BANDITS ONE TO FIVE Fanzine|
Late '85 / early '86
|The TV PERSONALITIES CHAT|
From the days of Bill Grundy, and Posing at the Roundhouse, to today's Love of the Bomb Dan has surrounded himself with collectives known as TV Personalities. Dan is the only constant. There is a paucity of news of the TVP's in the music press, to the extent that news of Last Gigs or Splits become the only news stories. Yet, the band are still here and have this new single out on Dan's label Dreamworld. They have become something of an enigma in this country, withdrawn; yet they are popular in Europe, especially Germany, and play there frequently. I have seen the TVP's three times in recent years... in 1984 at The Living Room with a five piece band playing a short set... in 1985 at the Ambulance Station playing for close on three hours... and recently at the Rates Campaign benefit at Brixton Town Hall.. (a benefit Dan agreed to while he had been summoned to court for non-payment of Rates).. where they again played a short set including Dan's ode to Morrissey.. "it's raining it's poring Manchester is boring". I decide on a chat.
What's behind this return to a poppier format, and new single? Is it a sort of comeback?
The only comeback has been from Europe... we've been concentrating on playing in Europe... and for good reasons.
Um..... because we're a damn sight more popular over there! The audiences are more appreciative, apart from places like Scotland which is on a par with it, it's a bizarre audience - all tribes together. And we're appreciated for more of the reasons that I like to be appreciated. Over here, apart from London, there's the occasional outside London which are an adventure. The places we've played in the last 15 months in Britain are places we've never played before... ever. Even Aylesbury was interesting, but it's mostly devilment; I've always wanted to go to places and have only two people turn up.
Was it like that in Aylesbury?
No, it was the biggest crowd they've had in the last year. It amuses me.
Has your audience changed much through this upsurge in young, bright hopefuls revitalising the indie charts?
Oh yeah... they're a lot younger.
Being a 'name' band with a considerable history, and one that's rather mystical, is there an expectation of a 'happening' when you play?
It's almost mythology. It's funny that we're put in the same bracket as Wire who are a bunch of 58 year old blokes in boiler suits. I recently had this ambition of being a hugely successful group and no-one ever knowing who we were - but a few people took it the wrong way - it wasn't like The Residents... that was contrived - it was never contrived with us. You just never saw pictures or posters so that it created an air of mystery. But in the last 18 months, with the fanzines we're always in the Top 10's - it's like being adopted.
Do you feel any particular 'affinity' to the present crop of poppy indie bands, as compared to other periods in our past?
For a while I did, but I know what happens, journalists write about the scene or attitude and then it only lasts a short while. I put bands on, who are only too willing to play, and then they get a bit of press or radio play and in two months they're asking ridiculous amounts of money. It's ok to ask for that from colleges and universities, but they're taking us for granted. It's an effort to put on a gig, and it's not enjoyable if it's not appreciated. I've got no particular affinity to it now. I don't want to say I'm not part of it, because I obviously am part of it, but I'd just like to keep my distance.
It's hard to explain to people and journalists what I do. You get Sounds and the NME and if you're in those papers and you're 'doing well', and if you're not then people think you must be doing the pub circuit or something.. I've got to the point where I've given up trying to ram it down peoples throats that we've chosen to work somewhere else, which we have.
So, how do you assess success of failure generally?
From wanting to do it... it's gone beyond record sales. In fact music is probably not the right medium for me to express myself. I like films and books more than music to be honest, but I can't find the outlet from that to do what I want yet. So, a lot of what I write I try and combine these things with it... hence why I keep ripping off film titles for my songs.
How do you approach your songwriting. You do seem to pick on events or personalities, and, perhaps, trivialising them.. rather than a lot of the lonely lost soul bit.
It's always been in phases. There's never a contract to fulfil so I'm never forced to sit down and write for an album. Only when someone rings up and says 'you've got a session' the next day do I have to get down and write some songs. I've always written in moods, and the song will reflect my mood - most of the songs you can guess the mood I was in when I wrote it.
What sort of a mood were you in when you wrote that Morrissey song?
(laughs) I don't know.. it was just one of those spontaneous songs - like the Syd Barrett one, that just happened as I was playing at the end of a rehearsal while the others were packing up.. Part Time Punks was the same. I used to live in Chelsea and I would watch the people walking up the Kings Road. I thought it was funny.
Do you get annoyed that it's Part Time Punks that gets remembered above most other stuff, like The Painted Word?
It's not that bad actually... especially abroad... it's only naff journalists who use these things as reference points... anywhere outside London it never crops up - expect perhaps Aylesbury when there were several people at the front singing Part Time Punks all night. But I suspect that a few of them were Soup Dragons.
Did you give in?
Oh god no.
The present TV Personalities have Jowe Head playing bass. Jowe, as you probably know, was a member of the group Swell Maps, and now works with the Palookas as well as recording on his own. Jowe is somewhat eccentric looking - the man of a million facial expressions, all of which are used in a standard TV Personalities set. He acts as a good foil for Dan's sincere wimpy stance.
When did you start working with Jowe?
Jowe stepped in when we went on the tour before this last one. Joe and Dave were in the group at the time, and our bassist couldn't stomach going away with Joe again, so... he asked if he could drop out, and Jowe came in at the last moment.
Did you ask him to come in?
I think Joe suggested it to Jowe. It had never dawned on me to ask Jowe... I'd been friends with Jowe for a long time, but whenever we met there had never been talk other than what each of us were doing. I think Jowe really enjoyed it.
You think he adds something to the TVP's?
Oh yeah... well it's my favourite line up... except perhaps when me and Ed and Mark... that was good fun. But it all changes through conflicting personalities and that, although I don't think it's ever been conflict with me so much, as more the others... well Mark and Ed didn't get on that well.
Is it in effect Dan and a backing band, or does... for instance... now Jowe writes TVPs songs?
No, and he doesn't want to... he couldn't anyway, because he has got all his own things with the Palookas and all that... I've never had to treat it like that. Geoff is happy playing drums... he doesn't follow music at all, it's just one of his hobbies. Jowe, well he's just totally insane... he always managed to reduce any crisis down to the level it should be.
So do you think there is any connection between TVP's mark one, and TVP's now, other than yourself? YOU do seem to be the TVP's
Well, record wise, I am. I've always written the songs, but that's not to say others haven't contributed.
Do you feel you need a group?
Well, it's handy for tours. I couldn't pay people to go on tour with me.
Well, it depends what you mean by solo work... I mean the TVP's are totally dependent on me, so it is solo in a way.
Do you ever feel you trivialise things too much...perhaps you do yourself down slightly?
Well I've thought about this a lot, but really... no. Not over four albums anyway. If you listen to the first album it's really depressing. The more humorous, trivial ones always seem to stand out though. Mentioning names like Syd Barrett and David Hockney... they stand out.
The latest single seems to be in a similar vein
Yeah...more sardonic that satirical, that one. It's not easy to mix a serious point with a more comical line.
Is comedy important to your work?
It's not so much comedy as... well...imagery. I work more with imagery in mind. I just like the idea of conjuring up pictures and stuff... it's not easy to explain. The more humorous stuff just stands out...
Do you like Ivor Cutler?
Oh yeah. But I hate comedians... straight ones. The funniest person I can think of is Andy Warhol. If I'm really fed up I'll read one of his books and I just think... "what on earth is there to worry about?". As he said, all you've got to say is 'so what'. I love his lifestyle. I like people who make me smile rather than make me laugh.
ON JOE FOSTER
I said hello once, but I don't think I'd be able to strike up a conversation with him. I don't care - he's there to be taken down a peg or two - I've read his interviews and he's obviously tongue in cheek, he plays on his own image. I've no hatred for the guy.
THE THOUGHTS OF DAN THE TV PERSONALITY MAN
The first time we went over, it was just me, Joe and Mark. This guy in Berlin put us on for three nights in his club, and looking back on it it was totally outrageous. We had to do two sets a night, very much like The Beatles at The Star Club in Hamburg, and by the end of it we were reduced to a shambling cabaret act. The first night there was an ok crowd, then most of those came back the second night bringing people with them, saying "you're not going to believe THIS", and by the third night the bloke was saying he could have put us on for another week. That was just after Part Time Punks. It was very much a cult thing.
The second time we went over there, the press had built up, and it must have sounded interesting. At the time there was none of this vague 60's reference thing, but over there that is really popular now, all this paisley shirt stuff. We'd this loosely contrived 60's image, well with either me or Joe in the group we always looked like a 60's group even if we didn't sound like one. There was all these press things comparing us to like 60's stuff... and we might be responsible for starting this paisley thing over there... I dunno. We must have sounded interesting in comparison to the other bands that were going over there. I suppose we got judged on what we did live, that second tour we did was really good... I suppose it was good, otherwise people wouldn't have come to see us again.
- it's odd now with Jowe in the band, because he has a great deal of success in Germany too -
ON VELVET UNDERGROUND
To me they were the best band of the 60's. I first heard them in 1974 - they were better than anything I'd heard then. Over the past 10 years, they are what I've mostly listened to. But I think too much is made of them - they never had the same effect as The Sex Pistols. I mean, living, as I was, almost on Malcolm McLaren's doorstep... the first six months was just total shock horror... people were scared to go out on a Saturday... the Velvets never had anything like that. They were outrageous though, and I like things that are a little bit outrageous.
Whaam wasn't started for us, but for The Marine Girls and The Times. I was fed up to the back teeth with Rough Trade, but the TVP's were still working with them. Until... we came back from Holland after Rough Trade had botched up another tour, and they took a load of money off me by way of compensation. It was totally their fault but I couldn't fight it... so I thought sod it and went with the label. Then...ha... I got enticed back, but once again we were let down... so I started up a label again. I'm happy doing it for the moment because I've learned so much about what you have to do with records... promotion and that... but I don't particularly want to do the next record on Dreamworld unless I thought it was going to be something huge that I thought would set the label up, but no, I don't want to run my own shop... it's too much to write the songs, do the sleeve, and do everything else... I'm tired of that... it might be a fascinating thing for a new band to do, but it certainly isn't for me.
Do you want to continue running the label?
Well, yes I do. Once you've started a label, it's like a drug, you've got to find one more band, to prove the last one wasn't a fluke. There's a chance I could license the label but then if I do that I have to work full time and it would interfere with the TVP's. I'm not being big headed or anything, but I prefer what I do, to what most of the band's I work with do. It's no slur on them, but most bands just rehearse and then play... like bands do, but with the TVP's there's more to it. People like me and Jowe... well it's a way of life.
As a way of life can you see it going on and on?
Well, I don't know... it's not something that 'splits up'... all this stuff in the press over the years that we've split up... they just don't get the joke. There's nothing to split up... unless I split. But I've got no intention of continually re-emerging with a new line up. If this line up split it would take me ages to get a new one together. It took me 18 months to get over Joe.
Dan was interviewed by "Big" John Hunter, who in addition to producing the 'Bandits One to Five' fanzine was also the trumpet player in the June Brides.
Thanks to Phil Wilson for providing the source material.
Visit the official June Brides site here.