Strait interview

twinslive

The autumn 1982 issue of Greenbelt publication Strait Magazine featured an extensive stream-of-consciousness interview with the Techno Twins. The roving reporter was Greenbelt stalwart and Fat Band lynchpin James Holloway. Enjoy!…

“Portobello Road, smelling and looking of fish and jeans. A fresh-faced policeman, ‘Tavistock Road, don’t you usually say please?’ I always smile nicely instead and clinch the deal tapping his rain soaked gabardine.

Bev Sage baths and reappears.

Bev. The Bauhaus in Germany. Kadinsky and Clay and all that crowd, they had this place in Wortenburg. It was a commune for arts. They actually had painters, performers, the whole thing working together and they had one section of the Bauhaus which was theatre. I mean a lot of the designs were strict German design, a lot of Habitat chairs all came from that era. It’s very functional the whole basis of the design, the furniture was functional but then there were the fine artists and the performing arts, the theatre. The whole idea of Mechanical Ballet came from that lot and Casualtease. That’s where we thought of that kind of thing. What they used to do was each member of the theatre would create weird costumes. Grace Jones’ latest publicity picture is very Bauhaus orientated. They would create sheet metal legs so you would find someone on stage with this huge metal leg.

What happened was they used to put on shows and they would arrive somewhere, instead of planning it (they would have certain restrictions) like their costumes and design, but at the gig they’d just go for it, get out in the audience. It was very much you arrive and improvise.

I suppose it was a desire to find out whatever is out there that happens whenever you perform with different people. It’s like letting yourself go rather than working to very heavy restrictions. When we are Techno Twinning it’s more the heavy restrictions. I mean we are working with dancers so it’s choreographed. From the very loose Casualtease where we extend the edge of the stage so it goes beyond the normal concept that was a kinda way about finding out about the stage itself.

When we write we write visually. We see it. Like Mechanical Ballet Bauhaus mixed in.

Steve and I tend not to be serious at least that’s what tends to come over but behind it there is a lot of well… pleasure and pain…

Steve. Bev where did you put my shirt?

Bev. They’re hanging up in the kitchen (Steve’s wandering around naked.)

Good grief.

Steve. Where were we? Yeh I suppose a lot of the time we hid a lot of the painful things that go on. When you think we have had two bankrupt record companies.

Things have improved a lot now anyway, a lot of session work for me has come in.

I’m very good at pushing camels through the eyes of needles. We reckon it’s easy.

Bev. From our background we tend to trust people so implicitly. Anybody that says yes you believe it.

Steve. It’s funny as Christians you are taught to find a Christ in people. To see the good points. We’ve suffered from that because we treat everybody as if they’re honest.

Bev phones for a taxi, it’s late, we get in. Someone else ordered this one. We get out. Our taxi arrives and takes us to The Dominion where Technos are supporting Imagination that night. Two male dancers called Flex, great robots, were being rehearsed for the Techno show. Nobody can find anybody it’s getting late. Eventually the boys do it in a cramped dressing room. They are good.

Dominion Foyer.

Steve. That’s difficult. What we do, Bev and I write lyrics, we have a feel for a song like Mechanical Ballet and Lunatic Republic which are both on the Technorchestra album. We write visually. Lunatic is about a country where everybody was insane and it must be like Christ coming back to the earth and just seeing the whole thing gone mayhem and he’s standing on a beach and there were dwarfs and seven foot Chaplins and stuff. It doesn’t make any sense anymore. So we tend to write in visual concepts and then get a feel for the music. Then we take it to Dave Hewson, tell him what we want. On the two albums really just the three of us did it. We got the bass or drummer in as necessary. But that is the end of that era really. We want to work more with musicians and that’s why this tour is great because all these boys will be working on the next album.

Bev. Technos came from an old Famous Names song Techno Refugee. We wanted to describe the whole area we’re going into so we thought Techno was a good nickname. We thought that would describe the electronics of what we were doing.

Steve. I mean you think of Techno you don’t think of Jazz/Funk. The twin thing was merely to promote the fact that the two of us were spearheading it. The problem with Famous was that no one knew who to focus in to.

Bev. It’s a good way of describing like the dancers we call the Technets, musicians we call the Techno Orchestra and we work from the Techno Embassy. And the Techno Discs. We set up our own label.

Steve. Names of bands don’t generally indicate the philosophy of the band. If you think of Nazareth you don’t think of donkeys or the Boomtown Rats being into rats. Our philosophy is quite different to technology if you want to take it as that.

Bev. The thread that’s been running through the last year or so has been mixing up old and new. Like in terms of material choice of covers. Technos are a kitsch mixture.

Steve. People tend to ask does your album say anything. If you look at specific songs they say a lot. Techno Refugee is purely about someone trapped in a technological society.

Bev. Lunatic Republic is…

Steve. I’ve explained that one. I’ll say it again if Christ returned to the planet how he’d see it. The whole blue hair stuff. Standing on a beach what’d he think?

Bev. It’s like a Fellini fairground.

Blue hair, pink hair, dressing up, do you see as important?

Steve. It’s purely what you select. My shoes are as cheap as yours, jeans about the same, this (shirt) cost about four quid. So it’s purely how you choose things. We don’t advocate spending money.

Bev. I suppose what I enjoy about dressing up… I remember the first write-up I got in Record Mirror in the middle of the punk thing was Bev likes dressing up. I died because you had to be into jeans and leather. It underlies what we enjoy but it’s not something to get obsessive about but there is an innocent enjoyment that’s there in colour and shape.

Steve. Kids on rainy days love dressing up. You know in the Bible we are told to be like children. Nigel Goodwin said the answer is simply to say you enjoy dresing up. I mean we sit in the flat and have a belly laugh, Bev comes in and stitches a dead cat onto her coat or something.

Bev. It’s not meant as a posey thing.

Steve. We used to go into churches and get told we were free from sin, released and got new life. If sitting there with a suit on, really stiff I mean, if that’s a symbol of new life I don’t really want to know the message and if they see that as an important part of the message then they are cutting out 80% of the population, if you look at the whole of creation. One of the biggest stories in the Bible is based on the coat of many colours. People tend to forget that his plan for his people worked through a very bizarre item of clothes. Lydia, who was one of the greatest women in the Bible, was a dyer of purple, her job was to make colour on clothes. In creation why did God make peacocks, why did he put those colours there? I mean they talk about Bev’s hair but compared to a peacock she looks like a nun.

Bev. God’s first promise was a rainbow.

Techno Fun and Techno Feats. Look what technology is doing to people, so criticise it and perhaps move back to the country and the simple life, are you injecting some fun into the techno culture?

Bev. The nickname Techno suggests that. It’s like Steve’s Chaplin lookalike thing. We have both written scripts for that. Like Chaplin falling through a space invader machine. So you have got the serious players of these games, and then someone like Chaplin comes along and pokes fun at it. He gets involved but isn’t quite sure what’s happening.

Steve. I think also the danger with Christian subculture thinking is that whenever a project is presented to them they want to see the downside of things, what’s wrong with it? What are the problems and how unbiblical? The instructions for building the ark were precise technology there is nothing wrong with that. The amount of fun technology has given television and films. You just tend to think of blood banks, we are all being taped. I don’t think it’s a downbeat thing.

Bev. I think we are adjusting to it all the time but it does wear people down, it’s a definite drainer. That’s why we have got to get a very healthy attitude to it. Look at the freedom it’s given us.

Re-formed images, paradigm shifts, the Bible as propositional and imaginative art.

Steve. What you are saying is quite true about us. When we go on stage it’s just four beats to a bar, a revox, that’s the technical but the other side is Bev and me and the dancers that’s the humanity, the fun, and it’s integrated very well.

Bev. It’s an area we want to push even further especially musically, emotionally and personality wise.

Steve. We want to get more spirit into the feel.

Bev. We are very passionate about the sound and the notes equally as we are with the visual. We talk visually about recording the sound.

Steve. Bev is a more up-front passionate person than me. Marjorie Proops, she gets more passionate about involvement in music. The kick I get is an idea well expressed. I wouldn’t classify myself as a singer, I’m a stylist.

There is a lot more to come. If you look at our press clippings there was only Fabulous Poodles, Deaf School, Super Charged, Darts, Tubes, Split Enz and ourselves that were doing visual stuff. Ours is very different to theirs but we were well up with them. Three years ago no one came up and said you’ve ripped that off from somewhere. With Casuals and Technos, white bags over our heads, double beds on stage, nobody had really done that. That really was well over the top.

Bev. We haven’t really begun yet. Up to now we haven’t really had the money. Everything we have done has been home grown.

Steve. The show tonight is a home made project, the clothes etc. Way back you remember the rubber guitar, yeh we would love to pursue all that. It is all entertainment, I do love entertainment.

The danger is with all this structure bit. There are two ways of making a picture of a landscape, one is to paint it say very freely like a kid would do it, splash on the clouds and sun and so on. The danger is we’ve all been handed these jigsaw puzzles. The first way here is to do the edges, then you do the sky, it becomes very tedious, there is enjoyment in that but it’s not like a kid would do it. All these structures that we’ve been given, we have to make a square and it’s got to fit together. We’re kids really, that’s the problem.

Bev. We like our jigsaws unfinished, dropped on the floor.

Steve. Look there’s a couple of bits of sky there… You were saying talking about the Plato thing how education is based on a Greek view of life, workers work and thinkers think and how wrong that aspect is and we should be getting into the Hebrew thing. Funny comment here, if you are what you eat don’t eat any more doner kebabs, or Greek food. I was in Edinburgh and you get a lot of Victorian plaques, like James Craigie lived here, theologian, philanthropist etc. and these guys specialised in several things you know there was no separation of these subjects.

Bev. All these old boys there was no division, they were huge in what they covered. The whole point of the Bauhaus was to mix up functionalism with art, bearing in mind the two went together.

Steve. That’s where architects have gone wrong, it’s purely a technocratic function, they’ve forgotten the humanity. To put rubber bricks in the wall that you push when you go past I’m up for all that. There is this book out, Fantastic Merlin the Magician and the West Coast by Tom Davies and he equates spiritual and Christian feelings with riding a bike…

What really annoys. Like when tonight we shall be playing to two thousand people and you really have to come with the goods, people are paying to come in. If they are not entertained they will have you off. When we go to church, spiritually people have paid all week and you sit there. Someone has been to college for three years to learn spiritual truth and they get up there, stumble over the microphone… A lot of the sermons are not well thought out. It’s a real hassle for the spirit, to have to zoom in every Sunday night and say ‘come on mate, you know, do you need me again?’ I mean he must be so overworked, up for a nervous breakdown because these boys are not doing it. There should be college for communicating the gospel purely and simply…

Sexless technology.

Bev. There is a phrase, an Englishman will always treat you as an equal as long as you treat him as your superior, quite humorous. It’s a bit like that with feminism, I never think about it. With Steve he, I was going to say he never treats me like a woman, giggle, but that’s not right is it. I don’t have any problems in that area. I’m happy being a woman and I find that what I do and the way I do it I don’t find any problems.

Steve. I don’t think swapping maiden names is an important thing really. It’s a real hassle, if someone was called Thorogood and I had to become Steve Thorogood, no way, I wouldn’t be up for it. Or Holloway, forget it.

Bev. It’s a funny area to talk about because in some ways I just do it. I don’t think about it, if I thought about it maybe I’d stop doing it. Do you know what I mean. So therefore I’m probably out front making mistakes, so I’ve got no answers I’m probably posing more problems.

Steve. We’ve got two glamorous girls in the show but tonight we’ve got two glamorous boys. Dancers that’s their job, smaller costumes show the dance steps better.

Bev. Again there is a fun to sexuality…

Steve. There is a whole mystique there… we are getting away from the topic but I know someone who won’t go to the cinema because they advertise cigarettes, presumably she doesn’t get on buses or walk down certain streets because of the hoardings…

The Technos leg it at this point to Godfrey Davies Film Products who want to make an hour’s Techno Film for cable TV. After which Steve gets a cab to pick up some gear which Bev has left in the launderette. We continue to talk over the purr of a diesel engine.

Steve. It’s important how you do with your record sleeves. This company saw our image on the album cover and reckoned it was great for film. It’s hearing and seeing.

Film, well, actually Bev appears in the next Python The Meaning of Life. She actually got a cheque through it said Beverly Sage for the Meaning of Life, one hundred and twenty pounds. Cheap at the price… We both did the Dubonnet advert. It’s a very exciting future. We do work in strange ways, I’ve never been a muso, like standing in dressing rooms talking about bass guitars. I want a guy to get in here and do it rather than discuss what strings he’s using. With the Technos that’s all sorted out we’ve got some amazing people to work with.

On the finance thing people just don’t want to hear that you can’t buy breakfast, so we never indicate that sort of thing. We may be on the verge of being okay financially.

The artist dying in poverty in a garret room you actually wonder where it comes from. Van Gogh, Lautrec weren’t badly off. Anyway I’d rather get up in the morning and give the hours God’s given me over to artworks whether it’s a painting or getting a show together, than working in a bank, just to get money, and then pay the price of just doing your art in the evening. It’s difficult to give yourself a deadline, if you are a painter to say if I don’t sell my next picture I’ll have to give it up. You get up the next morning and say I want to do another painting.

Yeh, well my training and background in sculpture features very large and it’s something I’d like to talk to Strait about. Like people used to see me in Fish Co as a sort of character who made a few jokes. What actually happened I went to college for eight years doing painting and sculpture and that’s very much part of my life. A lot of work there was very conceptual. I was doing stuff based on furniture. I got a little sick of people putting sand on the floor and putting a chalk line round and expecting people to understand it and if they didn’t understand it there was something wrong with them. So I got this idea using furniture, where I would get a dustman in or somebody not only to look but to actually sit and understand why I did something that way. I was trying to make people look at furniture objects in a different light. But still only one per cent of the public would get any understanding of a lot of the stuff that was going on. I found that very frustrating so I wanted to get a show together where professors from the R.C.A. would come in and enjoy it alongside a guy on the dole. That’s where Writz came from, A. my desire to entertain and B. I was a little bit fed up with being an isolated sculptor I wanted to work with a team. I would love to get back to drawing and sculpture, but I find this area now so exciting and people are expecting our ideas. I was offered five years in Paris, doing painting and sculpture, at l’Ecole des Beaux Arts, I turned that down because I wanted to get into the commercial area. Although I miss the passiveness of just sitting in your studio and no-one else’s opinion really matters. Now you’ve got dancers to contend with, sound and lights. But as long as my energy stays up I’ll hang in there.

People pin you down to being an artist, or a performer, that’s really silly. That’s why John Lennon was so good, he wrote books, did drawings, he did happenings and made great rock’n’roll. He had great conversation, it’s a shame that there’s not more of that around. I suppose Bowie is like that.

The Techno Embassy. Steve shows me some of his work and we talk around it.

We sit here and can talk about what, paradigm shifts for instance, a little while ago it would be Rookmakerian stuff and soon it will be something else for specific points in time there is specific language, but for a lot of the churches the language has become the boss, the language of what they used and what was a success formula has become the very important thing. So they have stuck in that paradigm, a culture built round that thought pattern, churches built round that thought pattern and phrases. They are almost like monuments…

The trouble is only the avant-garde stuff really interests me. Serialising ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ or ‘Peanuts’ for Christmas doesn’t really make it for me, it’s the guy who sits in a barrel, those who get really lateral thought patterns that I go for.

It’s funny when I went to college I couldn’t suss out the whole Christian bit and the art bit. The only guys I could find was Rouault and Stanley Spencer, who I spent six months in the library checking out. Amazing. He was like the Christian artist. I was getting out Sunday papers and I read that the guy was into some very peculiar things so that blew that out. As things progressed my final piece at the R.C.A. which got amazing response was of Van Gogh’s painting of ‘The Chair’ with the pipe etc. At that time there was an exhibition at the V & A of Shaker furniture, what I did I put Christian principles into the painting because Van Gogh was a Christian. Oh yeh, he used to preach. Anyway the Shaker furniture was based on a Christian way to make furniture, no decoration, very clean, very functional, but very efficient and very truthful and strong. Furniture which would age and would be passed on or even hang them on the wall. So I applied their rules for furniture-making onto Van Gogh’s picture of the chair which is exactly like a Shaker chair. That was my first real venture into good thought patterns if you like, the only two Christian ties I knew of in art at that time. Sure Rouault did it in a Roman Catholic kind of way and also Graham Sutherland…

I wonder why someone hasn’t made a study of the graphics on gospel tracts… unbelievable. I’ve got one somewhere with a picture of a snake chasing someone and…

The buzzer sounds it’s the taxi to take us back to the show. Outside The Dominion there are already long queues…”

James Holloway