INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

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wadey1

INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by wadey1 » 24 Jan 2009, 15:50

Here are some questions Chris Twomey answered for me. I encountered him accidentally, after buying some strangled mags off him. any way, here it is.

When did you first become interested in The Stranglers?

It would have been just after Rattus was released in the early summer of
1977. I can remember vividly the first time I heard them. I was 16 and
coming the end of my eight year sentence in a north of England boarding
school, and I used to hang out in the private room of a mate (I still slept
in a dormitory - the lucky boarders got their own room). He used to smoke
dope and we'd play albums on his stereo. Mostly these were of the stodgy
mainstream kid - Deep Purple, Santana, Bachman Turner Overdrive etc etc. But
then this one day my mate Richard asked me if I wanted to hear some of this
punk rock everyone was going on about. Being locked away in a north
Yorkshire public school we'd heard about punk - and shocking and terrible
the music was - but hadn't yet had the opportunity to explore further. The
average public schoolboy's idea of exciting left field music back then was
something by Man or Bob Marley.
When I heard Rattus I was simply blown away - it sounded dirty, appealingly
ugly, subversive, but also very melodic and powerful. Not what I was
expecting from this ‘awful’ punk rock! JJs vocals on Ugly were intimidating,
whilst Hugh sounded angry throughout. I was hooked!
When I got home from boarding school (I lived in Devon) I went out and
bought the album immediately. The love affair had begun!

How did you become involved in Strangled and what was your experience before
this in journalism?

Like many of the best things in life, my journalistic career came about
through chance really. After I did my A levels at a comp in Devon (I got a
low grade in one and failed the rest because I was more interested in
chasing girls, having spent half my life in a single sex boarding school) I
fluked it and got onto a radio journalism course in Cornwall. It was the
first year the college had offered this course and they were so desperate
for students I was admitted without even an interview!
About half way through, we all had to do a radio project for our final
diploma. We could do anything we liked, so I picked The Stranglers! Those
were more naïve times and my persistence with the record company and band's
management paid off. I think I bullshitted by saying I was putting together
a documentary on The Stranglers for syndication to Independent Local Radio
and I was eventually invited up to London to interview Hugh. I caught him on
a good day, he was charming and gave a great interview. I still have the
reel to reel tape of it. At the end I asked him if he wanted to add anything
and he did an impromptu jingle: "Listen to me says Chris Two-mey" (my
surname is pronounced too-me).
Anyway, I put the documentary together, got a great grade for the project -
the only thing I did well on that course - sent it out to local radio
stations around the country and it got loads of pick-up. So my lie turned
out to come true!
Hugh heard the doc (I sent him a cassette) and liked it, so when I approach
him about doing an interview for Record Mirror (I told RM I had an 'in' with
him so they commissioned me) he said yes. Around that whole MIB/Folie time I
kept doing features on the band and writing about them in a positively
love-struck way, which obviously made me stand out because most writers
hated them.
Strangled's then editor Paul Roderick (real name Paul Duffy - Jet's brother)
then asked me if I'd like to do stuff for him. How could I refuse? It gave
me almost unlimited access to the band!

What are your memories of recording My Young Dreams with Jet Black for the
Marriage of Convenience single?

Well that came about because when I was researching my ill-fated Stranglers
biography and I interviewed a number of the Finchley Boys - including Alan
Hillier. He had a cassette in his car of some really early demos which
really knocked me out. Most hardcore fans have heard these - as well as My
Young Dreams there were tracks like Charlie Boy, Chinatown and I Know It on
there. Strange Little Girl was currently a Top 10 hit and the original was
also on these demos. I thought MYD had a similar feel - a really sweet
little pop song and I told the band a couple of times I thought it had hit
potential - they should re-record it. They were pretty disdainful and I
think it was Jet who said, 'If you think it's so bloody good, why don't you
record it.'
Just so happens an old Devon pal of mine, Pete, now lived a couple of
streets away from me in north London and we were always writing songs
together, usually while off our heads on something. Pete was a 'proper'
musician. He was then the keyboard player in the David Essex Band (!) and
later went on to hook up with various long-in-the-tooth musicians such as
The Real Thing, Mud and that singer out of T'Pau (Carol Decker?). Anyway, he
and I did a quick little bedroom recording of MYD, which wasn't a slavish
copy of the original - Pete had added a catchy Bronski Beat (remember them?)
type synth line over the top, which worked well. Jet evidently thought so,
because he phoned up when he heard our cassette expressing his amazement
that he thought our version was really good. I can't remember the precise
sequence of events after that, but Jet said he wanted to finance and produce
(and play) on a brand new version of the song.
It all happened in a matter of weeks - a lovely guy called Paul Whitrow got
us some cheap studio time at a place in Bath, along with its talented
resident engineer, Phil Andrews. We assembled a bunch of musicians, some of
whom Jet decided he didn't want to use, and recorded the bulk of the track
in two days - most of the time was spent on Jet's drums and my vocals. Quite
a few of our mates were hanging around in the studio, I remember, and when
the time came for me to sing I got nervous and kept cocking it up. Jet then
booked us into a studio in Bow, east London, to do some more overdubs and
the mixing, and I decided I wanted to do the vocals again from scratch. They
ended up very breathy and ethereal, which I now regret - the song needed
something much stronger to counter the whimsical melody - but we ended up
with a track I was very pleased with at the time.

Jet wasn't totally happy, though, and while on holiday in LA, he remixed MYD
again - coming back with two versions, neither of which I liked as much as
the London mix. But it was his shout - he was paying - so one of the LA
mixes got released. I also regretted not singing the B-side Two Sides To
Every Story - it was basically a demo that me and my friend Pete had
recorded with altered minds and featured him on vocals (great chorus, shame
about the rest). To this day I wonder whether any one ever bothered to play
the flip side!
The decision was taken to stick the single out on SIS's own label and to get
proper distribution organised through Pinnacle, plus pay radio pluggers to
get us a hit! Apart from a couple of late night plays on London's Capital
Radio - and somewhere up north - it was ignored by radio stations and
stiffed. These days I can't bear to hear MYD because all I can hear is the
flaws and the weak vocal. Making it was a great experience though.

(By the way - I recently discovered artist Stephen Beaumont’s original
artwork for the proposed MYD sleeve - he did several different designs. All
the others were rejected because they would have cost more. The one we went
with was three colours…so cheap!)

Do you have fond memories of time spent with The Stranglers, and can you
recall any interesting moments you had with them?

Oh God loads. I can’t really do justice to this question without writing a
book…hey, now there’s an idea. Suffice to say, I was around the band a lot
between 1982 and 1987/88, when I was doing my biog on them. But the first
time I met any member of The Stranglers was during the 1978 Black & White
tour, when they played in a tiny club called Routes in Exeter - that was
pretty memorable. My girlfriend at the time disappeared back stage after the
gig and I had to persuade the bouncers to let me go in and find her. When I
got to the band’s dressing room I wasn’t in a hurry to leave! I had a quick
chat with Hugh, who was friendly, but he was more interested in the women on
either side of him than me.

Next, I arranged an interview with JJ for a Westcountry fanzine when he was
on his Euroman solo tour, so that would have been the Spring of ‘79. We -
ie. me and the same girl - travelled up to Bristol Locarno for that one, and
when I did get to meet JJ I was so nervous I tripped over the microphone
lead of my tape machine nearly smashing it to pieces. I remember JJ
commenting, ‘You’re quite gauche, aren’t you?’ - and that was him being
affectionate!!

Once I started researching and writing the book I would hook up with each
member individually at regular intervals, usually at their homes, unless
they happened to be coming up to London for some reason. The best times,
though, were spent on the road - I did two tours with them, paying my way by
working on the SIS merchandise stall. The first was the 1983 autumn French
tour, which lasted a month, and the other was the 1985 UK winter tour. In
both cases we were staying in the same hotels and eating in the same
places…and of course working in the same venues night after night - you get
to see people as they really are in these circumstances. The most memorable
moments on tour usually involved incidents too sensitive to reveal, but one
event that tickled me then - and still does - happened when the band played
the city of Metz in eastern France. We were staying in this little hotel
right in the centre somewhere and when we got up in the morning we all had
hangovers and badly needed something to eat. We were so late rising, we’d
missed breakfast and the kitchen was deserted. Now anyone who knows
Stranglers history will be aware that a hungry Jet is not a happy Jet, and
after we spent about 10 mins trying - and failing - to find a member of
staff, he lost patience. He marched into the kitchen, threw open the fridge,
pulled out all the eggs and bacon he could find, and started a massive fry
up. He ordered us all to sit down in the dining room, and every now and
again he’d poke his head out of the kitchen door and say, ‘Now who was it
who said they didn’t want mushrooms?’ He took all our breakfast orders one
by one! Brilliant - and one of the best fry ups I ever had.

What are you doing now?

I have what many of my friends consider to be the jammiest job in the
world - I watch TV for a living. I edit a TV listing magazine two days a
week, and I write for the TV listings market the rest of the time - which
basically involves watching lots of next months TV on DVDs. I try to avoid
soaps and mainstream dramas - which I can’t stand - and stick to the
documentaries, then tell the dear public what they’re about and why they
should watch them. It’s a living…which is more than could ever have been
said for music journalism.

Have you kept up to date with The Stranglers and Hugh Cornwell’s careers?

Yes, at a distance, and it’s been a bit of an endurance test at times. Of
course, the Hugh and JJ factions - if I can put it like that - have now been
apart longer than they were ever together, and interestingly, when they
first split, I thought Hugh had the edge creatively. But lately that’s
reversed. I’m not going to get drawn into critiquing Hugh’s solo work, but I
wish he’d drop that fake American accent, and I wish he hadn’t adopted that
looky-likey Stranglers-type logo - it makes it look as though he’s desperate
to remind everyone who he was...which is kind of ironic, as I thought he
didn’t to be a part of that any more!

What do you think of the post Hugh years?

Like a lot of people, I thought a sizeable chunk of the bands soul walked
out the door when Hugh left. It wasn’t really the Stranglers any more and I
sort of wish they’d changed their name and drawn a line under that era - it
wouldn’t have prevented them from performing the old material. Yes, Paul
Roberts was a great singer and John Ellis a brilliant guitarist - but they
were both almost TOO good in their fields. To me, they sounded like they
both belonged somewhere else, like it was a beautiful head on the wrong
body. Sorry, they were extremely decent blokes and all that - in fact, Paul
became an occasional drinking/curry buddy for a while - but I couldn’t hear
The Stranglers any more.

Apart from Time To Die, I didn’t like Stranglers In The Night, About Time
was alright in parts, but then Written In Red and Coupe De Grace were
dismal, tuneless albums. I was embarrassed for them. When I heard Norfolk
Coast it was as though the slumbering beast had come back to life - I
thought it was magnificent and Paul’s finest moment by far. Suite XV1 was as
good, if not better. Maybe there’s life in the old dogs yet! I’ve never met
Baz Warne by the way…

Any plans to publish The Men They Love To Hate book properly? Also, any news
on David Buckley’s No Mercy Book being updated and released?

Actually I’ve got news on both counts. I’ve been reliably informed that
David Buckley has just signed a deal with a publisher (I don’t know which
one) to revamp and update his book. You’ll be hearing more about that soon,
no doubt.

As for mine, I’ve spent years telling people it really isn’t worth reading -
I was an uber-fan who got sucked into the Stranglers orbit and ended up
writing a load of shit that would embarrass the most sycophantic of
sycophants. But lately I’ve started to come around to the idea that
actually, it doesn’t matter. If there’s a market for sycophantic,
not-very-well written shit, then maybe I should be supplying it. The only
problem here is that I’m starting to sound like Gerald Ratner - and the last
thing I want to do is exploit the people who care about the band as much as
I used to (and occasionally still do).

So here’s the question: If I were to self-publish the original book exactly
as I wrote it - and I’m not being falsely modest, it mostly reads like a
boring and slightly pretentious diary of The Stranglers career up
Dreamtime - would anybody read it? Would most people feel short changed if
they bought a mythical ‘lost’ book and realised it was just as the author
described it - shit? It’s over to you. On the one hand I quite like the idea
of getting it out so I know that years of research weren’t totally wasted,
and making a bit of money of course, but on the other, I don’t want to
become the source of a whole heap of disappointment - and ultimately abuse.

The good thing is, I now own my manuscript outright, which wasn’t always the
case. When the band commissioned David Buckley to write No Mercy, they
automatically invalidated the contract their lawyers got me to sign in
1983 - which gave us equal fifth shares of my potential book royalties. That
same contract said they were exclusively bound to me to tell their official
story, so when I found out years later I had a rival (against whom I hold no
malice, by the way) I was fucking livid. Imagine living with a girl for
years, only to head to the pub one night and see your partner with someone
else, and her expecting you to be fine about it. The way I was sidelined was
no less hurtful and dishonourable than that.

Of all your many Strangled contributions - what’s your personal favourite?

Well, having flogged a load of Strangleds off on Ebay recently, I’ve been
looking through old back issues and I was pleasantly surprised to see a few
long-running interviews I did, both with the band and other people. My Q&A
session with Ray Davies of The Kinks (in the early 90s) was obviously a
highlight. He’s an absolute legend (I’m currently hooked on the deluxe CD
re-release of The Village Green Preservation Society) and doesn’t give many
interviews. But I thought one of the funniest (and most self-indulgent)
pieces was the 1985 tour diary by Augustus Nemo. I was Augustus, writing in
the style of a rock’n’roll Adrian Mole - and I thought it was a clever way
of revealing what went on behind the scenes and letting someone else take
the blame! I remember, though, that the original Nemo diary was at least
twice as long as the one published. Strangled editor Paul slashed it back
because it didn’t find it as funny as the rest of the SIS crew - probably
because most of it took the piss out of him.

Did you witness Hugh Cornwell’s acting debut in the play Charlie’s Last
Stand - any memories of that?

Yes, I was there. It was 82/83, I guess, in the now terribly fashionable
(but tiny) Almeida Theatre in Islington, north London. We were all amazed
that Hugh was suddenly cast in this three-man play alongside acting
heavyweights Bob Hoskins and Stephen Rea - how the hell did he land that? I
can’t remember anything else about the play other than it was incredibly
dull and Hugh did pretty well considering.

When was the last time you saw any of the band members?

On stage at the Roundhouse in November ‘07 I guess - but if you mean
one-on-one contact, not for a good 13 years or so. As I’ve already
mentioned, I used to see Paul Roberts socially, and he came to a curry
evening I had shortly before getting married in 1996. But then I heard
through the grapevine about the David Buckley book and started sending angry
faxes to their management - issuing all kinds of legal-type threats I couldn’t
carry through, basically. I never heard from Paul or anyone else associated
with the band after that…can’t think why.

What is your overall feeling of your experience with The Stranglers?

Loads of affection, heaps of frustration and a little dash of bitterness
would be the best way to describe the way I feel about them now. I still
feel they’re one of the most gifted bands on the planet, but I can now see
that the reason they didn’t become global super-stars is because they (I’m
talking about the original line-up here) were four dysfunctional characters
who simultaneously fed each others creative juices, but equally had almost
nothing in common and often pulled in different directions. It was a bizarre
and ultimately toxic mix and you can hear it in the music - it lurches from
absolutely brilliant and inspired, to almost unlistenable.

I spent a lot of time with The Stranglers - a long time ago now - and my
over-riding impression is that they were all complex, unpredictable,
unsettling, occasionally dark and occasionally wonderful people. But then,
so am I - and that’s probably what attracted me to them! I feel privileged
to have spent the time I did with them.

END

pigeon
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by pigeon » 24 Jan 2009, 16:10

Nice one Chris. Intresting reading, The men they love to hate sounds like a mamoth read.

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evonx
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by evonx » 24 Jan 2009, 16:11

thanks wadey, excellent
--eric--
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and there i came

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Claireinblack
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by Claireinblack » 24 Jan 2009, 16:20

Thanks for that Chris

:smile:
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kent

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MULLY
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by MULLY » 24 Jan 2009, 17:44

Good one - thanks for that.
Allow me to re-arrange your face, sometimes I'd really like to get to know you better

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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by jbinblack » 24 Jan 2009, 17:48

a hungry Jet is not a happy Jet
:lol: :lol:
Trust in God, but lock your car

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Rodney Blackstaff
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by Rodney Blackstaff » 24 Jan 2009, 17:50

Cheers Chris, nice one

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C r a s s !
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by C r a s s ! » 24 Jan 2009, 18:32

Chris is so refreshingly honest - and he doesn't hold back much does he?
Thanksalot for that :grin:
http://www.strangled.co.uk/ The unofficial Stranglers site.


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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by richinblack » 24 Jan 2009, 19:49

wonderful - thanks. If you self-publish TMTLTH, I will buy it.
cumulus nimbus floats by...

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ThruBeingCool
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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by ThruBeingCool » 24 Jan 2009, 20:10

Excellent work Wadey! 8)

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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by ravenlunatic » 24 Jan 2009, 20:35

Great work, and a fascinating interview. Thanks for your stirling efforts and how nice it is to see some decent readable content on the forum after the recent "dry spell". Well done.
I tried to make him laugh, He didn't get the joke, and then he said I wasn't right in the head.

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Re: INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS TWOMEY

Post by Mad Hatter » 24 Jan 2009, 20:56

Excellent stuff Chris. Thanks.

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