DB: OK. So moving on, everybody usually has a favourite fixture that sticks in their mind. We were talking about some earlier on, whether it's the Rotherham v. Leyton Orient game or whatever, in terms of your fixtures, I wondered if there was a particular gig that you feel the same about, and why? Or, after so much touring - you guys seem to be averaging maybe 80 or 90 gigs in some years, perhaps they all merge into one to a certain extent; is there a particular one which sticks in your mind?
DB: First band. Stadium just opened.
SE: Well, George Michael, he's not a band, is he?
DB: One-man band.
CW: Yeah, well he didn't sell it out either! First band to be able to sell it out, that's a nice thing to be able to say, but I think with Wembley, it's like anything you do for the first time, it's always special, it's like the first time you play a proper gig, its always special. The first time you play in an Arena, the first time we played in an Arena was with Foo Fighters and Chilli Peppers, y'know, we were only first on and played for 25 minutes, but with it being Paris, we were doing really well in France, to go on stage and watch that crowd was great.
SE: Foo Fighters are one of the last bands I haven't seen that I really want to see.
CW: Really? It was a great thing, but we ended up doing a tour with them in America after that and did Arenas over there, but that was the first time we played in an Arena, and that always sticks in my mind because it felt like the band had really gone up a gear. Then obviously the first time you play an Arena on your own is really special.
SE: So when you started out, did you really expect to get this far?
CW: Not really, no, I mean I think we always had confidence in the music.
SE: Did you have a target, or did you just want to develop it?
CW: Well bands we were listening to at the time were bands like Ned's Atomic Dustbin and the Sensitive Things, all those really little English indie bands, that played to maybe one or two thousand people at the universities, but tours at the time that was big, that was what a big band was, so I guess that was what the aim was really - to get to be as big as the bands that you liked. I mean, even bands like Nirvana that I was really really into it, I never got to see them live, but even they never got to Arenas, they've only got a lot bigger since Kurt Cobain died. They were never an Arena band, so then obviously playing Wembley Stadium, it is something that you dream about, but I don't think anyone ever really expects it - it's like a young footballer, isn't it, everyone thinks they're good and that they may be able to play professional football, but I don't think anyone really expects to be a World Cup winner.
DB: …and one day, you wake up, and you just find yourself there.
CW: Yeah, exactly, and it's like 'Holy shit, what happened!'
SE: You're at Wembley.
DB: And I thought, given what you said earlier, I thought Teignmouth would have been an interesting candidate for favourite, just because it's the ultimate home fixture for you, but there was obviously so much of a red-tape nightmare going on there, taken together it can't be.
CW: It was a great gig. It was a weird gig. I really enjoyed it because it was the first gig we'd done in over a year. It wasn't a typical gig because I think down in that part of the country there were a lot of people who heard about us, knew how big we were, liked the music, but you don't get a lot of gigs down there, so I think there were a lot of people who had missed out…. To me, you can always tell when you play in places where people haven't been to gigs before, because they don't really jump up and down, and Teignmouth was a bit like that - it wasn't like there was a big mosh pit going off or anything; it was like a lot of people were just so blown away by it that they didn't know quite how to react, they'd not seen a concert before, they didn't know that people are supposed to jump up and down and crowdsurf and all that stuff, y'know?
SE: Oooh, bugger, I'm in trouble then…
CW: And obviously everywhere you looked there was an old face in the crowd, and I'm like, 'Stop f****** looking at me!' y'know? But it was great; I enjoyed the second night a lot more then the first. The first night I was really nervous. The other thing I get really nervous about as well when we haven't played for a while is my fitness. I think, 'I'm really unfit! I've got to go on stage…' and what normally happens is that for the first gig you go on stage, and after about four songs you really go for it, because you haven't played for ages, you're really excited…
SE: What gets you? Your fingers, your arms? Or is it your neck?
CW: It's the whole body that just gets fatigued, like when you run around, when you play football for the first time in years. It's not pain, it's just your heart going like the clappers and you're totally out of breath. I feel alright this time because I've given up drinking now, so I went on stage thinking I'd be really unfit but it actually turned out that I felt fitter than ever. So it was really good.
SE: Because in Arras in 2006, that was the first one, wasn't it? Was that the first one? You'd done one in London….
CW: We did Shepherds Bush first, then we did a couple of German ones, then we did Arras, but it was very early on, it was one of the first.
SE: You had a moustache then! I've always wanted to ask you this: was that to do with the music or did you just think it would be a good idea?
CW: ( laughs ) We were on the tour bus one night, and we'd all had a few beers and were a bit drunk, and I had a full beard, which I don't really have very often, but I'd thought 'I'll grow a beard' - everybody's got to grow a beard once in their life! And so I'd grown this beard, and everybody on the bus was like 'yeah, you should really do something with that, a weird moustache or something'. So, Dom got the clippers out and he started trimming it up or something, and I ended up with this great…its not really a handlebar, is it, it's a…
SE : It's a Zapata moustache! It went really well with Knights of Cydonia, didn't it!
CW: Yeah, and this wacky cowboy hat for the video, and you're gonna look totally in place.
CW: Yeah, so I kept it for a while, and grew it back a few times, and I've not had it for a while! Actually, a mate Tom's doing something for charity, and he trying to get me . I've got to grow a moustache by the end of November. He told me on the morning that I'd just had a f****** shave as well!
SE: Well, you've got quite a heavy growth as well, haven't you?
CW: Yeah, I can get a 'tache in a couple of weeks.
SE: Yes, well at least it's still dark - look at mine!
DB: So, I wanted to just come back and talk more about perspective; we were saying that nobody thinks they're going to become lead striker for Manchester United when they first start kicking a ball around, and in the same way, nobody expects to play Wembley Stadium but one day you find yourself there and you're thinking: 'Wow - how did we get here?!'.
Well, it's the tenth anniversary of the first album this year, give or take, and that's what I was listening to in the car driving over here today. I was wondering: you bang an album out after working like hell on the damn thing, and when it finally goes, the record company takes it away to make ten million of the things, and you're thinking: 'that is the best we could possibly do' when you released it. Then you move on and do the same thing again, and so on. After ten years, looking back at that first album, how do you feel about it? What does the ten years of perspective give you? At the time, you thought it was the very best thing you could possibly release. How do you feel about it nowadays?
CW: I actually enjoy that album more now than I did nine years ago. I think at the time it was weird, because obviously you know that before going into the studio for Showbiz, all we knew anything about was playing live, and I think we were always pretty good at playing live. I mean, listening back to old recordings is not what it is now. So going into the studio at that time was completely alien to us, obviously having a producer was completely alien to us, and as a result it was very weird having a fourth opinion.
There were certain things the producer's telling us, and its like: 'we have to go along with him because he's clearly a wise old man who's done millions of albums before, so he must be right'. I can remember when we first recorded that album it didn't feel right, because listening to it, it didn't have any of the energy that we had live, there were some arrangements that I didn't particularly agree with, but as I've got older, I think there are things the Producer said that I would probably say to a young band now when they're doing their first album. At the time, I couldn't really listen to it much because it was so on a different pace to what we were doing live, but then I think I listened to it about 6 months or a year ago and thought 'this is actually a really good album', y'know, but I listen to it like I'm listening to a different band. It doesn't feel like I'm listening to us, which is probably why I can enjoy it, because I don't try to compare that album to what we're doing now. It's like: 'we were a different band ten years ago!'
DB: So we are interviewing wise old Chris Wolstenho now!
SE: ....and so does that mean that you view each album differently?
CW: Well yeah. Each album is relevant to the point at which it came out, and that's all you can ever judge by. You can't take an album and think 'is this going to sound great in ten years?' because it's impossible - you don't know what's going to be going on in ten years. There are some albums. I mean, I think the true test of any album is if it can stand the test of time, and that's why people have so much respect for things like "Sgt Peppers" and "Pet Sounds", because forty years down the line they're still f****** brilliant. I don't think there are many albums that are like that. So, people will say to you, 'do you have regrets or anything like that?' and I'll say 'no', because all you can ever do is judge your album at the time that you do it, and if you think its great at that time, then its great. It doesn't matter if it's great now, because it's not coming out now.
SE : Yes, and I would suspect that the difference now between the first album and any subsequent album is that you were playing that stuff live before you actually recorded it, this time you tend to record it before you go live.
CW: Yeah, the first album for any band is like a compilation album of everything you've written up until you get started, so I don't think anyone's first album ever really feels like an album, because they aren't written as albums. I mean, this last album (The Resistance), we wrote eleven songs, and they were the eleven songs that went on the album; there was nothing else. We said: 'if we need something else at the end, then we'll write something else'. But let's just write this as an album instead of doing the usual thing of working on 25 songs at once and then throwing a load of perfectly good songs away which is generally what happens. But at the time we had about 80 songs that had been written, we'd been around for five or six years before that, so we literally had to pick - between us and the producer - what we felt were the twelve best songs, so it effectively makes it a compilation. Origin of Symmetry never really felt like….I mean, I still think Origin of Symmetry is a brilliant album
DB: I think it's your best
CW: But it's a very random album, because it was recorded in God knows how many studios, two or three different producers, it was recorded at different times, it feels like two different albums. You've got the Dave Bottrill side of it, then you've got the John Leckie side of it, and both could have been albums in their own right, y'know? Like with Dave Bottrill we did Plug in Baby, New Born, HyperMusic…
SE: How was it with John Leckie? I mean John Leckie's been around for ages. When I was 17 or 18 I loved XTC, and he was involved with them. I didn't know he was involved in Origin of Symmetry.
CW: Yes, he did just over half of it. He did Space Dementia and Feeling Good. What else? Microcuts he produced, Megalomania, Screenager - he kind of did all the weirder stuff. Dave Bottrill did more of the pop stuff, the singles. So it always felt like two different albums, and then Absolution felt to me like the first album that …
SE: …moved you up. That started you on the Arena circuit, really.
CW: Yeah. It was the first time we recorded with one producer from start to finish, we did it in a few different studios but it's got a consistency about it that the other albums didn't have, and I think from that point onwards we stayed with that trend.
DB: Yes, I still have a great deal of affection for Origin of Symmetry because it felt like the first ramping up. You guys might have felt it was a little haphazard putting it together, but I still get the same buzz when I shove it on as I did when I first played it.
SE: My 11-year old is quite into you as well, although I suppose he doesn't have much choice. Plug in Baby and New Born are the ones that he just loves, him and his mate. He's just started to learn the drums, my lad, and his mate's got a guitar - he can just about get the start of Plug in Baby out of it, so it's those songs that he likes more than any others.
CW: Well to me, Showbiz and Origin feel like one period, it's like there are definite chapters, each album kind of takes up a chapter.
SE: Well you started getting on the Brits, didn't you…?
SE: I remember you doing Hysteria on the Brits, and that was so exciting my missus watched it with me! She said: 'Bloody hell, is this the band you and Stave go and see' and I said 'Yeah! Absolutely! Too bloody right it is'.
CW : Well it was nice for us, because there was so much boring pop shit going on and we felt we just went in and shook it all up a little bit
SE: You f****** did!
CW: No production stuff or anything like everybody else, we just went on there and f****** rocked it, y'know? And it's weird, those kind of performance are always the ones that seem to stick out, even for people who aren't into our music. That is actually more exciting.
SE: Well it is. That actually came across out of the telly. I don't want to sound arty farty about it but it was like 'BLOODY HELL! This is the Brits - this is not supposed to happen'.
DB: Chris, I know Steve has some final questions he wants to move on to, but I need to ask one more, if only to stop him blowing smoke up your arse as well, because you'll get that all the time anyway, so here we go: We have all seen it and struggled to keep a straight face. The ball rolls along the ground to Tim Flowers, hits a divot, and sails over his head into the back of the net. Chortle-Chortle. Paolo gently pokes Paul Alcock with a soft Italian finger and the ref suddenly looks like he's pedalling a bicycle backwards before getting dumped on his arse. So...Wolstenho tries to execute an impressive triple salchow in the climax to Plug-In Baby, gets wrapped in the power cable, & pirouettes backwards, taking out two-thirds of Dom's drum kit and most of the lower range of the bass amp. Ever...or Never?
DB: Stage cock-ups?
CW: No, I don't think there's ever been anything major really. I mean, there's been a few accidents, but in the main…
SE: But in the early days, Dom and Matt used to smash stuff up a bit!
CW: We all did, but we kind of stopped that really. That was more out of frustration over the fact that we used to have to hire a lot of gear to do certain gigs, and a lot of the time hired gear doesn't work properly, so we would just smash it all up, but there were times when we realized that what we thought was hired gear was ours…
DB: Oops - own goal!
CW:…and there was one time when we really went mad with the smashing up. We thought it was our gear and it actually turned out to be the hire company's gear. That was in Germany, and we actually got banned from hiring gear in Germany ever again, because we totally f****** knackered everything. There's been a few. Matt threw a guitar and it caught Dom in the face once, and cut his eye open - I walked into the dressing room and he's getting a tetanus injection in his arse! We had a bad gig in Paris actually, but it was one of those days where everything went wrong. We got picked up from the hotel, and the driver didn't know where he was going. We're in the car for two hours trying to get to the other side of Paris, and every five minutes we came back to the same roundabout muttering, 'what the fucks going on?' trying to get to this venue. We finally get to this venue, we start sound checking, and it's the start of Absolution. It's a tiny venue, a promo gig, but we were basically going in with enough gear for an Arena. The power couldn't handle it, so the power tripped. So then they finally get the power back on, we get the lighting rig up, Ollie gets the smoke machine going, and it trips the fire alarm …. which also tripped the power. We're all thinking, 'We are going to have one of those f****** days 'ere!'
We had to wait for 45 minutes for some guy to get across Paris with the code to put into the fire alarm to make that active again in order to get the power to work, so the whole sound check was blown out. Then we got on stage and we're playing Hysteria third in the set. We're playing the end riff - duh duh, duh duh, duh duh duh duh, boof! - and right on the boof the whole power went again and the entire place ended up in total darkness. So, we went off stage and about five minutes later they got the power back on again. We came back on and kept going, and then at the end of the first set it all went back off again and we had 45 minutes of nothing! We ended up getting one of those beer fridges full of booze, took all the beers out, and started handing 'em out to the crowd. They all went really quickly, so we got the whisky and the vodka, started handing those out. We got to the point where we had nothing left and we were down to handing out the bowl of fruit…….we had to keep these people entertained somehow'.
This is the same night that at the end of the set, Matt lost his guitar right at the same time Dom pushed his bass drum over. Dom caught the bottom of the guitar, the top of the guitar flipped up and cracked him in the face, cut his eye open, and that's when he had to have the tetanus in his arse. He had to have his eye stitched - that was a bad day! One of our first gigs on the Absolution Tour.
SE: …….and the French still adore you. I saw that interview recently, on Taratata, where the bloke's asking Matt about porn. Jesus Christ! That was a horribly uncomfortable interview.
CW: Yeah, I avoid those kinds of thingsCLICK HERE FOR THE NEXT AND FINAL PART
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