GLENN YOU’RE SMILING – an interview with Glenn Campling of Tones On Tail

tones-on-tail

There isn’t too much information about the excellent Tones on Tail, but I came across this excellent interview with Glenn Campling (from 2008) on the Yahoo message boards – a really good read, and great interview questions…

GLENN YOU’RE SMILING

An interview with Glenn Campling of Tones On Tail by SKot Kirkwood of tonesontail.com [website sadly now defunct], October 2008

THE INTERVIEW IMPROPER:

(after listening to “Heartbreak Hotel” and then “Daytripper”, as recorded by Tones On Tail)

SKot: Nice! It sounds a lot like the version released on Daniel’s first solo album. Does it differ much from that?

Glenn: The very same. Is this the interview?

SKot: It’s been said that Nat (Natacha Atlas) was actually the little girl on the cover of POP. Is this true?

Glenn: The very same, but she was very young at the time and we weren’t dating, ’cause I was only 9 years old. Is this an interview?

SKot: A lot of people have also wondered who the female model was for the cover of Night Music, but since I always heard that cover design had nothing to do with the band, probably only the record label knows.

Glenn: It’s Dan’s ex-wife Cathy – most people would have seen her on a Hella shampoo box label. She now lives happily in our wonderful Northampton (over from Ohio). Has the interview started?

SKot: Never thought I’d wind up hearing any “new” TOT recordings! Some amazing rarities for sure.

Glenn: Well, never believe ‘Everything’ you hear!

THE INTERVIEW PROPER:

SKot: Does it irk you when people refer to the band as “Tones On Tails”?

Glenn: Not really. The worst mispronunciation of TOT, was ‘ToeNails’. Now that IRKS!

SKot: How did you and Daniel Ash meet, and how did Tones On Tail originally come about?

Glenn: We met in a mushroom circle on the campus of Northampton Art School. There was this guy with afro hair and an afgan – and I just thought – this bloke is going places. I jest, of course? Dan was working towards a solo project when we lived in ‘digs’ during the Bauhaus heydays. I was backline roadie at the time. He was recording ‘Instrumental’ and another track which became ‘Copper’ (featuring both of us laughing our heads off – Dan’s first vocal maybe?). He invited me to contribute to an idea which eventually became ‘A Bigger Splash’ and ‘Means of Escape’. The ball rolled on from there. We both enjoyed the distraction.

SKot: Tones On Tail is often cited as having been mainly a Daniel Ash solo project. Was this truly the case? When the group began, was it more of a collaboration or did it seem more like Daniel’s thing?

Glenn: I’ve always regarded TOT as a happy bunch of misfits. Dan was never the self-centred bloke that many people have mistaken him for. If that was the case, it would have been called ‘The Daniel Ash Project’. I suppose it could easily have been ruled over by Dan. The record company were not too happy about the departure of Bauhaus, but even though we were doing our stuff at that time, they offered a token ‘extension’ to Dan alone. He wasn’t happy with that and wanted all members to have an equal stake in the venture. I take my hat off to the guy for that.

SKot: What was the first song Tones On Tail ever recorded?

Glenn: If you don’t count the first EP then it’s got to be ‘Twist’. But not the version you’ve heard. It started life as a wacky little number, which was really difficult to capture in the studio. We got the little bugger in the end, though!

SKot: Juan Pedro Diego Ignatius Barraclough Y Valls (aka Jordi Valls, probably known best for his work with Psychic TV and Vagina Dentata Organ) is credited with rhythm on “War”. How did he become involved with the group?

Glenn: You’re kidding me! – Vagina who? JPDIBYV – AKA – our very good friend John Barraclough (for short). John is the perfect artist, mainly in sculpture, but always experimenting with anything he can get his hands on. He and Dan went to sax lessons together and on one occasion dismantled his Selmar sax just to see how it worked! He got it back together again but it was held together with elastic bands. One day I found him wiring up my Korg synth with the Bauhaus ‘claptrap’ (drum FX unit) and it just spun-off this great rhythm – which had to be used. It’s a ‘John’ thing!

SKot: The Bubblemen, who most of us know from their exposure by Love And Rockets, have a history going back to Tones On Tail and Bauhaus days – for instance, there is the classic image of the three Tones On Tail members standing in front of a drawing of the three Bubblemen. “Don’t Rock, Wobble” was a catch-phrase of the Bubblemen that I believe was first seen on a Tones On Tail release. Were the Bubblemen originally meant to be connected to Tones On Tail? What was their relationship to the band?

Glenn: This was definitely a Dan thing, probably spawned from one of his brilliant-but-mad sketches. His best ‘doodle’ was the one we used on the cover of ‘There’s Only One’. Pre-Floyd ‘Another Brick in the Wall’, maybe? And forgive me, ‘Don’t Rock – Wobble’ (A TOT catchphrase) I respectfully borrowed from Jah Wobble, my fave bassist – but don’t tell Dan and Kev! 🙂

SKot: How did the live incarnation of Tones On Tail go? Do you think the band worked well when translated from what was essentially a studio project to a live context?

Glenn: This was a crucial time. We were essentially born in the studio. We had no idea of how an audience would react to us. We had a month to ‘convert’ our material to a ‘live’ state. And like it or not, with the demise of Bauhaus, we had to live up to some kind of expectation. And I’d never seen that side of a stage before. The pressure was enormous. What a buzz!!

SKot: What was your experience like touring with Tones in the UK and US?

Glenn: Marvelous – compared to being road crew. But I thought Dan and Kev were bloody fantastic. In a way, they had to begin from scratch. I had a lot of respect for that. Both tours were tough going, but so much fun – particularly in the US – the reaction was very warm and positive.

SKot: We’ve heard many times from the other end of the band what brought about the breakup of Tones On Tail… but let’s hear, finally, your side of the story: what was it that really brought the band to an end?

Glenn: The demon question – you’ve heard explained many times? But in all honesty I’ve never had a proper answer to this – and it eats me up when I’ve tried to guess. All I can say is this: when we came home from the very successful US tour, Dan closed off. He never discussed anything. He just said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore’. This was no surprise as we’d all heard this before at the end of every Bauhaus tour – ‘Give the guy some space and he usually comes round’ was my way of dealing with it. But he didn’t on this occasion – and that was The End. I sometimes think that Dan is his own worst enemy. ‘Ball of Confusion’ says it all.

SKot: The very last things that Tones On Tail recorded were the unreleased “Daytripper” and “Heartbreak Hotel” tracks. “Daytripper” was released later on Daniel Ash’s first solo album, and sounds almost identical to the Tones On Tail version. However, you are not credited on that version, and I assume you played at least bass on the original. Did Daniel just re-record the bass parts himself for the version on his solo album?

Glenn: You’ll have to ask Dan this question. It’s not the most remarkable cover of ‘Daytripper’ which is probably why we dropped it.

SKot: Regarding “Heartbreak Hotel”, the studio version of that song never saw the light of day… yet a bootleg-quality live version was included on the Night Music CD (and later on Everything!) when it came out. Why was the studio version not used instead?

Glenn: This was the last thing we recorded (along with ‘Daytripper’, which was the catalyst for an album to be called ‘Covers’). We were disappointed with the result; it always sounded better live and, absurdly, we couldn’t reproduce the ‘feel’ in a studio. It was simply dusted. I re-discovered the recording last year and popped it through some techy Mac gear. It was like reviving Frankenstein’s monster! – ‘It’s ALIVE!’, I cried. Some people on MySpace have asked where this ‘live’ recording took place. (Dan should have asked me when he decided to release an album called ‘Everything’. He listened to it at my house this year, and swore it was the live version!!!!!!!!)

SKot: Speaking of live recordings, I understand there were some soundboard recordings of at least a couple Tones On Tail shows, in addition to a bit of footage. Given the continued popularity of the band and the small amount of material available, would you consider the idea of releasing a live Tones On Tail album? And might some of this live footage ever see the light of day?

Glenn: I’ve recently been handed some live material that was recorded direct to the front desk. But for various reasons, I don’t think there’s much useable in its present state; eg., Dan’s amp was so loud, that very little went out through the PA. I’d be much more interested in doing new stuff.

SKot: I’ve heard Tones On Tail songs (particularly “GO!”) being used in big mainstream commercials. I even heard “Twist” used in a local Honda dealer’s commercial once. I hope you’ve seen at least some royalties from this?

Glenn: Fantastic! Does that mean somebody ‘up-there’ likes us, or does it mean they were great tunes? I’m still amazed at our popularity – Moby’s use of ‘GO!’ and the sample used on Fun Lovin’ Criminals’ ‘Scooby Snacks’ says to me that we were appreciated in some way. A friend introduced me to MySpace which led to the discoverey of a far reaching and very supportive fan-base. That support has kept us alive for a long time, and I can now appreciate how fortunate we are. Thank goodness for the internet! But I’ll be chasing Honda’s ass. I didn’t hear about that one! 🙂

SKot: I understand you were a big fan of Bauhaus in the early days. Some sources claim you were a roadie for them. To clear this up once and for all, were you ever actually a roadie, or just a close friend of the band?

Glenn: Not so much a ‘big fan’ and probably the most unlikely ‘roadie’ you’ve ever met – I’m not big and I’m not tough – just simply ‘loyal’. We were all good friends to start with and I just slipped into the role of ‘roadie’. Me and Kev could fit all the Bauhaus gear into our 2 Morris Minors in the early days. What a gas!

SKot: What was your take on the Bauhaus reunion and subsequent touring and recording? Did you happen to see any of the shows?

Glenn: I saw both London shows (Brixton Academy and the Forum). It was bizarre, because it was the first time I’d seen and heard them ‘out front’. Rose Garden was always my fave. Electric and Bloody Marvelous!

SKot: While the other Tones On Tail members (Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins) stayed in the limelight due to their time in Love And Rockets (and later with the reunion of Bauhaus), you disappeared from the public view. What have you been up to all this time? Currently you’ve been doing some work with the new “Tones” project; have you had any other musical projects in the meantime?

Glenn: I love listening to, and still thoroughly enjoy making, music. But I don’t eat, drink and sleep music. I don’t feel comfortable with that. It’s not good for the creative juices. I just do sounds when I feel like it. I’m sincerely glad that I never ended up doing it for a living. I’ve always had a passion for music technology and mess around with tunes, samples and synths whenever I get the inclination. I’ve never considered myself as a musician, more a technician – I haven’t played my old Kramer 8-string bass for years, but still keep it lovingly hung on my wall. My ‘Tones’ project is probably my way of saying ‘I’m here’ (an obvious choice of name, I know), and features some old friends like Natacha Atlas (she sang harmony on ‘Daytripper’). It’s FUN.

SKot: Some of the material on Love And Rockets’ first album sounds very similar to Tones On Tail, particularly the title track “Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven” and “Saudade”. Was this just natural progression, or did some of the Tones On Tail material carry over to Love And Rockets?

Glenn: That’s not for me to answer. But lots of people comment TOT never sounded like Bauhaus OR L&R, we stood out in some way and that speaks volumes to me. Is that simply down to a certain combination of individuals? I’d like to think so.

SKot: Is it possible you might ever work with Daniel (and/or Kevin) again in the future?

Glenn: Any excuse to get off this bloody island is good with me – only kidding again. The door is always open and Dan knows where to find me!

END

via Covering everything from Daniel Ash, Peter Murphy, Kevin Haskins and David J. Bauhaus Love and Rockets Tones on Tai l etcYahoo Groups.

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