Author Topic: TV TUTS INTERVIEW: TV Smith's Life Story (Part 1. Band Width) by Tj  (Read 45453 times)

Offline Tj

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In The Arms of My Enemy?
 
Part 1: Band Width

It’s a great pleasure to be interviewing you at this ground breaking time in your career. Last year it was the legend you created live at the 100 Club by Crossing the Red Sea (With The Adverts alias the Bored Teenagers). This year it’s the release and positive feedback to your latest album; In The Arms of My Enemy. Which is frequently being described as your third masterpiece; flying on in the same spirit as Crossing the Red Sea and March of the Giants.

 My own personal advice is simple… GET IT NOW!
       …In The Arms of My Enemy on Boss Tuneage BTRC024.

TJ Sundown

 
1qTJ: Let’s cut to the chase; do you believe the general public will see the light, TV? Will those that would love ‘In The Arms of My Enemy’ get to hear it?


1aTV: Well, probably not. I think there are a lot of people who would like this record if they got the chance to hear it, but I most of those aren't ever going to find out about it because the channels of distributing the information are tied up by big business music. Radio, TV, record shops, music press - none of them actually support independent music, they're only concerned with turning a profit.  The general public is encouraged to behave  like sheep, following the establishment shepherd to a fate that they're encouraged not to anticipate. We work like slaves to earn money, which we then exchange for things that actually have no value. Individual voices are actively discouraged, the media is used to spread the homogenised construct they've invented for themselves and block any alternative version of reality. Clearly you're not going to see "In The Arms Of My Enemy" competing for shelf space in the shops with Kylie and Robbie, but the good news is that there is an underground swell of people who are finding out about my records through word of mouth, and it's growing all the time. I'll never be able to compete with the media-created pop stars, but my audience means a lot more to me.


2qTJ: Now let’s fly like an owl and swoop back to the very beginning...

Your career began with a stardust theft of an innocent guitar… Did the bitter come out better?


2aTV: Well, it wasn't exactly theft. My local Sunday School loaned me a guitar and I never gave it back. I used it, they never missed it, and at some point I got a guitar of my own and passed the old one onto a friend who was learning, so it carried on being used. It's the only thing religion has ever given me.

TJ: Somewhere between a permanent loan and a gift from the Gods!


3qTJ: Is the rumour true that it was this life directing action that you named your new album after and was taking that innocent Sunday School guitar a blessing or a curse?


3aTV: Never heard that rumour, but it's nonsense. Blessing or curse? You rarely get one without the other.

TJ: I wonder if that innocent guitar was thinking I am lying in the arms of the enemy?

Maybe instead it sensed great excitement ahead… A journey from young poet to protest panther.


4qTJ: So not to let you of the hook too easily, was Slaby a witness to the crime and if not what really happened in darkest Devon?


4aTV: I'll tell you about how we named my school band "Slaby Witness." It was the old standby method of finding a name for a band when you can't think of anything - we agreed to open a book at random, put a finger down on the page and choose whatever phrase it landed on. Unfortunately it landed on an article about the first attempt at using telegraphy and the phrase was "Slaby witnessed the experiments." This was never a name that was going to shoot us into pop stardom, but a deal's a deal. No doubt you could Google it and find out all the facts now, if you are particularly interested in early telegraphic experiments.
 

5qTJ: Like the corrupt and dum de dum Politicians, you passionately protest about, do you think you’ll ever escape the Sleaze?

5aTV: You can't shake off your past, and I don't want to. But I do downplay the "Sleaze" issue. People expect so much from it because they think there's going to be a pre-Adverts sound to it, but there really isn't. It was okay for the time, but out of context it's too slow, the lyrics are too pretentious and the songs are far too long. There are a couple songs from live gigs around that capture the band a bit better, but unfortunately this was a time before recording concerts became the norm, so they're very poor quality.
 

6qTJ: From darkest Devon to the bright lights of London, just how much of a culture shock was it for young and long haired Tim and Gaye?

6aTV: Certainly it was a big step, but it was something we aimed for and planned so we pretty much knew what we were getting into. The shocks that are really hard to take are the ones that come unexpectedly. London wasn't exactly unknown to me. I wasn't at heart a country boy - I was born in Hornchurch (next to Romford) and brought up there, then moved to Devon when I was about nine, but as a teenager I'd been coming up to London regularly to visit friends so I knew the score. The hardest thing was finding somewhere to live, and trying to get a job. Gaye and I ended up living in a one room attic flat and I worked as a record packer for a background music firm in Soho. Ironic, considering both Tim Cross and Tim Renwick were recording for background music companies.

TJ: Life goes around in circles.


7qTJ: What’s your fondest memory of the ’76 scene that one day would become the legend they call Punk?

7aTV: I have a lot of fond memories of seeing bands in '76 - finally bands that I could identify with and that meant something to me. The Sex Pistols of course - not just the famous gigs, but seeing them play to a few half-interested people in some kind of police training college in North London somewhere. And the Stranglers played every week for a while at the Nashville, which was just down the road from us in Hammersmith. Gaye and I never used to miss those, and we met a lot of people there who later became Roxy regulars. It was at the Nashville that Steve Jones told me I should get my hair cut. I was not sure - I'd spent years growing my hair to show I was a "rebel." Now I was supposed to cut it short! But I'd also proved what a rebel I was by wearing loon pants. Within weeks I had short hair and narrow trousers. There's no getting round it: when a time for change comes, everything turns upside down and you have to give up all your old beliefs.
 

8qTJ: Rounding up The Adverts sounded like the early scenes in Seven Samurai. Take us through a favourite scene of the forming of your one chord wonders?

8aTV: It wasn't that dramatic. No one got hurt. I remember walking down the road to Howard's flat with my guitar and a folder full of songs and sitting down with him and going through them. It was so nice, and such a relief, to hear someone else play them properly after so long just fumbling through the chords myself. He didn't try and show off, or edge them in a different direction, just played them straight - exactly how I wanted them. After that, I thought "and now we are three" and we had the makings of a real band. Unfortunately finding a drummer took a little longer.
 

9qTJ: What made The Damned Adverts ‘Four Chords’ tour so very special to you?

9aTV: It was a real tour, not just the odd date. Here we were: getting in the van, someone else carrying the gear, having proper soundchecks, staying in hotels. And it was absolutely the right time for it - audiences were stoked, they were desperate to hear us. We were playing to full houses, the excitement in the air was palpable, and the Damned and us were giving everything to try and outdo each other's performances.
 

10qTJ: Did Red Sea catch the crest of the wave?

10aTV: I suppose that as far as timing goes, the album just caught the last wave and then got stranded on the beach. But that couldn't be altered - we'd spent the rest of the year playing live and I still think that was the right thing to do. Anyway, the album was built to last. It only spent a week in the charts but has spent a lot longer in people's hearts. I feel another poem coming on.

 
11qTJ: You dared to be different and grew the safety of numbers into a cast of thousands. The 100 punks ruled and many ruled your band outCasts. Would you change your history now? Do you wish you’d stayed Punk to the core? Please answer on the count of four… WUN! CHEW! FREE! FAW!

11aTV: I have stayed punk to the core, it's the rest that have changed.

 
12qTJ: The raw meat was frozen for many long years before it was finally thawed in the light of day. What was the full story behind the Raw Meat for The Missionaries demo’s with Richard Strange? 

12aTV: The full story will never be told, but it was basically about mutual respect for each other's songwriting and us both being in a position where we couldn't find an outlet for our creativity - Richard was frustrated with the Doctors and I was frustrated with the Adverts. Richard invited me to help out on a kind of spoof Beach Boys-y song he was working on called "Summer Fun." It was a lot of fun doing it and we found we could work quite easily together so we started writing some more. Unrestricted by our current bands they were quite a weird and wonderful bunch of songs, and with an interesting lo-fi sound quality to them, all recorded on a Revox tape machine at Richard's place in Streatham.

 
« Last Edit: June 23, 2009, 02:01:17 PM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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13qTJ: Some say that the secret to true success is about connecting to our true best Self and aligning with the flow of nature within our amazing Universe. This is so far from the traditional view of being attained from hard slog trying and striving. In The Explorers what was your take on The Easy Way?

13aTV: I'm more of the "hard slog and striving" type. I'm struggling to create and distribute something of value in a world full of false values that doesn't want to wake up to what's going on. Of course I agree that the key to everything is knowing who you are and what to do with your talents, otherwise you have nothing to give, but if you want to put that out to other people - particularly if you're a musician or working in any of the creative arts - you have to get out there and work. People are never going to find you unless you let them know you're there.

TJ: The hands join and shake the foundations!


14qTj: You had two class line ups in The Explorers, both featuring the polished talent of Colin Stoner and Erik Russell. When and how did it finally all come together for The Explorers and what was Great for you about this band?

14aTV: The sad thing about the Explorers was that it never really did all come together. I think both versions of the band had the potential to be world class, but the times we were in defeated us. Line-up one with Tim Cross and John Towe was a very exciting period, we were rehearsing every day and were ready to storm the live circuit - but the industry was slow to pick up on us, and in the meantime Tim left for a tour with Mike Oldfield and John quit to work on his own projects. So I had to build the band back up again. There was never any question of giving up on the Explorers at that point though - we had the songs, and the musical arrangements had already been worked through in rehearsal so it was just a question of getting a couple more people in to learn them and we would be ready to go. So Dave and Mel came into the band, and of course added their own style to what we already had. After some more rehearsals we recorded the Tomahawk Cruise single with Tom Newman and seemed to be back up to speed, particularly when we got a deal with a CBS offshoot label.


15qTJ: Why do you think The Great Explorers didn’t achieve the bright light of success that their rising talent so richly deserved?

15aTV: It turned out, though, that the audience just wasn't there for us - the material was too rock for the new Oi-punk crowd, and too punk for the rock crowd. I still think The Explorers were a great band, and they were important to me because they proved I wasn't tied forever to the Adverts sound. As soon as you hear Stoner's bass playing, you know everything has changed. Unfortunately a lot of people wanted the same again.

"Success" is a complicated concept, and often a band's perceived success is nothing to do with how good they are. Look at all the idiot groups selling hundreds of thousands of copies of their records. That's success paid for by the music business, by playing on young people's desires and fears. The music industry today is basically child abuse. They manipulate vulnerable people's fear of not being accepted by their peer group and their desire to be someone better, more glamorous, more popular. If that's "success," I'm against it.

TJ: I agree success is a complicated concept. For me, I see true success as a combination of happiness, love, health, wealth and growth. It always interests me that people seem to talk more about rest in peace than they do about live in peace. I believe that true success is about having peace of mind and being on purpose. I find that most people are looking for happiness and peace of mind when you get right down to the core.


16qTJ: Dave Thompson’s TV Times famously explored your adventures. How do you feel about the fact that it was your fanzine that kick started his successful career as an award winning music author? Which story best captured those early days with Dave and your very own fanzine?

16aTV: Well, I certainly didn't kick start his career - he did it all himself. I never encouraged him to write TV Times, it was his idea and energy that made it happen, his tireless enthusiasm for music in general, and The Adverts and me in particular. He was the one that worked through the night to finish the next issue, then went in to work at 6.00 the next morning before anyone else was there to get it Xeroxed. It's a classic case of following your own instincts about what you're good at, seeing it through with passion and commitment and then later finding it has led you to where you want to be. It all makes some kind of sense when you look back at the line you've taken, but I'm sure when Dave was putting those fanzines together he never imagined he'd end up a respected author with a huge back catalogue. Similarly, when I started strumming away on my first guitar I certainly never thought I'd be travelling the world playing my songs to people forty years later.
 

17qTj: Michael Demsey was clearly a great mentor to you. He encouraged you through The Adverts, The Explorers and the Raw Meat for the Missionaries project (with his friend Richard Strange). What was your favourite special quality that Michael possessed and how did this
benefit you and your bands?


17aTV: I loved Michael because he was an enthusiast. He was also a loveable rogue, totally unconventional, a lateral thinker, some kind of genius, a great drinker, and a great friend. If he liked something he would do anything to make it happen, then figure out the practical issues later. Sometimes that got him into trouble, financial and otherwise - the Adverts and Explorers business affairs were usually in chaos - and that upset some people, but he had a fierce energy that drew creative people to him. On any given day at his apartment you might find The Adverts, Richard Strange, members of The Damned or Sex Pistols, X-Ray Spex, Wire, Lemmy, Chrissie Hynde, Peter York, Michael Moorcock...too many to name. He was a catalyst and didn't understand the expression "it can't be done." I still miss him.

TJ: “A lateral thinker and a great drinker.” Michael lives on in your poetry, passion and spirit.    


18qTJ: This Century you’ve re-recorded three of your rare 80’s demo’s. For those new discoverers out there what’s the full story about these legendary recordings?
 
18aTV: After the break up of the Adverts, the collapse of the Explorers, and the financial catastrophe of Channel Five where the label went bust on the week of release - and including along the way the death of my manager and the loss of my publishing contract - there wasn't a record company in the world that would touch me. But I was still writing, and had a fairly regular routine of going down to visit Tim Cross and recording the new songs with him on his eight track recorder. He'd add some keyboards, and every now and then we'd ask Tim Renwick, who was still living in London at the time, to come over and add some guitar and bass. Some of my favourite songs come from that period, but I have to admit I was pretty depressed about the situation I was in - there seemed no chance that any of those songs would ever get heard by anyone. I was on income support for ten years, heavily in debt, ignored by the music industry and with no apparent way to get back in touch with my potential audience. It was only the internet and the start of the solo gigs that changed that.
 

19qTJ: What is this incredible spirit you have, that keeps you carrying on, even when you can’t get a record deal?

19aTV: I just felt it was the right thing to do. I believed in the songs, and I believed that there were people out there who would want to hear them. It was just a question of how to reach them.

TJ: You were so right people did want to hear them and now over twenty years later they can here some of them.
 

20qTJ: The demo, Drowning On Dry Land, appears to be a firm favourite of yours; why does it resonate so much with you?

20aTV: I like all those old demos, but I suppose I have a particular soft spot for the ones that were written in the depths of despair. It's that mixture of sadness with a glimmer of hope. Hanging on to the hope and looking for that chink of light in the darkness, I think that's important for all of us, and I think the songs that capture that are somehow universal.

TJ: Like a fire in the darkness burning forever bright.


21qTJ: Two of your loyalist fans believe that Channel 5 was your purple patch. Right in the middle of recoding all those 80’s demo’s how did it feel to be finally working with the other two talented Tim’s on a real album?

21aTV: I always knew that if I ever got into a studio again to make a record I would bring with me what I'd learnt through the hard years - and one of the things I learnt was that the two Tims were great interpreters of my songs. They feel the music in the same way I do and they have musical talents I don't have to take them to a new place. Actually, though, there's not a lot of difference to the way we recorded those 80's demos to the way we recorded "In The Arms Of My Enemy." We still do most of the recording at home, but we've learnt a lot over the years about how to capture the sound we want. The only record we've made where all three of us were in a "proper" (admittedly, cheap) studio the whole time was Channel Five.
 

22qTJ: I recall an old interview in the Big Take Over where things felt so bleak that you were considering becoming a milkman or a refuse collector. You talk about someone seeing you in the street and whispering “That’s TV Smith!”

Why didn’t the milk floats drive your mind? Why stay so loyal, so long, to songwriting and music?


22aTV: It was a strange situation. I was walking along the street and saw a milk float coming down the street towards me which had been refurbished as a recycling vehicle. There were two guys in it hopping out to pick up the bottles and cardboard left out on the street, and I thought, "That's a good idea. Probably I could get a job doing that." I was really in my darkest hour around then and was on the verge of giving up on the whole idea of being a musician. Then I heard one of the guys pointing me out to his mate, obviously impressed, and with the implication "I wish I was a punk star like him and not working on this recycling run." I seemed to be stuck - known and unknown at the same time.

TJ: It’s a very thin green line.
 

23qTJ: Cheap sounded like real good times at first. What best encapsulated that back to rock basics period for you?

23aTV: They were good times. They were what got me "unstuck." I completely put out of my head any concept of being in the music industry, or trying to "make it," whatever that means, and just decided I was going to enjoy myself with my mates in a band and go out and play songs. Completely back to basics - just get out in front of people and do it, draw a line under the past and start again.

Now in hindsight I really think that's the only way - lie low through the fallow periods if you have to, keep your integrity, and when you finally find a way, start again without attempting to anticipate where it will lead. Follow your instincts and you will end up where you need to be.

Our lifeboat hits the rocks.
The Captain climbs off.
It's hard to keep going on when you think all hope is lost...

 


« Last Edit: February 13, 2010, 07:12:57 AM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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That feels like a good place to draw a line on the story of TV's official bands.
 
Part 2: So Low… Rising

…to follow.

Many thanks to TV Smith.

I wished.

And he saw clearly. 

Thank you Songsmith.
« Last Edit: June 16, 2008, 06:15:56 PM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Uli

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Excellent!!!! Finally a TV TUTS interview on the Forum!  :D  :D

Really good questions and very interesting replies! Thanks Tj and TV!!!
Can't wait for Part 2. (Ok, I can, but not very long...)
« Last Edit: June 18, 2008, 04:18:23 PM by Tj »
Just around the corner and miles away...

Offline Fred21

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Yeah, fancy having an interview with TV on his website - who would have thought...

Interesting read - cheers TJ and Tim!
TV SM!TH - for the beer and the company!

Offline Tj

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It was a first for the TUTS though Fred.  :D ...Unless you count BBQ's great interview with Teev, but that was before we really got to know Jonathan.

Thanks for getting me off my arse to do that Uli. I've been dreaming about it on and off for nine years now.

...You little old inspirer you. :D

Which bits did you like best?
« Last Edit: June 18, 2008, 04:31:50 PM by Tj »
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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Here's five favourites of mine from Teev...

"It only spent a week in the charts but has spent a lot longer in people's hearts... I feel another poem coming on." TV on Crossing the Red Sea

"Richard invited me to help out on a kind of spoof Beach Boys-y song he was working on called Summer Fun." TV on how the Raw Meat for the Missionaries demo's with Richard Strange began

"It's that mixture of sadness with a glimmer of hope. Hanging on to the hope and looking for that chink of light in the darkness, I think that's important for all of us, and I think the songs that capture that are somehow universal." TV on the Drowning on Dry Land demo

"As soon as you hear Stoner's bass playing, you know everything has changed." TV on the Great Colin Stoner bass player with the Doctors of Madness and TV Smith's Explorers

"He was a catalyst and didn't understand the expression "it can't be done." I still miss him." TV on his manager, the Great Michael Demsey

Thanks Teev. It was great finding out so many things I didn't know.
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Uli

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Yeah, fancy having an interview with TV on his website - who would have thought...

Granted it's not a big surprise to have a TV interview in his own Forum. However it's the fact that it's been done by one of the TUTS that makes it a lot more "special" as the usual punk zine interviews!!!  :)

In general I'm a bit 'underwhelmed' by the lack of reactions... Have you all fallen asleep?  :-\

Klaus, couldn't this good interview be linked on the front site?

Which bits did you like best?

These:

"the good news is that there is an underground swell of people who are finding out about my records through word of mouth, and it's growing all the time. I'll never be able to compete with the media-created pop stars, but my audience means a lot more to me. "

"I worked as a record packer for a background music firm in Soho. Ironic, considering both Tim Cross and Tim Renwick were recording for background music companies."
(Funny, this one!)

"We were playing to full houses, the excitement in the air was palpable, and the Damned and us were giving everything to try and outdo each other's performances."

"But I was still writing, and had a fairly regular routine of going down to visit Tim Cross and recording the new songs with him on his eight track recorder. He'd add some keyboards, and every now and then we'd ask Tim Renwick, who was still living in London at the time, to come over and add some guitar and bass. Some of my favourite songs come from that period, but I have to admit I was pretty depressed about the situation I was in - there seemed no chance that any of those songs would ever get heard by anyone. I was on income support for ten years, heavily in debt, ignored by the music industry and with no apparent way to get back in touch with my potential audience. It was only the internet and the start of the solo gigs that changed that."

Constant gigging and the internet which connects lots of like-minded people helped, that's good!!  :)
Just around the corner and miles away...

Offline Tj

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Thanks Uli, we really appreciate that. :D

Sometimes you've just got to be patientm mate and TV knows all about that.

Sometimes I miss that wonderful old exciting posiTV approach of the great Dave Allen. Man did C5 know how to get real excited. :D :D :D
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Tj

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It would be cool if we could have a TV Smith Interviews section in the forum, Uli.

Tell you what to tie it in with the Tim Cross, Erik Russell and Tim Renwick interviews I'll title it the same way as A TUTS Exclusive. :D
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Uli

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Tell you what to tie it in with the Tim Cross, Erik Russell and Tim Renwick interviews I'll title it the same way as A TUTS Exclusive. :D

Good idea, I'd already thought about maybe changing the title.  :)

Let's see what Klaus or TV think about an interview section...
Just around the corner and miles away...

Offline Alan

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Sorry I've had a heavy week - but I did enjoy this interview!

Cheers

Alan

Offline Tj

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"He ain't heavy he's my TUTS brother."

We love to light en your load Alan.

Seriously, we're glad you enjoyed it.  :D

Please pm your email address buddy.
"Deep inside you know it's right to lean towards the light"

Tj Sundown
Leaning towards the Starlight

Offline Uli

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Now where's part 2? The wait (weight?) is becoming harder...  ::)
Just around the corner and miles away...

Offline claret999

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Great Interview, Can`t wait for part 2