When Pete Frame launched Zigzag as the UK’s first music monthly in 1969 it boasted the longest in-depth pieces yet seen beyond the US underground publications that inspired it. Soon NME were allowing Nick Kent to write his classic sprawling epics on Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett and later the early MOJO revisited this long-playing format to great effect but, although there are still publications that do allow room for a piece to breathe, increasingly stringent word counts are necessary to get more names in, placate advertisers and, in this age of the sound-bite and selfie, prevent the potential audience’s attention wandering.
As a lifelong victim of newspapers and magazines insisting on shorter pieces rather than longer, deeper accounts, the realisation struck some years ago that I was often spending more time slashing down reviews and features than writing them; especially frustrating when an artist had opened up and talked for hours, meaning many of their words and memories might never be heard.
While word restrictions have never been an issue at NMBW, The Director’s Cut series will present some of those original conversations, including out-takes that may have surrounded a one-line quote or covered topics not broached at all in the original piece.
We start with a memorable 2015 afternoon Helen and I spent with Cosey Fanni Tutti and Chris Carter at the converted Norfolk village school-house, near Kings Lynn, that they’ve called home for over 35 years. We were joined by Nik Colk Void, who teamed up with them in 2011 to form Carter Tutti Void and has recently moved back to the nearby area where she grew up. Highlights originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of the excellent Electronic Sound.
At that time, Carter Tutti Void were enjoying the overwhelmingly positive reactions to their recent f (X) album (their first studio set since coming together in 2011 and Industrial’s first non-TG release). Cosey was already deep into revisiting her diaries and working on the book that’s just cleaned up in the best of 2017 lists (in some cases slavered over by hipster wannabes trying to look edgy who’d never heard of TG a year ago). Cosey described the experience of writing her memoir as exhausting in every way and vowed it would be her last.
The conversation flows easily sitting around the large table in their light-blasted kitchen. When the cassette recorder went on we were discussing the effect of domestic surroundings on CTV and their music. Let it roll.
Cosey Fanni Tutti: I think you tend to have an internal reset or default setting. When you feel you’re getting compromised you go to where you know you can function and breathe. Like you (Nik) said, you can breathe better somewhere where you know it’s always been good from day one. I think what’s going on in your life affects your music more than the environment in which you produce it. Like Martello Street (with TG); recording there did affect the music because of what we went through going to and from the studio with the NF and gangs and stuff; you had to watch your back all the time. There was all sorts of stuff going on politically, which you were very aware of, and punk was coming up. We were active in all different areas and that affected the music.
We went back to Martello Street for a BBC programme and it was quite shocking. People were having picnics! You should never go back, really. I didn’t like it. I felt quite angry really. Give me a placard and let me go down London Fields!
Nik Colk Void: There was a grittiness when we lived in Tottenham. Next door to the factory where we were there were a lot of gospel churches moving into the empty spaces and that was always reverberating, always like from six pm to six in the morning. Just the whole feel of being in London and going out the door where we were living was feeling really claustrophobic. The area we were living in was like a bubble. It was pretty grim, but it was really creative at the same time. When I moved to the countryside I was moving from feeling a bit tough to going somewhere I was completely familiar with. After a couple of months or so it just like really opened my mind out again and I’m finding my music’s coming out a lot darker. Not intentionally, but I suppose it’s the relationship with nature kind of opening my mind up.
CFT: I think in the city that kind of environment locks you into a mindset and it’s hard to get out of it, because you have to protect yourself on all levels.
NCV: Creatively it was frustrating too because I was doing a couple of jobs and going into central London on the tube. You’d see what else was going on and it was quite dire what they’d print some mornings. It just seemed quite bleak, but when you get to the countryside it’s completely different. When you’re flying off to shows at the weekend it’s nice coming back to the countryside rather than a warehouse and hearing the sewing machines going on the other side of the walls.
CFT: I think that’s an age thing as well, because when you’re young you don’t even notice it. When I think back to Martello Street and even Hull, the conditions we lived in were just appalling!
Chris Carter: Squatting really, wasn’t it?
CFT: But that was just a means to an end. It’s where I slept, ate and everything else in order to go out and do what I wanted to do. As long as I had a roof over my head and could sleep somewhere I was quite happy. But then you realise it’s affecting your work and health, and you have to do something in the end.
CC: The biggest thing for us was having a kid.
CFT: You’re now responsible to someone. You’re not selfishly driven any more. You have someone else to think of that becomes number one on the list and then what you want to do is next. That has a lot to do with it.
Kris Needs: Now you have the internet but it must have seemed very remote when you moved here.
CFT: We were really excited when we got a fax machine! Wax Trax bought it for us because they had to send contracts and things through the post.
CC: It was quite exciting to get a fax in those days. Our internet is quite unreliable here. Sometimes it just goes out and it went off for about a week this year. We got so much work done!
CFT: At first you feel lost but then you think, “This is great, nobody’s bothering me.”
CC: People didn’t ring up. I thought “Why don’t they just ring us?”
KN: Was the new album done differently to your previous ones?
CC: It’s funny, because when we recorded with TG here we did it a similar way. We all set up in that room there, and when we did the first Carter Tutti Void album we set up in there trying out all the ideas Then with this studio album we did it the same way. A lot of people say the first album doesn’t sound like a live recording but it was. The preparation for it was similar to the way we recorded the second one.
KN: How much does this environment affect your recording methods?
CFT: We just get comfortable with the starting points. Chris would write the rhythms, then play them to me and Nik and we’d all decide whether it had legs. You start working with it and feel your way through, then take it on the stage, because everything changes then anyway.
CC: That’s the big thing with us; whatever we do in there never sounds like that when we get onstage.
CFT: And we don’t want it to. We just want to be comfortable that if we’re gonna do it live when we go on stage we know the territory and then we can go where we want. There’s no script really.
NCV: We have our own work spaces, our separate tables, and our tools that we’re familiar with and that’s kind of like our language. I’ll have a different setting for each track and I’ll literally have it all written down. As far as playing in different spaces goes, you can never determine that. What Cosey’s playing or what Chris is playing is always a response to the live situation.
KN: How much is the new album a live recording?
CFT: We’ve played most of it live but it doesn’t sound like that.
CC: We recorded the two nights we did at Oslo in London and they don’t really sound anything like the album! It’s quite a nice club.
CFT: It’s a great size for the audience still to be intimate and the sound is is fantastic
KN: Chris, 37 years ago you said you were building your own equipment. Is there still an element of this?
CC: Yeah, although I don’t build so much now. The stuff I do now is for myself. I don’t use it with Carter Tutti Void, but I do some programming with software. It’s just a combination of how you use bits of gear in unconventional ways, putting things through other things they don’t usually go through.
NCV: Do you read the manual?
CC: I do, yes! I’ve got a t-shirt which says RTFM (Read The Fucking Manual). There’s like a whole movement of people who don’t read manuals, which I can appreciate. I wrote for Sound On Sound for about ten years and used to have to read the manuals to write the reviews, so I really got into it. When we used to go on tour I used to take them on the road like books and read ‘em. I used to quite enjoy it but Sleazy never used to read anything. Then you get known for reading manuals and people always come up to you saying ‘how do you work this?’
We got this kind of thing going on where we were constantly selling old gear and buying new gear for a while. I don’t really like to settle too much on one piece of gear. I like the feeling of being slightly outside my comfort zone. That’s why I like my modular system, because it’s so different and I can swap all the modules round. I’ve got favourite bits of gear I’ve had over the years. I’ve got an Electron Machinedrum drum machine I’ve had for years. I do like that. It’s like a digital drum machine but it’s got an analogue sound engine in it.
KN: It sounds like a kind of heartbeat pulse going all the way through.
CC: It’s quite low-res. It’s got a quirkiness which adds to that heartbeat feeling but it’s quite a clunky, heavy machine so I sampled it and put it on my laptop. It doesn’t sound quite the same when you do that. I’ll probably go back to using that again but I swing backwards and forwards.
NCV: It was funny because, when we rehearsed that album Chris’s setup had changed so much! I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve still got my box and stuff which looks like a car boot sale compared to Chris’s setup.
CC: When we did the Roundhouse there were wires everywhere, weren’t there? We had so many different boxes and things. I think that’s what made that album so unusual. There was so much interaction going on. Like that bit where we had someone torturing a metronome. We never figured out who it was, did we?
CFT: It was like a workshop, wasn’t it? When we went on the stage I remember the audience cheering, and I looked out at them and thought ‘They’re really up for whatever we want to do’. I thought that was so nice. There was no expectation other than ‘we’re here, do what you wanna do’ and it was such a wonderful feeling. I think now there’s an expectation that they shouldn’t expect anything, which is nice. Because with our Chris and Cosey stuff, and even TG, they were actual songs. People think this is quite different. These are non-songs. As you said, it’s the pulse. You kick in and ride with it and go up and down. It’s a fabulous feeling when we’re playing live.
Helen Donlon: How did the three of you get together?
CC: We first met properly at the ICA in 2006 when we were DJing at the Cosey Club. We sort of had history going back but hadn’t connected. I was in Factory Floor for a while, and did three gigs. Then Mute asked if we would collaborate with someone at the Short Circuit Festival in 2011.
CFT: If we were going to do it, we wanted something very different.
NCV: Initially, we were only going to do one performance and so didn’t really talk about how we were going to go about it. It just happened. We had about a week to prepare for it. Because that’s how it started, it became the foundation of how we wanted to go on. We didn’t wanna talk about making tracks or anything like that. We got away with it and loved it so we’ll just carry on just doing what comes naturally to us.
HD: (to Nik) Were you already a big fan of their work?
NCV: Oh yeah. At first, I imagined it might it might be quite scary to meet Chris and Cosey! (Much laughter) Well, not scary but musically we clicked straight away
CFT: We said, “Let’s set up your gear and try something out,” then we kept going for quite a while, didn’t we? Then we stopped and went “Well that was kind of easy, wasn’t it? It works then.” It was as simple as that. You don’t often get that. There’s usually some kind of thing going on, isn’t there? After Sleazy (TG founding member Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson, who passed in November 2010), it was “I can’t get this with anyone else”. I would say there’s only Nik and Sleazy I’ve ever played with like that. I can’t think of anyone else. But it just gels and that’s it.
CC: We’ve never really analysed what we do, have we?
CFT: I think Chris is the only one who has a job, if you like, because he’s like the engine and the starting point. Once it kicks in, nobody has to do anything.
CC: It’s just the momentum of the track.
CFT: Yeah, you feel it physically and emotionally and you just interject with what you feel your emotions building up to. You drive it along and bring it down, then bring it up again. Then you’ve got the audience you’re feeding off as well. It’s very intuitive and it’s a wonderful way to create music; even in the studio or live situation, no matter where you are.
CC: When we did the live shows, there were cheers every now and then from the audience when we did things.
CFT: It’s when you arrive at the same moment at the same time. It’s almost like you’ve given them a present. ‘Yeah you’ve heard me, that’s really what I wanted’. ‘Yeah, we did as well’.
HD: Do you think that your setup with the three of you is the nearest you’ve come to achieving that? Have you had that in the past with anyone else?
CFT: With Sleazy. Definitely with Sleazy because we’d been in the studio with him when (TG) regrouped the second time (to Chris) and you’ve started something then me and Sleazy have come in and he’d be going “you gotta press record, quick!”
CC: But he was completely different. It’s a different dynamic to what we had with Sleazy because the stuff we used to do was something awful. It really was terrible. He had no sense of rhythm or anything and he couldn’t play anything, but he was just good at what he did which was indefinable. That was a completely separate thing whereas what we do is quite defined.
NCV: I think because we both play guitars as well, only the gig felt like the guitar was electronic; the guitar was so warm and the way we play guitar.
CC: The guitars both sound very different, although there is some overlap.
CFT: Yeah but me and Nik have a similar sensibility to sound where we have sensibility to sound! So we know what our guitars are capable of, although they surprise us at times and it works. I think if you know what sounds are available there for you to meet the demand of the emotion that you’re looking for as you’re driving along then I think that’s how it works. That only comes from years of working; not practice, years of working that way with that method, rather than notation.
KN: And bouncing off each other…
CFT: For me, sometimes I bounce off Nik because I think we suddenly intuitively jump in at a similar point, but with a different sound. We can bounce off the sounds with each other and make that moment quite special and then if I think she’s going off on something else that sounds great I’ll pull back and bring something else in that I think would sound better than what I’m doing, and she’s the same.
CC: You’ve got the advantage that you’ve got a sampler as well, whereas Nik’s just doing guitar.
NCV: That was totally out of choice as well, because I like being into one instrument with loads of different effects. I like really pulling back so there’s hardly any sound coming out. I think that’s more important than another sound coming out. I really concentrate. I’ve got my head down really concentrating and listening hard. When it’s amplified you can do lots of amazing stuff with it. Just being able to concentrate on the guitar, which I’ve been playing since I was 16, is brilliant. It’s the best thing you can do.
KN: What’s your favourite guitar?
NCV: Fender Telecaster. It’s the best one for the harmonics, just to get that sound that’s not like playing guitar. It’s all about my love of feedback. At the first show, I was using a big amplifier and that did have quite a different sound. It was a bit too noisy and when I wasn’t making any noise you’d hear the hum of the amp. I felt that was too distracting from the sound that you were making so I went into DI in the PA system and that mind of makes you play a bit different as well, because you haven’t got that big wall of sound to bounce off. When I came to work with Chris and Cosey I thought “You’ve got to be loud!” Then I realised it wasn’t about that; it was about being really controlled about what I was doing at quite a low level to get these intricate sounds that you won’t get when you’re blasting it.
CFT: There’s no place for self-indulgence. Although it sounds like a self-indulgent way of doing it, it’s not at all. It’s all of us together. The sound is the focus, not one person or what they’re doing. It’s the little parts that make up the whole and that’s what you’ve got to try and build and be sensitive to.
NCV: I think I’ve changed the dynamic slightly. I held back a bit more on the first album than this one. It’s quite dense, isn’t it? The amount of sound going in, texturally, compared to the first record.
KN: After Sleazy died, you beautifully brought home his dream project reimagining Nico’s Desertshore. How did that originate?
CC: We started it at the ICA in 2007 over two days and did the first version in front of a live audience. Then we put it to bed really because it wasn’t really working out how we wanted it to. Then Sleazy took all the parts back to Bangkok and was reworking it in a completely different way. He had this list of vocalists he wanted to work with. When he died the trustees sent us some of his hard drives in his laptop, so we took it in the studio here and spent a year working on it. We went through all his notes and contacted all the vocalists he was going to use. It was a massive undertaking and quite emotional as well going through all his personal stuff. Getting in touch with the vocalists was quite hard because he hadn’t got in touch with some of them so we had to just see if they were interested. Some people said no and not everybody wanted to be on the album for whatever reason, but the ones that did were really good.
CFT: The idea came through when we did Berlin in 2006. Sleazy said “I’ve had a good idea, something TG would never do; a cover version of an album.” What’s the album? “Well, my favourite album; Desertshore.” We all thought it was a fantastic idea, except Chris, who didn’t know the album. We said “Right, let’s see what you want to do with it and Gen liked the idea. Sleazy sent some nice little ditties done on a cheap keyboard. They were really nice, I loved ‘em. That was the starting point of it and the guide tracks for Gen to sing along to at the ICA too. We played live to it as well. But when we got it all back he couldn’t do anything with the vocals and he got quite despondent about it and wanted to come back to it. That’s when he started working on it again before he died. So we started doing some more music for it and finished it off for him. It took a year and we would sit in the studio and we’d work on one track at a time. Considering what the tracks are like – very rich and intense – we’d still have a track finished in a week. We’d look at each other and say “it’s all happening so fast.”
CC: We’d have to leave a month or so between tracks because of doing gigs and things.
CFT: We were wondering if we’d lose the momentum weren’t we?
CC: Each song was so different and each person we worked with was different. People’s schedules didn’t always tally with ours, which dragged it out. When we did Blixa (Bargeld) we had to get him in a studio in Berlin and be on the phone with him live in the studio talking to him, shouting down the phone. “Alright, we’ll change it,” then send him the same file again and he’d go “That’s fantastic!” Typical Blixa. It was just one of those things. Marc (Almond) went in a studio in London, sent us the first take he did and it was fantastic.
At the beginning, when we asked Sleazy he said they’d have to be famous, but not too famous, and have an agenda of their own. They have to have a link with TG and us; their approach to life or their work is the key to the whole thing. It’s nothing to do with just getting guest vocals or your best friends. It wasn’t about that. It wasn’t a usual suspects project.
KN: Now it’s like a lovely monument to Sleazy as his last wish.
CFT: Yeah and all the people involved were the ones who were on his list that were special in some way. It represented his approach to life as well.
CC: He was really into Leonard Cohen as well.
KN: Do any of you have longstanding favourite albums?
NCV: I have to say mine is Nico as well; Chelsea Girl and Desertshore. I remember when I first heard the Velvet Underground when I was eleven. I heard Nico’s voice and said ‘Who’s that man singing?’ After that I was really interested in the fact that I thought it was a man’s voice and that feeling behind it.
CFT: She got more masculine as she got older. Her voice was really low.
HD: (To Nik) You sound like her sometimes.
NCV: Yeah, I guess it’s just getting your deeper self in there. The sense of control in her voice is amazing.
CFT: There’s a kind of strength and vulnerability and honesty about her feelings. There was that thing with Sleazy where, at one point it was going down the road that there were no female vocalists on the album. I didn’t approve of that, especially ‘My Only Child’ because no bloke could understand what that meant when she sang it. I didn’t have to fight for my tracks but I think he assumed I’d been doing some while he got the others nailed down. I sent him the two I did. But there was always a thing with me and Sleazy; we came together with our love of men. Then we had a thing together where we’d always be trying to stamp the fact that I have validity whether I’m female or male. There was always that agenda going on at the same time. (To Nik) You must come across it with Factory Floor. There’s one girl in the band and there’s a technical problem; “What have you done?” Isn’t it always us. It’s always like, “it must be something you’ve done.” Even now.
HD: Like not being shown where to set up and waiting for the guy to come along.
CFT: I didn’t used to notice it but it pisses me off now. Like if they’ve found out it’s a guy that’s feeding back because he left his fucking pedal on or something stupid then they get an apology. We don’t get an apology for it not being us.
CC: One of the worst examples was we used to share a sound engineer who shall remain nameless and he was terrible for that. He would always assume it was you or Nik where the problem was. It was just the first thing in his head, and if it wasn’t he wouldn’t apologise.
CFT: I think in our generation it’s a leftover from our parents because it’s just stamped in them; just the comments that came out that I never used to think of because I wasn’t really thinking about it but now I notice it. I don’t know why I notice it now but there’s an assumption there that I’m lesser yet I’m giving you a job here, y’know? It’s very bizarre.
HD: It’s fear.
CFT: It could be a threat but I’ve no idea. You shouldn’t have to have comments to this day that are basically deep rooted sexist and misogynistic, especially from alternative anarchist type people. That I hate. (Charlatans singer and Nik’s other half) Tim’s got a shirt with FEMINIST on it. That really annoys me. We can’t even have frigging feminism. They want that as well.
NCV: There’s an assumption that the man in the band is the technical one and does the work and is the boss. If only they knew!
CFT: The worst thing with that is, if a woman says “No, it was me,” it’s like “Oh, listen to her; aren’t you bitchy?” But if a guy says that was actually me it’s “Oh sorry, I didn’t realise that.” You’re in a no-win situation sometimes.
HD: You’d think it would have changed by now.
CFT: People now are too accepting of the situation and they don’t realise that it’s still endemic. Our generation fought to do what we did. We really had to put ourselves out there and get all the flak for doing that, which is great because you’ve created a platform for the next generation of women to come forward. But there comes a point after a couple of generations where it’s an accepted thing and there’s not the knowledge or the understanding of how hard it was to get there. People now are too accepting of the situation and they don’t realise that it’s still endemic.
(To Nik) I just realised that with Sleazy and you it’s a female element, isn’t it? It was Sleazy’s feminine side, now your femininity and me, and Chris with his sensibility and love and respect of women. (To Chris) I’ve met a lot of men in my time but don’t know very many who have the attitude you have to women, where there is no attitude; it’s just another human being and there’s no male-female kind of thing. It’s just another human being. That’s why it’s quite shocking when somebody says something as a throwaway comment and the subtext of it says so much about them. The fact they don’t even realise they’ve said it is scary because they think it’s acceptable or they don’t even realise what they’ve said. That’s what I mean when it’s a generational thing. It’s just in there.
CC: It’s like with Bjork and her new album. She produced it and she had co-producers. All the co-producers who are all men got the credit as producers in the press. She did an article because she was the main producer of the album and they were co-producing. It’s that age-old thing where you have to work twice as hard to be on an even keel with your male counterparts.
CFT: And cook the meal at the end of the day.
HD: Nico with the Velvet Underground was a good example.
CFT: There’s a photo of Nico with Lou Reed and John Cale. Nico’s sat at the front looking beautiful and one of them’s behind making bunny ears. What a cunt. If they can’t do it verbally then do it visually.
KN: What’s coming next?
CC: We’ve been recording the live shows and got some really good recordings so we’ll do another album next year. We’re also doing a project we can’t talk about at the moment.
NCV: The great thing I found in this project was it goes on its own natural path. I got to know them well when we did the first record. I think I’ve changed the dynamic slightly. I held back a bit more on the first album than this one. It’s quite dense, the amount of sound going in; textural compared to the first record. We haven’t discussed what we’ll do next at all, have we?
CC: We don’t talk about it much, we just do it.
KN: (To Nik) I really liked your version of ‘Rocket USA’ on the Alan Vega 70th birthday EPs.
NCV: Thank you! I had been in a band then that was a lot more indie-pop guitar stuff but had got disillusioned by the whole music thing and the industry and didn’t want to do it any more. Paul Smith came up with the ‘Rocket USA’ idea and it got me back in. It was a great feeling doing that.
KN: Is it strange hopping between Factory Floor and Carter Tutti Void? There has to be some overspill.
NCV: Not too much. Obviously, I play different instruments in Factory Floor, whereas this is concentrated on guitar. I approach every instrument the same. I don’t play them the traditional way and the vocal is heavily processed. It’s all about processing, hands on with hardware and recording. I approach everything the same. That’s just who I am and where I’ve got to from doing this for years. I’ve found my own identity in what I play in my music. It doesn’t matter what situation I’m in, I just apply it to that.
CTF: I think the difference is in the fact that any expectation has gone with us. I think you can sit back and just lose yourself, whereas in Factory Floor there’s an aim.
NCV: Not that the record company have much input where to go with the music stylistically, but with Factory Floor you do still feel like it’s making the record then going on tour and doing the press. You feel you have to include these tracks for people to enjoy and think about how people are going to listen to the tracks.
CFT: There is a format isn’t there with Factory Floor, whereas there isn’t with Carter Tutti Void. It could be anything. It could be a 60 minute track, or a two or a five or a ten.
CC: The focus is more on you in Factory Floor, because you’re like the lead singer. Not so much now but you were for a long time.
NCV: I’ve not really got that much interest in singing any more right now, but that’s just the way I am. I don’t think it will carry on like that, with tracks etc because the next one is the last of that contract with DFA. After that I’m really looking forward to being able to put tracks out as we record them; having that freedom. And playing live to enjoy it more, although I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy it now! But I think when you have an expectation of what you do musically it really makes you stand still, and I don’t find that with Carter Tutti Void. It’s easier to be a bit brave. With Factory Floor you always feel like you’re working on a piece of music you did yesterday as opposed to tomorrow. We finished a single a couple of months ago and that’s not coming out until next year because there isn’t anywhere to do the vinyl pressing. Psychologically that’s a bit strange when you always want to evolve with your music.
CC: By the time that comes out you’ll have moved on so much.
CFT: It’s like actors when they’ve worked on a film for two years and then had to promote it three years later. The only reason they’re in that is because they’re actors and they can act like they care but we can’t because we’re not actors. We’ve moved on by the time something comes out.
CC: That is a big drag with vinyl. It’s just so bad now. f (X) took a long time to come out. I wanted it to come out sooner but we just couldn’t get the pressing. Vinyl is really hard to get done now because the majors have jumped on this vinyl bandwagon and are buying all the time in the pressing plants. It’s outrageous. It’s terrible. Our vinyl has just sold out quicker than we thought it would and now we’re trying to get it repressed on black vinyl and that’s a problem.
CFT: The people that started this and created a market have been pushed out by the majors now. They created a market and the majors suddenly thought “Hang on a minute, we’ll have a bit of that.” It’s the third time this has happened to us. First when we did the Second Annual Report; we just did it and didn’t expect people to like it. Then when we did Heartbeat, which sold out, and now with Carter Tutti Void.
CC: For this one we did the promotion ourselves and didn’t even bother to do any promotion. Before, with Transverse, we had Mute doing it and that’s like a big machine. I can slightly understand why we got so many reviews for that; they did a really good job, but for this it’s been like the same thing. It’s word of mouth as well. You only need a couple of good reviews and The Guardian made it their record of the week. That was really good.
CFT: I think there’s also a ceiling for sales for people who aren’t U2. No matter how much publicity you get, you hit the ceiling with 10,000 and then no more, no matter what. But we are fiercely independent.
CC: I’m still signed to Mute as a solo artist. Mute are really good. We’ve known Daniel Miller for 40 years and we’re still good friends. They’re very passionate. They were cool and don’t mind if we’d gone to another label.
CFT: They were just dealing with us doing what we wanted to do rather than anything else. This is the first time Industrial has released anything by anyone else than TG.
KN: When we spoke 37 years ago you said the money from Second Annual Report would be used to press ‘United’, and so on.
CFT: I read in one of my diaries the money for the first album came from what Sleazy had earned with Hipgnosis as a surprise. I’d forgotten that.
CC: Cos we all had day jobs back then.
CFT: Three of us did.
CC: Yes, three of us did. We might have put money from the first pressing back into pressing another 500.
CFT: Then the Second Annual Report went to start Fetish Records and kept them going until we signed TG’s back catalogue to Mute in 1981. Fetish very kindly said we’d have to buy the rights to Second Annual Report off them – after we’d given it to them to start their label. It was rather shitty to say the least. We had the spirit of helping everybody out. It was like that then. But we had to buy the rights to Second Annual Report back off them.
KN: Now everything is being repackaged on vinyl and history continues to be rewritten in different ways.
CFT: When it’s taken out of context like that I think it sometimes loses its power, and the power of people to understand where it came from and why it even happened. There’s so much behind bands like TG, Suicide and the Velvet Underground that I don’t think people are willing to get their hands dirty or tax their brains too much to try and make sense of what was going on at that time; why it was happening and the way the music portrayed it, and why it sounded the way it did. I don’t know if there’s a reference point that could help them understand all that. Years ago, if you were fascinated by the Beat Generation, you looked into it and tried to understand why they were the way they were and why their work existed. There’s not a huge amount of people nowadays that I get the sense are really interested in putting the work in for that.
KN: It’s now impossible to convey the overwhelming impact of going to see TG or Suicide 40 years ago. It really was like nothing you’d heard before and this rarely happens now. This (CTV) album reminds me of those times and really does sound like nothing else out there.
CFT: To me, this album feels like when you have something deep inside that has to be exorcised. Not like a nasty thing or anything like that. It’s just that you bring out everything you want to give to whoever you’re playing with. Because there’s no boundaries or no limits then anything can happen. It’s a fantastic feeling. When you went to a TG or Suicide gig way back then there was a feeling in that room where it was you lot against the world. You suddenly met likeminded people and you as an individual were not wrong. You can’t be wrong if this many people think the same way.
HD: And they all looked cool, somehow.
CFT: Because they knew that they had to move on and become whoever they wanted to be, rather than just conform.
CC: That’s how it happened before the internet.
CFT: When we do the gigs as CTV or anyone else in that ilk, if you like, there’s still a case for going out to something which has never to do with the fucking internet. You’re just out there for that tonight. You don’t have to stay within the virtual world. That’s a solitary lesson; if it went down what would you do otherwise I don’t think people realise how dependent we are on that technology now. If it comes down to it you’ve just got to get and drink water to survive. There’s a split in the barrier between life and how you feel and surrendering to the fact that you are a human being first and access to all this technology is a luxury and not a necessity. You should use it as a tool rather than rely on it. The primary thing is to connect on a one-to-one human level, rather than the other way round. Because that’s what’s gonna get you through life. A computer’s not going to get you through life.
HD: Sometimes I think people under 20 prefer not to connect with people on a one to one level.
CFT: That nature is still there but if you nurture the nature out of someone they’re never going to be able to have that skill. People under 30 can’t because they’ve been nurtured in a different way to how we were. I think if they recognise that there’s a missing link somewhere then that everything will slot back how it should be. Things go in cycles and reach a crisis point before it all comes tumbling down; then it’s wonderful because you get something fantastically new building up again…
Edited highlights of this interview appear in Electronic Sound.