuff, your music can be watered down to a hodge podge of different opinions and that’s not the way to go. That’s rubbish. And I regret that very, very much. And I put out some really crap albums. The first were good, the last four have been really, really good, it’s the bit in the middle that I prefer to forget. I don’t do any songs from that period live either.
Q. But if you weren’t playing music how were you supporting yourself?
A. I was in debt to the tune of a million dollars. In the early 90s I was a million dollars in debt. And my income from music was actually nil. I was just selling stuff and they were trying to repossess my house at one point cause I couldn’t’ pay the mortgage on the house. Just scraping by really from day to day. And I got involved in doing really horrible cheesy collaborations cause people would say “Look, if you do a guest vocal on my s— track I’ll give you five thousand pounds.” And I’d say okay cause I was desperate, “give me the money”. In that period, as well, I did some really crap collaborations and things – music I hated – just to make enough money to survive.
Q. But you were still making music and not working at McDonalds?
A. No, no. Just making music. No I never stopped making music. I just went though a period of making absolutely S— music.
Q. If you couldn’t’ play music what would you do?
A. The only two things I wanted to do when I was younger were I wanted to be a pilot or a musician.
Q. And you’re doing both.
A. Yeah, But the only other thing I could think of that I’ve really been interested in was being a racing car driver.
Q. All high-energy things.
A. Yeah, I guess I’m machine based, really. As a musician it’s pretty much all technology driven kind of music. And so I think I like to do things involved with machinery of some kind or another, where it’s just you on your own in a car or an airplane or in the studio. You’re on your own with the machinery. Always an isolated kind of approach to any of the things I enjoy doing.
Q. What can people expect on the smaller stages like the ones you mentioned before?
A. We brought some lights with us. They’re called pixel lights and we have some things we can do to enhance the house rigs. But we are using the house rigs for sound and lights. So we really make the best use of what is there. We add a few little bits and things that we’ve got to make it look a little bit better and then we just do the best we can. The music for the Jagged album, is more aggressive, it’s better to watch on that particular show. It’s much more dynamic and very much geared towards being played live. The album was written with live shows in mind from the very beginning. It as designed for that. And the whole dynamic for the album, it’s designed to work live more than a studio record. So I think it all works very well, It’s a very powerful show and there are no quiet moments at all. It’s just absolutely full on from the moment we start to the moment we finish.
Q. You do some rather aggressive interactive stuff with your mic stands on stage, how many mic stands do you go though in a tour?
A. About two or three a night
Q. Two or three a night? Oh my goodness, do you own stock in a mic stands company?
A. No, we plan to use those at the venues and then when I break them I have to replace them. It gets kind of expensive. They just don’t make them like they used to, they’re just really flimsy now.
Q. Maybe you’re getting stronger.
A. No, I’m getting older and weaker.
Q. Hey I noticed you were moving pretty good on stage. You must work out.
A. No. I get up in the morning. That’s enough exercise for me.
Q. Are you going to be doing a DVD of this concert tour?
A. I don’t think we’re doing any on the American tour. We filmed in Britain, yes. We filmed three shows in the course of a year in Britain all of which have got to be mixed. So I’ve got to do that as well when we get back. They can be made into DVDs and released in various ways
Q. Do you know when that will be available?
A. If I get right on it when I get back I don’t see why the first DVD won’t be out by the first of the year.
Q. Maybe in time for Xmas?
A. Yeah, hopefully. That would be a good move, yeah.