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I’ve been privileged to have been able to interview band members on a few occasions in recent years, but this had to be the strangest setting so far! It was a couple of hours before showtime at this outdoor venue in central Wisconsin, and I’m sitting on equipment boxes with Tom in the back of the huge truck that transports all the bands stage gear! Band photographer, Mike Graham is also in attendance, taking a few shots and laughing along at my attempts to keep up with the sharp, ultra-dry wit of Mr P! So as you read this, please imagine Tom with a twinkle in his eye, and ready to feed me some unlikely story with his deadpan delivery!

KG: We're in the back of the truck at the Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and I'd like to start off by asking you a few questions about the new CD which is finally coming out on July 22nd

KG: How frustrating has it been to all of you that it's been so long to get this CD out?

TP: It hasn't been. Not one bit.

KG: Surely, you'd hoped to have this out months or years ago?

TP: What do you expect, everything just takes forever. When you think it might, or if you think it should… everything just keeps getting delayed…. I don't think it'll be out July 22nd. This year anyway. It might come out next year, I think it'll come out January 22nd

KG: O… K…

TP: No, it's coming out July 22nd !!… Or it might not…

KG: You recorded songs over a long period of time…

TP: … did we?

KG: … in different studios and with different producers…

TP: … we did?

KG: I believe so. Didn't you work in Los Angeles and you did some stuff in Florida, and didn't you do some stuff in Texas?

TP: Well… <pause>… yeah, but… <pause> yeah OK, that's good enough! Kim, you can think that if you like!

KG: Because of those things, was it more difficult to do this CD? Because it was being done over such a long period of time?

TP: No, it was easy

KG: Oh, OK. I thought it might have been easier if you had four or 5 months together and blitzed and did the thing , rather than doing it in small stages

TP: No, it was easy

KG: Why was it easy?

TP: Then you can do whatever you want, there's no pressure, and you can keep going…

KG: Until you're happy with what you've come out with?

TP: Yeah

KG: I understand that you did over 50 songs for this CD, and then obviously whittled down to 10 or 11 for the release

TP: Well, I don't think we did that many, but we had a lot of ideas, we had done a lot of demo's and things. We didn't really go in and record 50 finished tracks or anything like that. That's ridiculous

KG: Was this the normal number of songs you might start playing with…?

TP: Not really. I mean, it wasn't that many anyway. I don't know how many it was. There were different ideas, something was good but it didn't have a great verse or didn't have any verse. I don't know how many ideas there were, probably even more than that

KG: Do you have any particular thoughts or comments on particular songs? I've listened to the songs that I know are on the album, and I know you've been heavily involved in writing some of these, like Pop Drone was an idea that you had and brought into the fold.

TP: Oh, there's all sorts of things. We all kinda did all sort of things on everything.

KG: You can tell I couldn't do this (interviewing) for a living!

TP: No you couldn't, you're terrible at this!  <laughing>

KG: Good job this isn't going out live on radio!

TP: You keep droning on about Pop Drone, but I don't know why!

KG: Didn't you come with the idea of Pop Drone?

TP: Well… yeah…

KG: It sounds so deep and atmospheric, it reminds me a lot of Heaven Tonight when I heard it live

TP: Ah, cool

KG: How about Low Life and Hummer, because I haven't heard Hummer but I gather it’s a follow on from Low Life?

TP: Would you like to hear it?

KG: I'd love to!

TP: Sorry, you can't…!

KG: Thank you! I'll have to wait until July 22nd or January 22nd

TP: Try January 22nd … 2005.

KG: There were songs that you played live in 2001 that didn't make the CD, such as "She's So Bad" and "Give It Away". Were they purposely dropped after you tried working them live and seeing how they went over or how they sounded?

TP: Well, we had quite a few ideas, and we could only do a certain amount of songs. We all had different ideas on what should be on there, and it's hard to tell. After a while you're just not objective about it at all. So we just thought, we'll see what our producer, what Chris Shaw thinks… what would he think should go on there. We made of couple of different changes, but basically he said "I think it should be this and this and this" and we're like "fine". Otherwise we'd have been doing fifty songs and then where would we be? So we've got another record just ready to go, even if we never wrote anything again… which won't be the case!

KG: "Best Friend" and "Too Much" seem to have come from nowhere. Were these written fairly recently or were they ones you'd worked on a while ago?

TP: I honestly don't remember… No, they were in there with all the other ones. It was one of those things where we probably did them as a demo or somebody had it as their own demo, and we may not have even worked on it. I don't remember exactly, and then Chris said "Hey, what's that, that's a good one. Do you want to do that?" and we're like "Alright"

KG: I was thinking of the Double Door show in Chicago where you showcased a load of new songs…

TP: None of those songs are on there, right?

KG: Some of them are…

KG: Moving on from the new CD, you're heading back to Japan in August, for at least two shows. You're doing a couple of Festival shows…

TP: Oh yeah

KG: …How do you feel about shows like that? I gather you're outdoors as well.

TP: I imagine we're outdoors, yes!

TP: How do I feel about Festival Shows? You mean, would I go to one?

KG: How do you feel about playing them as opposed to going to one?

TP: I've never been to one, I dunno…

KG: You get up there and do it I guess

TP: Its kind of fun because there's lots of other really interesting bands, that's fun. That’s usually the biggest thing to me… usually there's some good acts that you want to see, you talk to some people. That's fun, good food, and oh… they have the best tuna sandwiches in Japan, you know that, right?

KG: That's "raw" tuna, isn't it?

TP: It’s good!

KG: A question that's just come to me. Where are your favourite places to play?

TP: Gotta be Japan… for the tuna salad sandwiches. Mainly.

KG: They're performance enhancing I presume?

TP: Well, they're just such good sandwiches… Mike, you know!

Mike Graham: <laugh>

TP: They're the f***in' best! White bread with the crust cut off… Oh man… celery…

TP: …Do I like Festivals did you ask?

KG: Yes… where there's a load of bands and a very tight timetable , huge crowd, whether its more impersonal, whether you feel…

TP: Its all impersonal… outdoors is definitely impersonal. It usually doesn't sound very good on stage…

KG: You said all shows are impersonal, but some of the club shows…

TP: Not all shows. I meant, mainly the outdoor shows are comparatively impersonal, because you're up high, the closest person is about a hundred yards away or whatever, and you can't imagine how they must be enjoying themselves…

KG: You played at London's Royal Albert Hall in March. Had it been a particular ambition to play there?

TP: No, not really

KG: I don't know if you'd ever thought that you'd play there…

TP: Well, we've played everywhere else, so why not…

KG: There've been some wonderful bands that have obviously played there, like The Who, Hendrix and Cream and so on…

TP: Well, we didn't fit in with that crowd, that's for sure! It doesn't sound terribly good in there I don't think. At least on stage it's horrible. But it sure looks nice

KG: The venue looked terrific and I think the crowd enjoyed the show. I just wondered about your perspective, how it looked and sounded.

TP: Terrible. I heard it looked good from the house, but I don't know about the sound, I'm sure it was horrendous

KG: The rest of the European shows on that tour had to be cancelled. What were your feelings about that?

TP: I'd have preferred to have played a couple of shows before we played in London… that was a little unnerving. We came in cold and started playing the Royal Albert Hall, that was a bit… shitty.

KG: Finally, it was an interesting show last night in Merrillville, starting off with the acoustic, and then going into the normal length electric set. How did that idea come about?

TP: Did you like it?

KG: I thought it was terrific. A lot of the people I spoke to afterwards said it was great, it was a big surprise…

TP: And now you're going to blab it to the world so now it'll be NO surprise! We'll never do it again! … No, we will!

KG: How did it come about?

TP: We just thought it would be a good idea, it just fell together really

KG: And it was cool some of the songs you chose for that, like Fan Club, Play By The Rules…

TP: Play By The Rules? That's good isn't it?

KG: That was terrific!

TP: Were you shocked and stunned?

KG: When I saw the setlist…

TP: When you saw the list and then it was ruined for you!

KG: No, it was great! The anticipation, then hearing it at soundcheck. Who came out and said "let's try these"?

TP: We were just bashing ideas around, it was kind of all of us…

KG: Did you do that when you were in Florida recently?

TP: Yes. We were there about five or six days

KG: How did the crowd reaction to the show feel to you?

TP: I can't hear the crowd really, so I don't know. I can't tell… that would be a question for you

KG: But it sounded great, and the comments I heard afterwards were all positive and it was great to hear some different stuff, hearing new arrangements. Fan Club you haven't done acoustic that I've heard before, that was nice to hear.

KG: I think that's about it, thank you very much for your time! It's been a pleasure!

TP: But I didn't answer anything though! Not exactly!

KG: It's been an interesting one!

And so we wound up what had been a challenging interview, during which my poor interviewing skills had been absolutely no match for Tom's dry and sardonic wit! But nonetheless, Tom gave a lot of interesting answers, particularly about the upcoming CD, and I’d like to thank him for the interview, and also thanks to Carla and Mike Graham for helping set it up.

Kim Gisborne, Leeds, England. June 2003


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