British rock icon Pete Townshend has spoken exclusively to Music Week about his plans to re-release his solo back catalogue, new material and why he is “optimistic” about the possibility of new Who music in the future.
Earlier this week, we revealed that the legendary guitarist is planning to re-release his back catalogue of solo recordings with long-time friend and former Universal Music Group International chairman and CEO Max Hole onboard for the project as non-executive producer.
Townshend’s solo material is currently with Universal and, while a release schedule has yet to be confirmed, Music Week understands that his catalogue will be re-released and repackaged over the course of 2017.
“When we met back in the ‘80s we became immediate friends; it was clear that he was more than a record chief who would work well for me,” Townshend explained. “He’s a fan, he knew all of my music. He was an aficionado of not just my solo work but also of The Who history.
“There are three areas I can see where he’s going to have a role. One is new music (solo), the other is the old music and then the unreleased demos from the archive.”
At present, there is no date in sight for a new solo record, although Townshend does reveal that he is working on a large-scale, multi-faceted project.
“I have been working on a song cycle, but I can’t say much about it because I don’t know what the time frame is going to be. I’ve been working on something since 2008, which is a massive project involving an art installation.“
A new addition to Townshend’s Scoop series of unreleased demos and rarities is also in the offing.
He added: “What I’m most excited about working on with Max is the new Scoop. We might get that out in the last quarter of this year or the first quarter of next. That’s a pot boiler record that just sells to fans, really. I’ve got so much stuff and it’s always fun to wade through it. And it’s also fun for me to have someone listen to everything I’ve got and make choices.”
As for the possibility of a new Who album somewhere down the line, Townshend says he “optimistic”.
“The Who’s future with recording is still in the air,” he stated. “We’ve tried a lot to make records together, very much like the Stones. They did their blues album [Blue & Lonesome], which has done very well. So now everyone’s suggesting The Who should do the same! Roger and I have had a few occasions where we’ve tried to write and record together but we are more optimistic than ever before, because Roger has grown such a lot; he’s developed creatively, hugely. We’re optimistic we might be able to do something.
“People like The Stones, The Who, AC/DC, who are at a point where they are hugely successful not only with their old fans, but are now playing to people under 30. It’s a bit of a dilemma when we go into the studio whether or not to produce new music to compete with new music that’s out there at the moment - whether we should try to sound like Justin Bieber! Or whether we can be so arrogant as to imagine we can recreate the excitement of our early days, creatively. I used to sit in a studio 24 hours a day – I was hard-working, audacious and I was brilliant. And although I work very hard today I’m not the same person, so it’s quite difficult to imagine how I might pull that off. However, that dilemma is one that really needs to be looked at.”
So, while a studio-based reunion with Daltrey seems unlikely to materialise in the near future, Townshend is more than content to be working alongside Hole on those aforementioned solo releases throughout 2017 and beyond.
“It’s unusual for me to have a friend like Max in the business,” Townshend concluded. “You see lots of industry people in passing; you see them at concerts and you feel like you know them, but rarely do you go fishing for crabs with someone that is the chief of your record label, which is what he was until his illness. It’s been terrifying what he’s had to go through, but it’s been great that he and I can do this work together. I can’t think of anyone better. He’ll tell me the truth. And that’s what I need to hear. “
Photo credit: William Snyder / Trinifold Archive.