by Margaqret Chrystall
Singer Tony Wright is the frontman of Bradford rockers Terrorvision who got together in 1988 with guitarist Mark Yates, bassist Leigh Marklew, drummer Iain ‘Shutty’ Shuttleworth and keyboard player Milton Evans. They were signed in 1991 to EMI Records and the song My House gave them their first Top 30 single. They toured with The Ramones and Motorhead, their second album in 1994 How To Make Friends And Influence People was their breakthrough with five top-30 singles during 1994, including Oblivion, Alice, What’s The Matter?catapulting the band into the mainstream. Album number three, Regular Urban Survivors released in 1996, gave them four more Top-30 singles, including Perseverance and Celebrity Hitlist, which debuted at number five on the UK charts and the album went gold. Celebrating their success, tequila-fuelled, in Madrid whilst on another European jaunt, Tony smashed both his ankles trying to scale the walls of the Hard Rock café to rearrange its famous logo. Their fourth album for EMI, Shaving Peaches, saw the band work with four different producers – including Edwyn Collins – but by now EMI wanted out. Yet they were spared when Zoe Ball – then presenter of Radio 1’s breakfast show – began playing a remix of their track, Tequila all the time. EMI rush-released the track, and it went to number two in the singles chart.
But the band was dropped by EMI, though a new deal with Papillon Records in 2000 saw the band release what was to be their last album for 10 years in 2001. Good To Go gave them another Top-30 hit, D’ya Wanna Go Faster and the Neil McClellan (Prodigy) produced album was generally well. But after 10 years the band decided to finish with a sold-out farewell tour.
Mark, Tony and Leigh threw themselves into other musical projects (Laika Dog, Malibu Stacey, Blunderbuss, Broken Hearts Club band) as well as dry-stone wall building, painting, graphic design and opening a tattoo studio. The boys reunited in 2005, again in 2007 and every year since to play gigs. In 2009 they celebrated the 15th anniversary of their How To Make Friends And Influence People album by playing the whole album each night. New material was written, though drummer Shutty was replaced after 20 glorious years by Cam Greenwood for the writing and recording of the first new album in 10 years, Super Delux.
1 Looking back, though you had lots of hit songs like Oblivion, Perseverance, Celebrity Hit List etc, Tequila was the one that got you to number two in the singles chart. But I seem to recall even the release of that song wasn’t planned – you’d originally had another song in mind. How did it all happen? The one you’d planned to release I think was called Day After Day and a few singles were pressed – are they worth a fortune today!? Oh, and do you actually like tequila?
Tony Wright: I think Day After Day was going to be the single released. Can’t even say I have a copy, but maybe there are one or two out there. It all went a bit haywire and chaotic after Zoe Ball starting playing Tequila on her Radio 1 show. It was a remix of our tune, to be fair. But it was fun and one of the better remixes we had heard so we were happy to let it go out. There wasn’t many of the team that we started with left at EMI either, so I think we knew it would be a good way to part with them. I prefer the version we recorded and definitely the one me and Milly play on the acoustics, but in fairness the one that got to number two in the charts sounded like the kinda stuff they played on the radio. I think we and everyone that knew Terrorvision would say it wasn’t the best of our tunes but it was all good clean harmless fun. As Kenny Everett had done for Bohemian Rhapsody, Zoe had done for Tequila and we thank her for the ensuing parties that were had. Yes, I do like tequila and yes it does make me happy.... most of the time.
2 Looking back over time, Terrorvision haven’t really been away for long with revivals and the acoustic version and album in 2011. Did it prove difficult for you to make a break to do your own solo stuff, Tony?
Tony Wright: I think Terrorvision finished with the last gig in Bradford. We loved the reunion gigs and it was great fun making the super deluxe album. Great times were had reminiscing and that was due to everyone from the band to the folk who supported shaking a double six at the same time and agreeing it was what we all needed. That is why Terrorvision can’t just roll out and go through the motions for the sake of it. There was a lot of passion involved and that was more important than anything. So when that wasn’t going to work as it should, I wanted to play with the songs and learn new approaches. Starting with acoustifying (is that a word?!) some of the old tunes in a new way for people to hear in a different way and approach and listen in alternative way. So the new album was the natural progression from all I learnt doing that. Wanting to write better songs all the time but not settling in one sound that is safe and sound, is important. So it wasn’t difficult, it was very natural and flowing. Also when you have a big gang of songs tapping you on the shoulder saying “Sing me!” it is something you have to do. The reaction to the pledge was the confirmation on the cake.
3 The current tour will include classic and “reimagined” Terrorvision songs plus of course the new album. Tell us a little bit about what to expect and your own album.
Tony Wright: The new album was a must. A collection of songs that started from situations that I wouldn’t want to talk about mostly and ended in things I’d kinda like to shout from the roof tops. Strange how you end up singing about both. I recorded it acoustically because I wanted it to have a rawness that often gets lost when albums are ‘produced’. I like the openness and space and also think that approach can give a result that is as heavy as all the Marshall stacks and pointy guitars in the world.
Honesty is kinda harsh if you know what I mean?
My mate Gav set it up for me to make it happen by giving me a kick up the butt and a way out of a dark place and into a studio.
He set up the pledge project and that gave me a lot of confidence that I needed and also a record label that is run and decisions made by the top record company executives ie the world...the music lovers and passionate fans.
I remember him telling me, if folk want to hear it they will let you know by pledging and if they don’t then you will find that out too. Within 24 hours I was booked into a studio in Doncaster that I thought had the best mics to make the best album I could, to say thanks.
4 You presented Top Of the Pops and were on Never Mind The Buzzcocks quite a bit - did you ever thinking of turning to TV as a career?
Tony Wright: Funny that, I got offered stuff in front of cameras. Good stuff too, but I loved playing and writing music too much to spread it thin and say I have two jobs. There are plenty of folk out there who just want to be seen and maybe not the best business sense on my part. But maybe with YouTube and stuff like that I can incorporate the camera and the microphones how I see they should be. Me and Milly have a good laugh playing and travelling so we’re bringing a camera on tour with us and let’s see what happens...
5 Is there one moment from the Terrorvision years that puzzles or mystifies you or – for whatever reason – still plays around your mind?
Tony Wright: Why did they only play Tequila on the radio when we had tunes that were so much better? But I think I know the answer, so it doesn’t really play on my mind. It’s just the answer off the top of my head to your question!
6 And I suppose this might just be the other side of the coin. What would be the ultimate Terrorvision moment for you?
Tony Wright: Touring was the best memories.We got on a bus and travelled everywhere playing to folk who were just like us and had a blast. We grew up, we lived and a few times it nearly killed us but we were gtting to play for amongst the best folk in the world – all over the world. Whether it was two people in a pub at the start in Wales to 60,000 people at a festival in sunny Spain, we have always felt at home ‘cos everyone made us feel that way and welcome. It’s a blessing.
7 Does the current solo tour feel like something different for you, though I know you have Terrorvision’s Milly aka Milton with you?
Tony Wright: It is something you either do or you don’t and when I run out of songs or the passion for it I hope I won’t. But for now I love every bit of my life and that makes me want to sing along with everyone and inspires me to write constantly. I think I had that suppressed for a while and so now I am back on that bus and I don’t want to get off ...
Next stop Scotland and we can’t wait.
Tony Wright plays Inverness Ironworks on Wednesday (Nov 5), Elgin’s Drouthy Cobbler on Thursday, Stornoway Woodlands Centre on Friday and Aviemore Old Bridge Inn on Saturday (November 8).