Incendiary Chow Down with Charlotte Hatherley Part 2

There he is, writing songs for Jamie Cullum and Sophie Ellis Bexter and the chick from Atomic Kitten and I was thinking, ‘what are you doing? You’re Andy Partridge from XTC!’


There he is, writing songs for Jamie Cullum and Sophie Ellis Bexter and the chick from Atomic Kitten and I was thinking, ‘what are you doing? You’re Andy Partridge from XTC!’




Incendiary Chow Down with Charlotte Hatherley Part 2



IN: I was going to ask you about Andy Partridge as well.


CH: I didn’t now what to expect. I’ve always imagined Andy Partridge to still look like the way he was on those early punk photos… and then I went round to his house in Swindon and I had a real shock; he was like ‘big jumper, in his slippers’ – he’s in his fifties and he doesn’t look like the photos at all! He’s a real eccentric and obsessed by music and he’s so prolific ‘cos he’s got tapes and tapes of ideas that he’s not doing anything with. I really felt sorry for him as XTC got properly fucked over by their manager and their record company, and he’s not really got a lot to show for it; he feels undervalued…


IN: Julian Cope is another one; another creative wellspring that has been almost cut out…


CH: Yeah, exactly! So many bands like The Futureheads come out and say ‘we’re XTC inspired’ and they bang on about XTC and I think he feels a sense of injustice about it all. There he is, writing songs for Jamie Cullum and Sophie Ellis Bexter and the chick from Atomic Kitten and I was thinking, ‘what are you doing? You’re Andy Partridge from XTC!’ So I think as he liked my record and I wasn’t (gestures) ‘a hideous pop persona’ we was really into it so we sat down with the guitars, and to see someone like Andy Partridge write before you eyes…


IN: Does he just sit down and strum till something comes out?


CH: Yeah, he just sits there and comes out with these melodies and basically we had a tape with ideas and I took it away and I arranged it. I think it’s funny because the song (Dawn Treader) is like the least XTC-sounding song, I think I’ve written songs that sound much more like XTC (laughs) than the one with Andy!


IN: Dawn Treader has that lovely Teardrops brass moment…


CH: Ah… that was one of the best books I’ve ever read…


IN: What, Head On? I got that when it came out and I read it and I thought… my God! When you read stuff like that about your heroes it’s mind-boggling…


CH: You shouldn’t really meet your heroes. A friend of mine is a massive Echo and the Bunnymen fan and he got offered to be Ian MacCulloch’s tour manager for a tour and I saw him after he’d done it and he was, like, shell-shocked! Ha! Ash toured with David Bowie a few times… and I sort of said hello, just so I could say I’ve said hello… but it must have looked like I was avoiding him and not really hanging out with the band… Apparently I must have looked really stand-offish because the band were saying ‘he’s really nice and he’s really normal just like you and me’, and I was like ‘look, I don’t want David Bowie to be normal’ I want him to be… the Thin White Duke.


But with Andy Partridge it was fantastic because he’s really reclusive. I tried to get him to come to a gig and he was going to come but at the last minute… He’s a real phone chat guy and he’s been really supportive of what I’m doing.


IN: It’s nice to speak to people who have something to say artistically.


CH: It must be really interesting for you with this magazine (laughs).


IN: It is but to be honest we usually end up talking about cooking at some point.


CH: (Laughing) well I can’t help you there I’m afraid! You’ll just have to drop that question!


IN: Okay, something different then! I was going to ask you about Bowie, because you’re a real Bowie-head aren’t you? So what album and why?


CH: Well, I was going to say Diamond Dogs is really amazing, because the guitar-wise he’s playing all the parts, but I have to say Scary Monsters is my favourite and I’ve really got into Let’s Dance, again. And I have been thinking about how prolific he was in his late twenties and how fucking amazing his work is at that period, just one after the other, fucking genius. I just felt that about him when I hit twenty five I really had to get on, ‘cos I’d just spanked away seven or so years getting pissed with Ash which was great but you’ve got to get on…


IN: What is with these people? They were so bloody busy. Compared with things after, say, 1993; Radiohead blogging people about taking seven or so years to make a fucking album? What is it, some mass inertia?


CH: That’s why I like bands like the Arctic Monkeys because they keep churning out albums, which is how it should be. I was saying to lots of people ‘because I’ve been moving and I’ve been promoting the album, I’ve had no time to fucking write!’ I’m desperate to get something written and out by the end of this year… you talk about climate Bowie worked in the late 70s in Berlin, and you think ‘what an amazing time, what an amazing city’. It’s all about getting out there, putting yourself about.


IN: Something somewhere has reached an emotional saturation point.


CH: I think major labels have a lot to do with that feeling. I mean if you don’t sell shitloads you’re thinking, ‘fuck the second record hasn’t sold, we’re going to get dropped’. And many bands do peak on their first album. That is something I do like about the Arctic Monkeys who released their first record and then put their heads down and got on with their second. And that’s the same with Franz Ferdinand, I think they’re fucking brilliant. I do think major labels have ridiculously unreasonable expectations… being independent you can move so much quicker, you are much more a nimble animal. That’s what I like; can just get on with it, you don’t have to deal with this… nonsense that’s  about; like another artist is more of a priority or the guy who really liked you and signed you got sacked…


IN: You are obviously very happy with your new label.


CH: Yeah… (laughs)


IN: But now you have to do all the marketing crap don’t you?


CH: It’s quite a unique set up, because we are tied into a marketing company called Integral and they do all the marketing, I’ve still got an agent, a TV person, a radio person… What really does my head in is the keeping the lines of communication open between all of them; you’ve got to make sure everyone knows what is going on. When I was with Ash I was terribly na├»ve about the whole thing, I thought, ‘yeah I can do it’. I mean it’s an on-going thing and I knew that it could be really tough. It’s not something I want to do forever. Because I paid for the album myself I thought I might as well put it out myself, and get on with it. There are pros and cons, but I’d definitely rather be independent and have a financial struggle than signed to a major and get fucked… You wouldn’t get much money out of them anyway; you just end up in shitloads of debt. That’s why I laughed when Parlophone signed Babyshambles… I just thought, ‘what are you doing?’ I was really into Parlophone and they’ve got some wicked people; Graham Coxon is on there… I mean, the only thing I’m lacking at present is tour support and Parlophone wouldn’t have made the slightest difference to me in that respect, so it’s better to do things yourself.


It does open your eyes to the way the industry works, I have lost that little bit of romanticism about the business. I used to think ‘oh if I get skint I’ll be fine I’ll work in a record shop, I’ll be fine’… it doesn’t really work that way!


IN: Still you don’t run in a pack; despite the grind of working alone, you can never go back to just being happy with being in a pack.


CH: Absolutely, it’s done wonders for my self-confidence. I think when you’re in a band that long I think you don’t really change. You grow up, and somehow you lose ten years.


IN: In that respect Ash are a fantastic, cartoon-y band aren’t they?


CH: (Laughs) oh yes they are definitely a band in that respect. I can’t believe Tim’s what, thirty one? Where did that time go? I’m twenty eight in June. Twenty seven has been such a bastard of a year, I’m so glad it’s over… though it’s been good because I’ve been given shitloads to write about, after Ash it’s been a massive reality check for me..


IN: Still you can form it into ‘art’ Charlotte! I do… just my pints of mild and pies to keep me happy (after painting). Must be the productive nature of yeast…


CH: Yeah, now I just want to be on my own with my guitar and be a miserable bitch! I’ll bear the yeast thing in mind! Still, I could get some mushrooms and get the giggles tonight! We did that in Tokyo one time… Tim and Rick got some mushrooms, and everyone forgot they’d taken them, and halfway through the last song, Tim fucked up the arrangement and I looked up thinking what the fuck? And I looked back at Rick and he’s like that with his sticks (gesticulates in the manner of a spaced-out drummer waving his arms about and looking confused as what to do next) and all the Japanese label types were there looking at us in shock (giggles)… Ah, Ash were like, never into taking anything… I mean we were big drinkers but we were never involved in the whole coke thing, fucking stupid and depressing. Oh coke… long deep emotional conversations with people who don’t remember anything you told them the next day… fuck off!





Words: Richard Foster.

to return to part one, click here