Interview by Adrian Hextall
Times have not been so good of late for Tony Wright. The lad from ‘oop North’ that has fronted Terrorvision for many a year has found it difficult to keep the band going and has encountered personal difficulties that have almost made him walk away from doing what he does best, making music and entertaining the crowds.
As he reached a crossroad in his life, trying to decide what to do next and whether to continue in the business, he and his manager hit upon the idea of doing an acoustic album and releasing it via the ever popular fan funding route. Adrian Hextall sat down with Tony on the eve of an acoustic show in London to discuss the fall and subsequent rise of all things Tony Wright.
So how has it all come about?
Tony: Well, I had a bit of a shit start to last year and Gav (McCaughey, Tony’s manager) came along and says “You know Tone, what’s up with ya?” I said “Things had gone to shit” and he says; “Well what do you do?”, I said “I don’t know what I do” and he went “well, you write songs don’t ya? You done some?” I told him, “I’ve always got songs’ cos that’s one of the things that sort of tapped me on the shoulder all the time and say ‘Eh Tony do you fancy singing me?” So I said to Gav, “I’ve got these” and I played him a couple and he said ‘Right, do you wanna make an album?” So he set me up on a PledgeMusic crowd funded programme. I thought “Aww people don’t gonna wanna hear it” and he says “That’s the beauty of the pledge system. If people don’t wanna hear it, no one pledges and those that do get their money back if you don’t reach target. If they do wanna hear it, you know that its something they really do want to hear”. Within 24 hours I realised I had better chuck some songs away and do some better ones and the response was amazing. (laughs)
The results on the pledge side, went up pretty quickly didn’t they? You’re now significantly over your target mark now as well.
Tony: Yeah definitely and so that’s great, its a real compliment. It’s not really a stress but it makes you think doubly about what you’re gonna be doing because you wanna do your best, you wanna do your best every time you record or write anything. The ten songs I started with were not necessarily the ten songs I finished with but then at that time as well…. life was quite moving quite fast in all directions and so when you are in those situations, you kind of start, you know, you’ve got one way or another and so I took the inspiration and the angst and all that lot and wrote this set of songs, starting in quite a dark place and ending in quite positive place really so it’s like a diary of that year.
I was going to say so you get a bit of a journey out of it as well.
Tony: Yeah and it was a year in a life of a bloke from Bradford who sings when he gets stuck. (chuckles/laughs).
And of your songs on the album, are they actually mapped out in that way? Do they start with the darker side and end on this real positive note?
Tony: Yeah, it starts in not such a great place. The middle of it is this sort of being cast back in the wide world, trying to find yourself ‘cos you realise you can’t carry on as you are in the beginning and at the end, its in a much more positive place. It shows life is getting good, you know, its still got lots of shit going on but its not sucking me down as much you know. It’s a bit like wading across one of them harbours where it says “Careful sinking sand”, you know and you can get your legs out of the sand. Sometimes you crawl on your belly and sometimes the sand’s a bit firmer and you can walk a lot easier across it and I’d say that I got to the other side of the harbour. I kinda enjoyed it as well, you know, it was a hard but good journey to have in life.
A little bit of a soul searching exercise for you I would imagine?
Tony: Yeah I suppose that’s a way of putting it yeah.
And off the back of it, you’ve done a few live dates as well?
Tony: We’re down to the last three now for this year but we’ve played all sorts of places that you wouldn’t normally play because there’s just two of us (Milly Evans is Tony’s partner in crime) but with two acoustic guitars. If I jump in a car and I go to somewhere where you don’t need parking for buses or landlines, places where people might not necessarily have heard of Terrorvision, it’s great because it’s an experience and it’s a challenge. They come to the show and it’s like, “right… we wanna see if this person who we’ve never heard of impresses us.” We were playing little venues and now we are in London and it’s choice galore. The public don’t need to be here tonight, they could be anywhere else in this town and find something happening but when we are in the middle of nowhere, people came out because there’s not a lot else happens there.
And suddenly there’s a band on or there’s an artist on of some sort
Tony: Exactly and so its been a proper experience, not just going through the motions of songs you’ve sung for twenty years plus and knowing that the crowd know the words, so if you forget them you can just hold the mike out. Its actually sitting down in front of these people, often doing sit down gigs with candles on tables and all sorts.
So presumably it must be quite nice for you because you’ve got a fresh crowd so if they are all existing songs, if you’ve reworked them, it is almost like putting fresh material in front of a fresh audience and getting a reaction isn’t it?
Tony: Yeah and also Terrorvision fans were quite hardcore so to piss with what they know, you run a risk but by the first song in and the second chorus, they were singing along in the new style, you know with the new sort of harmony or melody whatever it be and that sort of spurred us on to write more acoustic.
Acoustic music’s good as well cos all the mistakes are laid bare, there’s no production on the album its like anti produced for example, there was no reverbing. The situation I was in at that time made it feel better. It was quite coarse and hard and instant in your face and so I recorded it that way so you know, it felt like this is real life.
And how did it feel going back to those tiny venues again? You’ve played every field / festival going and you’ve played all the sheds as well. Is it quite inspiring to get that connection with such a close crowd?
Tony: You know I love small venues. I love festivals as well but I love small venues because that’s the way we started. People nowadays start on television in a competition and by the time they get down to a 2,000 capacity venue, they’re thinking of retiring because its not big enough for them. They think that/s terrible and yet I suppose its if you’re a songwriter, you think a lot differently to if you’re just someone playing songs usually other people’s. Its like I think them competitions are great but I think the people that run them should also have a fund, a slush fund that goes towards keeping all the small venues that are forever closing down.
It happens even up north where a historic venue which has held two hundred people for a packing, sweaty night is now a cravat shop because that’s what people want and they can pay the rates. The council want to be known as the type of place that sells Prada and handbags and cravats…..
It’s the town councils that cause the problems you know what I mean? Its the people that close down the little venues. There weren’t youth clubs. There were clubs for youth and all the like, every club had an old guy in there who would dance on the tables and all the young girls loved him. You know where’s he now? Where am I going to be when I am at that age? Where, what table am I going to dance on.
You’d like to think you would be that guy as well I bet?
Tony: Yeah I’d like to think so yeah.(laughs). A brown suit – that’s what you need!
With regards to saving music venues, you recently did a documentary, a sort of “Stranger’s guide to Huddersfield” rather than something to do with the music so much.
Tony: You know its one of them things as well where these places, a lot of them will have music there but the buildings have only been saved by chain pubs that really save themselves a bit of brass by not playing music and they have people stood on the pavement outside smoking – nowt wrong with that but inside its smells of feet so they should have music and let people smoke inside. It stops the smell of feet and it’s more exciting.
As you were doing the Huddersfield piece and you able to write a lot of the acoustic material. What’s the album actually going to contain? Is it a mix of re-worked and new songs?
Tony: No its purely that year. The ten songs that were inspired by that year.
Are you going to record the reworked stuff?
Tony: No, because one of the reasons I don’t is that we do a version of ‘Tequila’ which was a massive hit and although the remix version isn’t as good as our album version you’ve got to enjoy it. And I like to play and you find it on Youtube, stuff like that from people that come to our gigs. I like to keep it for the people that support us at all the gigs and the venues and all the people that are playing in them. They’re supporting themselves as well you know and we should encourage that so if you come out, you get something that you don’t get for sitting at home and just downloading it.
That’s a nice touch though because it does mean that means you will draw more people to a crowd then won’t you?
Tony: Well they get something special whether more of them turn up or not I don’t know but it makes it, its for them, the people who care.
What are you hoping to do with it all next year?
Tony: I’d like to tour it, keep touring it. I’d like to take it to a few other countries to see if it translates but obviously the logistics of that, being a songwriter, I’m shit at logistics but I’ve got a Gav on board and he really helps out with all that stuff. He’s ‘You don’t worry about that and I’ll worry about this‘.That’s great, it really helps me – I do quite a lot of art as well. I’ve got someone at one of the galleries that sells my stuff, she always says to me ‘If you had a clue Tony, about the sales side , I wouldn’t have a business‘. Its a sense of community. We need all the people involved, she might not be able to do what I can do and I certainly can’t do what she does at that particular gallery. I also decided at quite a young age that I was going to make things that weren’t for landfills but for your wall or your mantelpiece, your headphones, your speakers. I’ve stuck to it, be it good/bad, be it successful or ignored.
It’s pretty impressive how you’ve managed to embrace both the art side and the music equally.
Tony: You know there’s seven chords and there’s seven colours in a rainbow. Every major and minor and seventh and octave and augmented or whatever they’re called is just a shade between them that you go all through in the same way.
In the same way you can mix your colours?
Tony: Exactly and its a very very similar thing when you hear music, you see colour and it all blends nicely. If the colours clash then its pretty much guaranteed the chords will as well and so sometimes its nice to have that clash because its like “Don’t expect me not to do that, I’m gonna do it, just ‘cos I don’t want it to be safe you know.” Its not a bunch of flowers we’re painting here, I think of it like the songs I wrote weren’t the sort of things I want to sit down and talk about with anybody but you often find that the things I want to sing from the rooftops for the world to hear in the hope that someone else goes “Don’t worry Tony, you’re not the only one so keep going, keep your head up.”
And in fact the reverse might happen in the sense that what people hear in your lyrics may actually be the one that brings them up as well?
Tony: I’d like to think so yeah.
There’s a sense of ; “I can empathise with that and I know exactly where its coming from and if I listen to your music, I can get my own head straight from it as well.”
Tony: Yeah I found that; You get people with your lyrics tattooed on them so its obviously, that’s for life, you know what I mean, and its an honour.
That must be quite touching when somebody comes up to you and “Here Tony, have a look at this.”
Tony: It is. Its mental. Its absolutely mental. I would never do that meself but that’s the beauty of me being me and them being them. I wouldn’t swap for any reason. Not because my life’s better than theirs but its just I like the variety.
So a logical questions that’s bound to crop up. The last time the lads and yourself got together, I think, was in 2011. Presumably you are all off doing different things and the likelihood of anything where you all come together and doing something is a bit slim.
Tony: Yeah they’re really slim. We get calls from all sorts of people and there are a lot of people like Andy (Copping – Download organiser) who are also fans of the music. We get a lot of people who say “Will you do it? Will you do it?” There’s a lot of bands who can who can go through the motions when they reform but with Terrorvision, there’s always that demand and you know the money’s always tempting but unless you are all shaking a double six at exactly the same time, its not gonna work. You still get found out for just going through the motions and doing it for the money or because your ego needs it, you know, and even three double sixes and a six and five doesn’t cut it.
There is certainly a demand now for the acoustic material. That does seem to be gaining in popularity an awful lot.
Tony: Do you know what? Some of that’s great and some of it’s a bit cringeworthy. Some of it, I see people who are doing it because its kind of en vogue. You know Folk music had a big resurgence didn’t it, Mumford and Sons – do you know what I mean? And suddenly you’ve got people who have said ‘hold on a minute‘ but people you’ve got you know who ten years, you know, were a bit like Nirvana , and now you are like “fa la la la“. Its like who are you? But acoustic music is in my blood. I’ve always written on an acoustic guitar. My grandad was a musician and he played the piano and the banjoleley and he could just turn up in a pub and he said to me ‘if you can play on an instrument, you don’t ever have to buy a pint‘ and that’s a true thing as well. I didn’t pay for that cider. (laughs and points at the bottle in front of him)
He’d start playing his piano so before he’d finished first song, he’d look up and there would be a pint there but he couldn’t drink it. There’d be ten pints on top of the piano about an hour later when he had finished his set and he just knew hundreds of songs that people just wanted to hear. He didn’t necessarily like them but he would sing George Formby numbers and stuff like that.
And a lot of pubs now, they don’t have the pianos in them any more. Its like ‘we don’t play music in here any more‘. It’s a shame.
If all you need is an acoustic guitar though, there’s not much in the way of logistics there. You can just take your guitar. You could just backpack round Europe.
Tony: We went on a tour of Scotland in a motor-home. Just me and Milly, my girlfriend just jumped in campervan. Did 1200 miles in a week and played to people who don’t know you from Adam. We were in a town where they had a gig venue and some pubs and these places actually have tables behind you. We aren’t used to that at all. Normally the only person behind you is the drummer. But that night, for example, we had a Scottish lady who lives down the road who is going ‘come on, play another, come on play another‘.
Truly showing his appeal to anyone and everyone, Tony departs to prepare for his headlining slot at The Borderline. The gig review can be found on MyGlobalMind as well.