|-Forever Now did do extremely well in the States, didn't it?
I remember being in Seattle and we were doing a record signing which was absolutely swarmed. We left by the back door and we had to have people from the store acting as bodyguards, and we were ushered into a limousine and shut the door, and there were girls literally clambering all over the windscreen of the car, and it was like being in the Beatles for a day. And pulling away and being followed by about twelve cars and having to run lights and do all these weird turns so we could lose them and they w ouldn't follow us back to the hotel. It was just this very off change. And also we suddenly started getting a lot of girls. The front row with that record changed from being guys to being girls.
-And what was that put down to? To what extent were videos playing a part?
'Love My Way' was getting pretty heavy rotation on MTV. We did a video for 'Sister Europe' with Don Letts, but how much exposure that got I'm not sure. Certainly by the time 'Love My Way' came out there was a lot.
-How was your own reaction to going from a rock band to a pop band? The American market was changing quite significantly.
It was exciting again. It was a change which was great. Whether it was a good change we didn't stop to think about. It was just a change that had happened. It wasn't through planning, it had just happened and it was just exciting again. As opposed to making the same record again and again and again until people latched on, we didn't do that, I guess we had a short attention span.
-You moved to America in 82?
It was around the time of Forever Now. We recorded Forever Now while here for six weeks, then went back to England. Pretty quickly after that came out we were back here touring again, and at the end of that tour, I said to Tim, "I don't particularly want to go back, I want to stay in New York." And he said, "Yeah okay, I'll stay here too, let's get a place." So that literally was our hello to America.
-And you had fallen in love with New York anyway?
Certainly with New York. I was a big Bob Dylan, Velvet Underground, Andy Warhol fan. And it was like all that I imagined it would be. So I loved New York. I'm not so sure about the rest of America.
-Did John and Vince move over?
John moved over five years ago... Vince never came over. We would go back and forth, We would send ideas back and forth. I would send stuff back with Tim. John would come over here sometimes and we would write stuff up here.
|"I was out on stage wearing a fringe leather jacket, and I looked behind me and this huge hydraulic lighting thing came up that had three star shapes on it made out of lights, and it had the ramps you could run up and the hydraulic ramp along the back, and I remember thinking "what the hell are we doing?" I threw the jacket away that night and just dressed in a black suit for the rest of that tour."
-BUt it worked?
Not as well as all being in the same town.
-Are the first three your favorite albums?
Yeah, but also the fourth (Mirror Moves), and the seventh (World Outside). We got horribly lost around the time of Midnight To Midnight. By the time we got to Midnight To Midnight we turned round one day and said, "How the hell did we get here?" I felt like I had come a long long way away from what my roots were, which was Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan and all that sort of stuff. We'd got ourselves out on a limb, unintentionally, and got too far away from what our roots were. I remember getting physically ill from Midnight To Midnight. I remember the moment it happened actually. We were on tour. And I was out on stage wearing a fringe leather jacket and I looked behind me and this huge hydraulic lighting thing came up that had three star shapes on it made out of lights, and it had the ramps you could run up and the hydraulic ramp along the back, and I remember thinking "what the hell are we doing?" I threw the jacket away that night and just dressed in a black suit for the rest of that tour. And then came off that tour and physically got ill. Every morning I remember waking up and thinking, "Oh my God" -it was that album cover with the hair spiked up and that plastic jacket - and thinking, Oh man, is that a mistake. Around that time I started getting very stressed, and my heart was permanently beating out of time. In England I went to a doctor and he said after all these tests it was very serious, it's atrofibriliation, and you need to take digitalis and come back in six months and see how that works. And it was only a doctor in NY who said No, I don't think it's atrofibrilation, I'll send you to a heart specialist, but I think it's stress, and sure enough it was stress. So I went to stress management.
-It's so easy for journalists/critics to criticize - and someone should keep bands in check - but bands like you are on this conveyor belt, on a moving process, it's very hard for a band to halt it. You find yourself doing things before you know what they are.
Yeah. And changing your sound and trying something out. It's like tasting something and realizing you don't like it, but that tasting something turns out to be a record, that people are judging everything you've done before on. And everything you've done before gets thrown into the light of that record.
-When the Furs broke up, it didn't seem to be one of those "we shall never back together again" type splits.
It was a very low profile break up. It was never announced anywhere. But I didn't think I was ever going to do it again. It was like, I want to get on and do something else, I've done that for a long time, and it had gotten boring. It was a couple of years ago, I had been writing with a couple of people, for what I wasn't sure - another Love Spit Love album or a solo album, which I've always wanted to do - and Tim came around and said "how many songs have you got?" and I said, about 15 or 20, and he said "Wow, that's a lot, you could do a Psychedelic Furs record as well." It hadn't occurred to me. I said "That's not a bad idea."
-So he meant "as well as."
But it turned out to be "instead of." Though now of course we're still writing it because they want more involvement, they don't want to make a Furs record out of a bunch of songs that I wrote. It felt great going out and playing again, but it also feels very odd, in that ... It's very easy to be "Oh look it's a nostalgia act, it's nostalgia from the 80s." Because in a sense it is a nostalgia act, how are you not going to be? Because people are going to come and see you and they're going to be "I remember when I was going to school and I heard this song," so the only way to get around it is to go out and do a set of totally new songs.
-Is that what you're thinking of doing?
Well that's what I'm very tempted to do at the moment. We came out and said, Let's play together again. We did a tour last summer and one this spring. Which was presenting people with what people would want to see if they were to see the Psychedelic Furs. Now I think the next step would be to go out and play new songs. It's a very difficult position to be in, because you've spent a lot of time writing these great songs and you've got all this great stuff to choose from, but to elect to do this to make a point is a very difficult decision to make. And at the end of the day, you want people to leave having had a great time. You want to please your audience. You don't want them to say "Oh man, they played this stuff and it sucked." Whether it does or not is conjecture. With the Furs, when we would play songs from Talk Talk Talk, they would clap for songs from the first record and then they would stand around for the new songs - even 'Pretty In Pink.'
-Solo acts, they don't carry that baggage. You stopped for five or ten years as a band, so it's different.
I think we have to come back and say "We're the Psychedelic Furs, this is what we've done." Which is what we did on this live tour. You can't keep going on doing that because people are going to become bored and you're going to become bored. And then it strictly is being a nostalgia act. And I don't want to do that. I want to feel that I'm being creative. Also, within that being creative, it's also a mistake just to leap on what's happening at the moment. You have to get back to your roots and continue on.
-Where are you at with the new studio album?
We've got a bunch of demos. Just writing.
-When you were on tour, how was the line up fleshed out?
Richard Fortis was playing guitar and synthesized guitar. So instead of having a synth player we had a guitars it do it - but a lot of people thought we were playing to backing tapes. And he played with me in Love Spit Love, so it was nice to have some continuation. And we had Earl Harvin playing drums who was with Matt Johnson.
|On the Furs reunion: " I didn't think I was ever going to do it again. It was like, I want to get on and do something else, I've done that for a long time, and it had gotten boring."
-What sort of audience? Many new faces?
Pretty much across the board. And I think that's because. when you're a young kid you want to get out and see bands. You might be curious about the Psychedelic Furs from a historical point of view or you caught up with them later. But certainly a lot of people coming out can't have been there when we were playing, but having said that there were people in their thirties and forties, and I'm sure, fifties.
-If there's something to talk about here it would be the Furs legacy, and the fact that these songs have stood the test of time. When you write them, you're obviously hoping that's the case. What must be odd now is thinking "when we wrote them, we had no idea that twenty years down the line..."
...They'd be getting re-issued. And that there would be so many young bands claiming us to be an influence. Whether it would be Nirvana or Counting Crows or whoever, and being re-released by Sony Legacy which is quite prestigious. Wow, had no idea - those drunken halcyon days!
-But flipping it round the other way, when you made those first three albums, did you think 'we just made a bloody great album, this is going to stick around.'
I don't know whether we thought it was going to stick around, but I certainly remember with Talk Talk Talk and Forever Now saying "this is fucking great," going down to the pub and collaring people and saying "You've got to come back and listen to our new record," and sitting people down and playing it to them, and just thinking "Yeah!." You can write a song and think, Yeah it's great, but you actually sit somebody concrete down and play it, it's like, No, this sucks. With someone else being there you almost put yourself in their shoes when you listen to it. And sitting people down with Talk Talk Talk and Forever Now, I remember thinking Yeah, this is fucking great.
-You did reference your own songs. 'India' opens with Caroline,who is the girl in 'Pretty In Pink.' 'Heartbeat' turns into 'Heartbreak Beat.'
On the first album, I had a thing with the word "stupid." I had to edit it out. And then with Mirror Moves it was "star." And "rain" is always there, it's like "Come on Richard..."
-On the second album, there were all these references to 'All I Really Want to Do.'
Bob Dylan has a line "I've been looking all over for a girl like you, I can't find nobody so you'll have to do." I liked the idea so much that I used it on Forever Now. "I've been looking all over for a girl like you, you'll have to do."
-You used to walk around with a notebook, cataloguing ideas as they came into your head?
The first and second records in England, London. Go down the pub - like you do, and jot down everything. I remember losing one and I was gutted.
-Then gradually it became more a process of going in the studio and writing a song from start to finish?
It became less intensive.Then you would record a record, go out on tour and when you came back it was time t o tart writing the next record. And then as that got less intense there was less need to be constantly writing lyrics.
-Is there one lyric you're most proud of, as a parent? Is there one that said everything you wanted to say?
I think the song 'All Of This And Nothing' pleased me for that.
-And you're mentioning that 'Ghost In You' goes down real well. Is there a song you get more pleasure playing?
No, on both these tours I just loved playing all of them. And the new songs. There's a new song called 'Wrong Train' which I really like playing. I hadn't sat around collaring people down the pub and bringing them back here and so I hadn't heard these records for ten years, so it was a lot of fun going out and playing them. It was like, I want to do another record with the Psychedelic Furs so let's do a tour and see how it goes. And then getting out there and going, "Wow these songs sound fucking great," I feel really proud of it.
RICHARD BUTLER INTERVIEW PAGE 1 2 3 4
PSYCHEDELIC FURS BIOS and ALBUMS REVIEWS at All Music Guide and Trouser Press
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