This interview took place at Solnahallen in Stockholm, February 6th 2001. From the word go we could feel there was a very positive vibe in the room when we sat down to talk to Rick Parfitt. Looking back now it's easy to understand why. The "Heavy Traffic" album was at its demo stage, and the band obviously knew they were onto something special

Interview by Per Engelbo & Olle Östergård, (c) Backwater Online 

 

We'll use a tape recorder for this interview, ok?

It's perfectly alright, just fire away!

You said to us earlier, when Jeff and Rhino joined, that it brought a new spark to the band. Do you have the same feeling now with the new guys, Paul and Matthew?

Even better! The drummer, Matthew, has made the biggest individual difference, I think, than any... Well it's not right to say. Rhino made a great impact on us, and indeed, so did Jeff, but they made an impact as a pair, you know. Rhino is such a class musician, and his enthusiasm is brilliant. Things going the way they went, the band was happy for a number of years there, and... Jeff decided really that he wanted to do more of the drum schools that he was doing with Quo. Consequently, sometimes we would have a tv show to do, and he said "well I can't do the tv show, I got to go and do my school". He did that once to often, so we said "we let you go and do your schools then", and that was that really... It's not until you get somebody of the class of Matthew that you realize how much better than Jeff he is. I mean, I didn't know that he was going to be better than Jeff, but he has taken the band to somewhere that it's never been before. His impact on this band has been incredible. The feel of all the songs is just that bit better. It's now where it should be. As we say in the music business, it's in the pocket now! It sits exactly where it should sit. And as a personality, he's so lovely, I mean he's such a very nice bloke. The band is a much better band for having Matthew Letley on drums. Now with Paul... Paul has done a fantastic job, Paul Hirsch on keyboards, because it was quite a sudden thing that Andrew couldn't come out. Paul had to learn the whole set from scratch within about a week, 10 days at the most. He had to learn the whole thing, and there's a lot involved... He worked and worked and he just about got it together. He's no different I suppose, keyboardwise, to Andrew, he's no better no worse. They're both very good, so in that respect we have maintained the Status Quo as far as keyboards are concerned, in terms of musicianship. But the drums are now better, so in my opinion the band has gone up another notch again.

If we leave "Famous In The Last Century" behind, what are your thoughts about the next album?

Yeah, it's best to leave "Famous In The Last Century" behind, I think... Although it's been quite a successful album. I mean, it was not something that we wanted to do. We were beaten around the head rather with a baseball bat by the record company to do another "Don't Stop". Although the album has done very well, there's no satisfaction in it for us really. It's just another collection of songs that people know. The next album is nearly all written and ready to go. We'll start it, I think, within the next month. We'll go in and put the preliminary tracks down. From what I've heard of Francis' songs, and the ideas that Rhino and myself have at the moment, it should be pretty good. 

If you compare the material you've heard so far with the albums already recorded, what would you say it's similar to? I mean, does it sound close to the stuff on "Under The Influence", or...?

Well, it's very difficult to say because the quality of the writing is excellent, also lyrically. It's top class. It's really the best writing that I've heard for some time. Having said that, you know, "Twenty Wild Horses" and tracks like that were brilliant on "Under The Influence", but I think this will be a better album than "Influence". 

Lots of fans thought "Under The Influence" was the best effort so far by this lineup of the band. 

This will be better. This will be better! Because we're going to great lengths to make sure this one's better in terms of how we produce it and how it's mixed. There are big plans for this album, and as I say, the material is top class. Quo fans will like what we've got. Also, you see what we have to put in place here... I mean, if we go and make a first class album that the fans want from us, then we've got to make sure we've got the backup in place, that we've got everybody behind us. There's no point in us breaking our necks and making the album that we really believe in, putting a lot of time into it in terms of writing and recording, if the record company don't really get behind it and promote it properly. I mean, what's the point then? I'm sick of hearing fans coming up to me and say "we didn't know you were here" or "we didn't know that the album was out", " we didn't know there was a single out" or stuff like that. You can imagine how it makes us feel... All the work and even the fans don't know there's a single out or whatever! So this time we're going to make sure that the album is produced and mixed and done properly, and we're also going to make sure about the backup, whatever label it may be on. We're not putting all our eggs in one basket here, it can be on whatever label it comes out on in any territory. It's going to be separate deals as far as I know for each territory so I can't even say what label it will be out on, but, one thing you can be sure of is that it will be worked on. People will know that the album is out there, and then we can get true reflection of the state of the band.


 

Have you decided on which producer you're going to use? Are you going to work with Mike Paxman again on this one?

We're going to do it, I think, in three stages. We're going to go in and rehearse it up, then we're going to do some pre-demos, or the other way around. Everybody is going to do their own demos to give each other member an insight of exactly what... For instance, if I write a song I want to let everybody know exactly how it should be. So I will go in and record it, pre-demo it, exactly how I want it. Then we'll go in and rehearse the tracks up, and then we'll take them into the studio. They will be rehearsed up exactly how the writer sees the song. Because that's another frustrating thing over the passed... You get a song at a demo stage and then the band gets in, and although the band beefs it up, and 9 times out of 10 makes it greater, there are times when it doesn't come out exactly how you want it. "What's going wrong here", you know... You get that little bit of frustration. I got it on the "Under The Influence" album with "Shine On". I knew how that track should have been, and it never came out like that. So, once again, we're aware of all these problems and I think if we're ever going to get it right we're going to get it right this time. I don't know who will produce it at the moment. I tend to think, so far from what I can gather, Mike Paxman is going to produce it, but I don't know who's going to mix it. We haven't decided on that. Maybe we'll go off and get a mix from somebody completely different, and at the end of the day you can put the stuff down however you like, but it's the mix that really makes the difference. Maybe bring it up to date a little bit, you know, get a modern mix on it and see how it comes out. Not saying that's going to be the mix. but I would love to hear it perhaps from one of those young in vogue kind of people these days who do all these outrageous mixes and things. Just see what they do, you know. It won't come out until it's right and we're all happy with it.

The songs you have written personally for the upcoming album, who have you written them with?

I'm writing mostly with Rhino. I'm writing one with Bob Young, I'm writing one with Pip Williams... I'm writing another one with a pal of mine who you don't know.

You haven't written anything with Francis for quite some time now. Is it harder for the two of you to write together nowadays, I mean, if you have different ideas of how the songs should sound, the musical direction etc?

No, not really. I wouldn't find it difficult to write with him, but I don't really know because I don't write with him. I mean, he had his partnership with Bernie Frost which was... pretty good. Now Francis is writing with Bob Young again, and you all remember some of the great stuff that came out of that. Again now it's no exception, some of the stuff that Francis and Bob has written so far is really good. That's just the way it goes, you know. I don't know why Francis and I don't write together. It's not because we feel that we can't, and it's not because we don't like one another. It's got nothing to do with any of those things, it's just... I dont know... in this band you kind of do what feels natural. You just do what feels natural, and for some reason Francis and I don't write together. But there's nothing personal in that.

When you have written with Francis in the passed the result has often been fantastic...

Yeah, maybe we'll do something together on this album, I don't know. I mean, there's plenty of time. It's a case of Francis and me being both in the right place at the right time where we would be sitting like we sometimes do, on the bus or whatever, with the guitars and messing about... Something will just come out. But for some reason I don't go over to Frame's house to write, and he doesn't come over to mine to write. You know, he does his thing and I do mine, that's it. But, as I say, it's very important to know that there's nothing personal. There's no friction there. There is no malice, we just don't get around to writing together. That's just the way it is. If it falls into... one afternoon or one evening when we're sitting together with a couple of guitars and something happens... then bang. Then it will be there. But we don't go looking for it. I mean, he's got his writing partner, and I've got mine if you like. I write with various people.

Do you know if Francis is writing only with Bob now, or is he writing with Bernie Frost as well?

No, Bernie is gone. He has just disappeared, literally. So Bob Young and Francis is writing together now and the stuff is really good. Really good. It's very promising, believe me.

You have worked with several producers over the years, and you have also produced some of the albums yourselves. What do you think of the pros and cons of bringing in an outside producer?


 

Well, I think the days of producing ourselves are gone. You can't put two people at the helm. You got to have one person who has the last say how it's going to be. If you've got four or five different influences, or certainly three... myself, Francis and Rhino, how are you going to make an executive decision? So I think there has to be a producer rather like a referee in a football match. There has got to be somebody who makes the last decision and say "that's the way it's going to be"... When Pip Williams was with us I thought he was the best producer for the band at the time, although nowadays there has been a lot of criticism of Pip saying that he made it too smooth and too soft, you know. But certainly some great stuff came out of the Pip Williams era. In our case anyway, if we stick with one producer it just doesn't seem to work. So, Mike Paxman came onto the scene and he has a totally different approach to Pip, whereby Mike is a great fan of the band. He loves the music. I'm not saying that Pip doesn't, but Mike is the kind of guy who has seen Quo in the audience headbanging... He also has a great musical mind, and I think Mike has done an excellent job. The only criticism I have of the "Under The Influence" album is that the mix could have been a bit punchier. I mean, I really like the album overall, but... I feel the same with this latest... thing... of ours which I'm not very proud of I have to say. You know, "Famous In The Last Century". There's nothing really to be proud of in it...

But "Under The Influence" is by far the best album since "Rock 'Til You Drop", don't you agree?

Yeah, we've got to put a combination of everything together now of exactly what Quo is and where we are now, and keep the flavour of what the fans want from us. Keep the identity of Status Quo as everybody knows it and loves it. I mean, it's so reflective nowadays in what we're doing on stage. In a way it's kind of sad...because you go into something like "Big Fat Mama" and the place goes crazy. You know, that's what they want! They let you know what they want in no uncertain terms. "Forty-five Hundred Times" and things like that. But they do like "Old Time Rock N' Roll" as well. To get the combination right on the next album in terms of sound, of what the hardcore Quo fans want... You know, there's a dilemma there somewhere as well, whereby you get what's called a "soft ticket" where somebody will not be doing anything tonight and they'll think "oh, Status Quo are in town, we'll go and see Quo". They have only heard "Whatever You Want", "Rockin' All Over The World" and stuff like that. You have to please those people as well. And you please them by playing those songs. You won't please them by playing "Backwater" or "Forty-five Hundred Times" or "Big Fat Mama"... because they won't know that. To try and get this blend on one album... whereby you please the hardcore fans, and hopefully you can please the not so hardened Quo fans, they will go out and buy it because they say "oh, I like that Status Quo album". We've got to try to aim for... to broaden the market now, and try to pick up new fans with this new album. It's got, I think, to be a very typical Quo-album, and it must reflect exactly what Status Quo is and has gained its name by being. We've got to portray that on this album. It must be Quo! That will be the aim! It will be unmistakebly us.

You have worked with Dave Edmunds and also Roger Glover as producers. What was it like to work with them?

They were just oneoff ideas at the time. I don't think they wanted to do anything more than that. With Roger it was like, as I remember it, "let's have a new approach and see what happens". I liked the way "Wild Side Of Life" was done. Quite basic, no frills... That's largely what people expect from us as a band. But the record made it I think. When you heard it, it got ot you straight away. Same thing with Dave Edmunds who produced "Red Sky" and "Rolling Home". I would have actually liked Dave to produce an album of ours, but Francis and I didn't quite agree on that. If you don't have a quorum on it then it won't happen. I kind of liked the way that Dave Edmunds produced us, but it wasn't to be so... You know, it's just little things you try over the years to see what happens.

"Rolling Home" sticks out as being the most "Quo-like" of all the songs on "In The Army Now", but when you look back on that album there are lots of different musical directions...

Yes, and I'm not a 100% sure that it's a good thing really. I would like it all, without being boring, to be in one direction where you know very positively where the band is coming from rather than "a little bit of this and a little bit of that". I don't know if we're ever going to get that, because I will always write in my way and Francis will always write in his way, so you're going to have a crossover there. The way Francis writes is totally different to the way I write, which is maybe why it's so fascinating when we come together. Something just comes out of that. For the time being, going back to the new album, I want variation on there but I want it to sound like Quo. No matter if it's a slow song, a fast song or whatever, as long as it's got the Quo trademark on it. Because that is what people want from us. You know, we get so many letters and bits and pieces... "where's the old Quo gone?"... This is some of the criticism we got with Pip, in the last years of Pip producing us, you know. "Too much keyboards", "where are the guitars?", "we want to hear the guitars kickin' up front" and stuff like that. I think Mike is very aware of that. I still think it has to be really, at the end of the day, in the mix. You know, what treatment you give those guitars. The balance of everything so it sounds kick-arse! I mean, and I never thought I'd ever say this, there is hefty competition around now from some of these new bands. The names are escaping me now, but some of the new guitarbased bands that are emerging, they're really kicking some arse. They're sounding really good, so I don't think we can sort of relax. We really have to go for it. We've got to compete! Even now, you know. It's all about how many records you sell and what position you reach in the charts. If we are percieved as heavy metal, well... not heavy metal, but a bluesbased boogie rockband, which we are, there are quite a lot of other good rockbands coming up now. I'm really pleased about that because I'm getting so f...ing sick of these boybands and girlbands miming and f...ing around. Bands pretending to be heavy bands and when they get out on stage they just cannot cut it. I've only seen it on the television, but half of them are miming and half of them sound nothing like the f...ing record that they made. That's when it sorts the men from the boys out, when you get out on the stage. All this miming that's going on now, you know. So I'm really pleased that we're getting back it would seem. I wish I could give you some examples of bands, I cant think of their names, but back to guitarbased... little bit of f...ing willy! We call them shoestarers, you know. They go out on stage but there's no action there. They may be loud and all that, but there's no teethgritting going on anymore. I'd be very pleased to see it get back to that.

Talking about guitarbased bands, have you seen AC/DC live? They seem to be more popular than ever these days.


 

Never, but I'd love to see them. You don't have to convince me about AC/DC. They have always been one of my favourite bands, I mean, they rock. I love that! Having fun on stage is what it's all about. I think a lot of the new bands that we just talked about have the sound on record, but I hope they do get out on stage and really enjoy themselves rather than trying to f...ing pose and stuff. Just let go! That's the place to f...ing let go! Over the last few years I've been a bit disillusioned because I've felt that people aren't doing that. They're going up there, playing it, but they're not giving it, you know... You've also got to give once you get up there. You've got to radiate to an audience. I was wondering whether that was lost, but I really hope not. It's not just a case of getting up and playing it, you have to enjoy it. When you enjoy it, you give it to the audience. If you give, here's an old cliché, you will recieve. That's how a band tears the f...ing place up! By giving it all, you know.

I found an old article from 1968 where you said that your favourite band at the time was Vanilla Fudge, and that your favourite songwriter was Mike (Francis Rossi). How would you answer the same question today, 33 years later?

Well, I do like AC/DC... I like Moby... I'm a great fan of Tom Petty... and I like Nat King Cole, always have done. It depends how the mood takes me. If I'm in a rock mood, or in a party mood, AC/DC are just so fantastic! Or really anything by Tom Petty. Or anything by Jeff Lynne. We were listening to ELO yesterday and some of the stuff... Not all of it, but 70-80% of it is so f...ing good!

Haven't you talked about bringing in Jeff Lynne as a producer for Status Quo? I know that Francis is a big ELO fan as well.

Yeah, we have talked about it, but Jeff doesn't really want to do anything anymore. He just doesn't, as far as we know. I'm not sure he would be right for Quo. I think he's probably too colourful for us. Jeff is very big on backing vocals and stuff, and really squeezes the shit out of everything to get this certain sound that he gets. I'm not sure that would suit us, but it did cross our minds because Jeff is so multi talented. Another one is Dave Stewart. I think he's a genious as well, but whether or not he would be right for Quo I don't know. Neither of them would do it anyway, because I think Jeff is sitting on his millions now and is just enjoying himself. As is Dave Stewart, I think, largely. So they wouldn't want to produce us, I don't think. But as I said, they wouldn't be right anyway, so... I think Mike will do a good job, as he does. But in the end, and I hope I' not repeating myself, it's in the mix. All the ingredients will be there to make the cake. Everything will be there, it just has to be put in the oven at the right temperature and taken out when it's done. Then it will be right.

When you did the "Rock 'Til You Drop" album, you turned back a bit to the recording technique of the 70s...

Yes, we set up all the equipment on a soundstage, parked a mobile outside, and played it as if we were playing it live, at stage level. I don't think we're going to use that approach on this one. In fact, I know we're not. We're going to do it in a regular studio, probably residential. We're probably going to go away. We're going to do all the demos in Francis' house, and then we're going to go off somewhere and record it as a normal album. As I said, everybody is very aware of what's expected of this album. Every effort will be made to make this the best album we've ever done. Fingers crossed... What it's going to be called I have no idea. Not that you would have asked me that, but I wouldn't have had any idea if you did...

A few years ago, in Gothenburg, we talked about old favourites that you would like to add to the live set. Among the songs mentioned then was "Claudie". Do you have any particular songs today that you would like to put in?

We still talk about doing "Claudie". It's a funny thing because although it's such a beautiul song to us, we love it, I don't know whether or not it would work live. I just don't know whether or not it's got the grunt to hold an audience... But then again, you could say the same thing about "Dirty Water". At least "Dirty Water" has a bit of audience participation in it with the "oh-oh-oh-oh-oh". "Blue Eyed Lady" to me is a great little song, and I think that would probably work live. You have to try to find a combination of songs that is the right balance for the stage set where it's not too much of one thing. You got to have a little bit of variation, the keys of the songs... You can't have three songs in a row in the same key. You have to move the shuffles down the set... You can't have two shuffles together and things like that. It's like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, you know. Particularly since we have so many tracks we could choose from. We think the set on this tour is one of the best sets we've had for many, many years. It caters for everybody. It caters for hardcore fans, it caters for people who just picked up a ticket on the street and thought "we'll go and have a look".We feel it caters for everybody. It's very difficult. I mean, you can't play everything in there, or else you'll be out there for for or five hours. And we don't want to do that, not at our age...

We're really looking forward to seeing this new set. You know, we've seen quite a few Quo gigs over the years. We're still waiting to hear you play "Oh Baby" live though...

You're going to have a long wait then... (laughing)
But as I said earlier, you never know. It was talk this time about putting "Proposing" back in the set. I tend to think that songs like that should be remembered and treasured. Because with the new album coming out, if it has the potential that I think it has, I don't think there's going to be any room for the old songs.

What about "One Man Band"?


 

Well, that's still on the carousel. It may come back, it may not. We may just decide to do it one day at rehearsals. It's a great song to play live so we'll wait and see. The set is full at the moment. It's bulging at the seams, and it feels really good. We feel we've got it right. It's going to be a difficult thing the next major rehearsal once the album is out, and hopefully established itself, what we're going to lose from this set and what we're going to keep. It's a mathematical problem... No, its not a problem, it just takes a lot of figuring out. One thing is rehearsing it, sitting in the rehearsing room going "yeah, that's it, that sounds great". Another thing is getting it out in front of an audience. All of a sudden you go "oh-oh, we shouldn't have done that". You can never really tell. It's like a boxer, all the sparring and stuff, and when you get to the ring i's a totally different thing. It's exactly the same for us. You can never tell until you get in front of an audience... Does it feel right? This set does!

One last question before we stop, you being a football fan and us being from Sweden. What do you think of Sven-Göran Eriksson as the new coach for England?

Hmm, I haven't really had a chance to judge him yet. The team hasn't played any matches, you know. We don't know who he's going to select, but I hope that he keeps the main stays and introduces a lot of younger blood into the team, which I desperately think it needs. I'm not quite sure that he knows what he's taken on, because if he has success with the England team he will probably get a knighthood. He'll become Sir Sven. If he doesn't he will get murdered by the English press. He'll get murdered more than he's ever known in his life, because they are so wicked. And I don't mean that in a cool sense. I mean they will tear him to bits. So I think he's a very brave man, and I just hope that he does the job. For England's sake, you know. We're in the doldrums when it comes to international football. Almost as bad as Germany, but not quite... (laughing)



 Towards the end of the interview with Rick above, Francis suddenly opened the door and walked into the room. Even if we weren't supposed to do anything more it was such a perfect opportunity for a spontanous chat. Just imagine, there we were with the two frontmen of Quo, and Francis obviously wanted to sit down to talk. Would you have said "no" in a situation like that? Of course not. We were more than happy to stay for a little bit longer!

Interview by Per Engelbo & Olle Östergård, (c) Backwater Online

 

You have started to write together with Bob again?

Yes, fantastic! A lot of things had gone down between Bob and I... I've been reading these books called "Conversations With God". It's got nothing to do with religion, you know, but after reading these books I started to think differently. Bob had asked me time and time again "should we do some writing?", and I just phoned him one day and said "do you want to do some writing, we'll forget what's gone down in the passed. He said yes. We were in my house last summer, sitting in the garden, talking. We found out so many things... Things he was supposed to have said about me, or I was supposed to have said about him. Then I realised if he, meaning Bob Young, would have been left where he was, the management wouldn't have been able at the time to fiddle me and Rick, because Bob saw everything. Bob oversaw everything. The best way to move Bob was, you know, someone said to him "Rossi said this... blah, blah..". Then someone came up to me and said "Young said this... blah, blah". It was causing this friction going on. Bob was told that "the band don't want you anymore", and instead he was offered a position in publishing which suited Bob because he's a songwriter and so on. As soon as Bob was moved away the band was ripped off for 6 million £...

When I was talking to Bob I realised, "f..k, all that went down". Now Bob and I have a fine relationship again, and I'm so f...ing pleased! All the songs we've written... ooooohhh... I'm telling you, you ought to be impressed! I can feel it. It might sound bigheaded, but they're fantastic! It's just something. I don't know what it is, but there's something. For all those years people have been talking about, and perhaps they were right, the magic partnership between Bob and I. You know, you were probably right and I was wrong... We don't have a problem writing, whereas normally when I write with someone I have to book a time, sit down and start writing. We haven't done that yet, and I think we've got about 25 songs. Some are fantastic, and some are obviously not so fantastic, but we never actually had to sit down and ... "what shall we do?", you know. He might show up at my house any time of the day. He sometimes comes in the morning, he sometimes comes at 6 or 7 in the evening, he sometimes comes in the afternoon... It's such a natural thing to him and I. I don't feel awkward when he's in the house, the children are fine around him... It's really exciting to write with Bob again. As Rick says, everything happens for a reason. The reason we have Matt Letley, the reason Bob and I are writing together... is that we're f...ing going to show people! I'm so excited! We've got this thing, "Digging Burt Bacharach" it's called. It's just f...ing great! Fantastic! Sorry... (laughing)

I think, obviously, the Swedish and Danish markets have suffered since we've done "Don't Stop" and the last one... whatever it's f...ing called...

Yes, "Famous In The Last Century"...

I thought the original idea with the name "Famous In The Last Century" was very good and very funny. However, what happened just after the new milennium, in February 2000, everybody realised... "so it's February, nothing really changed", you know. But the whole idea of "Famous In The Last Century" was very good. As soon as the clock went "ding-dong" into the year 2000, everything came from the last century... Everything you could think of. We always used to make these jokes about us having been around since the old king died. In five or ten years time kids that were just born are going to say "well, it's from the last century". The latest bands that showed up in the late 90s... suddenly they're from the last century! I thought it was quite funny, but making the album... You did the best you could, but it was very difficult to get fired up, to get that something.

But you have a very positive feeling about the upcoming album?

Oooooooohhhhhhhhhhh...!

Sorry, but I don't think that went onto the tape... (laughing) 

I did a wanking gesture... (laughing) You know what that means, don't you? Fantastic! I'm going home on Sunday, and Tuesday I'm upstairs in the studio. Nicholas does the bass and he's also the engineer for me. Bob and I tried to put some of it down before I left, but we still have a bunch of songs to do. And we've got some new bits that I've started since I've been away, and new bits that he's started... So I'd just like to sit down and write for about six months at the moment.

What about Bernie, Rick mentioned that he kind of disappeared?

Yes, that's right. He literally disappeared! My best friend for years and years and years... I helped him with his rent. He got in some sort of trouble, he had to pay this and pay for that. I went on tour in October and... he had to move...and... I haven't heard from him since. I don't even have his phone number. Again, as Rick says, things happen for a reason. I don't know why Bernie disappeared. I don't know where he is. I don't know what he's doing, I haven't the foggiest idea what he's doing... He never even phoned me and said "thank you for this" or "thank you for that", or "bollocks", or anything... so I just don't even know where he is. It's actually over a year now... just nothing! We didn't have a confrontation or anything. If I had gone through the thing of saying that "I'm going to write with Bob now" there was going to be friction. But there can't be any friction there because I don't even know where Bernie is! I remember him saying "I won't be able to write songs anymore", I mean... fine. I can't say "oh, please...", you know. If you don't want to write songs you don't want to write songs. Simple as that.


 

Do you feel that you need a song writing partner? I mean, we have to go back to the 60s to find a song, on record anyway, with Francis Rossi as a sole writer...

I have done a lot of songs myself, but usually when I'm in a partnership I say "we did this", you know. There were songs that I wrote myself, and there were songs that Bernie wrote, but that sort of thing happens in partnerships. I said that I wasn't going to have a songwriting partner again, but I'm very, very happy writing with Bob. I'm excited about writing again. Three or four weeks ago, in January, we said "let's do some writing". Bob came around and we sat in the music room... I said "you're alright?"... "tired", he said... "how are you feeling?"... "yeah, I'm tired" I said... You know, "don't feel like doing this, do you?"... "no, not much, would you like a cup of tea?". So we went to another part of the house for a cup of tea. "Tell you what" I said, "let's go and sit in Eileen's room". And I always have a nap in my wife's room. So I laid down with my cup of tea, Bob sat in a chair, we put the tv on, and my youngest, Fursey, came up. Before long I went to sleep, he went to sleep, Bob went to sleep... Two hours later Eileen came in and woke us up... "Hey you, songwriters!"...

What I'm trying to say, why I told you that, is that with me and Bob I don't feel any pressure, whereas before I would have felt guilty about saying "I'd like to go to sleep". We still got up and did something that afternoon. Something happened. We wrote something, a piece, or some lyrics got together... Now I can't wait to make the next album, and I want the band to go and try America again. An Australian promotor that we've known for many years said to me "now you want to go and do the f...ing States!"... I said "yeah"... he said "you're f...ing mad, but it's a f...ing great idea though!"... The more people that say "they've got no chance", the more I think "I want to try this"... We may have no chance, but I know if we play in the States we can draw between 1.200 and maybe 3.000 people in certain places. It might not happen, but I have this feeling about this new material. And Matthew helps a lot, he made a hell of a lot different.

Now that you're writing with Bob again, maybe we can finally set things straight about the song "Gerdundula". Everywhere you look it still says Manston/James as writers, but it was you and Bob who wrote it, wasn't it?

Yes, it was always me and Bob. It was some publishing thing at the time. We had to do it. At the time we were told we had to have two submit names so it became Manston and James. But it was always me and Bob, and it's back in our names now, so I don't think there was something totally illegal going on... (laughing)

No, but very strange though...

F...ing right it is! There are loads of stuff, you know, when we were talking... "do you remember writing certain songs?"... "yeah"... Then you look at the album cover and it says something else. Then you go "hmm, we wrote that, didn't we?"...

I just mentionened to Rick this old article I found from 1968 where you said your favourite music at the time were the Everly Brothers, Jimi Hendrix and Vanilla Fudge... 

I liked the Vanilla Fudge record at the time, yeah, and I liked two Jimi Hendrix singles at the same time. I think it's a very unfair question, "what music do you like?". Even if you give me ten names, it doesn't tell me really what you like in music. I happen to realise that I like Britney Spears. I don't want to marry her, I don't want to join the fan club, I haven't bought any of her records... but I like two or three of them. I like Metallica. I like Creed. I like Destiny's Child. I like All Saints... In interviews when somebody asks me that, if you ask me that, give me a list of people and I'll tell you what I like! Most times it will be like... "yeah, yeah, yup, yup , yeah..." . I like some dance acts. It's not my kind of thing, I don't want to join the f...ing fan club, I happen to like the piece of plastic... I remember when I was a kid, I was told "you don't like country"... But I like Shania Twain, I like Faith Hill, I like Tim McCraw, Faith Hill's husband... I don't like all country, I like lots of it. I like lots of blues. I like lots of pop. I like lots of rock stuff. I like one or two Metallica tracks, but I couldn't follow the band forever. I couldn't listen to an entire set perhaps. But yeah, I like some of it. Do you know the band Clawfinger? Quite like that. I quite like Creed... That's how it is for me. I mean, otherwise you don't really like music. If you say "no, I only like heavy metal", you don't like music. I hate the Pet Shop Boys, always have done, but I love two or three of their records... And I don't want to like them... I realised recently, I got that from my father, something comes on the radio, and I go... aaaahhhh! Then I find out it's somebody I don't like. "Oh f..k, I love that record!" I've never really liked Madonna, but two or three of her records I like. Two or three I think. I've never really liked U2, but I think their latest single is fantastic! I think some of their singles have been fantastic. But I dont have this thing that everybody else... "ooooaaahhh". I just... they're alright, you know. Or Pink Floyd. I like some of their tracks... Anything you name I can say "yeah, I quite like that". There are very few things really that I actually dislike. Because somewhere along the line they release a record or a single and I go... "shit, I like that!". As I said, I don't want to commit myself to forever more be a Britney Spears fan. No, but I like some of those Britney singles, Jennifer Lopez singles, Christina Aguilera singles...

But you still like Eagles, ABBA, Electric Light Orchestra...?

Of course. I bought a new ELO album yesterday here in Sweden and I found two tracks on there that I don't have on cd. But I never went to see them. Their first album, "First Movement", I thought was f...ing rubbish. But the rest of it... fantastic! Yesterday me and Rick were listening to about 15 ELO tracks and... f...ing tremendous! Anything Jeff Lynne does I just like.


 

You haven't done any ELO tracks on the covers albums.

I think people find them too corny, too corny commercial. Again they make a judgement. Like when I was younger, I said somewhere in Germany that I liked ABBA. I was told afterwards not to mention that I liked ABBA because it's not good for my image. What??? Who gives a f..k, I still like it! I can't pretend not to like it. I didn't like the way they dressed, I think the two blokes looked like a couple of idiots, I thought the girls in some of their outfits looked stupid, I thought some of the stage movements were stupid but their records were... fantastic! The last album they made, "The Visitors", mmm... "Under Attack", "The Day Before You Came"... oooohhh!

Good stuff...

To me, yeah. I've realised that I like pop music. I don't have to say I like heavy metal so I got to wear particular kind of clothes. Particularly in England, Denmark, Sweden, Holland and parts of Germany you can pick out who likes heavy metal. You know, he definitely doesn't like Britney Spears because it doesn't go with who he thinks he is. And media does that to us. Why? It's just music! The notes don't have a clue that they're in a Britney Spears song or in a Metallica song. The same notes, the same songs. It's a bunch of music and we all use the same shit. It's all there is. The C sharp doesn't know that it's in a Metallica song therefore it's not cool, or it's in a Britney Spears song therefore it's not cool. It's just music, and I've always liked music. Classical music, jazz music, anything... I dont think there is any form of music that I can't stand. I used to hate The Jam. Then I heard some track on the radio one day, and I liked it! Sorry, next question please! I talk to much...

No, it's interesting, and it's also nice to see you so relaxed and positive about things.

Yes, I am positive. I've got the material, I told you. I've got everybody at it because some people have heard the material and they're really like... (thumbs up). David Walker nearly put his d..k in my ears when he heard it. I played it from Australia. He said "I love it, it's fantastic!", and I said "I told you!". It's definitely something about it.

You and Bob haven't been digging in the vaults for old stuff like "Another Game In Town", "Rearrange" and so on, this is all new material you're talking about?

No, we didn't. But we keep looking at "Another Game In Town" though, and one or two other things. We looked at those when we first started to try and write together. I mean, after all we had not done it for years. But suddenly we ended up with something like 24 songs. I don't believe they get any worse, they're still the same. I just don't think that we did "Another Game In Town" as well as it could have been done. Again, some of them are verse, chorus, bridge, solo... And some are just... ideas, riffs. The danger now is that you become like a craftsman. You know, "we have a verse and a chorus, shouldn't we have a bridge and a solo in there somewhere?". No, not necessarily.

We now write the way we used to again. Years ago we would write it so that we could play it. Rather than write it so you can come back and do overdubs when you record it. That's not how we used to do it. It wasn't until we started to make albums with Pip that he said "well, you can do that afterwards, play that bit over that bit there" . Whereas before we had to write it so that we could play it live.

In your collaboration with Bob, do you write more of the melodies and he more of the lyrics, or...?

No. Both comes up with lots and lots and lots of lyrics. We actually talked about it last night. He calls me every day. He writes great sets of lyrics, but we both feel it's better if we work on the the lyrics together. There's something happening when we do it together. The lyrics are that much more... suitable. There's nothing wrong with Bob's lyrics, we have this thing now... (singing) "All stand up, let me hear you say never say never..." . That's the first thing he came up with. We had the melody and he said "I've got an idea for that". Fantastic! He does that (snaps the fingers). Now we've got to write the rest of it. It's a great title, "All stand up, let me hear you say never say never". You can see people will love that, you know. I'm getting excited again!