Best known as the frontman of 1990s’ chart-botherers Terrorvision, Tony Wright is used to the loud, brash “bombastic” side of performing. Turning his hand to a more introspective style on his debut solo album – 2014’s ‘Thoughts ‘n’ All’, the singer is now readying the release of follow-up ‘Walnut Dash’. With an anniversary tour ahead for his day job, as well as a new business to launch, it’s exciting times for the Bradford born performer. We caught up with Tony to chat about the new album and more. Rock-a-boogie merchant: Eamon O’Neill
Hi Tony, how are you today?
Yeah, I’m good thanks. I’m in Otley where me and my girlfriend are building a coffee shop and print studio. It’s one of the things I do; letter press, Victorian prints etc.
So it’s a bit of a world away from your other job?
Well it kind of is, and it kind of isn’t. If you imagine the kind of printing that I do is ‘acoustic’; it’s all hand-printed, and hand-presses. It’s a bit like acoustic guitars - you don’t plug them in.
So it ties in nicely then with your other current activity, which is the release of your new solo album.
Yeah, for sure. It’s something you do or you don’t. I quite like doing the print, but I like drawing and I like being creative, and as long as I’ve got songs that make themselves known to me, I’m going to work them out and play them. I wouldn’t if I didn’t, and there’s plenty of folks who do, when they shouldn’t. But I do believe that songs float around everybody, so if you’re blessed enough to have them tap you on the shoulder and say; “sing me”, it’s a real pleasure.
Who did you work with on ‘Walnut Dash’?
I sit at home with a nylon string guitar, and I just work out the songs that have tapped me on the shoulder that very week / month / hour, whichever they be. I like the intertwining of guitars, so then I'll get Millie [Milton Evans] from Terrorvision - the keyboard player, I’ll get him to intertwine a bit. So on this album as on the last, Millie plays the lead guitar parts, and the lad who plays bass on this album is Paddy [Morall], from a band I used to be in called Laika Dog.
You obviously enjoy playing with the Laika Dog guys.
Laika Dog were a great thing, because when Terrorvision weren’t playing I still had these songs. They were a group of lads that I met, and it was quite nice actually, because I’d written the first album myself, and most of the second album, and then the third album was more of a collaboration. By the fourth album, it was a definite collaboration, so they were throwing ideas at me, and I was bouncing off those ideas, and vice versa. So it was a nice, organic thing.
‘Walnut Dash’ was funded by a Pledge music campaign. How did that go?
It went great. Gav, my manager called me up, and I was not in the best of places, as you can probably tell from the first album. So, I was in that place when he knocked on the door, and he said; “Tone, what do you do?” And I said, well I don’t do anything, do I? I just fumble about with a load of tunes in my head. And he turned around and said; “that’s exactly what you do – you write songs”. So I played him two tunes in the kitchen, and he said that I should make an album. As I say, I was in a pretty bad place at the time, so he said; “right, I’ve done this thing called Pledge before, so I’ll set you up a Pledge Page”.
So that took the pressure off you?
Yes, and the next day he rang me and said that it was up and running, and the day after that he said; “I’ve booked the studio – you’ve got what you need to make the album”. So I went and made that album [2014’s Thoughts ‘n’ All’], and I actually binned a lot of it, because I thought it was going to be too dark and depressing really, and life did start to get a bit better as I was making the album. So, it starts in quite a dark place, and it goes through that sort of wasteland, almost like in your teenage years when you’re going out and finding who you are - whether that be through various forms of experimentation, and then ended up in in quite a positive place. I was back on an even keel.
It must have been a very cathartic experience for you at the time.
Yeah it was, and it really dug me out of a hole. It was a real pleasure making it, and from the reception that it got from people accepting that. Normally it’s quite bombastic, I mean, I’d done a tour before that playing acoustic versions of Terrorvision tunes, which was quite a task, because I don’t believe in just unplugging everybody and just strumming it; I wanted it to be a different approach so that people would hear the song and maybe hear things in that song that they’d never heard before. So, that led to me being able to put an acoustic album together. So, it’s fate, really, isn’t it?
Terrorvision have had their acoustic moments in the past, such as ‘III Wishes’, but the perception is that you’re a ‘party’ band, isn’t it?
Yeah, and I’m sure everybody has had those thoughts. Words that that touch me on songs are the songs that make me think really long, deep and hard, and my favourite line in any song, ever is in a Neil Young song ‘After The Gold Rush’, where he says; “I was thinking about what a friend had said, and I was hoping it was a lie”, and in just those two lines, it just touches on so many emotions that everybody in the world must have felt. So, that’s the kind of approach I took with the Terrorvision songs on those acoustic dates; I wanted people to hear ‘Alice What’s The Matter?’ as a set of words, and a little story and a little journey. It is a bit of a party when we [Terrorvision] do play live, though.
How did you enjoy Terrorvision’s latest live dates? You looked like you were having fun at your recent Ramblin’ Man Fair and Steelhouse Festival dates.
Yeah, of course. It’s not going to work, is it? I’d rather have a shit day on a tour bus than a good day in the office, you know what I mean?
Terrorvision have the songs that bring that party atmosphere to any festival, don't you?
When we came out, grunge was like - and don’t get me wrong I love grunge - but the preconception was that you had to be ‘tormented’. But actually, having this opportunity to play music and travel the world, it’s the opposite of torment. It’s bombastic and it is exciting, so a lot of the mainstream media would say, oh, it’s a joke, it’s just a joke. And that’s because they didn’t listen.
That must have been frustrating.
I’ve written a song on this new album that touches on it. It’s called ‘The Blues’, and it’s about a guy, and all he’s ever wanted to do is play blues guitar, and sing the blues, but he can’t, simply because he was born into a well-to-do family. He’s got a good job, his wife’s still with him, and the dog’s still alive, and everything’s going right for him, which means he can’t express himself with the blues. So he goes to Las Vegas on this journey to destroy this perfect life that he’s got, because at the end of it he truly believes that if he’s got nothing, then he can be a blues singer, and not just that, but be allowed to be a blues singer. So he’s living on the streets and he gets down to his last dollar and he puts it in the machine, and he wins the jackpot. That’s just the way life is for some people!
Terrorvision have dates coming up in November with Tax The Teat. Are you looking forward to those shows?
Yeah, it’s twenty years since we did ‘Regular Urban Survivors’. We’re very lucky, and we’ve got a cracking fan base that allows me to write an acoustic album and not go; “oh, you should have done an uplifting, heavy metal album with trumpets and bells”. So, they’re a great bunch of fans that we’ve got. We go on tour to see them and experience being in amongst all that as much as they come out on tour to see us.
Finally, have you any solo dates coming up to support ‘Walnut Dash’?
Yeah, I’m going out in September for a week or so. Even though this new album is a full band affair, all the songs I write - like I say, are on a little old nylon string guitar, and I can go out on tour with Millie, in the car, chuck the guitars in the back, and pretty much go anywhere and everywhere. So, it’s always an option to pop up to play. It’s quite nice playing in unusual venues; last year I played in a church, I played on the upstairs deck of a bus, I played in a café, so it’s quite nice to be able to turn up and see what happens that day.
Click here for eonmusic's interview with Terrorvision from Ramblin' Man Fair.
Tony Wright's 'Walnut Dash' is released on 26th August. Visit Tony's official website for full details.