|-By the time you made the third album, two members had moved on. From what I'm getting from you, it doesn't seem like that it was in anyone's minds when making Talk Talk Talk.
No it wasn't. There was a hostility that was building between Duncan (Kilburn, sax) and myself. We had just finished a tour in Europe and as I remember we were on a ferry on the way back, and we were shouting and I was leaning forward and shouting at him, and as I remember he said "If you lean forward one more time I'm going to throw this drink in your face," and I said "If you throw that drink in my face, you're out," and leaned forward and shouted - and he threw the drink and he was out.
-And that was one of those drunken things you didn't forget about the next day?
Well, there'd been a lot of differences between us. And when you're living/working in that proximity with someone they become far more exaggerated. So I came back - to New York for a while and said, I don't want to be doing that anymore. I called Les (manager) and said "I really don't want Duncan to be in the band." And Les came back and said "Well John (Ashton)'s agreed to getting rid of Duncan if you'll get rid of Roger (Morris) as well." Which I foolishly agreed to and shouldn't have done. Because there was no ill feeling between us.
-Roger was an original member, whereas John had joined later.
And the funny thing is, I think that John had said, I want more space for my guitar, but on tours after that, we'd always have a second guitarist anyway because of the way he worked with putting so many guitars down.
-So do we assume there was bad feeling between John and Roger?
I guess. But it's all a blur. I honestly can't remember, how it came about or why I agreed to it.
-Have Duncan or Roger come back into your lives much?
Well Duncan hasn't. He went off to work for Reuters and lives in Singapore. Roger I see every time I go to LA, he comes out and sees the shows and hangs out.
-Something to be said about stripping the band down. You were then able to make a much more sparse album. There's a lot more space on Forever Now.
Well the band changed quite a lot at that point. Because of the way we argued and because of the way decisions were made, there was no clear cut leader. So the decisions were made like I said with lots of arguing and fighting - and that was the character of the band. Once you took those two members out, it became a very different sort of band. The alliances and decision making was much more cut and dried in a lot of ways. Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it's a bad thing. I sometimes wonder what would have happened or how we would have sounded if we had been the same group of people. I don't think there would have been the radical change that there was with Forever Now. There would have been some sort of change but how radical it would have been I don't know.
-So in terms of making these demos you're talking about was that partly because you're saying to yourself, we don't have the saxophone now?
The saxophone was a very difficult thing because you don't want it on every song and he wanted to play on every song. Because especially live, he's either standing there like an idiot or wandering off and having a cigarette. And I didn't want to have saxophone on everything.
-And from your point of view, you said now we don't have sax on every song . . .
. . .We can be more selective about what we want to bring in, and choose instruments according to the mood of the song.
-Being that you were down to a four-piece, was forever now any harder to write than Talk Talk Talk?
I guess it was easier to focus, rather than getting six people all in the studio at the same time, just starting up some riff that you latch onto and that you can write something to is very difficult. Whereas sitting in a room with John or Tim and writing something is a lot easier. A lot less complicated, a lot fewer people sticking their two cents worth or whatever. So it was easier to write in a lot of ways. Though we were gung ho about recording the album with Todd before he though the were; He said "I want to hear some more songs."
-Whose idea was it, recording with Todd?
I think it was a suggestion of Vince's, our drummer. He was a big Todd Rundgren fan, and though I wasn't a fan, I did like the Patti Smith album and the New York Dolls album he had done. And the idea of recording in America was pretty appealing. And also, Steve Lillywhite had said at that point he would do two albums but he wouldn't do three. So we were at that point looking elsewhere. And also because we wanted to put cellos and things in. It was a lso to do a lot with the mood in England at the time. After the big punk rock thing - the purity of guitars and everything - music was starting to have more synthesizers in it. People like Soft Cell were interesting, so it was like, Okay, let's try and get somebody with a synthesizer to do some stuff.
||"I sometimes wonder what would have happened or how we would have sounded if we had been the same group of people. I don't think there would have been the radical change that there was with Forever Now."
With Forever Now, everyone said Todd Rundgren is the sort of person who'll sneak in and play things himself and he'll push you in this direction and he's very dictatorial in the studio, and we went in and everyone said 'Look what Todd Rundgren's done to the Psychedelic Furs, he's done this and this'. . .But when you listen to the demos we did for the album back in London before we even met him, there were cellos on it and marimbas. It wasn't that he pushed us in that direction, it was rather that we chose him because we needed up going in that direction and we thought,' Ah, Todd's a good person to use for that.'
-You recorded in Woodstock?
Bearsville. Todd had a studio that was kind of in his shed in is garden.
-When you talk about being excited to come and record in America, I imagine a band that's in its mid twenties planning on going out in New York City every night.
And we wound up in Woodstock bored out of our minds! We had to be seriously reprimanded a couple of times by Todd for our behavior in the village. He pulled us aside one time and said "You've got to be careful what you do around here,you've got to calm down, I want to finish this record and have it be a great record, I don't want you to ruin it by your boredom..."
-And you took that on board?
I think by the time he said that we'd done the majority of the recording. And the mixing was pretty easy. As opposed to Steve Lillywhite,who would have us all around this huge desk and we'd be all lined up by the faders, with the marks on them, Todd would mix it all in the studio and then he'd say, Come and have a listen. Then we'd say "Well, can we have the vocals up here and take the cello out here," and he'd say, Okay, come back in ten minutes. So we still had the same degree of control.
-Todd brought in backing vocalists for the first time. Were you up for that?
I wasn't that keen on the idea at first. He wanted to use Flo and Eddie who had worked with Frank Zappa and also done a bunch of stuff with T Rex. He was only bringing them in for a couple of days; he said "They're very quick workers, if you don't like it, don't use it," and it's hard to argue with that. So we tried it and liked it. They're on 'Love My Way' most noticeably. As soon as Todd heard 'Love My Way,' he saw that as being the single.
-I was just about to ask that very thing. Because 'Love My Way' has that feeling of being a single from the moment you hear it as the second song.
But it's interesting how that came about. John and I were working together, and not wanting to go round to his place with no ideas - I'd supposed to have been working on a song which I hadn't done - so on the morning I was going round to his house I had one of those stylophone things and I had this "dadadadadadananananananan" just those two changes, I think I'd been listening to Scary Monsters, that must have informed it a bit, and came up with this vocal melody and all the words within the space of about an hour, and he absolutely hated it and didn't get it. We put it down and then Ed Bueller, a friend of ours, came round with his keyboard a and put the marimba part on, it by which time John went 'wow, this sounds great now' and we sent it off to Todd who said 'well the vocals sound a little bit angry, why don't you try singing a little bit more,' and having been through that already with Sister Europe I was like, Yeah, okay.
-And maybe when you get a song that is, that naturally commercial, did that allow you to stay pretty hardcore on other tracks?
That might have been Todd's approach to it. But we pretty much gave our all to all the tracks and didn't approach one with any more intensity than any of the others.
-The other song that really stood out was 'President Gas.' Partly with the melody, partly the lyrics and partly the way it went into that middle section with the cellos.
I had been listening to Stravinsky, the Rite of Spring, and I wanted to do something that had that same sort of chugging cello, so 'President Gas' was the song we decided to put that on. And the middle break just came kind of naturally. And that pretty much sounded like that when we took it over to Todd.
-It was also quite notable because you had never been considered a political band. Was it conscious to be more up front?
No, not at all. It all came from the title. I didn't think, Yeah I want to be more narrative or I want to be more political at all, I was never that political again I don't think. It was just a one-off.
-What else lyrically for you stands out on that album?
I always liked the mood of 'Sleep Comes Down' a lot, that was always very dreamy. 'No Easy Street' I also liked a lot. And there was a track that never made it onto the album, called 'I Don't Want To Be A Shadow,' which I always loved the feeling of as well. In those days it was always, if you've got ten songs you don't need anymore.
-They tarted up the Forever Now cover for the American market didn't they?
I hated it. I cried when I saw it. I remember coming back from a convention in England at Torquay or something where CBS had their convention, and our manager hadn't shown us the cover for on purpose - because he didn't want me to be all pissy at this convention - and then he showed it to me on the train on the way back, and I actually cried when I saw it. Because I loved the Barney Bubbles cover that we had done. And I had worked on it with Barney. And to me it just seemed like the artwork for Forever Now was this horrible botched attempt at doing another Talk Talk Talk type album cover only really badly. (The newly re-issued album uses the British artwork.)
-And it also played very much into that second British invasion, all those post-new wave synth pop bands that were hitting America, and it seems like that album artwork was done to put you very much in with everyone else there, whereas by rights you'd established your own identity or were ahead of other bands. A battle you couldn't win I guess?
Apparently by that time it was all cut and dried. Because I complained as bitterly as one can. England was certainly more adventurous with its packaging. With the first record we had Psychedelic Furs written down at the bottom, and the American record company wouldn't go for it, their argument being that you had to have it at the top so people could see who it was when they were looking through the racks. My argument was that people wold pull it out to see who it was by and by that point they had it in their hands. But they didn't buy it. (Again, the newly re-issued album uses the British artwork.)
-Is there a way of summing up the three albums, almost like as different children?
(Thinks.) The first album was our introduction to our music and any kind of public. And our second album in a weird way is a goodbye to England. And Forever Now is hello to America.
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