You Had It Coming
by Paul Guy
© Paul Guy 2001
Interview for FUZZ # 3/2001
I was given a copy of George Martins In My Life recently...
- Surprising, isnt it, that album? Goldie Hawn... sings her ass off! Its a nice thing, and Im very chuffed that he chose me.
George is a genius.
- Hes the man, hes the man!
The 5th Beatle, really.
- Yeah. I can hear his influence more now than ever. Because of recent documentaries hes done, and looking a lot closer because I was involved with him... You always see it with bigger eyes when you know somebody. And hear with bigger ears, too! Ive seen more rare Beatles stuff in the last couple of years - rare footage - and there are some really interesting things about them that I never knew. Like how much involvement George had, was amazing - he gave them the sounds and everything that they were looking for.
Your Day In The Life...
- Well, it was a really funny story, because I was stuck in traffic in a heatwave in London, trying to get to the appointment with George to discuss what I was going to play. I hadnt given it any thought whatsoever, I just thought, theyre bound to know - George Martin and Paul [McCartney] are going to know exactly what Im supposed to do - and I walked in, and they were working on some old tapes in Abbey Road, with the original eight-track machines. And I couldnt concentrate on what I was supposed to be there for, I just kept asking them what they were doing, and they were playing John Lennon talking, which is very strange. Up close to a mike - he sounded like he was in the room! - and they said, well, what track have you chosen? And I said, aah... uh... A Day In The Life! And they went, Fantastic!So I went home, and I pondered over it, and I thought, What have I done now? Completely put myself in the shit, you know! But then I thought what a great idea it was, just right off the top of my head. It is a strong tune, and its one of our most popular numbers on stage now.
I saw that on the website, they put up your set lists from Japan and places.
- Nothings sacred, is it, mate?
I just got a review copy of Jeffs Book...
Oh, yeah... (embarassed laugh) theres a whole library of books out there, theres one from a South African source, Jeanette Carson, is that her name? (laughs)
You mean Crazy Fingers?
- Its sort of journalistic stalking, isnt it? I didnt know anybody knew so much, or cared... Quite an eye-opener really, when you think about it.
I can imagine it must feel a bit strange. You never seem to be enjoy being interviewed on TV by Jools Holland [on BBC TVs Late Night With Jools] , or things like that.
Cant say I blame you.
- I think hes got a great programme, and its vitally important. It fills a void between utter rubbish and really good music - but (laughs) he does have a very cut-and thrust interview style. He never allows you to get into any seriousness. He says, Right, moving right along... Oh - I was just going to tell you something! (Laughs) But Im glad that its an ongoing show, cause I always watch it. You never know whos going to be on.
We get it over here on satellite - I managed to tape Brush With The Blues when you were on, that was amazing.
- (Laughs) I cant bear to watch it, I never watch anything I do, no TV shows. I just did one in Japan, and I had to watch a bit of it, because it was a link. They were interviewing me, and I was on when my bit finished, so I had to watch it on the monitor. But it was - I just dont like watching myself, Im one of those people who never did do that, and its become one of those skeleton-in-the cupboard things. Dont ever watch what you do. And if I did, it might be useful. But Ive never broken that barrier yet.
Personally I think thats got a lot to do with why youre such a great musician, you dont seem to have the huge ego some of them have got.
- Well that would be the down side of it. Aside from not looking and sounding as great as you want to sound, or how you want to sound or look, if you did like the way you looked, youd go, Hey, Im great! (Laughs)
You might turn out like Noel Gallagher...
- Oh God. Yeah. I dont think we need another one of those! I just sort of weighed it all up over the last few years, and I thought, well if people are still willing to cough up 60 to 80 bucks a ticket in Japan and America, then I must be doing something right, and thats the measure I use, the people who come to see me.
Do you know if there are any plans to tour Europe?
- After America, its open. Weve got a couple of European dates with Sting, and one Im looking forward to in London, which is two days in Hyde Park, which is a biggie - you know, 25, 30 thousand people.
My wife and I decided last night, were going to take our holiday in London so we can come and see that.
- Oh, that would be great. Should be a good afternoon, really. Nitin [Sawhney], the guy who wrote Nadia on the album, is on, hes great. I just stole one of his songs... (Laughs) Ironically, hes on the same bill - I hope he doesnt play it!
Thats a lovely song, that. What does he play himself?
- He plays guitar... keyboards, mostly. But hes a fantastic guitar player. Amplified acoustic - and he plays keyboards, hes a bit of a Stevie Wonder, actually. I think of him as an Indian-Asian Stevie Wonder. Fabulous. They do typical Indian tabla and raga stuff.
Well of course youve always been into that, havent you?
- Yeah! I think thats where all music stems from really. If you listen to all those incredible rhythms, when you break them down, if you simplify one of their rhythms, youve got a really fantastic James Brown beat.
You Had It Coming is a really interesting record. Last time I talked to you, you still didint seem all that keen on modern recording techniques - a programmed drum kit sounds like a pile of dogshit was what you said...
- Yeah... Well... but we decided to go the whole hog with this, and just make it me playing straight, and lacing it into every devious trick we could lay hands on. It was a very fast process, and thats why I think it came off at all, because the speed was there. We didnt have time to brood over riffs or anything, it was just balls-out guitar playing and a bit of slick editing on the part of somebody who knows what theyre doing. What was really invaluable was the fact that this guy had no previous knowledge of me, really - hes one of the younger guys, he knew me as a guitar player, but he didnt really know track names, or anything like that. So that was great, we started with a clean sheet of paper, and worked with this guy Aiden Love, who is probably the gauger of all the grooves - he started off aiming all these home-brewed sounds at me. And I just went with it - we used to walk next door, just move from one studio to another, it was very convenient, we had an editing suite right next door to another editing suite. So we had one guy working on all the drum sounds in one room, and we would take what hed done up to date and then slide in all the guitar parts, and then take it back to him in the evening. The following day he would say, Right, Ill see where this is going. It was a very productive four weeks.
Oh! Thats not bad, for making a record these days.
- No. Considering we didnt really have anything on the table to start with. There were a few numbers that wed written, but they changed so drastically overnight when Andy got cracking and started playing me back to myself - I started to realise what was going on.
So you actually enjoyed doing it this way?
- Yeah, I did, because of the speed and the efficiency. You dont have to wait for rewinding tape any more, you just press the button and youre instant, its there. So you can chase your tail, and catch it, which is cool.
So you think the technology has come of age, now, then?
- Oh, its definitely there - I think its been there for a long time. Its seeped in now, and its not going away. The dilemma is, whether to go pure, and stay with the real drums, bass and guitar - that might be the crafty trick, to go backwards. I dont know. To get a grind - to get the sound that you want, theres no substitute for tape and drum kits. Digital drums are really not good. Real drums on digital tape doesnt really make it either. You cant get a better sound than Motown, or Stax and all that stuff, James Browns drummers - those were the guys who somehow knew how to tune their drums, by some miracle somebody was around to record that sound. The same goes for Sam Philips and all those guys.
And they did it all with two mikes, too.
- Yeah! Thats right. The close miking was the kiss of death. Because if you put your ear down by the bass drum where the mike is, you dont hear anything! You dont hear anything you want to hear - you just hear a sort of thwack! Id go back to the old forties big band drummers, with Sinatra and all that - some of the most incredible players, really kicking ass! With a 50-piece orchestra, or a band...
Gene Krupa at the back, banging away like Animal!
- And they didnt have twenty mikes on the drums! They just shoved the drummer down the road a bit, and put a couple of mikes there. Nobody seems to want to do it that way any more - they dont want to spend a day or more placing mikes, and thats why this bedroom recording is so convenient, because if you can get a sound that nobody really cares about, as long as it sounds reasonable, thats the way it goes, isnt it?
The trouble is, anyone can go into a music shop a buy a little digital recording studio that will give him all the sounds and everything, but does he have any talent?
- No - but as long as they keep it to themselves, thats fine! (Laughs)
You really made the technology work for you on this album , though.
- Yeah - I wouldnt have engrossed myself in the project if Id spent a week and got nothing - but if nothing else, we were coming out with some original ideas of mine. And the guitar is still in the face. And it enabled me to find who I am a little bit more. Rather than trying to interpret someone elses custom made songs, you know. So this is my first album, really! Well start here, thankyou very much!
My copy, actually - its a CD-R copy, it has the working title, Rock Sucker...
- Oh, yeah, collectors item! I though it was better left as a quirky talking point, rather than having some cheesy title that didnt suit me. I mean, theres no other way you can perceive that title - even though its not strictly against the rules, it just had some sort of strong undertones.
I love the working title on track 8 - Shut Yer Gob...
- (Laughs) Weve got fistfuls of weird titles, its just one of those things with instrumental music, unless somebodys got a really great title to begin with, youre stuck. You can call it anything, cause theres no lyric. Except for Rollin and Tumblin - theres no lyric to guide you as to what its all about.
I dont have a copy of the sleeve notes, so - I know Earthquake is Jennifers song, and then theres Nadia and Rollin and Tumblin, but are the rest your own compositions?
- Yep. Aided and abetted by Andy Wright - I could go over it bar by bar with you , to give him the credit - but of course the record wouldnt have got made if he hadnt been there, and it certainly wouldnt have got made if I hadnt been there! What he did was to take what I do, and make it listenable. In other words, we would do a twenty minute tear-up on the guitar, and then go away, have a cup of tea, come back and pick out the bones. Thats probably the best way to work, really. Youve got spontaneous input from me, and then editing from Andy, and then it goes on from there. Wed come back the next day and go, Yeah, we know we loved it yesterday - but we hate it today! So then wed change - but at least weve got something on the table riff-wise. I wanted to keep it simple, and keep it hypnotic - its like having a kind of weird housy rave in your house, that record, without having to crank the volume up till your house falls down. You can do that, of course, but...
Did the band have any input at all in the studio?
- Well, they did - there was a very precarious moment during the recording process. I think all in all it was six weeks, and two weeks of that were taken up with involvement with the band - putting bass on, little bits of bass - we mirrored almost all the tracks with drums, just to give a framework of real drums - but when we tried to mix it all down, the drums actually clouded it, they didnt keep it concise. And it was dated, it had a definite sort of dated sound. Which was OK - but we had to make the choice between 48 tracks of drums, or one track of really kick-ass tech (laughs). And it seemed to be more in keeping with what was going on, what I wanted to do. So that caused a little bit of a ruction with the drummer.
Has he got over it now?
- Uh - I dont know... Hes been putting out some pretty tasty stuff on the Internet! (laughs). But weve got the guy from the Spice Girls [Andy Gangadeen] now. Hes wonderful. He was way over-qualified for the Spice Girls, that type of music. He was actually number one on my list, way back about two years ago, but hed just signed up with the Spice Girls.
So you have actually changed drummers now?
- Yeah. But it wasnt because of the disagreement in the playing, Steve Alexander fell ill. He got one of these ghost bugs, which nobody knew what it was. And we couldnt afford to take the risk of going to Japan and have him fainting, which he was doing, and then not having a doctors certificate.
- Yeah. So we wished him all the best. But it must have been a horrible blow, to be a) ill, and b), have a problem with the music... Anyway, I hope things worked out for the best for him. Hes a star drummer, he wants to be - he should be doing his own thing with his own band, really.
I had kind of got that impression, from, like you said, stuff on the Internet...
- Well there are drummers who are like that, you know. And good luck to them! But when youre playing a simple groove, you keep it simple. Otherwise people lose it, and theyre ruining the show, without even trying to.
Jennifer really seems to very happy with what shes doing.
- Yeah. She actually abandoned camp for one night, and went and played with Britney Spears - Im trying to come to terms with that... (chuckles) They dolled her up, I cant wait to see the tape, its at the AMAs, the American Music Awards? We dont get that, I havent got a satellite dish. But yeah, she jumped in at the deep end at the last minute, and they dolled her up, and she really enjoyed it! Shes great - I mean, theres still a great spirit in the band.
B.B. King always used to say, he picked musicians just as much for their ability to get along with the rest of the musicians on the road as for pure musicianship.
- Well how long is it going to last if you dont do it that way? Some of those short-lived things may be musically valid, but not ongoing, and I think its unsettling when youve got to turn round and say, well, were going to lose so-and-so tomorrow, or next week, or whatever - you want a camaraderie, you know, you have to have that. You spend 99 percent of the time in each others pockets - on the bus, in the plane, at the hotel - you have to get on.
Well of course this is what made the Beatles so great, they were really good friends.
- Yeah, in the quest for success, theres something that links you together. When you get it, thats when the problem starts. Cause youve done the job, and then you all look around, and say, Well where are we going to go now? And then you start nitpicking and fighting. We havent reached that stage yet, cause we havent had the big album, in terms of whats going on now - I mean people talk about five million as some sort of norm. Quite ridiculous. And Im not after that - but Im keeping a close watch on them! (Laughs)
I love that version of Rollin and Tumblin.
- (Laughs) I just happened to - its all by coincidence, this whole album, really. I think thats what works best for me, is just chance things, chance meetings - like I met Imogen Heap, and I didnt take much notice of what she was doing musically, because on this project we were all paired off as a writing preparation thing for a week, and just on the last night when everybody was partying and getting ready to go home, I got talking to her - she was singing on this guitar, really amazing voice - and I started playing, showed her a few chords, and she said, Wow! You played the same chord all the way up! So we got a rapport going, and then when we got to doing this project with Andy Wright, I said, Do you know Imogen Heap? and he said Yep, and he picked up the phone, and within fifteen minutes she was in the studio! We tried her out on Rollin and Tumblin, and she was just fantastic.
Shes got a great voice.
- Yeah, its sort of a pure New Orleans quality. I dont know what it is, its going some kind of a - I dont know - deep, deep soul in there.
She has these little quirks with her phrasing, its a bit like the way you play the guitar.
- Yeah, yeah! She was very adamant that she didnt want high profile on the thing, I said, look, dont worry, her manager went through the whole thing - career-wise for her it would have been a sort of unwanted hiccup in a way, because shes trying to make it on her own as a writer and performer. And all of a sudden shes known for doing Rollin and Tumblin all over the world - its a bit of a strange change of identity for her. So we kept it pretty much down in the album.
So you dont think youll be doing any more with her, then?
- Oh, look, hey, Im not saying that, but she just requested that, and we treat it with respect. And Jennifer just does a pretty good copy of it, and everybody loves it. So there you go.
Nadia is a really beautiful tune. Has he [Nitin Sawhney] got any more tunes that you would like to do?
- What, like that? Well, thats a rare piece. It just jumped off the CD that I was given, just like, forget the other stuff, this is it - because the woman who sang it, I cant pronounce her name even - was so exquisite, and I played it every day just for enjoyment, and I thought, wait a minute, theres a song there - if anyones got the time to try to see if that should work on guitar, then its my job to do it. And it took weeks, you know - I listened to it for about three weeks solid before I even attempted it.
There are some complicated little trills and things in the melody...
- Yep! (Laughs) Yeah, theres a lot of sweat gone into that.
That riff that starts off Loose Cannon sounds really simple, but its a real Chinese puzzle to try and play.
- Its not as simple as it seems! But thats what the difficulty in my job is, in trying not to make it sound too muso - one note too many, and youve gone to muso-land, its not rocknroll any more. Thats a very interesting point, as far as I can see, to tell people - that the wrong placement of a note can turn it from one type of music into another.
Yes, people talk about rocknroll these days, but...
- I cant hear any! Theyve changed the categorisation, havent they?
Yeah - I dont know, I think rocknroll is a mindset as much as anything else.
- Well, we dont get too much of that anyway, of any kind, here any more. Its all kind of pierced navels and nubile sixteen-year-old lap dancers. (Laughs). Its obvious that thats where the quest is nowadays - leave school at fourteen and be a pop star. Go to pop school, and come out - its kind of a recognised craft and industry now. If they come out with songs that people like, thats a job done, isnt it? But why is it to the exclusion of all else? You can get fifty thousand stations on your radio, and yet we only get two or three not playing the same things! But I think people will always flush out music - as long as an occasion can be made to happen, like somebody playing in a small club, that will keep music alive, because nothings better than word of mouth, in my opinion.
The business has become so commercialised nowadays that you often think the public buys what theyre told to buy, instead of what they actually like.
- Thats it, thats definite - if you feed them enough repetition, they just go and buy it. Thats been the way, thats part of the advertising - when commercial TV started in 55, everyone was going, Oh, this is terrible - they interrupted a programme last night for one minute! (Laughs)
And nowadays, the programmes interrupt the adverts! But getting back to the record - on Left Hook, did you have the guitar tuned down to E flat?
- Yeah. Well, the guitars in E flat anyway.
Oh! You do tune in E flat?
- Yeah, we tune E flat. But that was tuned down to D, I think. And then Dirty Mind is tuned down to C, with an .052 or an .054 on the low E string. So from even that, from E flat down to C, it was pretty revolting, a pretty funky sound coming out.
I love all those nasty sounds! Frank Zappa said once, you can be suggestive with a saxophone, but you can only be really obscene with a guitar!
- (Laughs uproariously) - Obscene and not heard, yeah!
Blackbird is really lovely.
- (Laughs) - Well, that made Andys eyes light up, when I suggested it. That was done more out of desperation, because things were going a bit slow with the drum overdubs, and other stuff while we were planning out the rest of the material. So I said to Andy, why dont you run out and get a CD of some birdsong, and Ill pick out some notes! And the blackbird has always fascinated me. I live right in the middle of the woods, and in the summer theyre just there singing away in the evenings, and you think, wow, theres a blues lick or two up there! And when you slow it down, two or four octaves, you start to hear all the really incredible notes that theyre singing. That was just a little salute to them, really.
The last track on the album, Suspension - its almost a pity you changed the title - the working title, Silent Pool, was really nice.
- Yeah, it was - I was driving around last summer, and there was a road sign pointing to Silent Pool - its a place in Surrey - and I thought, God, what a mystic name that sounds like. I should have left it as it was, but things got thrown in a hat at the last minute, as they do.
Your guitar almost sounds like an acoustic on the intro - I had to listen three or four times there to figure it out.
- Yeah, we got one of these plug-ins on Andys computer, it was a really deluxe reverb, it was like a canyon. It was just a DI guitar, as I remember - the Strat with the middle pickup. It sounded amazing, you were just hitting one note and it was going on forever. So I just hit this chord sequence, picked out arpeggiated chords, and away we went - another tune! (Laughs)
How many guitars do you use regularly nowadays?
- Usually just the one. The only other one, to deviate a bit, would be a Telecaster, because thats got a distinctly different sound, and a totally different feel to play it. As different as, say, a Gretsch, or something like that. Its got the same neck feel, but everything else is different - the way it plays, it just makes you play different. I used that on the beginning of Rosebud, that was all, though, really. Everything else is done on the Strat. I havent got the collection that you might think, for the variations - Ive only got the Gibsons that I had on Truth and all that - but I would have liked to have spent some money on guitars when they were humanly reachable. I wanted a Gibson L5 - I just rented one, and it sounded fantastic, but I didnt want to buy it! The only thing that stops me going for one is, they scream and whistle on stage - but they sound so great. Feels like a big old suitcase, though, after a Strat - which almost becomes like a part of your body. Its a tool.
Last time I talked to you, I forgot to ask - you probably hate these questions, but the readers want to know - what kind of pickups do you use nowadays?
- On this record, as far as I know, they were just ordinary straight-ahead single-coils. Standard Fender Strat pickups. I dont mess with them - I just pick them out of the box and play them. They do sometimes give me incredible microscopic detail, in Hertz and stuff like that (laughs) - but it really doesnt matter to me, Im more interested in what Im playing than in the specifications of the pickups. If it sounds good, I just go with it. We were fooling around a lot with EQ on the amp, on those JCM2000s its just great. We used that one amp and never moved a mike for the whole session. Just used the pickup settings on the guitar, and then in the mixing we just used some serious EQ.
So any buzz and noise, you just EQ it out?
- Yes. The thing is, with the JCM, you dont have to play that loud, you can overload the channel, you get boost without volume, which is what you want - you want tone. And then you boost that up in the mix, and you get it. You could play a million watts, but the machines dont realise its a million watts - it certainly doesnt sound like it when you hear it back! It seems a lot louder when you play quieter!
I read somewhere that you rewire your guitars with a tone control on the bridge pickup?
- Thats right - that way you can cut off the unwanted highs.
The Strat bridge pickup can be a bit hard.
- Oh, wicked. No, itll take your head off, that will.
Do you still do your own adjustments on the guitars? Do you rewire them yourself?
- No, Ive got a bloke that does that now. But I sometimes spend time setting them up. The best time to do it is when youre not under any panic - not in the dressing room, but take it back to the hotel, and mess with it there, get out the old Allen wrenches and adjust the string height, whammy bar spring tension and all that - and then I just show it to the guy and say, This is the way its going to be. Up to now its been great, the guitar is presented to me the way I would want it. I dont even think about it - the tour is done, and I go, Wow! One string breakage here, two string breakages there - I dont care about string breakages, its just the way that if the thing is set up properly when I go on, I havent got some loose tremolo arm thats wobbling about or something.
Thats the worst thing in the world, if the arm wobbles in the thread...
- In the block - yeah, Oh God, then its all over. And then you turn it round one more turn, and it jams up!
What do you do, stuff a spring down there?
- No, weve been using Teflon tape - just wrap the tape around the threads, thatll keep you out of trouble. Im going to get Fender to make some kind of Neoprene insert that you screw it into, instead of the metal. You want it just so it moves easily, but doesnt rattle.
And so that the arm stays where you leave it, instead of flopping around.
- Yeah, that would be ideal. Ive got one that just pushes in, and its fine, but then sometimes you get a bit wild, and it just comes straight out! Its got a little ball, and it clicks in, but to my mind theres no substitute for doing it properly. What they need to do is, to use a heavier shaft that goes into the block with a slightly bigger section, and then taper it. Then youve got more meat there. At the moment, its just so thin.
The other thing that gets me with the Strat bridge is the saddles.
- Ive got these really nice machined stainless saddles, which are absolutely smooth, so its not like the old pressed steel ones where you rip the palm of your hand. But these are fine.
So youre not really into all these little details, like which capacitors you have in the tone controls and stuff?
- No, no. If it doesnt sound good I just usually blame the amp, or something like that. But it does sound good, and what youve got to do is find somebody who knows how to make that sound happen on tape. Its all a matter of compromise - sometimes its like I said, playing at a much lower level, its much less inspiring to play to, but on playback youve got quality, and not just a bunch of fizz.
Whats your setup on stage, do you use more than just the guitar and the JCM2000?
- No. I tried two on tour in Japan - two JCM tops with a 4 by 12 under each, but it just didnt work, because all it was doing was making it fatter. But there wasnt any point in having them set to the same EQ, it just made it a slightly bigger sound, but it didnt come out any better in the sidefills. So out front it wouldnt have noticed, and I thought Id better save one for spare, rather than risk blowing them both up.
You have nothing between the guitar and the amp at all?
- No. Just a Cry Baby Ive been using.
But youre using that in a single position, right?
- Yeah, just a very slight modulation, not like Shaft - we dont have any of that.
I nearly wore my right foot out in the 70s playing that bloody stuff.
- Yeah, I think Jimi Hendrix did as well. And Eric Clapton, too. Twenty minute guitar solos with wah-wah. And they all fell for it!
Its funny that, because a wah-wah, used well, is one of the most expressive effects there is.
- Oh, its brilliant. It puts a completely unique EQ tone on your guitar. If you know how to set the tones on your guitar and amp, three ways - youve got three ways to kill! I use it on Nadia, you can just hear it coming in on some of those high notes.
Do you think theres any chance youll ever break out the voice bag again?
- No. No, ever since Pete Frampton did it, that was the end of that. Ironically, theyre doing it all over again now with vocoders.
Do you get time to build your hot rods any more?
- Yeah, every spare moment. But there havent been many of those of late, because of the Japanese tour, and then on Monday, were preparing to go into three weeks of rehearsal, with America coming up.
I saw the tour schedule on the Internet, youre going to be pretty busy.
- Yep - well, thats what I do, and its like having been banged away for ten-fifteen years, by comparison, we are working a lot. But Im out of trouble financially now, so I want to stay out of trouble.
It costs a lot of money to put a show like that on the road, doesnt it.
- Sure does. Youve got to be on the road for a month before you start making anything. That pays everybody off, and then you go home with whatevers left over. Which aint much. But thats what I enjoy doing most. And the long journeys used to be a drag, but when youve got friendly people. its good. You know youre going to be there for four of five weeks, and you just get on with it. Every towns got its own little bit of excitement. Its a great life really.
Im really glad youre enjoying it, because Ive missed seeing you live - last time I saw you play was in 1975!
- Oh wow. Well its totally different now, absolutely. Unrecognisable, playing-wise.
Well, I understand what you mean, but I still hear it, first phrase - thats Jeff.. I mean, I dont want to be sycophantic, but Ive probably spent more time listening to your records than anybody elses, and I still love them all.
- Well, thanks very much. Thats what keeps me going, knowing someones listening that close - its what you do, when you go to a studio, youre not making a stone cold performance for nobodys benefit, you want to do it because you want people to enjoy it.
Have you given any more thought to performing with the Bulgarian girls at all?
- Yes, I have. They almost came to the fore with Kate Bush, she used them quite a bit. And then one of them married a pop star, and then - oh dear - they turned up on some terrible disco records, really awful. But one day Ill go out there, and just go to where they go, where they sing naturally, and pick up some vibes off them.
Its beautiful music.
- Unreal. The way they know every scale, and everyone hits all the notes straight on. Amazing. Its precious stuff, isnt it.
Ive got a feeling thats one of your secrets, that you like all sorts of music.
You were talking about big band music, and such.
- Its so easy to get trapped into one style, and thats it only. Thats like saying I like this one kind of food, and never trying all the other amazing flavours and textures out there.
Do you feel you have learned to live with your tinnitus now?
- In the last year theres been a major improvement, although it does bug me incredibly from time to time. But for me - this is personally - its definitely in proportion to the quality of sleep. The poorer the quality of sleep, the louder the tinnitus, and the more troublesome. I did have expert counselling and treatment by this incredible couple of people who work in London - Jonathan Hayes and his assistant - hes the worlds top authority on it. I couldnt recommend more highly than to go to them, I think thats the epicentre of all hearing problems. Theyve made amazing strides forward in finding out what it is - and usually its what people are scared of rather than what it is itself. Its the fear factor in your brain putting it into a bigger arena than it should be. So if some people hear a noise in their head they go - Oh! What was that? But when its there all the time they dont go - Oh, thats that old noise again, they go Fuckin ell! (laughs) - excuse me - and thats what I did, and it freaked me out completely, I couldnt hear anything else. So that then goes snowballing on to bad quality sleep, because youre stressed anyway, even when youve dropped to sleep youre not having proper sleep, and if you can get back to having a healthy seven or eight hours sleep, the chances are youre not going to be bothered by it. It doesnt matter, it doesnt make the hearing loss any better, that is permanent. From the first time someone fires a cap pistol in your ear, youve damaged that ear, that wont come back. Certain recovery will come back, but usually by the time youre seventeen, your hearing starts to deteriorate anyway. Frightening, isnt it! See, the thing is, theres no warning - when you like the sound, you cant get enough of it. If it was a whistling kettle, or somebody banging a steel plate, youd go, Fucking hell! Shut up! Its because you love it, and its the perception of your brain saying, I love this! More! Give me more! But the same level, with a sound you dont like, and you want to run a mile. Its a whole different deep psychological reasoning, and all that, and I havent quite got into the functional parts of the brain - but Im getting there, Im studying it.
Im really glad to hear that you can deal with it, at least.
- Well, today Im fine, I slept like a log last night, but its knowing that maybe tomorrow I wont sleep, and then itll be back plaguing me again. I would not recommend anybody to not use earplugs - but then again drummers, who have been drumming for years, and every time they hit the snare, theyre closer to it than any of us, and theyve had it their whole life, and closer to it, and yet theyre not complaining of any noise! It could be that the womans right, that its just you perceiving it. Its a very real noise, theyre not denying it, theyre not saying youre hallucinating it. But its how your brain works - if youre one of those who say, Hey, I dont care about this noise, itll go away. When you start worrying about it, it comes back. The fact that mine goes from really astonishingly bad, to blissfully gone - that ratio there is enough to keep me going, I know that it can go. If it hadnt gone, I wouldnt be here now, Ill tell you that. Straight off the edge of a cliff, Ill tell you! (Laughs) Well, you cant bear it, you know, you cant. You cant get away from it, you cant get drunk, you cant do anything, its still there. I think its safe to say that there will be a massive amount of people who will be suffering from it in the future, because of the sheer - look at last night, on this rave show - what the hell was it called - Underworld? - there were about forty thousand people bopping up and down, and you know how many dBs are going out. And I just thought - Theyre smiling! If somebody fired a shotgun in their ear, they wouldnt be smiling! But thats what theyre getting, every second of the time theyre there!
Well thats the reason I brought the subject up, because Im writing for a very wide age group, and I think some of the young kids need to know about it.
- Yeah. Its misery. It is the most miserable thing thats ever happened to me. I mean, Ive had two nasty accidents, both involving head injury, which some people have said could be part of the tinnitus, and it may well be - like the fractured skull - but its not been anything like the internal misery - youre locked in a room with your noise, you know. And you run out in the street, and its still there - a bus goes by, and you can still hear it, because its such a high-pitched scream. Its pretty nasty.
For three years I wore these in-ear noise generators that actually give you white noise, and you balance it to the lowest level of audibility. It doesnt mask it, it sits underneath, its a discrete noise, its constant, to simulate tinnitus with white noise so youre hearing both things. And their theory is that after a certain time, you get into the habit of listening to both sounds, and when you switch off the unit, your brain then automatically wants to know where that sound has gone. It moves your attention away from the real tinnitus. But it takes that long - if youve had tinnitus for five years, its going to be two-and-a-half years of wearing these things at least. And almost to the day, she was right, it started to get a little bit less noticeable. I havent had them on for eight months - Ive lost them, I dont even know where they are. That means my lifeline is now cut, I was sort of hanging on to it - and now Im not enslaved to having to wear them any more. So there is help out there - but it is a bastard when you get it.
© Paul Guy, 2001