Kevin Godley's interview for Uncut Magazine
Thanks to Kit Aiken for providing me with the unedited text of this interview which appeared in the March 1988 issue.
You'd left an internationally successful band. Were you aware of commercial and artistic pressure to really pull something extraordinary out of the bag with Consequences?
KEV: I think it was in the back of our minds, but we actually left the band because we didn't have any choice. We'd reached a certain crossroads with 10cc and already spent three weeks on the genesis of what turned out to be Consequences, which was a demonstration record for the gizmo creation. The stuff that we were coming up with didn't have any home, we couldn't import it into 10cc. And we were kind of constrained by 10cc live, the consequences of leaving, shall we say, were never uppermost in our minds. We felt like creative people who should give ourselves the opportunity to be as creative as possible and leaving seemed to be the right thing to do at that moment. Unfortunately, the band wasn't democratic or smart enough at that time to allow us the freedom to go ahead and do this project and we were placed in the unfortunate position of having to leave to do it. Looking back, it was a very northern work ethic being applied to the group, all for one and one for all. If we'd been a little more free in our thinking with regard to our work practices, the band as a corporate and creative entity could have realised that it could have been useful rather than detrimental for two members to spend some time developing and then bring whatever they'd learned back to the corporate party. Unfortunately, that wasn't to be and I think that would have been a better thing to do, looking back.
Isn't that like saying to your wife, me having this affair for a year will do us both good because I'll return to the marriage refreshed?
KEV: That's actually what happened, but I don't think a working or creative relationship should work like that. Our contemporaries were people like Roxy Music who allowed that to happen and they gained from that. They all realised that Roxy Music was their biggest asset but there are members of Roxy Music, it's not just a [logger?]. And the people need different things. And we needed to do that. Had we been allowed to get it out of our system and come back home, who knows what would have happened. It's so long ago.
How do you remember it developing into the gargantuan project it became?
KEV: I remember it as heaven to make and hell to release. In all probability it disappeared up it's own, very stoned, arse. When we actually got down to the nuts and bolts of making it, the balloon had burst. There were so many ideas waiting to come out, they came out indiscriminately. The demo of the gizmo had a focus to it but it became this overblown monster that became too much, too late. I hate to sound so negative but it's hard not to be when 'Consequences' was such an artistic and commercial failure. I think there was possibly 20% that, in my terms, was successful and 80% padding. I no longer think that the dialogue/play section was any good. You have to understand, this is the work of two very stoned people who's eyes were on the details, not on the big picture, and trying to create something from a mass of details, hoping that the whole would be worth more than the sum of its parts. But I'm not convinced that it was, frankly. I think there's some sparkling bits and pieces in it, I think side one works extremely well, there's some inklings of some good tunes, one good song. But a lot of it was tripe.
I love it.
KEV: Really? You don't think it's a pile of shite? You don't think the Peter Cook stuff is a pile of shite?
I absolutely don't...
KEV:You don't think songs like 'Please' are a pile of shite?
I'm not saying there's not padding in it...
KEV: There was a lot of padding in it. You see, once it had gone so far down the road, commercially there was pressure to turn this mush we were making into something. And it became this boxed set that they decided to release for twelve Pounds, which was totally outrageous, ludicrous. That was partially the reason for its downfall. It was experimental work in progress and they turned it into an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical.
They probably felt obliged to, as it had cost so much.
KEV: I know, that was the horrible thing about it and I feel rather embarrassed about that, now.
'Cool Cool Cool' is an amazing vocal arrangement.
KEV: Yeah, but it's not...So what? Do you know what I mean? I think what happened, quite frankly, was there was a lack of focus in our intent and lot of the stuff that worked really well, in a sense, we were trying to be somebody else. 'Lost Weekend', although a good song, we were trying to be George Gershwin. In other words, by desire or by intention, or by loss of consciousness, or whatever, we kind of reverted to some kind of strange roots. When most bands start, they want to be somebody else, they copy and then eventually they find themselves.
But pastiche was always a strong aspect of what you did in the band...
KEV: It was, it was. But I think when 10cc was at its strongest, it wasn't thinking about it too much, or spending too much time, but just going in and doing it. The first and second albums I think are the strongest 10cc albums. They are the ones that created their own characteristics and their own style. Once we had that amount of time, we could fuck around forever, we could spend three days getting a guitar to sound like a clarinet. So what? Why? Do you know what I mean. It was the work of two very stoned people.
Smoking a lot of dope?
KEV: A hell of a lot of dope.
Presumably, this rather jaundiced view that you have now is not how you felt at the time.
KEV: Not at all, we thought we were creating a meisterwork, I'm sure we did. There were interesting moments like when our management team came into listen to side one of the album and they said 'Wow, magnificent, fantastic'. Then they went into the studio to discuss it and as luck would have it, one of the mikes was open and we could hear what they were saying. And one said to the other, 'What the fuck was that all about?'. (Laughs) So, you know, everyone was coming and making the right noises, nobody was coming to us and saying 'This is garbage, you're out of your mind'.
But would it have made any difference if they had?
KEV: Probably not, and I don't regret it for a minute, let's get things straight, on the record. I'm running it down, somewhat, but this is in calm, cool retrospect, 21 years later. And partially in reaction to the reaction that the record got itself.
I wonder whether you would feel so badly about it if it had been well received, say four years earlier in the year of Tubular Bells.
KEV: It would probably have been a different record, quite frankly. But I think part of the problem was we were in this womb-like situation for fourteen months and we'd lost touch with reality. We were creating our own version of reality and spewing it onto tape from our own minds, and there was a whole revolution going on out there.
But surely the whole business of artistic expression is about indulgence, digging in as far as you can, and never mind what's going on in the rest of the world.
KEV: I think you're right, I think so. Partially. But it depends. I think some of the best art is about what's going on in the world, rather than just what's going on in your head. I think that pop music, rock music, particularly the best of that, is about a connection of both aspects. And the worst of it is not. The worst of it is drivel that comes out of people's heads.
Well, there are some of us who think differently of Consequences. Did you know there was a website?
KEV: Yeah, there's not much on it except some gibberish about the characters. It's very difficult. Whatever artist you speak to about any aspect of their work, it's difficult to be objective about it. It's such a subjective experience, with all the attendant baggage. So your opinion of it as a work just to listen to is obviously different to my opinion of the work that I made or helped to make. I can see glaring errors.
But just as a two hour listen, if you've got time in your life...
KEV: I should listen to it again, shouldn't I? (Laughs)
I think so, I think you'd be pretty tickled. You say that in your stoned concentration, it was the detail that got the attention, but it's the detail that makes it absolutely magical.
KEV: Yeah. Some interesting sonic moments, for sure.
What are your memories of working with Peter Cook?
KEV: Our sync was always bad. He was always ready to boogie at eight o'clock in the morning, was freshly bathed and showered. And we were dead to the world until lunchtime. And there was maybe an hour or two where our thoughts would coincide, roundabout between eleven and one, then poor old Peter would rapidly go downhill with the odd bottle. And we would be rolling up spliffs. Erm, so the amount of quality work was like, minutes. I think it was because there was no..., this is the way I recall it, Lol might have said something completely different...
He's contradicted you all the way along the line, actually...
KEV: Oh, he thinks it's amazing and ...?
No, he hasn't said that because he hasn't listened to it for twenty years, but he's got nothing but positive memories. Carry on, that's got nothing to do with it.
KEV: These are memories of the aftermath, not memories of the making of it, memories of the result. It was interesting working with somebody like Peter Cook, because he could just come up with something. We were jamming with dialogue the way people jam with music. We'd start the day with a subject matter, an idea we'd discussed the day before. We'd write some stuff, then he'd go in, come up with an idea and record all the voices himself, all the characters. Then he would maybe collapse for the rest of the day and we would do our thing on top of that, which was musical response to his dialogue. And then perhaps the next day, he would do a dialogue response to whatever music response we'd done the day before.
This sounds wonderful. How many records do you know that take the trouble to do that?
KEV: I can't think of any. But you're talking about the process of making the record, the experimental side. You see, there are two sides to every experiment; there's the excitement in the experiment itself and there's the result of the experiment (laughs)... Now, when we were making it, and probably even now, the result wasn't really the point, it was two people allowed to spend fourteen months in a womb of darkness and sound, bringing their wildest dreams to bear. And I suppose that was the excitement, that was the thrill. But whether we came up with something worthwhile, I'm not convinced that we did.
What were your feelings when it became clear that the industry were going to be puzzled, the media generally hostile and the public indifferent?
KEV: I suppose my initial feelings were, shit, we waited too long to do it. It's not necessarily a bad piece of art, it's just not timely. I suppose when you think of it, art has it's value for the moment. You mentioned Tubular Bells and other albums with the word concept wrapped around them, had we had the freedom to do it earlier and had done it earlier, maybe it would have had some real value, but the timing was so wrong and it became a symbol, to me at any rate, of the complete opposite of where everything was moving towards. And I found that rather disheartening and rather embarrassing and rather career-crushing. And erm, a nasty stain, if you like. All rather sad, after all the work. And even releasing it. We didn't do it to release it, we did it because we had to do it. It was because it had to become a commercial product, it had to go through that trauma, and we had to accompany it through that trauma. Probably the whole thing got out of hand, from its initial experimental nature, growing to a double, a triple album. there were never any breaks or, what's the word, selectivity applied to it. And I think it would probably have benefited by that. Or if there was, I forget them, we probably ignored them.
Did you ever listen to it again?
KEV: I've probably heard bits of it, actually. I occasionally dipped into the first album and side six. You know, maybe 'Lost Weekend' and things.
You didn't put yourself through Peter Cook thing, then?
KEV: I couldn't.
Is that because you had been told, unequivocally, that it was a pile of shite, or did you feel it in your bones?
KEV:I think I was beginning to feel it in my bones. Probably towards the end. Not that it was a pile of shite, but some vague disquiet.
That's interesting, because Lol wouldn't admit to a moment of doubt.
KEV: Oh, really? I probably never said anything. And even if I had, one wouldn't have known what to do about it. There were moments of disquiet in that, What the hell is this that we've done? I think it was the necessary encroachment of the selling of this thing. How do we package it, how do we market it, what is it? How do we make it accessible? Which was kind of out of our hands. We were just two guys who'd gone in and fucked about for fourteen months to create this angel or monster. It was now up to other people to decide what to do with it. It was then that it became a bit frightening. (laughs) 'Consequences' could have been an interesting album and indeed, there were some interesting moments on it, and the original intent, I think, was noble. But it just got out of hand, both in our contributions to it and the way it was sold.
Godley and Creme called it a day in 1989. What was that about?
KEV: Our tastes didn't converge as much as they used to. They converged very well for a very long time, but our tastes were changing. I'd started to do a little video work on my own, which was awkward. Didn't go down particularly well. Partially, we felt bound together for life, we were two halves of the same brain for so long and that became a similar bind to me as 10cc. Suddenly there were ideas I wanted to do that I had to ask somebody's permission for. That was becoming a pain. Again, I did some things on my own that I enjoyed doing on my own and I felt, why can't I do this? And again, it was proving impossible to do so. Again, the feeling was we're getting to the end of the line. There wasn't much life left in the old dog. And we were no longer two halves of the same brain, we were two separate brains. We couldn't live in the same body anymore...
Final thoughts on 'Consequences'?
KEV: To me, it was like folly, Victorian folly. I do think some of it's shit, drivel and a lot of bollocks. But I'm speaking in hindsight and as part of the team that made it and probably if I listened to it again, I'd find glimmerings of real sparkling genius. But, as I say, the first record, a couple of songs, the last side I remember with a certain fondness. The rest is just a load of drivel.
Do you care whether it comes out on CD?
KEV: I think it would be interesting to see how people reacted to it today.
Why do you care what people think?
KEV: What's the point in releasing it if you don't want people to react to it? Art shouldn't be hung in galleries, listened to or shown on a screen if the artist does it for himself. It's there for other people to enjoy and appreciate, as well as the artist. Especially when that amount of money's gone into it that wasn't your own. It was a record, whether one likes it or not, it became a commercial enterprise, one would have liked some commercial recognition for it. We never thought about that when we were doing it. There was that inevitability at the end of the tunnel, but we didn't give a shit, we were too stoned, we were enjoying ourselves too much. I'm sorry to sound so jaded about it, but we hung a left and went too far down the wrong road.
Well, there is some greatness there, believe me.
KEV: Oh, well I'm glad you think so.
Maybe if we can get it out on CD, you'll give it another listen...
KEV: And I might just get that horrible sinking feeling. And I might not be able to listen unless I'm alone in a darkened studio with it blasting out at megawatts...