Part2: Our Hero Opens A Strange Boutique, Spaks to the Press and Journeys East
V: How did John Haney join the band? And what happened to Charlie X?
Bid: John replied to an ad in the Melody Maker. We went to see the last Art Attacks gig, and spoke to him there. John was living in a squat with Tony Potts and a guy who would become our first manager (Paul something). We rehearsed there, next door were The Motors, across the road were members of Wire and The Members. We got to know Wire fairly well, and were later managed by the same charming criminal. Many of the band photos in 1980 were taken by Colin's wife.
Charlie was a passer-by, really. We did record a demo with him in 1978, but I can't recall if any of these tracks were released (it gets confusing)!
I think we chucked him because he was an idiot, same goes for Simon.
V: Did you actually wish later that you'd broken up after The Strange Boutique?
Bid: Did we say that? We didn't mean it, I'm sure. We did have a lot of problems with the biz, though. It's worth mentioning here that at the time
we "parted" (we actually left, though they may have dropped us anyway) from Dindisc, we were the "biggest unsigned band in the UK" (an honor we sometimes shared with Siouxsie). We commanded audiences far in excess of many chart bands, and fairy regularly broke house records- it was weird that we ran into so many brick walls with other companies. By that time, the biz had very, very quickly reverted to type, and was only interested what they perceived as either chart or stadium bands.
Many of these companies, of course, went spectacularly bust over the following years, which filled me with bitter glee.
V: It seems as though the band were never happy with the engineering/produc tion, especially "Eligible Bachelors".
Bid: Very few bands are. The songs always come out not-the-way-you-heard-them.
V: Now, is it because the Monochrome Set (and Scarlet's Well) have effectively reinvented their sound after every record that has prevented th
em from releasing the dreaded "shite" record?
Bid: There are a few bands/soloists who have done this, and, when it was for the "right" reasons (i.e., mucking about, for a laugh, felt like it, et
c.) it not only usually worked, but made their career much more interesting.
Unfortunately, pretty much all those that I can think of ended up becoming shadows of themselves, and simply uninteresting. Both Alice (Cooper) and Lou (Reed) (amongst many others) were like this up to a point.
I'm not saying, either, that it's always a good thing- Zappa could be very tedious.
Certainly, had the MSet continued, I had thoughts about the next album going more into Amon Duul territory, as I was getting a bit bored.
SWell, though, I don't think changes exactly. Rather, the whole concept is both odd and "of change". I'm not sure if there is a precedent for a
changing roster of singers that nevertheless give the impression of being an integral part of the project- it's not a band, it's a village. It's a kind
of combination of ever-evolving musical and band, but that'll become more apparent, the more albums I do. I figured that no-one would take it seriously (Dukes Of Stratosphere-XTC recording under another name) first time around, and on the release of the second would start to take notice, and so on.
V: You don't like to talk about the MSet albums much?
Bid: Yes, it's very difficult for me to give an opinion about MSet albums.
I don't listen to them! Individual songs I can talk about, though. I don't know why.
V: You had plans for a musical once? Memories of a Wretched Weekend, I think, an idea that later became The Lost Weekend? Any plans to tour/film/s tage an SWell based project in the future?
Bid: Yes, we often thought about a musical. I'd love to do something with SWell, we'll see.
Regarding the WEA period, the music was definitely more commercial, but I was never a chart writer, despite Jacob's Ladder achieving the most plays of any UK single, etc., etc.. Had the WEA period been commercially successful, it really would have ruined the band, though I don't think we could have kept it up anyway.
We definitely weren't "entertainers", in the same way that The Ants were. We simply shouldn't have ever left the indie scene, and by then didn't feel that we wanted to go back, or carry on with WEA, so just split.
It is worth pointing out here that The Lost Weekend was actually recorded at the end of 1983, with Cherry Red money. It was then sold to WEA, and re-mixed piecemeal over 1984. Reach For Your Gun was written in 1984 (prob.late), the reason for not appearing on that album. It was in the live set.
No, it wasn't that expensive to record, but the recording was struck by a series of misfortunes- we used 4 or 5 studios in total, they kept breaking
(It is, of course, and anti-vivisection song.)
V: A lot of songs that were later rewritten for "Jack" and other records, originally came out on el compilations.
Bid: The songs that I later partly re-used, and that also later turned up in their original demo form- well, they were never meant to be released, and it was a mistake. I don't know why I agreed to releasing those demos.
V: 'Enigmatic.' How much of this do you think you (or the labels, or I suppose MikeAlway, el label boss) encouraged?
Bid: We didn't at all, really. Mike sort of played up what he saw as a glamour angle, but he tried to do that with everyone.
V: The intro of Reach for Your Gun is really something. Was it difficult to get?
I can't remember, it was just something we "spun in" from some ethnic record.
V: "Invocation of Thoth" and the other b-sides were you? And I wonder if Beck or Moby were listening?
Bid: Yes, I did the "Invocation", etc., but who's Moby and Beck?
V: On the Eastern Eye (a television show showcasing London's Asian Communities), you remarked your father wanted you to drop-out of school.
Bid: I was larking about. Though my father did want me to go to college, etc.
V: I've read about your love of the early Beatle press conferences.
We certainly did some very amusing (and surreal) interviews, but I couldn't put them all on the site. Sometimes other people did them for us.
Uncooperative is a description- most interviews were "written" before they' d taken place, so the journalist didn't like it when we didn't say the things that they'd written for us. In fact, I don't recall being anything other civil and occasionally amusing (er, when it was us).
We didn't exactly fit into the music scene, and were therefore more difficult to write about. Bearing in mind that most journalists were doing
these interviews as part of their job rather than personal interest, we just made more work for them. In the late 70s, up to about mid-1980, there were many bands who were also difficult to define, but then became less so, and therefore started to fit into categories that were either already there, or had developed (Blondie would be an example). This "newness" was what New Wave was all about, and in the beginning, the press liked to appear to be hip to it. When it became hip to be other things, we were shat upon- e.g., when other bands started to become more chart-orientated or quasi-political,
we were slammed for being "arty". We just continued to be what we were, and what we had been from the start.
There are certainly stories about others- how The Vibrators doubled the speed of all their songs when Punk became fashionable, how all of Scritii
Pollliti's (spelling?) "ad-lib" jams were exactly the same- and who could claim that The Sex Pistols were anything but a manufactured band? I knew so many people who slashed their suits.
V: How were you treated in Japan? "Bid-o!"
Bid: I remember this unearthly cry well. We were chased, "Hard Day's Night"-style, through the streets in Tokyo and Osaka; on one occasion by
three portly girls- we had to slow down to let them catch up. Then we ran away again!
We were treated incredibly well in Japan, close to luxury in comparison to some countries.
V: The Japanese fans really paid to watch Orson Presence get a shave?
Bid: You know, most of the text on that site is true. Even the Thessaloniki piece- there *were* monks browsing through the fake-monk-beards.
V: The Japanse releases of MSet records include lyric sheets.
The early albums didn't include lyric sheets, and they wanted these in Japan, so did their own. They had some poor idiot sit in front of the
speakers and write down what he/she though I sung. These "transcriptions" of MSet lyrics were highly inaccurate- one particular song, "The Weird, Wild and, etc." was entirely wrong- pretty much every word.
I gained a reputation in Japan for being a great lyric writer. I long ago stopped thinking about this.
(to be continued to part 3)