Ultravox – Warren Cann interview (1977)

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I recently made a transcript of this interview as part of my 40 Years of Foxx project.
It’s interesting to read the perspective of other band members.

This took a lot of work to transcribe.
LINK to this page if you make reference – please don’t copy and paste the contents

SNOT RAG (Fanzine, Vancouver BC)
No. 4 December 20, 1977

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Ultravox first came into prominence late last year, and immediately drew mixed reaction from the critics. Hailed by NME:

“If the New Wave of rock is going to produce bands a s good as ULTRAVOX, then it looks like 1977 might be as good as 1967 for modern music”

and lauded by Melody Maker’s CAROLINE COON:

“ULTRAVOX are obviously another new band who are going to make 1977 a vintage year for Rock… some very special talents are t work here.”

Their detractors accused them of being contrived, a mere imitation of ROXY MUSIC. However as 1977 comes to a close ULTRAVOX have most certainly stood the test. With two successful albums and a string of singles, they have completed highly successful tours or Europe and Britain. The band are confident about their future and have never sounded stronger. Their music is a perfect blend of complex rock and futuristic vision. Drummer WARREN CANN and bassist CHRIS CROSS provide a tight rhythm section, embellished by Billy Currie on keyboards and strengthened with STEVIE SHEARS frantic guitar work. The band provide a perfect show-case for the fragile yet devastating lyrics of their manic vocalist JOHN FOXX.
I recently had the opportunity to gain an interview from ULTRAVOX drummer WARREN CANN, (undoubtedly one of the best drummers to emerge from the New Wave). What follows is that interview in its entirety.

S.R. –    You’ve recently completed your biggest British tour ever, was it as successful as you had hoped?

W.C. –  Yes, we played all over the country and the audiences were great. They know us better now and aren’t as easily throne by some of the things we do. We’ve tried ever since we began to keep changing, to keep mutating. We’re not interested in finding a formula and flogging it to death like so many of the dinosaurs, or like a lot of the punks do for that matter.
I think that the one thing people can expect from ULTRAVOX! is constant change. We’ve just completed our first tour of Europe, that was from mid-October through to mid-November. We played in Sweden, Germany, France, Belgium and Holland. The audiences over there were great. They’re different from English audiences in that they don’t tend to go off like a rocket when you walk onstage – they sit there and really listen, then as the music goes on they get more and more involved until at the end they’re going spare.

S.R. –    I understand you weren’t too happy about the conditions under which you recorded the first album? Can you elaborate?

W.C.    What??? I don’t know where you heard that… nothing like that happened, we were really happy about it all. So would you, too, if you’d been knocking on record company doors for two years and constantly being given the elbow.
You see, in those days there was absolutely nothing happening. When we started London was like a wasteland, none of us could hear what we wanted to hear or what we felt it was necessary to hear so we just decided to do it ourselves.
It was only later on that we discovered there were a few small pockets of change happening. THE HOTRODS, THE FEELGOODS, the LONDON SS, THE STRANGLERS and what was to become The Clash, plus a lot of other people who have since surfaced, they were all on the streets then but it was just that the scene was totally underground then. The media here was still down on their knees at the feet of the DOOBIE BROS and DEEP PURPLE.
We were something the record company people hadn’t seen for a long time, a band off of the street, a band with no famous or ex-name people in it. An untested commodity that they were scared shitless of. To make out demos we had to sneak into a studio where a friend of ours worked. We’d go in on the weekend and come out just before the cleaning ladies arrived on a Monday morning. When we finally found ISLAND we were over the moon about being able to go and get our sounds down on vinyl and get them out and about. We did it in their own studio in Hammersmith. Until then it was only the second studio we’d ever been in so it didn’t make any difference to us where we did it.
All I can suggest as to why you heard we weren’t happy with it is a complaint that everybody in the world must have. Immediately after you’ve done an album you feel you could’ve done it better, if only we’d done this or that or the other thing etc. We’re learning to come to grips with that, both from having some experience in the studio now and because we really like how accidents can turn into things that give you new ideas. We’re trying to do more and more things as quickly as possible. If you take two weeks getting the toothbrush overdubs right the thing just dies in your hands. A lot of stuff on the first album was done very quickly and a lot of stuff on HA! HA! HA! was done first take. You get a rawness then that you wouldn’t get otherwise…

S.R. –    Just how big a part did ENO play in the actual production end of it?

W.C. –  When we were discussing the album with Island, they wanted to know if we wanted a producer on it or not. We were open to the idea if whoever it was was interesting and they suggested that we meet ENO. ENO was still on Island and we rather suspect that it was because they felt he was the only person that could understand what we were trying to do!
We met ENO and immediately got on with him. He has this reputation of being a very esoteric fellow clouded in mystery, but really he’s a perfectly straightforward bloke who hasn’t let his musical ideas become calcified by the trends of the music biz. He’s great. You could say that while we were in the studio together we were mutually experimenting on each other.

S.R. –    How do you feel about the new album?

W.C. –  We’re knocked out by it. We’ve got a lot more confidence in the studio now, we know what dials to pull to get whatever we want and that gives you a good backing from where you can afford to take more and more chances. I like it because I think we’ve managed to go in at least two different directions at once. It’s a lot harder than the first album and it’s a lot stranger at the same time. We’ve become more and more interested in pure noises, sounds that just rip into you and rattle around, or sounds that seduce you in other less obvious ways.
There seems to be so much rock & roll at the moment that’s only blasting out aggression and frustration. Well, that’s fine, but there are a whole lot of other emotions in the human spectrum. We’ll use the claws when we want to but we want to evoke other feelings as well: mania, passion, serenity, remorse…
The next one will be even more different, we’ve got a lot of ideas and have been thinking a lot about what we’re going to do. It’s another departure. I suppose in that respect we’re not really what you’d call marketable… but that’s what keeps us excited by what we’re doing. We’ve got a completely free hand by the record company and there’s no reason why any of us would want to keep making the same records over and over again.

S.R. –    Do you have any plans for touring the States in the near future? If so when and where?

W.C. –              We have a major British tour in January and then we’ll be over to the States. I think we’ll be going to New York first, perhaps do a few gigs on the East Coast and then go over to L. A. for a while. I don’t imagine it will be what you’d term an intensive tour because we’ll opt for presenting our own show in smaller places rather than being on the same bill as TED NUGENT. I mean, the two wouldn’t be compatible at all… We’re not well known in the States and when you’re doing those sort of concerts its nice to be playing to thousands of people at a time and all that but chances are the match between acts is just so prone craziness. I’d much rather we started playing in clubs and things where the initial audience have the chance, for both our sakes, of seeing us do our show on our own in a place where there’s a bit of contact with each other.
Offhand, I think the only band we’d be excited by the idea of touring with would be KRAFTWERK, they’re great. Plans change every five minutes. We’ve got a lot of things that we want to do, and the chances are that America and Canada might not see us until later in the year. We’ll just have to wait and see… I hope it’s soon, I think we’ll kill ‘em. The time is right for us to go. I think the States has heard so much about the punk thing, the New Wave thing and gotten it all arse backwards. There must be a hardcore element to everything, I suppose. I mean… The people that originated the punk thing here have all dropped out. They’re probably all off somewhere blowing a spliff and growing their hair. The media has woken up too. – too late of course for punk – and have flogged it to death. You see adverts for mail order punk gear! Half of the drag they’re selling now for punks the majority of people can’t even afford! It’s all dead except the shouting.
There are so many second and third rate copies of the PISTOLS and the CLASH knocking about now that it’s pathetic. It did give music a gigantic kick up the arse when it needed it, but instead of thinking and trying to get different things together, the punks have gone even more conservative than the people they wanted to oust.
We’ve been knocked a lot for the sins of using an acoustic guitar in MACHINE; for having keyboards and synthesizer in our line-up; for having a violin! Those things aren’t done!

Every now and then we sing a harmony – what fussy farts we are! I think it’s beginning to sort itself out now though, it’s going to be very interesting to see who survives the initial blast and carries on. Right now there are some great bands in London who are getting rather lost in the shuffle because they aren’t currently slotting in with the punk idiom. The singer with the BOOMTOWN RATS said “New Wave rules…and the first rule is…” Things will be turbulent, but that’s the best way for any change to get through, the boat is gonna get knocked all over the world and all I can say is “What took it so long!” Thanks SNOT RAG from ULTRAVOX!

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Metamatic – A ‘Meta-Review’ Analysis

METAMATIC 37 GOOD
Melody Maker 19-Jan-1980 Steve Taylor 1 POSITIVE 42
Record Mirror 19-Jan-1980 Mike Nicholls 1 POSITIVE 35
Sounds 19-Jan-1980 Dave McCullough 1 MIXED 22
Smash Hits 7-Feb-1980 Red Starr 1 POSITIVE 40
NME 9-Feb-1980 Paul Morley 1 POSITIVE 35
Trouser Press 1-Apr-1980 Stephen Grant 1 6 POSITIVE 45 219

 

Above is the results of the MetaReview I carried out of John Foxx ‘Metamatic’ in 2010.

The idea was to look at each review that was published of the album on its original release in January 1980 and upgrade the star rating to a common system against which I could measure all the reviews. That’s the figure in the Column 7. It’s based on positive or complimentary phrases used, buzzwords and a general air or feeling expressed by the reviewer. The mark is out of 50.

Using that score, I then simply divided by the number of reviews considered and came up with an average.

That average is shown in the top line, and determines the banding I applied to the album

41 – 50 = Considered EXCELLENT

31 – 40 = Considered GOOD

21 – 30 = Considered FAIR

11 – 20 =  Considered POOR

0 – 10 = Considered RUBBISH

 

Of course, this is all for fun and based mostly on my own judgement. I like to think it is a fairly objective system but who knows.

But it seems to have worked out. After Metamatic, John Foxx was largely condemned in the UK Music Press in the 1980s, though he did fare much better overseas. Germany and Japan in particular gave him high regard As I can only read English, the only reviews I have considered are those published in the English language (from UK, Australia or US), so there is some bias there I suppose.

I just want more foreign language reviews.
So if you have any, please submit them to form part of the official archive at Metamatic . com