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Andy Weatherall - Weatherall Report

Author: Justin Levy
Wednesday, 9 January 2008
It’s taken him 18 years but Andy Weatherall, of Two Lone Swordsmen fame, has built a musical machine he is most happy with. With beginnings in indie rock and acid house through dub and rockabilly to post rock/punk throughout the ’90s, he is a man of much mystery and a bender of genres. 3D’s Justin Levy tries to uncover the man and why it has taken him almost two decades to grace our shores.

So why, Mr. Weatherall, why-

“There were a mixture of things – personal and business reasons and, I don’t know, a lot of the time I make decisions by gut instinct, sometimes right, sometimes wrong, and the offers I’ve had haven’t felt quite right,” he offers. “With this upcoming tour to Australia, it began to snowball, and I kind of investigated what was going on and I just got the impression that now would be a very good time to come. And the interviews I’ve done people have said, ‘You’re probably right – Australia’s the best class of music than it’s been in the last five years’.”

Weatherall reminisces on days when the DJ life wasn’t sought after, when most of the dance-crazies preferred to listen to, rather than make, the sound.

“I just had a good record collection so people asked me to bring my records to play at parties, and that’s how I got my break in the acid house thing. Then I’d started to go to clubs,” he says. “My whole musical career has come from the fact that I’m an avid music collector, and loved the music.

“It was bizarre – it was easy. And now everyone wants to be a DJ, everyone wants to be in a rock’n’roll band. Back then it was easier – no one wanted to be a DJ, really. Most people wanted to dance and get off their heads and no one wanted the responsibility of actually doing the job. I was lucky, it’s a different kind of game now.

“It just started when I was a bored, suburban kid – a familiar tale, I know. I lived in a suburb twenty miles to the west of London, which is all nice, but a little bit boring. I switched on the telly and saw David Bowie and T-Rex, at the age of 10, and it turned my world upside down. From then on I would be forever interested in music and dressing in strange trousers. To me it was another planet – I was living in a quiet suburb and it looked like it came from Mars.”

Before you dismiss Weatherall’s life as a rags-to-riches story, or a triumph-in-adversity tale, you’ll be happily surprised to find he is not all he seems. He doesn’t have a defined sound, he is what you might call a dabbler, and hasn’t achieved the commercial success of some of his counterparts, such as the Chemical Brothers, whom he has played with and is constantly compared to.

“I do feel like the underachiever title has been forced upon me,” he admits. “I wouldn’t not want to sell millions of records, but I wouldn’t want to go through what you have to go through to reach that level.”

As for the strange pants, that is definitely one of the busy Brit’s major passions. He’s a collector, not just of records, but of books and vintage clothing. Vintage clothing that he tracks down, spends much mulah for, and wears. And he’s not afraid to admit he is caught up in the social and fashion aspects of music, of music as a statement, music as a “social phenomenon”. The Teddy Bears brought the 1900s Britain look back in the ’50s, and now 50 years on Weatherall wants it back.

“I just sit around in strange suits and read books, really. It’s not that I’m so interested in fashion, but there’s not many modern clothes I like. If you saw me walking down the street you’d think I’d skipped through some kind of time vortex.”

Apart from the clothing, Weatherall is at present comfortable with the way things are moving in the music industry, and is positive about the influence of technology. It’s not a bad thing, he assures me.

“I hear lots of stories of people losing their records on flights, and being able to plug their computer in and download their set for the night,” he says. “It’s a very useful tool, like having a big record library under your arm. And some people pull out great tunes and others pull out a lot of random records and play them one after the other, thinking they’re a DJ.

“If you’ve got a talent, you can’t just push a button on a computer and it makes a tune for you – it’s still a human being operating the machine. It’s down to how talented the human being is operating the machine. They’re just tools. An electric guitar is a machine – you don’t just plug it in and suddenly it gives you a tune. You’ve got to know how to play it, how to operate a computer. You can give five people the same records and I would imagine out of those five, only one would be a DJ worth listening to. It’s not the tools and the material, it’s the person operating it and manipulating the tools.”

Weatherall, the muso/writer/mixer, has another record on the way to add to his unique and plentiful collection. As for now, the eclectic Sci-Fi-Lo-Fi Vol. 1 has been released in Australia. Everyone everywhere wants to talk to Weatherall, the experienced and friendly interviewee and down-to-earth muso, and he’s backed up with Oz interviews three months before his visit Down Under.

“I’ve had a really good few years,” he admits. “A few years ago British interviewers…they weren’t slagging me off, they were just said I could have made a lot more money. But I wouldn’t be as proud of the music I make at the moment, and it’s quite nice that there’s that level of interest still in what I’m doing.”

WHO: Andy Weatherall
WHAT: Plays Oxford Art Factory
WHEN: Saturday 12 January