Saturday, 6 December 2008
Terri Saunders interviews Andy Export
ANDY EXPORT (Andy Fraser)
Abrasive folk-punk-rocker Andy Export has done several albums since the late 1970s that reflect an interest in, and even affinity with, social outcasts and maladjusted behavior. Plenty of critics have assumed that Andy was as mad as his music. It's doubtful that any madman, however, could keep up the hectic pace of work that Andy Export has. In addition to his numerous albums, he's churned out collections of short stories, plays, and poems. His sardonic vocal delivery and black-comic portraits of misfits gave him a semi-cult appeal in the 1970s/1980's. Since I spoke to him in early 2007 Mister Export has performed only in sporadic fits and starts and seems to have gone the same way as stage-shy Andy Partridge, of XTC.
Previous Andy Export-fronted bands include Acceleration, Basement Mania, The 'Ansome Wilfs, The Martini Slutz, The Hedgehogs, Death In Venice and Harmonica Lewinsky.
Were you doing much music before you recorded with your first band in the 1970's?
When I first started in bands, this was in the late 70's. We were doing glam...and punk...really...cos although I only started playing AFTER punk took off...my interest was in glam..Mott The Hoople, Sparks, Steve Harley etcetera..and Bowie and Bolan...naturally. It was very much a punk rock'n'roll thing, pre-post-punk thing. Does that make fucking sense to you? I got into that, as opposed to being directly sort of connected with rock and roll, so the two things mixed together. My first proper band...to gig a lot, I mean, were called Acceleration. I still have a stash of old Acceleration cassettes in my loft....I kept them for flogging off when I got famous. The flaw in my reckoning was that I never got famous. I got drunk though...and had a laugh.
I was always singing in pubs. My sister's a club singer, amongst many other things. And music was around the house a lot. I sang with my best pal, Nick Hughes (ex Cenet Rox) sometimes, too. A fairly broad musical education. But I started out as a poet really. My first collection of poetry was called "Fifteen Short Stories for Squirrels" Ha Ha. I bound it all up myself into a proper manuscript and I buried it in a small forest...well...more a copse. So...if you wanna go get it you gotta look in a small bit of woodland in the valley of The Hilly Fields at the back of Brenchley in Kent. It's probably a poxy housing estate now. I can't remember much of the content...don't expect Rudyard Kipling.
Even from the time you started with Unlucky Fried Kitten there seemed to be an affinity in your songs with social outsiders.
You've got to remember that around that time I was working in an asylum, basically. I left school, and I went to do art and other things in a mental hospital in the south of England. This coincided with a lot of things I was doing on record, or taping with Nick. And the things were very much on my mind. I was very concerned about what went on. I guess I do have an affection for outsiders, but I got much of it when I was working, just over three years, in this hospital. I was going up to London at certain points, doing some recordings, bits and pieces, with Nick. This is what came out. A lot of the things were to do with the day-to-day events that I was dealing with in the hospital. It was quite natural, I guess. I like to use music and whatever I do as a source of therapy as much as anything else, to get some of this out, and it was a good opportunity. Partly...this is why the recordings have been mainly lost. Because of the complications I had about the source of my inspiration I destroyed my whole catalogue...of what I had in my own hands. You gotta remember that only die-hard friends and idiots bought my stuff...so it's probably all long-gone. Don't know if that old rascal [nick] still has any of it. He always was a tight git so I can't see him giving it to me.
Was there much of a change in your approach when you stopped playing with Acceleration and became a solo artist?
Um...nope...why should there be? I never became a solo artist. Is this a trick question? The trouble with you hack-school journos is that you think you can get by without a little research.
Have you given up writing consciously?
How do you mean? I do write. I write books and things. I write things on paper, and have a concern for language, the written word. But when I do songs, I tend to be very spontaneous. I like to mirror the moment and the time. That all sounds very idealistic, but I'm a great believer in that. I learned something from the bluesmen, this kind of attitude. Very open-ended and responding to whatever the day brings, really, or life at that time. Sounds all very grand. I think at best it really works. It doesn't sound so manufactured as some pop music efforts sound.
When Mickey Apples died you played his bass parts instead of recruiting a new player...which stopped you from playing live. Is it bad to replace dead musicians..in your opinion? If The Doors came calling would you slip into Jim Morrison's role?
Ooooh...sounds rude...as well as fucking stupid.....but....such are the machinations of the record industry. Not much sentiment around. What I found astonishing now is this awful band from England called Bush, who are basically a copy of Nirvana to the last degree. Enormously popular in the States, and not only that, the lead singer was going out with, or I suppose was having some sort of relationship with Kurt Cobain's ex-wife. I find it astonishing. No sentiment or taste anywhere, and I think this scenario you've just created about the Doors is somewhat similar. There isn't any question of, you know, poor old Jim, let's give him a bit of a rest now. It's like, got to keep the money wheels turning, keep the cash registers going. But anyway, as I say, such is the music business.
How did you end up being one of the first punks in South East England?
What a load of old twaddle. Who told you that? I could name a fucking thousand people who were at it before me. God almighty...what about The Milkshakes, Billy Childish, Gash, Pop Rivets...that's just a few. I walked out of school in 1977...cos I couldn't stand being tortured (they called it punished) by the teachers...cos of what I was wearing. I remember it clearly. It was 7th July 1977...and we were all huddled together for our assembly...conducted by the headmaster. I won't say the school...cos the teachers were all c**ts...and the headmaster is dead. So...he went on about it being 7/7/77...and how we've not had such a quirk since 6/6/66...and how we'd not see the likes of it until 8/8/88. It pissed me off cos it was like saying we were thick...like we could never have worked that out on our own. I just got up...walked out...stuck my fingers up...and within about 18 hours...no bullshit...I was 1000 miles away in Scotland. (haven't checked the mileage...you do it...From Maidstone to Aberdeen) It felt good....like David Essex chucking his school books into the stream in Stardust. Or Sid Vicious shooting the audience in My Way.
Which were your favorite bands, of the punk era?
I love 'em all. It was a great time. We were wild and idealistic and younger, and I thought there was a great passion in what we did. A little misguided on occasion. I suppose old age and getting older makes you say things like that. But no, I'm very proud of my choice in music. Seems daft to single them out...cos it'll be the usual suspects. Pistols, Clash, Damned, Buzzcocks, Ramones, Wire. Fucking Hell...Wire were awesome. Check them out now if you ain't heard them. Adam Ant was emerging...he was dark and interesting. The Buzzcocks were great cos their songs were powerpop love-songs...they weren't afraid of going against the punk principal...of grumbling about society. The Clash...fuck...they were the biz mate. Then this funny little dishevelled character poked his Dickensian head through the swirling clouds of punk...and I thought...you can't be a pop star, mate. I'd found Ian Dury...he was a fucking revelation...even a revolution...to me. The thing is...I get comparisons to Ian all the time. I have never intentionally tried to sound like him...but you will always take sub-consciously....elements...of the people who you like. If you love Gothic Architecture...and you become a builder...you're gonna be building 3-bed semis in Milton Keynes..with gargoyles and towers knobbed up the side. If you loved George best...as I did...you're gonna play...try to play...in his style. (or you're gonna drink yourself to death) If you admire the sartorial finesse of Jonathan Ross...you're gonna go out dressed like a twat.
And since the punk era?
What? Bands, you mean? Ah...I like bands that say something to their fans...if that makes sense? Bands that like to keep a level. Not many have fallen into that role since The Clash...but I'm sure you can name a few. I'd say the only ones who have done it have been The Smiths (Morrissey), The Manic Street Preachers and The Libertines. I'll stick with my Ian Dury, of course, that goes without saying. It's like Ian is your mate down the boozer. One of my favourite bands is The Only Ones. Every song comes from a place where Pete Perrett has been. I used to go to sleep with The Only Ones pumping through my headphones all night. People said The Smiths were depressing. With The Only Ones it was like pumping a lorry-load of misery into your veins. John...their guitarist...is an awesome stringsman too. Saw them live and the lead from Another Girl Another Planet was note-perfect. Or did you fix an mp3 unit inside your guitar, John? ;) Even Serpents Shine is one of my all-time favourite albums. Who else? Always a place in my heart for Syd Barrett....eccentricity in abundance...leading me onto Robyn Hitchcock. Wonderful. I love people who create characters. XTC do it, too. The you got the fucking almighty Ray Davies. Still love The Kinks. I've missed loads out, no doubt. I played a bit of guitar with Brian Pendleton from The Pretty Things...just before he died a few years back.That was an honour....cos I always loved TPT's. They had the first concept album, "S.F.Sorrow" , don't ya know? Reportedly..it inspired Townshend to write "Tommy" A little pop fact there. Don't buy Smash Hits...read an Andy Export interview. Ha Ha. I still like what Morrissey is doing now...his backing band is superb. It rather peeves me that Boz Boorer has been with Moz now for well over 15 years...but he never gets a mention in Morrissey interviews. Very occasionally he is referred to as Morrissey's "musical arranger" I think that means that he writes the music and Morrissey writes the words. Humming is probably involved on Morrissey's part. Great little rockabilly backing band. Boz was, of course, part of The Polecats...so there's your pedigree. He also played some wonderful guitar ...co-wrote some of the songs...on Adam Ant's 90's album "Wonderful" Boz Boorer...you are one of my heroes...ha ha.
Are reports that you were going crazy, yourself, around the early 1980s true?
Next question...shoot your question-writer.
I write my own questions
Then shoot yourself
You also write fiction and work as an artist, in addition to doing your music. Are you going to be focusing on one field more than the other?
Wow...am I an artist? There's a busking element to my rudimentary pencil skills...let's put it that way. Nah...I like to draw kinda cartoony things but it's neither a skill nor a vocation. As for the writing...yeah...a few books. The Tragedian, The Pedestrian Protagonist, Wheeling The Old Metal Chair Towards Me. Loads of poetry. Isn't that what being a songwriter is about?
What's next for Unlucky Fried Kitten?
Dunno really. I'm just happy to be still active. We're setting up an umbrella type thing for other bands...as well as for us. It will be called The UFK Dollshouse...with different rooms for different purposes. bands on board include The Bolans, V2086, I Am A Spider, The Cemetry Gaes, Mickey Apples, Penny Dreadful.
It's under construction as we speak.
Thank you for your time Mister Export