Simon Townshend: "Looking Out Looking In"
JPG: Did you know about TRI and you brought it up or did someone come to you and say, “When you’re in the San Francisco area….”?
ST: Yeah, we got invited. I was doing an in-store…this is the thing about getting out and playing, you meet people. I was doing an in-store at a clothes shop in London that Liam Gallagher owns called Pretty Green. I’ve been getting my clothes there for some time. I said to my manager, “If you can hook me up there. I love their clothes. That would be a great thing for me to do.” Then, I got offered an in-store to go and play. And it just went from there.
[TRI CEO/President] Chris McCutcheon and [Chief Creative Officer] Justin Kreutzmann, Justin who is related to Bill, obviously, were at the Pretty Green. They filmed it and said, “We would love for you to come to our studio if ever you’re in San Francisco.” I actually went out of my way. I said, “Let’s do it. Let’s get over there.” We set a date and put in things around it. It happened to be that I was doing a corporate show with Roger Daltrey in the Bahamas of all places. I put in a Joe’s Pub show in New York. So, I flew from the Bahamas to New York, stayed there a few days, did a show and then flew over to the West Coast. I made it happen.
I could have easily sat on the offer but the fact that those guys said that they wanted me there…I think at the time they offered to pay the flight if I paid the hotel. So, that’s what we did. We struck up a deal and we got on with it. It’s really been worthwhile because a lot of people have seen that. It came out beautifully.
JPG: It went over quite well. Now, were you playing to a room with just a few people because at one point you mocked the idea by pretending that you were in an arena?
ST: It was about 20 people; a few of the guys that worked there, friends and family and a handful of invited people.
JPG: Roger keeps being brought up. Working with Roger and with Pete do you end up becoming the mediator, the buffer, between those two?
ST: I used to be more so. In 2004 the Who recorded “Real Good Looking Boy” and “Old Red Wine.” It might have been 2002 because John [Entwhistle] died and “Old Red Wine” was written about him. I produced two tracks for the Who, putting that producer’s hat on. It was interesting. At the time it was more a case of telling Pete that Roger didn’t like this and then going back to Roger and telling him that Pete didn’t like that. Then, going back to Pete and saying “Roger loves this” and then going back to Roger and saying, “Pete loves that.” It was a bit more mediator. I almost at times felt like my positions were going to have to be final decisions because that was where they were at the time.
They’ve always been incredibly close. I think they’re closer now than they’ve ever been. I feel real love between them. I think Pete’s very respectful of my views and the fact that Roger has gone out of his way and worked very hard to get this Quadrophenia working on stage and you’ve got some great moments. On this particular show, since we started working with Roger a guy called Frank Simes came in as musical director. He’s done the same job with Quadrophenia. He works in the back room doing the enhancement parts on brass and stuff. He took over that role, which is nice for me. (slight laugh)
There was a time Pete and Roger weren’t quite so close. They were a bit disagreeing on things, and (slight laugh) they’d actually talk through me. I’d be standing there and Pete would look at me and say something to Roger and Roger would look at me and say something to Pete.
JPG: (laughs) I could see where both could get on your nerves because you’re stuck in the middle.
ST: Yeah, but that is not now. This is going back to 2004. After John died there was a period where it became very difficult because they lost another major part of their original lineup. These things are trying and it’s very hard to deal with emotionally. They both had a lot on their plate in that respect. Also, at that time there was a demand from the fans to do new material. Obviously, Pete has to write the material. It’s a tough one. I do believe there’s a little bit of that but right now it seems very different.
I feel like I’ve earned my stripes. I have a lot of respect from Pete and Roger respects me very highly. Roger relied on me for the last few years, being that right hand man to him, be there for his solo tours which has kept me in work and kept me active because without that the fact that I go out and do three or four or five months of touring work a year keeps me in a position where I can carry on funding my solo career and what I love to do. It’s not like I have to go out and get a day job or join a covers band or a tribute band. I’m lucky. I’m working and I’m in a position where if Pete doesn’t want to go out and tour I can go out and tour myself.
JPG: Speaking of your solo material, talking to you brings me back to my early college days when one of your albums, Sweet Sound, arrived when I was the Entertainment Editor for the college newspaper. By the way, I see different numbers for your solo releases. I’ve seen six listed but is it missing Sweet Sound and Moving Target, so is it actually eight?
ST: I think it’s about eight, yeah. I believe the count of seven is all stuff that I’ve done solo. Sorry, not solo, what the hell am I talking about, on my own label and such. Before that a major record company released only three on Polygram. My Stir music label has been around about ’94. Since then, I put seven studio albums out. Moving Target wasn’t received that well but, hey, we all make mistakes. There’s a couple of great songs on that CD as it goes.
It’s been a long road and I’m not proud of everything I’ve done. At the same time I’m not regretful of any of it and I’m really happy with where I’ve ended up.
JPG: Is Looking Out Looking In on your label as well?
ST: Yes, it was but then Eagle Rock came along and bought the rights to distribute it. It was put out in the UK in February. It’s now been put out in the States. I’ve got another album in the can. I’ve been writing and recording all year. So, I’m really excited about next year as well. It’s gonna be good. People who are catching on to me now have caught me on the crest of a wave right now.
JPG: Going back a bit, I was listening to the simontownshendis album, the song “Save Me From Me”…
ST: (slight laugh) Self-destruction.
JPG: Was it a poetic look or was it based in reality?
ST: It was basically about getting ahold of yourself, getting ahold of your drink and drug problems and finding yourself. That’s what that one’s about. It’s hard to exist sometimes, creative minds and people, even musicians. There’s a lot of downtime for musicians, a lot of waiting around, and you have to be strong. You have to wait for those moments where you get onstage a couple of hours every few days or whatever. You’re got to really come out and deliver. You’ve got to be patient in the interim. You’ve got work and you’ve got to sit down and have a play and try and be creative. It’s hard, sometimes, on the road. It’s hard when you get home in between tours to, sometimes, find that motivation but if you’ve got a goal and you want to reach it, it’s the only way, isn’t it? Those quieter moments start to find what it’s all about and what you’re all about, and then get out there and make the most of it. If all you do is sit around getting stoned and drunk and listening to what you’ve already done then you’re not creating anything new.
“Save Me From Me,” I was in a place in my life where I wasn’t doing myself any favors. I wasn’t letting myself progress because I was using too much of what was available to me and not being expressive. It’s definitely some problem with artists, that musicians have, is they sit and listen to what they’ve done. You write a song and then play it a hundred times. Really, you just want to write a song quickly, record it and then get on to something else.
JPG: There’s something else with creative people, where you could be so sensitive that you could write something but you question the work and run yourself down as you keep creating and reworking the material. Then, you end having a bad mindset because you’re looking for that perfect note, that perfect moment, that you feel is within you.
ST: Well, I certainly agree with that. If you can get the buzz out of creating something new, get that adrenaline rush out of creating something that before that moment in time never existed, that moment where you create something brand new, especially if it’s unique and it’s not been copied and you’ve not been influenced too much and you’ve come up with something completely different, those moments are powerful. No drug can make you feel as high. There’s nothing comparable. It’s a gift. It’s something you strive to experience as often as possible.
When writers say they have writer’s block, I think they’re saying that they’re not experiencing that emotional roller coaster of emotion that comes along with it. And it’s not all good, believe me. I don’t know, you may well have experienced it as well. People who haven’t, it’s not all great because when you come up with something that’s totally unique you go up on such a high that you’re going to have to come down at some point and then start searching again. Hearing something for the first time or creating something for the first time is always going to have a different effect than a year later, isn’t it, when you’ve heard it 50 times or whatever? It’s hard sometimes to take but that’s the game we’re in. That’s we do. It is what it is.