Andrew Weatherall “I love fruity word play.”

Andrew Weatherall’s East London studio is a smoke fugged den, replete with a dank courtyard “where no vegetation survives”. He operates from here with long time co-hort Keith Tenniswood as Two Lone Swordsmen.

03.06.07

Words by: Paul Benney

The dj and producer – best known to the public at large for his ground breaking work on Primal Scream’s Screamadelica – has been based in his Shoreditch bunker for close to a decade but only recently, on 2005’s Wrong Meeting, has he added his own growling voice to their music. The sequel, Wrong Meeting Pt II, has just been released and the duo are now spending their daylight hours limbering up to play live this summer. Regaling listeners with sleazy songs of darkside dalliances, flick-knife run-ins, lovesick loners and pharmaceutically-fuelled reprobates, Weatherall’s tapestry of “London Gothic” tales creeps up on you like Fagin’s ghost. Sat in front of us, comfortably furnished with an omnipresent steaming cuppa – courtesy of Keith – and hash spliff, Andrew runs a tattooed hand through his Brylcreemed fifties-style barnet and, with his chunky wrist jewellery rattling to a quiet halt, he settles into a battered leather seat, and exhales…

How many sugars in your tea, Andrew?

“None now. I used to have two or three, but when you’re in the studio drinking ten or 15 cups daily, I realized, Fuck, I’m doing 30 spoonfuls of sugar a day. I had to cut it out.”

Why have you started playing with a live band?

“A mad need to get up there and put yourself on offer so people can throw things at you and call you shit. I had some mates – a bit older than me – and it was such hard work being with them because everything was rubbish, and everybody else’s fault. And I thought, Fuck, that’s a snapshot of me in a few years time, and I don’t want to be like that. The way to avoid that is to get up there and do something really unexpected and scary, the kind of thing that those cynical people sitting around in their indie ghetto might call you a wanker for. But at least you’ve done something. Also I was getting bitter about certain areas of my life and thought a way of curing that is to take all your clothes off and run up the hill – expose yourself and put yourself under a bit of real pressure. Embarrassment is a really good learning curve.”

Has it healed you?

“It wasn’t just a case of personal psychology. We’d made these tracks and people were saying, That sounds like you should have Mark E Smith on it. But I didn’t want to go down the guest vocalist route, because then it just sounds like you’ve done a backing track for someone.”

Why do you like Throbbing Gristle?

“They’re a prime example of taking your clothes off and standing on a hill. Just prior to me thinking I should scare myself, I’d re-read the book about them, Wreckers Of Civilization, and thought, Fucking hell, I’m worried about singing in front of my mates, and look at what these people did. They had the secret service following them, people making death threats from both the left and right and they were living in Hackney with an axe bolted to the back door in case of emergencies.”

Have you always been into writing?

“I love fruity wordplay and overheard snippets of conversation. If I hear a good phrase I’ll always write it down. I’ve always loved one-liners and turns of phrase; the way people can sum something up in a sentence or an epithet.”

Do you like cataloguing everyday life?

“Yes. It’s why I don’t like iPods. Not because I’m anti technology. I didn’t like Walkmans either. I don’t like being disconnected from the outside world. I mean, I’ve got an amazing record collection, but if push comes to shove the outside world is much more interesting. You miss out on so much if you disconnect yourself: people shouting, traffic, road drills, mad conversations coming out of a pub, snippets of music coming out of a car going by. That’s the real soundtrack to your life.”

Do you have any unlikely hobbies?

“The year before last I needed something to occupy my mind: I had to get myself a hobby. So I started doing lino printing which is potato painting for grown-ups. It’s really focusing because you’re using sharp implements, and if your mind wanders you’ve got a big hole in your hand.”

Are you good in the kitchen?

“Reasonable. I got ejected from the family bosom at 18 and ended up in a bed-sit living really hand-to-mouth, so it was survival time. I taught myself how to cook and look after myself generally.”

Kicked out of home? Why?

“I really was a little fucker. I can’t imagine being the age I am now, 44, and dealing with a son who’s 21 and doing what I was doing at that age. It’s quite unimaginable. I was on speed and pretty much out of control from the age of 18 to 25.”

What kickstarted your delinquency?

“I attended a strict grammar school, in the old sense – mortar boards, capes, football completely banned from the premises, and all that carry on. It was a science-based university machine. If you did arts, you were a bit subversive, and I played up to it: the flouting of school uniform, orange hair etcetera. They put up with me for a while, but things came to a head and I was expelled, only allowed back on school premises to do my exams. I really did have an appalling school record, so couldn’t get into further education.”

What made you such a little fucker?

“Pop music. Rock’n’roll. It’s the standard suburban story. Parents that were lower middle class and quite straight-laced. And me seeing teddy boys in leopard skin drape coats hanging off the back of bumper cars, and pictures of David Bowie in a Tommy Nutter suit and eye patch. I’m getting goosebumps thinking about it now. Then as soon as punk rock came along, my parents hated it so much it added to the attraction.”

Were you an idle youth?

“No, I enjoy manual labour and when I left school I became a furniture porter, unloading articulated lorries full of Chesterfields. I was a wiry wee fuck and used to love that Friday feeling after a hard week’s graft. It does pump you up.”

Where’s your moustache gone?

“Last year I was sporting a Kaiser Wilhelm-style moustache and wearing handmade Schneider cavalry boots and a big Russian army coat – proper World War I gear. But every time I left the house I’d get called Hitler. Like, what? It’s not even Second World War gear! Everyday was confrontation, people following me into shops. It was something people couldn’t cope with. Then, late one night I was walking down a little side road in the East End and I could hear the kids from the local estate coming, about 15 of them aged from about 11 to 17. And they clocked me, shouting, Nazi! Hitler! Now, there’s no way I’m running away from 12-year-old kids. Fuck it. So just before I got to them I stuck my right arm in the air and goose-stepped. They went goggle-eyed and it was like the parting of The Red Sea, with them staring at me as I walked by.”

What people have made the biggest impact on your life?

“My Dad. After years of estrangement and getting older you begin to realise what they did for you. Even if by them doing what they did you rebelled against it, it sent you on the right path. I’m too old to have heroes, but a person I really admire at the moment, who did give me a kick up the arse, is Billy Childish. Reading his stuff and listening to his music and taking on board what he says, that authenticity is preferable to originality.”

Do you read the newspapers?

“Yeah, every day, and I try and get both sides of the argument. Sometimes. I’ll think more of a right-winger who believes it than a left-winger who’s just spouting the usual bollocks and using it to feather their nest.”

Why do you love tattoos?

“It’s something that was hidden that upset the parents. Tattoos were the mark of the devil. From a very early age I’d literally have my eyes covered over if a bloke walked by with tattoos. Then I turned 18 and thought, Fuck it. I’d seen tattoo artist Dennis Cockell on the telly doing The Stray Cats, so I made my way up to London, found his tattoo parlour and had the classic swallow done. That was the last straw before being chucked out of home.”

What’s the significance of the penis inked into your arm?

“This design is theoretically an Icelandic black magic fertility symbol. But hold on, there are two tattooists in Reykjavik and I’m reckoning that as soon as I left, tattooist number one phoned tattooist number two and said: Hey, I win the prize, I’ve just tattooed a knob on a tourist and told him it was black magic. Ha ha!”

What’s your favourite historical period?

“Late Victorian into early Edwardian. There’s something about the art from that time – painters like Walter Sickert. Maybe I’ve got this romantic view of pea souper fogs and a love of gloom. It’s been a recurrent thread throughout my life that probably goes back to the first record that really moved me –Johnny Remember Me (a Joe Meek production from 1961 sung by John Leyton), a very ghostly record.”

Are you any good as a musician?

“Two-fingered melody lines are my speciality. I’m good at arranging things, knowing where things have got to go, and keeping things relatively simple. I’m not hired for my technical ability. I’m hired for my ideas.”

Do you prefer meat or fish?

“It’s a tough one, but meat, really. I love a good steak, although I do like a seafood platter, with tentacles hanging off it.”

Would you like to retire to the seaside or the countryside?

“I’m a city boy really, but seaside in my dotage. It’s always been a thing of mine that eventually when I’m being wheeled around in a haze of morphine by my comedy big-breasted nurse it would have to be by the seaside.”

Two Lone Swordsmen’s new album, Wrong Meeting 2, is released on Rotter’s Golf Club on June 18.

rottersgolfclub.co.uk

Written for the summer 2007 edition of Dummy.