Local supergroup play The Who by Numbers after the Who tonight [INTERVIEW]
How do you personally feel about this record compared to the other Who albums?
TS: I feel it's their best recording, ever. Their performance is at its peak, the band in its prime. Quadrophenia is more like a solo Townshend album because he plays everything on it. But Entwistle is pretty awesome on it. Keith Moon is on the verge of failing but he's not there yet. He's still got it.
I saw today a documentary on Keith Moon, Keith's Last 24 Hours. The album after this is Who Are You. At that point he was trying to stop drinking. When he stopped drinking he couldn't play in the Keith Moon style. So he had to keep drinking to play Who are You. That's what fuels his style.
Do you have any least favorite songs or songs that are difficult?
JV: What's funny is that the ballads are everyone's least favorite. So those are the ones we've had to do the most work on. Because we didn't grow up on these, or we listened to them a hundred thousand times. We've spent a lot of time perfecting these ballads, which has been really challenging.
Talk about your past musical backgrounds.
TS: I played with the Odd, King of France, and Tulip Sweet and Her Trail of Tears. I did most of the arranging in all of those bands. That's why I like this project. It's theatrical and its rock at the same time. There's lots of stuff going on in the arrangements. That's why I like the Who. A lot of stuff we did with Tulip Sweet, we based on the Who. If you listen to the records, you'll hear tight harmonies, sensitive male vocals in the background, and lots of drum fills that are lifted directly from Keith Moon. It's peppered all the way through.
King of France as well. Michael Azerrad, the drummer in King of France was a big Who fan, so he and I tried to make that sound like the Who also. They've always been a major influence on me. I haven't played in about six years in rock.
Joan, what about your past performance experience? Feather Underground?
TS: that was the same time frame. And Jacques was part of that recording, the Feather Underground.
JV: I don't have a large portfolio, that's legitimate. I'm a huge attention seeker. There's no question. Living in New York, I think I did a trillion million things that were very daring and attention seeking.
TS: Kind of like Keith Moon, some of them! If people weren't paying attention to him in a restaurant, he'd take off all his clothes and sit on a table. Yeah.
Tom, do you relate to this record in any way?
TS: I've related to this record since high school. I think I went through my mid-life crisis in high school. Since then this album has always informed me in what I'm doing, with music and stuff. And, boy, it's had way more effect on me than Quadrophenia which has always been sort of like a fairy tale/history lesson. A little on the boring side for me except for the music.
I was kind of surprised how bitter and dark this record was.
JV: It's definitely a window into total emotional trauma. And doing that with the musicianship that the Who can do is super-powerful. When we did our first practice as a full band, it was incredibly exhilarating. Because you don't hear those songs anymore. It's the Who, any rocking Who song is stadium-sounding, really amazing.
TS: Hearing the whole album performed live is a way different experience than listening the recorded album. It's beautifully recorded and mixed. But it's amazing how much power it has when you play it live. And coming after Quadrophenia, you can see -- there is no synthesizers, no overdubs, it's just a band playing really well live. When another band performs it the same way, the same thing happens. It's just as powerful.
I wondered how the other band members felt about it. How many practices have you had?
TS: One! [We laugh] I don't like to practice. And I think bands that practice, overdo it. The idea is to surround yourself with really good players who are better than you are, and then everybody rises to the occasion. When we first had the idea and wondered "who could play these parts?" - these are the exact original four that we really envisioned doing it. So it kind of shocked us when they each said, "Yes!" [Laughs]
What can the audience expect, in terms of theatrics, unusual approach?
TS: We're going to smash up everything at the end, our guitars and there won't be anything left.
Like The Who song, "Success Story" from the record. How do you feel about performing this after Quadrophenia?
TS: I saw it when Entwistle was alive and it was really good. I know, after a concert like the Who, I want to do something else! That was part of my thinking with this. This is the After-Who-Party. You know? Somewhere where you can go and keep the party going. Because Target Center is kind of a dull affair. All concerts are kind of a dull affair these days. When the music is over, all you can do is leave. Its not like you imagined it in the early days of rock, where after the concert the party would just keep on going. But I figured this would be the perfect follow-up.
JV: I was a huge Pete Townshend fan for a long time, had sort of a mental open letter to him for a long time. I know people do that and he probably has a lot of more "crazies" who do that because of the subject and the nature of his music.
TS: Some of those people are contacting me now, on Facebook, sending me their requests and why. They tell me the story behind what the song means, and why it's about them!
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
TS: I hope a lot of younger people come to this. People who are in alternative rock, whatever you call it now. They don't have anything like this now in their lives. Songs this well-written about emotions, as well-crafted... I just don't think they get it anymore, so they need to see this. That was a big reason we are doing this. I hope a bunch of them come and get inspired to do something like it, not imitate the Who, but incorporate it into their own styles. I'm hoping Pete Townshend shows up, and sees how good it is live, and decides to go out one more time, and do The Who by Numbers. [We laugh]
The Who By Numbers with RuDeGiRL, 7th St. Entry, Tuesday, Nov. 27th - Doors 9pm/show at 10 p.m. $5 cover, or $3 with a Target Center/Who Concert ticket stub.