With the E.P. Great Aspirations seeing Colin Mounding and Terry Chambers musically reunited, we sat down for a chat about all things TC&I, past, present and future, in that order. So the first question is to ask if it really was 1983 that the two last worked together musically?
“Yes, 1983 and then Terry left the country.” Which begs the obvious question of why get back together now? “Because it’s soul destroying working on your own,” Colin admits, “Terry came back into the country and we went out for a few drinks and I said, ‘Look I’m working on some stuff, do you fancy having a go?’ He said, ‘Yeah, that would be great,’ one thing led to another and before long we had an outfit and so we could record something. It’s just a need to be with other musicians and have fun, working alone is hard, you need that feedback from fellow musicians. Although I had a few tunes, the project didn’t really take on any solid purpose until Terry was involved.”
And then it felt like a unit rather than a solo project? “You can bounce ideas off each other,” Terry continues,“rather than just be there looking at four walls thinking ‘hmmm, I’m not sure about this,’ you can turn round and say, ‘what do you think?’ So you have got that communication, plus though we haven’t worked together for a long period of time, we started playing together when we where 17, so you never really forget that understanding and camaraderie, it always stays with you.” Terry concedes that he was looking for something to do musically since moving back to back this country from Australia and may well have found a band or project to get involved in but working with Colin again seemed the obvious move. “This was a no brainer for me, you’re only here once in your life and this felt a bit like unfinished business. When I left XTC it wasn’t the greatest set of circumstances and you can’t go through your life thinking ‘what if?’ so when Colin offered the opportunity I thought, ‘yes lets do this again.’” “Also,” Colin notes, “there is something to do with the fact that we were born within a month of each other, were in the same year at school and born within a mile of each other as well, it must be something in the water, something about the way his foot lands and my bass note goes on top of it, sort of like a connection that brothers have.” A point Terry underlines,“We learnt to play together really, when we first got together when we were about 17, I’d been playing since I was 14 and I think Colin started about the same time and although we had been playing for 3 years we were still bedroom boys so the first experience I ever had of playing alongside a bass player was with Colin, so really we grew together as musicians. Obviously he grew a bit further than me…”
It’s a camaraderie which is very apparent in the way the two men talk about each other as Colin chips in with “…He left under a cloud” and leaves it hanging to much laughter. Talk turns to the intervening years since they last shared studio space before Terry’s relocation to Australia. I ask about any musical paths he may have pursued on the other side of the world. “I played for a while over there but it just wasn’t the same and I became a bit disillusioned with it really and just went about other things. My son plays so I became more interested in what he was doing rather than what I was doing, so I remained interested in the music business but as a non participant.”
And did you keep in touch with the guys at all during the intervening years? “Yes, I came back over for my brother’s eldest daughters wedding and unfortunately two funerals over a period of time, so whenever I came over, I tried to get involved with the guys on a social level. When you travel back from Australia you have to stay for at least two weeks to make it worthwhile, it’s a fair old trip, so I always tried to catch up with Dave, Colin and Andy and on one occasion when I met Colin he said, I’ve got this thing in the works and we had a bit of a boozy session and I don’t know if he regrets it now…” his colleague takes over “Out at The White Horse, which is at the foot of the Uffington White Horse, which was very apt I suppose, on a Sunday night when they were serving up pizza we got a bit sloshed and here we are.
The conversation rambles into the parallels of Ian Gillian getting drunk with the members of Black Sabbath and waking up to find that he was now in the band before we return to discussing Colin’s musical journey since their last collaboration as part of XTC. “We went on to make a lot more albums as a band until our demise around 2006, it just sort of fizzled out really, there was no real desire to make another album, I think Andy wanted out and I wasn’t keen on carrying on as it was.
Since then I’ve done sessions basically, got wrapped up with these prog rock people in Los Angeles and I have been singing for them for the last 5 years. A chap called Billy Sherwood, he actually plays bass for Yes, he took Chris Squire’s place, he gets in Tony Banks and Rick Wakeman and people like that and he often calls me and ask if fancy singing on whatever he is working on. I just think that after the demise of the band, with it having been such a big part of your life then all that disappears out of the door you think, ‘Oh Christ, what now then?’ And after 30 odd years, it was just a big kind of ‘Oh!’ I think I watched telly for about 2 years and then this thing came up in Los Angeles, and it wasn’t like before because you can do it all over the internet now, you can record and send files over there, I even appeared in videos, film people would turn up and want you singing on the video, very strange. I remember doing a vanity recording for this chap and his group called Days Between Stations, I appeared in the video, sang the song, I’d even written a lot of the words, that was all kind of interesting. Then I thought I’ve got to do something, you can’t just sit around and eat chocolate cake and then you get the inkling that you should start writing again and you start meddling and the next thing you know Terry’s on the door step.
The last 35 years or so caught up on we turn to the e.p. which, I point out, is quite a reflective set of songs, particularly the leading video release Scatter Me. “I think when you get to 62 there’s melancholy all around and you have to try and beat it away with a stick,” says Colin, “ I think it is sort of a bitter sweet sensation, tinged with sadness but also upbeat as well, that’s a nice combination I think.”
We then talk a bit about the other songs, starting with Greatness, Colin puts it, “It’s sort of an aspiring kind of thing, these days there’s a dumbing down of society, I like my Lords to be haughty, because I want to be up there with them but today it is more about bringing the ceiling down lower,” so a bit of a swipe at modern society, “In a way, we can all have good exam results if the standards are brought down lower, I say make them higher, I think society has dumbed down quite a bit, I want society to reach for the top and drag me up with it.”
Kenny has a lot of local references running through it as well as more than a tinge of nostalgia what was Colin’s inspirations behind those lyrics? “People rarely mention a sense of place in music today, I think it is a good thing to talk about. Kenny is the central figure in that landscape but it is one where the powers that be are building on the playing fields. Kenny is this footballer who did rather well for himself but its more about the modern desire to build on every available scrap of land and these are the places where imaginations get nurtured. Terry continues the thread “When we were kids, you’d finish school for the day and every patch of grass would have some kids kicking a ball around unlike today. People say it was safer back then, I don’t think it was any safer, I think there was just as many degenerate people around, but we were all outside because kids had to make their own entertainment and that’s the era the song is talking about.”
A deeper connection runs from the fact that Colin was a caretakers son. “My dad was caretaker of Headlands school, I think they have built all over that now, developers probably said ‘I’ll give you an Academy if we can build on the playing fields’ but ’69,’70, ’71 were probably the best summers I ever had, I could just go out of my front door and go onto the tennis courts or the expanse of fields, acres of newly mown grass, it was paradise. Consequently I had a lot of mates who wanted to come around and play tennis. So this business of building on playing fields, I don’t think its good, it’s the council selling off their assets but how far does that take you?”
That brings us on the to the trickier one. Comrades of Pop is going to have people talking isn’t it? Colin agrees, “Yes, they think it is about the feud between me and Andy..but it’s not about that at all. It’s about me passing on the baton to all the new popsters coming into the industry, just giving them a little bit of advice about what not to do. Don’t get tangled up with the money men because they will make mincemeat of you.” Although he does agree that some people might try to draw a more cynical meaning out of it, “Yes, but people who don’t know that me and Andy have had words would maybe not go down that road.”
So ironically it is a song probably better received by people a bit more at arms length from the internal workings of the band? Terry sees it in simpler terms, “I think it is just a good observational song from Colin’s personal experience. We were there when the lawyers were wrangling over everything so it all just comes from personal experience really.”
It’s actually nice to have that explained first hand and we agree that is the song that most people will try to read more into, especially on fan forums, “Well, I’m not going to deny that me and Andy have had words in the past but it isn’t about that at all, says Colin underlining the point. “I think some people just love to set one person agains another. Sometimes you feel like diving in and giving an explanation but it’s never worth it, I mean where do you stand with that, do you really want to correct these people.”
We return to more musical matters by discussing the song’s interesting style of a spoken word approach. “I don’t think anybody had done this kind of talk over thing, at least not in the pop idiom, John Betjeman did it with his poems and they were set to music but nobody has done that in a pop way and about the pop industry and taken a slightly wry look at its workings.”
Finally, though they have only just got this project out to the public, obviously people are going to be interested to know if their any plans to carry on working together? Colin has the last word,“We might, we don’t really know what we are going to be doing, one step at a time, if we get some songs together we might do another record but I think with making albums you can get a bit precious plus it takes a long time and the people we work with are of an age that they might not even last through dinner.”
Buy Great Aspirations HERE