Pete Fij & Terry Bickers‘ new record We Are Millionaires is out today (14th July) on CD/Digital/Vinyl. They’re both Ex-Creation artists, Pete Fij was in Adorable/Polak and Terry Bickers in House of Love/Levitation. As a duo they have previously released one album ‘Broken Heart Surgery’ in 2014, their subtle work together is imbued with a quiet gentle longing and melancholia, little wonder they cite Richard Hawley, Lloyd Cole, Johnny Cash as influences. We asked them to interview each other, here are the results.
PF: This interview didn’t get off to the best of starts. I explained to Terry that the idea was to interview each other, and Terry’s first question to me was “Do you have any cats?” I explained that the idea was maybe to touch more on our musical pasts, so the question was modified to “Did you have any cats when you were on Creation”, but after this hesitant start, we got going. For those interested, yes I do have 2 cats – Earl Grey who loves me (pictured), and Ping who hates me. When I signed to Creation I lived in a shared house who had an aloof black cat called Ozi, though she wasn’t really my cat.
Terry’s questions to Pete:
TB: What is the best thing about working with me; what is the worst?
PF: Your creativity is at times jaw dropping- you come up with not one, but three or four different ideas that are all equally as brilliant. Trying to get you to do interviews can be an effort – I’m amazed we are even having this conversation!
TB: What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self if you could travel back in time?
PF : I probably wouldn’t take any advice from an old man like me. I’d say take the time to enjoy the moment, and maybe hold back a bit in your first interview with the NME.
TB: I know that you have had a varied (non-musical) career. What would your first choice for a job be as an alternative to being a recording/performing musician?
PF: When I was a boy I wanted to be a spy, but I blew my cover from the off by going round telling everyone that’s what I was going to be, which is pretty much breaking rule #1 in the spy’s handbook.
I’ve been lucky enough to really enjoy many of the jobs I’ve had – I sold second-hand books for 20 years which gave me many happy times, and I really love my current job working in a retirement care home as an activities coordinator, but of jobs I’ve yet to do I’d probably want to do something to do with films – either film making (though I find the large scale collaboration nature somewhat daunting, so they’d have to be small scale – maybe documentaries), or anything that meant that I could sit around all day watching European art-house re-issue DVDs would be nice!
TB: Do you have a favourite country to visit, if so can you describe some things about it you like?
PF: I love France. Just sitting in a cafe watching the world go by even in the most mundane of towns makes me happy. I’d love to revisit Japan (I played in Tokyo with Adorable in 1993 and it was amazing) – it’s just another world in terms of architecture, society and how everything functions on a day to day basis. I’d love to visit some of the more historical places like Kyoto as an antidote to the Blade Runner futurism of Tokyo. Of places I’ve never been, I’d like to go to Iceland – the rugged sparseness is just compelling.
TB: What musical artists do you admire and why?
PF: I’m drawn to those with flaws – Chet Baker was by all reports a man with more than his fair share of demons, but I keep coming back to his naked frailty. Sinatra is another compelling character, a combination of bravado and vulnerability. From a career point of view, I really admire how Lloyd Cole has scaled back and is able to record and tour successfully as a solo artist. Have seen him play solo a couple of times recently and he is so focused on what he does.
TB: What non-musical artists do you admire and why?
PF: I love the books of Richard Brautigan – he wrote very very short stories that capture a moment. They’re like haiku poems. He was a bit of a loner and didn’t quite sit with any movement and his works are what the very best art is about – innovative yet accessible. https://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2014/sep/23/prose-poetry-brilliance-of-richard-brautigan
I’m fascinated by the very short life and work of Yves Klein who was a pop art/performance artist in the late ’50s/early ’60s. He had such energy and a wonderful playful imagination. http://www.yveskleinarchives.org/
TB: What are your three favourite Creation Records singles?
PF: ‘Destroy The Heart’ by House of Love, ‘Never Lose That Feeling’ by Swervedriver, ‘Soon’ by MBV.
TB: What inspires you to write songs?
PF: It’s hard to explain – they just come to me like visions. This sounds incredibly pompous, but it’s usually in the mundane setting of driving in my car. I don’t drive as much as I used to, so am concerned my output might drop. It’s often a line I hear in a conversation or in a film that starts the spark off.
TB: If someone were thinking of relocating to a new town, what would you say your home town of Worthing has to offer?
PF: Space, time, peace. If you’re looking for a 24-hour party town keep driving, but Brighton is only 20 minutes down the road.
Pete’s questions to Terry:
PF: What’s the best thing about working with me, and the worst?
TB: There are many good things about working with you, I admire your dedication and drive and you have great creative ideas. One other thing I feel about our working relationship is that whatever suggestions I make about our project, they will be heard. You’re also a great conversationalist! I would say the worst thing about working with you is that you can be quite stubborn when you have set your mind on something being a certain way.
PF: What would your dream musical line-up be of people you have never worked with?
TB: I can think of several dream line-ups but for Rock the line-up would be Zak Starkey, John McGeoch (Magazine, Siouxie & The Banshees) and Jean Jaques Burnel (The Stranglers).
PF: If you had a time machine and could revisit any moment of your musical past where would it be?
TB: I used to play in a band called Colenso Parade when I was 17 years old and we once played a gig in Harlow (a rough ‘Newtown’ in Essex). We played to an audience of four people, two suited businessmen and their girlfriends. On paper, it sounds like it would be the worst of gigs but we had such a great time, enjoying the music purely for its own sake and having such a laugh at the absurdity of playing at a ‘Rock’ disco to four people. Much hilarity was had before the gig and afterwards in the van on the way home.
PF: You have one more free go on the time machine – If you could travel back in time to any point in history, where and when would you go (note, you cannot change history, merely observe and enjoy)
TB: To visit a Native American tribe like the Hopi before white settlers arrived. I would like to do this so I could observe how they lived in harmony and connection with nature.
PF: If you could go out for meal with one musician who would it be, and where would you go to eat
TB: My one to one with a musician would be with Howard Devoto, someone I have been a lifelong fan of and whose lyrics and music were hugely influential. Howard fronted the band Magazine and as a teenager, he was a singer who I felt really ‘spoke to me’. I had the good fortune to meet him on a couple of occasions in my late teens but I was quite shy and slightly in awe of him so didn’t say much even though he was very down to earth and approachable.
The venue I would choose for our meeting would be the Ivy restaurant in central London. I have never actually eaten there so I don’t know what the food is like but I’m sure its good. It is traditionally popular with people from the arts, media, celebrities and theatregoers, so I thought it might be a good place to discuss life, music and art. I would like to ask him about some of the stories behind his songs.
PF: If you were a millionaire – what would you do?
TB: If I were a millionaire I would donate some money to organisations and charities that support young people. I have witnessed the provision of services for young people being ‘squeezed’ over the last few years along with other organisations like social services and the NHS etc. The provision of musical equipment and a space to practice under the Greater London Council in the early 1980s helped me to get started on a career in music. Secondly I would buy somewhere to live (I have never owned my own home), with a smallholding, grow some food, cultivate a garden and try to live in a more ecological, sustainable way.
PF: What song would you like played at your funeral?
TB: A song I would choose would be ‘What Goes On’ by the Velvet Underground. The song has a life affirming energy and conveys joy and reminds me of my own experiences of making music when the band hits a ‘peak moment’.
PF: What would you like our next album to sound like?
TB: Well, we have both expressed an interest in making an orchestrated album with strings and brass. It’s so wonderful to hear these instruments being recorded. Think Lee Hazelwood, Ennio Morricone meets Echo And The Bunnymen’s album Ocean Rain.