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NEW: The iJamming! Interview: UNDERWORLD
"I got it in my head that I was going to die in a cheesy hotel room covered in cat's piss."
NEW: The iJamming! Interview

Available Now!
The introduction to the new edition of my R.E.M. biography is here.

Ridge Coast Range 2000
A Decade In Dance
10 Years (Apiece)
The October Hitlist
30 Albums 10 Songs
The whole Bloody 1990s cataloge
The Last Great Mix CD?
2 Many DJ's As Heard On Radio Soulwax Pt. 2.
Last of The Summer Rosês:
Goats Do Roam, Vin Gris de Cigare and Rose of Virginia.
10 Reasons To Fear The Worst
From the Jamming! Archives:
interviewed in 1978
"A number one single would be a bit scary."
New York's rock'n'roll rescuers play Lowlife - loudly
Local legends and international influence come home to party
28 Albums Rocking Our World
The Who at Madison Square Garden
A wash-out
The Movie
The Party
Cedell Davis, Tuatara, and The Minus 5 atthe Knitting Factory
Still 'A Man And A Half'
30 Albums, 5 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies
An obituary by Chris Charlesworth
Back On The (Flying Saucer) Attack
The iJAMMING! interview
30 Albums, 10 Songs, 5 books and a handful of movies.
Eight Days in A Week's Music:
Ed Harcourt, Vines, Candy Butchers, Timo Maas, Ashley Casselle & Adam Freeland, Aerial Love Feed, and enough little club nights to shake several sticks at.
Tony's (lengthy) trip down nostalgia lane from his visit home at the end of April. Stop-offs include Death Disco, old Jamming! Magazines, life-long friendships, road trips to Brighton, Damilola Taylor and political frustration, Morrissey-Marr, Zeitgeist, Oasis, Dexys, Primal Scream, the current British music scene and more.
The iJamming! interview:
"'Acid Trax' by Phuture came out and I was just 'Okay, forget all hip hop and all old school rare groove right here, this is it.'"
hostess 'Lee Patrick' recalls her time as Keith Moon's amour
An intrigue of early 90s New York nightlife.
NEW CHAPTER now online
From the Jamming! Archives:
U2 interviewed in 1984.
"It's not U2 that's creating this great art. . .There's something that works through us to create in this way."
iJamming! Wino/Muso:
"New world wines are just too techno for me."
The iJAMMING! interview:
"I don't think people realize that life can become so exciting and interesting that it can draw you away for long periods of time from creating music - & why not?"
From the Keith Moon archives:
the JEFF BECK interview .
The iJAMMING! chat:

"If I was asked why Sniffin' Glue was so important, it was the way we conducted ourselves, the style of it, just the attitude. It had attitude in abundance didn't it?"
Forgotten Classics:
THE CHILLS: Brave Words
From the JAMMING! archives: PAUL WELLER ON POP
Featured wine region 2:
Fran Healy explains why "you cannot own a song." (And why Liam Gallagher "is going to turn into a really great songwriter.")
Featured Artist Web Site:
From the JAMMING! archives: The Story That Spawned Creation
The iJAMMING! interview:
"Once you've had your go, what-ever it may be, they want you to piss off, and they can't bear it if you come back, they can't bear it."
The full iJamming! Contents
The iJAMMING! interview!
Last summer, I was asked by Sony Legacy to write sleeve notes for re-issues of the first three Psychedelic Furs albums, along with a newly-recorded live album by the recently-reformed group; it was suggested I interview front man, singer and lyricist Richard Butler for background material and quotations. I'd met Richard a few times over the years, primarily in New York, where his residence on the busiest block of St Mark's Place ensured he was a regular 'celebrity' sighting, but we'd never sat down and got to know each other. And so, on a stunningly beautiful Monday in August, I took a road trip upstate to where he now lives with his lovely wife Annie and young daughter Maggie, and spent an extremely pleasant afternoon and evening hanging out and talking.

The Psychedelic Furs' legacy should be indisputable, but there remains something of a historical identity crisis over this most musically distinctive of post-punk bands. In the UK, I'm not sure the Furs ever quite got the respect they deserved, and this may well be because they broke through so quickly in the USA, initially with the single 'Love My Way' from the album Forever Now, and then, more famously, with the song that inspired the movie Pretty In Pink. Richard and his bass Playing brother Tim Butler moved to the States in all the excitement, and greater fame and fortune - though neither happiness nor critical acclaim - followed. The British largely wrote the Psychedelic Furs off as sell-outs to America, and the Americans have often failed to look back beyond the mainstream hits of the mid eighties to the early years when the band, especially in its original six-piece formation, was such a potent influence.

That's unfortunate. 1980s debut eponymous album The Psychedelic Furs is a masterful debut, and its successor, Talk Talk Talk remains a cult classic choice among hardcore fans and band members alike. And then 1982's Todd Rundgren-produced Forever Now, to quote my sleeve notes, "captured the Psychedelic Furs in thrilling transition, no longer obscure art-rockers, not yet international pop stars, but somewhere vibrant in between, immersed in the best of everything." There was plenty more great music to come, as legions of fans will testify, but these first three albums mark a period innocence and self-discovery to which they would never be able to return.

One odd thing I came away with from my discussion with Richard, something that hadn't struck me before, was the similarity between the Psychedelic Furs' history and that of Echo & The Bunnymen. Both groups rose from a British rock scene that thrived in the aftermath of punk; each band was simultaneously inspired by the new wave yet equally fascinated with psychedelia, glam and the Velvet Underground. The London-based Furs and Liverpool-located Bunnymen both made stunning debuts in 1980s that they followed, the next year, with commercially unconcerned, drunkenly recorded cult classics which many a fan insists is their purest work. Each found themselves nursing an American following, and each enjoyed a commercial breakthrough with their third album: the Furs more so in the States, the Bunnymen (with Porcupine) more so in the UK. And while their fourth albums consolidated this mainstream acceptance and delivered sizeable hit singles ('Heaven' off Mirror Moves for the Furs, 'The Killing Moon' and 'Seven Seas' from Ocean Rain for the Bunnymen), each band then peaked commercially with its fifth album.

Curiously, both the Furs' Midnight to Midnight (1986) and Echo and The Bunnymen (1987) have since been artistically disowned by the bands responsible, despite - or perhaps because of - their mainstream popularity. For the Bunnymen, American success precipitated an ugly break-up and a subsequent corruption of the group's reputation. The Furs kept working, releasing two more albums (Book Of Daysand World Outside) to diminishing returns before calling it quits. There are other considerable differences. Echo & The Bunnymen, having broken up after the five albums, reformed (properly) in the mid-90s and have since made three new records. The Psychedelic Furs only disbanded in the nineties, and despite successfully touring the States three times with their new formation, have yet to finish a long-awaited new studio album.

Still, it didn't need a marketing genius to figure that a co-headlining tour would be a crowd-puller in America. Although the two bands had, bizarrely enough, never crossed paths before - which may explain why Richard had a particular interest in my own experience with the Bunnymen based on my authoring that band's biography - they spent several weeks at the end of last year on the road together, each band drawing primarily from their 1980s hits for what was primarily a 1980s audience grown up.

But don't be confused by their shared on-stage affinity for shades. Richard Butler is a most different character to Ian McCulloch. Quietly spoken and remarkably unconcerned with rock'n'roll life, he cares little for sound bites, eschews controversy, and has long been sober. Maybe that's why he can reflect so lightly on the madness of the early years. And it may also explain why the Psychedelic Furs never enjoy(ed) such flattering press coverage; Richard just doesn't seem to care for playing the media game. He'd prefer to let the musical legacy talk for him. And talk talk talk it does.

Richard Butler, John Ashton and Tim Butler in early 1980s prime

It's taken me too long to get this transcript up on the web site. The label decided to go with the live album first, and I figured I'd wait until the first three studio albums were re-released before posting the interview behind the sleeve notes. Of course, by the time those albums were re-released I was in the middle of Remarks Remade, and since then it's been an ongoing matter of 'I'll do it tomorrow.' For now, I'm just posting the first half of our interview, which focuses exclusively on the first two albums. I'll put up the second half imminently - though you should be worried by my likely loose interpretation of that word. Please feel free to discuss anything about the interview over on the Forum; I know from past experience people get linked to ijamming! from group-specific web sites and engage in their debates back where they were sent from. Fair enough, but it's the connection of the dots that I love about music and culture, the way bands take the reins from those that precede them, hand them off to those that follow them - and often find themselves working on parallel lines alongside other contemporary acts. It's only when we look at it all in context that it truly makes sense.

Tony Fletcher, June 2002


We start off by talking about the infamous Sex Pistols show at the 100 Club in September 1976, along with the Clash, and the debut of Siouxsie and the Banshees, featuring Sid Vicious on drums and Marco Pirroni on guitar. All three Butler brothers attended that show, which has achieved mythic proportions over the years - and, apparently, rightly so.

-Was it a life-changing experience?

Well the whole punk thing was, yeah. It's what got me into being in a band. Before that it was like, how the hell do you do it? And then after the Pistols came along, it was like okay, you steal some gear, you learn three chords and it's more about attitude than musicianship and you realized you didn't really have to be that good at it to get into it.

-I think there's a tendency for people to see the Furs as being somewhat outside of punk, because by the time you made the first album, things had moved on.

Well we were part of the second wave, along with, I suppose, Echo and the Bunnymen and bands like that. Punk was like Pol Pot wanting to start from year zero, but I certainly came along with all this other baggage. I'd been a Bowie fan like a lot of the English people had, Roxy Music and the New York Dolls and all that sort of stuff. And Bob Dylan since I was a little kid too. And punk rock really showed the way that you could do it, that you didn't have to be a great musician. Before punk rock there was a big blur between being a fan and being a person who could actually do it, and that was incredibly exciting about it, and especially for someone who loved music as much as I did, it was like, 'Wow, I can actually do it now.' And there were club like the Roxy where you just said, 'Can I book my band here?' And they said, 'Sure, next Thursday night.' And not ask any questions really.

-Was that 100 Club gig with the Pistols your introduction, and what got you to that show?

I was living up in Leeds for a while and really wanting to get a band together, and I guess I'd bought the Ramones album because that was one of those albums that I remember coming out. And they (the Pistols) were supposed to play at Leeds, and we turned up and they never appeared there. So the next appearance they did make that I could see was at the 100 Club. I went down with both my brothers, they were both in the band at the time, or at least the idea of the band as it was then. I had never seen - and still haven't - anybody with that much direct charisma, that much confrontational in your face charisma, and for that it was mind blowing. Iggy Pop had a charisma and so did Bowie, all different, but that type - where you were almost afraid of the guy at the same time as enjoying it - was incredible.

-But you'd already got the idea of the band in motion.

I remember sitting down with my brother and saying 'I want to put a band together, what do you want to play?' and I think because he figured bass guitar had only four strings, so it would be easier - and he was probably right! And my brother Simon could already play guitar a little bit and his friend Roger could play a little bit, and Duncan could play sax a little bit so we put a band together of people that could almost play.

"I had never seen - and still haven't - anybody with that much direct charisma, that much confrontational in your face charisma, and for that it was mind blowing."

Richard Butler on seeing Johnny Rotten at the 100 Club, September 1976

-Almost from the moment you put the band together people talked about the element of the Lydon sneer in your voice; given that you saw the Pistols back then, would that be subconscious, unconscious - or deliberate?

I don't think it was deliberate, or not consciously deliberate, because I still sing the same way. I think a lot of it is that when I push my voice to sing really high, it comes out sounding pretty croaky. Certainly it was an influence, but to what degree I will never know. He was certainly one of the people - him, Bob Dylan and David Bowie, were the three touchstones I had when we were making the first album, and being a band, I wanted to do everything that those people had done.

-You mentioned earlier about Roxy and Bowie. It seems there's no real conflict between what you say your influences were and what other people heard in your music.

No, none at all. I think people made a lot more of Roxy Music because of the saxophone, than was actually there.

-One instrument can do that.

Especially when it's as unusual as a saxophone.

-The other group people did reference was the Velvet Underground.

Oh yeah, they were a big influence. When I was at art school, I was very interested in Andy Warhol, and I ended up doing silk-screen prints a lot of the time and I was very interested in that whole scene of Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground, and then I got into the Velvet Underground and I got a bit disillusioned with painting because I wanted to be able to do what they were doing, and Bob Dylan too, with painting -and you can't really. You think that arts can cross over, but it's very difficult with painting to make that sort of visceral connection.

-So essentially when the punk thing happened, it was like, 'Ah, I can communicate through a band, because now there's an outlet where I don't have to have all the formal training."

I always thought that Bob Dylan had a very sneery way of putting himself across. It wasn't as aggressive as John Lydon, but it was sneerier, and cleverer.

-There was a three year gap between you seeing the Pistols and recording the first album. Did it always feel like it would work out, given the changing of members and so on?

It was a very confused time. I was working at a silkscreen place in Barnet in North London. We weren't going at it gung ho, it wasn't a career choice. I was shocked when we got signed, I remember that. I couldn't believe when we were put on a retainer. The thought of being paid a living wage to make music. . .And we had done very little before that.

There was this pub the Duke of Lancaster in Barnet, we'd done it one week and they said "We don't want you back, you're too loud, and obnoxious." We'd record the third Velvet Underground album on tape and give it to them and say, "See, we've quietened down," and then go through the same thing all over again. And then we had this residency at the Windsor Castle, and by the fourth week it was completely full.

-You were never so much a part of punk that the question of whether to sign to a major label or not came up.

No, not at all. The Sex Pistols were signing to major labels, the Clash were on the same company as us; we looked at them and John Cooper Clarke and thought, well that's a good company for us.

-It took a while for the line-up to settle down.

John Peel was helpful to us back then as he was to a lot of people. We'd always had problems with drummers cause they were the least involved, and there wasn't a lot of money coming in, and they'd be sitting at the back of the stage thumping away so they weren't as interested and enthusiastic as the rest of us. The last drummer we got was Vince Ely who responded to a cry for help on John Peel , saying we needed a drummer. After he joined, I think we did two dates at the Music Machine. We did one show there with The Flies, cosmetic punks, power pop vibe, we were opening for them, we played and everyone left after, so they booked us back for a show of our own at which we got signed. Howard Thompson brought Muff Winwood down and we actually have it on tape, Muff leaning over Howard's shoulder saying "Yeah, sign them, sign them."

-Vince and John were the last pieces of the puzzle.

Vince and John both came at roughly the same time. We got this girl to manage us, Tracey. She said "I'll manage you, I've got the right drummer for you, Paul Wilson. But if you take Paul you've got to take my boyfriend as well, who's a guitarist," who was John Ashton. So we said, Yeah, alright. That gave two guitarists.

I kicked my brother out, because it felt a little like The Osmonds, having three brothers, and then Paul left and we kept John.

-And in terms of how Simon, your brother, felt about that...

He was going to University and studying electronic engineering and all that. SO he wasn't quite as gung ho.


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