Music, Pop Culture

Interview: Will Crewdson by Edmund Barker

Will Crewdson has lived out a fanboy’s dream, going from a young new wave afficionado in the eighties to a glam rock singer in the nineties and a frequent Adam Ant collaborator in times more recent. I gave him a video call to chat about this bizarro moment for the rock and roll scene, his solo catalog, and his hopes going forward.

Edmund Barker: Now Will, I’m a big fan of Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow, so it’s cool to talk with you. Now I was watching another one of your interviews from recently, where you talked about being in London as a musician during lockdown—you had an American tour with Adam Ant planned, but it had to be postponed. I’ll just start by asking: what are some of the challenges of being creative in a time with no venues to try your stuff in?

Will Crewdson: Yeah, it gets channeled into, for me, recording really. There are people in London who are trying to do gigs, I haven’t found anything that’s been kind of worth doing. So it’s just kind of on lock-up, I’ve just been doing a lot of recording for about two hours [a day] this year. I did two EPs with my solo staff…it is challenging because you have to go out and play live, that’s the main reason I do music, to go out and play to people. But that hasn’t been possible, obviously—hopefully that’ll all change, soon-ish.

EB: Best of luck. I was talking to a different interview subject a while back about how we’re kinda blessed that, during lockdown, we have all this digital communication to make it easier…and in your case as a musician, you can use your home computer to mix music and then get it out to a platform. Have you ever though about, if this situation happened twenty to thirty years ago, how hugely different it would be without the internet as we know it?

WC: Absolutely. Yeah, it’d be impossible to get your message across and communicate, really. I suppose there’d still be snail mail, for you to send out your music I guess, but obviously it’s a lot easier to…you know, a lot of studios are being shut, so people are being forced to record in their homes. And yeah, computers make that entirely possible these days. So you always find a way to adapt, and I think you just gotta find a way—as long as musicians have their guitar or whatever, they’ll find a way to adapt.

EB: Sounds like you’re part of a sorta trend of lockdown records recorded in people’s homes in impromptu ways, like Charli XCX. Were there any musicians’ albums recorded during this odd time that you really liked?

WC: Uh, just trying to think if I’ve heard things recorded in this time…there’s been a few things. I really like, from what I’ve heard of it, this album by Mike Campbell’s band; he’s the guitarist from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. It’s out now, I need to listen to it more, I think. But yeah, I think a lot of people sort of had albums ready but then had to delay them, because they just thought “I’ll just put it out when the tours start later in the year.” And now it is later in the year, and nothing’s started, so they’re just being forced to put it out anyway.
Trying to think if I’ve heard from anyone else, really. I still like to discover music from all ages, and the whole history of music, really, so I’m still always discovering that—and not necessarily just through this year.

EB: Yeah, I understand that. I have such a backlog of older music to go through that sometimes I don’t get to the newer stuff. It’s a challenge. Now in a previous interview you were talking about how you were walking through early quarantine in London and it was sorta deserted, like a ghost town or a zombie movie. I guess that one of my fears with this whole quarantine time is that it’s gonna hurt the concept of neighborhoods like Greenwich Village in New York or Camden Town in London where all the bohemians gather. So what do you say to that?

WC: Yeah, that’s because these areas are where a lot of the independent shops are still based, even though Camden in the last few years has become a bit more, I don’t know, corporate, with more chain shops. But there is still the market area and everything…yeah, it does make you wonder if these people are gonna be able to come back and carry on selling. And even if they are, how many tourists are gonna be around to put money into it? So you know, it’s quite worrying. The last time I walked through Camden, it was pretty much the same, but a lot of stuff was still shut, so it’s hard to tell. I think next month things are gonna open up a bit. So we’ll see what happens then I guess. Hopefully won’t be too late.

EB: Fingers crossed. Never been to Camden Town, the example I was using, but I read that the Café Wha? In Greenwich Village, where Jimi Hendrix had his U.S. debut, that they’re in financial straits.

WC: Right, yeah. I haven’t heard of that place, but it sounds like a real historic venue. It’s awful for all these small venues…there’s one right near me I walk past every day, and it’s just dead in May, and it looks like they’re cobwebs on the stage! It’s very scary.

EB: Must seem unprecedented, I can’t think of another disruption to the music world quite like this.

WC: Absolutely. It’s a brand new phenomenon. Some people are saying it’s been coming for years, but I sure as hell didn’t realize it’d be this extreme, or last for this long.
EB: We were all hoping at the beginning of the year that we’d be back to music shows in fall 2020, but now I guess it’s more like fall 2021. We’ll see—in the U.S. at least, in the U.K. it could be different.
WC: Yeah, seems like that. The next tour I have booked is in the U.S., so it’s gonna depend a lot on whether we can travel, and what has to be done before we travel, I think. And how open the different areas are over there. It’s a few months away, so you never know what might actually happen.
EB: I could make all these questions corona-themed but I won’t, we’ll move onto other things as well!

WC: Theme of the year, isn’t it?

EB: Another question about your musical work with the likes of Adam Ant and Bow Wow Wow. I really love the unique sound they honed, mixing western rock and Afrobeat. When you first worked with those groups, did you feel that their style was something unique and special for the time?

WC: Well I only started working with these bands in the last ten years, really…I was into them at the time [the eighties] but I was still in school! Wasn’t a member of these bands, but like you say, I remember them and I remember how novel that sound was. I guess these days you’d call it a mashup, wouldn’t you, but back then it was kinda just pulling loads of styles and putting them all together. And both those bands were pretty original for sure.

EB: Yeah, postmodern. Okay, so I didn’t realize you were just a fan of those groups when they first came up but then eventually got to work with them for real…are there any other instances like that where you got to work with someone who you were a fan of in your youth and it was like a dream come true?

WC: Yeah, a few times actually. I just aim for what I like, and if I meet the people that I liked, then I wanna work with them, it’s happened quite a few times. I worked with Martin Degville from Sigue Sigue Sputnik quite a lot, they are one of my favorite bands from the eighties. Also this singer named Johnette Napolitano, from Concrete Blonde, I co-wrote a solo album for her. And I was always into them, so it’s happened a few times, yeah.

EB: Carrying on in that vein, if you could collaborate with a musician who’s come up in the last, I don’t know, five to ten years, who’d it be?

WC: It’d probably be Die Antwoord, actually, even though they’ve been going for about ten years now, I guess…I think they’re the most original band of the last ten years, but I don’t think there’s any room on the record for guitars! There’s a lot of stuff going on. But if they ever need some twanginess, or so some solos, I’m up for that. Because they put on great shows and make great videos. So, yeah, I’d say Die Antwoord, I’m up for that.

EB: Oh, they’re cool. I saw them live once, you’re right, they do have cool makeup and everything, very theatrical. That’s something I always look for in a band, theatricality. And I see you’ve done performances in heavy stage makeup before. What’s that like?

WC: Actually, yeah, the band I was in was called Rachel Stamp, we were going from like the mid-nineties, and we wore a lot of makeup at the time. That was probably the most glammed-up I’ve ever been, I think. It was kind of weird, because over here, at that time, there were a lot of bands like Oasis and Blur who were kind of almost dressing down, but we wanted to do the opposite of that. And that’s what I’ve always admired in other bands, bands that can go out and carve their own niche. We did alright, y’know, we had a sort of cult following, and we supported No Doubt and Korn, stuff like that.

EB: So you’ve toured a lot supporting both American and English acts. I was wondering, what’re some of the differences between touring in the two nations as a rock musician?

WC: Well there’s no Denny’s here, for a start, which is a shame because I love that.

EB: Especially at 3 AM, right?

WC: Yeah, exactly. You know what you’re getting there, coffee’s good there. But the main thing is, really, the size. In America it helps to have a tour bus, so the best tours I’ve done there have been in a bus because you can sleep, basically, on those long distances! So that’s the main thing. Over here, you can get to one end of the country and do a gig and then get back to London, if you don’t mind getting back late. That’s the main difference for me, apart from different cultural things with different states. But I find all that really fascinating, it’s like different countries.

EB: Yeah, we’re like fifty countries under one roof.

WC: Exactly.

EB: We were just talking about your quarantine DIY records, do you have any other plans for new releases before the end of the year?

WC: Yeah, I have another band called She Made Me Do It, and we’ve been rehearsing. That’s a rock band with a drummer and everything. Whereas my solo stuff, it’s just me really. But She Made Me Do It, we’ve just written a load of songs and we just finished recording them now, they’re getting mixed. Gonna put that out, hopefully…if not by this year then early next year. But yeah, that’s the plan, that’s next on the agenda.

EB: I like to write fiction myself, and sometimes this year when I don’t meet my goals I feel guilty, because I’m like, “you have all the time in the world, what are you doing?”

WC: Yeah, sometimes that’s harder, isn’t it? When you haven’t got a deadline, things can just drag on. In a way, that’s good, because you can make sure things are just perfect, you’ve got a bit more time. But sometimes it’s harder to get motivated and get obsessed. It’s hard enough to get obsessed, but we’re getting things finished now, so we’ll have to get in the swing of it, really. Because when you do have all the time, you can’t always be in that frame of mind. You can’t force anything.

EB: Do you have other artistic interests you follow along with music, like visual art or something? I’m sure fashion is one, you’ve got a cool shirt!

WC: Yeah, I enjoy wearing cool stuff, stuff that I think is cool anyway! I’m always looking for clothes, especially on tour, it’s just a great thing to do. Especially the old school, going around secondhand stores and all that. There’s that, but also I do a lot of digital visual sort of stuff, just really for my own promotion. Fiddling about with graphics and all that. I’m not very professional at it, but I enjoy doing it, so I just try and get it done.

EB: Have you ever thought about putting those skills towards designing album art, or not so much?

WC: Eh, I’ve got a really cool guy that does my stuff, he’s called Cushing Normal—but it can’t be spelled Cushing Normal—and normally I’d kinda come up with a few ideas and he’d put it all together. He’s more of an illustrator, you know. So I’m happy using other people for that at this point, but who knows? If this quarantine goes on, maybe I’ll be forced to do that myself!

EB: Now this is a sort of generic music question, but do you have any favorite onstage story from your time in the business?

WC: Well in my old band Rachel Stamp, the singer had a sort of rabid fan who got onstage and handcuffed herself to him. And they actually had to get the fire brigade to sort it, to get it off his wrist! So that was one of the more unusual things that happened, quite extreme really. Can’t think of anything else that extreme, just the usual violence, almost breaking your neck, you know.

EB: I guess in a horrible sort of way, having an obsessive stalker is a sign you’ve made it in the biz.

WC: Yeah I guess so, it’s one of looking at it, isn’t it? Not the best way to make it, though.

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