Conducted following 81/8/13 Muntplein (Brussels) show
Two unidentified interviewers, male & female:
m: So where would you say your music can be placed in modern music, today's music?
VR: (laughs) Oh god, you asked a really incredibly difficult question. Its roots are based firmly in the New Wave, and there's an attempt at experimental things -- there's an attempt to redefine what should or shouldn't be rock and roll. I hate rock'n'roll and everything rock'n'roll stands for; I love the New Wave and everything the New Wave stands for. And the problem is that one has to use the same tools as the rock'n'roll people in order to destroy rock'n'roll and create New Wave and this is difficult. It's very difficult to pick a guitar up and play through an amplifier loudly -- it's very difficult to be original and to be creative these days because so much has gone before. And one is influenced... nothing you do -- nothing any human being ever does is original, totally. It's always a reaction to something they've seen or heard and you're a victim of your environment and breaking free of the constraints that's placed on you is very difficult. So I wouldn't like to try and place my music anywhere, really; if it's going to be placed somewhere call it "new music" but not radical, unpleasant music. I believe in elements of harmony and melody and blending them and making them original but not unlistenable because there's no point in making a piece of music if people aren't going to be able to listen to it, which happens with a lot of people like Fred Frith, or whoever, where they experiment. Stockhausen's a great example of a great experimentalist who doesn't reach anybody in the end because it's totally unlistenable as music and he only reaches a very elitist corps of people who use their heads and not their souls. And music shouldn't be just about the head, music is a total thing -- there are three basic responses to a piece of music: there's a physical response in that you move to a rhythm, there's an intellectual response, for example Bach where you disassemble it in your head or you follow the patterns or whatever, and there's an emotional response to music. So the three basic responses to music -- I try and incorporate each of them into my piece. At the same time as that to try to be new and experimental, it's very difficult. I don't know whether I succeed or not; I don't think I've succeeded yet. I think what I'm churning out most of the time is trash and there's an odd spark occasionally which seems to work more often than not by accident. So I get quite depressed about it sometimes because I never know if it's any good or not. But people listen to it and people buy the records so... It's the only thing I can do, make a living with. I don't know whether that answers the question or not.
f: What about the first thing -- what about classifying it as modern classical music?
VR: No, because classical music implies something that isn't in my music. People associate the word classical music, the phrase classical music with certain things that aren't in my music at all. Although I listen to classical music a lot, it isn't classical music.
m: I find it hard to say that it's classical music and also to say that it's experimental music...
VR: Yeah. It's...
m: ...it's not really
m: ...experimental. But I think you've listened a lot to experimental music but maybe [it's] influenced your... throughout your work now...
VR: Maybe, yeah, I don't know... I've not listened to that much experimental music because I can't listen to it 'cos I find it distinctly unpleasant (laughs). So I tend to listen to things that are very nice and easy... [I] tend to listen to good pop music sometimes rather than anything else. There's not very much that is good in rock'n'roll, in the rock field, that's being put out -- there aren't many things that are any good that are being played anywhere or being done anywhere. And it depresses me that everyone's following each other and there's not very much originality any more for some reason. It's about, y'know, punk came along and broke down all the rules that were up and destroyed lots of things but it hasn't developed very much -- it hasn't replaced what it destroyed with anything constructive, not really, except for occasional flashes of inspiration like Echo And The Bunnymen, or Joy Division, or New Order, A Certain Ratio...
VR: All Factory bands. Yeah, Factory is wonderful. I love Factory.
m: Who is your favorite guitar player?
m: I thought so. Your second favorite?
VR: Nobody. I don't like any... I don't listen to any other gui... I used to like [to] listen to Django Reinhardt but found myself trying to play a bit like him. So I purposely don't listen to guitarists. My actual instrument is the piano -- that's the one I'm supposed to play and on the new album [LC] I play a bit more piano. And I enjoy playing bass guitar more than I enjoy playing anything else. So... and I'd like to be able to play drums one day. Don't know if I ever will.
m: But you have a very, very good drummer.
VR: Yeah, Bruce, he's very, very good. He's the best in Manchester. I never thought he'd drum for me. He's never drummed for anybody except for the Albertos Y Los Paranoias. For ten years he's drummed for them and no one else and he refuses to drum for anyone else. And I'm the first guy he's drummed with in ten years apart from them and it's quite incredible. We have a very, very close friendship anyway. And his wife Jackie -- Jackie Williams -- she's an artist, a proper artist, she used to teach -- she's taught remedial art in psychiatric hospitals, she's done all sorts of things. Her paintings really seemed to fit with my music so the new album features three of her paintings and the new single for Crepuscule will have one of her paintings on the sleeve, hopefully, which we've brought an example of for them to have a look at. It's really, really beautiful paintings. I really like them.
m: What about your friendship with Martin Hannett? How did you start to work with him?
VR: Well, I've known Martin for a while. But he didn't really start doing very much about being a very positive force until he started -- I think his first major breakthrough was doing the Buzzcocks' record Spiral Scratch. And we had -- he more or less got sounds for me that no one else could understand that I wanted. And he understood that I wanted to play the electric guitar but I didn't want this horrible distorted, usual electric guitar sound and he managed to get that. But the last, the latest album I didn't do with him mainly because he wasn't available at the time. I did it myself at home, mostly, on a four-track machine which I bought from Bill Nelson very cheaply, Bill being a very nice bloke and a very, very nice guy and a friend, sold me a studio-quality tape recorder very cheaply and [I] recorded, say, seven or eight tracks at home and then just took my tapes into the studio to what is called "EQ" them to equalize them and mix them properly and maybe add a piano here and there, some drums or whatever. And that's how the album was made. It was produced by myself and a producer called Stuart Pickering, just in a very small eight-track studio. It took only about three days to do it including mixing it so the whole thing was very fast, as usual. The way it was made a lot of the time was, for example, I'd have the basic track and having never attempted the piano part I'd sit down at the piano and tell the engineer to record while I tried for the first time to do something to it. And invariably we kept the first take, the first attempt I ever made at playing the piano to a piece of music because... And this seems to work because it seems to retain this spark of spontaneity and freshness. And the same is true of adding drums; invariably the first time Bruce hears something he does it straight off and there's no rehearsal. We never have a rehearsal -- we've only played together twice before: once in London, once in Finland, and now in Brussels; that's three times altogether. But instead of having a rehearsal before we went to Finland for our second gig we decided to do a small gig in a pub in Manchester and issued invitations to friends and we just did a live gig instead of a rehearsal. Again the spontaneity was there and it worked so we never rehearse or anything. It just seems to work like that -- I come along with a piece and a song and throw it at him and he plays it immediately, something totally original to it. He's a really, really good drummer.
m: Why didn't you play the piano tonight?
VR: Basically, because I ran out of time. I thought that... I was given to understand that I was the main act and was going on last. I was told that about four or five times by various people; when I actually came to the... to standing on stage I was suddenly told "well you're going on now, the other band, the other people come after you." And they said "play for three quarters of an hour" and I played for more than three quarters of an hour and I was getting threatening glances off various people so I didn't play my piano bit. In fact I didn't do about three or four pieces and songs which I wanted to do. I normally do about an hour or more than an hour; I just couldn't do it 'cos we ran out of time, we weren't allowed the time tonight.
The P.A. system, I'd like to also say, was absolutely horrendous tonight: it was pathetic considering the venue, and the people doing the P.A. should have been doing a better job than they did. My microphone on my guitar amplifier collapsed twice and no one who was doing the P.A. noticed -- it was up to my roadie to sort it out. This shouldn't happen; this is ridiculous. I get sick and tired of fighting against duff P.A. systems and people who don't know what they're doing. I hope they hear that (laughs). I mean I don't bear them any grudge, but they ought to know their job.
m: How does it feel to play as the Invisible Girls with Pauline Murray and John Cooper Clarke...?
VR: Well, I didn't enjoy that because after two gigs I felt like I was just a session musician and didn't enjoy it at all which is why I've not done anymore stuff with them since or with anybody else. So I just do my own stuff from now on. I mean I don't need to do that kind of stuff anyway because I earn a living from my own stuff and I don't need to work for other people so it's silly to do it if you don't enjoy it. Sounds a bit arrogant I suppose but I only enjoy playing my own music.
m: I could not [...?...] you once played here in Brussels with Pauline in a studio [...?...] for four weeks. That didn't sound good at all...
VR: No, it was absolutely abominable. It was abominable.
f: And there's a story to it... about the tracks... pre-recorded tapes...
VR: Yeah, yeah, there's a lot of...
f: She was singing but the music was pre-recorded tapes so she couldn't really stay in tune; that's why it was so horrible...
VR: We had to mime but we protested against miming and said we wanted to do it live so they said "well, you can do it live as well" so it ended up being even worse than ever. We should have just mimed like every other pop band does and conned the public.
m: Thank you.
VR: Ok, thank you.