10 Questions for TV Smith

July 19, 2009 at 9:07 pm (Uncategorized)

Smith is probably the most popular surname in English. A television is the most popular electrical entertainment appliance; a stage name was born.  TV Smith, the lead singer and song writer with the Adverts, the Explorers, Channel 5, and also as a solo artist, toured the U.S. with Jay Reatard earlier this month. TV was supposed to play the Mod Club in Toronto on June 29, but visa problems meant he was unable to make the show.  Nevertheless, he was happy ot agree to an email interview. 

Questions for TV Smith 

1. Your first record, One Chord Wonders was released in 1977. How does it feel to have 30 years in the music business?    

 Thirty years outside the business, actually. After the second Adverts album and then the Explorers album didn’t sell well, the ‘business’ didn’t want much to do with me any more, but I still wanted to carry on. Since then I’ve been more or less D.I.Y., which was what punk originally promoted anyway. The great thing about working that way has been that for thirty years I’ve had no one telling me what to do, I’ve been free to create what I want, and making music has always been interesting.
2. Are you still ‘punk?’

Yes. But it could be that other people’s idea of what “punk” is has changed.

3. Unlike many artists who only seem to have a couple of good records in them, you have maintained a constantly high standard. Which of the class of ’77 would you put in the same category?

I can’t think of anyone really. Most of the good ones have either died, given up, or are living off past glories. But they left a lot of good records behind them.

4. What are you listening to these days?

Mainly the bands on the same bill as me at live shows. 
I’m out playing gigs for more than half the year and writing and making records the rest of the time, so I rarely put music on when I’m home.

5. Which of your records are you the most proud?

Difficult to answer. I don’t like to choose between my own records because I know that on every one of them I gave everything I had at the time – I wouldn’t put them out otherwise. Some of them – like “Channel Five” – were made for just a few hundred pounds and have a home-made feel to them, others – like “Useless” – were really expensive to make and have a slicker studio sound. They all have their own strengths. I think, at the moment I’m most proud of my latest one “In The Arms Of My Enemy.”

6. Many musicians also work in other fields. Have you thought about writing short stories or novels?

I wrote poetry and short stories when I was a kid, and in the early eighties when I couldn’t get any interest in my songs at all. I did write a couple of novels. 
But I found the process too time-consuming and I didn’t like the fact that you can’t review what you’ve done the same way you can with a song. I’m used to being able to hit “play” and hearing how things sound so far but with a novel you have to read the whole damn thing every time you want an overview. The books never got published, and after that 
went back to my real love, writing and recording songs. The funny thing is,
I fell back into prose writing almost accidentally when I started to keep 
journals of what it was like being on the road, and ended up producing two books of tour diaries – “Getting There” and “How To Feel Human” which I sell at gigs and through 
the website.

7. Your new album opens with the line, “It’s gonna be a huge production,” what was it like to work with Tim Cross and Tim Renwick again?

They’ve been a constant thread through my recording career. Tim Cross came into the Adverts during the recording of the second album at the suggestion of producer Tom Newman, who thought it would be good to have some keyboards on some of the tracks. We worked together right through the eighties recording demos of songs even though I didn’t have a label to put them out, and somewhere along the way Tim introduced me to Tim Renwick – they’d met when they were touring together with Mike Oldfield – and I found myself with two incredibly talented musicians who, unlikely as it seems from their musical background, were totally tuned into my songs. One or both of them have made an appearance on nearly every album since 
8. Many of your lyrics deal with topical subjects (Peace ‘Tomahawk Cruise,” environmentalism “Thin Green Line”, crime “Open up your Heart,” poverty “Expensive being Poor” to name just a few). Do you consider yourself a political songwriter?
I write about what I see, so the question is: are the things going on in the world that affect our lives due to politics or do they just happen? I think that who we are and how we live is being shaped by other people, and particularly those people who are in positions of power: the politicians, the religious zealots, the Establishment in general. If you’re going to write about the real world, there has to be a political element to it otherwise it’s just fantasy.
9. What was it like touting with Jay Reatard?
It was a very good tour. We all got on very well and Jay and the band seemed to have a lot of respect for me and my songs, so when we played four Adverts songs at the end of the evening they had a real power and authenticity to them. A lot of people said that it was the nearest thing to the Adverts they were ever going to see. It was just a shame that my visa was delayed coming through so I had to miss the first five dates. I was particularly upset to miss the two dates in Canada because I’d never been before and really wanted to come.
10. Any chance of make-up Canadian dates?
I really hope so. I’ll do what I can!

TV Smith’s new album is In the Arms of my Enemy. It’s very good. For more information about TV Smith, and to see a couple of videos from the new album, go to his web site

And if that doesn’t sate your appetite, pick up the e-book Your Ticket Out of Here and  The Complete TV Smith, a TV Smith zine now on CD ROM which ran from 1980 to 1984, available for $5 and $15 respectively from Dave Thomson books.  

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