HIT THE DECKS April 1998


  Transcript of 'HIT THE DECKS' , a record review programme hosted by PETE CURRAN for GLR (Greater London Radio). Friday 6th MARCH 1998.

 

Appearing as guests on the show, along with Alan, were Gary Clarke from 'Transistor' (formerly of 'Danny Wilson Said') and Mike Batt, the man who created a furry monster, and managed to spin eight hit singles and four albums off the back of it - yes, 'The Wombles'!

'Remember You're A Womble', amongst other such gems as the fanfare that accompanied the historic meeting between Prince Charles and the Spice Girls, will always hold a special place in the hearts of those with a soft spot for kitsch......

Because the nature of playing and then reviewing records causes the broadcast to be rather disjointed, the following is a reduced transcript, featuring primarily Pete Curran's and Alan's comments.

Curran introduces each of his guests and asks for a few words about what they're up to..........

PETE CURRAN:

Well, from the ashes of Depeche Mode, even though they're still officially going - but how could they after Alan Wilder decided to pursue the project now called Recoil...so how's things going with you? You had the fantastic, spooky, very unsettling record that opened the album with it's Apocalypse Now portence of death and destruction....I would ask you was that a laugh to record but.....

ALAN: (interrupting)

Oh it was hilarious...

PETE CURRAN:

oh was it!

ALAN:

Yes, I'm fine thanks....and the nature of that album doesn't necessarily reflect my personality or mood because I'm quite happy at the moment. The last couple of years have been really exciting for me - getting back into a project that, actually, I had started during my life in the Mode but was very much a side thing that's sort of grown. When I left the group I thought it would be much more appropriate to keep it going because it was developing quite nicely. So now that's it for me. I can bring people in to work with but it's in a different format, it's not a group anymore so I'm quite happy.

PETE CURRAN:

...and 'Unsound Methods' is quite dark, which is why you're happy of course, because it's poured out all the poison, all the filth and degradation of the past....

ALAN:

Yes, this is what people say, but I didn't actually write the lyrics - although the mood is set by me, in fact the atmosphere of the whole record. Then I bring other people in to contribute vocals and, in this case, the music dictated that they would need to be a kind of narrative / dialogue which enhanced this whole filmic quality that the record has.

PETE CURRAN:

So do you and Douglas McCarthy go back a long way?

ALAN:

Yes, Douglas used to be in a group called Nitzer Ebb who are also on the same record label, Mute. They are sadly defunct but we've worked together a lot over the years and he's done things for me before and we're good friends

PETE CURRAN:


He doesn't look like Martin Sheen though does he...

ALAN:


but he sounds very much like him....






PETE CURRAN:

The first record on Hit the Decks is going to come from The Jesus and Mary Chain, who we haven't heard from for a long time, but I know they've done collaborations and been on the verge of collapse many times. They've re-signed recently to Creation Records, thirteen years after they left, this is called 'Cracking Up'....

(Plays the track)
The Jesus & Mary Chain


GARY CLARKE:

That made me smile, I loved that - a wonderful dumb riff.....

PETE CURRAN:

Yeah, there's something, Alan Wilder, about that kind of fundamental thing - it's like playing chopsticks or 'little fingers having fun on the piano' that only takes three notes or whatever. Did that prove attractive to you or could you not care less?

ALAN:

...As you said when it was playing, it was actually 'My First Bass Riff' wasn't it? But in a sort of very straight-forward way it works really well. I'm pleased to say that, coming on here thinking I was going to be obliged to say bad things about every record, I actually enjoyed that as well - mainly for nostalgic reasons more than anything else, because I remember them when they first started and they were actually much more extreme then than they are now, which is slightly disappointing. They were such a breath of fresh air and worked, as they do now, as an antidote to just about everything else that's played on the radio. So for those reasons alone I have to say I liked it. I wouldn't necessarily buy it....


The Jesus & Mary Chain


PETE CURRAN:


And what about Mike Batt, that do anything for you?

MIKE BATT:

Well, I've always liked them...I often talk about things being 'thuggish', almost mindless. Well that reminded me, funnily enough in that one aspect, of 'Satisfaction' (just in case we're not all familiar with this one, Mike starts to sing) "da daaa, da, da, da, bong bong, da di doung dong..... "

PETE CURRAN:

....they probably suffered from being hailed as "I've seen the future of rock and roll and it wears black and has a greasy fringe"....however, I'm sure they never asked for it and surely this can't be the future of rock and roll......they're a really good band....but maybe they never really crawled out from under all those tributes?

ALAN:

You couldn't say they've developed in the way you'd perhaps have liked them to. They got to a point and stayed there.....






PETE CURRAN:

A new single from the Alabama 3....this is the Trouser Enthusiasts Transcendental Mix of 'Ain't goin' to Goa'

(Plays the track)

PETE CURRAN:

We'll see what Alan Wilder thought of that.....

ALAN:

Er, didn't do much for me but you said you played a remix so I'd be more curious to hear the original version, given that remixes can vary drastically from the original and may not have anything to do with the intent of the original. But bearing all that in mind I'd still have to say....... no....., although it slightly improved when the tempo changed, my ears pricked up a little bit but it mainly just washed by me and I was more interested to start talking to the other guests during it......

(laughter)

PETE CURRAN:

...ahh, the mark of a great record....

(more laughter. Pete then plays the original version)

MIKE BATT:

...d'you remember The Band had an album called 'Music From The Big Pink'? (sings) "Take a load off..." - it was very much like that rhythm and that side of it appealed to me...it seemed to have much more song in it, that particular A-side version rather than the dance mix but then I'm not a dance-mix kind of person really - we've done a Womble dance mix mind you, of 'Remember You're a Womble'.

PETE CURRAN:

You have indeed, but that's for more commercial reasons isn't it, rather than anything artistic....

MIKE BATT:


Well, more for a laugh really. I don't think we're going to sell any more records just because we've got a dance mix of it...it was just for a laugh...

PETE CURRAN, ALAN AND GARY:

mmm, mmmm, yeah (laughing)

MIKE BATT:

Honest gov!

PETE CURRAN:

Well if you don't like the dance mix why did you do it, if it wasn't for the money? (laughter)

 

A womble
A womble
MIKE BATT:

It was for fun and I thought it might be a laugh. I don't think we're going to sell anymore records of 'Remember You're A Womble' (yet another plug) - just because it's got a dance mix attached to it...

PETE CURRAN:


You'd probably be horrified - "look at the royalties...!!!"... (laughter from Alan and Gary)

(Mike Batt eventually shuts up, not before mentioning The Wombles another 3 times.......)

 

PETE CURRAN:

Gary Clarke, what did you think?

GARY CLARKE:

Well, I hated the first version and then I even hated the second version.
It's the pun thing, the bad pun thing "Ain't Goin' to Goa', that's awful that....

ALAN:

It's not that good...

GARY CLARKE:

Yeah, stop clogging up the airwaves, that's rubbish.

PETE CURRAN:

...the new single from Eric Clapton. Eric Clapton was on GLR a couple of weeks ago with Bob Mills and he brought in some of his favourite records. It was extraordinary, there was things like Boyz 2 Men - this really kind of horribly over-produced, syrupy, vocal harmony thing - he loves it apparently.

(Plays 'My Father's Eyes' by Eric Clapton. Re-plays the track after a news break)

GARY CLARKE:

Well, Eric Clapton I think, is actually an incredibly talented guitar player and singer...but that's too smooth and ....sorry, not my cup of char...

PETE CURRAN:

What about Alan Wilder?

 

ALAN WILDER:

Yes, well I'd have to agree with that. I mean, it was lucky you played a bit more of it actually because by the time the news had finished I'd completely forgotten it...(laughs). It is forgettable music, isn't it? And as Gary quite rightly says, it's insipid, bland, no edge, no rawness. I mean, I don't think I subscribe to the Clapton is 'God' guitarist that everyone cited him as being. There were many others that I think were much better, but he is a good guitarist - there's no doubt about it, but he doesn't fulfil what he should in his records for me.....
Eric Clapton





MIKE BATT:

I'm going to disagree actually. First of all it's extremely difficult - none of us have heard that record before and we only heard half of it. I'm the person who sat through Les Miserables 7 times before I realised there were any decent tunes in it. And I know you will all say there aren't any, but there are. But if I do something and people judge it on one hearing I think "Hell, they haven't heard it enough." I mean, old Beatles records used to come out and it was a week before you liked them and then you loved them for the rest of your life, so I wouldn't like to say I didn't like the song just on that hearing but I don't honestly think that because it's smoothly produced it's enough reason not to like the song...

PETE CURRAN:

Well, I think what we all mean is that it invokes a lack of interest if there isn't a hook or a personality to the song...but it was that kind of vapoured "oh I hope this is playing at our honeymoon in Barbados" sound...it has that sort of, kind of, er, not an awful lot of effort went into it...

MIKE BATT:

Well, it's very difficult...er....

ALAN WILDER: (interrupts sarcastically)
You could imagine it taking ages to make though......

(laughter)

GARY CLARKE:

...and that's just the hi-hat... (more laughter)

ALAN:

It's a very good point you make about reviewing though and I absolutely agree with that. I mean I would base my judgment of this from previous experience of having listened to Eric Clapton and knowing that this sounds exactly like his other records. I know that when I've heard those a certain amount of times, I still don't like them. But nevertheless, it's so often the case that music takes time to sort of seep into your consciousness and it's often only by the 4th or 5th listen that, suddenly, you get something -so it can be quite unfair to try and sum something up so quickly....

PETE CURRAN:

...the new single from Eric Clapton. Eric Clapton was on GLR a couple of weeks ago with Bob Mills and he brought in some of his favourite records. It was extraordinary, there was things like Boyz 2 Men - this really kind of horribly over-produced, syrupy, vocal harmony thing - he loves it apparently.

(Plays 'My Father's Eyes' by Eric Clapton. Re-plays the track after a news break)


PETE CURRAN:

This is the new single 'Laughing Stock' from Granddaddy.... (plays the track)

ALAN:

Well, going back to what we were saying earlier about reviewing records and first listens, this could be one of those records that gets under your skin after a few listens. It certainly has the potential to be that, and it reminded me of lots of different things all combined....the vocal was a bit Beach Boys and yet the music was much more like more contemporary groups like Eels and Pixies perhaps - so a hybrid of all kinds of different things. I'd like to have seen it pushed a bit further. At the beginning I thought "oh this is interesting, it's started with an unusual sound, this is going to be good" and then it kind of deteriorated into...well, deteriorated isn't really a fair word, but it ended up just sitting there nicely and comfortably without really going anywhere....






PETE CURRAN:

We'll move on then with Howie B. This is a remix of a song from last years 'Turn The Dark Off' featuring Robbie Robertson's spoken-word narrative......'Take Your Partner By The Hand'.
Actually first, we'll try and prize open the doors a bit to let some information out about what Gary Clarke and Alan Wilder are up to...
What about you Alan and the mighty beast that is Recoil, are you going to be striding out on tour?

ALAN:

No, I don't think so. I've done so much touring over the years with you-know-who that I've had enough really - for the time being anyway. I've got another single coming out on Monday, called 'Stalker' but I shall be going back into the studio to start another project this week hopefully.





PETE CURRAN:

I know you hooked up with Barry Adamson for 'Unsound Methods', is the next album going to be a similar collaborative affair?

ALAN:

Well we didn't really collaborate, he remixed a track for me. He's a good chap. I only just met him recently and he's been doing his own stuff which is due for release as well...but I shall almost certainly have some new collaborators on the next thing so I'm quite excited about getting that going.....

(plays Howie B track)
  Barry Adamson
Barry Adamson


Howie B

U2 - POP

PETE CURRAN:

What about you Alan, did you like it?

ALAN:

I did like it actually and I'm glad you played it because I've heard his name quite a lot and I know he was involved in that last U2 record. I've always wondered what his own music sounds like because he's always being hailed as some kind of genius - I'm not sure about that - but I did think this was an interesting record. There were lots of good things in it. I can't imagine hearing it on the old top 40 radio.... but that's a good thing. I thought it had lots of different facets, unusual sounds, interesting ideas within it and I like the narrative on top. I thought the 'take your partner by the hand' chorus wimped out slightly and I wanted it to break out a couple of times, which it didn't really do. It kind of meandered around a little, but having said that it's still a good record and probably my favourite from what we've heard today.





PETE CURRAN:

This is Cornelius and 'Free Fall'....

(Plays track. The opening few bars sound very familiar)

 

Sex Pistols - God save the Queen PETE CURRAN:

Well, we're sitting in the studio here and, as a man, we all looked at each other when that guitar riff came in, so we thought we'd compare it with an oldie but goody.....

(Plays start of 'God save the Queen' by the Sex Pistols)

 

PETE CURRAN:

...here we are, 4 sad old punks sitting around a table....

ALAN:

It's almost a sample isn't it, it's that close.....I wouldn't like to say it definitely is but...

PETE CURRAN:

What did you think then Alan, would you go and see Cornelius?

ALAN:

...oh, did you have to ask me first?

PETE CURRAN
:

Alright, what about you Mike Batt?

MIKE BATT:

er..could I be 3rd?

PETE CURRAN:

Gary, you've got the unlucky third light on this one

GARY CLARKE:

Oh really, well, it's one of those records that I couldn't really care too much about. I didn't hate it, there were a couple of interesting wee bits but I couldn't get into though....which is probably why everybody's afraid to talk about it.

ALAN:

I totally agree, I had exactly the same reaction which is why I passed the buck in the first place....there's nothing to say about it - it's derivative, it's kind of got a bit of energy I suppose...

MIKE BATT:

...I just wanted to say very quickly that I think it's interesting that we've come 25 years since 1976 and punk, which I didn't really relate to the first time around, and you suddenly get an energetic record like this ....but now someone's experimenting putting soft little vocals and things on it 20 years later which is probably artistically more interesting that when it first happened - even though it was more revolutionary and raw then.........

(sniggers and tuts from the sad old punks, Alan, Gary and Pete)

PETE CURRAN:

ahhh, see he covered himself there...

(laughter)

ALAN:

Yeah, the old get-out clause...

MIKE BATT:

I actually think 1976 was a revolution that should have been muted 5 years after it was and it's now being muted 20 years later - they're always useful, revolutions, but.....waffle....waffle....

PETE CURRAN
: (interrupts)

ahh, Mike Batt hangs up his bondage trousers after all this time...

ALAN:

don't forget The Wombles...

(Pete Curran closes the show)






THE WOMBLES
The Best Wombles Album So Far

Glam (Remember You're A Womble), Country (Nashville womble), Hollywood Musical (Wombling White Tie & Tails). A prolific talent, Batt milked it, but fashioned a likable musical universe, best illustrated by, hey, the non-singles: an operatic 'Hall Of The Mountain Womble' and cowboy ballad 'The Orinoco Kid' ("I was quick on the draw, as I tidied up the floor"). Like the television show, a period piece from more innocent times. Do not remix.

3 stars!

Q Magazine





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