July 11, 2018 Interview – Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey
Everyone needs a bit of diversity, it is what keeps life interesting. For Tom Bailey, he has spent much of the last two decades of his career changing the pace, dabbling in Indian, Dub, and World musical styles. A shift in styles from his mainstream commercial success leading Thompson Twins to the top of international charts with hits such as “Hold Me Now,” “Doctor! Doctor!,” “Lay Your Hands On Me,” among others, most recently, Bailey has re-entered the Pop music world reinvigorated.
Appearing on the 2014 edition of Retro Futura Tour to positive reaction, Bailey now finds himself set to release his first ever solo Pop album on Friday, July 13th. Entitled Science Fiction, the album sees Bailey come full circle to the styles and sounds that touched music lovers around the world, but with a new twist. Recently we caught up with the versatile composer to talk his decision to return to Pop music, the work put into his new album, touring with Culture Club & The B-52s, plus more.
CrypticRock.com – Last we spoke back in 2014, you had just wrapped up a successful run on the Retro Futura Tour, and now you are set to release a brand new album as well as tour the USA alongside The B-52s and Culture Club. What have the past few years been like for you?
Tom Bailey – I guess it must have worked out somehow. (Laughs) In fact, when we spoke last, I was probably kind of dipping my toe rather nervously into touring the Twins’ music for the first time in several decades. It ended up being very exciting and I found, having been away from it for so long, it wasn’t tired for me. Some artists who are contemporaries of mine from the ’80s, who kept going, there are some times the audience wants them to sing certain songs and they are just tired of it. (Laughs) For me, it all seems fairly fresh again, and I can do it with a kind of retrospective view. That worked out well.
Because I’ve been doing it fairly intensively, the next question was do I want to get back into making new Pop music? The world of recorded music, selling recording music, the way it’s made, and the way it is listened to, has changed so much since the ’80s. I had to do it with my eyes open. I can’t expect to sell zillions of records, because people don’t do that anymore. They make records to make their fans happy and maybe promote that they’re out there playing concerts. If you put all that to one side, actually, the same skills of condensing a good idea into 3 minutes or so, they are the same skills you used in the ’80s – you want it be foot tapping, singalongable, memorable, that kind of stuff. It was great; it is kind of the cliched metaphor of finding an old bike and getting back on it, it absolutely was.
CrypticRock.com – It has been a positive past few years for you. Interestingly enough, through all your years of writing and recordings, you had worked with various other projects, but never put out a solo record until the forthcoming Science Fiction. What lead to the decision to at last put out a solo album?
Tom Bailey – That’s slightly a question of definition. Through the years, I have done a lot of solo albums, but they haven’t been Pop music. That’s why people think this is kind of a first and curious step into that field, but it’s really that I haven’t been making Pop music all this time. I think I have released 12 albums, just not the kind of 3-minute, sing-along Pop songs that I decided to do in this case. It’s a question of how you’re trying to communicate and who are you trying to communicate with?
As soon as it was clear, I wanted to do that and address the very specific problems of Pop writing; I just went 100% into that. When I decided it was a Pop record, it had to be fully a Pop record, not just a little bit. (Laughs) So that is why I wrote these songs that have a clear, organized verses/chorus structures and rhythms that you might tap your foot.
CrypticRock.com – You did an exceptional job with Science Fiction; it retains a classic Synthpop sound, yet is quite diverse. What you have also done very well, especially with Thompson Twins and beyond, is interject various different styles of music. Was that an objective to do that with this album as well?
Tom Bailey – I think it’s important once you have established the main idea, you have to be open to other influences. Because I do have interest in other areas, notably Indian and Dub music, I love to allow those kind of ideas in and they are always awaiting in the wings. You allow them to move in on you, it’s a wonderful thing. In other words, don’t limit yourself by being one-dimensional, just let it all happen, as long as you are clear about what your central idea is. To me that’s a wonderful thing and I just let it happen.
CrypticRock.com – And it works well with Science Fiction. There also seems to be a running theme lyrically through the album. Did it take shape naturally?
Tom Bailey – I guess it was just kind of stargazing. It emerged after writing 2 or 3 songs that I was thinking a lot about the hard science of looking at outer-space and traveling in space, but also the kind of dreamy and fantasy aspect of it as well. And in a way, by stargazing, we can contemplate our own predicaments down at ground level. That certainly is a powerful thing! Over the last few years, I have done some music for films about astronomy, so I had some convenient ideas and metaphors waiting to be used. That would be the thing that ties the whole album together conceptually. When I wrote the song “Science Fiction,” which is actually at the first level a struggling romantic song, but it has a bigger metaphoric burden of being about how we prefer to be in denial of science and just dream away. (Laughs)
CrypticRock.com – There are a lot of compelling lyrics on the record that make you think. It feels quite introspective.
Tom Bailey – It is important for me, at this stage, that the songs are about something, not just kind of superficial or empty. There is a part of the Pop tradition that allows for the meaningless throw-away song and that’s cool. For me, partially because I am invoking some memory of the ’80s – when we were more optimistic about our ability to make the world a better place -and the part music played in the idea – I want to reinvoke some of that. There is a lot of questioning, or introspection as you say. If that gets through, then it’s a success as far as I’m concerned. Of course, it also has to get your foot tapping and the melody has to get you mentally singing along, as well.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, the balance makes for good music and people will certainly find that with Science Fiction. As mentioned, you are out on tour with Culture Club and The B-52s. You have been known to put on great live shows, so what can fans expect from these performances?
Tom Bailey – It partially depends on how long we have for a set time. Sometimes when there are three bands on, we only end up with 45 minutes. Recently, we played on our own, and it meant we had a much longer set, so we could include more new material. That is all I can say: we will definately be playing the hits, and if we have enough time we will be playing new songs, as well.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent. As you said, a few years ago you sort of dipped your toe into doing Pop music again. People have responded very positively seeing you on tour with Retro Futura and now out with Culture Club. That in mind, would you consider doing a solo headlining tour of the U.S.?
Tom Bailey – Of course, I would consider it, it’s just a question of the promoter/agencies putting it together. (Laughs) Unfortunately, because of what we do, it’s not the cheapest – I have an amazing band and an amazing crew of technicians. It’s an expensive business to tour around the world; I can’t do a club solo tour, it simply wouldn’t pay for itself. However, we can do what we are doing now, where we tour with a two other bands and occasionally when there is a day off. If we can find a promoter, we will do solo shows as well. At the moment it’s a question of balancing the two.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, and it is exciting to see you mix in the solo off-dates along a tour.
Tom Bailey – It is! But it is equally fantastic to go out with B-52s and Culture Club, they are both great bands. A lot of people find that ticket irresistible: it’s three bands from the ’80s who have hung in there and done well. Boy George has been fantastic. It’s a very good run!
CrypticRock.com – It certainly is! Culture Club has new music coming out as well, so times are good. With this tour in full swing, Science Fiction upon us, what is next for you?
Tom Bailey – Well, to be honest, I don’t sit down until October. Then I have a couple of weeks off, then I will be touring the UK in November. In December, it is not confirmed yet, but I am trying to get to India to play with my Indian musician friends in the Holy Water Project. We are long overdue and looking to write work for our third album. I am going to try and do that.
CrypticRock.com – Very interesting. You have always been influenced by various different music from other cultures. As we grow as people, our tastes and moods change. What are you into at this moment?
Tom Bailey – It’s a funny thing, I have been actually digging back into Electronic Rock music. I recently went to the most amazing concert by Will Gregory, he has The Will Gregory Moog Ensemble. They play entirely analog, monophonic synthesizer instruments, and they really impressed me. That got me to listening to these things again and it has taken me down some very peculiar paths, even dark alleys that I didn’t know existed – Rock music played on 8-bit music sounds. It’s the strangest thing, it really it. It’s the clash of cultures like no other. That’s what I’ve been listening to.
CrypticRock.com – Isn’t it interesting how a form of music once compelled us, we drift away from it, then rediscover it when we are older and appreciate it in new light?
Tom Bailey – Yes, and partially because the nostalgic part of music is amazing, it’s very strong. It can grab us back, and, because we on one hand have a familiarity with it and the benefit of experience, we can reevaluate it and say wow; balance those two things and it’s wonderful. We can spend the rest of our lives just listening to great music. We should also try to make great music as well as listen to it.
CrypticRock.com – That is a wonderful gift to be able to look back on and look forward to at the same time. Last question. If you recall we also cover Horror and Sci-Fi films. You mentioned some classic films we last spoke. Since we spoke last, has there been new films you have enjoyed?
Tom Bailey – I recently saw Blade Runner 2049 (2017), and it reminded me how much I loved the original film. I enjoyed it, although for me, it didn’t quite have the mystical power of the first one. If I had to choose, I would go for the first film.