Twenty years ago, (has it really been that long?) Terrorvision released their third studio album, Regular Urban Survivors and to celebrate its double-decade anniversary, the band are currently on a UK tour and tonight, they just so happen to be playing “local” (to me, not them). It’s been four years since the band last visited Wolverhampton (I fondly remember being squashed up in the Slade Rooms) but they’re back and are ready to blow the roof off the Wulfrun Hall. I met up with the band at the venue for a good chat. This is the result.
INDULGE SOUND: Regular Urban Survivors is twenty. (I tell the band that I remember eagerly awaiting my copy, which I ordered through our local, independent record shop, Sundown Records. They ask me if I’ve still got it. Indeed, I have, although it’s not the best quality any more). Did you ever think you’d be celebrating two decades on?
Tony Wright (Lead Vocals): We didn’t think we’d be surviving. It might be called Regular Urban Survivors but I don’t know, we’re probably lucky to have survived.
IS: There’s quite a trend for “anniversary” tours now. Why do you think there’s such a popularity for them? Is it nostalgia?
Leigh Marklew (Bass & Backing Vocals): It might be different for everybody but I think with us, and from the bands point of view, we get to play songs we’ve never played live before. So, that’s quite fun. There’s all sorts of reasons really but that’s the main one. It also gives a different angle for your tour. It’s refreshing. At the minute, we’re not writing any new stuff as a band. We did that when Cam joined the band with Superdeluxe and that gave us some impetus to do a load of touring, which we did. So, this tour gives us a reason to come back. It’s exciting for us even though the album is twenty years old.
TW: As well, rock fans aren’t as fickle as fans of chart music so, quite often, you find a rock fan will rail against the songs that are successful. They’re like, “you know what, I like something obscure off that album” and it’s their way of declaring how much of a fan they are to other people and then those other people are like, “yeah, I like that one as well”. So, you’re playing songs that are slightly more obscure and as a fan of music, when you hear those songs, you think it’s brilliant because you’ve never heard them played that way before. You love it because everyone will then know how much of a fan you are.
LM: I mean, rather than just that “whales and dolphins” song. Of course, everyone knows it. We saw it last night, didn’t we? The people that were singing their heads off to Mugwump or Didn’t Bleed Red or Conspiracy, the ones we’ve never played live, they were buzzing and because they were, we were buzzing too.
IS: I also think that music, good music, is coming full circle. People are getting bored of the same old stuff in the charts. Rock is making its mark again. Your thoughts?
TW: Twenty years is a lifetime, isn’t it? So, people have done all that stuff – they’ve had their kids, they’ve got a baby-sitter now, or the kids are with them so for us it’s a chance to go back out again and see that we’re liked. It feels like being a kid again, like we’re going back in time. And what you liked in life before makes you who you are now. It’s a reminder of that.
IS: What are your favourite tracks from Regular Urban Survivors?
Cam Greenwood (Drums): For me, it’s got to be, If I Was You, just because I get to go a bit mental. That’s a total “drummer” answer. I get to go crazy. It’s fast paced. It’s bouncy. It’s catchy as owt. It really gets your pumping. I love it. And it’s over in two minutes which is great too. There’s no down, it’s just all up. And then you come back to reality.
LM: It’s “Terrorvision does The Ramones”, I think. My favourites will change through the tour but at the moment it’s Didn’t Bleed Red and maybe Celebrity Hit List. It reminds me of doing the video in Las Vegas which was a lot of fun.
TW: I’d say Didn’t Bleed Red too, simply because it’s all about the world at the moment – people being fearful of aliens and I don’t mean beings coming from out of space, you know. Some people were like, “ooh, we don’t want these people coming in”, and twenty years on, people are still saying, “ooh, we don’t want these people coming in” when, really, they might just be coming here to help. You’d think, twenty years on, we might be able to just live in one big world rather than lots of small little countries. So, I kind of like it for that reason because it makes more sense now than it did back then. And I love Whales and Dolphins (Perseverance) because everybody screams “whales and dolphins” and I love whales and dolphins. I get pictures from people who are taking photographs at their local library next to a book called, Whales and Dolphins as if the book is written about the song.
CG: Then you get whales and dolphins thrown at you as well. We had some last night.
LM: It’s becoming a tradition now.
TW: We could learn a lot from them. They’re cool, aren’t they? And we were right about the whales and dolphins. We were right. Even all those years ago.
IS: What’s your least favourite track? If there is one?
CG: I don’t know. Can’t answer that.
TW: Well, when you get to Mugwump, you know you’re at the end of the set, so you know that when that finishes, the album is over. It’s not a regret or a dislike, it’s more of an “aww”. It’s just a shame knowing that it marks the end of celebrating this album.
CG: I’ll say that as well.
IS: What’s your favourite Terrorvision album to date?
CG: I’m going to say Superdeluxe because it’s my album. It’s my first real album as well. You know, I put in all that work and to have a real recording, and going out there and selling it, and touring it. Yeah, it’s my favourite album by far.
LM: Another tricky one. They all mean different things but I suppose, How to Make Friends and Influence People because it was the real breakthrough album.
TW: It was a game changer, wasn’t it?
LM: Yeah. I mean even though I love all the others for different reasons, How to Make Friends… was life changing. Without that, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. We wouldn’t be sat here now.
TW: I like Good to Go. It was after How to Make Friends…, which, like we’ve said, was a game changer for us. It changed our lives completely. Regular Urban Survivors was a follow on from it. It wasn’t an album of all the songs we couldn’t fit on RUS. We were writing songs along the same kind vibe. Then we did Shaving Peaches which was more experimental. How to Make Friends… and RUS allowed us to do that. To try something different. But I love Good to Go because it was raw. We’d gone to a new label and we weren’t necessarily having to do stuff that we did before. When we were with EMI, it all needed to be radio friendly and of course, every band wants to be on the radio. It means more people at gigs, but then sometimes you feel that you don’t want to compromise the grit and the sentiment of an album for the sake of a radio plugger who’s going to come back in a month and say, “nah, we don’t want to play that anymore”. We never really got played on the radio until Tequila come out. That’s just because it sounded like all the shit they were playing on the radio already. At the time, the only rock bands that were playing on the radio were all Welsh. It was the Stereophonics. It was the Manic Street Preachers. It was Feeder. It was all a bit safe. It was produced. So, when we did Good to Go, we broke those shackles. It was like, take the seat belts off and go faster.
Milly Evans (Keyboards & Backing Vocals) enters the room.
IS: What are your favourite ever songs to play live?
CG: One of my favourites is Urban Space Crime. I love it. It’s so cool. Cool intro. Got a good swing to it and I love the interaction between me and Tony. I love If I Was You because it’s just mental and in your face.
LM: I really like playing Demolition Song from Superdeluxe. It’s in a similar vain to If I Was You. It’s got a nice, snotty attitude to it and great lyrics.
TW: For me, it’s Middleman. It sends a shiver down my spine every time because I can hear the crowd louder than I can hear myself. It’s very humbling. It’s full of emotion and all the people are singing something that came out of a stuffy mill in Bradford, really loud. It’s the same with Whales and Dolphins (Perseverance). When we’re playing it, people down the road must be thinking, “hang on, is that a massive crowd of people singing about whales and dolphins?” and “salt, lemon and lime? What’s going on in that building there? Salt, lemon and lime, and whales and dolphins? What kind of a party is that?”
IS: Milly, do you want to join in?
ME: I’m happy listening. It’s alright.
We know go on to a fun round called ‘Pint Cup Questions’ in which the band members pull, folded up pieces of paper (with questions on them, obviously) out of a plastic pint cup.
CG: If you were an alcoholic drink, what would you be?
TW: You’re quite mild. And I’m quite stout.
CG: What do you mean, mild?
TW: You’re mild mannered.
CG: So, off the kit or on the kit? If I’m on the kit, I’m like a fruity cocktail.
We all laugh. A lot!
CG: Because it’s full of colour, there’s a little umbrella, sugar around the rim and in a real, fancy glass as well. Off the kit, I think I’d just be a …. No, I’m going to go with a fruity cocktail.
LM: What drink would I be? Erm, I don’t know.
TW: You like wine.
LM: Yeah, I like wine. A fine wine.
IS: A fine red wine, perhaps?
LM: No, a white wine. No, I’m not a fine, red wine because that suggests I’m maturing well with age. I’m a nice, crisp, dry Italian because I have to be drunk within twelve months of being picked.
TW: Aw, this is like that Cilla Black programme, what’s it called?
LM & TW: (in unison) Blind Date.
TW: So, is it Cameron, the fruity cocktail… If I was an alcoholic drink, I’d be a cooking lager, or something.
IS: Something quick and easy?
TW: No, just cheap.
LM: Cheap but mildly effective.
TW: No, I wouldn’t be owt exotic. Maybe I’d have a splash of cider. Maybe a snakebite.
IS: I like a nice, peaty, single malt.
LM: Ooh. Yeah, that sounds good.
TW: I’d be the kind of whisky where you can’t speak after you’ve drunk it. I love Jura. I put in for planning permission on the isle of Jura because I drank that much of it.
LM: What are your top 5, desert island discs?
For me, it would be Cheap Trick, In Colour and Black and White. I’d have Kiss of Life too. I’d have Revolver by The Beatles. I’d have something like Elvis Presley’s Greatest Hits and then Killer by Alice Cooper. Those are the five that spring to mind.
CG: I’d go with Abbey Road by The Beatles, Blink 182’s new album, California and I think I’d take Pantera’s Greatest Hits. I’d take and Elvis one as well and I think I’d take a Johnny Cash one as well. I found a vinyl in a skip of Johnny Cash. It had none of the songs I’d ever heard of. It was all gospel stuff – twenty odd tracks worth. I’ve never had a record player though.
LM: If you want one, put it on your letter to Santa.
TW: I’ve got a spare player, if you want it?
CG: Yeah, I can do. That’d be ace.
TW: I’d probably take After the Gold Rush by Neil Young and Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd. I’d take Black Sabbath’s Greatest Hits. Erm, are we on the same island? Can I listen to their Elvis records?
IS: If that’s easiest.
TW: I’d take a Beach Boys album that I just got cheap from a charity shop but it’s just brilliant. They were so experimental. Even more so than musicians are now. I’d probably take something by Led Zeppelin, the one with Stairway to Heaven on it. One of my favourite bands are Free but I wouldn’t take anything by them. I’d probably take something like Coldplay’s Greatest Hits. It’s just when you’re stuck on a desert island and you’re thinking, “I’m stuck on a f***ing desert island” and then you think, “it could be worse”.
IS: Going back to the Beach Boys, one of my top 5 favourite songs of all time is, God Only Knows. It’s so dark yet so beautiful. It’s conflicting. It makes me feel sadness and happiness. That’s what music should do to you, isn’t it? Music should make you feel, shouldn’t it?
All the band agree.
TW: They were amazing. I think maybe The Beatles experimented because the Beach Boys, Brian Wilson, just took it to the next level. But that’s leaving behind loads of other albums like your Free, and your Bad Company. Like your Leonard Cohen and your ELO. You’re leaving behind so many albums.
LM: Mind you, if he’s taking Coldplay, I’m swimming to the next f***ing island. I’d take the risk.
TW: You’d listen to it and you’d think, “d’ya know what, I’ve got nothing to eat, I’m dressed in rags, the sun’s burning me but I could be listening to that!” It’s just to remind you that the desert island is awful but it could be worse. It’s like having a headache and you hit your hand with a hammer to cancel out the headache.
CG: It’s not like you can just take something for it.
TW: Exactly, you’re on a desert island. There’s no chemist.
CG: There’s not even a cd or record player. It’ll be like an episode of Lost.
IS: You could take a leaf from the Flintstones and carve a record player out of some rock.
LM: Actually, yeah. That’d be good.
TW: You’d have to use a pine needle. And a tortoise shell as speakers.
TW: If you could be a different member of Terrorvision for a day, who would it be and why?
Probably Leigh ‘cus he’s the tallest.
LM: I’d be Cam ‘cus everyone wants to be a drummer, don’t they?
TW: And he’s younger. Yeah, I’d be Cam too.
LM: How old are you now, Cam?
LM: Yeah, so he’s 25 and a drummer. I’ve always been a closet drummer but it’d be a pain in the arse because he’s left handed.
TW: There you go, you’d find out what it’s like to be left handed. That’s a good thing.
CG: I feel really good now. I feel ace. I wouldn’t want to be Tony ‘cus he keeps jumping and landing on his knees. I’d just be in constant pain. I think he’s got a vendetta against flooring. He jumps into the air, grabs his feet and does a straight-up, knee dive into the floor. And he’s always climbing up rigs and I’d be too scared to do that.
TW: I have to climb to see what it’s like to be tall. It’s the only way.
CG: I think I’d be Leigh. Bass is cool. He’s got a great physique under there. He does a triathlon every day.
LM: Every day? Shit! Better get off. Is there a canal around here I can swim down?
CG: And he’s got a very deep voice, which is cool. Can you hear that low harmony on stage? That’s Leigh, that is.
LM: Yes, I get a lower voice on tour.
TW: We all drop an octave.
IS: Have you found, the older you get, the more you listen? I’m in a band myself and I find I listen out for the intricacies of a song. The head will still bob and the feet will still tap, but I find myself standing there, like a nerd, picking out great harmonies, bass-lines etc.
TW: You won’t be doing that tonight. Don’t worry.
CG: We’ll be watching you. We’ll all be watching you.
CG: (asking me) Who would you be in this band? For a day?
IS: I wouldn’t be Tony for the same reason you suggested. My knees aren’t the best. I’d probably Leigh. I don’t play bass but I always love a great bass line and bass players who’ve got a personality, who entertain rather than just stand there plucking away. So yes, I’d be Leigh. Guys, I just want to say a huge thank you for having me today. I’ve really enjoyed chatting to you. It didn’t feel like an interview.
CG: No, it didn’t. The questions were really fun.
LM: And now we know that Cam is a fruity cocktail.
CG: I’m going to ask for a different fruity cocktail every night. I’ll have it put on my rider.
LM: Yeah and you’ll get people saying, “that Terrorvision are right diva’s. They’re not going on unless Cam gets his Sex on the Beach.”
IS: Once again, many thanks guys. Can’t wait for tonight and if I don’t get chance to speak to you again, I hope the rest of the tour goes well and I wish you a Merry Christmas!