Plus the future of The Who, memories of Moon and Entwistle and his rocky relationship with Roger Daltrey
What determines whether what you write is a Who song or better suited to another project?
I have a way of working now. I allow myself to do orderly writing to a brief. When I wanted to add a track to The Who Hits 50, I thought, ‘I want to write a song that Roger will like. I want to write a song that’s a little bit AC/DC. I want to name check Kylie Minogue. I want to namecheck Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams. What can I do?’ At the end of Who shows, Roger always says, “Beeeee luckeeeee.” Everybody in the band thinks this is like fucking Arthur Askey or somebody. I thought ‘I’ll write a song called “Be Lucky” and when it gets to the end and goes “Be lucky”, maybe people will join in.’ it’s very crafted and structured.
Are there any more like that at home?
I’ve been trying to gather songs to do a kind of Wilko Johnson album with Roger. We went in with the same producer that he used for that, Dave Eringa. I ended up watching him fiddle around with ProTools for three days on a computer. My part took an hour and a half. I can’t make records that way, not unless I’m sitting at the computer. There’s a great story about Roger when we were doing the soundtrack for the Olympics. Roger wanted absolute control and wanted to test it live. We were in the studio, moving keys. He was counting beats and he said, “No, I need to take a breath.” He was aware we were going to play to 80 billion people, or whatever it was. He was keen we didn’t do another Superbowl, where he did a part recorded and part live vocal and when he came to the live bit he couldn’t do it. So my engineer, Miles, was at the ProTools rig and Roger said, “Instead of going ‘ding ding ding’, could that bit of ‘Baba O’Riley’ go ‘ding ding ding ding’?” Miles went, “Yep.” He said, “Would it be possible if that big could also go down so that the key is the same?” Miles said, “Yep.” I could see Roger thinking, “At last, I have control of the music!”
How did you feel about that?
It was exciting to see. I’ve been disparaging about Roger in this interview, so I should say that it’s been a job for me these past few years to get to this place where he and I are more like creative equals. He’s much more considerate to me than I used to be to him.
Do you see each other socially?
No, we never have and I doubt we ever will. Our families are very, very different. If he hadn’t stayed with his wife, we might have spent a bit more time together, but I doubt it.