Interview: Tony Wright
It’s not just the part of a throwaway world that we live in now, so that's why it's The Anti Album.
With his new album, the aptly titled The Anti Album, Tony Wright lays down a collection of personal acoustic songs that are in turns both heart wrenching and heart warming and demonstrates his impressive skill as both a songwriter and a performer. Gavin Brown had an extensive chat with Tony about the new record and its creation, hitting the road as a solo artist and his time with Terrorvision.
E&D: Your new solo album, The Anti Album is out now. How did the creation of the album go?
Tony: Quite naturally. It’s been about five years since I did the album, probably ten years since I did the first album. I kind of preferred the approach of the first album, being just acoustic. I enjoyed making the second album being all electric but I like the idea of just picking up a guitar wherever you are with no production, so I suppose the environment was ripe for it. I’ve been writing the album for probably three years, and then during lockdown I threw the album away and wrote this album instead.There’s a few of the ideas that I took and kept. The lockdown was the perfect environment to make an album that sounds like you’re crying into a cup of soup on your bed
E&D: Was the whole album inspired by that lockdown period and how you were feeling?
Tony: I suppose one song was definitely a lockdown song. It’s called ‘Hearts And Minds’. I think it was that time when you’re sat on your own and thinking too much. When we come out of there, are we just going to pick up where we left off or is it going to be a question of having to rebuild? We lost everything and it’s weird because playing in bands and stuff like that, going out and touring, I’ve seen people are still a bit worried about coming out. Getting back to the songwriting, we had a lot of time where we couldn’t do and anything but I have a guitar. I’ll go and sit on my bed on the couch, and I play a guitar. Obviously, the pace that you write the music that you’re writing is linked to the feelings that you have, so there’s no bang, bang, baby, kind of glam rock songs on there. It’s more thoughtful. I’ve always loved rock music but growing up I loved the feeling and the power, the way the speakers made my t-shirt shake and the way the bass made my heartbeat a different rhythm, you know, so I love rock but I was never a fan of shit lyrics. Growing up there was a lot of shit lyrics in heavy metal, the secret shadows of yesterday’s love walk into the castles of tomorrow, it’s drivel so I’ve always written songs about what I know and about being from Bradford. It’s all a bit blunt and people might say, Oh, you don’t write songs about the boring things in life. You write songs about exciting things. Well, now I write songs about what I’m all about and that’s where the album came from.
E&D: Why did you decide to call the album The Anti Album?
Tony: It’s The Anti Album because there’s been years and years of music changing, things like Spotify. When we started with Terrorvision, we signed to EMI and they said, Is there anything you want from us? And we said, Yeah, we don’t want to be on EMI because all the dodgy old rock bands are cliche. It’s dishonest. Making the album was really lucky because I went up to record and capture the sounds in Edwyn Collins’ studio. I’ve worked with Edwyn before so I know that his input is there. You have to listen to it because it makes sense. He senses the music is actually the thing to the words and the words are the visuals, the story. I worked with Steve Chrisanthou, who mixed the album, I’ve known him since the late 80s and he’s written some massive hits, he’s been really successful, but he makes pop records, so I’m really interested to see how a producer of pop music, who mixes pop music would approach this album of songs about the trajectory of life. The things that most people don’t want to sing about, and these rhythms and melodies and harmonies and parts that I’ve written, that are nothing like pop music. So I sent him some songs. First song, we check out the intro, and this is what I wanted him to say because then it vilified me what I was doing. I wanted to make an album. He said to me, people have told me it’s 30 seconds, and you have to be into the chorus or the hook of a song because the Spotify generation don’t have that patience to listen to the intro and let the story build up and then come in with it. They’ll just like, Alexa, next track, I thought, right, that really vilifies me in putting a big intro in. I grew up and I remember, waiting for an album to come out, I’d save up for the album, then go into town, buy the album and get on a bus and I’d look at the album, all the way home, then I’d go in, I wouldn’t speak to anyone downstairs and go to my bedroom. I’d put the record on and I’d sit down and listen, while I looked at the pictures, and I read the words and just examine this record, and then flip it over and listen to side two By the end of it, I’d have a favourite album because we’ve been on an adventure together! I hadn’t gone, sat in the room got my phone out, which didn’t exist back then, and go Spotify, play the latest album by Tony Wright and not be invested in this. I want to challenge that, and I want it to equally piss people off. If that’s what they want it, I don’t want them to like it. I wrote an album for people who want to get this album, sit down and actually listen to it, not have it playing in the back, you have to invest in it, you have to get on that imaginary bus and take that imaginary trip into town in that imaginary ride back home reading the cover, and then sit down and listen, not just the part of a throwaway world that we live in now, so that’s why it’s The Anti Album.
E&D: What’s the reaction to the to the album been like so far?
Tony: The reaction has been good, actually, I think people are getting where it’s coming from and I think a lot of people are shocked that it is quite as honest as it is, but why not? The only shock is most people don’t do on this stuff anymore. You know, because they don’t want to hear the harsh realities sometimes, you know, the boring bits in life, but that’s what brings us all together.
E&D: Did you naturally plan for some of the material to be noticeably darker with everything going on?
Tony: I didn’t mean it to be dark, but became quite aware as I was writing it that it was quite dark and uncomfortable. I think uncomfortable is the right thing to say about it but then that just made me think I’m not going to change the only song that I’ve kinda thought it was too dark. You’d only get it if you’d been in that place, and I actually thought if you’ve been in this place, which I’m sure a lot of people have, you’re not really going to want to edit when you’re not in that place you don’t want to be so I did twist the lyrics around a little bit and give it more of a sort of cowboy sort of vibe.
E&D: Once the album comes out are you looking forward to hitting the road again?
Tony: I love playing live. I love it. You don’t know what people’s reactions are when you can’t see, and I like the fact that when you play live, you’re sort of on the edge of messing everything up. I like that kind of edginess of being vulnerable. I think the album caught vulnerability as well. I think that’s part of the awkwardness that you’re singing things people don’t necessarily expect or want to hear, but when they listen to it played live, they get it. I just love playing live. I always have done, from Terrorvision onwards. The best part about music is live music.
E&D: Is it just going to be you and your guitar or are you going to have anyone with you on this run?
Tony: I have Milly with me quite a lot of the time, he is a better player than me but I don’t mean I can’t play the songs that I wrote without him. I have two approaches to it, if Milly’s there, I’ll involve him and If he’s not there, I have to make all the mistakes so we can all pretend he is there.
E&D: Are you be going to do a lot of the new album with some older solo stuff and maybe some Terrorvision songs too?
Tony: I think I’d like to play the album to people, take them through the album, start to finish and then play them some of the songs from other albums, playing maybe a cover version or a couple of Terrorvision tracks, a bit like a wedding, something borrowed, a bit of a blues, something old, something new. That’s what I like but it’s a challenge. You’re playing songs that people haven’t heard before, so it goes to one of two ways. Luckily, it’s been going the point of people stopping and listening because with acoustic music, you always run a risk of playing in a room where people just start talking. I don’t know why, sometimes the awkwardness that’s in these songs, actually grabbed your ear, and you go, Oh, then you have to listen.
E&D: Was it strange when you first started playing live solo after being in a band for so long?
Tony: It was a necessity really, to keep my sanity. I wasn’t in a good place at the time, and it was to give me a bit of a kick. I’m not going to go into it, but it wasn’t nice. I needed to get out and be busy and not be stuck where I was stuck at that time. It distracted me. It’s great. It’s music. It gets you through but that’s because I love music. It’s not not a fashion thing.
E&D: How did your recent gigs with Terrorvision go?
Tony: Great. You do first one, and it hurts like hell and you think I’ll never walk again! The next day, you can hardly talk. The second, you feel battered while you’re doing but the adrenaline gets you through. The the third one, you get fit, you feel good. The aches go with ibuprofen. Then you’re good to go! We just played Sheffield, and then some nights in Blackpool. You know, you’ve made it when you play two nights in Blackpool!
E&D: Have you got more gigs with Terrorvision coming up and maybe, a new album?
Tony: Terrorvision is one of them things. I’ll be doing Terrorvsion things forever, and I’ll go out with them later on. We don’t have to put an album out because the record label is saying you do a new album. We’ll put an album out which we’ve got ten or twelve really cracking tunes that people aren’t going to be diddled out of the cache if they were to come out and support it and purchase it.
E&D: What have been some of the best moments with Terrorvision over the years?
Tony: It was all one big magic moment. I can’t remember a lot of it, that’s how bonkers it were. I got on a tour bus in 1992 or whenever it was, and usually when you got on a bus in Bradford it was to go to school or to go to work. This was like a magic bus in different places, different adventures. When we shut the door on the back of Rock City, next time we opened it we’d be outside Dudley JBS, it was like Mr Benns changing room! I’ve been lots of places where if I’d had a bit more now about me, I would have been more culturally inclined towards them but it was a party from start to finish, and we survived it. That’s something to celebrate in itself. We played in Italy at a record shop and we went and I’m thinking why have we only sold about ten records before I realised in Italy was like the bootleg capital of the world. You might not have sold that many records but everyone’s heard them. We go there, I think it was gonna be ten people at a gig and thousands turned up, and it was like being in the Beatles. We went through the back door onto this stage from a fire exit, started playing and the kids went wild! The pictures were coming off the wall, the players were getting trashed and security was screaming at us to get out of the back doors of this venue and we’ve gone out, we’ve jumped in a van and as we set off the kids came around the corner and were banging on the windows and crying, you don’t get that every day! It’s an experience, same token, standing at the back of the stage on stage two at Donington and I think Pantera had just finished, and Sepultura would have been on the main stage next, and I’m looking into an empty field thinking nobody’s going to come. Forty five minutes later, I said, “Put your hands in the air. Oh, goodness, my gracious” of ‘Oblivion’ and tens of thousands of rockers all the way to the burger bars at the back are doing it! That’s an amazing feeling, and to go out on the main stage at Reading on the same token to play and hear people singing back songs that you you didn’t ever think anyone would hear is really special.