Thursday, April 16, 2020

Air Studio Interviews

Here are two interviews with Paul when he was working at AIR Studio in 1983

Interview from Musician & Recording World with Paul Ashford (September 1983)

"I'm like all people," declares Paul McCartney in our 50-minute conversation in AIR Studios.  Meanwhile, the cassette recorder is faithfully pirating tracks from the new album which is being mixed down in the next room.  "And the kind of music I like is actually accessible, commercial music.  Often if a song is number one I'll like it, because people got it to number one and I can see why..."

Advance warning had been given that Paul singled out MARW exclusively because he wanted to talk not about sociology, metaphysics, personalities or past history, but about his Green Alpico Amp.

"The thing is, " Paul explains, "in truth, it ends up that most interviews don't mean anything.  You just talk to everyone on earth about anything -- toothpaste, you name it, just blabbing off about anything they want to hear about.  With this magazine I know the musos read it -- it's a bit more satisfying than talking about what soap you use all the time."

"I want to talk about what I'm interested in, which is music.  That's how we started, picking our way from guitars through pianos and basses and various other instruments.  Actually playing the instruments is the important thing and the personality ting is just what happens to come with it if you do your job well.  You never get to like that better than the musician bit."

"This week I've been using (on the new album) the Elpico, which is the first amp I ever bought.  It's a valve amp and I like valve amps.  A little green Alpico and it's brilliant -- really good.   We've just been using it on one of the tracks and it pokes like mad because it's an old valve amp.  Great - it's like an automatic fuzz.  And of course, it's fun using the first one you ever had again.  "

"I will have one of the old Beatles basses, although I'm not sure whether it's the first.  An old violin bass and the great thing about it is that it's still got the running order list taped on with sellotape - it starts off with "Rock n Roll Music" and goes on to "Baby's in Black."  You always have it on the guitar to tell you what's coming next.  I don't' play it now; the Rickenbacker gives a better recording sound and I also use a Yamaha.

Arrangements and embellishments are, by and large, an important facet of the way McCartney thinks about a song.  He's not the only one who has an ear for good interpretation either.

"People notice the arrangement even as something apart from what instruments are playing.  It's funny.  A little while ago we were invited to a Lennon-McCartney tribute concert at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Birds when they took a lot of our songs and did them with the London Symphony Orchestra.  In the interval, we met the Queen and there was an old fella with her -- not the Duke, an older gentleman -- and he said, the arrangements are the same.  These are basically the same arrangements off the records."

"And I was amazed to hear her say that because it's true, they were taking all the arrangements and putting them on cellos instead of guitars, just giving all the lines to different elements of the orchestra, and she actually realised that."

Paul has little inclination to change an arrangement of his once it's been defined.  "I've thought about it once or twice -- maybe because of Dylan's new versions.  But I'm never very happy doing it.  I did a funky up-tempo version of "Silly Love Songs" with Porcaro and Steve Luthaker and Louis Johnson of the Johnson Brothers, but normally I'll stick close to the original.

BBC World Service Interview recorded at AIR Studios June 16, 1983

Q:  Is it helpful using a mixture of musicians for the new album?

P:  I think so.  It's a change really because for ten or so years I worked with the Beatles and then I worked with Wings for another 10 years and now I'm without a group.  I suppose I got to the stage where I thought, 'Well, what I really want to do is make music,'.  I'm not interested in living with fellers in a van -- I've got kids and I want to spend my time with them.  So it doesn't suit me to be in a group at the moment and we'd virtually finished Wings.

Q:  Do you have any time for a domestic life?

P:  I have as much time as most people have really.  Most people work five days a week and take weekends off and mornings or nights off and that's the same as what I do -- and I can even take the odd day off as well.  What happens is I get a project on like this album and you can't leave it.

Q:  So what are the things you would warn you, children, about of your lie and times and experience?

P:  Everything.

Q:  Would you want them to follow you into entertainment?

P:  Not particularly.  It's a tough business.  You've got to be very good or you die real quick.  Somebody like David Bowie if he fails to have hits for one year he's in trouble -- or me.  No matter how big you get you are still loving yourself all the time.  I happen to have been very lucky and happen to have learnt over the years how to do it.  But kids coming into it -- it's very difficult.  The way we're playing it as if one of the kids, when they're 15 or 16, is really keen to get into something like music or stage then we'll help them.  I don't think their heads can handle it before that age.

Q:  Do you think you were all the right age as The Beatles?

P:  I think it was roughly right when we started.  We started about 16 or 17 and so we were looking for something to do.  We wanted out of Liverpool and to see the big world and do something great and earn a lot of money and become famous.

Q:  Thing did happen extremely fast...

P:  We'd been playing in Liverpool for years with a small degree of success.  The first places we played we'd get the normal crowd that any group got, then we started to play at places where we were a little bit more special and they knew us and we'd get a bit more.  Then we'd play another place and get maybe 200 more.  Then to Hamburg where we were back to n nothing again -- we had to build it all up again.  By the time you'd heard of us we'd actually been going about four years.

Q:  do you ever get fed up with the stage "Former Beatle"?

P:  No, not really.  That's what I am.  There was a point when The Beatles had broken up when we thought 'we want to be individuals now, we'll just have our names..' but you realize it's impossible really.  It's like George Martin; until the day he died is going to be "ex-Beatles producer."

Q:  today somewhere in the world someone is going out and buying their first Beatles album.

P:  Yes, it's funny.  You find a lot of young kids hearing it for the first time and seeing connections with today's music.  and they see all the connections and buy it as if it's fresh again.  You get young kids who know more about it than I do.

Q:  Is there a Beatles track which you particularly love?

P:  All of them.  I h ave those rather strong feelings about.  I'll pick out "Love me Do" as the very first one we recorded and I'll remember how I was scared stiff.  We were standing down in the studio and there was George Martin up on the floor at a big glass window at Abbey Road.  We were in a different world. Nowadays we can go in that  big glass control room, but we couldn't then.  It was like it was Them and Us.  If you happen to play "Love me do" listen for the shakes in  the voice -- that's all pure nerves.  Then I can remember "Hey Jude" because that was great fun; "Strawberry Fields" because that was crazy and amazing.  I can remember so many of them.  Some of the tracks I like are the little off beat tracks that nobody has ever heard of.

Q:  Give us an example.

P: Well, not nobody, but a lot of you won't have heard of a song like "She said She Said

Q:  Back to "Tug of War", "Here Today" is an exceptionally beautiful song, were you 'world's apart' as you suggest in it?

P: Oh no, not really.  It's funny with fellers -- unless there's some kind of gay relationship if you just are two fellers and there wasn't, by the way, although some recent books have tried to suggest it.  As far as any of us knew there wasn't any hint of any of that, and pretty much we should have known because we spent nights in hotels and vans and everything.  It's a very funny thing because there is sort of competition going on no matter how friendly you are.  You're telling jokes and each is trying to be funnier than the other,.  You're writing songs and he's trying to get his song better than mine.  So there's always this huge competitive thing going on which we lived with and it was good actually for us because I'd write a song then he'd say, 'I'm going to better that.'  Which would be great and he'd better it and I'd think 'Oh God! He's bettered it' and 'I'd try and better them both.  So it really gave us a lot of incentive.  But because there was the competitive thing, once the Beatles broke up it all got a bit nasty and all the sort of feelings we hadn't told each other, that we'd submerge just because we were mates, started to come out a bit.  We drifted apart a bit.  Then we had business troubles on top of that.  I would say it was more his fault than mine, but it's not very clever because he's not here to answer it, but ... he got suspicious of me.  He didn't believe what Iw as doing and I don't' really think I got too suspicious of him.  Ah, I suppose I did.  It cute both ways.  So we did have arguments, particularly when the business thing broke up.  We had some horrendous things. I'd  be kind of ringing him and we'd be hanging up on each other and swearing at each other.  Al that wonderful friendship doesn't necessarily last.  Even within a family brothers and sisters can get really vicious with each other over an inheritance.  I'm entering that as the 'world's apart' thing.  Then the last phone conversation I had with him was great and we were back to being just talking about our family, talking about friends and enjoying ourselves.  So we didn't' end up on a bad note.  That's something to be thankful for.

Q:  Looking back over the years, is there one hero that's remained consistent for you?

P:  I suppose John would have been one of the heroes.  Although I never would have told him that, but when somebody dies like that -- it's final enough and you can talk it all then, but that's what I was saying about two fellers.  I would never have said, "I think you're great! " You just don't.   But he would have to be one of my idols.

Q:  People were quite surprised that John turned out to be quite mellow in songs.

P:  That was only because his image was tough and like all tough images.  It was because he was frightened behind it; he was insecure.   He was as sappy as the next man, but you'd have to get him drunk for him to be sappy.  He was tough as nails except when you started talking to him,  then he was an old sappy. 

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