September 14, 2018 Interview – Colin Moulding Talks XTC, TC&I, + more
As the page turned from the late ’70s into the ’80s, the music scene was also changing tides. Many would argue it to be the Post-Punk era of Rock, and they would not be wrong, as off-shorts such as New Wave, Alternative Rock, Art Rock, and other sub-genres emerged. A fun time, full of inventive acts, one that stood out vividly was England’s own XTC.
Unique to other bands on the scene at the time, XTC had their fair share of success through the years, and their story is so compelling it even inspired the 2017 Documentary XTC: This Is Pop. Now over a decade since the band has been active together, fortunately for fans, original Vocalist/Bassist/Songwriter Colin Moulding has teamed back up with original XTC drumming mate Terry Chambers.
A reunion well-worth checking out, together they make up the newly formed TC&I, releasing their Great Aspirations EP in 2017. Now with some live shows planned for their hometown of Swindon later this fall, who knows what will happen next. Anxious to get out and play live, Moulding took the time to chat about the years of XTC, reconnecting with Terry Chambers, performing XTC music in concert again, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been involved in music professionally over four decades. In that time, you attained a mass of success as a vital part of XTC. Briefly tell us, how would you describe your journey in music?
Colin Moulding – Good lord! Well, I didn’t know anything about it when I first started and it was just a case of gathering knowledge on all sides of the business. I think when you start you just want to be competent at your instrument.
Gradually, I got into recording and later on learned how to record myself. It is just the many facets of the business you come across and learn. It’s all a big learning process. The journey has just been one book of knowledge, I just had to read. Maybe I know a bit more now than when I started. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – Right, we learn as we go. Even if you are doing something forty years, you are still learning.
Colin Moulding – I think you are. I am still learning about the recording process. Now with these latest dates we are proposing to do live, I’m having to relearn because a lot has happened since XTC played live in the late ’70s and early ’80s. It’s a different ballgame now, everything is a lot more complex. (Laughs) Yea, I am still learning.
CrypticRock.com – It is exciting to learn new things as well. XTC’s sound was quite unique to what anyone else was doing at the time. What inspired the band’s creative direction?
Colin Moulding – Four individuals from one town I think. This town is quite of a closed town and we are kind of separate. When you get that separation you get weird things that happen. We had the same sense of humor, same kind of wanting to do things different, and we never got wrapped up with other people’s idea of what the industry should be.
We just wanted to go our own way and not worry too much if whether we were successful or not – we just had a desire to do something new. We were like-minded individuals coming from a small town in England with a similar view.
CrypticRock.com – The work you did together as a unit really was wonderful. Interestingly, a documentary on XTC was released last year, XTC: This Is Pop. It is an hour plus film with various interviews, etc. The film does a great job of showing how important the legacy of the band is. What were your thoughts when you were informed about the film being made?
Colin Moulding – I just thought same old rockumentary; I thought it was not going to be any different than anyone else’s. I just thought it would be an ordinary documentary, but I was quite surprised when this guy named Charlie Thomas, who has done several documentaries on various bands, said he wanted to do something different for the band. He thought we were kind of special, that were individualistic, and he wanted to do something special.
He came at it from another direction. He got these models of the band and put us on a railway background – we come from Swindon which was formerly a railway town. He wanted to give a little angle on our background. I am surprised how well it turned out. That’s his doing more than ours, we just rolled up and were interviewed. It is Charlie’s kind of baby, really. He was quite visionary, wanted to do things in his own way, and it turned out pretty good. As far as documentaries go, I am not really a big fan of documentaries on Rock – they tend to generalize things, and as we know, human beings are a lot more complex than that. I was quite surprised it did not turn out badly.
CrypticRock.com – It did come out very well! This year is actually the 40th anniversary of XTC’s debut record, White Music. With that, you also teamed up with original XTC Drummer Terry Chambers to record a new EP, Great Aspirations, in late 2017. What led to the decision to come together with Terry and work on some new music as TC&I?
Colin Moulding – The biggest happening was Terry came back to England. He had been living in Australia, he married an Australian girl in the early 80s’. He met her on tour, left the band, went to live in Australia, had a family, and just soaked up the Australian way of life.
Here we are all these years later, he came back into the country, we met up, and I thought he was going back to Australia. He said, “No, I’m going to stay, I am getting a divorce, I am here for good.” I said, “Oh really? I have some songs, do you fancy working on them?”
So we started working on these songs and a plot was hatched. We took it from there, made a bit of a plan that we would become an entity, and see what happened. It just grew and grew, we thought we would do these live dates. The biggest thing is he just changed countries. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – That is great you were able to reconnect again. The EP includes 4 songs and the final song, “Comrades in Pop,” is quite a telling piece lyrically. That in mind, what was the writing and recording like for this collection of songs?
Colin Moulding – We recorded it at my little home studio. Terry had a great work ethic, he turned up at my door every morning and we worked on them. We recorded the drums at a little studio along the road from us, it was all local. We worked on them for around 8-9 months, figuring out how we would do them. Then we got a local guy to mix them, it was all a very local kind of happening.
It was very fun! We didn’t have any of the encumbrance that happened when you were recording in an expensive studio. All those years ago, we used to pay 1,000 pounds a day at a London studio and you always felt like you were under the cash, because there was a big clock on the wall. You couldn’t really take your time to do as many takes as you like, or come back the next day, you just had to nail it there – time was money.
It was great being able to work, and if things didn’t happen one day, we come back the next and try something different. We had that freedom. I had some equipment that I bought a few years back to record myself and learned how to use it. (Laughs) That was the process, really.
CrypticRock.com – It turned out quite well. Yourself and Terry are also playing some live shows together in your hometown of Swindon. It has been many years since you have performed together live. How excited are you to get back out there, and do you think it can lead to more shows abroad?
Colin Moulding – I don’t know. We just wanted to start small, because we only have a small combo – it’s me, Terry, and two other guys. There is no back screen projection, no live extravaganza, just four guys on stage. We wanted to start small, it’s a small theater where we’re going to start. We are just going to see how it goes. We don’t know whether we are going to do anything abroad or not.
CrypticRock.com – It will be exciting to see where it all goes. Is there some music of yours that was put on the backburner that you would think of releasing with TC&I?
Colin Moulding – We are doing some of the songs that didn’t make the album. We are doing several songs that I figured could have been on an XTC record, but, for one reason or another, never made it. We are thinking about doing some of those live to just mix it up a bit. We are going to do some favorites people might recognize as well. We are also going to do some of the ones I felt never really got a fair crack of the whip. We are going to see how it goes and mix it up a bit.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent! We will see where it goes. It may lead to some more studio recordings.
Colin Moulding – Yea, the thing is, I have to get the live thing out of my system. In the old days, when you are 23-24, a young guy, you can write on the road – you can do all those things, you can multitask. You can play live, and the next day, think about writing a song. I can’t do that anymore. I have to be cleansed of one, because the live thing, you are using a totally different part of your brain than to record in the studio. I’ve been recording in the studio for the last thirty odd years.
Now we are in the live idiom, I have to cleanse myself of this live thing before I can get back to composing again. It’s not like when I was 23, I can’t do that anymore. I do think the composing is better, I think it’s more interesting now than what it was. I think I’ve gotten better at it. The consequences are I can’t multitask like I used to. I have to completely stop one thing and settle down before I can start another. That’s the difference. It’s called getting older, I think.
CrypticRock.com – (Laughs) It happens to all of us. We change, the way we think changes, the way we do things change.
Colin Moulding – Well, I doubt Bob Dylan can still write “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and I forgive him for that. That’s alright, you can write those sort of songs when you are 23, but when you’re 63, it is a slightly different ballgame. You’re not as prolific as you were, but the stuff you do write is more considered – whether that is a good thing, I don’t know. I think the material has gotten better, I am kind of using a different part of my brain. You’re going to change through the years, you can’t always do the things you used to do when you were 23.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. Outside your time with XTC, you have done various other musical projects. You have also worked in various genres. Do you enjoy the ability to work in different genres?
Colin Moulding – Yea, it’s just music to me. I can enjoy Jean Sibelius and I can enjoy “Sugar, Sugar” by The Archies. I am respectful for every genre, I don’t set one genre against another. When someone says, “I don’t like Jazz,” I say, “You don’t like Jazz? Not one Jazz record?” I just don’t like pitching one type of music against another and how people pitch one time of music against another.
How people can dismiss whole blocks of music and say they don’t like it, you know they don’t really mean that. There must be one Jazz record that they like, even if it’s Shirley Bassey. I kind of like going into all different styles. Every style is okay. If I go into Classical stuff I am not huffy about it. It’s okay to like different stuff.
CrypticRock.com – There is no question. Speaking about getting older, that is also part of it. In life, you progress, you open your mind and mature. You open yourself up to things you perhaps would not have opened up to when you were younger.
Colin Moulding – Absolutely. Christ, when I was 17, I set the boundaries that this is the band I like and everything else is crap. It’s just ridiculous. Yet, I knew secretly there was some records my old dad used to play that I liked, but I never could admit it to other people. I thought I can’t admit I like that. It’s a maturity thing. It’s okay to like it, you don’t need to prove that you like one lot of music and that’s it because that will make you stronger. It’s much more balanced for you to say – there are going to be records that I don’t necessarily like the genre of music, but there are records in that genre that I have to admit I like. I think when you arrived at a certain age, and admit that, you’ve arrived!
CrypticRock.com – That is extremely true. You learn as you go.
Colin Moulding – Yes. There are certain films I like that I can admit to liking. People will say, “You like that? You really do?” As you get older you don’t worry what people think, as long as you uphold what you really feel, that’s the main thing.
CrypticRock.com – Totally agreed. Speaking of films, we also cover films on CrypticRock. If you are a fan of either Horror and Sci-Fi films, what are some of your favorites?
Colin Moulding – I’m a big Hitchcock fan. Horror is not kind of a genre of film I would go to instantly if I had to choose, but there is no doubt there is something in there for me, it’s just not come my way yet.
If you are thinking of Horror, Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960) is what comes to my mind – I saw it as a kid and it made an impression on me. I have no doubt there are other things out there waiting for me to be discovered though.