Here's the very informative interview, based on transcriptions of our several conversations,
and those Harry Visser kindly provided. You have my gratitude!
Yours truly is displayed in bold italics, whereas Tel's words are regular.
So, here're 3 demo tracks... the ones that got us noticed by Parlophone in the first place. From May 1997...
But first, a question - how did you come across Electrascope..?
Well. One day a friend of mine told me that there's a track on his computer that I might like, so he sent me the track. It was the Flowers of Japan. And I liked it a whole lot. The first reaction was to ask him for more, and I received a couple of other 'Scope tracks, and was quite thrilled.
Interesting 'cos that's the one that got the other companies interested... we were recording in the Kinks studio, Konk (where The Libertines' 2nd was recorded), and word got around that there was this band that was doing this "great track"... and before you could spit we had three companies at Konk's door trying to get to meet us.
All the songs were recorded in six sessions, by the way. Eden (London), Konk (London), Axis (Sheffield), Konk again, and two at The Chapel in Lincolnshire.
I don't know if you were aware as to our managers back then..? Firstly, we had Joe Davidson who was the original manager of "The La's" (from Sept '97 to Aug '98), then we went with Cerne Canning (who discovered, and manages, Franz Ferdinand) - that's when things really "took off", as it were. We stayed with Cerne until his management company Sermon went bust after the great Island records cull in 1999. All four of his acts lost their deals; Warm Jets, Tiger, Strangelove and Jack.
Yeah - DOH! - but he's certainly back on his feet now - 20% of everything FF make is a lot of dosh! They're already bigger than The Smiths (who Cerne looked after at Rough Trade) ever were in USA. You're either hot or you're not...
Yep, FF is quite a big name these days. I haven't really got into them, though.
Yeah, well, not really my bag either. I don't think I'm particularly androgynous. :)
I've lived the majority of my life in a Yorkshire mining town (Mexborough) so the music/attitude/politics/style have always been a lot harder. Possibly the reason I've come "this close" to a massive record deal on three occasions but have always managed, somehow, to fall out with the respective label managing directors.
So next my friend told me a funny rumour regarding Electrascope (this can be seen on my page) - that Coldplay was playing support for them and that the lead singer remarked that they wouldn't accept a recording contract without the label first dropping a certain boy band.
It is true! BUT wrong label and wrong band. The band was Boyzone. The label was RCA... the M.D. was Harry Magee. They had been chasing us (chiefly with Head of A+R Per Kviman and Louis Bloom - who discovered Busted, BTW) for a while and travelled the 200 miles to our rehearsal room in Sheffield. They asked me what we wanted from RCA...
I said they should be a truly great label again like in the days of Elvis / Bowie / Lou / Iggy and suggested that if they wanted to be respected again they should sign us and drop Boyzone immediately. Otherwise we would be sorely lacking in credibility. They took offence to this but asked us to record some new songs for them anyway. I refused and wrote the song Boys in retaliation... Andy Ross / Food Records paid for it to be recorded! :)
We did it at the Chapel in Lincolnshire (with the Darkness' Permission To Land engineers) with World Wrapped Around Me in a couple of days. Shite really. Not a patch on the last session at Chapel in September 1999.
The sentiment was good on Boys... I needed more time to refine the lyrics and the amps / guitars used were not the right timbre.
In fact, now I remember the real reason we went up to the Chapel... Peter Hook was in the studio next door (doing Monaco's second) and we wanted him to redo / produce our entire album from scratch. We shared the same tour manager, Gary Knighton, and he wanted us to meet up. Any Last Requests was done in the same room as Transmission by Joy Division, by the way, at Eden in Chiswick.
You mentioned *three* instances of coming close to record label success. Care to elaborate?
First time was with my band "The Way". It was in a similar vein to an 80's band called The Redskins (you might not have heard of them). We started in '85 in the middle of the miners' strike. Things took off in 1986 when we recorded a demo called "Strike To Win" and sent it to Go Discs' A+R man Phil Jupitus (or Porky as he was known back then)... he loved it and began to "big us up" in London.
Haha... he got us our first gigs outside Yorkshire and it took us/me on a journey that lasted until 1990. We were THE most politically charged band in the country but as a result no label would sign us. I played all over Russia at the request of the Politburo in 1989, before the Iron Curtain came down, when I was only 20.
Toured with Joe Strummer on the Rock Against The Rich tour in 1988. Also with New Model Army and Housemartins (me and Paul Heaton became good mates).
In 1988, Tracie Young from The Jam joined on backing vocals.
(I'm trying to remember important shit)
Eh, the main thing about The Way is that in the end it led to Groove Armada. Andy Cato was trombonist and Jonathan White (my best mate, and the best man at my wedding) is regarded as the best bass player in popular music... he plays for Madonna / Robbie Williams / John Squire.
They are fuckin' loaded whereas I still live on a council estate in poverty, on welfare, haha! The great thing is when I go to Groove Armada gigs (actually going to see them in Nottingham this week) and I go backstage it's like "The Godfather" has arrived, haha! They know who was the boss! :)
Jon played live backing for Madonna in Ibiza this summer... said it was the hardest gig he'd ever done but I think he's forgetting when we played at The Toby Jug in Barnsley. He knows what I mean.
Oh, and when I update the page you're going to direct him there or something.
He's already seen it... he was bassist in The On (and sings squawky BVs).
What was "The Way" like? Did you do any studio recordings back then and of these days has anything survived?
Yep... we paid for them remastering last year... about sixteen tracks altogether... they had to bake the master tapes for two weeks.
The Redskins, BTW, released one album, "Neither Washington, Nor Moscow" then split and the lead singer disappeared forever (I think he was bumped off).
You've gotten "The Way" tracks remastered -- are you planning to release them someday or are you negotiating a release deal for them or something?
Mmm... not really. I've spent a large part of the last year trying to get hold of my masters and finding machines to play them on... E.g. some of our recordings were mastered on the first Sony Betamax Digital machines before the DAT tape came along. But finding a working machine is difficult. Our favourite track, Religion, has a dropout towards the end that we just can't seem to fix.
The Way stuff was remastered just for the original band members, I suppose... I might rip it. My first recordings are from April 1985, haha. Nearly 20 years at the top!!!
Oh hell, Betamax. I'm so sorry for you guys.
I feel a bit like Status Quo, come to think of it... before I formed The Way I used to play bass in a Hendrix tribute band with members of Saxon - I was fifteen. And I started my first band, Magpie, in 1980 when I was eleven. Played bass and sang in that one.
Been playing Double Bass since I was seven! That's eight double basses you can hear tracked up on Naughty Amelia Jane and Peephole. There's about 80 different layers to Peephole... it took a month and a half to record on an old Revox half inch 8-track. Over a year to complete the ten (original) tracks.
Just for the record - the doctrine with The On was "no synthesis". Only real instruments or "found sounds" could be used. This was due to me spending time with George Martin going through the Sgt. Pepper's tapes at the beginning of 1992. We borrowed musicians from local youth orchestras for strings and brass.
The On's line-up was me (vocals, guitar, piano), Jonathan White (Bass, BVox) and Keith Angel (Drums, percussion). It was, in the beginning, very much a democracy between the three of us and this lasted from Oct 1992 till July 1993. At this point their respective brothers, Rob White and Dave Angel, joined the band and from then on things got complicated... imagine Oasis with two sets of Gallaghers and me in the middle.
We knew it was going to be tough to recreate the songs live but we'd decided to go for a more guitar based thing with me not playing guitar but just being up front and doing a bit of piano. We did a few gigs out of town under another name (Magic Bomb) and prepared for an event that was called "The Birth Of The On". To get in you had to have a special "golden ticket".
Due to us inviting the Prime Minister and (honestly) getting a reply, we made our first TV appearance to co-incide with our first official gig... the tickets were limited to 300. The night of the gig there were about 400 people trying to get in, and failing... it was fuckin' mad.
Word soon got back to record companies - first on the scene being, ironically, RCA - and within a week we were at Island's studios in London doing a remix of Naughty Amelia Jane. We immediately did another gig in our hometown pulling in an audience of 500 and we started to get a massive local following...
The problem was, me and Jon and Rob had lived together for nearly two years and we had a massive bust-up over something. We'd all been skint since the band started and so when Jon and Keith got offered lots of money to go on tour with a pantomime they went willingly. End of band. Jon and myself managed to recover our friendship over time but Keith and I are sworn enemies. We could have been one of the all-time best pop bands but we blew it.
We nearly got back together in 1996 but after a couple of rehearsals it was clear Keith and I would never have the same relationship again... shame, because he plays a mean bongo!
So, what'd Rob and Dave play during their stay?
Both played guitar... Dave is fuckin' unbelievable... it's him who does the run-up on "Here... (And then she's gone)". He was always soooo boring to me in those days, though now I understand his dry wit much more. He was about seven years older than I was, and lived for "real-ale contests".
Rob White... where do I begin..? To me he's the only artist I know who's smarter and more out-there and underground than me by a fuckin' stellar mile. He's cut his hair now but when he was in The On he had the same cut as Joey Ramone... he looked like a crazed Muppet... you could never see his eyes!
Anyway, Rob and I began recording together about a month back... it sounds a bit like 50 sci-fi movies but without resorting to theremins... and it's got a throbbing beat and mad drums. No singing as of yet... don't think it needs it.
You've gone darkwave.
You should hear Rob's version of "Voodoo Chile" recorded using a very primitive Casio sampler... classic.
BTW, at the second gig of The On, the support band was The Magic Bomb, which by then had grown into a serious side project for Jon and Rob. A bit like XTC / Dukes of Stratosphear alter egos. Its live line-up consisted of a monkey banging two cymbals together, a seven foot tall bulbhead dressed as Napoleon intermittently revealing a ringing alarm clock and, finally, ... The Frontman - Adolf Hitler !!!
They played / mimed two songs ("Un Baba Deux Baba" and "Puss Puss") and then left forever. I have footage of an extremely bewildered audience... a bit like "Springtime For Hitler" in Mel Brooks' The Producers. Oh - and the stage had over 500 balloons!
We even brought our own piano from the studio - the piano was chromed! Carried it up six flights of stairs, haha! I think I went through a full eyeliner pencil in one night, too... God, I was weird back then.
My fave ever gig, aside from blowing Mansun offstage in Oxford with Electrascope, was at the Scarborough Scooter Rally in June 1985. Lots of Who / Kinks / Soul standards to about 1000 crazed mods who took us on their shoulders and loved every minute so much that the plaster on the ceiling from the floor below fell off. One lad gave me his trilby hat and said it was the best gig he'd ever been to...
Playing with Strummer was a defining moment in my life because I realised that, at heart, I didn't care about the record deal, fame, cash, etc. I was in a dressing room with Joe, on our own, playing London Calling, White Man etc... for an hour before the gig and he even made the NME - who were there for an interview - fuck off until we'd finished jamming...
I stayed with him and the director Alex Cox the whole weekend ending with a party in Joe's hotel room in Sheffield, where he told me stuff I'll never tell anyone else because it was between him and me. I cried my fuckin' eyes out when I heard he died. I'm good mates with his drummer from the Mescaleros (he plays in John Squire's band with Jon White).
Notice there's a new band titled Electrascope out there now? Actually not a new band - they only recently took the name.
There's a story behind this...
His name is Paul Roberts and he replaced Hugh Cornwell in The Stranglers... that's not the interesting part. He used to come with our/their tour manager Gary Knighton to Electrascope gigs and enthuse about us. Well, I saw the page, and informed him that we are still together as a band!
I was fuckin' pissed off at him and threatened to call my new band The Stranglers in retaliation, haha... but Paul's a nice chap and he has agreed to drop the name as we are getting back together in some form or other after the new year.
[Sure enough, the band soon backed off and reverted the name! Haha!]
Suppose I better tell you the line-up, eh? Electrascope were and are: Tel Sutton (vox/guitar); Jon Lord (guitar); Phil Gardiner (pianoforte/synths); Simon Cardie (bass guitar/bvox); and, last but not least, Ian "Doink" Deakin (drums) who has been with me since the beginning of The Way (except for The On). I wrote, sang, played, produced, "conducted the strings", etc, etc. It was Simon who primarily left the band, and Phil followed soon after...
...both had been promoted in their respective jobs in Feb 2000 and, with them both having new families, they (once again) went for the money. Their wives had a lot to do with it, I think. Me and Ian had both had families throughout the life of the band but we still soldiered on.
I see you got The Breaks... I think you might like that and Powderman... Powderman's a bit "epic", but not in the Faith No More sense, haha... they were recorded on a Tascam 688 cassette multitrack so the quality ain't too bad, considering. I'm a big fan of home demos and I don't think we ever got near the atmosphere of the demo of Atlantis when we went to a 48-track monster like Konk / Chapel.
They're from the original Electrascope demo, A Rare Delight. 02. Atlantis; 03. The Breaks; 06. Powderman... I'm trying to find other three: 01. Surrounded; 04. X - The Unknown and 05. Sunday Lovers
Cannot find a decent copy... Breaks etc. were on a minidisc, but have a slight glitch in Atlantis / Powderman... got to wait till Jon White back from Groove Armada tour to do it properly.
There are a few solo tracks too... "Big World", "Disappointed", "Gone", "I've Got My Gun", "For The Birds", "Seventeen Again" and two versions of a song called "The Painter". Plus there's another nine minutes long version of Powderman done with a sixteen piece string section that sounds like Wish You Were Here -era Floyd with Neil Young on vox.
I've got about 40 new songs that I've written since Electrascope split. :) Never forgotten Cerne's advice to me... "Go away and come back in five years".
You're certainly keeping busy then, what with your family and stuff -- plus you mentioned that the old band'll be getting together, which sounds terrific.
Well, you know, we spent 12 months recording an LP for Parlophone / Food and after I gave Coldplay the support to my band at the Borderline, Parlophone dropped working with us and signed Coldplay instead... the rest, as they say, is history.
They stole my act! Listen to Promenade or World Wrapped Around Me and you'll see what I mean... don't like to slag 'em off though, as Chris was very nice. He had to be, as he was borrowing my gear! Haha.
After we lost our deal to Coldplay I was so depressed... but I tried not to show it to my family and friends and it did me no good at all. It even led to my wife and I separating for a while in May 1999. I went off to the States to do a bit of radio promotion (did a show with Marky Ramone in L.A.) and when I got back, I was fucked up...
I had a fuckin' nervous breakdown. But I'm OK now, haha.
I view the Borderline show as a turning point in British music - they could have gone one way or the other and Keith Woozencroft (head of Parlophone) decided on what I like to call "the soft option". I suppose I better state, for the record, that it was me who hand-picked Coldplay from three bands to support us (after hearing their demos in the office) so the fault was all mine, heh.
Must've been pretty awful.. did Parlophone just instantaneously dump you guys out of the blue or did they have some longer grudge going?
Yes.. a longer grudge. Now, we recorded Any Last Requests for them (Lou Reed's Berlin was what I was heavily into at the time we recorded it), and they were so pleased they wanted to see us play. So they booked us into top rehearsal rooms, "Nomis" in London... but they fucked up and double booked us, so we had to go to an awful fuckin' place that didn't even have a real P.A. and 5 minutes after setting up Woozencroft walked in - this is September 1997, BTW - so we played a stormer set...
...after about six or seven songs he turned around and said, "That was brilliant..! You remind me sooo much of Jefferson Airplane".
To which, I replied, "WHICH FUCKIN' PLANET ARE YOU ON..!?!"
See, that's the kind of a honesty I assume a record exec might *not* like all that much. Sorry.. can't stop laughing.
Now Miles Leonard had wanted to sign us straight away, but after this Keith said no, obviously. One year passed and we ended up with Cerne and the ball got rolling very fast with Food (Andy Ross) putting up all the money for the demos. BUT. Food are a part of Parlophone and when Andy went to get approval to sign us at the general board meeting, Woozencroft once again met him with a flat "NO"!
Andy thought we could have been bigger than Blur, the band he discovered. He always used to say "You'll be as big as fuckin' Dire Straits!" :)
Anyway, as Woozencroft walked out of our set with Coldplay he did it so that I noticed him leave. He walked right across the front of me, stopped, turned to face me, turned away and then walked out. So as he walked away I tried to gob on him.
You mean, hock him a loogie?
Yep, and as they say - "word gets around" fast in London... Cerne was furious, and backstage I was moody as fuck. Chris Martin came up and said "great gig mate" and I just turned around and said "Can't you see I'm fuckin' busy? Now FUCK OFF!"
It had been a bad night with many complications involving a mistress and an advertising exec from "Dazed and Confused" magazine, plus we had The Verve's roadie, and we had a few too many before the performance. Don't drink anymore since that night really...
The Breaks - wrote it on the balcony of my apartment about 3 A.M. when I was studying music at California State University... Jan 1996... I wanted to write a song for Sinatra and came up with this... it was going to be the centrepiece of the Electrascope LP but we were going to wait until signed and had money to hire a full orchestra.
We were looking at many different producers... we actually had a meeting with Bob "Berlin" Ezrin and John Leckie.
Bob "Berlin || Wall" Ezrin.
Do you have a favourite Electrascope track, then..? And did I ask you that already?
From the Parlophone collection, gosh, Flowers of Japan, I guess. Any Last Requests would be the second choice. It sounds a hell of a lot like Radiohead, by the way, although I'm sure you've had people tell you that before.
Yes, we have, haha. But Radiohead love it. Especially Colin Greenwood, who said it frightened him. They came to see us in Oxford with Mansun... we had a lot of bands hanging around, Travis, Gomez, Idlewild, Cornershop, and we played with a lot of the bands around then. Ultrasound, Campag... also, we had to support Toploader and Cast, haha! Toploader are all DEAD, thankfully, but Cast were amazing when we played with them... quite brilliant to be honest!
Any Electrascope tracks you thought were shite? I bet I could guess..!
Dire shite, now that's a tougher one. Brr.. I guess it would be either It's War! or Boys. There's something about the production of Boys that kicks me in the face. Haha. I can't really elaborate any further on that.
Y'know when we recorded Boys we had about 25 other songs we'd just done... all better than that but we didn't want to give them to 'em. We were evolving pretty fast and Theme from Electrascope came out of those. There're some rehearsal tapes, and there must be around 50 or 60 song ideas that we didn't get around to recording. Two tracks in particular...
"Memory Grip" and "Westward Ho!" were off the scale. It kinda went like early Pink Floyd meets Pavement with Jerry Dammers producing at around the time of "More Specials"... things were getting dub-by
Oh, man. I just remembered - the original version of Exiles was much longer... almost ten minutes with five different sections... still have the rehearsal tapes. We just didn't have the time to finish recording / arranging it in the studio. We only had the string section (from the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester) for one day at Chapel and I really had my work cut out...
We were listening to a lot of Trojan... "The Revolutionaires", King Tubby...
Then there were some tracks that were almost "Spirit of Eden" era Talk Talk in comparison... don't know if you thought that about the beginning of The Breaks but that kind of was the intention.
Have you heard of a band called Plush? Palace..? "Arise Therefore"... fuckin' essential! Liam Hayes arranged "Arise..." in 1993 and then formed Plush. They released the single "Three-Quarters Blind Eyes / Found a Little Baby" and it was NME single of the year 1995.
I'm looking 'em up right now. Haha -- there's a track on the LP titled "You Have Cum in Your Hair and Your Dick is Hanging Out", how can that be beat.
Everybody was waiting for the album but it never came... five years on he started work on the LP, Steve Albini producing. It was released in 2002 in Japan only... it's called "Fed" and it's a masterpiece... up there with the best LPs ever made but no one has heard it except for those of us lucky enough to get hold of an import... he's a master of career suicide - my favourite hobby as you now know. :)
Yes, you've obviously turned it into an art form and we're all waiting for your next installation.
Anyway, this week the demos of "Fed" were released to great acclaim over here.. it's called "Underfed" and if you like lo-fi it's the opposite to Fed's grandiose perfection...
We nearly supported Pixies with The Way in Attercliffe in 1987 (I think), by the way. I turned it down 'cos we'd just played there the week before... a tiny little club that held about 100, tops.
Ooh! A friend of mine wanted to ask you if you do something for a living?
No... I'm an artist, goddammit, and spend my time "creating"! And if you'll believe that you'll believe anything... I'm currently residing between the "Where are they now?" and "Who was he anyway?" files. At this moment in time I'm listening to about 15 songs I wrote recently, and I'm trying to decide which bits to keep and which to kill.
He imagined you might have a steady job.
I say this in all honesty when I say I have NEVER had a steady job... except worked on a building site for two weeks to get some money for christmas once... another time in a steelworks for a week (like many students do) when I was 18. When I haven't been busy with a band I've been in education or looking after my wife who suffers from really bad anxiety attacks.
I have two degrees and I'm probably gonna do my M.A. in Film at some point in the next couple of years... I'm a bit of an expert and have a few neat scripts I've been working on for years. My wife gets disability and I get income support because I have to do everything outside the house pretty much... it's one of the reasons why I've had less time to be involved in the strict nature of a band.
My new songs are the best I've ever written... I'd put them up against Neil Young / Ray Davies / Jimmy Webb at their best... I'm beginning to get a firm grip on the structure and melody.
Got anything you can reveal about your scripts that doesn't run mutually exclusive with me living on?
One is a dramatisation of the life of Sylvia Pankhurst set in a modern, rather than Victorian, period setting... the film begins at the election of Kier Hardie and their subsequent relationship, and ends with her final days stoned out of her mind with Haile Salassie in Ethiopia.
The other is a kids' film called "Joker's Wild"... it's kind-of early-Spielberg... a horror movie / saturday matinee adventure. Another has a working title of "Dads" and is set on a council housing estate very much like the one where I live... it's brutal stuff... lots of drugs and revenge ahoy!
Electrascope quest index