Don't quaestion everything…


Melody Maker – 15 Dec 1990


Has the fallout from Terry Bickers departure from House Of Love finally cleared? LUKE CLANCY met up with the guitarist in Paris and discovered why Chadders and Bickers were like The Rutles, and why he hopes his new band, LEVITATION, will emulate the free association of PiL.

THE MAN FROM “RAPIDO” IS BEING GIVEN A TOUGH TIME BY Terry. They both have this problem. It’s called Guy Chadwick, or so it seems. The poor chap, through his broken English, speaks of all the terrible things that have been said. Apparently, Guy got very specific in a French magazine. Bickers has to fend off the charges.

Later he says: “I never felt like defending myself before, while all that was going on. I just had to wait and think what I wanted to say rather than just rushing in. I knew certain things bothered me, like the fact that I still have had no royalty payments from Creation, but it wasn’t the time.”

For the TV he is more specific in answering Chadwick’s allegations.

“He made me out to be a complete smackhead,” Bickers claims. “I’m not a smackhead. I worked on projects helping people who were smack addicts.”

He works himself into a frenzy over Chadwick, about emotional maturity and what a f***ing dickhead Chadwick was to lose an ace producer and guitarist like our Terry from his band; and how sly old Guy had described the House Of Love’s new guitarist’s playing as “a disease”, while trying to convince Terry to play a secret gig with the band in Paris.

Terry’s response to every question is hostile. Terry sees himself as the outside – an avant garde musician, recently escaped from the clutches of some mad machine.

DESPITE his position in the contemporary guitarists’ hall of fame, alongside the likes of Johnny Marr, he is, at least in the eyes of the law, not entitled to any royalty money or writing credit for House Of Love’s first album and for only one song since then. After three years of working in one of the most lauded musical combinations of the Eighties, Terry Bickers is a whole lot wiser but no wealthier.

OTHER members of Levitation have been asked too many questions about House Of Love. Not that the band really want to talk about anything else either. Dave Francolini, the drummer, doesn’t want to talk about the fact that he’s played with the Blue Aeroplanes and Julian Cope, and Johnny T is not sure if he wants to say anything about his regular gig with the shit-hot dancesters the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s as though they’ve all been infected with Bickers’ distrust.

BICKERS, while superficially too edgy to manipulate, manages to distance himself and sees himself as simply playing a game. “Tell them about The Rutles,” shout members of the band as Terry moves off for another session of interviews. The Rutles, Eric Idle and Neil Innes’ magnificent pseudo-documentary send-up of the Sixties, the media and The Beatles, is central to the way Bickers wants the world to see him. From his speculation over the reason that Creation boss Terry McGee originally took on the House Of Love (“I think it was the trousers…yeah definitely the trousers…”), all the way to a mythical reading of the House Of Love split, it’s all Rutlemania. Bickers readily admits to a vision of himself as Nasty to Chadwick’s Stig, John to Chadwick’s Paul.

So is he sure he’s in the Plastic Ono Band and not Wings now?

“It is very funny and accurate in a lot of subtle ways that those heavy metal spoofs miss. The point is, you have to retain a spark of spontaneity, to maintain the experiment.

“It’s not like when you form a band with five guys from school, people will always have their own things to do. It would be great if the band could work like Public Image did when they were with Bill Laswell. The band were like a group of like-minded musicians who could just go into the studio without preconceptions or plans. I would like it if Levitation could function like PiL did then. All the members could go and do their own things, but then come back together and start experimenting all over again.”

THAT kind of free association might be necessary to a band like Levitation, drawn from so many musical backgrounds.

Recently however, they have been experimenting at being a real rock band, bringing the new guitar sound to the new Europeans. Tonight the avant groovy train has pulled into Paris. Behind them is a draining tour of Belgium (with Galaxie 500) and France (with Ride). The sound at the Espace Orano is variable, but from all reports, that has been the story of the tour.

When Ride take the stage later, the clarity increases and there seems to be a flexibility that was missing earlier. For Terry and the lads in the support slot, the sound is more basic. The instruments tend to merge. Though Johnny T’s white electric violin is intended to give some texture to the thick guitar-orientated sound, it becomes lost in the haze of Bickers’ own storming guitar.

The guitars are unsurprisingly the most developed sound, but while everybody can hold their own as part of the sound, the vocals provide the most problems. Bickers’ voice is weak and Hayes’ vocal back-up doesn’t help much. “Higher” is the song that comes closest to Bickers’ avant-garde ideal simply because it veers away from aimless lyrical water-treading and works through almost abstract, colliding sounds. Here the guitar switches into manic phases and Bickers knows how to slip easily up through the gears.

AFTER the gig Terry is off to put his brand new vision into operation with Jacques Pasquier, a man who is, for the moment, a Corsican traditional music entrepreneur. So far he has gathered the likes of John Cale and Ruichi Sakamoto to contribute to the latest enterprise, an East-West world music album. Johnny Marr is rumoured to be lined up next. “He’s an amazing guy,” Bickers explains. “He had given up music and gone to live in Corsica where he had heard this traditional choral music. He was so taken by it that he struck up all his old contacts and started organising concerts for these people in Czechoslovakia and Poland and put together this organisation called People To People. It was just what I needed after the last night of the tour. I just walked into an entirely new atmosphere and immediately switched on. It was wonderful…I suppose it was like walking in on Prince jamming or something. It was the kind of place I wanted to be.”

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