Pugwash:: 11 Modern Antiquites, At The Sea, and conversations w/ Andy Partridge

I just love the melodic craftsmanship of Ireland’s Pugwash, who will be releasing a new album, 11 Modern Antiquites, this May on Andy Partridge’s Ape House label. Check out the video for “At The Sea,”where the band are joined by Neil Hannon of the Divine Comedy (who has a side project with Pugwash’s leader Thomas Walsh, The Duckworth Lewis Method.)

Also, take in a conversation between Thomas and Andy which ran in the most recent issue of Ghettoblaster. Check out the interview after the vid.

At The Sea

A Conversation between Andy Partridge and Thomas Walsh (from Ghettoblaster):

A figure in British pop music for over three decades, from XTC, to his solo work, to his numerous collaborations, Andy Partridge is a man that needs little introduction. Having become ever selective (some might say, perfectionistic),his own musical output has slowed considerably in recent years and he’s instead kept himself busy with Ape House, an independent record label he owns and operates. The mission statement for Ape House is that Andy aims “to bring you projects by myself and a host of interesting works by artists, writers and musicians that I admire.” One of said admired musicians is Thomas Walsh, primary member of Ireland’s Pugwash (and also The Duckworth Lewis Method with ex-Divine Comedy frontman, Neil Hannon). Collecting a number of favorite songs from releases previously only available in his native country, Giddy is Walsh’s first release for Andy, though many more have already been planned. Aside from both being hopelessly catchy tunes-smiths, the two share a number of cross-generational fancies. From The Beatles, to biscuits, to parlor games, the two recently sat down at their respective computers from their respective isles and got to know each other a little better while Ghettoblaster listened in.

Thomas Walsh: Did you really like a lot of what was going on “music-wise” in 1977 or did you just rush home after gigs to play More of The Monkees and feel human again?

Andy Partridge: Do you know, Thomas, I disliked most of the music around in ’77. It was just so bloody fake. Fake politics, fake annoyed, fake not very good playing. So I found myself retreating into jazz, dub and Danny Kaye for musical meals. After early gigs when we got back to the hotel/guest or friend’s house it was usually just play a round of Collaps-o. Not so much The Monkees, but I recall we were all addicted to BBC’s I Claudius at the time. How about you though, were you much of a Monkees nut? If so which did you want to be?

TW: I loved The Monkees, especially dear old tea-cosy bonce himself, Mike Nesmith. As a budding musician at the time you must agree that you knew that he knew what he was doing. Davey looked like he was waiting on a number 7 bus to take him south of the river and into Anthony Newley’s Head. Peter looked so cool, but had that way of smiling and playing bass that gave you doubts. And Mickey, well as a drummer since birth (which I was) Mickey played like a mannequin on speed! Rigid and mental, but I loved, loved, loved them. More of The Monkees was a big record for me weirdly – considering it’s one of their weakest albums – but more so because of it’s blatant Rubber Soul-esque cover and the fact that I had a wonderfully scuffed-up used vinyl copy that added to the mystique. “Door into Summer” is a huge favorite of mine as is “Tapioca Tundra” – pure genius! So to answer your questions (laughs), it’s definitely Mike. Anyway, switching it up a little, do you think Yoko’s a scapegoat for idiot Beatle nuts or a very relevant loose cog in the wobbly wheel that was The Beatles circa 1969?

AP: Just on The Monkees again for a second, I wanted to be Peter as my hair was like his but there was no way I could get it to go like Mike’s, Mickey’s or Davy’s. Also he was the lovable puppy kook, a role that suited me in school. Now as for that Yoko Eno – there’s a scary combo, but Brian Ono’s got a better head of hair – ha! Anyway, she was a scapegoat but deservedly so. Anybody in a band knows that you don’t bring the girlfriends into the studio and give them a mic of their own to criticize the band’s playing. God! Even Spinal Tap could see that. But they were sick to death of each other by then anyway, she was the wedge that hastened the split. How would you have dealt with a woman in a bed stealing your biscuits and telling you how to play as you were trying to make an album?

TW: Mmm. when biscuit stealing is involved, Andy, I could do time for murder but I always felt she had no choice. Especially with John saying “Yer comin’ to dee schtudio t’day n’ dats dat!” Anyway though, I do agree with you that in the studio, the less people the better. I make my records with an average of 3 to 4 people all the way through. When you have a session with string players or a few mates popping in, it always descends into a laugh-fest where everyone overdoses on tea and expensive chocolate biccies. They are wonderful days for the survival of the record as a “fun project” but they have to be few and far between. Either that or it’ll just turn into a Happy Mondays situation were you’ve spent all the studio money, wasted all the studio time, recorded nothing and then you start nicking the furniture to get money for more…ehm…biscuits!! So that obviously leads me to the question, can you remember the biscuits/meals and or drink of choice for various albums from your past to present?

AP: Sadly, Thomas, I can. White Music was rediscovering the cosmic glue of Tunnocks Caramel Wafers, an evil tempting devil woman of a confection, shite of Satan, etc. We ate them by the ton. With a short detour into CoCo Pops for Go 2, it was back to being Tunnocks junkies for Drums and Wires, Black Sea and English Settlement. The rest is a shameful haze of getting into harder stuff like HobNobs or McVities Chocolate Digestives. The American recorded albums broke us of this evil vice as you just couldn’t get decent biscuits over there. It all wound up on the last few albums with us squabbling unhealthily over who’s banana that might or might not be. Regardless, getting back to you Thomas -when you make an album, how much of it comes to you in the studio as opposed to it be planned beforehand (biscuited up or not)?

TW: Firstly Android, I feel vindicated! The Caramel Tunnocks concoction is legendary. With a hot cup of chai it’s quite orgasmic! Supergrass had one of their tours sponsored by Tunnocks recently and that says it all!!

Now… I know you’re a demo-whore Andy, as in you really nail the track before you “hit” the studio, so to speak. Well, I simply acoustic demo all of my songs, but I sing relevant string/important bits. So in my head it’s fully recorded anyway and just a matter of getting the right engineer to nail the sounds. But with how you handle demos, I never quite understood why you needed producers in XTC! Always loved the Lennon/George Martin story where John came to Abbey Road one day and said, “I want this track to sound like an orange.” Well, George may have understood Mr. Lennon’s insane warblings but it was down to Norman Smith to make them a reality. I’ve always thought the engineer got a bum deal when it came to classic records because people tend to misunderstand their role. By the way, I’ve always backed you up on the “Todd Rungdren shouldn’t have engineered Skylarking” theory, but do you acknowledge now that Mr. Todd saw beyond the periphery?

AP: Well, everyone is bored to tears by now with the problems that Todd and I had, so I won’t dwell. When all was shouted and done, he did a grand job. Greatly as arranger but mostly in presenting the English side of us to Americans, digging out our core of tea and scones. He is such an Anglophile that we needn’t have worried on that score. In hindsight I think we were the band that he would have liked to have been in when he was younger, English, quirky with memorable tunes. C’mon then, Thomas. Who would you like to work with as a producer? And you’re not allowed to say Jeff Lynne!

TW: Ohhh you! Shakes fist in a kind of “Scooby-Doo/meddling kids” kind of way. Not allowing me Jeff, eh? Well if I couldn’t have the tousled God of pop my first thoughts would be Rick Rubin. Come to think of it Androne, imagine Mr. Rubin being at the helm of your next release, eh?! I first really liked his work when I bought Tom Petty’s Wildflowers when it came out and I’ve always loved his style, approach and demeanour. I’d also say that it could be a tie with the unbelievably good Jon Brion! Mr. Brion has actually got one advantage over Mr. Rubin in that he’s a wonderful songwriter and has released some fantastic records. Most notably there’s Meaningless which includes the wonderful track “Ruin My Day” a very obvious, yet not at all libelous nod to your very own “Wrapped in Grey,” Andy. Speaking of the beautiful “Wrapped in Grey,” was that a bitter pill to swallow when you literally had to pulp one of the greatest British singles of all time? Or did it feel like… “Ok, now I really have a reason to jump the bad ship Virgin.” Was it a sad case of something really bad having to happen before the change had to come?

AP: Yeah, that was the stinky springboard that launched us into the blue. Virgin withdrawing the “Wrapped in Grey” single, gaaaah! But as they say, “all’s well that ends well” .or something. We needed to get away as our relationship was an awkward one with them. They never accepted us for what we were, always trying to squeeze us into the Saturday morning kids TV/pop pinup area – ha! We thought of ourselves as more of a traditional, but odd, rock band with a staggering command of the charts when needed. Hoho! God my sides are aching. Pass the needle and thread. Sort of, “Hey, hey we’re the Beefhearts. People say we Beefheart around.”Anyway, when Giddy goes global and you can order your Tunnocks shaped swimming pool, do you think you’ll be okay with how you’re perceived?

TW: Well, boss. I still chuckle in nervousness at that, Andy. Do you know who you are? I will always be perceived as “Beatle- esque” by the lazy journalistic few out there. Yes, it’s an honour to be bestowed with such reverence but there is a real strong dollop of Kinks/Michael Penn/E.L.O and XTC in my music even ahead of the Fabs, not forgetting that I do add a strong element of me into the equation! Ultimately, how I’m perceived is immaterial because The Fleet Foxes are Crosby. Stills & Nash, but no one dare say that to them because CS&N aren’t hip at the moment. Maybe after 9/9/9 and all The Fabs madness and beauty kicks in we may get less of a retro tongue-lashing than normal but I doubt it. You have to remember that I look like a lethargic slug heading to a local fancy dress as a saucer of foie gras… How about you though? Did you ever feel out of place “style-wise” and did people around you in the inner circle ever let you know that if they felt those concerns?

AP: Trousers, Thomas. Trousers, always trousers. My band had such a trouser problem. We even had a song called “Trouser Problem” (based on a Bowie tune) that we’d play in sound checks. Oh, and hair! No bastard in the band had good hair. I was the balding professor, Colin was Chrissie Hynde mated with Captain Caveman, Dave was Derek Nimmo after Baldrick had given him a drunken trim and Terry had no opinion about his builders Barnet whatsoever. I think the only band that had hair worse than us was probably The Association. We were not, and never ever will be, considered cool by standard Earth terms. Oh well. Do you know I feel that’s less important these days though, no bands seem to care for their appearance. They all look like they just ambled in off of the street, which I think is a shame, I like a dollop of how biz even though I can’t do it myself. Back to what you’d said earlier though, are you going to be getting into Beatle re-release hell?

TW: Well, I’m already there Andy! I was remaining calm and being very cool about it all until I saw one of the Rock Band advertisements… it was so good a little wee came out. So I’m fully pulled in now, even down to sitting alone in a darkened room playing “Revolution #9” and waving an “All You Need is Love” flag, drooling onto my man-boobs! Actually, I’m doing a few radio things in Dublin. Hopefully a token payment of the stereo & mono box-sets will be given. So Andy… Stereo or Mono across the musical board from ’65 to ’70 only. Which one are you and why?

AP: You know, I’m one of those sad gits who listens to his stereo Beatle albums with only one channel at a time, either just left or just right. Amazing what you can hear. String section talking on the intro to “All You Need is Love,” George moaning about his guitar being too loud on the intro of “It’s All Too Much.” I’m just a regular ol’ pop surgeon, me. I have to know how something was done. What pipe fits where, what exactly that sound is, the leg bones connected to the trombone. that sort of thing. It’s getting sadder too. I’ve started to listen to stereo mixes with an out-of-phase trick which is incredibly revealing, allowing you to listen to stuff only on the far edges of the stereo panning. This is the sort of behavior that could get me struck off! I’ve “umm”ed about getting the mono versions, only because I know all the care and attention went into those and not the stereos. I haven’t fallen yet though. You know, there’s going to be a Pugwash Rock Band version one of these days? Giddy is as good an album as the Beatles ever made so you should give yourself a gold star there man, do you have any new songs in the bag?

TW: It’s so difficult to take such a beautiful compliment as that but on the other hand I really know you mean it because you signed me! Hoorah! New songs in the bag? No. New songs in my new mp3 Dictaphone? Yes! I started writing again about 6 weeks ago and the uncontrollable vomit experience of getting the stuff out was in evidence again, which I was happy about. The Duckworth Lewis Method promo got very hectic though so I’ve stopped these past 3 weeks or so but it’s in there… I fight it every night because I hate the process of writing my own stuff so much, but the inner-pop in me always wins in the end. I have a few leftovers from the previous record, stuff like “Impressive as You Are,” “Snowfall in June” and “NCC- 1701,” which is always good to have as a reference to new stuff. If your new songs can’t outgun the rejects from the previous record then you’re not there yet. Speaking of that, I know you’re a big believer in out-doing previous efforts, Andy, but should sometimes a line be drawn regarding our own often wrong assessments of our past and previous work and we should just get a bloody record out?Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

AP: I can see what you’re doing there, Thomas, and part of me agrees with you, but I have this massive Godzilla sized editor inside of me who keeps saying, “No! Not good enough. Try again,” and although he’s been very helpful for quality control in the past he’s not allowing the new stuff to be born. You have to be a child to create and an adult to edit. Perhaps I’ve lost too much of the kid inside me. It’s also hard for my brain to grasp the fact that I feel I’ve made some real world-beating music and basically no bugger else thought so. Alright, enough of this death, doom and disaster though. Giddy is being printed up even as we speak and I can’t wait to get my mitts on it and its little surprise sleeve. What more need I say to the world at large other than if you don’t love this album when it comes out then you don’t deserve ears. Cheers ma’ man!

TW: Thank you for the honour of the virtual chin-wag Android. I’ll do all that my man-breasts can accomplish to make Giddy a worldwide winner! Thanks! Ghettoblaster Winter 09

Doesn’t it feel like its 1977 again with folks so engrossed in fake politics? Why do I say they’re fake? I don’t know…. maybe it was the mass hysteria of last year’s election. Or, maybe its the fact that “journalists” and many naive musicians continue to push the leaders’ talking points while ignoring the fact that regular people have less and less money to spend, jobs are disappearing, and all we have is the promise of more programs to suck the rest of our resources away. Also, consider celebrities who despise the paparazzi, except when said rich ass celebrity is shown being “compassionate” for the downtrodden. It’s all a bunch of BS. We ain’t even gonna talk about the weather, which should go down as the biggest scam in history though it will get washed over and they’ll just change the name again. F*** the bait and switch, government is supposed to work for the people, not the other way around. To me it looks like business as usual from those in power, and both parties have been shown to be complicit in running us through the ringer. They divide us so they can control us.  Help rarely comes with cameras.


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