An interview with Tim Turan
Tim Turan interviewed by Professor Martin Cloonan, University of Glasgow on 22nd July 2016:
I think that you can facilitate stuff but as soon as you try and enforce some kind of dictatorial kind of thing, especially on musicians and you’re not one yourself, you’re going to get people like me rearing their ugly heads and going “Woah, woah, woah, whoah, whoah”.
Let’s start with you and your own background. Can you tell me about how you got in to this and what your background as a musician is?
My background as a musician is I was born and raised in London and I was really in to sound as a kid, just noise. I had very acute hearing when I was a kid, you know you have the medical at school and the doctor, I always remember him saying “Good Lord I can see your eardrum”. So the sound kind of goes straight in. I could hear the ice cream van from miles away, that kind of thing.
So it went from sounds to music, listening to just the radio really, my Mum used to have the radio on when i was a kid. So I had a big classical music background, used to go to classical concerts as a kid with the school as a way of getting out of lessons. And then it became addictive, I really adored watching a full orchestra with a conductor.
Then in 1970 my mate had an older brother who was playing this record which transfixed me and that was Emerson, Lake and Palmer’s first album and in particular it was a track called “Tank” which had a drum solo on it, Carl Palmer, and I was mesmerised. All I’d ever heard was things like Ringo and pitty patty pop drummers in the background being glorified metronomes whereas this guy was like the lead drums if you like.
So I thought that was fantastic. So I thought “I want to play the drums”, which I then duly did. So I get my first drum aged 12, at the age of 14 I joined my first band and started buying hi fi gear to feed my insatiable appetite for sound really.
I remember in particular buying, I’ve still got it upstairs, my son used it when he was living at home, he thought it was a crazy device – a graphic equaliser, 12 bands per channel. And all my mates when they saw it for the first time said “What the fuck’s that thing? What does that do? What is it?” I went “It makes your records sound better” and I’ve been doing it ever since. (laughs) Here I am aged 56, 42 years later, still making records sound better, producer, engineer.
I was signed to EMI in 79 with a band called The Car Thieves and that gave me access to Abbey Road. We recorded a single at Abbey Road and KPM Studios in Denmark Street as well. I got my first access to big, proper, studios.
And it went from there. So I spent my life learning my craft of just recording and engineering bands. I gave a lecture at Wolfson College a couple of years ago and the photo for the thing was that (shows pics) – that’s the Solid State Logic mixing console at Olympic Studios. So you’re talking “Led Zep 4”, “Exile on Main Street”, everything Slade did, “Axis: Bold As Love”, Hendrix – Olympic Studio 2.
Amazingly it’s not a holy grail place, well it is a holy grail place, but it’s not out of your reach. It’s just 1500 quid a day so it’s a middle aged man with disposable income, sort of paragliders and windsurfers vibe, I bide my time in being in world class studios.
So that’s been my life and mastering to me is. Well you kind of start off being interested, for example, being interested in biology, then you do an A level, then you sort of study medicine and qualify as a junior doctor, then you’re a doctor, then you become a bit more of a doctor and then you end up as a consultant surgeon which is what I am in my profession. You just rise through the ranks.
So at the age I’m at now, I’m 56, I’ve encountered pretty much every instrument, every kind of band, every kind of scenario.. ‘cos I’ve never done anything else.
How did you end up in Oxford?
My wife Ro is from Oxford. I met her on holiday in Cornwall. So I’ve got this girlfriend in Oxford. So you come up to Oxford to se your girlfriend. That was 1983.
And I had this typical London sort of attitude, you know, “I’m from the centre of the music universe, I’m from London. Look at all these funny little people trying to be cool”. And it turns out that they were insanely talented, very nice, individuals. All of them. I’ve never mad a bad person really, not like backstabbing London. God it was so different coming here.
And I was kinda charmed. So I thought “Fuck London, I’m gonna come here”. And you fast forward 20 years and I’m sat in the front row at Madison Square Garden watching me mates, Radiohead. So it’s funny how stuff pans out.
But the quality of people and musicians in this town is unbelievably good. In fact I can’t think of anywhere on the planet better to be quite honest as a scene. It’s unbelievable. Especially when you look at a copy of Nightshift, 6 pages of gig guide. I mean 6 pages! There’s like 20 things on a night. (7.00) And that’s rock, pop, classical, avant garde, The Oxford Improvisers’ Co-op, esteemed jazz musicians.
One of the questions I was going to ask was whether particular genres are strong or weak in Oxford but you kinda see it across the board as pretty good?
Yeah, well there’s a lot of indie bands that are completely unaware of the classical scene or the folk scene or the jazz scene. You know, the Oxford Jazz Festival. I recorded lots of artists at the Oxford Jazz Festival, you’ve got people like John Etheridge, Andy Summers, Harry Beckett, Lol Coxhill, Paul Rutherford, George Haslam. These are some of the UK’s top jazz musicians and there they are in Oxford. And of course when they’re not playing, they’re just in Oxford’s wonderful pubs. They’re down the Turf Tavern or sat in the Crown off the High Street or the Trout.
So massively diverse really in Oxford, really diverse and unusual. Oxford has a kind of town/gown thing.
I was going to ask about the universities later
Well, ask away. Whatever you want.
What are the main things facing Oxford’s musicians at the moment? Are there good or bad things going on?
It’s largely good things. If anything there’s maybe too many.
That reflects my experience in Glasgow where I sometimes think that there are too many gigs
There’s too many bands for the venues.
We had Truck Festival which started as a kind of local event which was built in to something wider. But it still essentially provides a platform for a lot of local bands. Even so for every band that plays, there’s 20 that didn’t.
We have the (Cowley Road) Carnival that just took place the other weekend and there must be 10 or so stages of local bands. I was playing myself with one of the three bands that I play in.
You spoke to Richard Ramage and Angust Stevenson?
They’re my cohorts in The Relationships.
(Discussion of “Scene” album)
He’s a great songwriter, old Richard,
Angus is particularly good at plucking gorgeous guitar melodies.
It’s a lovely album
What have been the big successes and failurs over the years in Oxford?
The big successes really kinda starting with… Well on a kinda global thing, Ride really.
Why do you think that Ride came out of Oxford of all places?
It just sort of happens really. It sort of happens. There was already a very healthy music scene which was why I was here. I kicked my entire life in to touch – the centre of the music universe in London – and moved to Oxford and you can imagine what all my friends in London thought – “What the fuck are you gonna do? Go punting and play ukulele?”
So no stereotyping?!
Oh no, not at all!
What am I gonna do? Ride around a cobbled street, in a gown, on a bicycle with a basket on the front full of books on theology? That kind of stereotyping.
But, no, there’s this piece of London attached to the side of Oxford and it’s called Cowley and in particular it’s OX4, this magical postcode which people all pick up on. There’s loads of bands have got reference to OX4 in their lyrics, in song titles, we’ve had CDs come out called “OX4”, compilations and so forth.
And when you’re young and you’re in a band and you want to smoke a bit of dope and hang out with the bohemians and be cool you’ve got to go to where they are and this is the part of town where they were. They weren’t in North Oxford, they weren’t off the Botley Road, they weren’t in Headington. It was Cowley, as the place where you would score drugs and play music (12.00) and hang out with bohemians and artists and poets.
We still refer to OX4 as the People’s Republic of East Oxford (laughs)
When I was at Ruskin in the mid 80s I was very aware of walking up the Cowley Road and you were suddenly in this different universe
I’d come from Stoke Newington and to me this was like Stoke Newington light.
And you knew you were going to bump in to cool, interesting, people
Yeah - and score! Anything!
So it was just a cool place.
It’s funny actually if you look on a political map of the UK, you see this huge centre of England, this blue blob and there’s this one red dot in the middle and that is here, that is this place here.
It’s a bit like Austen in Texas
Yea, absolutely. It’s just a hotbed..
It’s funny, the Council used to have this thing called Fun in the Parks.
I was going to ask if the Council had been helpful over the years
Not really, they could have.
But they still support the Cowley Road festival?
I suppose the Council has some involvement in it because obviously they’ve got to shut the street and being the bin lorries up afterwards and clear up and everything, but I’ll tell you it brings people in and generates cash.
Let’s go back to Fun in the Parks
The Fun in the Parks thing was like the Council’s kinda way of trying to provide for the music scene. It was kind of OK, it was good fun. The first time I saw bands in Oxford was at the Jericho Festival in 1984 I think and it convinced me to move up here, just because of how cool the musicians were. I mean hey were all naïve, you know, putting cassettes in jiffy bags and sending them off to “Head of EMI” and hoping to…
But I came up here and showed people how to cut records, ‘cos that’s what I did with my band. I was in a reggae band called Joshua who were massively popular sort of through 86 and 87. In 1986 we made our own album simply by going to a studio and paying the bill and going to a cutting room and paying the bill and going to a company the presses records and paying that bill. And then a lorry arrives outside your house with your records on it and you had no record label, no manager, no agent, not third party. We did it ourselves.
So this was very appealing to one particular person called Dave Newton who was intrigued as to how we’d made our own record without labels and managers and agents and so on. And then he brought out a record called “The Jericho Collection” I think in 1988 which featured a lot of local artists and he brought out a magazine, well it was kind of a folded piece of paper really, called Local Support.
It turned in to Gig magazine and I think that’s mainly when Ronan came along. And then I think Ronan took the bull by the horns in terms of this thing and had Curfew, which I managed to get on the front of. I think every one of my mates managed to get on the front cover of Curfew and managed to get on the cover of Nightshift too. But that’s because we were making music and Ronan champions good music makers.
It’s kinda like a glue. There’s a lot of things I said in that film that never made the cut, but one of them is you really need… To have a scene you need a central point of information.
If someone rings me up and says “What are the good studios in Oxford”, I say “Look at Nightshift”. If someone says “Are there any good gigs on in town?”, I say “Get a copy of Nightshift”. “You don't know anywhere where I can hire a P.A., do you?”, “Get a copy of Nightshift”. “What’s on at the Zodiac?” - “Get a copy of Nightshift”.
So it’s… all the phone numbers are in there, you can read about all the bands and Ronan will review you. You might end up in the demo dumper. It doesn’t matter though, it’s all accolade. “Are you not in Nightshift or are you?” is what’s become, are you or are you not in there. It doesn’t matter that you get slagged off, if no one’s talking about you you don’t exist.
It’s a bit like punk and people writing fanzines and saying these people are important and interesting
Yep. Sniffin’ Glue and those kind of things. Street publications which is what I think Curfew was to start with. It still is really with Nightshift, it’s a street publication. It’s written by avid music lovers. I think Ronan did play keyboards in a band once, I’ve never known him in a band but I think he did have a dabbling once.
He’s been really good. He’s also been really fair as well. When something is truly bad you have to say it (laughs)
You do, partly because otherwise you’re doing the bands themselves no favours
Yeah, you know, you’ve got some dreadful rubbish and you try and be nice and kind and everything, well you’re leading people up the wrong path. I might go out and buy that on that review and then go “You’ve got to be kidding Ronan”.
I think also that the bar is really high in Oxford in terms of quality. It’s higher than anywhere else I know actually. Because here’s who raised the bar – Ride, Swervedriver, Radiohead, Supergrass, Foals, Unbelievable Truth, Nubiles, Dustball, Stornaway, Goldrush, Animal House, Young Knives. Good God these are all, most of them, global concerns.
I remember cutting Unbelievable Truth’s album, Thom Yorke’s brothers band, back in 99, something like that and a week later they’re on Jools Holland. (19.00)
I see Gaz and the boys and the next minute they’re on Jools Holland. I seem Thom, Jonny or Colin from Radiohead and the next minute they’re on Jools Holland. It’s like wow!, these are guys up my street.
It’s not like this giant city of Oxford, because it isn’t, it’s tiny. These are all people that you kinda bump in to waling up the Cowley Road and you do, you do.
I remember walking in to PMT Music Shop and there’s Thom Yorke stood at the counter talking to Dave Smart. Now Dave Smart was the manager of the shop. He was also the leader of the band called SevenChurch who were the kind of original doom metal band. If you look at polls for the greatest doom metal bands of all time then Seven Church will be right at the top and I helped produce that album back in Fleece Studios in the 80s. I still have the two multitracks up in my archive actually.
But there’s Thom Yorke talking about the demise of vinyl and we’re all stood there, the three of us. Danny, when he was at the Music Shop, was laughing a this guy trying to play “Paranoid Android” in the guitar booth. Johnny’s in the shop and Danny’s going “Go on”. Johnny opens the door and goes “No, no, no – that’s the chord there”. And the guy’s like “Jesus, God!”.
And that’s it. That’s what happens in our town. It’s just fun really, how local it is.
It seems to me quite important that there are these people around and that you bump in to them as you do bump in to people in the pub and I think that’s important for bands coming through as it shows that you can go out and have international success and still be based here
I think this is one of the few places they can do that.
Adam Franklin from Swervedriver, I see him in the pub quite often and not just the bands but the crew as well, Duncan, Adam, Plank, all of Radiohead’s crew you can see them in the pub, down the Rusty Bike, in the Magdelen Arms. One minute you’re watching Duncan pushing Thom Yorke’s piano across the stage or giving Johnny Greenwood a guitar in front of 100,000 people in Primavera and then next minute you’re in the pub having a beer talking about “Oh God I have to fix the glockenspiel”. So I go “Oh, right so they’re doing “No Surprises?””. He goes “Yeah”, he’s going “It’s all in pieces so I’ve got the wood glue and the pins out”. And it’s quite funny cos the very next night after him telling me that story we were at Primavera and there they are playing “No Surprises” and there’s Johnny with the little glockenspiel and I’m thinking “I know the story of that glockenspiel. It was in pieces two days ago”.
And all these folk are still here. They’re just still here.
Another part of any scene is venues and I wondered if you could reflect on oxford venues over the years
Well, really the big venue, when I first came here, the one that you had to play at was The Jericho Tavern. There were other venues like The Coven, the Penny Farthing, the Corn Dolly, which is now The Cellar, Caribbean Club.
Where was The Caribbean Club?
Paradise Street. Of course, I was in a reggae band so we got to play that quite frequently. But it was never really a band friendly place. It was a Jamaican stronghold and it was just like people would turn up to see your band playing and they’d go “You’ve got to be a member”. “How much is it to get in?” “3 pound, but you got to be a member”. “How much is that?’ “10 pound” (laughs). Just to go in the club.
I’d say “Oh, we’ve got a gig at the Caribbean Club next Friday” and of course Joshua, who was the leader of the band, he’s from the Blue Mountains in Jamaica and it’s all his mates, the West Indian community, centred around the Caribbean Club. So anybody who wanted to come to the gig there had to join the Club. So you had this membership fee of 10 quid and then you pay your 3 quid to come in, but you can’t pay your 3 quid to come in until you’ve paid your 10 pound membership, so it became massively unpopular.
But the venues, yeah, there was the Corn Dolly, the Penny Farthing. The Jericho Tavern was the place, obviously.
But then the Co-op Hall opened. I remember playing there the second week after it had opened. There was 2 guys. It was Mike Kannougin and Richard Duriez. I think it was mentioned in the film because I’m sort of narrating that little bit and saying “It was just like an old school hall” and the bar was two trestle tables and the Victoria Wine off licence was next door and you got Party 7’s. I don’t know how legal it was, but that was it.
And then I think Nick Moorbath bought the place, him and Adrian Hicks, using money supplied by some of the bands that had made a bit of money. Radiohead had something put in that, Supergrass had something put in that and it was renamed The Venue for a little bit and then it was renamed The Zodiac and it became the Zodiac of legend and fame.
The film finishes at the time The Zodiac’s finishing
Yeah, we played the last night. The last night was based around who they could get to play. So we had Unbelievable Truth played downstairs, me and Richard were playing upstairs, the Nubiles were playing with Tara Milton, Tara who could have been in Supergrass but… It’s a funny old story. There are so many brilliant stories.
And of course the Candyskins, for fuck’s sake. I’m out for dinner tonight with Mark Cope from the Candyskins, one of my closest mates. Mark Gardener from Ride is one of my other closest mates. I was at the sushi bar with him last week and he’s a regular round here. Mark’s a mixer now. So he mixes stuff and brings it here. We’ve known each for fucking donkeys’ (years).
So it’s quite funny cos when you get big bands come up to Oxford, I think we had Bonobo were playing, so you’ve got Simon Green, the main guy who’s Bonobo and he says “Are you Mark Gardener?” “Yeah” “Oh fucking hell, I’ve got all your records. You’re one of my heroes”. So we have big bands come to Oxford and find that they’ve got their heroes in the audience and it’s just our old mates which is quite funny.
Because no one pissed off to go and live in LA.
I think that’s really important that people are still about because it makes it feel like and ongoing scene
It’s never really had a weak point. There’s been a few times where one or two venues have shut and they’ve all been up in arms but within a jiff there’s another one open.
We’ve had The Point, the Elm Tree, the Bullingdon which has gone through I don’t know how many incarnations. For a couple of years it was called The Art Bar quite recently, but it’s a nice little venue.
I’m told the room is pretty good there now
Well The Ruts played there. I’ve seen Hazel O’Connor there. I’ve seen Lillian Boutte from New Orelans there. I saw The Blockheads there with Phil Jupitus on vocals, at the Bullingdon. I saw Tony Blackburn fucking DJ-ing there! So it’s quite extraordinary, the attraction.
How have things worked out with the O2? Do they do much for the local scene? (27.52)
The upstairs room, which is the old Zodiac. As far as the O2 is concerned, it’s a horrible smelly box which an appalling sound. It’s the O2. They sell telephones. It’s a telephone company, an entertainment company. It’s not really about a great sounding venue, it’s O2. It’s like Carling, Coca Cola, Nike, this corporate stink.
You get some good old bands up there. I saw Public Image up there, which was really good, chatting to Johnny Lydon after the show a couple of years ago which was. He came to see my band with Paul Cook in Dingwalls in 1979 which was quite funny, not that he’d remember. How many people has he said “hi” to in his life, it must be millions and I’m just one of them, he said “Oh, hi mate”. That’s it (laughs)
But the upstairs room, local bands play?
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
So it’s still of some use to local bands?
Yes, oh yeah. Yes, a lot of local bands still play up there and it’s the preferred room to be quite honest cos we know and love it as the Zodiac. So when Ride did their first reunion show I actually met them outside the Zodiac, they were having some press photos done and I head this guy shouting my name across the street. It was Andy Bell, because he used to live a few doors apart and of course he was with Oasis for 12 years or whatever. And it was like “Tim! Tim! How you doin’ man? I can’t wait for tonight”. “You are doing “Drive Blind”, aren’t you?” “yeah, yeah. Of course”.
And Loz is a very good friend as well. So it was brilliant to see that they’re opening show, like the very first time they’re going to play live in front of people in 25 years, is at the O2 but upstairs. Not in the downstairs bit. Upstairs. And no one calls it the 02 upstairs, we call it The Zodiac. If you say the Zodiac people know exactly what you mean, if you say the O2 people think about a horrible, smelly, box with the sticky floor and the horrible sound downstairs. So it’s still colloquially known as the Zodiac.
What about key individuals over the years?
Yeah, I mean people like Ronan, Mac, who’s a good friend, very active. He was a great promoter at the Jericho and at the Point.
What makes a great promoter?
Someone who gives a fair fucking crack of the whip, is not a snob and who knows a good band when he hears it. (31.00)
And it’s so important to not be snobby or cliquey and to give people a fair crack of the whip and that’s what Mac was always brilliant at and he’s got his own band at the moment, he was if Hot Hooves, and the band at the moment is called Baws or Baws Inc. His original band was Arthur Turner’s Love Child. Arthur Turner was the manager of Oxford United at one time and I think they actually signed their record contract with Rotator Records on the pitch at the old Manor Ground.
So Mac’s like a Man of the People. He’s massively respected and liked. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like the guy. If you don’t like him, then there’s something wrong with you probably, something probably bad that you did.
So Mac, Ronan obviously.
And Dave Newton. You know, he kind of set Shifty Disco Records, record label, but I think he just got ideas above his station a bit with Oxford Music Central which was this kind of organisation which included Mac and Ronan and Dave Newton and I used to cut all their records.
But he kinda wanted to take more control and it became kinda very cliquey. It was the same bands playing the same festivals, playing the same big shows and I think in the film I refer to it as like the ungodly alliance in the second world war of Imperialist Britain, Capitalist America and Communist Russia. “Hey, let’s be friends!”. Well let’s see how long that lasts.
And of course, naturally it came to its natural conclusion. Elements that don’t mix properly eventually separate out like salad dressings and mayonnaise and whatever, they separate out in to their elements.
Because Mac was a brilliant promoter and Ronan was a brilliant writer and Dave Newton wasn’t a really great record company guy. He wanted to be but he infuriated and upset and annoyed a lot of bands… Unbelievable Truth. There was a band called Nought who happened to be my favourite band in Oxford at the time and he was kind of like funding… In order to run a successful label you’ve got to sell some.. and I think he just struggled a bit with putting out.. They had a singles club.. Of course all this takes money. You’ve got to manufacture this stuff, you’ve got to get people signed up.
I think they had enough people signed up to it but it was the cliquey aspect really that really brought it down. Because before you know it they were all at each others’ throats. They all shared this premises in George Street which was, funnily enough the offices were above the Mongolian Wok Bar, and the cooking fumes and stuff used to filter upstairs. I used to go round their once a week delivering masters for whatever the current release was that month or that week and it always smelt like someone had left the gas on. It always smelt like if I lit a cigarette right now – then everyone used to smoke indoors – then it would just go “whoof” and we’d all end up in George Street in a pile of rubble (35.00)
So Mac went his way and got The Point and Ronan carried on doing Nightshift and I have all the time in the world for those two guys and Dave Newton got insanely lucky with Ride reforming, because he was their manager. You see, rather than running a record label, that was Dave’s forte I think, was actually being the manager of Ride. That was what he was best at, rather than being a record label guy.
Because he’d make all the numbers add up. He’d be all organised and sensible. I think he’s got a degree in Maths so that logical side I think served Ride really well. And he gave them really good advice. Mark Gardener and Loz always said to me that: “He said “Oh, buy a house with the money” and we’re very grateful for that because we have houses now”, rather than swimming pools and helicopters and that sort of thing and full wardrobes and fast cars, they actually got some bricks and mortar.
So, it’s good advice and Dave obviously got very luck with Ride deciding to reform. Because he doesn’t decide if Ride reform, Ride decide and then he goes “Well, I’m their manager and we’re going to be doing 60,000 capacity festivals and getting lots and lots and lots and lots of money”.
But they parted with him recently.
What about the relationship with the two universities. How have they impacted on the local scene?
Well, Oxford Brookes, used to be Oxford Poly, and Oxford Poly was often really renown for putting on bands. You had everyone there, like Arthur Lee’s Love, I mean when you talk about punk legend bands all my mates refer to having seen them at the Poly. Any band coming through town would probably play the Poly rather than the New Theatre or the Playhouse or any other big venue.
Was that partly because of the size of the room?
It was partly the size of the room and also back in those days there was a real thing of Poly’s putting on shows. I remember North East London Poly and Guildford University used to put on… I think polytechnics rather than Uni’s, obviously there some Uni’s, but it was polytechnics had this reputation for putting on gigs and it was part of the big gig circuit, especially for punk bands.
I had Gary from Big Audio Dynamite and Mal from Transvision Vamp in here yesterday because we are cutting a new record for their new outfit called the Rotten Hill Gang and I was saying about the old punk days, was that in the 70s, living in London, I’d go and see Genesis at Earl’s Court, Pink Floyd at Earl’s Court and someone else at Wembley and then someone else at the Hammy Odeon. Punk bands didn’t play these places. They played in the Pied Bull or the Hope and Anchor or the Nashville Rooms and they said “yeah, yeah”, the Moonlight in Hampstead, the Greyhound, they played in shitty pubs.
That’s what I like about it in Oxford, people still essentially play in shitty pubs. It means you get close to the music.
And of course the Poly was.. I don't know if you can still play at Brookes now. I think they’ve got some sort of thing that goes on.
For the actual university - zip. Nothing. The only time that you’ll have music at the university is that they have the money to get big stars in to play at their summer balls.
I worked a summer ball once at Nuffield College and the fucking headliner was Curtis Mayfield. (Great story re bog paper follows! – I cut it as while it’s great it’s Gist - I showed Curtis Mayfield how to make toilet paper out of newspaper!)
And that in Oxford. I love Oxford. I fucking love Oxford
(MC - Note that the feeling here is that this could only have happened in Oxford).
So do you think there’s still a scene here now?
And is scene a useful way of describing what goes on, because it’s been debated a lot in the academic world. So what makes up a scene and what’s important?
Us. The people. The music. The venues. Walk up the Cowley Road and watch people carrying guitars and amps.
Is there a certain attitude towards making music in and around Oxford? I don’t think anyone has ever said there’s an Oxford sound as far as I know although I guess that some of the more successful bands have had certain things in common. But is there a kind of…
I don’t know. I mean indie seems to happen in loads of different places. Manchester, London, where are Blur from?
And again, it’s that suburbs thing isn’t it? Who did the song was it The Motors? “Sound of the Suburbs”.
The Members. Fucking great record. Nicky Tesco
I think I remastered it. (looks and lists)
I know I’ve done the fucking Members.
So, suburbs, Indie. The Oxford sound. I dunno. The first time the word “shoe gaze” was used was levelled at Mark Gardener when they were playing Reading festival in 91 and Mark was going “I wasn’t looking at my shoes, I was looking at my fingers because I’m in front of 30,000 people and I didn’t want to fuck up”. (laughs)
You mentioned the Caribbean Club. Are there other examples of ethnic minority musics? From the outside it seems…
They are kind of drum groups, there’s a bit of a bhangra scene, a hip hop scene.
It’s funny actually. I came to a rather strange conclusion the other day (44.00), talking of hip hop and it seems to come from the poorest areas in Oxford, like Blackbird Leys and places like that and I was going “Well they can’t afford a cucking Fender guitars can they? They can’t afford Silken cymbals, Pearl drum kits, Yamaha synthisers” all that shit. It’s like it’s a real middle class endeavour music making because it requires this expensive equipment and most of them have got cheap windows laptops and a microphone and that’s all you need and then you can just nick some beats off the next and speak the lyrics.
So I thought “Yeah it is. I spend thousands on my gear” and everyone I know has spent hundreds of thousands on their Fender guitar and their Gibson guitars and their Marshall amps. It’s not a cheap endeavour actually. It’s not a poor person’s thing. So they tend to do more rap, because you don’t need any gear really. It’s a funny conclusion to come to but it does seem to really ring true in a way.
It’s the same with actually Oxford itself (45.10) whereas with the London scene all the bands are kind of like from the suburbs of London, like me, I was from a suburb.
It’s interesting to me that most of the people I’ve met have moved to Oxford
Yeah, I have, Dave Newton, Ronan i believe.
Where are Ride from? Where’s Mark from originally?
They were at Cheney school in Oxford together and they were at Banbury Art College. I think they were at Banbury Art College or Bicester Art College, something like that.
Young Knives were from Ashby De La Zouch, I did their album last year, Henry and his brother.
I have met an Oxford born and bred person yet
Radiohead are all from kind of Abingdon.
It’s all the Oxford area I guess. I’m interested in places people move to because they think they can have a musical life there
Well, that’s what I did. I came here because there was like cool musicians who kind of gave you a gig and didn’t slag you off or stab you in the back when you were just about to do your gig. One of the things that I found hilarious was we were playing at the Jericho festival in 1986 with a reggae band and I think our guitarist’s amp blew up and the band who were on before us said “Oh, you can borrow ours” and I went “Fucking hell, that wouldn’t happen in London. They’d say: “Oh your amp’s blown up. You’re going to sound fucking bollocks then aren’t you. Ha!”” and it was that attitude, whereas over here it was “Oh, do you need an amp, you can have mine” and then someone’s going “No,no, no. Have mine”. “Oh no, it’s all right you can have mine”. I was just thinking “Wow, this wouldn’t happen in London, it really wouldn’t”.
I think it’s the same in Glasgow where, without idealising it and recognising that there is competition, there is a sense of community
And there really is here ‘cos when you go to a festival, it takes you ten minutes to get in to the festival because you’re just going, well you spend an hour just saying hello to everyone “All right mate”. “How’s it going”. “Oh yeah we need to come and see you about our EP as we need to get that cut”, “Yeah give us a shout and we’ll do it”. “All right Tim? How’s it going? Album’s selling well. Yeah, great”. “What time are you on mate? We’ll come and check you out”.
It’s all this kind of… That’s how Truck Festival started. I referred to it once as Oxford Music’s Summer Barbeque over two days where we all come together and at every stage was pretty much an Oxford band. You might have an out of towner headlining but we’ve got headline bands.
And we had Common People and I just stood there with Mark Cope of the Candy Skins thinking “You should fucking be up there mate, the Candyskins”. Well, what we got? We got Sugarhill Gang, Public Enema, It’s obviously 5 o’clock in the afternoon and there’s all the parents there with their kiddies and you’ve got this thing on the stage “Muthafucker, muthsfucker M m m muthafucker”. It’s so incongruous (laughs)
I was going “You know what? You could have had Radiohead headlining”, cos they’re out and about at the moment. I’ve seen them twice already this year. You could have had Supergrass, you could have Swervedriver, you could have Ride who are out and about at the moment. You know what? We could just fill the entire stage. We don’t need any out of towners, we’ve got our own world class acts.
The Common People, like us. And they are. They’re all common people. They’re all from fucking OX4 or Oxford. We could have filled that stage without any Sugarhill Gang. We didn’t need Primal Scream. We’ve got Ride.
Who promotes Common People?
It was the Bestival lot. I don’t know them by name.
I wasn’t there on the Saturday, I was there all day Sunday. A lot of people said that on the Saturday it wasn’t massively attended. It was a good old turn out… Sunday was the day that it kind of filled up quite nicely.
I was at the Roundhouse watching Radiohead on the Saturday. It was just funny. You’re watching an Oxford band. People offering me two grand in cash for my ticket outside the Roundhouse. I’m going “Mate, it’s a two hour show. Afterward you’re going to be going “Well, yeah is was good, but I haven’t got two grand any more”” (laughs) (50.00)
It’s funny when you see the Oxford bands in other places, like in Barcelona.
I was interested when Franz Ferdinand broke have supportive people in Glasgow were, there was no bitchiness
It’s like that with Ride. It’s like that with Radiohead. I see Colin every now and again and they’re just as nice as pie and they’re just really nice guys. I remember Colin once saying “Tim can you come round me house and teach me to play drums? And show me some drum stuff?” So I thought “Ok”, went round and he’s got this lovely little kit and I go “Where’d you get that?” “Oh Phil gave it to me. He’s a Premier endorsee and they keep giving him drum kits?” I was going “Give me one. Give me a drum kit” (laughs)
But they’re just nice. They’re just regular, regular folk. And they always are. It’s funny actually, when I lecture at university I do a BSc degree course in Audio Engineering is the name of the degree.
Is that at Brookes?
I deliver two four hour lectures on a mastering module. But because I’ve done all the tech stuff as well, I lecture here, there and everywhere for sort of music tech diplomas and stuff like that. But the BSc, that’s a full on three year degree.
That’s at Coventry. I did it at University College, London, I also did it at Kingston University and the degree was validated by Guildford.
So I always say “There’s loads of things to learn and it’s quite easy. You do what I did. You go to a library and you educate yourself. Read and learn and remember. And there’s all this other stuff that you need to know. Don’t get star struck. Don’t get star struck when your first massive star turns up”.
Like when Jimmy Lea and Noddy Holder turned up when I was doing the Slade back catalogue. “That’s fucking Jimmy Lea”. Don’t get star struck.
I’m also concerned that my students do get star struck and I always tell them to give people their demos as they might just play it when normally it will get left in the pile
Yes. He’s got to deal with this object. It’ll be in his pocket, or her pocket, he’s got to deal with it.
You've got to be a bit in people’s faces without being a pain in the arse
Yeah, just don’t be star struck. Not during the business. They’ve come in the studio and you’re the assistant engineer and there’s your hero in the flesh. They’re just regular people. I always say “Everyone needs a poo and a wee, something to eat and to go to sleep”… You’ve got to be like that.
Any further thoughts about making music in Oxford and being around the Oxford scene?
We have brilliant recording facilities. ‘Cos you’ve gotta make the music. Now, obviously technology has provided us with the means to kind of do it in your bedroom. This is my house but this is also a world class audio installation which I make records for very famous well know bands. Just this week Graham Parker, the Ruts and Madness. That’s enough to be getting on with.
But then next week I’ll have a local band from round the corner and they get exactly the same treatment. I don't have one thing for the pop stars and another thing for you first timers. I think that’s why a lot of people like coming here, is that I’m very even handed with everyone.
I get certain jobs in. I had a double vinyl “Live at the Winterland”. We always publicise who we’re doing that day. Bob Dylan. People say “You’re fucking kidding”. I said “It’s Bob Dylan. Tomorrow night it’s Van Halen. The next day it’s this new band from round the corner”. Who might be the next Radiohead. So be very careful who you are nice to or nasty to because you’ll meet them on the way up and you’ll meet them on the way down.
So, yeah, the recording facilities. You’ve got Shonk Studios, you’ve got The Warehouse. The rehearsal spaces are fantastic. Rotator, always fully booked. Glasshouse pretty much fully booked.
And, again, you’ll find all these places in Nightshift.
It’s Shonk Studios, my place, Courtyard, Tad, Glasshouse, Evolution. Evolution’s great, Nick Moorbath who used to own the Zodiac. Warehouse, of course, Apple Tree.
What we need is one extra record shop I think.
It’s OK saying “Truck Store”. I love Truck Store. It’s great, but you can’t stock everything. It’s got no classical section for example. So I can’t find modern compositional stuff there or folk or you know..
And is that record shops also as a place to hang out cos that’s where uou might bump in to people
Well, I always did. Garon Records in the Covered Market, Tony Batey’s store. I was in his blues band. I was the drummer, Tony Batey, Garon Records and Tony Batey is the kind of guy, who you’d walk in and he’d go “Willie Nelson did that in 1941. Record number I think it was KC21484”. You go “OK. All right”. He’d know the fucking catalogue number of everything and he’d know when it came out and what issue it was and what label it was and who played fucking banjo.
It’s the people working in record shops that have the knowledge of the products they sell. Like you when you go in to professional music technology it’s completely and utterly staffed by musicians. So if you’re buying a drum kit, you’ll have a drummer selling it to you. If you’re buying a synthesiser you’ll have a keyboard player selling it to you. If you’re buying a guitar, there’s two or three guitarists that’ll be selling it to you. And it used to be that way in the record shops, who had this product knowledge.
Truck Store is pretty good. I like it. I endorse it a lot. We used to have HMV but that collapsed in Oxford because it didn’t address the people with money in their pockets which is middle aged men with disposable income. They buy products. They don’t buy fucking X Box or 20 different types of shit headphones.
Was there ever a Fopp in Oxford?
No but they’re coming back. Fopp is coming back. Funnily enough I read the other day. In fact it was Ronan who posted on Facebook that Fopp is coming back, it’s going to be in Gloucester Green I think where they have the market.
Yeah, a record shop. Somwhere you can go and buy records and DVDs and blue rays and vinyl. I travel to Reading once a month to go to the HMV there. Because people my age, maybe HMV couldn't have predicted it, but us record buying guys from the 70s will still be that in our late 50s except we’ve got this stuff called disposable income.
I’m not the 18 year old who is going to nick something off the internet. I’m going to walk in and buy that anthology, this reissue, that box set. Because I’ve got disposable income and I want a real thing for my real money what I got from doing a real job.
When I did this for Slade last year, you’ve got 4 vinyl albums, 4 vinyl singles, CDs, a booklet, flexis and it’s 100 quid on Amazon. Now, who’s gonna buy that? Why would they make 10,000 of those? Of course they’re gonna sell ‘em. Slade’s got 250,000 people on their fan site worldwide and they go “Oh my God” and of course their wife will get it for them for Christmas or something…. I would love to receive something like that if I was a massive Slade fan.
(Discussion of buying EDM)
So just a large, big, fat record shop full of product for bozos like me to spend my money on.
And also hang out, because I do think the hanging out thing is important. Like Mono in Glasgow is part of a vegetarian restaurant and bar
That’s what you need. Like Truck Store has this microscopic, little, coffee shop. Three people can fit in it. But it you had a big HMV with a big coffee shop and a place where you could hang out and listen to stuff. “Oh, what’s that like?” “Check it out”. And you pop the cans on and press the button on the computer screen to listen to stuff. “Oh I fucking love that. I’ll buy that”.
I remember the days when I went to record shops and listened in booths. “Oh Pink Floyd. I’ll but that” and that’s what needs to come back, that facility to check stuff out in situ.
Imagine if you could go in to and shop and you've’ got your laptop and your phone and you could just access it through the shop, right there and then…. You need a place like that. Buy some decent coffee, get a decent bite to eat, nice soft furnishings, low lights, USB sockets in the wall, headphones, check out the latest. Would be a nice thing, If I ran a record shop it would be like that. (laughs) It would be the place to go.
And have a little stage. I always remember going to LA and seeing Amoeba Records and that fucking stage there and like “Wow. Wow. Look at that/ Why haven’t we got that? Where is our equivalent here?” In the United Kingdom, home of…. It’s got to be the best fucking export.
(Discussion of great UK bands and how the country fits in to Texas and lack of European equivalent).
This endless list of incredible music out of this silly little place.
So this is the business. We need record shops. This is the business.
When people stop wanting music, then we’ll have a problem. But until then. I mean look at Glasto. How we get to have Glastonbury. There you go. That’s the reason….. (Bowie, Stones, MacCartney etc)
You just think who we can call on….
We do bands. I always have this thing with America where they do solo artists and we do bands. We’ve got our solo artists. We’ve got our Elton John’s and our Sting’s and our David Bowie’s and they’ve got their bands, their Aerosmiths and their Green Days but they can’t hold a candle to our bands and we can’t hold a candle to their solo artists. They’ve got your Dylans and your Elvis and your Sinatra and your Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen and you go “OK.OK” and then you go, Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin.
They come from a tradition of Hollywood, solo iconic … They come from this solo iconic artists and we come from street corner gangs, street corner kids. That’s The Beatles, street corner kids, Led Zeppelin were a bunch of fucking thugs from the black country who used to be on building sites, John Bonham smashing up paving stones with a sledgehammer. That's just how he plays drums. Sledgehammer.
We do bands. Street Corner kids getting together to make a racket and they have these solo iconic stars. We can’t fucking compete with Elvis and Michael Jackson and Sinatra and Bob Dylan and Prince. You’ve got you Barbara Streislands and you Bill Joels and your Liza Minelli’s. They do these iconic stars like people we can’t even dream of. Dean Martin, Bing Crosby. It goes on and on and on. But in terms of bands, you can’t hold a candle to our lot mate, you really can’t. You’ve got some great bands, some wonderful bands with your Steely Dan’s and Chicago’s, Boston, but you haven’t; got Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Stones. Stones! I haven’t even said The Who yet.
That’s been absolutely fantastic. Thanks