April , 1980
The Thrills and Excitement of XTC
XTC, Say the word fast and it sounds as though you are talking about some sexual delight. Slow it down a bit, and you have the name of one of the hottest bands to come out of England in some time.
XTC is the product of guitarist Andy Partridge. Colon Moulding, bass and vocals, and Terry Chambers, drums. The fourth member of this entourage is lead guitarist; vocalist David Gregory, who's inclusion into the group marked a change in musical direction for the band.
"I was surprised actually when they asked me to join because they had always had a keyboard player, and here I was a guitarist." recalled Gregory about his indoctrination into the band.
“It was very strange that they should ask me to loin, particularly since they made two great albums and were in fact going to change their style completely. It was ridiculous, the nerve of them.”
"I have known these guys for years. I was just lucky to be in the right place at the right time, Andy started the group along with Colin and Terry, and they've been together for about six years. During that time, they had various guitar and keyboard players. The last one was Barry Andrews, who left about a year ago. I replaced him."
Despite the overall success of the album, Gregory's face registers a bit of disappointment when he talks about the role his guitar played on the album.
Though it was recorded in two weeks, Gregory says he felt producer Steve Lillywhite did a good job on the bass and drum tracks, but his production didn't do justice to the guitar tracks.
Gregory also believes the album's sound wasn't bright and crisp enough. The tracks were reshuffled for the release of the album in this country in an effort to catch the ears of this nation's radio programmers with some of the possible airworthy cuts that appear on the first side. It apparently succeeded in that aspect because one song, "Ten Feet Tall," has received a considerable amount of airplay.
As for XTC's next album, Gregory says they would prefer Nick Lowe to produce it, but then quickly pointed out that he didn't think that the much travelled Lowe would place a group like XTC very high on his priority list. The opinion on Lowe is high within the group, and Gregory says that the sound he achieved with Elvis Costello's Armed Forces LP was the ideal pop production style for XTC to aim for in the future.
Even if Gregory is slightly disappointed with his part of the production on Drums and Wires, one thing he is not likely to forget is his involvement as a guitarist on a few tracks of an album that was recorded by one of his idols, Peter Gabriel.
"Our producer, Steve Lillywhite knew Peter Gabriel," explained Gregory, "and was going to work on his new album. So of course I said to him, 'If Gabriel wants a guitarist to give us a call, ha. ha,' The next thing I knew, he (Gabriel) was on the phone telling me to come and play guitar. I went.”
What Gregory was to encounter amazed him thoroughly he says. He calls Gabriel's self-titled third album his best work ever.
"Oh, good God." exclaimed Gregory. "I was a bag of nerves when I went up to the studios to help out on some of the tracks of his album. He is one of the few heroes I've got left.”
"The fact that here I was in the same studio with the man helping him out, it was ridiculous. I couldn't believe it. I mean, he's such a nice bloke too. He was actually helping me with my amplifiers loading them in and out of the car. I couldn't believe it."
After playing with a man like Gabriel, and being surrounded by the caliber of musicians he can command, it would seem as though an experience like that would alter Gregory's outlook on music and perhaps change, or influence, the way he would play with XTC. He says it is not so.
"It wasn't difficult to go back to XTC after playing with Peter Gabriel," assured Gregory. "It was just one day. In fact, it was only an afternoon and an evening. It was just into the studio and out again, Really, I wish I had been there longer because I was just a bag of nerves.
"It takes me a day or two to get used to studios. Most musicians like to be acclimated to a place when they are recording. You know, I was actually recording with one of my super heroes and it was a little too much for me to take. So in fact, I was quite relieved to get back to Swindon (the group's hometown) and come back down to earth, After I played that session, I didn't play any records for two or three days afterwards. It was like it altered my perspective it was so good."
Many bands that arrive here from England, have usually established a following there, and have records and singles high on the UK charts. They often find the reverse when they come to this country to tour. Gregory says that XTC doesn't bank its success on how well they are received here in the Land of Opportunity.
"That's a difficult question," answered Gregory alter he paused to think about it "I suppose different people have different ideas on what being a success is.”
"To me, it doesn't matter whether I make enough money or not, because I've never had any money and I don't know what it is like to have money. I suppose different people have different ideas on what being a success is. I mean, I consider being a success by being able to work as a musician every day of my life because that's all I've ever wanted to do. I have never wanted to do anything else. To me, that's being a success."