Interview with Pete Astor

Peter Astor was on Creation Records as a member of The Loft and The Weather Prophets before going solo. Ten years after leaving Creation we decided it was time to speak to him and ask about the old days and also his current projects, The Wisdom of Harry and Ellis Island Sound.

You were a writer for the NME before joining Creation. Did you enjoy your time at the paper?

Yeah, it was okay..I was only a stringer..so you kind of went in one a week & asked if they had anything for you…it was in Carnaby Street then so I’d go down and see the rather unpleasant arse end of 80’s mod & skins & try not to catch their eye as I ducked into the office.

How did you meet the other guys in The Loft?

They came to see me in a band of mine thinking my band was somebody else…I think Bill and Andy thought they were going to see Andy’s mate Razzle (later of Hanoi Rocks I think)…anyway, they got me instead & asked me to be in their group…we then spent about a year meeting up each week & The Loft evolved from there..

Were the band going long before you signed to Creation?

About a year and a half I think..but of course I’d been thinking about being in a band & putting out records an rehearsing the whole thing in my head for years!

Tell us about the first time you met Alan and the Creation gang.

Me and Bill went to see The Nightingales at his club the Living Room in a pub called the Conway Arms near the Post Office Tower & we got talking to Alan.

What music were you listening to around this time?

God…lots of different things..um jazz stuff, Thelonious Monk., still a favourite.. Curtis Mayfield… James Brown, The Pop Group, The Fall, The Nightingales.

The Loft’s most famous gig was unfortunately your last, do you have any particular memories or feelings towards that night at The Hammersmith Palais?

It was a weird time..things had got very bad with the band communication-wise. I certainly wasn’t getting on with Andy at all & I guess being a bunch of boys we never really managed to get anything out in the open…except in so far as I left the stage towards the end of the gig after delivering a rather nasty Patti Smith syle monologue about what I felt about what was going on during ‘Up The Hill & Down The Slope’…which I guess was kind of apt I guess but also not very kind

Have you ever spoken to Andy Strickland since?

I met him in the off licence once & I also saw him on tv a while back talking about the All Saints split where he spoke (rather knowledgedly I felt) about how the band had split into two warring factions…

Do you ever visit Andy’s website (dotmusic.com)?

No I haven’t but I guess I should have a look.

You were obviously present for the Mary Chain’s first London gig. What were your first impressions?

Being probably far too knowing and prematurely grown up I remember not quite seeing what McGee & Foster were so excited about, but that became clear once I heard more stuff & saw them some more

You went across with Alan to Warner’s for a while with The Weather Prophets, did you enjoy that experience?

It was nice filling our bags with Led Zepplin lps..& the money was excellent..but it was the same big investment/quick return scenario that you tend to get with big money, but we got out pretty quick.

Do you think Warners were a bit harsh with him and the whole Elevation project?

I think that’s how they do buisneess & It’s a bit naive and just plain dumb to take their dollar & then to start whining about it all.

My personal favourite song of yours was actually ‘Hollow Heart’ (which no one ever mentions), what songs would you recommend to someone who’s new to your material?

I’m very proud of lots of it but particularly ‘Joe Schmo & The Eskimo’… there’s actually a japanese compilation called ‘Providence’ which gathers all the good stuff up which works really well, although I say so myself.

How did the Weather Prophets come to an end?

We kind of petered out really…we’d been trying to do stuff with sequencers & stuff…we loved New Order at the time… but we couldn’t manage it so that combined with the fallout of the Warners thing where if you’re not a big as Johnny Hates Jazz you’re percieved as a failure.

You then went on to make a few solo records, how did you find this?

I thought ‘Zoo’ was a really good record. but generally I think I was being a bit grown up & self important in my aproach to music…

You left Creation in the early 90’s, are you surprised at how much Creation and the indie scene in general changed throughout the 90’s?

Uh..I liked the bit I saw on tv recently when Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine jumped on Phillip Schofield…!!

Did you like many of the later generation of Creation artists?

Yes… My Bloody Valentine..’Giant Steps’ by The Boo Radleys, Oasis at the beginning were brilliant.

How did you spend your time between Creation and forming Wisdom of Harry?

Learning about stuff, kicking my heels.

Tell us about the Wisdom of Harry, how would you describe your sound?

It started more electronic cos that’s very much what I was into & had great faith in then…now The Wisdom Of Harry is more based on singing and words…but still with noises & stuff…its really hard to describe – I’ll leave that to others I think…we’re currently using a line up of vocals, guitar & drums and soundloops when we play live… but when I say soundloops I don’t mean we play to loops.. i don’t like doing that… it means the loops kind of hover over what we do… if that makes any sense… I am currently working on a new Wisdom Of Harry album

Is it a full band or do you use various musicians?

The Wisdom Of Harry is basically me & various guests…like David Sheppard – who I do Ellis Island Sound with – and Chris Summers who plays drums when we play live now & also used to do some the electronics before we used live drums…

Any planned releases/gigs in the future?

The next releases from me are going to be together with David Sheppard as Ellis Island Sound … we’ve just signed to Heavenly & will be releasing a compilation of some of our various releases so far together with some of our favourite remixes we’ve done of Regular Fries, Manic Street Preachers and others… this is due out feburary next year to be followed by our first album proper.

What do you think of todays music scene and what reords are you listening to these days?

Always so much brilliant music amongst the shit…my latest listening is actually lots of old stuff at the moment…here’s a list…
cluster Ð zukerzeit
Missisippi John Hurt – 1928 Sessions
Blind Willie Johnson – Praise God I’m Satisfied
Gil Evans – Out Of The Cool
Led Zepplin – Led Zepplin
Bob Dylan -world Gone Wrong
Oliver Nelson – The Blues And The Abstract Truth
Blind Lemon Jefferson – Best Of
1950’s Gospel Classics: Prof Johnson, Henry Green, Rev. A. Johnson, Deacon Leroy Shinault And Rev. Robert Ballinger
The Music Of Kentucky Vol 1 – Early American Rural Classics 1927-37
Charles Mingus – Mingus Ah Um
Michael Nesmith – And The Hits Just Keep On Comin’
Grateful Dead – Europe 72
The Chronological Thelonius Monk – 1947-1948
Sun Ra – Fate In Pleasant Mood/ When Sun Comes Out
Shirley Collins & Davy Graham – Folk Roots, New Routes

-Finally, do you have a message for the kids today?

eh?

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