Pete's TheWho.com interview - Part 4 of 5
- Pete's Blog
1st May, 2010
FAN INTERVIEW APRIL 2010 - PART FOUR
Jenlennon: How do you feel about people finding metaphors or meanings that may not be present in your compositions? How do you deal with people completely misinterpreting your meaning in a piece?
PT: What you describe is actually how it works. The intention of the song is to provide a foil, a musical tool, so it is functional in itself. It doesn't matter exactly what it does, as long as it does something. I'd prefer that people said my music had saved their life rather than it had turned them to the devil, but I can't control what people find in my work. I let that go. You just do your best as a composer, and hope you bring hope, or at least provide the background accompaniment to someone making a useful table, or a baby. See how humble I am? Aren't I just completely fabulous? People misinterpret my masterpieces, and I just allow them to do so. I don't sue, I don't spit or snarl: I merely turn the cheek.
Add hawk: How were the swirling vocals from 'The punk meets the godfather' produced? Is there anything about the album you would change if you had today's technology when you wrote it?
PT: They were literally swirled. During the mixing we put Roger's vocal into a speaker on a wire and swung it around the studio. However, you may be referring to the howling sound when Roger sings the words: "My, my, my, my, my G-g-g-g-generation". He started that by opening his earphones to the mike he was singing into causing a really eerie feedback. Great effect. He used it occasionally later on too. It only seemed to sound that way at Ramport Studios. Today I would of course make the album and the mixing properly quadraphonic. We tried, Ron Nevison and I, but the technology for producing four channels from vinyl records was really poor. Today it would be a piece of cake.
Saragrrreene: Do you sometimes enjoy your demos more than final recordings?
PT: Always. I rarely enjoy recording final masters with other musicians. They hardly ever play what I want them to play. Simon Phillips, Pino Palladino, Rabbit, Peter Hope Evans these guys are rare exceptions. However, I'm talking about making the recordings and you may be asking if I prefer listening to demos. Yes, I prefer to listen to my old demos because I think I learn more from them about my process, and how it interfaces with the work I go on to do with real musicians later in a real studio environment.
Spartanjag: Now we all know that your upcoming Who album Floss is going to be a big rock opera, but I'm wondering if you'll ever release some of those good old 'singles' -- the standalone songs -- from all the decades past you've got tucked away. They might still be demos, or perhaps you did record them with the Who, but they'd be great to hear!
PT: That's such a great Who fan thing you just did. I'm writing this thing called Floss, even I don't know what it is. You are already describing it as the `upcoming Who album', and `a big rock opera' that might be getting in the way of some more down and dirty straight-cut rock `n' roll I have selfishly `tucked away' in my cupboard. I did not kill her, officer! (Ed: Wrong story).
Floss is big for me. I don't know whether it will be big for you. I should repeat as well that I have no certain sense that it will ever provide music for a Who album. It has to get past Roger, or at least reach him, and he is not my target audience today. (Ed: I'm not sure if I have to warn you again. Has Roger ever been your target audience? Just answer the question.)
On the old stuff, if you spend too much time researching, archiving, and restoring old tracks you don't have time left to write new ones. I've spent more time than most artists going through my old stuff. There is, as you guess, a huge amount left unrestored and undiscovered.
Mrwisty: How do you feel about comedians using your songs (e.g. Alan Partridge and 'You Better You Bet) or making references to you (e.g. Eddy and Patsy in Ab Fab going 'we won't get fooled again!' and trying the leaps)?
PT: You happen to cite two (three) comedy ikons I very much like. Comedians can be rather vampiristic. They need someone to satirise or ridicule. Where it is done with affection it can be taken to the limit, as with Rock School, Spinal Tap and Mighty Wind. When there is some envy, and there often is because many comedians have tried to be pop or rock musicians and failed, it can create a sting.
Kenny: I always like to read the interviews you do with guitar magazines but they always seem to have to include a reference to the guitar smashing and power chords as if that's all you've ever done. Do you ever get fed up that very few of these magazines focus on your acoustic playing.
PT: There is a new article in the current issue of Premier Guitar and that has quite a broad reach. I have also done an interview with my friend Reg Meuross about to appear in Acoustic Magazine. They both cover quite a bit about acoustic work, especially the latter. We might be able to post links to these two articles. I'm as proud of my guitar smashing and my power chords as I am of my acoustic work. Most of all, I am happy to be regarded as one of the important guitarists of my era, I know I am not the best player, but I have been innovative and expressive, and extended the scope of the electric guitar. Everything I do on acoustic has been done before by legions of flamenco players, rock greats like Eddie Cochran and Don Everly, and in a different genre of stringed music on traditional jazz guitar by Eddie Condon. I just digested all that and rejigged it.
Foadlom: You have a special fondness for Jimi Hendrix. Looking back, would you have liked to recorded with Jimi ? Also, are there any current artists that you'd consider collaborating with?
PT: Most guitar players are fond of Jimi. I would have loved to work with him, but what would I have done? Carry his bags? I could play with anyone and do a pretty good job. That's because I listen. A good musician is someone who listens, not just someone who plays well. Jimi must have been very hard to play with. He wasn't easy to listen to, because he kept blowing your mind . I am content to be able to say honestly that I am the one who recommended his first English-style amplifier rig, and the rest is better than history.
My first collaboration choice would probably be Yoko Ono, one of the first members of the Symposium for Destruction in Art of 1966. She screams better than that bloke in the Who . (Ed: This is your very last and final warning.)
Whosnext71: Hey Pete, im a 16 year old guitarist and Who fan from New Jersey trying to emulate your guitar playing. What's your guitar soloing style influenced by, and how has it changed over the years? What scales do you use, and what are some techniques I could use to sound more like you?
PT: Emulate my playing? How adorable! I don't play any music teacher scales at all. My playing improved a little after a wrist accident in 1991 when I practiced piano to loosen up. That involved about two years of musical physio. When I went back to play guitar for the 1993 Psychoderelict solo tour I realised I was playing a little differently, possibly slightly more conventionally in some ways, more dangerously in others. So sometimes different disciplines can help. My most obvious trick is to use chords that only have two notes, the root and the fourth or fifth. If I add a third note it is often suspended, very rarely use a straight minor chord (except on a song like BEHIND BLUE EYES, which is quite a conventional song for me.)
You could approach my style by being ready to hurt your right hand .. Not good advice I know, but having no fear of bleeding, cutting myself, bruising myself or even spearing myself, gives me scope to get sounds out of the guitar that other players shy away from. My best advice is don't try to emulate me, what I do screws up the right hand. But only you know your limits.
Retroguy: You have stated that you were influenced by jazz musicians like Barney Kessel. Do you study any jazz charts, scales, or exercises as a means of fueling your creativity?
PT: No, but I still listen to the jazz greats. I am attracted to the most economical jazz players like Miles Davis and Wes Montgomery, though I am a Charlie Parker fan too, and I like some lyrical fast jazz guitar players like John McLaughlin, Pat Martino and Pat Metheny. I don't read music, and have only learned to write it very painfully over the past forty years. I don't even read TAB, so I don't study very much academically except by listening and playing along.
Moonblast: How have the ear monitors worked in concert?
PT: I wore hearing aids for the Quadrophenia concert and the Super Bowl, not in-ear monitors. I am doing OK with them, I can hear high frequencies a little better so I can play more quietly. But my ears are still ringing from the ten days of rehearsals for Quadrophenia.
When I was young I saw a cool French movie by Jean Luc Godard called Peirrot the Fou. In the last scene the central character blows himself up in a misguided and botched attempt to engage the interest of his indifferent lover. Keith Moon managed to deal with the destructive cycle of the Who a little more ruthlessly than the rest of us. He blew himself up so we could create another idiotic rock legend. I have no intention of blowing myself up. Maybe in the next life I'll be a Black Widow. This time around I find all this hearing shit boring. It isn't the end of the world, what has happened to my hearing, I am not complaining, but neither am I pretending I have an answer. No one else can help me either. Please don't send me your pet treatments for tinnitus. I've tried them all, and I know those that work for me. I don't get tinnitus if I don't listen to, or play, loud music. Even classical musicians can go deaf. God what a grouch I am.
TO BE CONTINUED!