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ProGGnosis Interview with Kevin Godley (10cc, Godley-Creme & GG/06)
Kevin Godley (10cc) - 23 June 2007
Interviewed for ProGGnosis by
This is my second interview with a former member of
10cc, in my opinion one of the most innovative pop bands to come out of Britain
since The Beatles, but Kevin Godley is far more than just 10cc. With extensive
accomplishments in video and recording several groundbreaking albums with Lol
Creme, Godley has strong opinions about his past and the future....
For more information about Kevin Godley
visit his new project with his ex-10cc partner Graham
Also visit the ProGGnosis pages for Godley-Creme
and for 10cc:
Kevin, 10cc toured the US extensively early on, but why do think the
band never caught on in a big way? Record company apathy or just
American tastes? Any memories from the early tours?
Lots of reasons. We didn't quite fit any musical genre yet we
straddled many. We were low-key personalities without any big
characters or myth’s surrounding the band and success loves 'big
characters' and 'myths'. The music never stood still long enough to
grasp. We toured but didn't tour enough. We had no coherent visuals,
which is odd, in retrospect, with 2 art school guys in the band.
Need I go on? Bottom line: We had most of the required elements but
in the wrong proportion. A road story; we were told about Johnny
Winter. Johnny, having poor eyesight, had a line of Christmas tree
lights strung across the lip of the stage, every night, to indicate
how far he could move forward. On the last night of one tour the
crew strung them 3 rows back in the audience. Aaahhh….if only
‘Youtube’ had a time travel component. You see, I can't even think
of any interesting 10cc tour stories. No debauchery, no attempted
suicides, no OD's, no anal sex with endangered species on
motorcycles. We weren't rock and roll animals, you see, and there's
Leaving 10cc with Lol Creme, what are your memories good and bad of
this period, reasons for leaving and in hindsight is there anything
you or would have done differently during your time with the band?
We felt re-energized. A little anxious but we didn't show it. We were
men on a mission. We left because we no longer liked what Gouldman and
Stewart were writing. We left because 10cc was becoming safe and
predictable and we felt trapped. The honeymoon was over. Who said, "Love
is the period of time that elapses before you realize your partner looks
like a haddock?" Suddenly we were a haddock. Add it all up and we left
because we had no choice. The band didn't have enough confidence in its
own longevity to withstand an indeterminate Godley & Creme lay
off. Also, in certain quarters, our proposed time out was seen as an act
of treachery. It was a very northern 'all for one, one for all' or fuck
off vibe… Result: We fucked off. It all seems a bit childish now. We
could all have had our cake and eaten it but it wasn't meant to be.
Within 10cc, politically, I should've asserted myself a bit more
and taken less crap. Creatively we could've gone for capturing lightning
in a bottle a little more often than multi tracking and perfection but,
on the whole, we were a unique band with an enviable chemistry who had a
great time for 4 years. I learned who I was and what I was capable of at
Lets talk about ‘Consequences’; a massive work and a piece of art
really, although some critics felt it was a bit too much. Tell us about
the origins of the album…
A huge undertaking that grew and grew out of all proportion to our
original intent, which was to thoroughly road test ‘The Gizmo’. It
turned into our 'Heaven's Gate', which isn't a bad movie when viewed
minus the bull that surrounded it. The recording process was 14
months of experiment and total freedom buoyed up by a slab of hash
the size of a triple cheeseburger.
Most critics of the project call it indulgent. There's truth in
that but I believe it was big and long not because we were simply
indulgent but because we were lost. After sides one and two the tail
was wagging the dog a bit and we kept going in the hope it would
eventually make sense to both us and a rather anxious record label.
The label, for their part, was very supportive and kept pumping
money into session time but in the end it was like uppers into Judy
Garland; a law of diminishing returns. More significantly our world
gradually reduced to a series of small, dark, womb-like spaces and
we became studio lifers scared of emerging into the real world.
Regardless of the finished product we just didn't want it to
STOP!!! The result is a weird mix of sheer brilliance and utter
shit. That's a subjective opinion and I could be wrong. It may be
all brilliant or all shit or even all brilliant shit. Either way it
fried our / my brains for a while and is impossible to be objective
The origins of the album came from the frustrations of being in a
successful band and wanting to stretch its remit beyond what it was
built to withstand. More importantly The Gizmo was invented way
before 10cc existed so it was long overdue a serious outing. The
album's subject matter grew, organically, from the sounds we were
making and took over. It could've worked much better without the
plotline but what do I know? It could be the rock Dead Sea Scrolls.
Most sessions were pretty intense with burials, floods and
stampedes etc. so we played practical jokes on our support team to
lighten the mood. I remember Strawberry North's studio manager was
due to show a big, prospective client around so we turned a very
impressively ‘teched’ out control room into a very convincing
bricked up bombsite with props and stage scenery etc. Knowing our
reputation and ushering Mr. Super Client into the room, ahead of
him, with a proud flourish was a mistake that will haunt him
Looking back at the Godley-Creme catalog, with the exception
of ‘Cry’ as a duo you guys never had big hits or major
selling albums, at least in the US, but maybe that wasn’t the point
since all the albums are experimental and stretched boundaries?
As a body of work it's pretty damn good. That was the point. We
never stood still and never looked back. We did what came naturally
with blind faith and a sense of adventure. Once we'd recorded 40
minutes of music an album was complete so there was never any fat.
Never anything left in the vaults. We got our kicks from innovation
and were incapable of writing 'commercial' to order. If something
came that worked that way great but we couldn't turn it on.
I'm still impressed by most G+C music. My favorite album
is 'L' because it forced us back to basics after the
grandiosity of The Big C (‘Consequences’) and we did
more than cope. We made a pretty cool album. It's also the most
honest album we ever recorded. ‘Consequences’ is my least
favorite because it aimed for the sky and missed. How do you miss
the fucking sky? In the long run, though, it just doesn't sound like
Your video work with Lol Creme in my opinion defined MTV and the
video generation. You took some risks with Duran Duran’s
‘Girls on Film’ video which of course created some controversy, and
other videos are just as groundbreaking. What was behind the story
behind the Duran Duran video and what do you think are your
hit and misses, if any in this area?
Thanks for that. Duran Duran; the band and their management
were smart boys. They sussed that videos weren't only happening on
TV but were also being shown on big screens on the newly emerging
U.S. club scene. That outlet plus the anticipated tabloid
controversy led us to a mix of fashion, art and sex. The specific
visual ideas were a combo of two holiday observations. I was in
France getting into fashion. Lol was in LA watching mud wrestling.
Not quite as black and white as that but a cat walk plus unusual
occurrences formed the backbone of the idea. It looks tame now but
at the time it was VERY daring.
Video-wise Godley & Creme had a 90% hit rate. I can think
of very few films that failed, artistically. We were lucky to be
working in a new field that had no rules and with our art school /
music background we were ideally placed to push its potential. Yes,
we broke new ground. There's still ground to be broken today but the
landscape's changed. The suits are back in charge. On TV
everything's starting to clone up and YouTube's ‘lo-rez’ aesthetic
has affected the whole industry. Record labels are loving the fact
you can get a film made for peanuts. I’m so bored with Hip Hop
promos, Booty, Cars and Jewelry, ad - fucking - nauseum. How to
compromise a vibrant subculture in one fell swoop. Actually about
3,000 fell swoops.
What has kept you busy in the last few years?
Writing 2 screenplays. Directing some interesting videos (see
for full details). Developing TV ideas. Lots of stuff and I could go
on but I won't. Proudest of all the U2 work I've done and of
'One World One Voice'. Aiming to direct my own movie script
this year and start some interesting and useful 'entertainment on
demand' websites. Overall, keep thinking ahead. The best is yet to
How did you and Graham Gouldman reconnect, or had you stayed in
touch? What lead to the new songwriting partnership? What has
reaction been to the new music?
We never lost touch. We had dinner a couple of times, talked about
doing some music again. Circled each other but never got round to
it, for real, until last year. Perhaps we were anxious about failing
to match former glories. We were also a relatively unknown quantity
as a writing partnership as we'd only written 3 pure G/G songs. When
I was serious about music again, though, GG was the obvious person
to call. The intuitive theory being if I couldn't knock something
decent up with him I couldn't do it at all. Turns out we both feed a
musical need in each other. It's a productive balance. He's Mr.
Chords. I'm Mr. Words. We're both Mr. Melody. A really positive
reaction to the new work so far. We haven't set the world on fire
but we didn't expect to. Our plans are modest. We want to make
intriguing, contemporary music, and, should we ever complete 2 hours
worth, play it live in small clubs….maybe.
Finally, since you always seem to be on the cutting edge of
technology etc, what do you think is going to happen with music and
the way we listen in the next 10 years, and I am not just asking
about computers, downloading etc, but how do you think this
technology has changed the way we listen to music? What do you think
the future holds for pop music in general?
I think music is less important than it used to be. Not in terms of
its validity as an art form but how it's positioned in the
marketplace. It's more controlled and less of a threat, now. Music
used to be truly dangerous, as I recall. Back in the day we were
gagging for our heroes' new releases like our lives depended on it.
Music was our way out of the mundane. Now, in many cases, it's a way
in… just one of many commodities available for our amusement.
Meanwhile the Internet provides the means for all kinds of musicians
to get their message across and for fans with an archaeological bent
to dig around for the radical and the scarce. But I worry that where
we used to exist in a 'less is more' world we're heading towards a
'more is less' one. The technology itself doesn't interest me that
much. It's just different ways to deliver the goods. The future of
pop/rock will remain ongoing but any trends or advances may well be
briefer and less significant. It's pretty much all been done, now.
We're in revisit / recycle mode.
Any final thoughts?
Is there anything revolutionary out there waiting to fuck us up
again, en masse? I live in hope.
You know what? All the above is the opinion of an aging guy who grew
up hearing it all being born. It's pointless making definitive
statements about 'then' versus 'now'. If you do, you end up sounding
like your dad. I'm sure fans today get as big a thrill from their
music as I did and in the long run that's the most important thing.