Terrorvision - Summer 2019
Hailing from Bradford in the UK, Terrorvision have enjoyed huge success with 7 studio albums and 13 Top 40 hits. But if you haven't experienced a live show you are missing or on a huge opportunity to fully understand what the band are all about. Fans often report that a Terrorvision gig is like being invited to one massive party. It's a hugely exhilarating experience. Whilst it may have been some time since their last studio album, 2011’s Super Delux, the band have continued to be active on the live circuit, most recently in May this year when they played 4 dates to celebrate the 25th anniversary of their breakthrough record How To Make Friends and Influence People, but there are more live dates ahead this summer. In response to demands from our Rock Today readers we are bringing you this article to explore further what a Terrorvision live show is all about. We catch up with front man Tony Wright at Bloomfield Square, his bar and coffee shop in Otley, West Yorkshire. Widely regarded as one of the most beautiful parts of England, its perhaps an interesting juxtaposition to the 2,000+ capacity beer-soaked venues in which Tony and the boys deliver their 90 minutes of sheer rock brilliance. As we stir our lattes or conversation begins...
Firstly I would like to pick up on the tour which you completed in May which was to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the How To Make Friends and Influence People album. It’s incredible to think it’s been 25 years. But just before we talk about the live shows can I ask what are your memories of making that record all those years ago and the whirlwind of success that followed?
26 years ago we just got a chance to make our second album. The reason we signed to the people we signed to was because we had to make a second album. We didn’t want to make an album and get dropped after the first one so we wanted some form of development deal, not just a ‘chance your arm and get rid’. But in fairness, Formaldehyde did alright for a first album for a band from Bradford. Then we got a better budget, we were told we could use a proven producer Gil Norton who’d worked with Echo and the Bunnymen and The Pixies. He wasn’t really known for his rock music but then again we weren’t your standard rock band either. So we got this chance to work with this proven producer who gets asked the question "Where do you want to record?". Because he’s going to be making the album the record company threw some suggestions at him and lucky for us, at that time, it was cheaper because of the exchange rate to go to New York and live in New York for 2 or 3 months, and record at Sorcerer Of Sound Studios, than it was to go somewhere fancy in the UK, in London, by the time you’d finished paying for accommodation and the studio. It was probably cheaper going to New York than it was London! It was an exciting time. We got on a plane, we flew to New York and we got picked up in a Limousine which we didn’t expect. We were driven to the Chelsea Hotel which at the time was a dive. It’s now a very chic hangout but when we were there the reception had bars in front of it. I don’t know if that was to keep the receptionist from us or us from the receptionist! (Laughs!) It was an exciting time! I was in my early 20s, we were a bit out of control and we were excited and I think the excitement was captured on that record. That’s what I remember about recording it. I remember people saying "Ooh, you don’t want to walk down there!" but being from Bradford made you just wonder what was down there. We got to play at CBGBs and The Red Lion just because we were there and we asked. It was all exciting and I wouldn’t swap that moment in time for anything really.
What expectations did you have of the album?
Well you don’t know do you because probably the best album ever written has never been heard and the album at the top of the charts is probably some boy band who have never had any influence on it other than putting different length jackets on as boy bands tend to do. Music is something that I’m passionate about. I love it. So you’ve got more fear of it being insulted. It’s like taking your first born child to school and someone at the gates saying "Ooh, that’s an ugly kid, isn’t it?". You know what I mean? The British press at the time didn’t like us. They didn’t get us or get what we were about. We were a rock band that had a Bradford accent that played loud guitars but we danced instead of head-banging and we had a strange name that was like a heavy metal name but we had rhythm. I just didn’t want people to rip it to shreds but that’s what makes you try really hard to make an album and that’s what still drives me to this day to make a good album. And if you approach it like that, you know you’ve made a good album and you know that no matter what people say about it you’ve done what you’ve set out to do.
The 25th anniversary tour saw you play 4 sold out shows in London, Bristol, Nottingham and Manchester all of which, unsurprisingly, received incredible reviews. The songs still sound as fresh and as relevant as they did back in 1994. How did it feel to play through the whole of this album in its entirety and generally what were the highlights for you of this tour?
Do you what was great about that tour? People used to think that Terrorvision were a laugh and a joke and a crate of ale because we partied really hard, we had a smile on our face. We didn’t abuse ourselves in the way we abused ourselves so that we could be miserable - and a lot of those smiles were hazy ones if you know what I mean – we were enjoying life so people thought we weren’t taking ourselves seriously and therefore our music wasn’t serious. But then 25/26 years later you’re playing songs and suddenly people say "Do you know what? When Terrorvision said they were writing about the whales and the dolphins, they weren’t saying it because it sounded fun. They actually said it because they were writing about something." And we were writing about the whales and the dolphins and it wasn’t to be sneered at. I’m not blowing my own trumpet here but it’s about the planet. People didn’t give a shit about the planet then. We had a song called Didn’t Bleed Red which is just like this country at the moment when you’ve got really tenacious people and they get to Calais and we go "Oh, you’re not welcome over here because we don’t want someone whose not from here coming here!". Songs like Didn’t Bleed Red were telling you that 25 years ago. And so it was great to sing the songs to the crowds that built with us. Then they had kids so couldn’t come to gigs so the gigs got a bit smaller. They had kids to bring up, mortgages to pay, jobs to do. All those kids have all grown up now and left home but their parents are still rockers, and do you know what? Now they’ve got a second wind in going out and doing what they love and they’ve come out with ferocity. It’s us going to see them as much as them coming to see us.
I would now like to go back just a little bit further to last year, 2018, when Terrorvision joined Reef and The Wildhearts on the Britrock Must Be Destroyed tour. It was actually quite ingenious to put these three bands together, and feedback from our readers following the shows often likened them to being a mini festival. As a hard rock band how comfortable are you with Terrorvision being categorised, by some, as part of the so-called Britrock movement, picking up of course on what you said earlier that Terrorvision were not your standard rock band?
Well, you know, the term Britrock was a really lazy bit of journalism. It was really lazy writing. Britpop, which is a crap name for any form of music, was really successful and no one thought any further than just changing the word pop to rock. So that tour was called Britrock Must Be Destroyed and to me I thought ‘what a horrible title for a tour’ but then I realised we were all lumped into that same pigeon hole. Terrorvision are nothing like Reef, Reef are nothing like The Wildhearts and The Wildhearts are nothing like Terrorvision. So to actually go out and put those 3 bands on to show how lazy that term was – because there was no such thing as Britrock, there were just original bands who happened to be rock bands with long hair that partied hard – and to destroy that term Britrock was brilliant. And that’s what it said to me, it wasn’t about anything else really. We had Dodgy opening up and of the 4 bands on in the evening, apart from Tequila, I bet Dodgy have got all the Spotify hits! (Laughs!) They were on first and they were great. It was nice to stick that on there as well.
One wonderful outcome from that tour was the release of the live album Party Over Here – Terrorvision Live in London which was recorded at the Apollo on the 6th of May 2018. What prompted the decision to create a live album?
That was my birthday! I think it was linked to Reef who were putting a live album out and their record company, I think, because they had all the equipment there to make the recordings they were doing, they asked if they could do us. So we just said ‘yes, fine, it’s my birthday!’. They got 3 birds with one stone.
What are your memories of that particular show?
Getting my birthday cake and hearing 4000+ people singing happy birthday was very nice! There’s not many people who get that opportunity. It was a great feeling. If I wasn’t as hard as I am I could have got quite emotional! (Laughs!) But that was a great thing. I don’t know if it was because it was my birthday but the crowd were just totally up for us, and I’d never played the Hammersmith Apollo before!
So we’ve talked about the recent shows and had a stroll down memory lane but let’s now look at the future. Later this month are you going to be playing three shows, Glasgow on 27th June, the Waterloo Music Bar in Blackpool on 28th of June and Halifax on 29th of June. With the celebrations of the 25th anniversary for How To Make Friends and Influence People now complete what can fans expect from these shows?
The Glasgow show is with GUN. They are celebrating the 30th anniversary of their debut album Taking On The World and they wanted us to play. We are playing Halifax at the Piece Hall which is a big old outdoor building. It could quite easily be in Rome because it’s a big square with arches all the way around it, about 3 floors and a big cobbled centre and it seems to be sunny all the time there! So because we’d been asked to the Glasgow gig, and we were already playing the Halifax gig and it’s nice to do gigs beforehand. And then I played at the Waterloo on my own with the acoustic stuff that I do, and Ian (Ian Fletcher, Manager of the Waterloo Music Bar - Ed) asked me "Do you think Terrorvision would ever play here?" and Ian’s got a real passion for music and he wants to share that passion with the people of Blackpool. When I played there I could see that he had created this place… I thought about myself who wants to go and listen to loud rock music or listen to live music … and he’s put his heart and soul into it. So when I got back after playing there, my agent who is Terrorvision’s agent said "How did it go?". I said it was great and he then mentioned that Ian had asked him if Terrorvision would play. I said well I couldn’t see why not because when we are part of a major tour it would be nice because we would be playing to 300 people (the show sold out in 10 minutes). It must be awful for the bands who play stadiums only. Because you don’t get to see the crowd quite as much. It becomes a bit of a throng rather than individual people. So I said yes we do that. So we stuck it in there between playing Glasgow and Halifax.
As well as being the front man for Terrorvision you also perform your own solo acoustic shows. How important is it to you to perform as a solo artist and what do you get from your solo ventures that you don’t get from Terrorvision?
I love doing it. I love when I go out with just the acoustic guitar. You learn the songs but you can’t really rehearse on your own if you know what I mean. You do rehearse but you have no idea what you’re rehearsing for because you’re on your own and you’re right up close to people. You can’t second-guess how they are going to react and to me it’s more like being round someone’s house and just sort of ‘play us a tune, Tony’ or ‘tell us a story’. You bounce of each other, don’t you? When I was a little kid, my grandad was a musician but a musician in the sense that he was talented on an instrument but he cleaned windows and worked in a hotel as a porter. But he used to say "You know, if you can play an instrument you’ll never have to buy a pint". I think that’s in your blood then. It doesn’t have to be in your family. You can be the first one born with that in your blood but it does course through your veins and so you have a need to do it. And I only do it because it’s what I do. If I didn’t have a song to sing, I wouldn’t try and force a song or go on to someone else to write me a song. I just wouldn’t do it. It wasn’t for fame and fortune it was for the experience, to get out of Bradford and to see the world. I can still do that. I don’t necessarily go that far. I jump in my van and sometimes that’s the only quiet time I’ve got driving to a gig in my van so I don’t mind driving for 3 or 4 hours! (Laughs!) I just love it. I really love it and I don’t care if there’s 5 people there because it’s a very personal thing and you get to meet people as well. A lot of the time when your flying high on the crest of a wave and all that stuff you can’t go to a pub… because you know when you go to the pub with your mates and you turn around and you talk – and this isn’t a complaint- but imagine if you’re sat with your mates and every other person said "Can I talk to you instead of your mates?". Well when I’m at acoustic gigs I can talk to everybody!
As our conversation draws to a close, we reflect on what a truly special band Terrorvision really are. Yes, they’ve had huge chart success and yes, their live shows are a wholly exhilarating experience, but the magic they have created over a generation has attracted and retained the most loyal of fans. Maybe that’s because we can sing and dance to their songs. Maybe their working class outlook means they are just like us. Whatever that mystery quality is, they have become a part of the very fabric of great British rock. Those attending the June shows are in for a huge treat.
Find out more at www.terrorvision.com and in the meantime, get yourself ready for the June shows by checking out the band’s performance of Alice What’s The Matter at the Hammersmith Apollo on 6th May 2018 below.