Adverts has always been one of my favouritebands and there sang TV Smith so fucking good. Then he had TV Smith´s Explorers, Cheap and now he´s playing acoustic. Here´s an interview with him in april 2001.
Please tell me the whole history about yourself?
-Born 1956 near London. Moved to a village in the countryside of the
Southwest of England when I was ten years old. Spent one year at Art College
1975-6 where I formed my first band, "Sleaze" and met Gaye (Advert). Gaye
and I then moved to London in '76 and formed the Adverts. When the Adverts
broke up in 1979, I formed T.V.Smith's Explorers which lasted another couple
of years. I dropped out of the mainstream music business in the eighties,
but released a couple of records on small labels, then formed the band
Cheap, who toured from '86 until '91. In '91 I broke up the band and started
a solo career, touring on my own and recording with guest musicians.
Why did you start to play music in the first place?
-I always loved pop music and the power it had, and even when I was a kid I
used to go around humming tunes I'd made up, and fitting words to them. I
used to hear songs on the radio and think "I can do better than that..."
Do you think that music can change any people life?
-Everyone knows it can change your mood...you can listen to a song and feel
instantly charged with emotion - so yes, it definitely can change you in the
short term. And I think that if you hear something you can identify with it
can strengthen you, help you realise you're not alone in the world. I'm not
really interested in changing people's lives, I'm interested in
What do you think about the combination of music and
-Politics is full of lies, manipulation, and the exploitation of power.
Music's about truth, creativity and communication - so I don't believe the
two mix, but I think you can use music to comment on politics, and I think
it's important that you do.
You started out in Adverts, how was it to play music
in the beginning of the
punk era, was the audience more wild back then?
-What was best about it was that it was all new. There were no rules about
what the bands had to sound like, or how the audience were supposed to
behave. The audiences were pretty wild because both them and the bands were
really excited about this new "punk" thing that was happening.
What is the most peculiar which have happened on a
gig with you, on stage or
in the audience?
-Well, it's hard to pick out one thing. I've been playing gigs for over
twenty years now, and every one is unique, every gig something unexpected
What´s the difference of playing with TV Smith ,
Cheap and Adverts?
-Just like every gig is different, every band is different too. They each
have their own character. With the Adverts, for example, we were instantly
successful, but we were constantly fighting and didn't really enjoy the
experience of being in a band after the first few months. On the other hand,
in Cheap we were all good friends, enjoyed touring and playing gigs, but
didn't have any success.
I have all records with Adverts, Cheap(RIP) ; The TV
Explorers LP and Generation Y with you. What else have you done and how can I
get it(If you want you can send the other to be reviewed on my site)?
-There was my first solo album in 1983, "Channel Five," released by a label
that went broke two weeks after it was released, so it's pretty difficult to
find. My first official solo album "March Of The Giants" came out in 1992 on
Cooking Vinyl records, then I released "Immortal Rich" on a little label
called Humbug in 1994. I made the "Thin Green Line" EP with Tom Robinson a
year after that. Last year I released an EP called "The Future Used To Be
Better" recorded with Finnish band Punk Lurex OK, and this year I'm
releasing "Useless: The Very Best Of T.V.Smith" - some of my favourite songs
rerecorded with Die Toten Hosen as my backing band.
Which is must fun to do, to have a band or to go
-It was a lot of fun to be in a band, particularly Cheap, but I find it much
more rewarding and interesting to be solo. Apart from the satisfaction and
freedom I get from playing gigs on my own, the experience of being on the
road is totally different because you're not continually enclosed with your
mates in the band, so you meet new people and really get to experience the
flavour of the places you visits.
What does punk mean to you, if you compare what it
meant to you back then?
-You've got to remember that the word "punk" didn't exist when we started
playing our first gigs at the beginning of 1977, so we didn't start the
Adverts intending to be "punk." It was just an opportunity for me to express
myself, write songs, and play them in front of people without anyone telling
me what the band should be sounding like or what I should be writing about.
So that's what I think of as "punk" now, and that's what I'm still doing.
Have Adverts any plans to reform in any form, have
you done anything like
-I would never reform a band. It would never be the same, because bands come
from what's going on around them when they first form. Any attempt to
recreate it can only ever be a copy, even if it's a good copy.
I compare you to Waterboys with TV Smith on vocals
or New Model Army with
TV on vocals, what other comparions have you got?
-I suppose the most usual one is with Bob Dylan, probably because I play
solo. Mind you, he doesn't.
Do you care about reviews? Have you changed anything
after a bad one?
-It's great to get good reviews and know people understand what you're doing.
The trouble is, some reviewers don't understand what you're doing but still
feel they have to write about it. You can't afford to pay much attention to
bad reviews. The Adverts got terrible reviews when we first started - if
we'd taken any notice of them we would have had to break the band up before
we even got a record out.
What is the most peculiar that anyone have wrote
-I don't remember, but one reviewer once reviewed a gig by Cheap and got the
sex of our bass player wrong. Also, the English music press started saying I
was finished in the early '80s, but I still seem to be here and all those
writers have long gone.
You did an Ep with the finnish band Punk Lurex OK
-I got invited to play some dates in Finland a couple of years ago and Punk
Lurex OK were the support band. We got on really well and I love their
music, so the idea of making a record together just came up naturally. They
really capture the authentic '77 punk sound for me, so we recorded a couple
of Adverts songs and a couple of new ones.
You did a song with Toten Hosen on their english CD
also, what do you think
about that CD and the idea overall?
-When I first heard about it I was pretty suspicious. I'd never heard of Die
Toten Hosen, but I kept on getting people wanting me to do "Gary
Gilmore'Eyes" with them. It was getting pretty annoying because it seemed
that was the only song people would ever know me for. But then I went to the
studio and met the band, and I realised that they had a really good
understanding of punk rock and were actually just fans doing it because they
loved it. I think you can hear that in the finished record. As it happened,
it led to a friendship which has ended up with them playing as my band for
my new "Best Of" album.
Tom Robinson helped you out with a song on
Generation Y ,howcome are you
good friends, is he doing any music nowadays for himself?
-I started playing solo around the same time as him, and coincidentally we
both ended up on the same label, Cooking Vinyl, and that led to us going out
on tour together in England and Germany. I've sung some backing vocals on
some of his albums, and he's helped me out on a couple of records. Tom's
still writing and touring, mainly in the U.K. and Belgium. You can find news
on him at his website:
When you did Gary Gilmores´eyes back then, was it
many reactions about
-You mean in 1977? People thought it was shocking. I guess people were easily
shocked back then!
How does it feels to have done of the punkrock
-I'm proud that I was part of a movement that changed music. But I don't
think too much about it. I mean, I've written a lot of songs that I think
are better than Gary Gilmore's Eyes, but most people have never heard them
because I didn't have a record deal or wasn't fashionable enough. The thing
I'm most proud about from that era is the "Crossing The Red Sea" album,
which I still think stands with the best.
I read in an interview that you were bored to
punkrock some years but that
you nowadays feel like a punkrocker again, howcome?
-I didn't like the way it had moved into Oi and aggressive music that didn't
seem to have anything to say. The whole point of the way punk rock started
was that it encouraged diversity, it was a gateway for lots of different
types of bands. In the early eighties the word "punk" seemed to start having
a new repressive, almost fascistic, meaning. I felt happier just
disassociating myself from it and getting on with what I wanted to do
without that dragging me down. Now I feel strong enough to claim the word
Punk back for myself.
Is it any problem that you have come up in age(me
myself is 38)? What´s the
best and what´s the worst with it?
-I just turned 45. It doesn't really matter any more. The worst time for a
musician is when you're in your mid-twenties, because that's the point when
the music industry decides you're not suitable to be a pop star anymore.
Once you get over that, it's not so bad, and for me it meant the freedom to
do what I wanted without record companies bothering me, or having to pretend
to be something I wasn't. Getting older is OK. All the stuff I heard about
it when I was younger isn't true...you still feel vibrant and alive, you
still love good music, you still have fun and feel yourself learning every
In which way have you changed your view on life if
you compare with 1977?
-I feel more positive. Even when the world seems to be in the control of
idiots, I know there's a lot us who aren't affected by them. We know who we
are and we know where we're going.
What do you know about Sweden?
-Very little, I've never been there.
Have you heard any swedish bands?
-Not many. There's a few kind of punk/pop Swedish bands like the Wannadies
that have broken through in Britain and a few more recent dance/rap type
bands, but Britain is still very conservative when it comes to music from
other countries, except the U.S.A.
How is life in England right now?
-It's fine, but I spend half the year on tour in other countries.
Any good bands there right now?
-That's a matter of opinion. You won't find many good bands in the charts.
Most decent bands are underground bands and don't get record deals.
When you do a song, what is most important to have a
good melody, good
lyrics or to have a refrain that people remember?
-It's got to have all of those.
First, last and most expensive record you have
-The first record I bought was a compilation album of 1968 chart hits. The
most recent was Nick Cave's new album.
Idols when you were small?
Is it any chance to see you in Sweden soon?
-Sweden has been missing from my touring schedule because I don't know any
promoters there. I'd love to come - anyone interested in organising some
gigs should contact me at email@example.com
How is a good concert with TV Smith?
-Some magic happens which you'll never capture on a tape recorder.
Do you do songs from your whole career?
-Yeah. Since I started playing solo I decided it was finally a chance to
start playing songs from whatever period I wanted, which was something I
never liked to do with the previous bands - I just used to play the songs
I'd written for that specific band. When I went solo I thought, - I wrote
all these songs on acoustic guitar, why don't I play them on it? Now I can
play - for example - One Chord Wonders right next to a brand new song. The
gigs are very high energy, so the old songs still work.
Which is the most frequent asked song?
-I think you know the answer to that.
Which of the old songs is funniest to do?
-I always find it funny playing Bored Teenagers. But I don't care, I love it.
Do you have any contact with Adverts old members,
what do they do now?
-Gaye stopped playing bass after the Adverts and is now working for a council
Social Services department in London, managing teams of home helps for the
sick and elderly. I don't have any contact with Laurie, the drummer, but
I've been told he now lives in Iceland. Howard, the guitarist, sadly died a
couple of years ago from a brain tumour.
Which is your advice to new young bands to get a
contract or so?
-I wouldn't give any advice, I don't even know how to get a contract myself.
I think, if you want to get a contract you have to sound like all the rest
of the crap the music business is putting out. The best thing to do would be
to copy something else that is already successful, and I certainly wouldn't
want to advise that. I'd say - forget about a contract, just do something
you love doing and that you believe in.
-Keeping the standard up.
-Hold on to the good stuff.
Something more to add?
-Hope you can find the records. Hope I can come and play for you. In the
meantime, come and find me at www.tvsmith.com