David Rhodes Archive
Interview with Mic Smith and Phil Morris - July 22, 2002

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Part One - Random Thoughts 1976-1986

MS: The point that I became aware of you was as a guitarist in a band called Random Hold as they were trudging across England in February 1980 supporting Peter Gabriel. Can you just give me a brief summary of your life up to that point?

DR: Erm.. School of course, and then art school. I did a foundation course at St. Martins where actually Glen Matlock, he was also on that and he used to go off on afternoons and said "yeah, I go and play bass a bit" and he said that they rehearsed in a shop and then to see him surfacing as one of the Pistols was great. And then you'd bump into him a bit after that, years later.

MS: Was that a style of music that you were open to at that time?

DR: No! Not at all. In fact the Pistols I did enjoy for energy and for the whole "fuck you" bit but I was listening to Keith Jarrett and Ralph Towner. In fact I'd listen to a lot of jazz, I suppose, and odd things. I used to like Henry Cow and Robert Wyatt and the quirkier side of the Canterbury things.

MS: The true progressive rock, before it became all keyboards and stadiums.

DR: Yeah I suppose. So finished at art school, ended up at Goldsmith's College but in my last year bumped into David Fergusson and it was actually at an 801 gig, Phil Manzanera's band, we both came out of there poo-poohing it and went off to get a curry and said if we both don't like this - do something about it - start making something.

MS: "Let's form a band".

DR: No it wasn't form a band. Let's just start doing something that we thought was better.

PM: Presumably that was an 801 gig with Bill (McCormick)?

DR: Yeah, there are further ironies and, of course, with Simon Ainsley who later sang with us. So it was all a bit peculiar. My girlfriend at the time, I put off going to see David the next day and she forced me out of the house the day after to go and see him. And I didn't think anything would come of it. But then we started doing some experimental stuff that was pure noise and tape loops...we'd link 2 tape machines together building up sound collages...

MS: Was any of this recorded, were you hoping to put that out onto the market?

DR: Yeah, we thought it was fantastic, but it was virtually unlistenable and we ended up, over the next year or so doing some little shows in a theatre, my mum came to see one and she felt air-sick... and our final shows we were playing in Rotherithe, supporting a puppeteer and we did some music to his puppet show too and I think over 4 nights 24 people came, and on the last night there were only 4 in the audience. So the puppeteer, who had been my tutor at St. Martin's, he got half way through his bit of the show and said well OK. Let's just go to the pub and talk about it. And so we took the audience out for a drink, which was lovely. To the Ship in Rotherhithe, quite a nice pub! And from that experience we tried writing songs so then we put together a band - well itwasn't really a band, it was myself, David, I suppose we got Simon in to sing, cos we weren't confident about singing and we just used a rhythm machine to begin with - and then eventually we decided we had to have drums. But still did a lot of stuff to rhythm machine. Then we got a record deal. But actually Peter had come to see us just the week after we signed and brought Tony Stratton-Smith down and Gail, who was Peter's manager. So it all happened quite quickly.

MS: Was there ever a feeling that you could afford to wait and choose which deal came along?

DR: Well in fact Bill had been doing the deals. He was quite happy looking at paperwork. I can't remember what the other companies that were interested but there were 2 or 3 that would nose around and he took the one that offered us the most money, which was Polydor. Which seemed very wise at the time but possibly wasn't.

MS: The one thing that I remember about Random Hold at the time, was that as support bands went in those days, they were certainly interesting, but how good a band do you think they were?

DR: Well the funny thing was, after it all finished, and it finished quite quickly, I used to never even tell people that I'd been in a band. I was disappointed but its very difficult in that you work with, in a way, your band and I was kinda introduced to Peter's stuff and you can see how it can be... and you see your own deficiencies as a band and, yeah, I think there's part of you that thinks you can do pretty well and there's the part that just thinks 'crikey'. And we basically just fell apart.

PM: Have the CD reissues caused you to re-evaluate...

DR: Oh very much. Our arrangement ideas or song structures were way too long, but even that, listening to it now, 'cos I listened when it came out and I haven't listened to it since, but I found it all quite exciting - and especially the live thing. And in some ways we were better than we ended up thinking we were. I think possibly if David and I had taken more guidance from people we could have done a lot better but we were so entrenched and intransigent with our own ideas we virtually wouldn't accept anything that anybody said to us. We were so bloody-minded.

PM: Those demos on the Overview CD which hinted at what would have come next they seemed to be a little more concise, whether that was deliberate...

DR: Yeah. I think we were trying to make it more concise and we realised that we just weren't getting through to people and when that happens you've got to try and find a way round it.

PM: I haven't actually established if any of those songs ended up on that Random Hold album that came out after things fell apart, because I've never been able to track down a copy unfortunately.

DR: Oh I've no idea. I don't think so but that would be a question for David.

MS: Having secured the management services of Gail and Tony Smith you surprisingly got the job of recording with Peter on early draft demos. Can you describe how those sessions went?

DR: Er..I felt sick most of the time.

MS: What with nerves or something?

DR: Well I think it must have been - the first thing, we showed up and Peter's studio had flooded - the barn that he rented.

MS: This was at Ashcombe House.

DR: And he was covered in mud and so were Albert Lawrence and Dave Price the two roadies. And they were just trying to dig a trench at the back to let the water away. So we met him... 'cos I hadn't met him when he came to see us, 'cos I thought he was a bit of an old fart. Yeah, 'cos there he was, 28...

MS: Ancient!

DR: Well ridiculously old to be making music and trying to be cutting edge. Yeah, and I felt peculiar... I think we were there 3 or 4 days and we'd just fired Simon and the drummer - so we took along a drummer who we didn't really know. We'd rehearsed with him for a few days and we just started trying to work on Biko, Milgrams... I can't remember, maybe The Climb, but I do remember Peter had this little Paia rhythm box and he'd sit there (mimicking Gabriel at his rhythm box) da-do-pu-do-pu da-do-pu-do-pu. And when he switched it off it dumped its memory so he'd have to sit there and get it going again. And in those days he used to record everything on a little version of your cassette player that he'd have on top of his piano - so everything sounded like crap, and he'd flick through it looking for the best bits, and he'd go 'Oh yeah...let's do it that way'. And he'd do that for years. In fact it was only with Real World and DAT machines that he got other people to do it. Having said that he still always works with a cassette player in front of him so if there's something that he likes he'll have it sent from the DAT player just so that he's got it on cassette.

MS: So his method of working hasn't really changed by the sounds of it.

DR: No the tools have changed - and the other thing is as things have technically got quicker, or you can store more information, he can sift through... hence,

All: ten years to make a record!

MS: How did the rest of Random Hold feel when you became the main contributor to the third Gabriel album? Any hints of jealousy?

DR: No, but I think I probably got ideas above my station when we tried to carry on working. I'm sure that's most probably true.

MS: Very honest. The debut album, probably the only album in real terms, The View From Here was produced by Peter Hammill...

DR: Good man.

MS: Were you aware of him as a writer and performer?

DR: Only a bit. I mean I was never a big Van der Graaf fan - but I was never a Genesis fan either. That was for people in the science block at school.

MS: So you didn't really know his writing style.

DR: Not really but Gail managed him as well so we heard quite a lot of what he was doing at that time. And ever such a nice chap. Very bright, lovely guy, lovely guy. Very interesting, a lot of ideas.

MS: What was his attitude to the band during those sessions. Did he come over as "I'm the big rock star"?

DR: Who? Peter! No! Not at all. We used to play a lot of Frisbee and he was quite good. No not at all. And it was the first time he'd ever produced anybody and the last time. Its funny 'cos I spoke to him not long after we got copies of the CDs and I've been meaning to see him, 'cos he's only down the road, and he was saying it was funny how people remember things differently. I think he'd seen a couple of interviews, 'cos there's a fan newsletter in the States - I'd done a little interview for them and David had - and Bill had... very interesting the selective memory loss. Just events occurring in what order.

MS: There's a history of Random Hold on the internet - on Phil Manzanera's web site - and that's written from one person's perspective.

DR: Yeah. I would imagine that's Bills (laughs). No. I remember things differently and I think David does too. But when you think about it all of history is like that, it's people's view of it.

MS: It's whoever gets to speak their mind...

PM: Have you ever read that Bill's history. I mean it seems quite objective...

DR: Yeah, seems to be! (all laugh) Yes I did actually write to him after that and in the nicest possible way... no it was quite good fun. Actually 'cos we had quite a lot of contact after that and as he was putting together the Random things. I think it was a big effort on his part and I think he's done it really well. No. I'm very grateful 'cos I'd consigned it to the dim and distant past but actually the energy of it. I'd kind of forgotten I could be as aggressive as that.

PM: Yes it is pretty aggressive. I wondered how much that might be because of the production, we're talking about Peter Hammill's involvement. The album came in for quite a bit of criticism about the production.

DR: That it was so stark?

PM: Yeah.

DR: Yeah well I think it was quite good - but I also think that David and myself thought it should be like that. Maybe in hindsight if we'd listened to Peter more, it would have been more accessible. I don't know. As I said we were ever so bloody minded and fool hardy, because we didn't accept criticism. And now people have become so pragmatic about their relationships with record companies that they realise that they've got to work together to achieve any success and we flatly refused. So it's not surprising that it all went belly up.

MS: I think its true that bands in that area are a lot less likely to get signed as well these days. The record companies are interested in...

DR: Oh sure, instant success.

MS: You then went on this tour, six months, I suppose, altogether - Britain and then America - in quick succession with Peter Gabriel. That gave you quite a lot of exposure very very quickly. Do you think you were ready for playing to that sort of audience?

DR: Erm... it was great. I mean the only thing I remember missing was that we felt we never got the chance to play for quite long enough. I think because we ended up paring the thing down to 30-35 minutes, which was great for the evening's entertainment, but it left us a little frustrated that we weren't able to play through a bit more stuff. But it was wonderful and there were 2 or 3 shows... It's funny I don't remember the Philadelphia show so distinctly, but there was another corker that we played in Ottawa that I do remember distinctly. Its funny how you pick out certain things. All I remember about Philadelphia was going to the Tower Theatre and thinking what a great place and I was really into Bowie's live album.

MS: That's where that was recorded...

DR: Yeah, and you have to drive through some very heavy parts of Philly to get there. Lots of great art museums in Philadelphia.

MS: You were in a strange position on those tours I have always thought, 'cos you were part of the Gabriel camp having recorded the album and certainly firmly in the Random Hold camp.

DR: Well there's something that's quite a funny thing. 'Cos I did go along to some production rehearsals of Peter's at Shepperton Studios and Peter said "why don't you come up and play a couple of tunes". So I got on the stage and started to playing away and John Ellis just stomped all over me and I felt very upset by it. He was just holding his place, and I think it was naive of me to think that I could join in a tour, and yes, it was a thoroughly bad idea.

MS: Not long after the American tour finished there were plans to go back to America and do more dates I gather.

DR: Yes, 'cos we'd managed to get a release on a small label, Passport and I think the idea was to go back and do clubs. But we always thought we'd do the European leg (of the Gabriel tour) and of course Simple Minds ended up doing that.

MS: Were they chosen ahead of you?

DR: No. I'd left the band, maybe foolishly, but my mind went funny for a while.

MS: So what was the main reason why it ended so abruptly?

DR: Er.. I think I got home from doing America and just didn't like the way it had gone. And yet having heard the stuff (recently) I should have been a little more tolerant. One very funny thing, at the time I never felt sure about Bill's playing, and yet listening to it now I think it's great! It's taken 20 years for me to realise that. I mean I did like it in some ways, but in others I thought he did too much but in fact he was really helping what was going on melodically and he really brought things out, just listening to The View From Here, and I think "what a fool I was".

PM: Yeah, I know people always talk about the rhythm section but I've always thought that Bill's massive bass together with your riffing and outrageous guitar on occasion, was a fantastic combination.

DR: Yeah it worked didn't it? But foolishly I threw it all away!

MS: It kind of struck me listening to it again, I'd bracket you with all groups from that period - Magazine, Split Enz, Talking Heads - they all have that angular, quirky aspect about them, slightly strange subject matter - did any of those groups form part of the writing process in your minds?

DR: I was always a big Talking Heads fan and also we used to like Magazine, and the other thing of course was Pere Ubu. On the first CBGB album that had a Suicide track, and those were the two things we liked best on that record. The Suicide thing which was scary and ever so simple and the Pere Ubu thing that had 2 bass guitars on it - and we loved that kind of thrumming, but then again the other thing we did like about it was it just held the riff all the way through.

MS: Since '81 you've been part of the Gabriel team having appeared on every album and tour in those 21 years. Given Peter's habit for ditching guitarists having previously gone through 4 in 3 years, did you expect things to last this long?

DR: Erm.. Well as I said originally when I first met Peter or knew he'd been to the show, I thought he was too old to be making music. And I'd have thought I'd have finished by the time I was 30. So, am I surprised? Yes, but we ended up getting on quite well.

MS: I was gonna say, there's a friendship there that definitely cemented the two of you together.

DR: But he uses other players, which sometimes irks me and sometimes doesn't.

MS: Can you remember that first performance at WOMAD '82?

DR: Vividly, yeah. That was quite interesting, I remember 'cos it was Stewart Copeland, Larry Fast and Peter Hammill and we'd all put on some colourful garments supplied by Vic Coppersmith Heaven's wife. She used to have these made up over in Indonesia somewhere. And we were just about to go on stage, Stewart collared me and said "David, we haven't got a bass player - you've gotta keep time" and I thought "Oh right!"

MS: Shankar was...

DR: Oh yes, the inimitable Shankar. He was just stoned! Very, very, stoned!

MS: Do you remember the song Dog One Dog Two Dog Three which was an improvisation?

DR: No, but now you say, did we sing on it?

MS: Only minimally. That was the lyric actually, Dog One Dog Two Dog Three.

DR: Blimey!

MS: Tony Levin has just recorded it actually for his new studio album Pieces of the Sun, using Jerry Marotta and Larry Fast.

DR: Yeah, well they've been touring.

MS: It's a shame that Peter's never done that one 'cos it's a great track.

DR: I don't remember it. I bet it's been absorbed into other things.

MS: There's also this feeling about Peter's music at that time, that guitar was starting to get shoved away in favour of the Fairlight and things like that.

DR: Yes and in a way I think that's why I've worked quite well with him. I tend to fit in with the keyboard parts. I don't stand too proud, 'cos I was never into soloing. I've never been able to solo - got to be truthful.

MS: Well I don't know. One of the things I always remember was the Earls Court Secret World Tour and you were doing Across the River and you'd sort of go into this manic soloing.

DR: Oh great and was I all right?

MS: And I turned to the people I was withand I just said "Wow! he can play", having read all these years that Peter had picked you for the way you"didn't" play guitar.

DR: Well I think I play it very much how he would. So, without too much fuss.

PM: But you did solo on, say, the Talk Talk stuff.

DR: Yeah, but I always referred to it as instrumental interludes. I think that solo's too strong a word for it. Because yeah if you think of the great soloists, Hendrix, you can't use the same word.

MS: Phil mentions Talk, Talk there, I was just about to come on to people you've played with in the eighties and the only 2 that actually spring to mind were Blancmange and Feargal Sharkey, which sound like a million miles away from Gabriel. How did that come about?

DR: Well the Feargal thing was really only promotional stuff and that was because Gail's husband worked in his management office and just asked me to go and help out. So that was quite funny. And with Neil the Blancmange singer, they'd been supporting Japan and I did a tour with Japan straight after Tin Drum, just a British tour, and they were the support band and I remembered thinking they were treated quite badly, 'cos I knew what being in a support band was like. The first date, there was nothing in their dressing room and I saw that the Japan guys weren't drinking any beer and leaving a lot of stuff and I said "do you mind if I take it through to the other guys" So I just did that. And actually I spoke to Neil just last week. We stayed in touch a little bit, about once or twice a year.

MS: Is he still in the music business or not?

DR: Yeah he does a lot of TV work, the odd drama, a lot of Channel 4 stuff and makes a living doing that.

MS: And what was it like working with David Sylvian then on tour?

DR: Peculiar. I mean it was quite an awkward time 'cos Mick Karn's girlfriend moved out of Mick's flat - into David's which was just across the square, they lived in Kensington, and it happened the day the tour began. So they were barely talking. And I only found out about that half way through. But some of it was fun. I actually thought that Tin Drum was incredibly clever for when it came out 'cos it was all done before you could program things. The other thing that was lovely, that they always used to talk about, 'cos I did odd bits of recording on their solo projects, but never for David, they were really into this thing with instruments. Kind of questioning and answering each other in a tune. Its rather beautiful and it was a lovely approach they had.

Part Two - So Us Up 1986-2002

MS: When the Real World studios opened in 1987-88, that allowed you, as I see it, to become used quite widely as a session musician.

DR: Yeah. I used to do a lot in London anyway. So if anything moving down here slowed it down 'cos I used to get a lot of calls just to go in and do an afternoon, but yes, in some ways.

MS: Fischer Z is one I have here. Destination Paradise.

DR: Ah...but that was just B Vox with Peter wasn't it?

MS: Yeah. Do you remember how that came about? Was he just recording at the studio?

DR: Yeah he was doing something and he asked us to go and help out. Upstairs. I remember it, but can't remember the song.

MS: Further From Love...

DR: No...but it was a nice track. He's still selling records in Germany which was why he was able to work, but I don't think it did anything.

MS: No. I only heard about the record 6 or 7 years later when an Italian collector who is a friend of mine and who sends me all these strange LPs where the artist has recorded a cover version of Mercy Street or something...some American college choirs stuff...and he's managed to track down a copy, so it's very obscure stuff.

MS: Yungchen Lhamo - She's another one you've played with.

MS: Any idea what Peter does on that LP 'cos it just says Drones on the credits?

DR: Then that's what it'll be!

MS: Does that mean every song?

DR: No. It'll just be on a couple. Cos I think the more song based things were put together in France by a French keyboard player and in a way I think they are the least exciting pieces. I've forgotten the title of the one with the Wild Guitar, but it's got some Tuvan singing.
 
MS: Oh, 'Defiance'.

DR: Yeah. Scary piece of music, and yeah I'm very proud to have played on that.
MS: She's a mesmerizing performer, I think.

DR: A lovely woman.

MS: I sat and watched her in Seattle last summer, and sat in silence for half an hour. You just didn't want to cough or anything.

DR: And just hearing about her life.

MS: Yeah. It's awful.

DR: It's quite moving when she talks about the harshness of life, I mean besides all the religious problems, just the surviving... bloody tough. She's really poetic.

MS: Snowflake, right... That's a collaboration with Akira. Who is she?

DR: It's a bloke! (laughs)

MS: Oh right. Who is he? (laughs)

DR: He's one of the leading free lance producers in Tokyo, and also an arranger of orchestral stuff- his father was actually an incredible cellist,. He judged a Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, really top world class, you know, top 2 or 3. And Akira did all his music college stuff, and I met him in London. Part of working for Peter over the years is that people would listen to records and hire you thinking that you're gonna do something that will fit in with what they do which isn't always correct, but I was invited... Stuart Bruce was engineering, and Stuart now has a room down at Real World that he works in, but he was an engineer and I remember walking in, the piece of music, Akira writes everything out - lots of dots - it was in 13/8. And Stuart was going "Ah it's in 13/8. You'll have trouble with this." And Akira put the music down in front of me and the music just looked so complicated- I can barely follow a chord chart, so having the dots... So I just turned the thing upside down and I said "come on play the thing" and we've worked together ever since. He's invited me to play for various Japanese singers and then we did our own record together and we did Snowflake. I was over there not last Autumn but the Autumn before, and we performed Snowflake with Akira's aunt who really came up with the idea of recording Snowflake with her reading it. She's about 80. Tiny little thing, like a little bird, with incredible energy and we did it in a theatre it was quite lovely. So she read and we played the pieces at the correct points.

MS: Have you ever thought of doing it with Peter's narration?

DR: No I don't think he'd ever do it. But it was a lovely thing to do.

MS: Yeah there's some nice material on there.

DR: Yeah. Its very simple and the idea it really was aimed at mothers and their children to just sort of listen to the story and for their to be some bits of music. Well music that wouldn't be condescending. I think so often with kid's things its like tinky little sounds and no passion to it so we were trying to do something that took it up a little.

MS: Its got depth to it - it's an adult listening experience, I think, when I've heard.

PM: You said you did your own album together, as well as Snowflake. Is that the solo album of yours?

DR: No it was a thing that I did with Akira...

MS: We've got to ask you what happened to this solo album.

DR: Well it's funny but after hearing the Random stuff, I really got excited about getting started again, and then I started... and I thought I could do it and actually Richard was going to help but he then thought it should be done in a different way, and then I just ended up doing some woodwork... it's kind of slipped away again.

MS: But now that Real World have sort of opened up the net a bit haven't they, singer-songwriter wise, Joseph Arthur and Pina, perhaps its less incongruous to have...

DR: Yeah.

PM: The track on Plus From Us, sparked off a lot of interest, a lot of people were waiting for the album.
DR: Yes I don't know where he got that from...

MS: You must have a wealth of material.

DR: Well, I think I have, but then you listen to it and think, nah. I'll do something different, I don't know what I'd do now. It also reaches a point when maybe I should own up and admit I'm better at working for other people and with other people 'cos you end up in different places through workable compromise. I'll review it again in the New Year.

PM: Well I've found it very frustrating listening to the Random Hold demos - but you clearly had most if not all the tracks written - and you're left thinking "where was that album at the time?"

DR: Well the second Random album never got recorded and then the stuff that I've still got lying about some moments are nice, but I think music's moved on so quickly in the last 3 or 4 years that really I should do a more live thing, but then organising that has become just a nightmare, you've got to spend a lot of time doing that, and there's that thing as to whether you are prepared to spend that length of time doing that. I think Tony has done fantastically putting together his records and getting out there and promoting it and he works ceaselessly - his website is always kept up to date and he obviously enjoys it and it pays off - but I'm not sure I could do that. I don't think I have that drive.

MS: There's this other soundtrack that I'm aware of - this cartoon film - and I'm not even going to begin to pronounce the title...

DR: La Gabrionella...

MS: Well, whatever, I've got the German one.

DR: The film is called The Little Seagull and the Cat It Taught to Fly. And its based on a story by a Chilean writer Louis Sepulveda. And he was a freedom fighter in Chile and carried his gun and had to get out. He ended up in Rome and he wrote this story and its really a story about fascism and about overcoming prejudice and enemies learning to get on with each other and he wrote this story. It's nearly always in the Italian bestseller lists.

PM: How many languages was it done in?

DR: There's a German, French, Dutch, Italian, obviously, and there was an English version, in fact when I worked on it all the original voices were in English, so I was working to English voices that were recorded in Canada and then they did all the translations.

MS: So the English version was released was it?

DR: No, it was shown at the London Film Festival, 3 years ago, was it? And the guy presenting the festival was ever so nice he said this is a lovely film, but no distributor took it up. But then an American distributor - Tri Mark - bought it, but I gather they were bought by another company and it's just languishing somewhere. But in Italy it was very successful. It was close to just under 2 million people who saw it which is quite good.

MS: How pleased were you with the finished product?

DR: Well now I would change everything or a lot of it. But again the songs, cos that was where I started from and I think those are nice, 'cos they fit in with the film. And the lyrics, 'cos don't suppose they printed those, but they obviously fit in with the action. One nice thing there's a song "We are the Rats" and of course they draw to the song, so the song's actually lead the film at the points where they're in. But it's quite a difficult process you're actually working to stills you work to the voices in their correct timings but you are seeing no movement just black and white, which then jump so you have to sort of picture what's happening. So it's very, very difficult. Now with the better technology you can do it all on a computer. And it was the first time I really got into programming so it was in a lot of ways naive but the director seemed quite happy. It was a really good thing to do and I'm ever so happy that I was asked to do it and pleased that it worked out. 'Cos you can never be sure with film soundtracks that you work is gonna be on their until its actually in the cinemas. Its way more cut throat than the record industry. It's much tougher, much, much tougher.

MS: Although that's probably true for the stuff for the stuff you do with Peter, isn't it? Where you play in the studio for days and days record everything, and when you finally get to hear the finished record...

DR: Oh yeah. On the current record there are things where you've spent a couple of days working on something, 2 bars, if that, or it's so warped you don't recognise it, but that's great as well, because it's somebody really using the media.

MS: Well I think personally for me, that's why I've been able to be so impressed for such a long time. I first heard Peter when I was 12 years old. It's ridiculous to think that here I am 28 years later still listening to this same person - he means more to me in a musical sense than anybody else will ever do, and it's not because I've got this bent on him as a person. It's the music. Every time he does something, it's different. It's fresh.

DR: And he pushes very hard - and you have to work hard. It's not, I mean it's fun, but it's not an easy ride.

MS: How frustrating is it though that you're in for that length of time going over the same piece of music.

DR: Well it's only frustrating when you think you've really achieved something and he's still uncertain, but having said that, you do work until a point of happiness is reached with what's going on but then the whole thing can change a year later 'cos he's decided he didn't like that groove or that melody, so that gets changed, and I always remember, actually when I was at art school, a chap was talking about drawing and he said "every mark you make, you have to re-assess every other mark you've made". And that happens with Peter's work until its on the record - and they're into the fifth cut of the album and I think that today is the complete cut-off date for delivery. So he leaves it until the last minute, but its that reviewing of everything in relation to the last event that's occurred so it makes that a very long process, but a very interesting one.

MS: How big a fan of the music that eventually comes out are you?

DR: There are often things that I'm not so fond of, but you come to understand them better and through playing things, say live, you hope you come up with a different version. Something that you like more, a different approach.

MS: I always thought that the Secret World tour, as good as the US album was, the live shows still got more out of the material. Digging in the Dirt was absolutely superb.

DR: That had a lot to do with the presentation that close cam - it was very exciting. I don't think anybody had seen that close before, so visually I think it was very exciting and it's a great tune to play.

MS: But live it has this menacing guitar...

DR: Oh yes, it's all much grubbier and nastier, yes in a way I haven't listened to it for years but you can take things to a place live that's much tougher and because it's of that moment and you're trying to work in that space

MS: OK. The latest project the soundtrack to the Rabbit Proof Fence - Long Walk Home. What can we expect from the film when its finally shown. Have you seen the finished cut?

DR: Yeah. Well erm... It's not an action movie, and it's not a comedy. It's a very sad tale.

MS: Are people walking out of the cinemas crying though, that's probably the intention.

DR: I don't know. Yeah, the awful things that happened to aborigines it's a heart rending tale. Do you know the story?

MS: I'm familiar with the basic plot, but I haven't read the book.

DR: No I haven't read it. Yeah, so the girls because they're mixed race, they're taken off to an orphanage I suppose which is really like a prison and they're trained to be maids to be absorbed into the white community and hopefully married into the community to breed the aboriginality out of them and Kenneth Brannagh makes a very good misguided Englishman. I suppose he's the office for aborigine affairs and the story is of them escaping and walking 1500 miles or 2000 miles across the outback. Anyway it shows them doing that and being chased by an aboriginal tracker whose daughter is also held at the camp. So he's really torn between really pushing them on to get home and catch them to save his job. And really that's all it is. And this policy was existent until 1971 or 72 and last year a minister, one of Howard's government actually denied that any of this had gone on. And even now with all the refugees its still a pertinent issue in Australia and the film has done very well in Australia. Whether that will be repeated on the world stage... but it's beautifully filmed it's a beautifully made piece of film.

MS: One of the impressions I've got from listening to the music, and I'd say of the three soundtracks that Peter has done, this one makes you want to see the film more than either Birdy or Last Temptation.

DR: Yes its much closer in fact. The soundtrack hasn't been... with Passion he recorded a lot of music and extracted bits for Scorsese to work on, and then made his own record. This one is very much the soundtrack to the film and it's such a shame that Miramax pulled it right at the last minute. It was due for June 15 or 22 release throughout Europe and they just said no and I think it'll be put out in the New Year. It's a very beautiful film and the children act fantastically.

MS: Can't wait to see it! You are credited with percussion on the album...

DR: Oh yeah... bang that drum. I wasn't allowed to play guitar.

MS: There's a bit of guitar and digeridoo it says here. Did that come easy, you know, do you just blow and you get the music or does it take a bit of training?

DR: Well I can't do the circular breathing but I can get some quite interesting notes out of it. Well they normally just have one note. I can get some interesting sounds out of it, and then what we did we kinda put it through guitar pedals and stuff like that. But yeah we had a lot of fun and really the resources we had were very limited and because early on we'd decided to use bird song we felt that using the big drum, the surdu would work, digeridoo and clap sticks. It's amazing when you are pushed how many noises you get out of 2 sticks. Richard became very good at rubbing them together and then we ended up hitting the digeridoo with a stick which actually is what the aborigines do. Yeah at times we were both playing the digeridoo together but striking it with different objects, or we'd hit it at the end or scraping it.

MS: And there's something called a Berembau. What's that?

DR: Berembau - that's a stringed instrument and it's a bit like a bow. Like a long bow with a gourd and you just kind of tune it.

MS: A stringed instrument?

DR: One string.

MS: A one-stringed instrument. OK. Well it's an education, that was the beauty of Passion when that came out, and you'd say "what's that? Is that a person's name or an instrument?" Long Walk Home unfortunately in the reality of the world we live in is gonna be overshadowed by the forthcoming release of the new song based album Up and we also believe there may be a follow up to that called I/O - although I'll believe that when I see it. What does the immediate future hold for you, so far as the promotion of Up is concerned?

DR: Well we go on the road, we start rehearsing - I think we should start this week, but I've been a bit unsure. But I'll get together with Richard, Ged and a keyboard player. We still haven't got a keyboard player. It was gonna be Lisa Connelly. Prince's keyboard player - but she can't do it. I think Peter's trying to decide in the next day or two who's gonna do it.

MS: David Sancious isn't available I take it?

DR: No, again, I think the feeling is it would be good to change the approach, although I think he's still in the frame, I'm not sure. So we start gathering equipment together this week. Actual work begins next week.

MS: And that's for the American tour?

DR: Yeah. So what we do is effectively rehearse the whole of August to get the music in place. We've got one show at the end of August.

MS: This is in Munich?

DR: Yeah, oh so you know about that, which I thought was for a Virgin Party, and I think everybody did. It's actually 20,000 tickets have been sold. I think it is a Virgin bash and we only do a limited set so there wont be any production.

MS: So that would be similar to Seattle last year?

DR: Yeah, then production rehearsals in October and I think the first shows are at the end of November in the States.

MS: I think 5 November is the opening night of the tour.

DR: Oh, so there are probably some warm ups. I don't know I haven't been given a schedule yet.

MS: Do you know anything about the production. Will it be Secret World Live sort of scale?

DR: No it wont be. It can't be. The other thing is that Peter and his management want this leg of the tour to pay for itself. Whereas Secret World took 2 legs to break even 'cos the staging was so excessive. So I think they're gonna try and rein the production.

MS: And Europe dates next year? Do you know anything about that?

DR: At the moment, nothing. Absolutely nothing. So this is it. I think it's a question of seeing how Peter feels 'cos he's just got married and he's just had a baby. It's just a question of feels being on the road. - he's also worried about his father's health. So there are all sorts of things why he may not be happy to be out for too long. And he doesn't really need to tour to generate income. He can generate income in lots of other ways.

PM: So have you been asked to set aside a period of time in terms of when the tour might end?

DR: Well it ends the week before Christmas and then that's it.

MS: And then it's "take it from there" really?

DR: Yeah. I've got no idea. It's not even discussed. We've mentioned it months ago, but I've just got a feeling he just doesn't know.

MS: I should think he's finding it difficult to gauge the level of...

DR: Interest.

MS: Of audience, yeah.

DR: It's very difficult to know if...

MS: Because Secret World Live suffered a little bit, I remember the Birmingham show at the NEC was only announced I dunno about a week or so before the gig.

DR: Was it? Oh.

MS: And tickets hadn't been shifted in the numbers you'd have expected them to have been. Certainly it was only a couple of weeks (It was actually about a month before - a failing memory was letting me down- MS)

DR: I don't think Peter's ever been that strong in... although we used to do Earl's Court a lot, but its never been the happiest of countries to play, yeah he's very well loved in Italy, France and Germany, but England's always been a struggle.

MS: There's a venue in Manchester actually which I think would be ideal for his music. Bridgewater Hall, which actually Youssou played when he toured in 2000, and it was only half full actually. But I imagine Pete would have no problem filling it - but it's an absolutely gorgeous place.

DR: Well its really difficult to know how many tickets to...

PM: But he could do a theatre tour.

MS: Well, I think so...

DR: Yeah but the expense of putting on a tour is huge and as I say if he's got other streaks of income from soundtracks and... just getting songs into film. Does he need to be doing shows? Where it's a lot of work, it's a lot of strain on him for not much result. And the thing is he hasn't performed for years, so how's he gonna feel. I mean if he loves it, then maybe changes the balance of the equation.

MS: I think you have to get the size of the venue right I think that's the mistake that Genesis made with their last thing. They clearly assumed themselves to be huge and of course the whole American thing fell flat, and Yes on the other hand, they had taken a decision to scale everything down to about 2000 seaters and it was brilliant.

DR: Yeah, well that would work, but then again they're most likely a profit sharing organisation whereas Peter doesn't share the profits and he doesn't share his losses. There are realities.

PM: What do you think of the new material?

DR: I have my doubts about one track that's going on there... have you heard any of it?

PM: Not other than the snippets on the website.

MS: I heard one track at the studio last October, having done this remasters stuff with Susie and so on. I got invited down and Dickie Chappell put the tapes up for one of the songs which he told me would be on the album, but I've no idea whether it is. It was this really, like Tower That Ate People, a really extreme loud bit at the beginning.

DR: Oh yeah that's the opening track, Darkness.

MS: That did sound fantastic.

DR: Yeah the sound of the record is remarkable. It's incredibly dense... but that's the running order as of Saturday. It's gonna be very difficult because of the way its been mixed, Tchad Blake has mixed it. Bits of it - the sounds are really weird and things don't necessarily play all the way through a tune. So finding a way through the tunes is going to be difficult. I think it's gonna be a lot of work for all of us.

PM: But with the two guitarists presumably...

DR: It'll make some things easier and other bits where... division of labour is nice but I want to get all the best bits! No. We're just gonna have to work it out. I mean Richard is a fantastic acoustic player so he can do more of that stuff and I can just do the things that I'm better at, which is just making noise.

2002 Mic Smith and Kontakt. All rights reserved.
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