April 10, 2008

bad luck comes in from Tampa

Peter Doig, Orange Sunshine, 1995-6

* Interview of Pete Townshend, from the April 1980 edition of Sound International. excerpt:

Question: Do you remember the first time you smashed a guitar?

PT: First I got into feedback. Jim Marshall started manufacturing amplifiers and somebody in his store came up with the idea of building a 4 x 12 cabinet for bass. And John Entwistle bought one and I looked at it and suddenly John Entwistle doubled in volume. And so I bought one and then later on I bought another one and I stacked it on top of the other one. I was using a Rickenbacker at the time and because the pickup was right in line with the speakers I was instantly troubled by feedback. But I really used to like to hear the sound in my ears. I didn’t like it coming out down there (below ear level) because I felt it was coming in my ear I could get it louder for me but it wasn’t necessarily going to be louder out front. And I started to get quite interested in feedback, but I was very frustrated at first. There were a lot of brilliant young players around - Beck was around. I think Roger first saw him when he was in a band called The Triads or The Tridents or something and he came back and said there was this incredible young guitar player. And Clapton was around and various other people who could really play and I was very frustrated because I couldn’t do all that flash stuff. So I just started getting into feedback and expressed myself physically. And it just led to when, one day, I was banging my guitar around making noises and I banged it on this ceiling in this club and the neck broke off, because Rickenbackers are made out of cardboard. And everybody started to laugh and they went, ‘Hah, that’ll teach you to be flash.’ So I thought what I was going to do, and I had no other recourse but to make it look like I had meant to do it. So I smashed this guitar and jumped all over the bits and then picked up the 12-tring and carried on as though nothing had happened. And the next day the place was packed. It turned into another form of expression for me: it was a gimmick of course. It is a very physical thing to be a stand up guitar player - and the way you feel and the way you move and the way you move your body is a big part of it; the fact that to sometimes pull a string up by the right amount you have to give it some momentum, so that you can’t play sitting down in the way you can play standing up. And so for me all that macho stuff became and expression.
I’ve never had any respect really for the guitar. I’ve respected guitar players of course and I understand their need for a good instrument but for years and years I didn’t care what the guitar was like.

Question: Do you still feel that way?

PT: A little less now. I’ve got a couple of really nice instruments and I enjoy playing them. I would never take them anywhere near a stage.

Question: To your knowledge were you the first to use controlled feedback?

PT: To tell the truth, Dave Davies, Jeff (Beck) and me have got a tacit agreement that we will all squabble ‘til the day we die that we invented it. I think possibly the truth is that it was happening in a lot of places at once. As the level went up, as people started to use bigger amps, and we were all still using semi-acoustic instruments, it started to happen quite naturally. I think the development of it was the word was around the street and then Lennon used it at the beginning of that record I Feel Fine and then it became quite common and a lot of people started to use it.

Question: How did you happen to choose a Rickenbacker?

PT: I liked the look of it, I think because The Beatles were using them. They picked theirs up in Germany, they were real German ones. I stayed with Rickenbackers for a long time and then I started to use Fenders. I never liked Gibsons at all - I still don’t very much (laughs). Then I started to get interested in a wide variety of guitars. I just tried anything that was around. I tried a Grimshaw for a while which is an English guitar. I tried a semi-acoustic Gibson ES335, I flitted around a lot and then Hendrix came along and I started to use Strats again. But that didn’t last long because the sound of them wasn’t quite right for what I wanted. And then Henry at Manny’s (music store in New York) introduced me to a guitar which had just come out. I don’t know what you call them; it was a thin crimson-coloured guitar…
Question: Would you say your guitar work on the Live At Leeds album was as good as anything you had done to that point?

PT: There was some nice stuff there. I don’t know what possessed me to actually start to play like that. I suppose it just must have been the influence of Hendrix. Because up to that point I just wasn’t interested in single-note work. It seemed mad for me to even try to compete with the likes of Beck and Clapton and Jimmy Page. I first saw Jimmy Page when I was 14 or 15 and he was already in a professional band. He was one year older than me and he was in a professional band at 16 and he was earning 30 pounds a week when I was just still in school. He was playing really fast stuff and Ritchie Blackmore was in a heavy pop band like a Ventures-type outfit. You would just listen to records like that open-mouthed at the time. But at one particular time after Hendrix I decided it was worth trying to express myself through single note work. I think a lot of the help was when Henry introduced me to the SG. It fitted my sound and had a lyrical quality to it because the neck was so uncluttered at the top you could play high.
Question: Is there anyone you haven’t worked with you’d like to?

PT: For along time I wanted to work with Todd Rundgren and I asked him to produce my solo album which he agreed to do. And then I suddenly realised it probably wasn’t a good idea because we’re so alike in a lot of ways. I would like to work with him. I think he’s a better guitar player than me and a better singer but I think what really worried me about the prospect of him producing my solo album was that I’m influenced by him enough as it is. Do you understand? And I like the way I’m influenced by him at the moment.

I think on Sister Disco there are some influences. And I listen to his music all the time and enjoy his production work. I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing or not but I decided it probably wouldn’t be a good thing to work with him.
I like working with The Who. On the Tommy soundtrack album which I directed I worked with all kinds of people. And I do a lot of production work on every level - documentary level, demo level, finished production.

* Top 50 comedy sketches of all time, as picked by Nerve and IFC.

* "Man gets tired of himself. Man is obsessed with himself. I would like some day to capture a moment of life in its full violence, its full beauty. That would be the ultimate painting." -- Francis Bacon


Blogger PJB said...

Having just flown in from Tampa, I hope I've brought some good luck...Winded, windows, winnowing, traveling to CHICAGO land. Here we come hog butcher...Hope you're well.

12:39 PM  

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