Apoc Rock: The Wendys Interview

The Wendys

On today's Apoc Rock, I got a chance to pick the brain of the wickedly witty Ian White of The Wendys. The Wendys, who have become a staple sound on The Sixty One and have a strong following, took time out of their schedule to answer a few questions.

Apoc: So, who are the Wendys?

The Wendys are four Scottish guys who met in Edinburgh, except for the brothers that is, who met at home at a very young age.

Jonathan Renton - Vocals
Ian White - Guitar
Arthur Renton - Bass, backing vox
Johnny MacArthur - Drums and drum programming

Apoc: What got you guys started in music? Was it the easy money, the easy wimmin, drugs or the prospect of someday being an interviewee on the MaxBumps blog?

Arthur and Ian (now to be referred to as me or I) met as students and shared flats and houses. This was the early 80s. Arthur played music in his head and reckoned he had about 30 tunes in there written since he was in his mid teens. He later brought some of those out into the world when he bought a bass guitar. The common bond between all our friends was music. The more underground the better. Mainly post-punk or something a bit odd or violent sounding. Wire, Killing Joke, Bunnymen being some of the more recognizable. There was always music blaring out and I had my guitar and a home made speaker cabinet and old amp to make even more noise.

In the meantime a young, odd, school kid with ever changing dyed hair would occasionally appear at our flat in the big city to stay over and buy records and go to gigs. That was Arthur's brother, Jonathan. About four years later Arthur bought his bass and the two of us started to write tunes on Jonathan's 4 track. Jonathan then stole it back and put vocals on and thats how he gatecrashed and made us into a band.

First gig was in a big house the brothers were living in. We had a friend, Pete, on keyboards by then but no drummer. Johnny, being a quiet soul, came up to us straight after we played and introduced himself as the drummer we were needing. A few weeks later and Pete was out of the picture. He admits that the drink and posing was more up his street than playing. So that doesn't really answer your question but thats how we started. We just loved music and wanted to make our own.

Apoc: Are you currently touring? If so, what are some of the spots?

We aren't touring and the last time we played was 2003. We live too far apart but never say never.

Apoc: One of my favorite things about having musician friends is hearing about their GREAT 'on the road' stories. I'd love to hear one from you guys.

There is a great one about Jonathan and a hotel cupboard but not for here.

Tours for smaller bands tend to be about the grime more than anything else, which in itself is funny to remember but maybe not so interesting to retell. Stories of being stopped by the police, stolen jackets, fishing boat taxis to a festival then supporting the Happy Mondays and stepping up a gear.

Maybe one of the memorable ones was mooning ex-Olympian and, at the time, Conservative Party man Seb Coe on a motorway jam outside Birmingham, from our van. Another is that while still in the process of being signed to Factory Records, we played gigs in Manchester. There was an ITN TV news crew filming clips for a 'Madchester' scene article and ended up in our sound check and stayed for about half an hour filming. We thought 'this is it!' fame!!! Unfortunately, they were later filming in a club and got beaten up outside by drug dealers and their tapes and equipment were wrecked. We should have seen it as a sign!

But I prefer our studio stories. We recorded our Factory album with Ian Broudie of Lightening Seeds and Bunnymen production fame. That was amazing and we were star struck a bit to start with. We also recorded with Rolling Stones producer the late great Jimmy 'Sympathy for the Devil' Miller and got a whole load of Stones stories and Priscilla Presley stories from him. He chaperoned while the king was off on business. (On one of our songs he did a bit of his 'ooh ooh' backing vocals). There are lots of other little meetings and anecdotes but mainly getting to do music fulltime for a few years and meeting and playing with some great people. Having said that I've just remembered playing with The Fall and Cabaret Voltaire in Birmingham, driving about 400 miles and going straight on stage. Then our Roadie reached through a curtain and liberated half of Cabaret Voltaire's booze for good measure. Sorry guys!

Apoc: Now I promised not to talk about your influences and such, but you have such a unique sound that, trying to box it in any sort of genre is nearly impossible. Psychedelic, post punk, electro-funk sound with clipping baselines, dangling guitars, pointed vocals and catchy hooks seems to suit your music well. Based on that, my question is: Obama or Clinton?

For me its Obama. I emailed his campaign, suggesting Bendy Toy's 'Man for the Job' as his theme toon and he has since kept emailing me twice a week with his plans for USA. Its great what a fake DC zip code can get you... But then again, maybe Hillary has some Can, Joy Division, Shriekback, John Martyn, Wire, Bunnymen, Leftfield, Underworld, TPE, JAMC music on her iPod, so she would be allowed to play some tambourine with us.

Apoc: You have taken a very active role in thesixtyone and seem to be enjoying the concept of the site. As an Artist, what turns you on about the site and on the flipside, what do you think are the limitations of the site?

I like the voting (bumping) game play aspect. It is the differentiator, however it also is what annoys me. Limits here there and everywhere and strange changing rules that I don't understand. I have a listener account too and I now mainly add rather than bump so limitations suddenly disappear however so, maybe, does the difference? Great stuff on there. I love >A Faulty Chromosome, kosmischeboy, Dawn Landes, HAM, Whitey Houston, Bendy Toy, Swim Party, Birdlips, Muse Ritual amongst many others.

Apoc: Everyone talks about how the music industry is not the same any more.
That the direct interaction between Artists and Fans is breaking the traditional barriers of the music business. Do you think that's true? How has it affected the Wendys music?

It hasn't impacted The Wendys music but it has rekindled our enthusiasm, and it's like a virtual after-show chat with fans without the record signing, etc. There are more opportunities to do the Indie thing and sell direct which is great for many people but may limit potential for getting some corporate record company cash.

Apoc: Do you find that new mediums like t61, where you can get instant, direct feedback on your music affect the way you make, produce and promote your music? How?

Encouragement. Thats the great thing about t61, the community and its willingness to get involved by commenting sending tunes to others etc.

Apoc: Every band has a talent that they are most proud of... Whether it's their live shows, personal antics, musical diversions, or what-have-you's! What aspect of the band are The Wendys most proud of?

Jonathan was always an inventive cocktail maker. He invented a cocktail called a Pink Bastard that was basically beer cider (alcohol, not fruit juice) and several different spirits topped off with a dash of black currznt. All in a pint glass. Classy boy! Johnny, our drummer was always good at wearing kilts and singing Scottish traditional songs at arty showbiz type parties.

Apoc: To get prepared for this interview, I listened to your songs on thesixtyone over and over for nearly three days. I must admit that by doing that, I really gained an appreciation for the layering of your music and the basslines, especially Dean Martin's Hangover. What is the process of music-writing for you guys?

Usually, (but not always), the guitar and bass combo would come first. Often the bass. Sometimes it happened organically in rehearsal and once we hit something good Jonathan would start singing a repeated phrase over it. Arthur is the only person with whom I have been able to write music, that has felt 100% natural.

Apoc: Tell me about Art Plastic.

Art Plastic is where Jonathan and I put ideas and basic recordings. They may make their way to t61 at some point. We have another four ideas at a basic stage just now, so maybe in two years or so...

Apoc: I always find conflict a lot more interesting than harmony. What band/Artist should not be making music and whose ass the Wendys would like to kick?

Theres a load of great stuff at the moment. The UK is overflowing with bands, as always, but they are getting a lot more exposure. I would rather old bands didn't turn up with tours and new material. I loved The Who but please, YOUR NEW MATERIAL IS CRAP!

Apoc: What are your future plans with your music? Any new albums in the works? Concerts?

We may do something with some old material but can't say more than that. We have some unreleased tunes that we will make available at some point.

Art Plastic is the only concrete thing just now and that is really just playing at being a bedroom band again the way we started, only our bedroom is the size of the interweb...


willie said...

Really interesting interview Apoc. Much appreciated. Going to have to take another look (ear) at The Wendys any band that name checks Cabaret Voltaire and The Fall has got to be good.

utterlylinda said...

Great job on the interview. The questions are as entertaining as the answers. A good mix of information and whimsy. And the key is, as willie said, I now want to learn more about this band.

AnnieB said...

It's been a while since there's been an interview and this was certainly a treat. Nice work, Apoc!