This is part two of my interview with musician Anton Barbeau. Part one can be found on here.
This may sound strange, but after hearing the new album, Bite The Hand, about 10 times, I reversed the tracking, and began listening to it in “backwards” order (with “Wave Hello” to start, and “Bravely Fade Away” at the end), which gave the album an entirely different feel. How did you come up with the tracking order? Did you deliberately go against the grain, as all psychedelic bands are prone to do?
As I mentioned before, songs were taken off, re-added, and with the Beatles cover, taken off again. I remember Andy hearing the album after it’d been mastered and saying he thought it sounded great but that he’d have to get his head ’round the running order. With our first record, we were all more hands on with running order and so forth. Not knocking our new album, but I already described how Bite The Hand was finally finished in less-than ideal circumstances. I mean, I really like “Bravely Fade Away” and it was so charged with great energy when we tracked it that it made sense to start the record off with the newest song. And I’m quite proud of “Drinking Horn,” as well as digging the overall sound of that track, so it sits in the second spot fine. But from there on out, it was as much guess-work as pure science, you know? But it’s funny to me that “Bravely Fade Away” feels like a strong leading track and “Wave Hello” has an obvious “goodbye” quality. I deal in dumb ironies often!
I noticed there are many references to food and drink on the album (Mushroom, coffee, beanpoles, custard, chicken, etc.) I know the Egyptians would rehearse in Robyn’s kitchen back in the day, and Morris and Andy would get hungry just thinking about a session. Does nourishment have a big role (roll?) in Three Minute Tease?
We always end up getting a deal on pizza when we play Swindon. Andy’s a keen bread-maker, and Morris always cranks up a nice curry at his house. I can make a decent cup of tea, but everyone knows not to rely on me in the kitchen! Oh, not to be too pedantic, but “Beanpole” is a shout-out to any “Tripods” fans out there. Just saying…
I though I heard some direct references to The Beatles in the lyrics, including “Mach Shau” and “Yellow Matter Custard.” So I must ask you, which do you think is better, Revolver or Sgt. Pepper?
Well, I know you don’t actually mean “better,” now do you?! I love both of those records, but they’re a million miles different. Simple answer is that Sgt. Pepper‘s is in my blood more than any other Beatles’ album, more than any album at all. I was born about 5 weeks before it came out and so it hit me soon-as. My parents didn’t have Revolver, so I had to come to that myself, and even then, it was the American version, which was missing a few key songs. Hearing it on mono vinyl for the first time not so many years back was a heart-restarting revelation.
Anyway, Pepper still sits deeper in me, it feels more like “mine,” and it flows as a singular piece. Revolver is just one perfect, sharp song after the next. Final answer: They’re both better!
You have collaborated with many other musicians. I’ve read you have even shared the bill with a reformed Bay City Rollers. What were those experiences like?
I’ve always maintained that the people I work with are my greatest reward. And I love being able to mix and match, bring people from one musical world into the next. I made an album with the Bevis Frond a few years back and (frontman) Nick Saloman has played on both TMT records. And it’s fitting that Scott Miller (Game Theory, The Loud Family) played guitar on what became the first TMT recording, though it’s a little overwhelming to trace the lines and circles that led to and from that, you know?
The Bay City Rollers gig was weird, but quite great. I mean, it was strange to have their fans screaming for MY band too, especially as their fans we hardly teeny boppers any more. But the Rollers were an excellent band, top musicians. I didn’t know to expect that. Backstage, afterwards, I met (Rollers’ guitarist) Eric Faulkner and it was quite poignant. He told me this was the only gig on their tour where he broke a sweat, you know? All the other gigs were in air conditioned hotel lobbies or convention halls with all the lights on. The gig we did with them was in a proper, scummy rock club and they really loved it. I’m proud to have been there for that.
I was a big fan of your cousin Adrienne Barbeau on the television sitcom Maude? Are you two close?
I only met Adrienne once. She was in Sacramento for a performance and the local press made a big deal about us not having met, so somehow it was arranged. I think she called me or my dad. In fact, my dad used to babysit her when she was 3 or something. Anyway, I met her after her gig and it was lovely. I mean, we just chatted about various uncles and cousins but I’m pleased to have finally met her. She’s pretty cool.
The music industry is dire here in the U.S. How are you holding up?
Well, you’re catching me at a good time. I’ve done two Spanish tours in succession and am pretty pleased about that. I get treated well in Spain – hotels and money and radio and press – all the stuff a pop musician ought to have! But mostly it’s the feeling of appreciation and respect that matters so much. I love living in Berlin, but it’s much more an anonymous life I have here. I just do my work and that’s that.
Any plans to tour?
I’m heading soon back to California after a quick U.K. tour, so I’m busy enough to lose track of how much I’m supposedly suffering for my art! Last trip to California was almost two years ago and I felt a bit prodigal… All of a sudden people seemed happy to see me and most of my gigs were packed with people. Still, we’re billing my forthcoming round of gigs the “Forgotten But Not Gone Tour” just to be on the safe side, in case nobody shows up!
Any plans to record your legendary cover of Bob Dylan’s “Tangled Up In Blue?”
TMT has hardly done any covers, but we do a pretty decent version of “Tangled.” Thing is, a song like that suddenly makes everything I write sound like puff pastry, you know, so it’s a tricky call!
Tell me about your new promotional video.
We’re shooting it in Oxford with Laima Bite. Laima is one of those all-around talents. She’s a fine songwriter and performer, so she gets that side easily, and she’s an excellent filmmaker. Most people who know of Andy and Morris know them through the whole Egyptians/Soft Boys biz, but Laima is a huge fan of British comedians Vic and Bob, so when I told her Andy and Morris were in the house band on “Vic Reeves Big Night Out,” she kinda flipped! I’ve no idea what we’re actually going to do… I mean, we’ll shoot for the song “Drinking Horn,” but her storyboard ideas are so far out I can’t keep track. Supposedly I’m to be dressed as Jesus while Andy and Morris are done up as leather priests, but I don’t know if there’s a big enough budget for costumes! I’m glad we’re filming in Oxford… that’s where the band did our first gig and while I lived in Cambridge for 5 years and only lived in Oxford for maybe no more than six months in total, it’s still “home” to me in England.
POSTSCRIPT from Anton: Time working the way it sometimes does, suddenly and eventually, we’re now in the past tense regarding filming. Working with Laima was great fun – she’s relaxed and funny but clearly works with a vision. I’m pleased we managed to get our trip to Avebury on film. Everybody is thrilled with the final cut, and I’m looking forward to the next one!
In the small scheme of things, the bigger news is that Three Minute Tease has quietly moved through a period of “artistic differences” with grace and logistical uncertainty. Andy’s moving out of London and the cost of my UK work permit has gone up. What I was picturing as TMT’s third release is now a free-for-all Anton solo album, with various guest bassists including Colin Moulding of XTC, Larry Tagg (Bourgeois Tagg/Todd Rundgren) and Martin Gordon from Sparks, as well as Andy on half the tracks. Morris is on most of the album, with Michael Urbano (John Hiatt/Todd Rundgren) on one song, and even wee Ant rocking the Ludwig here and there. But this is all news for next time…
Watch the video for “Drinking Horn” embedded in this article.
Buy Three Minute Tease’s “Bite the Hand” CD from Amazon or Anton’s official website.
Of the dozens of Dylan Internet sites … Expecting Rain … and the zoomdune.com Bob Dylan blog by Harold Lepidus are the best places for up-to-the-minute Dylan news – David Kinney, “The Dylanologists: Adventures in the Land of Bob.” (Simon & Schuster, 2014)
Keep up with Performing Arts Examiner news. Just click on Subscribe above, or follow @DylanExaminer on Twitter. Harold Lepidus also writes the Bob Dylan column for zoomdune.com. Thanks for your support.