Andrew Weatherall | In Conversation (Uncut) | Sydney Opera House

Andrew Weatherall | In Conversation (Uncut) | Sydney Opera House

[ Music ]>>Ben Marshall: [Background Music]
Andrew, I really wanted to thank you for coming and performing
at Sydney Opera House.>>Andrew Weatherall: And I’d really
like to thank you for asking me.>>Ben Marshall: It’s
a huge honour for me. I’ve admired your work
for a huge amount of time.>>Andrew Weatherall:
Thank you very much.>>Ben Marshall: And it’s
the least we can do, I think, to offer the studio to you.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah, yeah. We’re looking forward to it. Although it’s, you know, a
monumental building, it’s nice to be in the bowels a little bit, you know? It’s where I operate best, sort
of dark, dingy, bowely places. And also the performances
have been here. You know, they give off– they must– you know, they give off
an energy that soaks into the walls, I think, over the year. So hopefully I’ll be tapping
into past psychic event. That’s how kind of religion
and worship works, isn’t it? It makes– You’re supposed
to kind of feel about in the presence of the divine. I mean, that’s what sublime
meant originally, isn’t it? Sublime means to be overawed
by God’s work in nature.>>Ben Marshall: Oh, I didn’t know that.>>Andrew Weatherall: I
think– Yeah, yeah, yeah.>>Ben Marshall: The
sense of the numinous.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah. And that’s what– You know,
that’s why, you know, cathedrals and religious buildings are
so big that you’re supposed to be awed by God’s presence.>>Ben Marshall: I’m
interested in your thoughts on how this connects
to dance music as well.>>Andrew Weatherall: Well, well,
it’s a real basic level music, smoke, and a gathering of people. It’s been a kind of– it’s been
a transcendent basic, first off, going back way, you know, probably since
humanity gained the subconsciousness and started thinking about
existence and whether there was a god or not, and ceremonies, you know? It’s a kind of gnostic ceremony. It’s smoke, it’s– and it’s music
and it’s coloured lights, you know, and in some form, you know, to
attain transcendence, you know, either through intoxication
or just through being part of something that’s bigger
than yourself. But it’s a weird one because on
one hand yeah, this guy, you know, and you start feeling slightly
pretentious when you start talking about acid house, this gnostic ceremony. But on a real basic level,
it is, because as I said, there are religious ceremonies going
back thousands of thousands of years that use smoke, coloured
lights, and music. You know, there’s a place in
England that’s very important to me called Silbury Hill, which is
no one really knows what it’s for. It’s a– They thought
it’s a burial mound. But it’s massive. It’s kind of 100-foot
tall with a plateau on it. And there is a theory– It’s
not too far from the Stonehenge. And there is a– one of the theories is that it originally had
a moat around there. And I would set up torches which
would reflect off the water and the whole side of it was chalk. So it set up shadows and
coloured moving things. So it was a ceremonial place.>>Ben Marshall: Wow.>>Andrew Weatherall:
And I was lucky enough. I don’t think you’re
allowed to go on it anymore. But in a previous lifetime, I ended
up on the top of it, taking LSD and thinking I could
control the weather. You know, but I was tapping it. You know, I did get the feeling. I did make kind of joke of it. And it was a very funny experience. But, you know, I was tapping into
something that had been going on, you know, that was started
4,000 years ago, you know, that then there must be
some sort of resonance. I do believe there is a resonance
if, you know, buildings do kind of almost record what’s going on. I mean, you can record into words,
you know, vibrations, you can– you know, if you send
vibrations into things. I mean, it’s how records
and tape works, you know? It’s vibration sent into solid objects. So I do think there is– you
know, whether you call it a– could call it ghosts or spirits and
I think the people that say that tune into those things, the part of their
brain is more open than other people that don’t see it, you know? Because our brains have developed, there
is a theory that thousands and thousands of years ago, hundred thousand years
ago that we did– our brains did see– we did see things kind
of psychedelically. But obviously, those with– you know,
those with the utmost psychedelic kind of view, it’s pretty difficult if
you’re going to go out and, you know, hunt together, you know, trees. So it kind of got rid out of us so
over thousands of thousands of years. But we still have that residual kind
of psychedelic part to our brain, which is why we find gold
and diamonds attractive. Because it does, it does appeal to
that site, that part of the brain. And LSD and psychedelics, they’re
merely a trigger, you know, that they’re just triggering
what’s already in your brain, which is why I don’t do
psychedelics because there’s a myriad of little skeletons and dark
demons waiting to come out.>>Ben Marshall: Yeah, we’re
going to need to come out.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah, yeah.>>Ben Marshall: And is this tying
to your idea of psychogeography? Is that a different sort
of concept for you or–>>Andrew Weatherall: No,
it’s kind of same thing. I mean, I’m not an expert on
these things in any means. Psychogeography is a kind of theory
that certain places attract– have always attracted certain
activities and certain people for hundreds if not thousands of years. And whether that’s because people think
that those activities and the emotions and psychic outpourings from
the people involved are recorded in those objects, I don’t know.>>Ben Marshall: And
this sort of view of– on dance music, was this
something you had beginning to DJ or was this something you came to
over time of reading widely and–>>Andrew Weatherall: No,
it kind of dawned on me. You know, I didn’t– You know, when
I first start DJing, I didn’t think, oh yes, I’m definitely tapping into
some sort of gnostic ceremony here. But, you know, over the years, when you
kind of analyse what you do, you know, you’re in a usually square or
rectangular room, there’s smoke and there’s coloured lights and
there’s some kind of narcotic involved. You know, to some people
it’s obviously just– it’s just going out on a Saturday night and getting wasted to
forget their problems. But to me, it began to dawn on me
that there is a little bit more to it than that, you know, that for me
it’s something a little bit deeper. It’s not just DJing. It’s me checking music in general. You know, there’s certain rhythms and– but I still think it’s basically
the same sort of concept, is that basic human need
for transcendence.>>Ben Marshall: It was
one of the things–>>Andrew Weatherall: That’s my escape–>>Ben Marshall: It was one of the reasons I found you endlessly
interesting artist to sort of follow and read interviews of and listen to
your work as a DJ and as a producer, is this sort of combination
of gratefulness and sort of consistent learning, and it’s
married to a genuine, playful, original spark from– you’re a fan,
you’re an absolute lover of music. I’d love to hear about when that fire
was lit as a fan, and then how that sort of moved through to how do you keep
being a fan while also being rigorous and thoughtful having it as a job?>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah. You know, if we go back right
to the beginning, I don’t know. It’s probably– I mean, again, this
is the kind of something that’s dawned on me only reasonably recently. At home, my father was
really into stereo– you know, it was like it was a kind
of early ’70s where the stereo system, hi-fi buffs, it’s just beginning
to become a bit more serious. So my father had a really
amazing hi-fi system. He had a– underneath was a cupboard
with all the records in there. And we used to– It was–
It wasn’t during the week. It was on a Sunday. It was usually on a Sunday
after we’d eaten. You see what I’m talking about? After we’ve eaten, he would–
it would be quite ceremonial. I’m sure he did. I don’t think it dawned on him. It didn’t really dawn on me at the time. It’s only very recently I just
thought, OK, Sunday after the feast, on a ceremonial almost like an altar,
this hi-fi system on top of the shelves. It was a kind of– You know, it
was his version of going to church. And instead of having dinner and then
going singing hymns and going to church, this was almost sort of quasi
religion sacramental thing. And so, I think it must
subconsciously stem from that, that I kind of knew music was important. Music was to be enjoyed. But the good thing was he had music
but he also had company records, Spike Milligan, Peter
Sellers, things like that. So it was– although it
was quite a serious ritual, there was also a playful side to
it, which is probably what I’ve kind of tapped into, yes, this is serious,
but let’s not be too po-faced about it.>>Ben Marshall: Yes.>>Andrew Weatherall: And then when
I was probably 9 or 10 years old, so we’re talking early ’70s, you
know, you’d hear certain records. The first record, I enjoyed music and
I knew that it was something special and it was a parallel universe. You know, you switch on the TV and
there’s Marc Bolan and David Bowie. It’s a common story about any man
or woman of a certain age that lived in the suburbs they’ll
tell you the same thing. So I began to think that it was special. And there was– I think 1973
there was a British film called “That’ll Be the Day”, which is about
the tipping point when kind of rock and roll tips into R&B
sort of early ’60s. Amazing soundtrack of kind
of rock and roll, Billy Fury, Danny and the Juniors’ “At the Hop”. “Runaway”, Del Shannon
I think was on it. I’m not sure. And it was also the visuals as well. It was the Teddy Boys. It’s Billy Fury in a gold army jacket. Teddy Boys with leopard skin jackets,
bumper cars, fairgrounds, you know? This whole other world,
this parallel universe, which as a kid really attracted–
was really attractive to me. And I didn’t really know
what this music was. But– And at the same time shortly
after I was hearing this music, I was kind of rummaging
around in the garage at home and found a box of 7-inch single. So I had a little kind of
dance– kind of record player. And I just thought, what’s this? And I was pulling them out
and it was kind of lot– the tracks that were on this
“That’ll Be the Day” soundtrack. So there’s the joy of discovery as
well right there that, you know, a dusty box of records that you discover
with all these little gems in, you know? So, I think that’s the kind of genesis
of not just been into music but, you know, the joy of discovery and
finding the artefacts, finding the, you know, the objects, you know? And they had– they were all scratched,
so obviously every scratch and crack and purple is a little doorway into
the past who listened to it before. That’s why I don’t mind if I
buy record and it’s scratched. It’s great. It’s a little bit of– It’s almost
like a portal into the past. And as the great John Pell quote
when someone said, oh, you know, but the vinyls covered
in noise, surface noise. And he said, well yeah, so his life.>>Ben Marshall: Life
is– I remember that.>>Andrew Weatherall: Life is
just full of surface noise.>>Ben Marshall: It’s
a great, great line.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah.>>Ben Marshall: Do you remember a
particular song or a moment where–>>Andrew Weatherall: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.>>Ben Marshall: — music went from
being sorts of a thing you listen to, to that’s gone right through then?>>Andrew Weatherall: Well, it
was a kind of sense of mystery. And I love the playfulness
of kind of glam rock. But it was a little bit
sort of one-dimensional. But I think it was probably a
failure and I still can’t describe when I listen to music now. I was kind of 10 years old. It was “Seasons in the
Sun” by Terry Jacks.>>Ben Marshall: Yeah, right.>>Andrew Weatherall: Which I
later found– Obviously I did– at the time I didn’t realise it was
a Jacques Brel death ballad called “Le Moribond”, “The Dying”, you know? And it’s–>>Ben Marshall: Your
entire future direction.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah,
it’s got tremolo in guitars. It’s very ghostly. And I think that was– that kind
of– that still resonates with me, not necessarily that record but the
feelings that evoked and the sounds on it, the space to it and, you
know, the slapback echo and the kind of tremolo to guitars,
you know, that still– I’ve got lots of sounds that
subconsciously I think in my DNA because I’ve been listening to records
for over– to music for over 40 years. And I tend to come out. When I’m in a studio, I don’t
consciously sit there and think, all right, let’s recreate Sam Phillips’
great slapback vocal sound or– and had its snare sound. They’re just kind of
in me subconsciously. And as I kind of bumble about in the
studio, those elements kind of come out because they’re my
musical DNA, if you will.>>Ben Marshall: And how did
you come to be such a great sort of autodidact to kind of take this–>>Andrew Weatherall: Because
I got thrown out of school and I think I have no choice. And I had the grounding of a
good– I went to what was– what’s called a grammar
school, you know, you have to do the 11-plus
test to get in. And it was a pretty good school but
it was a bit of a university machine. But it did– that and my parents
kind of encouraged me to read. You know, my father have been thrown
out at the same school, funny enough, at 14 I think, in the ’50s. So I was keeping up a
fine family tradition. I think one of my school reports
actually said Andrew sets consistently low standards and always
manages to chaffer. But those two they did give me an
insight but I was just very arrogant. You know, I was– because I was new to
the world, the world was new, I didn’t– you know, I didn’t– and
you have no sort of concept. I went– You know, I was being taught. I have two teachers that one of
whom had been a spitfire pilot in the Second World War. But that’s– But– And this is kind of
only sort of, you know, not that long. You know, I was born on the–
I was born less than 20 years after the end of the Second World War. But when you’re 15, that’s a sanction and you don’t realise how
near that actually is. So I kind of wasted my
opportunities at school because I was a little bit off myself. But then again, that energy that made me
want to experiment and find my own path, even if it was a completely wrong path,
even if you find it up in a dead end, actually go back and
try and start again.>>Ben Marshall: And I’m
fascinated you talked about sort of the gold army jacket and
the idea I think of, you know, the clothes you choose to wear as
a way of trying on another world and trying on being another person. You’re renowned for a
distinct sartorial sense and–>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah. And wearing jeans and [inaudible].>>Ben Marshall: There
are many, many questions–>>Andrew Weatherall: And I just
knew that part of the package. I just knew that that was
part of the other world and it’s part of a parallel universe. You know, seeing David Bowie on Top
of the Pops in ’72 or 1973 or it was– you know, it made people like creatures
from another planet, you know, that, yeah, there were– You know, I
lived in the suburbs with kind of lower middle class
aspirational parents. But having said that, I do remember that
my father was a mod, my father wasn’t– Well, he didn’t– He
doesn’t refer to it as mod. He calls it modernist, like pre-mod. They’re into kind of jazz before
it turned into people on scooters with wing mirrors and parkers and stuff. So, I think I get a bit
of that from him, that kind of an interesting
sartorial detail. Maybe not a fashion as such but
he’s always fascinated me, you know, because I saw glam rock come along. But at the same time, it’s glam rock, there was a ’50s rock and
roll revival going on. I mean, in 1972, there was the
rock and roll gig at Wembley that had Little Richard and Jerry Lee
Lewis and all the all the rockers. So there was a big kind of crossover. And I knew that to me, you know, some kind of glam bands did were
brothel creepers and drape suits. So I realised that glam rock and kind
of rock and roll weren’t too far apart. Yeah. And I’ll just– So I
was fascinated kind of, yeah, by probably by Teddy Boys originally,
just start there, and being out to sort of create fear by just–
by the curvy trousers. So that’s always quite
an interesting thing. And it happened again with punk. It’s really hard to describe
to people the moral panic. The Sex Pistols calls
them punk rock, you know? So obviously that’s to 13,
14-year-olds, you know? That’s very, very, very attractive.>>Ben Marshall: And powerful.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And people are calling about the–
You know, it was a political movement. And they kind of became
a political movement. But initially, it wasn’t really. It was just, you know, Malcolm
McLaren trying to outrage people. You know, the situation is they’ve been
in Paris and so of ’68 and he wanted to create the same kind of,
yeah, the same kind of outrage. But I don’t know how
political he actually was, as people started investigating punk
and, you know, doing it for yourself and fighting against authority. Yeah, there might be– got a
political– It became political. But then that’s youth movements become
political by default because the man– It’s very symbiotic, you know? You can sell a shitload of tickets if an
MP thinks that you’re the devil’s work. And the MP can be seen
as a moral crusader. So they work, they work
very, very closely together. It happened with Teddy Boys, it happens
with mod, it happened with punk. It happened with acid house, you know, moral outrage is really
good tickets there.>>Ben Marshall: They really–>>Andrew Weatherall: And really
good for your profile in parliament or if you’re a local
councillor or something. So always kind of fascinated me into–
So we have to do that through, you know, tribalism basically, even
without past a certain extent. I mean, although it was
pretty a little bit styleless, there was still a certain look that you
could look at someone and go, all right, OK, you’ll, you know, you’re
on this train with me as well.>>Ben Marshall: And what do
you think is the difference between fashion and style?>>Andrew Weatherall: Style
is more about the detail, as a little bit more finesse to
it and fashion feeds off of style. Style is more about individuality,
which then people caught it on term. And it’s the same, you
know, it’s the same– it works in any form of art, you know. Someone will make a stand and do something individual
and be derived it or not. But then someone else will
think, well, hold on, you know, that’s kind of all right and
adapt it until it becomes fashion. And style is kind– also a
little bit about eccentricity in the true sense of the word. It’s just been, you know,
your own individual interests. It can mean taking bits
from here or there or it can be copying the
details of a particular era. But was it, as Oscar Wilde said that was
it fashions concept so hideous they have to change it every six months.>>Ben Marshall: It’s a great line.>>Andrew Weatherall: And fashion– So
I think style is all about confidence and fashion is about insecurity. You know, you’re made to feel insecure
if you don’t follow the fashion, really. Yeah. I think, yeah, yeah.>>Ben Marshall: That’s a
great description of the two. I’m also really interested,
your love of art as well. And I know you’re across a lot of fine
art, I love the idea that art forms like dance music can throw
out greatness and it’s sort of an area no one looks
to for greatness or–>>Andrew Weatherall: Well yeah, that’s
the weird thing at the moment with this. This almost like, if you do orchestral
versions of acid house tracks, it somehow validates it as an art
form where it doesn’t need validation. It’s got rolling history and it doesn’t
need an orchestra and classical elements to give it validation, you know?>>Ben Marshall: Completely. And the margins is something you’d be
interested in as an idea before about, you know, the things that go on
there are least is interesting.>>Andrew Weatherall:
One of the interesting– the most interesting stories are always
in the margins and the characters. I’m interested. Yeah, I’m interested in the
characters that did make it, obviously. But I think I’m probably a little
bit more interested in the people that failed, but failed spectacularly. For one reason or another where–
or either they weren’t brave enough, or weren’t lucky enough, or
weren’t in the right place at the right time to
fulfil their dreams. I love the sound of a
broken dream, you know? I don’t know there’s a certain
pathos that dwells within the margins that I seem kind of drawn to. I don’t know why but– I don’t know, but maybe it’s because I’m
totally lacking in my ambition. I never wanted to be–
you know, I’ve never– to me, it’s never been
about the greasy pole and ending up at the top of anything. You know, I never– even when I start–
I was just thinking the other day, you know, you get people and what did
you want to be when you were a kid? I wanted to be a lawyer. I want to be a doctor. I want to be a train driver. I just wanted enough money
to be able to buy trousers, records, and things really. And I would do whatever I had
to do to do it, I would do it. Yeah, maybe– I’ve never
craved success in [inaudible]. So maybe that’s why– maybe I’m trying
to justify why I’m lacking of ambition by wallowing in the margins of it. I don’t know.>>Ben Marshall: Well it’s
been– that sense of– there’s never been a whiff of careers.>>Andrew Weatherall: He said about to the gig that’s
sitting there for [inaudible]. Here I am wallowing in
the margins of one of the most iconic buildings
in the world.>>Ben Marshall: Well, it’s paid off.>>Andrew Weatherall:
When they all go wrong.>>Ben Marshall: But it’s
something really lovely about talent that’s got no
careerism attached to it. I mean–>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah.>>Ben Marshall: — there’s an
internal compass that’s been–>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah. You know, I just thought– well, what– I think it all stems from the
fact that I would do jobs, you know, when I was growing up. Although the economic
situation was sometimes bleak, you could kind of have a job for
a few months, make some money, give up that job, find another job. It’s a little bit easier
to do that back then. So, like ’70s, early ’80s. So my plan was always to– you
know, I was building film sets. That’s the– And I’m working
in closed shops to buy records, which meant that people tell,
will you come and DJ at my party? So the idea was, you know, I
was going to just stage it. I just thought, well, I’ll do
this for six months or a year. It will pay for my tracks
and my books and records. And so I’ve always– maybe it’s because
I’ve always had that kind of at the back of my mind, I’m expecting a phone
call and someone’s going to say, all right, you’ve had your fun now. It’s time to move on. So, you know, if anything– and it sounds a bit crass to say I spent
my whole life thinking I’m only going to do what’s fun. But sometimes it hasn’t been fun. I mean, it still– it’s very hard work. I do work very hard. But I think– Because at the back
of my mind, I think someone’s going to tell me that it’s going to stop. I just thought, well, I’m not– I’m
gust going to do things on my terms. And if you do things on your terms for
long enough, people go, oh, you know, oh, an icon of keeping it real or,
you know, you haven’t sold out. But I never really thought
of concepts like that. I’ve just always thought about
doing a job that I enjoy. And if it takes me– if I
get promotion, fair enough. You know, I’m likely sort
of constable in a way. It’s like, you know, I’m quite happy
just pounding the beat, you know, but it’s all my colleagues
that doing the exams and trying to make the inspector. I’m quite happy kind of pounding the
beat literally and metaphorically.>>Ben Marshall: Yeah. And how do you approach it as work? How do you keep that sense of kind
of playfulness and fun and spark and also have a very
diligent work you think?>>Andrew Weatherall: Having to
pay exorbitant rents in London.>>Ben Marshall: It keeps
you on the street.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah,
it keeps me on my toes. But now I just enjoy going to work. I don’t know. It’s as simple as that. I just enjoy going to work. I don’t have a studio in my house
because everyone I know that’s done that just gets up later and later
and goes to work later and later and it’s too little bit easy. It’s not special. You know, it’s having a special place. It’s going somewhere to do
that job is important to me. You know, and especially on a Monday
morning, if I’m a little bit tired, I have been known to put on a
three-piece Edwardian tweet. So– Because there’s something
about that that makes you kind of little bit more upright and
treat the whole thing as a job. Luckily, you know, after
30 years, my agent and my manager still answer
their phone and tell me right, this job is available, do
you want to do this job? Do you want to do that job? And I just take it from there,
but it is a six-day, you know, I’m working in the studio Monday
to Friday, gigs Friday, Saturday. And then sometimes travelling home
from Europe, not getting back home until Sunday evening and then going
back into the studio on Monday but it’s make– I just
enjoy making things. I think that’s what it is. Whether it’s writing,
whether it’s making music or whether it’s making some art, I
just enjoy that creative process. And then just give it, you
know, give it to someone else to sell it in some arena somewhere.>>Ben Marshall: Fantastic. And congratulations on Qualia as well. It’s a really beautiful
record which you–>>Andrew Weatherall:
Thank you very much.>>Ben Marshall: — just put out.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah, yeah.>>Ben Marshall: Can you take me through
some of the thinking that was going on in your mind when you chose that? So you’ve recorded quite a
lot of work [inaudible]–>>Andrew Weatherall:
When I say– I never– because I’ve kind of been
continuously working on making music, I don’t think I’ve ever had that
situation where I get to the studio and it’s day one, I must make
an album, because that’s– any musician or artist will
tell you that’s too much– that’s the most daunting. So a lot of people get writer’s
block and why painters can’t paint because I just go– what
do I– where do I start? But I don’t have that because I’ve–
you know, I have never finished. It’s only– The way I work
I might find a certain sound or I might use a certain keyboard or
certain drum machine or certain way of working and you start making tracks. I spent a couple of weeks making
tracks with a certain way. And then after a while, you know–
and you may put that– you may– cannot get bored but you might get
sidetracked, or I might have a couple of days off if I’m not
really feeling it. So you put them aside in
the computer somewhere. And then maybe you come back and you
start listening to tracks and you think, all right, OK, that kind of sounds
like the beginning of a body of work. But that sounds like the
beginning of another body of work. And that’s when you start shaping it. So I’ve been working– I’ve found a
certain way of working, which I won’t– I don’t like giving the
details because it kind of– this is the same way I don’t
know how the lady sawn in half or how you pull a rabbit out of a hat. It kind of spoils the magic
a little bit for me, I think, if you know how the spell
is put together. So I don’t usually like to go too
much into the technicalities of it, but I found a certain method of working and it just kind of snowballed
from there. And over the course of two months, you
know, I was going in every day at work. You know, I’m not one of these
people that work through the night because it’s supposed to calm
me because you just start– you know, the next day you go in and you just lost any idea
of where you’re going. So I usually work from kind of 11:00
or 12:00 till 6:00 or 7:00 at night. So it’s, you know, almost like
a kind of office job really. And just these tracks kind of
started to develop a certain way. So maybe sort of four
or five, six tracks in. You’ve got five and say– then
you start kind of honing– you start thinking, that’s when you
start thinking about it a little bit to try and make things fit
in a little bit, you know, rather than a random
collection of tracks. You know, I’d like there to be some
kind of threads or some kind of identity to it rather than now
here’s my electro track.>>Ben Marshall: Yeah.>>Andrew Weatherall: Now here’s my
house track or here’s my ambient track. Or if you are doing that, if
you are working across styles, there’s still got be some
common sort of thread to it. I’m not– Although, I’ve
worked to many– released many records
stylistically different, I can still see a thread in it. I’d like to think I could recognise
my own, you know, my work if I was, you know, looking at it objectively. Although, I have been in situations
where I’ve been in– I was in a– a few years back, I was in a close shop
in London, this track was playing us and so, it was just all right and that–
I took about two minutes and told them that it was actually
something I’ve done 20 years. It was the first “Two Lone
Swordsman” out in the Market>>Ben Marshall: Fantastic. This is bloody good.>>Andrew Weatherall: So yeah, yeah.>>Ben Marshall: What’s nice to this,
that consistent thread that you sort of whatever chimes with you–>>Andrew Weatherall: Well,
yeah that sounds full of–>>Ben Marshall: — 20 years ago.>>Andrew Weatherall: —
structures certain sounds and certain interplay between–
usually, between drums and bass. That’s usually the root of every film. It’s a root of rock and roll really. You know, if you’re a rock and
roll band, if the bass player and the drummer are neither in it,
that’s all right, everything else will– You can just play around with that. It’s how I approach remixes. It’s always– Get the baseline
and the percussion right and then everything else
can fly around it.>>Ben Marshall: And you’ve worked with
a lot of interesting artists and been around a lot of kind of figures that
you’ve admired, this idea of sort of not wanting to see
how the lady sawn in half or the rabbit comes out of the hat. Have you had any moments
where you have sorts of through meeting someone
had an opinion change or–>>Andrew Weatherall: No. But then I tend to– I tend not
to– I tend to avoid people. It’s work I admire. You know, when you do remix, the
band aren’t usually in the studio. They were when I first started like
blood– “My Bloody Valentine” where, you know, I would send– you know,
Kevin would come in and have a listen. But I’ve never– And I don’t read
many kind of books on music really. I’ll read the old one but not, you know,
like I know an agent showed, but I– I’ve turned down the opportunity to
work in a studio within countless times, because I’m still that fanboy. I will just sit– I didn’t– I wouldn’t
think I had anything to contribute. So now, I’ve never had that,
I’ve never had that situation. You know, I now know how Martin Hanic
[assumed spelling] got the sound that he did. But that’s kind of more
by accident than design. I didn’t immediately, you know, hear
Joy Division record and Sinclair, I must know how that was done. I think, you know, yeah,
that’s like kind of– for me it diminished
the magic a little bit. And because I didn’t– I never thought
I was going to operate in music. You know, just enjoyed magic, I didn’t
particularly want to be a magician. You know, I’ve kind of
ended up as one by default. I think any art– you know, art and
magic are the same thing really. You’re manipulating images
and you’re manipulating words. You’re manipulating sounds
towards people’s consciousness. You know, that’s kind of what
magic is, I think really, is particularly the manipulation
of words. I mean, you cast the spell. Think about it, spell, it’s words. And a collection of magic
is called a grimoire, which is based on the
French for grammar. It’s about rearranging words. I think that’s what– on a basic
level, that’s what magic is. It’s rearranging elements, and
particularly in the case of words, particularly in the case of
poetry, you’re manipulating words to alter people’s consciousness
in way of looking at things. I’ve ended up in the
magic circle by default. But even conjuring is a form of– is– you know, magic is about making
something out of nothing really.>>Ben Marshall: Could you name sort
of a piece of music or book and a piece of art that you think is
maybe underrated but has some of these qualities that
you’ve enjoyed recently?>>Andrew Weatherall: Now,
you’re putting me on the spot. I hate these questions
because you always– you know, as soon as someone
says that a million kind of– there’s a Jamaican form of
drumming called Nyabinghi drumming, which I think people should
really, really know about. I mean it’s a basis of
a lot of reggae records. And that to me is a really
raw form of expression. They have like a– it
follows the heartbeat. It’s based on a human heartbeat
and then rhythms around it. And no, no one painting
in particular, but it’s– I think it was Francis Bacon that said,
there’s something about the texture of paint on canvas that talks
directly to the human soul, you know. So, as much as I love
conceptual art, I’m a bit– you know, maybe you could call
me a stockist or something. But, you know, if I’m not feeling
very creative, I’ll go and look up paintings just to go close up and
think that someone made that mark, 50 years ago, 500 years
ago, a thousand years ago. You know, the urge, you know what
I mean, the urge to kind of touch. I don’t know. I have this thing about touching. If I touch something, somehow I can–>>Ben Marshall: It’s the Gnostic–>>Andrew Weatherall: — yeah, yeah,
somehow, I can– that support alone. It’s a bit of a no, no in the
National Gallery then that one. And I did it recently. I went to the Shrine of Remembrance
in Melbourne and there’s a flag that had been in the trenches. Although, it’s behind glass,
I actually, you know– I mean actually it was
nearly into– I just– touching the frame was
good enough for me. So it’s not specific piece
of work on music as such, its textures and its style of music. I couldn’t say, oh you must listen
to this piece of classical work that no one, you know,
no one knows about. But I mean, the artwork for
Qualia is based on this– on an album called “Tarot”
of Walter Wegmuller. And I’d never– you know, it’s great to
be 54 years old and still have a file on your Facebook– on your YouTube
area of your tablet called– entitled “Why the Fuck have
I Never Heard this Sequel?”. But I don’t know, it’s all out there. You know, that’s– I would
urge people to listen to that. I’m not vast into technology, but I
love going down the YouTube rabbit hole and finding things with, you know,
four people have listened to this. And I did it last year. I got catastrophically stoned and ended
up at 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning and listening to kind of– I
think it’s Italian futurists, you know, compositions. It’s rarely epic chase music
and sitting I think to myself, it’s 3:30 in the morning, what the
fuck am I doing listening to this? And I’ll never, you know,
you know as well as I do, you shouldn’t read the comments.>>Ben Marshall: Don’t read the
second half of the internet.>>Andrew Weatherall: But it’s a bit like sometimes the comments
page especially stuff like that it’s a bit like, you’re
not home when you have a pint of milk that’s spilled on the
window sill and it’s got that sort of yellow, yellow oil and stuff. You know full well it’s going
to make you rich but you’ve got to have a little– oh, yeah, I
knew that was going to happen. Yeah. I don’t know what it is,
some sort of morbid enjoyment. And I’m like, that sometimes
of the comments pages. I’m listening to this music
and I thought– I’m quite– actually let’s have a little
sniff of the stinky milk. And the first comment was,
it’s 4 o’clock in the morning, what the fuck I am doing
listening to this music? But it’s also through
Anton LaVey that the– who was the head of the
Church of Satan in America. His theory was that the most demonic
or satanic music was the music that had been forgotten, you know,
death metal and stuff like that. It’s too obvious. It’s got nothing to do with Satanism
and nothing to do with the dark side. It’s the forgotten pieces that– you
know, it can be a really crass kind of melody, you know, song about
“Moon Spoon June” for the 1930s that no one’s played
for years and years. It’s always the hidden art that
has the most– the darkest power. And he was– before, his whole theories
were kind of developed from the fact that he played the organ
in a burlesque show, accompanying ladies removing
their clothes. And he would say he would
be playing a piece. And there would be a naked woman on
stage or near naked woman on stage. But if a woman walks in wearing a
tight jumper and a pencil skirt, everybody’s head would turn–>>Ben Marshall: Turn around.>>Andrew Weatherall:
— and look at her. So that’s when he develops the– his
theories about the power of the hidden–>>Ben Marshall: A clergy.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah, yeah. So that’s kind of what I’m drawn
to, is the power of the hidden, not one piece of art, one
piece of music in particular. And I wouldn’t– and also
it’s a kind of self-defeating. If I go on screen now and go,
well, yes, check out this. And then I’d rather people found
out that for themselves really than give a list of esoteric things
they should or shouldn’t be listening to reading to or looking at.>>Ben Marshall: At 4:00 in the morning.>>Andrew Weatherall: That was good. I’d rather not.>>Ben Marshall: Andrew, before
we finish up, I’d love to ask you about some Australian acts as well
that I know that you like and/or maybe that you don’t and give
us your sort of– you can be brutal, but the go-betweens.>>Andrew Weatherall: They’re
one of those bands that I kind of not forgot about, but I was
into kind of prey acid house. Now, I love that. I just always come back to that. One of those bands that you just stand
up and listen to stuff and it’s like, fuck, why am I listening
to this for five years? And The Triffids were– “Born
Sandy Devotional” was a big record for me in my years.>>Ben Marshall: Why is that?>>Andrew Weatherall: I don’t
know, just the power of the songs or maybe had an emotional
resonance at the time. A certain records you associate with
periods of your life with relationships, and the songs resonate, you know. That’s what– It’s what art is for. You know, it’s to help, you
know, it’s to give you good times but help you further
through the bad times and help you question what you’re doing. And that “Born Sandy Devotional”
was just one of those records without naming names and going
into the sorry story of my lack of emotional intelligence when it
comes to relationships with ladies. And then obviously, the
Birthday Party, you know, I–>>Ben Marshall: How did you
come across the Birthday Party?>>Andrew Weatherall: Just
probably through John Peel.>>Ben Marshall: Yeah.>>Andrew Weatherall: You know,
and I actually got to see them when Tracy Pew played with them. You know, then it was– you know, it was
just fascinating, something that music. There’s a lot of music like
that going on at the time, but I don’t know with
the Birthday Party. They seem to operate in
a world of their own. You couldn’t really put them anywhere. So yeah, like I say I was
obviously drawn to that. I don’t know about Australian
musical art. I don’t like– I don’t know. Yeah. All the stuff I’ve been watching
for the past two weeks on reruns of countdown from about 1981 to 1984. Some of that’s a bit Road Fever,
but then again it still has– it still has a certain charm to it. And Coup D’Etat comes to mind,
and their lovely matching outfits, some mullet haircuts.>>Ben Marshall: Something
should remain hidden. Andrew, thank you.>>Andrew Weatherall: No. Ironically because they’re hidden
maybe they’re probably more demonic.>>Ben Marshall: More demonic.>>Andrew Weatherall: More
demonic than Nick Cave, probably. Yeah, yeah, they have more dark power. And from the Bay we probably
say that, yeah. What’s the other one, “Do Re Mi,” was there one called Do Re
Mi or something as well?>>Ben Marshall: I think it was. Yeah.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah, they
probably held more satanic power than the Dark Lord Nick Cave himself.>>Ben Marshall: I felt
like we’re out of time.>>Andrew Weatherall: Yeah. So I must be having the [inaudible].>>Ben Marshall: That’s a dedication.>>Andrew Weatherall: You
know, we could go on forever. It’s been an absolute pleasure.>>Ben Marshall: Andrew,
an absolute pleasure.>>Andrew Weatherall: Thank you.>>Ben Marshall: Thank you, man.

3 thoughts to “Andrew Weatherall | In Conversation (Uncut) | Sydney Opera House”

  1. The legendary Andrew Weatherall made his Sydney Opera House debut in late 2017. Ahead of his unforgettable performance, Weatherall talked with Ben Marshall, Sydney Opera House's Head of Contemporary Music, about his love for music and songwriting sparks.
    Thanks for watching the full version of this interview.
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  2. This is a beautiful, and remarkably intimate and insightful interview with Andrew Weatherall. His loss is huge.

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