Recently, re-masters of the classic XTC album "Skylarking" came out. You’ve given it the "deluxe" 2 disc treatment. So what do you think made "Skylarking" so special?
AP: It’s not that Skylarking is more special than any other album,in fact I prefer Apple Venus 1,it’s simply that I got the chance to put out one of our albums on vinyl and I wanted to give it the sort of treatment that it should have had in the first place. We corrected the polarity problem for a start. You see I’d always thought that the album sounded thin and distant, not at all like I’d remembered it from the control rooms of the studios it was recorded in. Turns out that the master mix tape was recorded with it’s polarity reversed,due to a faulty wiring job in Todd’s studio making it sound a bit rubbish. We’ve corrected this problem and given it the sleeve it was always meant to have,that is before Virgin got cold feet and… banned it. Referred to at the time as the "Dick and Fanny sleeve". It’s cut over two discs at 45rpm as there is no better sounding storage medium than that for audio. I’d like to give this sort of treatment to all of our albums in due course. Start saving.
I heard in another interview you’ve got "hundreds of bits" of music on cassettes that you use to help you construct new songs. Is it a process where you need to put things together like a puzzle Or you listen to a part and construct the whole song around that one sketch?
AP: Both. I sometimes put songs together from disparate pieces and sometimes the whole song can fall out just from one phrase, or even one chord occasionally. There’s no set way to write a song, you just have to delight yourself and hope the rest of humanity gets it. Repeating yourself is a killer, I hate it if I catch myself repeating a theme lyrically or melodically.
What’s your relationship with Colin now? Has the bad blood between you two passed?
AP: We email over business things,but that’s about it. You see we had a very long kind of "male marriage" where we worked together for …what… 30 years or more,and when things turn sour in any relationship the divorce is usually a bad thing. It was just as painful as my conventional marriage breaking up. It’s funny, for a while I thought of him as a brother,and maybe the same for him too to me,but you have to move on. The past is like quicksand, you have to escape from it or you die. We had our good moments. I don’t want to bitch.
Tell me how you went about starting APE and how you picked bands for the new label.
AP: No secret to it. I just took my savings and when ahead and started. Having said that I’ve lost a small fortune. Warning DO NOT START A RECORD LABEL! I knew that I wasn’t performer/player shaped anymore, bit like footballers, it’s a young man’s game, and I thought that with my love of music and art what better than to bring great music to people dressed in beautiful sleeves. Great labels like Island/Immediate/Nonesuch/Vertigo all had such good art and artistes, I thought that I could make something that stood alongside. If anything was on those labels I knew that I would probably like it and I wanted to build a similar reputation for my little imprint. A mark of guaranteed goodness. I hope i’m succeeding.
Tell me about what new projects you’re working on at APE… Maybe about the new project with Mike Keneally? And Stu Rowe? Jen Olive?
AP: The Kenneally project wont be on APE. I’ve known Mike for many years now,since meeting him on a Zappa tour in ’88,and about 5 years ago we wrote about half a dozen songs together at my house. He’s recording them right now and they seem to be coming out alright. More power to his plectrum. We also recorded about 2 hours of improv work but I doubt wether that will see the light of day. Too Captain Spam Lungs and his Tragic Bland maybe.
Right now i’m mixing a new Blegvad/Partridge album with Stu Rowe and then we’ll be mixing a Lighterthief album which features myself, Jen Olive, Stu and a cast of thousands.New Veda Hille album called Young Sainte Marie, where Veda plays the songs of Neil Young and Buffy Sainte Marie with quite startling reinvention. Pugwash are finishing up a new album which I co-wrote a tune for and …let’s see…. Oh Yeah, hopefully lots of XTC glorious reissues when I can get the label up and running again after its enforced hiatus. It’s a long story.
What I loved about some of your work was the fact that you could take such a foul story like in "The Mayor of Simpleton" and make it sound sweet as honey. I heard recently you say songwriting was like "dry-retching, and you don’t have a lot left" Do you still feel that is true?
AP: A FOUL STORY! How dare you sir, outside now, with handbags. It’s just a tale of a bit of a loser than can do something well, like affection for others. The heart is more valued than the head. My story really. I reckon that you probably have a finite number of works in you,be they songs, books, paintings whatever. Then you start to repeat yourself, which you have to be on guard against. This is why I’m having agonies about making another "song" album for myself,I don’t want to repeat you see.
Although you probably meant the Dukes of The Stratosphere to be a one-shot deal, is there any chance you could bring "them" back under a new guise?
AP: There was talk at one time about doing a prequel kind of album. Sort of Merseybeat Dukes (for which I actually wrote the songs,) and of a Glam comeback for them. But some gags are best left told just the once. Twice in the Dukes case. The engine behind a lot of the Dukes thang was Dave’s enthusiasm for the era, which is not around now and how much more can the 60’s be raped?
What projects do you have lined up (if any) for the future? Is a solo album or an opera about Cortez ever going to see the light of day?
AP: Right now rejigging APE and standing back whilst the electrocardiograph is administered is my top priority. Solo album not on the radar at the moment,opera laying dormant,Cortez has wandered off for a tapas. I may work a little more on my cross dressing western musical (you think I’m kidding don’t you?) and otherwise, one can do anything that one wants, you just have to want it that bad. Damn these hormones.
Thanks for the interview, Andy! It was magical. And I’m sure many of us would just LOVE to hear you rape the sixties again, as it was such a cheeky musical bird (era).