Complete Strawberry Switchblade interview by subject
Jill Bryson interviewed 9 June 01
Rose McDowall interviewed 29 Jan 02
Bill Drummond interviewed 26 April 03
David Balfe interviewed 19 May 03
David Motion interviewed 2 Aug 02 & 15 April 03
Robin Millar interviewed 16 Feb 03
Tim Pope interviewed 22 June 06
12 inch remixes
There was this thing in the 1980s that every single had to have a 12 inch and it had to have a longer version of the A-side. It doesn't have to add anything to it creatively, it doesn't matter if it's no good at all, just as long as it's LONGER, that's the only criterion. With the Strawberry Switchblade 12 inch remixes, did any of them feel any good at the time?
JILL: No! It was really half-arsed, it was nothing to do with us, it was the record company saying 'you've got to put them out'. I think the funniest one was Trees And Flowers - what was the point of THAT?
The point of remixes is to make them longer for clubs so you can dance - so, Trees And Flowers??
JILL: I know! I remember thinking 'what IS the point?' with that and all the others.
The Let Her Go one is quite good. They credit five people with doing the remix!
JILL: We just had nothing to do with it, it was just taken out of our hands. We were just told they were going to be remixed. I think Rose always wanted to be there but I don't know if she ever was. At that time we were probably quite busy and so they just went in and did it without us. They'd come and say, 'there's a single coming out, you have to do the 12 inch'. I suppose if you were interested in producing your own stuff it was OK, but we'd no clue, we could barely play. Maybe now we'd say, 'right, we'll do it, let's actually put some effort into it instead of letting somebody go in and take the vocals off leave it droning on for a minute and then put them back on'. After you'd recorded and you'd started something new they'd come back and say, 'oh we need a 12 inch, it needs to be done by tomorrow'. I can't say I was ever involved in or impressed by the 12 inches.
They put out an album of all the 12 inch remixes as well! You should see the prices that can go for as well, serious money for an album of cack!
JILL: I know! Grrrreat. And isn't that the one with all those terrible Japanese singles at the end? 'Ecstasy' and stuff like that? Warn them! Say 'don't do it, save your money'!!
How much did you have to do with any of the 12 inch remixes?
ROSE: [assorted can-of-worms oh-dear-me phonetics] I had an incredible massive fight with Balfey and Bill Drummond and one of them cos they said, 'ah we'll just go in the studio and mix it'. I said you won't, I want to hear it. They said, 'you don't need to be there'. I need to be there! It's my song! So I go down to the studio and they were completely blanking me out. I was saying things and they were just, 'be quiet Rose'.
Do you remember which one it was?
ROSE: It was more likely to be something like Jolene or Let Her Go or something like that. I tried all I could to muster up the energy to destroy that tape but it wasn't happening. So I put a spell on Balfey. And it's still sealed in the notepad I had then that I used to write my lyrics and stuff. I'm too scared to let it out in case it happens, cos I was so angry! So if Balfey ever gets hit by a car, it's my fault. Especially if I'm driving it!
With Let Her Go they did that Kitchensynch Mix which has five names credited for remixing. Balfe and Drummond got Youth and others in for that.
ROSE: I wasn't there for that session, they did that one without even telling us they were doing it. So I probably put my foot down at that point and said I want to know, so the argument would probably have been Jolene.
The 12 inch remixes. What were they all about then?
DAVID MOTION: Well, I don't remember doing one. I don't know if I did, did I? Not to my knowledge!
They all go uncredited except for the Let Her Go one, which didn't actually come out on the Let Her Go single, it was on the Who Knows What Love Is 12 inch.
DAVID MOTION: It's around that time there were all those 12 inch remixes, but I never really got the hang of that.
So no-one knows who did these! Jill says she wasn't even there for them.
DAVID MOTION: Sounds like Balfe and Drummond.
The Let Her Go remix is the only one that's remotely listenable, and that credits Drummond and Youth - you can hear good creative musical minds working on it. But all the other ones are really dreadful, no musical merit except for the remnants of the original track. They don't make it any different or better, just longer. 'Not Guilty' on your part, then.
DAVID MOTION: Absolutely.
Who did the remixing?
BILL DRUMMOND: Fuck knows.
Rose and Jill both say they had NOTHING to do with it, they'd be working on something then they'd get a call saying, 'that thing you finished several months ago, we're putting it out as a single and we need a remix by Monday', and someone else would do it. The one that's closest to listenable is Let Her Go, which is the only one that has any credited names on. Five names are listed, you, Balfe, Youth and two others.
BILL DRUMMOND: Fuck knows.
Do you remember doing any of them at all?
BILL DRUMMOND: No.
You definitely did at least one.
BILL DRUMMOND: If you told me I did all of them I could think, well, maybe I did. But I don't think I did! At that time the whole idea of a remixer as being somebody special and somebody you pay a whack of money to go and do it, and this is an actual job, it just didn't exist in those days. You made a record and, as you said, you had to have a twelve inch and so you'd just sit around and think, 'OK, we'll double the length of that drumbeat, double the length of that,' and you'd got a twelve inch. It's like asking me who made the cup of tea.
The weird thing is that the purpose of a twelve inch is to have a longer version for playing in clubs, so having an extended version of Trees And Flowers makes no sense whatsoever.
BILL DRUMMOND: No, it wasn't done for club play.
Was it just gratuitous cos it was on a big bit of vinyl and that meant there were twice as many formats available to sell?
BILL DRUMMOND: Yeah, almost. Obviously the existence of twelve inch singles came about because of clubs, but then it became a marketing thing, all records had to have more than one format to milk whatever fan following is out there. So nobody would ever be thinking Trees And Flowers could be a club record, it'd be more like, 'this is a great song so let's have it so it plays for longer and you don't have to put the record on again,' something almost as stupid as that.
The others don't give any credits for remixers so we can't tell. It was such a weird thing in the 80s, you couldn't just release a single, you had to put a seven and a twelve inch out, and the twelve inch would have to have a longer version. It doesn't matter how good and perfect the seven inch was, it doesn't matter how rubbish the twelve inch was. It didn't have to be any better, just LONGER, just turn everything off and leave the drum machine going for a while.
ROSE: Have a little prelude, and instrumental part. Twelve inches are for albums, seven inches are for singles. I was heartbroken when there stopped being seven inch singles.
It's the definitive pop format.
ROSE: It is, it is. I've still got lots, and I still buy lots of seven inches from Oxfam and that, cos I love them. It's a perfect little art form.
It's perfect - like Echo Beach - do you want the album, do you want four extra tracks or remixes that you have to program your player not to play, or do you want to put it on, it plays Echo Beach, then it finishes?
ROSE: Or you get one of those old players where you stack them up - I've got one of them, so you can play them like you used to when you were a wee lass. I mean CDs are great for what they are
For ambient stuff especially
ROSE: But for artwork, they lack, they don't come anywhere near a really good album sleeve which is a really good size that you can see and you can touch.