David Mock places a call to the man behind "Images of Heaven"

I spoke with Peter Godwin in London on March thirteenth, a Friday. I discussed his new compilation on Oglio, as well as the new album he's working on, about which he was very optimistic.

David Mock: After Correspondence you dropped out of sight. What have you been doing since then?
Peter Godwin: Well, I've been doing a lot of different things. I didn't stop writing songs. I've been writing songs for other people, and producing records as well for other people. I'd been doing that anyway, but obviously not everything I've written has been recorded by somebody. A lot of the artists I've done things for you wouldn't necessarily know of. For example there's a chap who's based in Germany who came to me because he liked some things I did years ago. He had this record deal at the time with EMI, but he's Dutch. What he does is more like Brit pop, that's what I think when I hear it. We co-wrote two albums together for him. His name is Michel Van Dyke (sp?) He had an album called Reincarnated, which we did together, another called Cosmetica. I really like him. He's got a great voice as well, a bit unusual. His roots are in David Bowie, kind of earlier David Bowie maybe. I've been working also with French singers, different things. Other than that, the main thing I've been doing is acting.

DM: What have you done?
PG: I've done all sorts, films, and a lot of English television. I just finished a month on the latest Stanley Kubrick film, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, called Eyes Wide Shut. It's the first film he's made in 12 years. I don't know what will really end up in the film because he shoots a lot, and not everything is kept. I have done things in the past where I ended up on the cutting room floor (laughs). I did one film with John Goodman where the whole plot line I was in got discarded. On the other hand I've done things where I had a more principal role. I did a film with a French director, called Somewhere, Someone, last year; it's a short film, like half an hour long. I think acting and making music, it's sort of the same territory in a way. There's a lot of overlap really. Of course when you're a singer you write your own scripts, don't you? Which in a way is why I came back to making music. I hadn't really stopped but I had stopped as an artist and I thought I'd really missed it. And because there was an interest, this collection Oglio's put out, that came about through an indirect thing: I heard that this label were interested in doing it, and I met with the guy. We had a good rapport, and I happened to have with me this song that I'd written, that I'd intended at first for a girl to sing, "Rendezvous," and he liked it. I said, well, I had this idea that it would make a good duet, and even better if it was in French and English, and he was really enthusiastic about the idea. This girl Sasha [who sings on Rendezvous], I think it worked out well. In fact I'm doing some new things with her as well; we've done a couple of tracks already. I've just finished writing something in French she's gonna do in the middle of the song. But I took [Rendezvous] back to Carl at Oglio and he so much liked it that the idea came of, well, let's have some new material on it too. So that's why there are the new tracks, although what I'm doing now is more like an album with a single atmosphere. What I'm planning for the future is you put the CD on and you get kind of one feeling through the whole thing. Obviously the songs are different, they take you slightly different places, but one kind of atmosphere to it.

DM: Any idea when we might see the new album?
PG: Not yet, no. It's early days. I have a strong feeling that I'm gonna get this next album out, but I don't know when. First of all I want to see what happens with "Rendezvous." I want to see that the CD gets out everywhere and that people get to hear it. We did have a nice review in Billboard. But it's always nice when you do something you like, which I think is what you have to do, really. You've got to start just by making your own creative decisions. That's the thing about being creative: You just take a leap and hope that someone out there, it touches them.

DM: You've made some references to Baudelaire and Rosetti what sort of literary and artistic background do you have?
PG: I have really quite a diverse artistic background. I went to college and basically what I did was literature. By which I mean that I've always liked reading, and poetry. Obviously everything you read kind of informs on some level what you do. But I don't want that to sound too pretentious, because it's not like I sit down and think "I'm going to do a kind of Baudelaire lyric now." The truth is, lyrics come from very personal experience. They can come from ideas you have about the world. There are ideas like that in the song "Another World," obviously ideas to do with reincarnation, which come from those kind of thoughts. Which is nothing; you don't have to have read the Tibetan Book of the Dead, or something to have those thoughts. Everything impacts on what you write; your personal experiences, I won't go so far as to say what you eat, although it might do (laughs). More obviously as well, film. I think in the sleeve notes I mentioned about "Naked Smile," that it was inspired byDegas. It actually was inspired by something specific, that song, which is unusual. And maybe because I'd been sort of invisible for a few years and here I was beginning to write songs, I knew that someone was going to hear them. The image of this artist working by half-light because that was how he wanted to see things. So when you say "influences" I could give you a list of things that I like, but that's only part of the story of what influences what I write. One of the reasons there's French around, I've found, ironically, is that I have French in me, that I'm quarter French. Which I didn't know, but I had a kind of an affection for French culture. I like lots of different kinds of music. It's an interesting thing that when artists are asked, "what music do you like?" they tend to say whatever is fashionable to like at that time. You know they're very self-conscious about what people will say about what they like. There are certain very hip artists that can always be safely mentioned, you know? I guess anybody feels they can mention somebody like Miles Davis, even if they're not big jazz fans, just because he was very cool. Billie Holiday, you know? Depending on where they're coming from. But I have to say I like all kinds of music, everything, really the whole range. Classical, and even opera occasionally, right through different kinds of jazz, different kinds of blues, contemporary music of course, all the stuff you call R&B, everybody calls it R&B now though I find that kind of confusing in a way because I think of it as soul music. Anything that's trying to do something different, I find interesting. Like Kate Bush, for example, is a very unique artist. Nobody else is Kate Bush- she's not a genre, is she?

DM: Well, Kate Bush might be.
PG: You think she might be? I think she's quite original, I hear a song like her first ever, "Wuthering Heights," it's hard when you hear a song like that. You can't exactly say she was listening to somebody and doing her version of somebody else, whereas a lot of music you can hear it and say, "oh yes, they were listening to this." But that's not a simple answer, is it? You just wanted me to give you three different people I like.

DM: No, I'd rather have this, actually.
PG: But some of the influences are obvious, aren't they?

DM: Especially the French.
PG: I once did a tour supporting Correspondence years ago in France and I did a lot of interviews just because it was unusual to have someone who could speak French. They were quite surprised when they asked me what I knew about French music, to find out that I knew quite a lot.

DM: You mentioned Gainsborg [in the liner notes].
PG: He kind of created his own music, although most people, outside of "JeT'Aime...Moi Non Plus," they don't know what he did. But what is interesting about European artists is they do their own thing, they're not specifically pop or rock. Another example would be, say, Leonard Cohen. He's somebody that just took his own space and just said "to hell with it, I do what I like." I like any artist really who has their own style. I might be linked in America to whatever you were calling it at the time, new wave, I guess, alternative, but that to me was almost a coincidence. You end up maybe giving an electronic sound to something so you get grouped in with electronic music; that's maybe just because you're enjoying using some kind of new toys that are around, but they're all just things that make sounds. It's just some way of generating an atmosphere, isn't it, really? I just think it's nice to use everything myself; I always think it's nice to experiment and use different things. And now it's fantastic because people can do this and they don't have to go into a studio that's going to cost them $2000 a day.

DM: And they don't even have to be musicians.
PG: In fact they don't have to be musicians, but I guess they've got to have a musical ear. They have to have the ability to hear it and to know what they're listening to. I guess that's always what a record is: you imagine it in your head and you try and create it. But it's always good when you can play, because it's quicker. It means you can get the idea from inside to outside by a shorter route. I'm sure a lot of great songs and records disappeared down this dark alley of technology trying to work something out, trying to find some sound. I had live bands when we went in the studios, like with "Metro." We had real drummers, and the classic thing was the engineer and the drummer would have this kind of very special relationship where they'd spend ages getting a sound on the snare drum, hours and hours banging the snare drum; we must re- position the microphone to get that perfect sound. But in the centre of that, if you're writing songs and they've got singing on them there's always going to be the human voice, and that is very expressive, isn't it?

DM: On the Japanese Metro CD there are two songs, "Naive," and "Innocence" that are credited as being from Public Zone. What exactly is that?
PG: That is kind of interesting. When Metro made its first album, Sean Lyons and myself decided that we wanted to go off and form another band. It was basically the relationship we had with Duncan Browne; we felt we'd come as far as we could. In the meantime we went through this idea that we might just change our name. While we were still with what was then Logo Records, that single was put out under the ridiculous name Public Zone. How we came up with that don't ask me. Now the line-up on that is what's interesting: We didn't have our own drummer; the drummer we'd used on the first [Metro] album, Simon Phillips, was just a dynamite young session drummer that everybody wanted to use and still do. Then when we decided we were getting another Metro together, at that time Sean was sharing a flat with Stewart Copeland, from the Police. There was a little gap in between when [Roxanne and Can't Stand Losing You] were released, and when they were [hits], when [The Police] were kind of not certain of their future. We loved his drumming, and Stewart Copeland plays on both of the tracks. We wanted him to stay with us, of course, because he's such a great drummer, but it was kind of, "I think I'll stick with The Police and see how it goes." And to coin a clich, the rest is history (laughs). I got a surprise, I didn't even know about that CD being re-issued. I guess they put ['Naive' and 'Innocence'] on to fill up the time, really. And also, we demoed them originally at Vangelis' studio, but we didn't actually record them there. It's so long ago (laughs) that it's hard for me to remember, but I certainly remember Stewart playing the drums.

DM: Where did the idea for French Emotions come from?
PG: That was me, what can I say? I like French poetry, and I thought it would be nice just to do, like, when the music becomes almost a soundtrack, and you have something dramatic spoken over the top. It was a bit of a challenge to translate it and keep the rhythm. The reason that I thought of doing ["Rendezvous"] at all in French was literally I was over at some friends' in Paris listening and they, "oh, this'd sound really good in French," and they sowed that seed. And suddenly I'm back doing things in French. It's probably strange because it looks like I'm obsessed with French culture, when in a funny way it's kind of an accident. The funny thing is I speak other languages. I speak German. If I spoke Spanish well enough, I think that's a nice language for music. I'd probably use that if it was more available to me. When I started out with Metro, at the time everybody was doing a kind of music that was based on American music. I thought, "Well, England is an island, and it's got its own great history of music, but we're also part of the Continent." People living in London mix with European people all the time, it's just natural. It's sort of part of your back yard, really. So in a way, I think, I started out to reflect that in what I do, it's literally part of my culture. It's not an artificial thing; it's just there. Now, 20 years after that first Metro album, people think very much in European terms, don't they? Or it's not just European, they think internationally. The Internet contributes to that, doesn't it? The global village idea of the sixties, it's now like shrunk even smaller. The village really is a village. I think for an artist you just think, it's an opportunity; why not use French? Why not use anything you feel like, if it creates an atmosphere? It's amazing when you can go to another country and it really opens your eyes to another rhythm, another way of living, another way of looking at things, you know? One day the world's going to turn around and realise that whole languages and people and cultures have suddenly just been erased. You have that feeling, because for us it's a loss, because variety is exciting. There's a lot out there for us to enjoy, isn't there? Might as well enjoy it.

DM: I went through a phase there where I was convinced there was no good music coming out, but of course I was very wrong.
PG: I can understand that. I go through phases myself. Certainly in England there was a time when you just weren't hearing anything that you didn't find kind of irritating. But I think things are better now, don't you? I think as well you get artists who have their moment when they're really in touch with something, and they do something special, and that moment comes and goes, and they never find it again. But then one thing I like about America, I have to say: as far as artists are concerned, they're very loyal. They give them more of a chance than they do in this country. In England it' s very much music and fashion. If it was really hip last year then we shouldn't listen to it this year. From an artist's point of view it's a challenge in one way, but in another it's kind of irritating, because you don't want to be chasing marketing trends, do you? There's more of a pop tradition in England, in a way, and pop is to do with fashion, whereas in America it's more connected with rock, which is more to do with alternative lifestyles.

Visit David Mock's website at-DavdMock@America.Net-Tons of great stuff on Peter Godwin, Mari Wilson, Swing Out Sister, Belious Some and more!

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