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To prove sod’s law, as if proof were needed, just as I dialed the number to talk to Tony Wright of Terrorvision I spilt tea all over my desk. Between that and the fact that Tony was fitting an alarm system at the time we had a slightly off topic chat about the return of the 90s band born out of the remnants of a glamrock mess!
Sorry Tony, you’ll have to excuse me, I’m mopping up tea!
I’m the same, I’m tryin’ to fit an alarm system. Have you ever tried fitten’ an alarm system? You get a wire, and you take the end off the wire and there is six wires inside it, right, and there is these little tiny screws inside this box and you gotta chase the wires around the building and then try and put them into the right places. And the alarm keeps going off! And I’ve gotta trace this… it means that I’ve got to go up a ladder on the outside of the building, so this could very well be the last interview I ever do!
Right, a potential Grapevine exclusive then! But tell me what has all of that got to do with fronting Terrorvision?
Its just what you have to do in life, if you are in a band like Terrorvision, you need alarming!
I have never spoken to a man who builds dry stone walls before – why on earth do you build dry stone walls?
Where I used to live, I used to live near Haworth – Bronte country. Me old house… sore point, I loved that house (laughs) it was paid for and everything but life changes and people want what you’ve got – so I don’t live there anymore. But I used to look out my front window, and I used to see all these walls, pretty much like stitching around the landscape. A patchwork of fields so to speak. And I always used to look at them, and I think it were a time when the Turner Prize were on telly, and I think it was something like ‘light on, light off’ that won it. They won the prize money and everyone was like ‘this is great’ – a bit like my wiring actually, light on, light off!
But then I thought, I used to look at these walls and think: nobody knows about these walls and yet they are like… they are something that people come from all over the world to Yorkshire to see and are amazed by them. But there is no celebrity to be had from building them – they are just there, so I wanted to build one so that when I stood on one side of moor I could look back again and see a line on the other side, three mile away, and say I did that, that’s my line and no one will ever know. And I’ll not tell you which one it is, cause there is a certain part of the anonymity which is kind of nice about really. But I know which one it is – the really wonky one.
Apart from singing then, you are a pretty well rounded artist. You are a painter, you draw, you sing and you print…
Yes, I’ve always been a printer. My Grandad was a printer and a musician actually, it was him that said if you can play an instrument, you’ll never have to buy a pint! I always thought that that was good advice. But he were a printer, worked at a big company in Bradford on big printing press. When I left school, I don’t know if you remember YTS schemes – they were like an apprenticeship where you got no skills at they end of it and they paid you nothin’ for the pleasure! So I did a YTS at a printers, printing 3 pence off sticky labels – that were the only bonus really, I got 3 pence off everything when I went shopping!
I worked on a machine called a sheki which I’d been put on to get rid of me because I’d made a mistake on one ‘tother presses. They put me on this machine to drive me away, to make me think i’m not stayin’ but I really liked it! Every morning when I went to print shot, the one colour presses would start up first and they’d all be thumping dunk dunk dunk – like that. Then the four colour presses would start about 45 minutes later, and they’d be going din din din din, like that. Then a bit later on from that the rotary presses would be going and they’d be like chicka chicka chicka chicka… like that. Everyday you got a different beat, it were like beinmg in a garage house kind of rave. And I used to sit there by my machine writing out words to songs I were makin’ up to all these noises of the presses. Obviously then, them songs stood us in good stead – the like of the words to ‘My House’ and ‘Don’t Shoot My Dog’… things like that were written to the tunes of the press.
Because I had been put on this machine, they never really minded if I took Thursday and Frriday off, cause that’s when I’d be going off gigging. Then we got signed – a record deal, sang some of those tunes on vinyl and cassette and CD. So I didn’t do any printing until `years and years later when I got myself a little printing press and some lead slugs – back in the olden days, compositing – do you know anything about printing?
Well I must admit that Grapevine Magazine is part of a group of companies which includes a printer – Colourplan Print.
You know they say that press journalists are the best because the journalists understood the compositing and the printing and they knew to be succinct and to the point and to get a story across in as few words as possible.
So that’s were I started, I do woodcut, l do mono prints, I do letterpress – they are my things really and I have a little print studio with lots of Victorian presses that people come and have a go on. Nothing plugs in, it is all hand presses.
This is all wonderful talk about printing but we have yet to mention music! Lets assume there is somebody in Norwich who has never been to a Terrorvision gig, what can they expect?
Well… its a shame if they haven’t! Terrorvision is one of them bands that mean it. They don’t do it because they want to say that they are a band. They do it ‘ cause they’ve got some songs, and if they hadn’t got any songs they won’t be doin’ it. We are quite a passionate band, we like to go out and watch the crowd and it is a pleasure that the crowd come out and want to watch us – it seems like a big get together – a single mindedness to enjoy yourself really.
It has been a bit on an on and off band, hasn’t it? I wouldn’t say it has broken up but it has gone quiet and come back again?
Yeah – after Tequilla we sort of disbanded and went and did our own things so I’ve done, including recording about five albums that no one has ever heard of, but it is something you do or you don’t. We disbanded probably because we just wanted to be a band and we found that we had to start putting our managerial heads on and accounting heads and if you are in a band that is the last thing you want to do – its a bit of a passion killer so we decided rather than do that we just pack it in.
We didn’t do anything for a few years then we did like a ‘greatest hits’ tour which went down really really well obviously because we had quite a few hits back in the day – we were on Top of the Pops a dozen times, had plenty of singles and albums in the charts. While we were doin’ this ‘greatest hits tour’ – its a bit like muscle memory, you start rehearsing and you suddenly remember everything that you’d gone to rehearse, so you don’t actually need to rehearse. So we ended up, with the spare time we had, we made another album called ‘Super Delux’, it was for ourselves really, just to see if we could still write a tune and record it well. We did a bit of touring off the back of it and then we all went off and did our own projects again. I did two solo albums, an acoustic one which came out about eighteen months ago and then I’ve just released a new one last month, gop to number eighteen in the indie charts – not bad.
Then we started… I think it were Leigh at work… a girl from Finland said “Hey, you are Leigh Marklew, from Terrorvision, I love your band, what are you doin’ here?” And he said, “Oh I do graphics.” And she went “No, I don’t mean that, I mean why aren’t you playing? People love what you do.” And we really didn’t have an excuse for not doin’ it so he rang everybody up and said its twenty years since we released ‘Regular Urban Survivors’, lets have some rehearsals and if everything sounds good lets go do some gigs!
We have a guy that always wanted to manage us, but we don’t sort of want managing! But he has booked us some gigs, places like the Manchester Ritz which is a big old venue, Koko in London… and Manchester is sold out as is Southampton. Glasgow has had to extend its capacity and its gone a bit crazy really.
Do you know why it is the your followers are so passionate about supporting you despite the fact that you have not been about much?
You know, and its not being big headed or anything, but I think it is because we are good! There are good bands out there, but they are few and far between, we’ve got a world full of people who want to win a competition where they can say – I’m a singer. They win this competition playing at Wembley Arena with a load of people from that competition. Then they get down to a venue that only holds 1,500 people and they go – aw, I don’t want to it anymore. Bands like us started in the tiny little venues, the sweat boxes – though sometimes we didn’t even sweat because no one turned up! It was an apprenticeship, nowadays they do a YTX-factor sort of training thing. But if you don’t cut your teeth in real venues – the sad thing is that these venues are closing down left right and centre because people don’t want to start in the scruffy little places, they want to start at the top. Being in a competition doesn’t make you a pop star, getting up off your arse and going and booking yourself some gigs and putting up some posters and writing some songs – that’s what its about. It is a sad state of affairs because some of the kids on those shows are cracking singers.
Tell us about the tour, you are celebrating 20 years of ‘Regular Urban Survivors’, are you going to be playing the album in full or just songs from the album?
In its entirety, we might even try and squeeze into some of those old suits we had at the time. (laughs)
Whats your most memorable Terrorvision moment?
It is hard to say is that. I have seen photographs from the 90s, I just don’t remember being there! But I’m in the pictures so I must have been. One of the good times, we played a place called ‘The Yorkshireman’s Arms’ in Sheffield, it were the day before we played Don Valley with Def Leppard – in fact I think we were the first band to play Don Valley. So we went from playing this little rock pub, there were probably a hundred people in there and it was rammed… we went from playing there to playing a massive stadium and we made a lot of fans that day that stuck with us and they’ll be there on this tour. They weren’t ‘our’ crowd when we went on but we made an impact and the rest was history. We ended up living in New York and recording an album where the year before we’d been cycling to work at the printing presses.
You are covering a fair few miles on this tour – is it all aboard the bus and hell raising on the road?
Yeah, it is! That’s what it’s about, par for the course.
Thank you Tony for talking to GrapevineLIVE. The tour starts on 22nd of November in Glasgow, finishes on 29th in Cardif…
So long as I don’t fall off my ladder!
…indeed, please don’t do that, we don’t want to have to unpublish this interview! We’ll catch up with you on 28th in Norwich.
22/11/16 The Garage, Glasgow
23/11/16 Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton
25/11/16 02 Ritz, Manchester
26/11/16 Engine Rooms, Southampton
27/11/16 Koko, London
28/11/16 The Waterfront, Norwich
29/11/16 Tramshed, Cardiff
There really is only one video to include here – a blast from Top of The Pops 1999: