TV SMITH - INTERVIEW (2/2) : "I love Wreckless Eric, and do feel that we have followed a similar kind of path"

Your band,
the Adverts became famous in 77. It has been quite a while since and unfortunately I think the Adverts never got the success they deserved specially considering the quality of the two albums you released. Today, you keep on playing those songs and others as a solo act mostly. And your trajectory seems quite similar to Wreckless Eric’s one. Do you feel any acquaintance with this other maverick of English rock poetry ?

I love Wreckless Eric, and do feel that we have followed a similar kind of path. We both spent a period where we refused to play our old records live because it was too inhibiting and we both felt we had to be judged on our new material. Now for myself, and I think for Eric too, we have kind of proved ourselves as songwriters and are happy to play the old songs again - as long as it’s in the context of everything with done since.

Last September you have been playing in the US for the first time I think. What were your impressions of the audience you found there, and of the country more generally ?

I’ve made a few sporadic trips out to the the US over the years, sometimes solo, sometimes with pickup bands usually playing mostly Adverts songs. The difference this time was that the offer was to play a specific Adverts set, and also use the name “Adverts” - which is something I’ve always refused to do up to now, mainly because I didn’t want people to think that it was going to be the original band members. But I’ve decided to let that go now. The fact is that Gaye hasn’t played bass since the day the Adverts broke up, and all the other band members have now died, so I think everyone understands it’s going to be me with different musicians. We had some really positive responses from the audiences and I’d like to go back. In many ways I don’t like America much, the right wing attitude and the mind-numbing lack of culture really gets to you after a while, and for a vegan it can be hard to eat when you spend the first week in Texas! But I really liked the people I met. Like in most countries, however much you may dislike the political environment, the people you meet at gigs are the ones who are kicking against the system and you get a sense of the real soul of a country when you speak to them.

Handwriting enflamed from the embers of Lockdown Holiday. If Handwriting has been classed as your Hunky Dory, what do you feel your next album will be like ? .... Ziggy Stardust ?

Well, I never plan my next move, I just kind of let it happen, so I can’t tell you. But realistically…Bowie wrote and recorded Hunky Dory when he was a young man with his life stretching ahead of him, heavyweight management and record labels supporting his every move. I’m 68 and totally DIY, I’ll be happy with whatever comes next.

You close Handwriting with "Children Of a dying Sun". What is the heart of this deeply moving finale ?

“Heart” is the right word. That song in particular, and a lot of the rest of the album, is about a world that is gradually losing its heart and its compassion. We are becoming strangely cold and cruel creatures and almost seem to be embracing it, as if it’s a good way forward. I tried to write a song that pointed us back to the humanity we’re letting slip away.

Describe the experience of working with gifted musicians and creative composers like
Tim Cross and Gerry Diver ?

What they have in common is that they both completely understood my songs, so I could completely trust them to work on them. Gerry was the first person I’ve worked with since Tim Cross died who was able to embellish the arrangements in a way that always served the songs, and it was a real thrill working with him and hearing the songs bloom when he added his parts. Importantly as a multi-instrumentalist he was able to bring a lot of new musical texture to the arrangements, and all played on real instruments. I think you can hear that. The way he worked, there was aways an instrumental surprise around the corner, but never a wrong move, and everything he did added to the songs rather than weakening them.

You appear to have a very loyal and continuously growing fan base, how have you nurtured this over the decades ?

I don’t do anything in particular, really. I’m generally approachable at gigs, people know they can usually find me at the merch stand if they want a photo or signature, or if people write to me I always do my best to reply. I just try and be authentic in my songs and as a person and in a world where there’s a lot of artificiality I guess people respect that.

We've talked to some of your fans in Les Monstres Sacrés (

It's rare for artists to pay tribute to their fans. Could you say a few words about Tim Downes, Dave Thompson, Dave C5 Allen, Craig Casson, Attila the stockbocker and Klaus (we're forgetting many)?

Well, all these people have helped keep me going when things have been tough and supported me when the music business wasn’t interested. People like these are one of the reasons I’m still here. I salute you!

What was it like revisiting and recreating the 1978 Raw meat for the Missionaries demos with Richard Strange ?

That was a loose end that needed tying up. Richard and I were both very fond of those songs we wrote and recorded together in 1978 but things were moving very fast for both of us in that period and they got left behind somehow. When it was suggested we release the original recordings on vinyl for Record Store Day a few years ago we jumped at the chance because we both wanted to get the songs heard. The problem was that they were recorded on a two track Revox tape machine so the sound quality was quite poor, and when we listened to them again we realised it would be interesting to try and record them again with all the new technology at our disposal since then. We ended up with great quality recordings with some new elements to the instrumentation and arrangements, but still managed to keep the charm of the originals. We wrote a couple of new songs together to round the project off, and also re-recorded a song called “Don’t Panic England,” which we originally wrote for the Doctors Of Madness for the brief period when Dave Vanian was singing for them.

With the 50th anniversary of your first studio album close on the horizon, what has been your favorite decade and most challenging decade to date, and why ?

To be absolutely honest, I’ve never been more satisfied with where I am than now. I’ve made what I feel is a career-best record and I’m happy with my gigs and the audiences I’m getting. The way the Adverts took off in 1977 was a thrill, but the way it all fell apart was extremely painful, and I think I was too young to make the most of the situation. When the manager of the band died shortly after the band split up I completely lost control of things and the music business basically shut the door on me. Now I feel I’m much more in control of what goes on and the way my music is made and put out to the fans. I may not be the most commercially successful old punk around, but I know that what I have is real, not fabricated by some record company or PR team. There are still massive challenges to being a musician at this level of course, but that’s all part of it. You just have to try and not let it overwhelm you. As for the most challenging decade - I want to try and keep on the trajectory I’m on for as long as possible but realistically, as I already mentioned, at the age of 68 keeping this kind of workload up will probably mean that the next decade is going to be the most challenging!

You played over 250 of your songs for your fans and supporters during twelve incredible live shows. This is akin to
Sparks playing 21 albums back to back in London in 2008. Please share what happened and how it felt for you to play some songs you’d never played over before?

The idea of playing 250 songs just developed out of the situation of being in lockdown. I’d always disliked the idea of online gigs because one of the most important things about a live show is the interaction between the performer and the audience - and obviously that isn’t possible if the gigs are happening over Zoom or Facebook or whatever. But lockdown meant that playing shows online was the only option there was, and after a few tryouts it started to go quite well. I didn’t get instant feedback from a show like I do when I’m onstage - but people would leave comments as I was playing, my partner Sally would read and respond in the next room to where I was performing, and I could read it all afterwards. People seemed to really appreciate it, so I tried lots of different formats, including shows where people would write in requests for what songs they wanted to hear. It was while I was rehearsing some of the more obscure requests that I realised that there were an awful lot of songs that I never play live, and that it might be a nice idea to use this unique opportunity to perform them all again. It was a lot of work to get some of those old songs back into my head, but I really enjoyed re-visiting them, I’d forgotten how much I liked some of them.

Are you still in contact with the other band members from other punk bands of the in 70's? Is this like a big family or not ?

I don’t have a lot of contact with other bands from the 70’s - we see each other occasionally at gigs and festivals and we are all pretty friendly, but apart from that I think most of the original punk bands have gone off on their own trajectories. Obviously I’m playing mainly solo shows so I’m not at many of the punk festivals, except for Rebellion of course.

Can you tell us what is a "Monstre Sacré" for you ?

I’m not sure I believe anyone deserves to be a “monstre sacré,” to be honest. Society likes to think that artists can be above reproach because of what they create, but I think we all have to be responsible for our actions and who we are.

Thank you a lot TV SMITH !