If you’ve been wondering where we’ve been for the last hour or so of the Blogathon, don’t worry, we haven’t sacked it off in favour of falling asleep on the sofa with Bargain Hunt on in the background. We’ve actually been chatting away with one of our favourite people and all round good egg, Mr. J. Willgoose, Esq or the wonderful Public Service Broadcasting
Unusually for PSB, Mr. J. was not out and about touring the country or beyond so he vey kindly offered to give up some of his writing time to chat to us about the year he has just had and what he has planned for the future, all in support of Blogathon.
Told you he was a good egg. Here’s the chat we just had.
Alphabet Bands: Mr J. How are you Sir?
J. Willgoose, Esq: Very well thanks
Jolly good, and where in the world are you at the moment?
I am in my kitchen, which is something of a novelty
I expect it is given the amount of touring you did last year. How does it feel to be home?
Very nice, thanks! We’re gearing up for our month in America but it’s been nice to spend a bit of time at home for a change
You’ve been to the States before yes? How was it? Suitably exciting that you are heading back I see.
Yes, we went over for CMJ in October. We played 3 shows, one of which wasn’t much fun, one of which was chaotic but fun, and one of which was good fun and seen by some good people.. so it was a good mix.
So pretty much the Goldilocks experience then? Are you over for SXSW this time or is this a full on PSB tour?
Well, I should say it’s all dependent on getting visas, which with a shady character like Wriggles on board is not going to be plain sailing. I’m not even sure his family know his first name. But yes we’re doing a west coast run, Chicago, Toronto, then east coast and then down to Texas via Georgia.
I am fully expecting SXSW to be full of lots of big time charlies, but hopefully there’ll be some nice people there. I think there’s an attitude amongst certain bands that if you’re playing there, you’re kind of a big deal, which is an attitude we run a million miles from. But it should still be an interesting one
Yes, you do a very nice line is self-depreciation which has been evident in live shows before. I saw that your stage set-up expanded towards the end of last year. Are you tempted to go even bigger for America? They don’t do ‘small’ over there really.
Tempted, yes, but we’re starting from square one over there so on a practical level there just wouldn’t be room for it. And on an even more practical level, we can’t afford to ship it all out there! It’s going to be a bit of a step back in time for us though to early last year when we were on the Signal 30 tour, pre-album, and being provided with fitted (elasticated) bedsheets to use as projector screens. Although I do expect American venues to be run a lot better than some of the ones over here!
Given the number of shows you did last year, you must have seen practically every small to medium sized venue in the UK! Aside from Norwich (of course) were there any particular standouts?
Ha – it’s quite hard to remember them all to be honest! My other half is always telling me I should keep a diary, which I always agree with and then always fail to. Off the very top of my head though we loved the crowds and the venue down in Exeter, the Phoenix… and the Railway in Winchester was a good old-fashioned sweatbox to start the year off.
Oh and the show we did at the Brewery Arts Centre in Kendal was good fun – a nice local crew there, and it’s where we met our soundman Rob (better known as Bobby Goldenears), so it’s full of fond memories for us all
How about the show with New Order? Was it a surprise to be asked to play with them?
If you’re talking overall highlights.. well, the above, plus our show at The Forum, plus supporting New Order & the Manics… plus Glastonbury… they were all pretty special. And yes, it’s always a surprise being asked to play with a band you have that much respect for. It’s pretty much the best feeling I think you can have, in any profession – peer validation, in a way. If people who you respect for what they do seem to feel the same way about you then it is immensely satisfying. Plus more than a little odd!
Speaking of odd… How did the BBC F1 link come about? It looked amazing and I must confess, I was very pleased and proud to see you guys doing it. How did you feel when you were asked and then when you saw it back?
Ha, thanks.. It just came up as quite a late possibility towards the start of our November tour. I think the guys behind the video had thought about booking deadmaus, but that wasn’t happening, so we were naturally second in the queue! I have to be honest, as nice as everyone on the shoot was and as amazing exposure as it was, it is incredibly boring playing the same minute and a half of a song for 7 hours or so, so by the time we’d finished filming I was ready never to hear it again. Then we were driving back from our show in the Netherlands that Sunday and started to see Twitter going bonkers, and that’s when it kind of hit us. I think it’s very easy to get used to a certain level of exposure and start taking it for granted, or just to get wrapped up in the detail (as per the filming) and forget how ridiculous, and great, the last year has been, on many levels.
Oh and I can’t comment on that F1 video without thanking the guys at Intro and the beeb who actually edited the song – it wasn’t our work to put the samples on it, they did all the hard stuff and we just moaned about standing around in corduroy all day!
Wriggles doesn’t do stairs any more, too – he’s gone a bit Mariah on us
Hahaha. When he starts asking for all the brown M&M’s to be taken out, you know it’s time to get Wriggles III in…
Ha. Yeah, we’re keeping tabs on the situation..
I’m glad you mentioned the Netherlands (as well as your stellar 2013) as you took us all by surprise with the release of the two Elfstedentocht tunes. How much fun was that to do?
It was nice, actually – great to do something on a bit of a tangent. I think most people appreciated that we were keen to explore other areas and broaden the net a bit, which was good. I was slightly worried that people would think we’d gone totally bonkers. It didn’t stop several people missing the point entirely (the Guardian’s review of our Forum show being a prime example) but it was just good to get some new material into the live set.
Hmmm, the Guardian has a habit of missing the point when it comes to you, in my opinion, but they are quite nice with it I suppose…
Yeah, they’ve said some nice things, but quite a few different people write for them so you’re bound to get a bit of a mixed bag of opinions there
Very true. I can only blame myself sadly… Ok, new material.
I know I cannot ask what it is but how is it going? Are you working on a new album?
Ha. I have trained you well sir! And I am going to answer the second question first, and with a question of my own. If I said it was likely to be c.30 minutes long and 7-8 tracks, what would you say that was?
An EP? An album? A mini-album?
EP I would say. Though others may disagree.
I’d say mini-album. It’s not going to fit on a 10″, which instantly means it’s not an EP in my eyes
Although The War Room was a 12″.. so it’s hard to say
Yeah, I could be persuaded actually. 8 tracks too. Bit long for an EP
It’s 7 or 8
So, some tracks then…
Yes. That much we know.
And I have demo’d about 4 of them now to a reasonable level, and started on the 5th today. It is a tough process as you’re continually battling against self-doubt, procrastination, self-loathing and other melodramatic emotions.. but I think I’m doing alright so far.
Aside from the inner demons, how has the process been? Have you found it easier to get samples? The BBC reduced their rate after the F1 appearance?
I’ve actually been working on this already for over a year – I think the first email I sent was just as I was finishing the album last January, and the BFI have again come up with the goods on a quite spectacular scale. I’ve also got some other sources on the go, so I’ve definitely got enough material, and it covers what I hoped it would. Now the challenge is to meld the material to the ideas I’ve been carrying in my head for the past year or so and tie the whole thing together so that it makes sense. I would say that the most likely first single is a bit of a departure. I played it to the Mrs the other day and she didn’t like it as she said it was too cheesy. She’s been wrong before though!
Hahahahaha. You’re not going all Euro Pop Guetta on us are you Sir? Pitbull on guest vocals?
Definitely not. It’s just quite.. er.. different, in terms of instrumentation. I think. I mean it might end up getting binned anyway, so I shouldn’t say too much. I think it’s good though.
What I will say is that it’s very incongruous.. deliberately so. It doesn’t match the subject matter in the way that you’d think it would. But that is the point, for me. I think we need to be brave in the way we develop things from here.
Sounds intriguing and quite exciting. Bravery is a good thing in music and should be applauded. Will there be other surprises? Any more foreign language tracks like Elfstedentocht?
There will be foreign language on some of it, but it’ll be interspersed with translations and other English commentary, I think. Unless I find something really good between now and later in the year!
Oooh, so multiple languages on one song then? Is that what you mean?
If by multiple you mean two, then yes!
Hahaha. I think that counts, maths was never my strong point…
So, any news on release times? Or is it far too early to be talking about that?
It’s not if you ask my management! We’re already well into 2015 in their eyes. I try to be a bit more realistic… but I hope there will at least be a single before the end of the year, if not the full thing proper.
Ahhh, so after a storming and prolific 2013, this year could be relatively quiet. Just a thousand gigs…
Ha, yes. We’ve still got a very full calendar – I’ve had to fight to reclaim some of it for writing too. Most of the focus for the first half of the year is on the US & Europe, with festivals and a small UK tour for later in the year.
Yes, I imagine writing on tour must be extremely difficult. Will we see you in Norwich before the year is out perhaps?
I’m not sure, sir. I can’t say for definite. When I say a small tour, I mean 5 or 6 dates, so the odds aren’t great. We’ll see though. I’ll always be up for a gig in Norwich personally, if it makes sense with the rest of our schedule.
Ahh right, that is small – especially by your standards. Ok, I don’t want to keep you from valuable writing time. Before we go, one last question on behalf of my Brother in Blogathon arms Breaking More Waves…
Do you ever get mistaken for the ‘other’ PSB, the Pet Shop Boys?
Ha! Not in person, no. On Twitter it’s more of an issue because our name is too long for Twitter, so we had to abbreviate it to PSB_HQ. But I don’t think anyone’s ever come to one of our gigs expecting to see the Pet Shop Boys. I hope not, anyway – on production values alone they’d be sorely disappointed!
The lack of silly hats… and Wriggles looks like he’s having far too much fun to pull off Moody & Aloof. I’m sure they’d still have a great time though.
I’ve never seen them myself, actually – I’d love to. Some classics in there!
Absolutely, I think it would be fantastic show. Well, you’ve played with New Order, perhaps they could be next. Tell your management to get on it, The PSB Squared Tour.
Ha. Consider that done, sir. Consider it done.
Can’t wait. Mr. J. Willgoose, Esq, thank you for your time today, I look forward to hearing the new material later this year, maybe next.
Thanks sir! Fingers crossed eh. Good luck with the blogathon too, a noble cause.
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