Didn't Hurt A Bit
An exclusive chat with Colin Moulding.
After the third or fourth marathon-exhaustive interview Andy did for Optimism's Flames, the Treble Chef provided Colin Moulding's phone number and suggested I give him a call, saying that he was a fan of the site and was open to some conversation. Whether the number was provided out of sheer kindness, or in an oh-so feeble attempt to get me out of his hair (uh - so to speak) is more than just a wee bit murky. All kidding aside, the end result was a wonderfully pleasant conversation with one of my all-time musical heroes. Many thanks to ever-cool Colin, Andy, Mr. Beanfart & all who supplied a question or three. Hope you enjoy it. wesLONG
Interview done June 16, 2003 for www.optimismsflames.com
WL: Hello Colin, this is Wes. How are you?
CM: I'm okay, how are you?
WL: [laughing] I'm okay. I believe I heard a little dread in your voice just now.
CM: A little dread? Oh no - no - not at all. Looking forward to our tête-à-tête.
WL: Okay, great. Wanted to make sure I wasn't getting you at a bad time. I know we'd set it up, but I was just checking.
CM: No, I had it written down on the calendar so I knew you were going to call at some stage. 6:30 [Swindon time] wasn't it? Yeah, just the ticket.
WL: Okay. So, let's go ahead and get started. Can you tell me why you decided to opt out of the Fuzzy Warbles project?
CM: Oh blimey. I always get asked this, don't I? Just - old stuff, really. I just had it up to here with old stuff. We'd done this demo thing to death I think. I just didn't want to do another twelve volumes of it. I just thought we've kind of got it fairly well covered, you know. I accept that the fans probably want it, but it's not something that I wanted to [do]. It didn't set me alight. I just didn't find it very inspiring.
WL: Why do you think Andy's so enamored by the idea? Do you think he just wants to clean house, and just get it all out so he doesn't have to think about it anymore?
CM: I think he wants to make some money. [laughter]
WL: [laughing] Nothing wrong with that.
CM: No, quite. I wish I was making the same sort of money myself. I just really couldn't face it, going over all that old stuff. I just wouldn't have found it very inspiring. Maybe a couple of volumes would've been okay, or just one. But he wanted to do twelve, which kind of put the wind up me a little bit. We had a bit of an argument about it. I think the only way out of it was to kind-of opt out. That was the only solution, I think. To opt out and let him get on with it really.
WL: Are you writing any music now?
CM: Right now I'm editing a DVD. You folks are gonna get a DVD from us fairly shortly, I think.
CM: It's to do with this Virgin DVD and there's more footage around of us in the studio, which nobody knows about. I'm editing it on my computer.
WL: Great. What's the footage of, what time period?
CM: This particular one is Nonsuch. It's going to be some footage
WL: From Chipping Norton?
CM: From Chipping Norton.
WL: I've actually got a video of that; it's pretty rough looking quality. I know a fan shot it; I can't recall who it was now.
CM: There is some other footage as well. Maybe you're getting confused with that.
WL: Probably so.
CM: We did have a fan at the studio who took some footage, and that may have made it on to the Internet, I'm not sure. But this particular stuff is us doing several tracks: "The Disappointed" & "Didn't Hurt a Bit".
WL: Very neat.
CM: But most of the stuff is "Didn't Hurt a Bit" and I'm cutting it to the track from Coat [of Many Cupboards]. It's a two CD, or two DVD set. Maybe even more, I'm not sure. But at the moment it's two DVD's in a box, and we're just kind-of preparing it - just getting more footage from all around the world. It's gonna be quite a fat box.
WL: I like fat boxes.
CM: [laughing] Me too, yeah.
WL: So it's gonna be all the Virgin singles, the videos that were made and just whatever other footage you can get in there? What else is gonna be in it?
CM: Well, I've just received an email from our friend at Virgin to say he's tracked down some footage from Australia of us on a program called Countdown.
WL: Yes, I think I've seen that.
CM: Really? Blimey.
WL: I've got a good bit of video but most of the quality is just horrible. It sounds like XTC; it doesn't really look like XTC.
CM: [laughing] Well, apparently this stuff's from Countdown and there's another bit from some concerts we performed in Holland as well.
CM: Yeah, it's surprising where all this turns up. And there's such masses of it over our whole career that there's kind-of a bit of a nightmare about disentangling things and getting permission to use them. You know, use the footage from various TV stations and such like.
WL: Nobody really cares about it until they find out somebody's about to make some money off of it. Then everybody's interested.
CM: Yeah, you've got it. That's right, then they want a catch. So it's going to be quite an elaborate affair. I was asked to do some editing for it, which I quite enjoy. So, that's what I'm doing at the moment, compiling.
WL: I read online that you'd written a song for a BBC2 film, Sweetnight Goodheart.
CM: Yes, that's right. That was a track called "Say It", which I've re-recorded as a demo recently because the version that I did for that 'round Andy's place, for this Sweetnight Goodheart, was totally different. I've written two more versus for it and it sounds totally different basically, [laughing] since I've re-written it - because I wasn't happy with it. But we had to get the song finished for them, so I sent it through. But we still didn't get the gig anyway, so I wish we'd recorded it properly at the time. So I just re-recorded it, and it sounds far better and more finished. I still wouldn't mind doing it for the record.
WL: Any kind of time frame now for the record?
CM: [incredulously] The record? Blimey - your guess is as good as mine.
WL: [laughing] Other than that song, has material been put together?
CM: I don't think the song count between us is all that great to be honest, at the moment, what with Andy doing the Warbles and me doing bits and pieces. You've got to have your mind set on it really.
WL: Sure. You're sort of stuck in limbo until Andy gets his head out of his Warbles.
CM: [laughing] Yeah, so ten volumes later I'm sure we'll be there.
WL: What instrument do you prefer to use when you write?
CM: Generally I get on guitar. If I find something on the keyboard it's usually by accident and cannot be transposed into anything other than the shape of my fingers kind of losing the plot. I don't play keyboards but I have written on the piano before.
WL: Would I know any songs that you wrote on piano?
CM: "Bungalow" was composed on piano and there was a track called "Washaway", that's the couple that come to mind.
WL: Great songs.
CM: It's mainly guitar though, Wes. It's mainly acoustic. It's what falls under the hands. I do tend to experiment with different tunings, and unusual voicings.
WL: What usually comes first - lyrics or music, and does it make a difference?
CM: It's great when they come at the same time. I think you can go forward a lot easier if they do. It's very easy to get ahead of yourself if you've got a melody and you keep inventing little bits to go forward with the melody but you haven't got a line. I think that's not the easiest way to do it really. Otherwise you're setting yourself up a bit of a problem, filling in all the lines with words. I think you're far better off conceiving it together as a melody line [with] words fitting in with that melody line. It's far better if they're conceived together and then they can move forward together, the idea and the melody. That's the way I like it to fall.
WL: Makes it easier.
CM: It does, yeah. I think most writers would probably agree. That's the way God planned it. [laughing] Yeah, that's the way I like to work. You can find words as well, of course, and then try and think of a melody later, but that's hard as well. It's even harder to invent melody lines and you're trying to fill it all in like a crossword. That's incredibly hard and I wouldn't recommend it. It's best if it's conceived all in one go, really. Work from the first line, the melody line with the words filled in, you can work from that quite easily I think. That's the conception there and then, isn't it? If you get your first line you're on to a winner.
WL: What do you think makes you different from other writers, lyrically and musically?
CM: Oh, I don't know. I wouldn't say I stood out as doing anything incredibly original, or an incredible different approach. I think you'd have to ask other people for that.
WL: What would you view as your strengths and weaknesses as a writer?
CM: I think I'm good at melody, and words are getting better. I think they weren't too hot to start with but they've got a lot better. I didn't know the tricks that you have to do in order to arrive at those words that mean a lot. I didn't know how to phrase it to actually get across what you want to say.
WL: Sure, it's a craft.
CM: It is, yeah - still learning it.
WL: You're doing very well.
CM: I'm doing all right now, but before I was a little ropy. [laughing] I think melody was always fairly strong, and that side of it easier I suppose.
WL: How do you and Andy differ as songwriters? How do you compliment or contrast each other?
CM: We've never written together of course. That would be impossible I think; two Hitler's in one bunker.
WL: You know, that's funny - I've always been aware that you did your songs and Andy his, but I don't think I ever really gave it thought that you'd never written together. I mean, you do add things to each other's songs?
CM: Oh yes, arrangement ideas - all the time, definitely. We both enjoy chipping in. A lot of that happens in the studio as well, horn lines and harmonies, that sort of thing. But I think the basic thing is the writer kind-of maps it out, but it's the little embellishments that always come up from other sources. We like to chip-in on each other's songs in the studio. It's a nice thing to do. Otherwise you get a bit of demo-itis [laughter] You're wrapped up in the demo and then the other guy comes up with something that you hadn't thought of on the demo. That makes the process of recording all that much more enjoyable.
WL: Sure, you need the interaction of the band.
CM: Most definitely, yeah.
WL: Do you miss playing live?
WL: Do you think that not playing live has affected your writing in any way?
CM: Yes. I can't put my finger on how it has, but I suppose it has. I suppose it was around the time that we finished touring; we got our little porta-studios - home setups going. Before we just used to come to a rehearsal with our acoustic guitars and strum the songs through, and say "well fellas, it goes like this." It seems to coincide with when we finished touring that we got our home studio setups and we were able to do elaborate demos and play all the instruments on the demo and show the other guys more in-depth what was meant. I suppose it must have had an effect, but difficult to quantify what effect it had.
WL: Do you feel that you are more or less prolific now because of fewer interactions with other musicians? I don't know if you get together with anybody and sort-of jam around?
CM: Never done that, no. I wouldn't rule it out though. Andy is always saying to me "well, you should get a writing partner or try and write for other people," that sort of thing. That's a side of it that I'd like to try, I think - because I've always sort-of kept myself to myself, so to speak. My demos and my songs, they've always been my baby. I'd be very open to the prospect of writing for a musical or something like that.
WL: I think your music would work very well for that.
CM: Especially the recent stuff. It sounds as though some of it might have come from a musical, I suppose.
WL: Is there anyone in particular that you would like to work with?
CM: What do you mean? In the musical realm?
WL: [laughing] I don't really know too many people in that realm. I just meant any genre, musical or other.
CM: I tend to like younger people. I've been producing some demos for my son. [Lee] Having a lot of fun, and just thinking how wonderful it is to work with much younger people who have lot's more enthusiasm. [laughter] John Leckie said something at one stage, he said "Oh, I never work with older bands - they're much too miserable." [laughter] He always works with young bands who just signed a deal. I think there's a lot of truth in that, there's a lot of energy and it's very invigorating. I wouldn't mind, perhaps arranging or producing records with young bands.
WL: Ah, youth.
CM: Youth - That's what it's all about, yeah. It's a young man's game, I think. Well, we'll hang on anyway. [laughter]
WL: A relatively young man's game.
CM: It's becoming an older man's game as time goes on. We've still got something to offer, hopefully.
WL: Definitely, I'm glad you're still in the game. How is the book coming along?
CM: It's difficult, because it's so time consuming. I think I answered one of these questions on the Q&A on the [Idea] website. I've done the Skylarking chapter. I wrote that about a year ago, but I've not touched it since. I think it's going to be one of those when-you-feel-like-it things. You have to be in the mood to go raking back into the memory. I don't like going on those nostalgic trips, but they're necessary to bring everything to the fore. It was a long time ago. But it's time consuming, printing it all up and getting the type done. No doubt I'll finish it, but in the fullness of time I'm afraid, [chuckles] maybe. At this rate it may take the next ten years. But it's started and I may have a go at another chapter, but it's so bloody time consuming. You don't always feel like doing it. But I'd like to put the record straight.
WL: I know Andy doesn't spend much time online. Are you a little more comfortable being online and with computers?
CM: I bought my Imac about a year ago and I suppose I've come on in leaps and bounds because a lot of people have been teaching me about how it works. Yeah, as I say, I've gotten into this video editing malarkey, which is quite rewarding. I'm editing stuff for "Stupidly Happy", us just in the studio mucking about. There are copyright restrictions, so it won't be on the Virgin DVD. It will probably be on the DVD that will come out later. But it's good fun to do this editing. I'm quite enjoying it.
WL: What sort of access do you have to the Internet?
CM: I'm thinking about getting broadband. I don't have it at the moment. It's just a regular line. But it would be handy to have it.
WL: Sure. Is Internet very expensive for you [in Swindon]?
CM: It's probably more expensive here than what it is in the States.
WL: Any idea what broadband costs you?
CM: Yes, it ranges from about twenty to thirty pounds. The cheapest one is about eighteen pounds. What you get for that, I'm not sure. You'll pay at least twenty, and I think twenty-five pounds is probably average.
WL: If there's a range there's some sort of restriction on those then.
CM: On usage, yeah.
WL: I pay forty dollars a month and I'm online at all times.
CM: Forty dollars you say? So what's that, about twenty-five quid? Yeah, you'd probably get online all the time for twenty-five quid over here.
WL: That's not bad. But I'm an Internet junkie. We do everything online: check movie times, news, email, research
CM: It's great, isn't it?
WL: It is great.
CM: I do quite a lot with the XTC business side of it. We're always sending files and such to lawyers. We're doing an audit of Virgin. A lot of the business stuff, I tend to do. By default really, I suppose, more than anything, because nobody else wants to do it. [laughing] It's something you have to keep on top of. But the Internet is very handy for that.
WL: Sounds like you don't have much time to just dick around online.
CM: Dick around? What doing? Visiting the porn sites?
WL: [laughing] How hands-on are you with the Idea website?
CM: We kind of chip in. We do the Q & A every month.
WL: Are you sent a list of questions to pick from, or
CM: Well, the questions are pasted up and we just visit the site and choose the ones we want. I just send it in [the answers] by email. There's a little film, this "Stupidly Happy" film, that's supposedly to go on the Internet shortly, a little QuickTime file.
WL: Is it a promo type film, or was it shot in-studio?
CM: It's this thing I edited of me and Andy in the studio during Apple Venus time. I would've thought it would have been shown by now, but I don't think it's on there yet. I think the guy who runs the site has got to get some equipment to put it on. It's good fun to make a contribution.
WL: Do you get much time to fish these days?
CM: Fish? Oh, no - no. I haven't done that for years. It's finding the time. If I had the time I probably wouldn't do much of it anyway. It's one of those things where you get into for a while and then you're off it.
WL: Sure. I think everyone's aware of all the hobbies Andy has. I believe that's the only one I've ever really heard that would occupy your time when you weren't working.
CM: Well, I got into a little bit of stained glass making as well. I did that for a couple of years. But, once again, that takes up a lot of time. But it's quite rewarding. I did a few pieces, got into a bit of restoration work and restored a pane of glass in the church. That was quite good fun to do.
WL: That's neat. How did you learn that skill? Did you take a class?
CM: Yeah, we took classes for about three or four months. Once again, it just takes a lot of time and if music is your first love then it kind-of stays with you. All the other stuff tends to fall by the wayside eventually. We've been doing this Dukes [of Stratosphear] thing. Did you hear about that?
WL: I did hear about that. It's going to be a one-off for some sort of benefit CD?
CM: Yeah, I think it's for multiple sclerosis. We recorded the drums up at my place. We got Ian Gregory, who is the original Dukes drummer.
WL: Sure. I've spoken with Ian before.
CM: [We] laid the drums down and burned them on a CD, and then Andy loads them onto his computer and we play along. I think Dave got involved as well. So all the original Dukes did their bit.
WL: So that was pretty much done piecemeal?
CM: Yeah. I'd go up to Andy's and then Dave would go up to Andy's. Just bits and pieces really. Well, Andy's shed really isn't all that big. We couldn't all get in there.
WL: Where did the song originate?
CM: Andy wrote the song, brought it up and got Ian Gregory, and I recorded the drums up at my place and we burned it to a CD and loaded it into Andy's computer. And then presumably he'll mix it in the computer.
WL: How does it sound?
CM: Well I went up to play bass a couple of weeks ago and it sounded really good.
WL: Great, I can't wait to hear it. Big fan of the Dukes.
CM: Yeah, me too. Probably some of the best stuff we've done is with the Dukes. When there's no pressure to make a hit record, things tend to turn out better.
WL: You know, I talked with Andy a good bit about XTC cover art and he told me the history of many of them. I'm curious how much of a participant you've been in the process?
CM: Well, if I tend to stick my nose in on that, Andy butts it out. He's very opinionated on artwork. If I stick my nose in, it's generally not wanted. [laughing]
WL: Even for your own singles?
CM: Less so, I suppose. He kind-of feels obliged to have input from myself but I think he wishes that I'd leave it to him.
WL: He wants the art to be his domain.
CM: Unless it's something that I'd really like to see. We'll kind of work round that.
WL: Can you think of any of the art that you had some say in, or that you wanted to change?
CM: We're talking probably a single bag, aren't we? I think the "Ball & Chain" thing; I had it in my head to have those houses on the front. It was around the time that there were a lot of house clearances in Swindon. A lot of things were being knocked down. There were these three houses standing and I thought, "well, that sums it up - why don't we photograph that?" It seemed to be the order of the day. There was definitely my input on "This World Over", the "press once" bell on the back was my suggestion. That's actually a bus bell. But I thought it was a good motif, press once and only press once for annihilation.
WL: Andy told me a story, that when he was a child he used to see that bell and worry that it may have more power than to simply stop the bus. [laughing]
CM: We had a similar sort of childhood. I have to vouch that it was my idea. These things tend to get lost in the mists of time. [laughing]
WL: I understand nobody in the band had any input in the Virgin remasters. I'm curious if you've heard any of them, and what your thoughts are on them?
CM: That was a complete abortion. The whole thing was a shambles. I think the artwork in particular. A lot of it's all wrong, and so badly printed. I think Nonsuch, the whole thing is shifted about an inch-and-a-half one way I think. It's just a complete muck-up. I don't think they really thought too much about it.
WL: What do you think about the sound?
CM: I've been playing the Japanese ones, the ones in the cardboard sleeves. Which look nicer, I think.
WL: Yeah, me too. I've got a couple of those.
CM: I think they look nice, and they seem to be more compressed than the English ones. They sound pretty good. As far as I know, the sound is okay on the English ones - unless anybody knows different. But certainly the artwork is a complete muck-up. They just didn't take the care. You know what it is? They tend to exclude the band for fear that the band might cost them any more money. They so-so like to consult the band, but not too much because the band will cost them money. The band usually makes some demands of the booklet, or something here and there to titillate the fans. But of course they're not into that, they're into just printing off what had gone before as cheaply as possible.
WL: It bothers me that somebody can take the music and remaster it without any input from the band. It makes me wonder if someone is simply improving, or actually altering the soundstage.
CM: It's crazy though, the fact that this remastering was being done when we were at the same mastering suite. I think we were mastering Wasp Star, either that or Homegrown or Homespun. [laughing] We were actually mastering in the same mastering suite and next door we could hear our records being remastered! In fact, they came and asked us a few questions about one or two tracks while we were there. So God knows, if we hadn't been there - what would they have done? It just goes to show the whole thing was ramshackle, and we should have been in on it. But they're loath to get the band involved for fear it might cost them some money.
WL: Some people online have been discussing differences between the remastered discs and the original releases. For instance, on Oranges & Lemons there are instances where tracks don't end or segue they way they do on the original release. That seems like an alteration of the music. How much does that bother you?
CM: Well the trouble is that there's crossfades between tracks. I don't know what they do, whether they just do the crossfades or they just leave them out. I'm not sure. There are definitely crossfades that we do. When we compile the albums we usually have a few crossfades to get the flow going and I don't know whether they heed those crossfades when they remaster.
WL: On Oranges & Lemons there are times when they don't, and it effects the feel of the album. You get used to it being one certain way.
CM: Yeah, that's right. I'm sure that they cut corners there, because you have to do quite a process to do crossfades. It does benefit the flow of the record. I'm sure that they don't always adhere to them. Mucked them up probably and hoped for the best.
WL: [laughing] Unbelievable that you were in the studio right beside them.
CM: Yeah, we never got invited to the remaster. I think it's always good if the band can be involved. But we don't always get asked, that's the truth of it. Of course, they're not legally bound to ask us to be involved. I think the answer is they would like us to be involved provided we don't cost them any money.
WL: Or take up any extra time, which would cost them extra money. And with Andy's input they're probably afraid it would take years to get them all done.
CM: That's right. They're petrified of that. But hopefully we're going to be involved with a lot of the stuff they're going to release shortly. I think they're going to do a - rather like Deca did on the Stones - all sorts of compilations coming out now. Now that we've left the label they're just going to town on us.
WL: [laughing] What more can they do? What's left to put together?
CM: Well, they can compile records and call them what they like, basically.
WL: The best of Colin. The best of Andy.
CM: [laughing] I don't think they'd cut it up that far. They're doing one that they've tentatively called An Introduction to XTC, which is a compilation of tracks - bits and pieces from all the albums. If one was introducing somebody to XTC, what they would put on a compilation. I'll tell you what we said to them, "if you had to introduce somebody to XTC you'd probably just hand them a copy of Fossil Fuel if you wanted to slowly prise them in to listen to us." So I'm thinking about it, "what use is this record at all?" It seems a bit of a feeble excuse for a record, but we're trying to summon up enthusiasm for it. We'll probably try to introduce some of the tracks that weren't singles but were quite accessible. That's the first thing on the agenda and then, of course there's the DVD. And then I think there's a box set of singles coming out, in CD format - not vinyl. It would probably be too expensive to do the vinyl.
WL: You mean individual CD's for each single?
CM: Yes, with the artwork shrunk to size. Things like that, and God knows what else.
WL: I guess there's no end to it. I'd always assumed that once you had contractually finished your obligation to Virgin that would be it. But Virgin continues to own your work, so they can do whatever they want.
CM: They own them in perpetuity - forever. We're unlikely to get them back.
WL: What a shame.
CM: Yeah. That's why it's important for us to keep the website going, to have all our records available, because I'm sure a lot of them will be deleted in time. Hopefully we can manage to stock-up on them and if people want them they can always come to us. Or we can order them. Once again, there was the box set as well [Coat of Many Cupboards] a couple of years ago. I mean, that took the whole bloody summer to do because we had to do remixes. We did a lot of remixes here at my place. That took a hell of a lot of time. Make no mistake, it's good to be involved, otherwise they'd just go on and do it anyway in whatever form that they choose. So, it's in our interest to be involved.
WL: You are paid for your involvement, right?
CM: Up to a point. Well, not really - no. If we charged by the hour it would amount to a pretty tidy sum.
An attempted speed round - short questions, short answers...
WL: When was the last time you wore a tie?
CM: Probably around the time of "Life Begins at the Hop" when those skinny ties were all the fashion. [laughing] Probably the video for "Making Plans for Nigel" or "Life Begins at the Hop".
WL: When was the last time you tied one on?
CM: We're talking a tie? [laughing] Probably then! I don't think I've tied them on anybody else.
WL: [laughing] I mean tied one on as in - done some drinking. Gotten drunk.
WL: It was an attempted play on words.
CM: Tied one on? I'm not quite sure what that means. [laughing] Sorry.
WL: If you could be anyone for a day, in any time period - who would it be?
CM: Oh, blimey - these are not the sort of questions you can answer in two minutes! I'm probably happy being in this body, I think. Mustn't grumble. [laughing] It could be a lot worse. I could be the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
WL: [laughing] What's your proudest moment?
CM: Probably my children being who they are and me helping, making them.
WL: What's your proudest musical moment?
CM: Oh, there's lot's of those moments, isn't there? Probably appearing on Top of the Pops for the first time, and my parents actually caring that I did appear on it. Being on the Tele for the first time, I think.
WL: That meant you had made it?
CM: It meant I was on my way. I just think that, when you're a TV household as kids, being on the TV is quite a big step for anybody. Especially to be performing your own songs, that's quite a moment. It's certainly a moment for your parents. I think that's a bit of a weird one, seeing your offspring on TV.
WL: I'll be damned, he's on TV!
CM: I think you always feel very proud that your parents have seen you on TV, especially performing your own songs.
WL: What one word do you think best describes Colin Moulding?
WL: What sound do you love?
CM: Blimey. [after some thought] I love miking up snare drums. I love the sound of a snare drum.
WL: What sound do you hate?
CM: The sound of a snare drum being whacked when I'm trying to talk. [laughing] It's a love and hate relationship I've got with a snare drum.
WL: [laughing] If you could redo any one XTC song - which would you like to redo?
CM: Probably "Cynical Days".
CM: I don't like the horn in it; it gives off completely the wrong vibe. There's a horn line in "Cynical Days" that's just not - we were scratching our heads, trying to find something and Mark Isham had done some horn on some other track. He kind-of got roped in to do some on "Cynical Days."
WL: It's got a bit of a horn solo in it, doesn't it?
CM: Yeah. It's too loungey. It wasn't quite what I had in mind, I must admit. We were scratching our heads for something for a musical interlude, and I suppose it fitted the bill. But in my brain it didn't really fit the bill.
WL: Is there an album that you'd like to have another shot at?
CM: Go2 is a bit of an abortion. It's just everybody pulling in different directions. I don't think the songs are all that great either. Rewrite the whole bloody album, I think.
WL: [laughing] Ale or lager?
WL: Good man. Out of curiosity, do you like stouts?
CM: My son likes Guinness. He drinks gallons of it. His capacity for beer seems to know no boundaries. Four pints and I'm on my back. I don't drink stout, I'm just straight ale.
WL: The saying goes - Drink ale, live lager.
CM: Live lager? Live larger, I think. [laughing]
WL: [laughing] That too.
CM: You can quote me on that one.
WL: What's your favorite movie?
CM: I like Great Expectations, by David Lean. The original 1940's version, the Dickens classic. That's my favorite movie. Still is. Even now it always brings a tear to your eye. I like It's a Wonderful Life as well.
WL: You like sentimental movies.
CM: I do. I'm a bit of an old softy really. I think they're very similar movies in respect that they tell a bit of a moral tale. I like that. It's an old fashioned thing that used to happen in movies, but you don't see too much of it these days.
WL: That's reflected in your writing too.
CM: Yeah. I like that sort of thing.
WL: What are you whispering in "Boarded Up"?
CM: I think it's "boarded up," backwards.
WL: Is that what that is?
CM: Yeah, you know in "# 9 Dream" Lennon goes "nhoj." It's "John" backwards, isn't it?
WL: It sounds like "remind me at home." I've always wondered what you were saying.
CM: You'll have to try and spin it back, if that's possible.
WL: Not on a CD player. [I've since been told it can be done with Sound Forge]
CM: No, quite. But I think it's "boarded up," backwards.
WL: If you could play in a band with any musicians, dead or alive, who would you pick?
CM: I think young bands, as I said before. Nobody comes to mind. I'm thinking on my feet here, but I like mainly young bands.
WL: As a bass player, would you be more interested in playing with any particular drummers?
WL: What one word do you think best describes Andy Partridge?
WL: [laughing] That's telling. What's your favorite curse word?
CM: It's probably not repeatable here.
WL: Sure it is.
CM: Oh, just the general ones that everybody uses I suppose. Probably the F-word. [after some thought] Oh - bugger-me - I tend to use quite a bit! But nobody obliges, either. [laughing]
WL: Who's your favorite Beatle?
CM: Probably McCartney.
WL: Of the XTC drummers, who was your favorite to play with?
CM: Oh, that's difficult because they all have a different style.
WL: Sure. It's like asking what your favorite food is.
CM: It is, yeah - a little bit. I quite like Dave Mattacks, I have to say.
WL: He's an amazing drummer.
CM: I suppose it's his simplicity that's always very engaging. He doesn't think about doing anything complicated, it's always just one hit. [laughing] He's a one hit wonder, in the nicest sense. He'll just put one beat in a fill rather than two, or three. Yeah, he's quite stylish.
WL: Very tasty.
CM: Very tasty, yeah. With a nice bit of bacon. [laughing] Tasty guy.
WL: What one word best describes Dave Gregory?
CM: [laughing] Oh, my God. Oh, I've got to be careful here, haven't I?
WL: [after some time] Pass?
CM: I'm trying not to pass. I want to say - Oh, God. Oh, I don't know. [pregnant pause] One-of-a-kind.
WL: When was the last time you spoke with Dave?
CM: We've been speaking quite regular, recently, because of the business end of it. We're doing audits of Virgin and Dave wants to be involved in it. Plus we've been doing the Dukes thing, working on the Dukes. So we've been talking, which is a start. And I think he's - I don't think it will be quite the same as it was.
WL: I didn't realize there had been a falling out between you two.
CM: Well, I think there was a general falling out when Dave left. Not just with me but with Andy as well.
WL: That I was aware of.
CM: Well, we had a bit of a falling out. Exchange of views, I suppose, over - well, money. Money's always the evil one that rears its ugly head. But we've kind-of made it up, late. Kind-of. I'd like to think we have.
WL: Do you own a banjo?
CM: No, but I've got a banjo sample, which I was going to use on "In Another Life". In fact, I think it's on my original demo, but it kind-of got blasted out by the guitars.
WL: What's your favorite season?
CM: I think autumn. I like September as a month. I like the light you get in September, the autumn sunlight. It's much nicer than the ferocious June sun. The light is much better around six or seven o'clock in the evening, when the sun is more at an angle. Certainly if you're a photographer. I think most people feel that way if they deal with light like you do in photography.
WL: Very warm.
CM: Yeah, and I like that kind of sunlight in September and October. It's much more invigorating than the sunlight in June and July. The summer months can really blast you out, it just gets very oppressive.
WL: Which album costume did you least enjoy wearing?
CM: [laughing] Does it show that much? I think I'm looking my grumpiest on Skylarking.
WL: [laughing] I was expecting Black Sea.
CM: Oh, Black Sea. I didn't mind that too much. We had this ex-Navy chap who brought along all these suits and got us all togged out in them and we put on the helmets and it was kind of in two minds with us to take the helmets off. Just gave us a bit of a scare, you know? It was like one of those moments where you go to Alcatraz, in San Francisco, and they lock you in the cell and turn out the lights, and just let you stew there for a while. It was quite an experience. But, which one am I least impressed with?
WL: Were you least comfortable with.
CM: I think the paper suits from Mummer. That's a very thin line between looking a right prat and looking menacing. I don't know whether we pulled it off. I think that's for other people to say. I was a bit too close to it. So close I'm inside it. But the paper suits it has to be.
WL: What one word best describes Terry Chambers?
WL: If you could steal any one of Andy's songs, which would you pick?
CM: "The Disappointed" I think. It's one of those songs you can play on an acoustic guitar and it still sounds good. It doesn't need any motif, any riff, to make it sound good arrangement wise. It just is good.
WL: If you could steal a song from any artist, can you think of one you wish you'd written?
CM: Oh, I think there's a lot of scope for Bob Dylan stuff to be brought out and tortured by somebody. You could have a lot of fun because the lyrics are dark and good. Which we did, obviously with "All Along the Watchtower". But I think Hendrix's version is far superior, more emotional, - more feeling in it. We kind-of butchered it a bit.
WL: So you're a Dylan fan?
CM: Yes, I like a hell of a lot of his stuff. My dad was as well. Kind of brought up on Freewheelin'. [The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - 1963] But I think you could do a lot with his stuff. As previous people have done.
WL: Where is your favorite vacation spot?
CM: I don't usually go abroad. It's usually down in Cornwall, I would say. Probably Padstow, or somewhere like that in Cornwall. That's an area that I like. But you could say that doing promotional visits to various countries, you've been on your holidays to a certain extent. I like Rome a lot. New York is always nice to go to, because you're looked after so well. The hotels are nice and service is much better than it is over here. [laughing] I expect you've noticed if you've been over.
WL: Do you feel proud or aggrieved that when XTC is mentioned to a non-fan, the only song they can remember is "Making Plans For Nigel"?
CM: At least they remembered something.
WL: What one word best describes Barry Andrews?
CM: Black. Whenever I think of Barry I always think of black. He was always wearing black. It's just something that comes to mind whenever you think of him - black.
WL: What instrument do you wish you could play?
CM: Piano. I have trouble playing piano well. It would help me out with songwriting.
WL: What is your favorite smell?
CM: I should say my own farts, shouldn't I? [laughter] I think that's most peoples.
WL: [laughing] Or, the smell of roses - same thing.
CM: [laughing] I like the pine-woody smells, like you find in the forest. I find there's a lot - if you go somewhere like the Forest of Dean, or something. Those deep pine-woody black... you go in and it's just dark as hell under there. There's needles all over the floor and you get a heavy piney kind of smell. That's always quite an erotic one I think. [thinks a moment] The smell of a young lady, in full bloom.
WL: Especially when she has that piney smell.
CM: [laughing] What do you mean, that once a month piney smell?
WL: If you could invite any four people - living or dead - to a dinner party, who would you pick?
CM: Four people? Oh, God. Well, it wouldn't be Robert Fripp, I know that. The last time I had dinner with him he kind of pinned me to the floor with his knowledge of reading contracts. He's very into the business side of the business. The four would be people I'm comfortable with, I suppose. I'm not great on meeting new people. I always prefer familiarity. I'm not good on meeting people, first go-off.
WL: Are you a fan of King Crimson?
CM: Can't say I am, no.
WL: I like the years Adrian Belew was in the band. I'm not so much of a prog fan, but when Belew was in the band it gave them more of a pop edge.
CM: I know the early albums, Court of the Crimson King and stuff like that. It's what I'm most up on. But I'm not a great fan, no.
WL: Boxers or briefs?
WL: Here's a question supplied by Todd Bernhardt - What makes you fart?
CM: [in disbelief] What makes me fart? Did I get that right? What makes me fart?
WL: [laughing] Yeah, that's it.
CM: I think baked beans are notorious for it. That never fails to work its evil stuff.
WL: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say to you when you arrive at the pearly gates?
WL: How many more years of XTC do we get?
CM: Depends on what capacity - if you mean us making records or us re-releasing them. [laughter] I think the reissues are going to be with us forever more. As regards to the records that we make, who knows?
WL: Well, I'm looking forward to some new material. I want to hear some new music from XTC.
CM: Yes, that would be nice, wouldn't it? But you've got a few Fuzzy Warbles ahead of you, before we arrive. I'm sure Virgin will satisfy your want with as many compilations as what they've got in mind. But then again, that's not new stuff.
WL: Are there any plans to put together some old-school merchandise like posters, stickers, badges, things of that sort?
CM: Haven't talked about it, no. Perhaps our man on the website could come up with some of that ilk. It's difficult because a lot of the posters and photographs are all copyrighted. That end of it would probably be more difficult to bring about than T-shirts and stuff.
WL: Have you ever looked at, or searched XTC on Ebay?
CM: Blimey, I've sold stuff on Ebay! [laughter] I sold a garden shredder on Ebay, which I took down to the post office and I nearly passed out with the weight of it.
WL: The bidder paid shipping costs, right? Did you do exact shipping?
CM: Yeah, the guy had to pay the shipping for it. It was a guy in Scotland who bought it off me. But I had to go down to the post office with this enormous heavy parcel, and they said "we haven't got any scales that this can go on, you'll have to go down to the main post office in Swindon." So after that, I haven't been back to Ebay since. The whole experience just left me in a cold sweat.
WL: Have you searched it for XTC?
CM: Not records, no.
WL: Next time you're on Ebay just plug in XTC and you'll be amazed at what's on there. Well, aside from all the leather bondage wear and cheap porn stuff that's mixed in with it. But you'll find XTC posters and things, sometimes going for outrageous sums.
CM: Really? Wonder if there's an angle for me in there?
WL: [laughing] Time to break out the memorabilia!
CM: [laughing] Absolutely, yeah. Let's go up in the loft and get to work!
WL: Recently, somebody from Swindon was auctioning a Superman radio that was purported to have been Andy's when he was a child.
CM: I think I know who that might be.
WL: I talked with Andy about it - the seller was named Mabberly.
CM: Yeah, and of course he's got a friend who used to roadie for us as well. A guy called Steve Warren. He used to make tapes of our live gigs.
WL: I heard recently that he had a lot of tapes of the early gigs. Would those be soundboard tapes?
CM: Yes, basically what he used to record of our live gigs when he was our soundman. So they were just taken off the desk.
WL: So the quality should be pretty good. I guess you guys couldn't release it.
CM: Well, they're all copyrighted. You're not supposed to do it, Virgin has the copyright.
WL: Wonder if he could sell them to Virgin?
CM: I don't know. I don't know how it works.
WL: Listen, I appreciate the time. It's been nice talking with you.
CM: And you, yes. I love your site, by the way.
WL: Thank you. Without a high-speed connection I'm surprised you can look at it.
CM: It takes forever to download, doesn't it? It's quite a beast.
WL: [laughing] Well, so is XTC.
CM: Keep up the good work.
WL: Well, thanks a lot Colin. Hope to speak with you again.
CM: Yes, I'd like that.
WL: Enjoy the rest of your day.
CM: Okay, then. Thanks Wes. See you again, bye.