THIS INTERVIEW IS TAKEN FROM THE "ROADBLOCK" FANZINE FROM 1995.
PETE WATERMAN INTERVIEW: Interview By Paul Smith
Well there I was at last, Tuesday 27th October 1994, 2 p.m. sitting in the Reception of PWL Studios waiting to meet the one and only Pete Waterman. To say I was nervous is a mass understatement. Let's face it, for the past 10 years this guy had been my hero and now here I was about to meet him in the flesh.
Before the interview I was given a tour around the PWL complex by Pete's personal assistant Helen and I have to say that the "feel" of the place is just amazing. The reception area is just covered in gold, silver and platinum discs as is, near enough every inch of wall space in the whole place. It's only when you see these discs and multitudes of other awards that are littered everywhere that you can begin to grasp the enormous success had by Mike, Matt and Pete. The Studios were nothing like what I had imagined. For a start the place is quite small and cramped and to be honest quite untidy - but it is an organised chaos. It was a great thrill to stand in the same room and at the very microphone that Kylie, Jason, Sonia, Donna Summer et al sang into.
Can you tell me a bit about your background Pete, and what you did before SAW?
You don't have that long do you (laughs). Well I've always done this. I've been in the music business since 1961, different companies and different jobs both part time and full time I've been doing this since 1961. I've worked with them all, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles.
You met the Beatles?
Yep. I met them at their very first gig as the Beatles. They were the Silver Beatles before that. I've done a lot of things.
How did you meet Matt and Mike?
They just walked in. The Company I had before PWL was called Loose Ends and we'd done Tracy Ullman, The Belle Stars, Musical Youth, there's so many. Anyway one day I heard this song which was just about at the time the Government legalised CB Radios, it was called One Nine For a Lady Breaker and it was written by Mike Stock. So we did the song with an act for a record company and I can say that it was the worst record we ever made. In fact it was so awful we gave the company their money back, but it brought me into contact with Mike Stock. Then about 18 months later I get a call out of the blue, this guy wants to come and see me with Matt Aitken and we started a working relationship and the rest is history.
What were those early days like?
They weren't very different from the last days. They were always arguing, they were fraught. In the early days I think there was less politics played. The sad thing about the whole relationship was that there was too many politics playing. There was no politics at the start because I wouldn't allow it and everyone was so frightened of me. Without a question they are the most talented guys around but they hadn't got what I had and they tried to second guess they had their own versions of what they wanted to do and it didn't work towards the end. So you have to say fine that was then and off you go.
What do you see as the secret of SAW's success?
Talent. Talent and hard work. Talking about Mike Stock, even one of the first songs he wrote that I heard which was One Nine for a Lady Breaker was an utterly brilliant pop song. He's just brilliant. Mike is probably without a shadow of a doubt the most brilliant writer I've ever seen. I mean he is certainly in Lennon and McCartney's bracket. There is no question about Mike Stock, the kid is a genius. No matter what anybody says, you cannot take away that. We had a magical partnership. We all added to different parts of that partnership that was magical. Matt was brilliant technically, superb player, grasped modem technology very quickly. He was absolutely like a big sponge. He is still probably faster at picking up technology than anyone I've ever known. He's a genius at that and one of the greatest guitarists I've ever worked with. People tend to forget that about Matt Aitken that some of his guitar solos were bloody amazing. His live playing on Mandy's "I Just Can't Wait" is just fucking brilliant. That has become a classic guitar record with everybody sampling it. I mean that was recorded live seven minutes of music, no rehearsal. What happened was I wouldn't let him out the door until he put the solo down and he did it. Amazing. And that was Matt's part. My contribution was the ideas, pulling it together, working with Mike, focusing Matt on the technology and it absolutely worked. Perfect as a team. I could spot the hits. It was my vision. I had 20 years of experience behind me. So what I was good at was adding 20 years of experience to a great songwriter and a great technician, all three of us working together on a song was brilliant because we came up with 3 different versions or pieces that worked as a unison. We never ever got involved in each others part. It was part of the process, Mike's job is that, Matt's job is that and my job was that but we co-worked with each other in a certain area at a certain time. Certain titles were Matt's, certain titles were mine, certain songs were mine, certain songs were Matt's. But they were all put together by Mike who had this brilliant idea of ideas, lyrics and melodies. The one thing that Matt and Mike aren't good at is publicity, they're crap at it. Put them in front of a microphone and they don't know how to play the game. I know how to play the game. It stems from being a DJ. I've got the gift of the gab. Now, unfortunately, I think that soured a few relationships. It shouldn't have done 'cos that's not what they're good at. They're too intelligent in fact that's their problem. They are highly intelligent people. You know that Mike and Matt were university students. Mike won a scholarship to RADA, one of very few people so you see he's a very clever guy. Unfortunately when he's doing an interview with someone he lets that get in the way and I've looked at a few interviews he did since and he's tried to be like me but he can't 'cos he hasn't got that mentality. He reads too much into the question whereas I answer the question straight out.
How does it feel to have been part of a phenomenon as SAW?
Well to be honest, unfortunately this is a cliché 'cos I've said it so many times, but it's the only way I can describe it. I remember reading an article about the Beatles and they were asked what it was like and they said they were too busy doing it to know what it was like. And that's how I feel. During 1989 to 1991 I worked seven days a week. I worked on the Hitman and Her 'til 4 o'clock in the morning on a Sunday, by the time I got home it was 6.30/7.00. I didn't get up till 2 o'clock, then I had to take my girlfriend to lunch. I just wasn't there, I didn't enjoy it. I was making the roses, I couldn't smell them. I didn't stop.
Do you not think that's a shame that you missed out on it?
No, no, no it's not. I don't look back and think Christ I missed all that. I think Christ that was interesting. Sometimes I read some of the fanzines and I think Christ almighty did I really do all that. Was that me, or I'll crop up on TV and I'll think God I remember that and it takes you back, but we really did not have time to stop and smell the roses. I was so busy. Flat out but I wouldn't change one second of it.
Did it not annoy you when critics said your songs all sounded the same?
They did sound the same, they sounded successful. That's what they mean by sounding the same. They don't actually sound the same, "Say I'm Your Number One" sounds nothing like "I Should Be So Lucky". What they mean is that they sound successful and that's the biggest compliment anyone can pay you. So if someone says to me all your music sounds the same I shake their hand and say thank you very much. That means I've done my job properly.
It's product identity really isn't it?
Absolutely. Did my job properly. If you're saying you don't like it then that's fine by me. I'm not here to convince you, but what you've just said is that it was so successful you've got an opinion not based on any reality but of what you've read in a magazine. It's all the same. Put "Say I'm Your Number One" next to Kylie Minogue, there ain't one note the same, "Never Gonna Give You Up" sounds nothing like Donna Summer. They're written by the same writers in the same style with the same goal and that's to sell records. So if they say you've done your job so well we couldn't tell the difference I say thank you very much that will do for me. When Michael Angelo painted the Cystine Chapel, the Pope didn't say excuse me all the angels look the same. He said they're all angels and Michael Angelo says great I've done my job, pay me the cash. Here I am up here on my back does this angel look like that one, yes it does, fine I've done my job. People want angels to look the same and they want to hear a record that's a hit.
It's probably jealousy really
Course it is. Totally. The only way you are disparaging about something is not to understand it. You know these critics never say "in my opinion" they always say "I'm no expert, all this is crap".
Everyone's a music critic aren't they?
Of course they are, but what I say to them is go and do it then. Plenty have tried but they can't.
Yes, names like Ian Levine, Nigel Stock ...
Forget 'em, they don't even know where to start. If it's so easy why hasn't it been done.
Probably the worst question you can be asked. What are your favourite songs? Mine have to be "Better The Devil You Know" and "Last Thing On My Mind".
I think it's interesting that everybody picks "Better the Devil You Know" as I think it's not one of our best songs. I think what it did, it brought Kylie out of one area into another area. It certainly isn't a great song, we have, in my opinion, written songs that leave that miles behind "Beyond Your Wildest Dreams". "Better The Devil You Know" isn't even in that class. "Make it Easy On Me" also. Songs that have not necessarily been hits but purely as songs, leave "Devil" miles behind. What "Better The Devil You Know" did, it took Kyle out of the teen image into an adult image. That's probably why people remember it more. When that record came out it caused a sensation particularly in the Hi-NRG clubs. People thought it was unbelievable. And of course it was only nicked from "Roadblock". Now it's interesting 'cost if you go to a Kylie concert the record they all go wild to is "What Do I Have To Do" which is definitely one of my favourite songs. My favourite Kylie song is "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi". I just love that song. I love the way she sings it, loved the video. I think that is the best Kylie song. I was into my French mood at the time so it was deliberately different form "Lucky" and "Certain".
You have personally known a lot of top stars. Can you tell me what they were like? What about Kylie?
I don't think we ever get that close to them. We have a job of work to do. That job of work is not necessarily conducive to a relationship. You must know people you work with but you don't classify them as friends. That's what it's like. We work with artists we don't work with friends. I also think it's too dangerous to get to friendly with an artist, you'll always get let down because they will always shit on you. At the end of the day you're dealing with egos and your ego will always clash with their ego. It's immaturity, and it will never be any different. Did you think your Dad was the greatest bloke in the world when you were sixteen, of course you didn't. There's a period in all our lives when we think our parents are so much older than us, they have nothing to give us, they don't know what they are talking about, they're trying to stop us from doing what we want to do and we go against them. Then you get to 24 or 25 in our lives and you think haven't we got wonderful parents. And that's the pop industry.
Ten years from now Kylie will realise that the period she went through with Stock Aitken Waterman was probably one of the most magical times of her life, right now she thinks it was the shitiest time. It's a shame because she will never regain that but she doesn't understand that. She isn't adult enough to understand that, never mind what she felt kids absolutely adored her, she changed a whole generation of kids. Kylie had a problem I think with gripping reality. There she was in this soap opera suddenly making records. She lives in a small country where she was a big fish, suddenly becomes a star, she comes out of that pond into this bigger pond where at that point she was a tiddler. So although she had big stardom in Australia when we started working with her she was nothing here. Once Neighbours was becoming rapidly a cult programme, it was on in the afternoon. When we first worked with her though she was absolutely nothing. I'm serious. Maybe some kids new who she was because she was in Neighbours, but Neighbours was not successful until Christmas day that year. History will show that "I Should Be So Lucky" turned the key to a number one television show of all time and the number one female artist of all time. Why it did it I do not know, but I know for a fact that when Michael Hurrl called home to ask us to send a tape over to the BBC of "I Should Be So Lucky" that was in November of that year. Firstly, Neighbours was not on at peak time, secondly they had no intention of putting it on at peak time and thirdly nobody cared about Kylie Minogue. By December they'd flown a crew out to Australia to put her on the Noel Edmond's Christmas Day show, live from Australia to sing "I Should Be So Lucky". The next day they previewed Neighbours at peak time and by the end of January Kylie's "I Should Be So Lucky" was at number one in the charts. Now all that came from a BBC Producer who on this is a smash. That's the truth. All that combination worked why it worked I don't know 'cos it was only a silly little song called "I Should Be So Lucky" written in less than an hour. I was in Manchester and Mike wrote it here. Mike and Matt did an amazing job 'cos it was a joke. We were up to our eyes in work and they took time out. Mike and Matt at that point were very polite. We were up to our necks recording Rick Astley, Bananarama, SAW and Sinitta. We couldn't move and Mike actually took 3 hours out of his time, put a track down and recorded this song before she was back to Australia. In that respect probably no other record producer I've ever known would have done that. We did it, or Matt and Mike did it. That to me again is something history will never show, how polite we were to people and how we allowed ourselves to be pushed around. That was another part of the Stock Aitken Waterman aura. We just did things for people that were no expected, we never acted like stars, we never took ourselves that importantly we just got on with our work. So that's a fact. That unlocked the biggest selling female album of all time and the biggest television show of all time just that 3 hours of Mike Stock's time. That's exactly what did it. They all owe everything to that one song. It's impossible to say why it did it but it did.
What about Jason Donovan?
Jason was a real mate, one of the lads and I think that came across in everything we did. He was a mate, he was always a mate, he was treated like a mate. We had a genuine affection for the guy. I'm not going to say we had the foresight to sign him because we didn't. We didn't want to sign him we thought it was a tacky recording both Kylie and Jason so we put him with Pete Hammond down the workhouse. Suddenly one day he came in to say look it's not working with Pete Hammond I want to work with Stock and Aitken. Rick Astley walked out the night before and left us with a track "Nothing Can Divide Us". I rang Mike and said get that track up. I asked Jason if he wanted to try singing it, he went in, sang it and we finished it. That was it. That's the truth. The night before Rick had walked out of the studio refusing to sing the song. Jason walked in the day after and said he wanted to work with Stock and Aitken and I said Oh I've got a song for you. 'Cos I knew the song was a smash. The timing was great. We became good buddies Jason and I. We went humming round the country motor racing. Then there was the Kylie/Jason record. We didn't want to do it. I thought it was tacky but they kids were coming up the street asking where can I buy the Kylie/Jason single. So I had to go to them and say look we're going to have to make this record I'm sorry but the kids want this record we don't have a choice.
You must have known that it would be huge.
Well the truth is we pulled it. It wasn't that huge. We flew to Australia, Matt and I. Christ when I think of those days Jesus, I nearly died. We nearly killed ourselves. Matt and I flew out on a Sunday afternoon. I flew in from Sheffield where I'd done the Hitman and Her on my helicopter. Met Matt in the lounge, we flew to Sydney, sat up all night doing the vocals with Kylie and Jason and flew straight back. We're talking stupid, and then I did the Hitman and Her on the Thursday. The truth is we wrote "Especially For You", we did the track, we mixed it and we had orders of 1/4 of a million at the depot and I just said I don't like it. I watched the faces of the kids here, we all knew it was a hit, and they were disappointed. So I called Mike and said Mike I don't like it and he said well I don't like it either but it's going to be a hit. I said that's not what the rule is Mike. You don't like it. I don't like it and these kids don't like it so I'm going to pull it. Can we resurrect it. By now we'd missed the pressing deadline, missed it by an hour, we're talking Christmas here, and Mike said let me do it and I told him you've got four hours. I've got to have it in 4 hours. If I can get it to the factory tonight by 7 o'clock we can get it out. If I don't well they're going to give me hell anyway. He said I'll have it in 4 hours. Four hours later I walked in there, they'd finished the mix, got onto a bike down to the factory and sold a million copies. And that was because Mike and I said hey it's just not good enough. Never mind that they've got orders for 250,000 it's not important to us. This is not a Stock Aitken Waterman record. We will not put this record out it's not good enough. That's what we were like, we always had this brutal truth between us, we didn't kid each other. If the lyric wasn't good we'd fight over the lyric, if the bass didn't work we'd fight over the bass, if the bass drum was to loud we'd fight over it and on "Especially For You" that's exactly what it was. We tried to make it black and it wasn't black, we tried to make it peaches and herd but it didn't work. So we went back to the standard form and it worked. Absolutely worked.
Which artist has given you the most satisfaction?
It changes. I think that every one of the acts and every one of the records for different reasons have given me pleasure. Bananarama to me were great. The original Bananarama with Siobhan Fahey. Now I hated her and she hated me but the real catalyst was Siobhan Fahey. Take her out of the group and it just didn't work. She was a pain in the arse she hated me and I hated her but I had total respect for her talent. Total respect. She was a pain in he arse to work with but when she was on form ... wow she was great. She was the sour to Keren and Sarah's and our sweetness which I believe was important. Love in the first degree was her title that came form one of her lyrics. There is no question that when she left, they are great friends of mine Bananarama, I love them. I still think that they were one of the greatest groups and one of the enjoyable parts of My life, when Siobhan left they never had the edge, she took away the edge. She hated me and I thought she was a dick head but that worked because that chemistry was there. We were fighting all the time but I was actually the one thing that goaded her into working. She never understood that, but I don't have a problem with that. To me I think some of the Bananarama records were some of the finest pop records ever made in this country. "Love In The First Degree" to me is fucking awesome. What an awesome song. That is the record I think is my personal favourite record we ever made as a pop record. If someone says to me what is pop music I'll play them "Love In The First Degree". I remember when Matt and Mike wee doing the track I always knew it was a number one record. Everybody fought me on that, we fell out dreadfully over "Love In The First Degree" but I didn't care, I said no bollocks, this is it, it's going out I don't care what you say. I mean this record was at No. 38 on the chart and they all called me at home on Sunday afternoon and gave me shit when they hadn't announced it on the chart. We were up to No. 9 and they hadn't announced it. It was at 38 on midweek. I had them all on the phone complaining and it turned out it was at No. 3. From No. 38. I knew. I knew that once that song was on top of the pops it was all over. I knew. And it sold for the B side for Christ sake not for the A side. It sold because of "Mr Sleaze", because that was the follow up to Roadblock. But I knew that if I could get that record on top of the pops then it would go whoosh. 'Cos it's got the greatest line in any pop song "last night I was dreaming I was locked in a prison cell" what a great line to open a song with. Sorry but it's fucking magical. I pinched the song from "Tossing And Turning" way before your time, I'm talking about the lyrical concept. The first line is "I couldn't sleep at all last night" to "Last night I was dreaming". It's not the same line but it's got the same impact as "I couldn't sleep at all last night" 'cos it's grabbed your attention. They all had no faith in the song but I had no question 'cost I new the lyrical idea concept of the song was sound absolutely sound.
What are Bananarama doing now?
I've no idea. If they work with anybody it will be Mike.
It will be a shame if they end. I think "Please Yourself' was an excellent album
Oh I loved "Please Yourself'. The big problem with Bananarama was by the time "Please Yourself' came out they'd lost the impetus. There were too many politics. We remixed that album probably six or seven times. We took out the brilliance of Bananarama. We were made to take it out by Pete Tong because he'd become a victim of fashion by the time it came to "Please Yourself". Where before he was important to Bananarama. Later he brought in all these hip and trendy guys that hated Bananarama so all the love we had for Bananarama was stripped out by all the other guys. More, More, original we did was a monster, we did it 2 years before the album came out. Too many people who didn't understand what they were doing got involved. It's a great album especially the ballad on there, it's awesome.
I also love the Boy Krazy album
Oh don't get me onto Boy Krazy. The trouble is the album is just wrong. The group didn't work. The tracks were brilliant. They were really Kylie tracks. I'm in total belief that those songs will come back, those and the Lonnie Gordon album that didn't get issued. There are some brilliant songs on it. Our best songs are on those albums. "Best Of Friends" is an excellent song. Mike and I did some songs with Suzette Charles. Have you heard them?
Yes, they are ace. My favourites are "Don't Stop" and "After You're Gone"
Yeah. They are unbelievable. "After You're Gone" has got the greatest lyrical line in any Stock Aitken Waterman song. "You must be an angel with a heart of gold". Fucking unbelievable line that. When Mike wrote it down, I went fuck me what an amazing line. This is why Mike is the best at what he does but he just can't take direction now. He's got too many people telling him what he should be listening to. The man is a genius. There is no songwriter that I can think of that is even in his class. He's miles beyond anyone.
Is there any artist about at the moment that you would like to work with?
In all honesty no. There's nobody out there that excites me. You see I'm funny. I don't want to work with anyone that's successful. That's not what I want to do. I like working from scratch. Mike and Matt are working with the Disco Divas, it's not for me. I'd rather start with some young talent and do some different things. I don't care if they have top 10 records to be honest. If you stick at what you know it will come through ultimately. It will.
What about groups like FKW?
Well I think with FKW we've missed the window. They are great but we've missed it. That doesn't worry me though. I think you've got windows and if you don't fit in those windows it doesn't work and with FKW we've slightly missed the window. We'll keep trying. I mean we're in the middle of a few new songs at the moment.
So clear this up for us Pete, is it France King Waterman?
No Phil is gone. Phil France is gone. I sacked him last week. The F wasn't France it was Dave Ford. Ford King Waterman.
Waterman ? Pete or Paul
Ah! Yes you're absolutely right. The first single they put out was "Romeo And Juliet" and that was Phil France, Tony King and Paul Waterman. That's right, but the FKW that cam out with "Never Gonna Give You Up" that was Ford King and Waterman. Me opposed to Paul. "Seize The Day" should have been a big hit. That's been the problem with this company, we should never have let that one go. Everybody was raving about it and we didn't cross it over. This company fucked that up, it really did.
Will you be doing an album with FKW?
Probably. I'm not convinced that we have an album worth issuing. I think we've got five or six good tracks. I don't want to put my mistakes out to people. I don't think that does any good. I try to put out records I really feel are statements and I don't mean that in any big way, I just mean good records.
We don't really know too much about more recent acts at PWL. Like Erik for instance.
Well you see we never shout out about an act until they break here. Erik we're trying with. She's a singer we inherited from a deal. I haven't signed an act for 2 years. Haven't signed one act since Boy Krazy. I am about to sign my first since then and you can read into that what you like. But yeah Erik we're trying with.
I loved her single "Devil And The Deep Blue Sea". Will it ever be released?
No. No it will never get released, not by her anyway. It is a smash song. Her new one "We Got The Love". The problem with that is that it's not a hit song. Mike and I always said that about this song. We were forced into recording that song for political reasons, I'm not making excuses but I never believed that that was a hit song. That's being proven as the song is struggling, it's doing exactly what I expected low fifties.
That's been the same with a lot, well actually most, of the material you've released lately isn't it?
Well we're building a new team here. Rome wasn't built in a day. I'm trying out a few new players, putting new studs in the boots. I'll come out in the second half with a new team and it will be a good team. It will be a team that will play with the same aggression that Stock Aitken Waterman played with in 1983. We've gotta get back to making good pop records.
What about Slamm?
Well their new single is due out so the jury is about to go out. I'm not going to say one way or another on that one as it's not my project. I've just done my best. Whether my best is good enough only time will tell. Producing Slamm was like having our hands tied behind our backs It was impossible. If this works we know where to go from now. If it doesn't work it's because you can't work with your hands tied.
Going back in time a bit. When I was being shown about I saw the dungeon where Band Aid was done. That must have been an amazing time. What memories do you have of those 2 days?
Exhausting. Well those things were always more difficult on me than Matt and Mike 'cos I was the one who had to run around keeping everyone bleeding happy. I was flying about like a bleedin' madman, making sure everyone had a cup of tea or a scotch or whatever they needed. Told who was next, talk to the press and keep everyone vibed. You try doing that for 48 hours mate, I'll tell ya it's bloody hard work. On the phone for 3 weeks before making sure everyone would be here and no egos would get spoiled. Christ.
You must be proud of that.
On the Band Aid Record ... I let Bob Geldolf take the credit 'cos it was his idea. He phoned me. I bowed out. So on interviews I let him do it and take the credit. I thought that was only fair. The only one of those charity records that I am really proud of, only because it was so special to me personally was the Hillsborough Record. Probably the greatest moment of my life that was because I was invited by the football club to go down on the Sunday morning to be at the memorial service with the players. Fans weren't invited as they were making a video. I arrived at the car park at 7.30 in the morning and there was a 3 mile queue of fans waiting to get into the grounds as this was the last day they were opening it. My feet didn't touch the ground for 3 miles. These people physically picked me up and handed me down the queue. Now that is something, when these people are hugging you. Whew! And when you get to the gate they're all singing the song and pushing you through the turnstiles, the team hug you and take you round the pitch and there is this sight ... of flowers. Thousands and it was like being hit with a sledgehammer. There is nothing in my life that can compare to that moment. Three miles of people Unbelievable.
You were never given the credit you deserved by the industry. Did that bother you?
No, no, no. The industry itself not important to me, the public are important to me. The public gave us the credit we deserved, they both 50 million of our records. What more accolade can you get than that. I believe that the industry will look back within the next 10 years and regret that they missed this period of Stock Aitken Waterman because I believe what will happen is you will get new people coming into the industry who will have been real fans of Stock Aitken Waterman. And suddenly the industry will say Oh well this is not like SAW was. We are already seeing this with the Kylie thing, people saying wait a minute this was a bit of a special time. So like the Murphy's I'm not bitter. I'm not. I did it as I did it for a purely egotistical thing. I said I could emulate Motown, that's what I set out to do and that's what we did. Purely a dream that I had. I wanted to be my own boss, do what I wanted to do with talented people. 12.5% of every record sold in Europe was ours. That was a dream come true. It was hard work and we're going to do it again. I really enjoyed it. Mike Matt and I didn't care if we failed but we tried. I wanted on my tombstone 'Here lies Pete Waterman, at least he had a go'. That's all I ever wanted. Obviously it worked and that's nice. The money was never important to us, certainly to Mike and I the money was never important and I don't think Matt could say the same, but Mike and I never did it for the dosh. It was the success we worked for and I still believe in the success the money doesn't interest me at all.
And you firmly believe that PWL will bounce back?
Well, if you look at my career. I started in 1961 and I've done this a few times before. I did this at Magnet records, I did it at Two Tone. I started Disco. There was no Disco until I put out Silver Bird conversion and Donna Summer. This is not something I haven't done before. I've always had this belief in myself. I don't question my ability to do it. I sometimes question myself if I should be doing it. I have given an amazing amount of my time to other people and I haven't given a lot of my time to my children and my family and sometimes I actually think is this worth it. That lasts for about 30 seconds and the answer of course is 'Hey! this is what I do, I can't kid anybody, this is it. "I'm an obnoxious bastard and they have to like it like that. I'm selfish. That's my problem but that's why I'm successful. I only care about what I'm working on. Stuff the industry. I can't do anything else. This is what I do. I'm not a revolutionary, I don't want to re-invent the wheel, I just want to make sure the world keeps going round.
Is your attitude if it happens it happens, if it doesn't, well ...
No. I'm not that blasé. Don't get me wrong, I'm not blasé about it. I take it very seriously. This is more serious than death, it is more serious than death. When I put a record out to me it's got to be a hit, if it's not a personal blow to me. Now I've got over the shock of having misses, I got over that 30 years ago, but it still doesn't mean to say that I don't feel it every time it doesn't work. That's why Mike, Matt and I were so successful because it was a personal blow to us when it didn't work. This is our baby and when we let our baby grow we like to see it looked after. And you only release it when you think it will. When it doesn't you feel personally responsible.
Tell me about your split from Mike.
There was no split really. It's just he saw things in one way and I see them in another way. To me we've got to be back and start all over again. To me I'm only as good as my next record, I don't care who I am. I'm flattered that you have come here and said how great we are and that you love our records and you appreciate what we did. I thank you for that but I don't take it in any other way than flattery. I know to keep your faith in me I've got to go and do it all over again. I'm not kidding myself. So I know that my job for people like you is to repay your faith in me and that is to say I'll do it all again chaps. Here we go again, off we go, new set of blokes. It's the Lonnie Gordon title "it's happening all over again". That's why we wrote it. That's where the song came form. I believed it and certainly my partners didn't. You cannot be arrogant. You have to re-invent yourself every so many years. You have to shuffle about until it works and when it works off you go again. Mike and my views of how you shuffle things are different. I'm not going to fall out with Mike, I don't want to. How can you fall out with the most successful team in history. I don't want to spoil that. I've got to do my own thing. I started a record company chaps and that company made us very very wealthy. I owe something to the staff here who work for 15 grand a year - sorry 'I can't just drop 'em in the shit. I can't just walk away now and say sorry I'm closing the company 'cos Mike and I just want to make records. I can't do that. I owe the team a livelihood. That is the responsibility that I took on chaps. So we've got these commitments, we don't like them but I have to repay this belief that people put in Stock Aitken Waterman. You can walk away if you want. This business is not your business. His new advisors tell him that what I'm doing is wrong fine, you go away and do your won thing, I've got to do mine. I have got to live with the problems that these people have got. I have to live with that, I have to sort it out, no one can do it for me. I have to let this evolve as these people were loyal and made us multi-millionaires, so they have to have some kind of support. I have no problem with starting all over again, that is not a problem to me, I can assure you. I've done this many times before so this is not a scary time for me in fact it is an enjoyable time for me. I love listening to people with ideas based on nothing and I say well that's interesting but what if you do this, this, this, this. It's an enjoyable exciting time moving on.
PWL has moved away from the pop sound that made it famous ...
Do you think so?
Oh, totally. This company has had it wrong for 2 1/2 years which is why certain members of staff are no longer with us. That is the only thing I agree on with Mike Stock, but again I believe you've got to allow people to evolve and then at some point you say not for me and pull back. Well you don't pull back, you start again. But everybody is entitled to their opinion. Although the new stuff is still being enjoyed we've got to get back to sons. PWL is based on songs, always was and always will be. So we have to get back to songs 'cos there is no substitute. You've got about 2 records in the top 5 that are both songs, albeit different sorts of songs but still songs. so I do think that the last 2 1/2 years PWL doing this has been very much to the left and it has to come back. I think it had to do that, it's growing pains, but it's a glitch it's not a major event 'cos in 10 years time that will be shrunk down to as if it were a couple of months. I mean we are still putting out some good music. But that's where Mike and I disagree. Mike doesn't see or understand. You can't explain to him he's got blinkers on about it. Now I could take him back to 1984 when Pete Tong was bringing us house records in from Chicago. They didn't have any more songs on them than these do, but we managed to put songs on top of them for Mel and Kim and get away with it. But we got the tracks right 'cos Matt was able to make the tracks work, then Mike put the songs on top and I got the whole perception. You can't tell Mike. Pop music isn't necessarily one thing, it's anything that's good. Pop music isn't that clear cut. 2 Unlimited, I'm sorry, brilliant records brilliant. Now OK you can argue on Mike's principles that I put a lot of myself into those 2 Unlimited records and where was my loyalty lying. Well my loyalty was always to Stock Aitken Waterman. It was never anywhere else, but I'm sorry here was a concept that I got involved in, make it work, changed a few songs around because to me that took the focus off Stock Aitken Waterman and allowed us to rebuild the team while the game was still being played over here but nobody else saw it that way and I'm sorry I'm not going to make excuses I've got people to pay here, they've got their livelihoods, they've got to be paid. So the Clubhouse records, the DJ Bob records, I don't care as long as people enjoy them and they are good records. With the exception of 2 Unlimited most of the rest were one offs, not important. They were must good records, put them out, next ... They weren't taking the place of Stock Aitken Waterman.
Do you choose the records that go out on Eastern Bloc and Peach?
Not Peach, Peach is very much an experimental label. Eastern Bloc is being split into two. Commercial and hard-core. I won't have any input in hard-core but I certainly will have input into the commercial side like Loveland. I have written the new single for Loveland. There will also be a Stock/Waterman song on the album so the commercial side will be my side. It will all come through me now. Nothing will go out of this building that I have not personally approved. That's the way it always was. That's what I'm saying you give people freedom. Than it fails and you say right thank you very much now it's back to the way it was. What I say goes.
This is your 10th anniversary. Have you or do you plan to celebrate in any way?
No, I've not even heard from Mike Stock in 12 months and I don't expect to. I celebrated the publishing deal with a bag of chips. So on the grounds that I celebrated one of the biggest publishing deals ever in the British Record Industry with a gab of chips I'll probably celebrate the Stock Aitken Waterman anniversary the same way. It's not important, it's gone, just get on with it. It's nice now and then to hear the records on the radio. I think it's more important for people like you, I think you guys get more out of it than I do and I think that's as it should be, I don't necessarily think that I should get pleasure out of it. Probably when I'm 74 I'll go to Stock Aitken Waterman connventions, but at this moment in time I've got to get on and do my own thing.
What do you hope to achieve by being on the BPI Council?
I think I've got something to offer the Industry from a different point of view, I don't know if it will make any difference but I certainly made a big difference in PRS (Performing Rights Society). I just think that it's very important to have an independent voice on those councils.
I remember reading that you said one of the biggest problems was Radio One.
They will always be a problem, they hate pop music. The one thing that this country has been good at is pop music and we've got a national station that tries to stop it. The biggest export in the world is pop music and we've got a national radio station that doesn't want to play it. The record industry employs 56,000 people and Radio One are being allowed to chuck these people out of a job. If this was a national industry there would be an outcry, because it's pop music no one gives a shit. It's incredible. The Chancellor of the Exchequer comes and talks to the BPI and says how wonderful we are because we pay huge sums of money in tax and There's Radio One. I'm sorry, Radio One are out of order. It's ego maniacs playing stuff they want to play not what the public wants to hear. They wouldn't last in business for 5 minutes.
Hobbies? (This is a silly question really as the whole office and all around the studios are hundreds of model trains and name plates)
Well I think you could guess.
I heard you've set up a train company.
We bought part of British Rail and we run trips. Despite popular rumours to the contrary I have very little time to spend on the railways. Sometimes it comes in bursts when I can spend maybe 3 days but in reality I spend very little time on the railways. I have a very successful company run by professional people. I would love to play trains but as I said to you earlier this is my job, this is all I know what do.
Last question. What is your proudest achievement over the last 10 years?
My proudest achievement is that we did this for ourselves. Everybody talks about the independent music scene, this was the independent music scene. Everyone talks about rock 'n roll this was rock 'n' roll. Sorry everybody missed the point they all thought that it was sex and drugs we did it the other way around. We did it with excitement and cash. We took soap opera stars and turned them into international idols. That was Rock 'n' roll and the media missed it. They never saw it and why because they weren't teenagers. They had all been looking for this thing to happen and it did and they missed it. Independent, nobody has been as independent as me. Nobody has ever done what I did. I took all my artists on the road with Roadshow and let kids in for a quid. We did 2 million people. We had riots with Jason Donovan. We did it. We pulled every stroke. We were number one on the singles chart, number one on he albums chart and you walked into the Roadshow and got a bottle of coke and a hamburger for a quid. So come on, where was everybody whey didn't they see it going down. I took the Motown package tours together with Coca cola and we went out and created a revolution. Just nobody was watching. So when people say they were independent I say bullshit. Independence is not a badge for an excuse. Independence is doing it yourself, making it work and making money out of it. We are the only independent record company that was truly independent. We wore our badge with pride. We did not use silly haircuts and silly stories in newspapers to get credibility. We stayed independent said fuck the industry we're gonna do it this way. We did things that nobody had done before. We were not sponsored by a major record company. I started this company with £50. To an £86 million turnover I started it with £50. I am proud of the fact that we were truly independent. Nobody had money in us, we didn't listen to anybody, we didn't play the rules like anybody else, we didn't sell ourselves, we did what we believed in and that was no compromise. We never allowed A & R guys into the studio, we never allowed promotions people into the studio, we never allowed record companies to tell us what to do. We did the delivering of the record and that was it. You didn't get a say. That was the rule. When I delivered a record it went out and they had not say. There's nobody every done that in the music industry, I don't care who they are, the Sex Pistols or anybody. We were the only record company that was truly truly independent. Malcolm McLaren took money off Virgin, off EMI, WC took money off no-one. We went out and made records, we started off making gay records and opened it up to kids. We never compromised one iota. We were never the darlings of the music media because we always disagreed with everything they said, we would not become trendy. So we were independent and were not allowed to be in the independent chart. Why? Because we were successful. They don't every think you can be independent and successful, but we were and by God we pulled it off. So what am I most proud of, our independence. We did it all ourselves. Through sheer hard work and most of all talent.