says. “I remember the first Girls Aloud record that
they released, ‘The Sound Of The Underground’,
I liked the way they used the guitars and
everything — it sounded like a bit of a mash-up of
lots of different elements. And I loved ‘Call The
Shots’. And then Neil particularly liked ‘Biology’,
and was very aware df that, and the interesting
song structure. Someone actually criticised
Xenomania because it’s just a series of choruses
and you don’t get a traditional verse...
“How great is that?” says Neil.
“I know,” Chris agrees. “Dump the verse in
the middle, just have a load of choruses. The sort
of songs we’d been writing, it seemed like X were
the perfect choice to produce it.”
Nonetheless, from the very start of their first
meeting with Brian Higgins, they realised they
were meeting someone quite unusual. “He’s very
intense. And competitive,” says Neil. “Within five
minutes of arriving, I stood up to take my coat off
and he said, ‘Oh, I thought you were going to hit
When the Pet Shop Boys started writing
songs with Xenomania a few weeks later, they
had to get used to the organisation’s unusual
methods — their practice, for instance, of
generating multiple melodies over the same
backing track and then selecting and collating the
best. Neil remembers at first being a little taken
“Where I realised that, having written the
melody and the words, you have to write another
melody and words, and maybe even another one.
But we soon got into that.” A similar process,
involving multiple options and redundancy, would
take place to create a new song’s words — or, as
it is called at Xenomania, “lyricing”. (This Neil
would do with Xenomania’s principle lyricist and
writer of vocal melodies, Miranda Cooper.)
“There was the famous conversation where
we said, ‘We don’t call it lyricing,”’ Neil recalls,
“And they said, ‘What do you call it?’ and Chris
said, ‘Writing lyrics.”’
These new approaches quickly proved
productive. “It’s good to have one’s thing
challenged,” says Neil, making the point
of adding, “And his thing ultimately is also
challenged by us.” During the production of Yes,
they collaborated on writing four songs (the three
on Yes and Girls Aloud’s “The Loving Kind”) and
even if they don’t make further records together
they may collaborate again together on songs.
“I think it would be a shame if we didn’t work together,” says Neil, “Because I think
there’s a thing there that he does that we probably
wouldn’t do with someone else, and also I think
at its best we do something with them that doesn’t
sound like their records. I think a unique thing
happens that is almost separate from the rest of
On May 13, 2009, Literally goes down to
Westerham to speak with Brian Higgins about the
experience of working with the Pet Shop Boys
and related matters. As he is unavoidably detained
in meetings for some time,
Literally first has the
opportunity to soak up some of the Xenomania
atmosphere. The dining room, where Literally
waits, is still decorated as the dining room of an
old English house, but on one side of the dining
room sit three young women lined up in front of
their laptops. Each is wearing headphones that
they periodically remove so that they confer.
Some of the conversation is about the Xenomania
ducks — it seems as though some unspecified
duck-related catastrophe may turn out to be less
catastrophic than at first feared — but mostly they
discuss what they are doing. On their computers
they each have music; one helps another who isn’t
too familiar with the computer programme being
used to understand the colour-coding of melodies,
demonstrates how to generate a click track, and
passes on various other tips.
“Say you want distortion on it,” she explains.
“Not that you would...”
Young men with floppy pop star hair
occasionally flit by. Sometimes — presumably
when one or other door in the house is opened for
a moment — Literally can hear a burst of different
new Xenomania music. (One is a mix of the Mini
Viva song, “Left My Heart In Tokyo”. The rest
remain a mystery, though as well as Xenomania’s
own stable of artists they’ve just had The
Saturdays in and are working on new songs for
It appears that at least two of the dining room
table women are working through musical ideas
and writing words — almost, it seems, as some
kind of exercise.
“You have to make sure Miranda is muted,”
one tells another, “So it doesn’t play her ideas.
“Have you got just one song?” one asks.
“No, I’ve got two,” comes the reply.
A while later, with a frustrated sigh: “I hate
lyricing. It’s the worst thing.” (Literally is, it must
be said, rather thrilled to hear the word “lyricing”
spoken in its natural habitat.)
Someone asks for directions upstairs.
“The green room’s on that side” someone
else tells them, gesturing. “The red one’s on that
It is decided that a trip to the shops is
“Can you get some chewy sweets?” the
designated shopper is asked. (Neil and Chris
were the cause of some fascination at Xenomania
due to their habit of visiting the local shop
together in the afternoon and buying a single
Bounty bar — which contains two chocolate-
covered coconut stubs — and then, upon their
return, eating one each.)
At the dining room table, conversation turns
to different lyricing strategies for a song about
cheating. One of them suggests that she has to
agree with what she writes.
“You can create a persona,” another suggests.
“Yes,” the first frets, “But that persona is a
When Brian Higgins appears, he first asks
one of the dining room lyricers to give Literally
a quick tour. There are endless rooms, and
some part of the music-making process seems
to be happening in each of them. First is the
aforementioned red room and the green room on
the next floor — it’s pointed out where most of the
Pet Shop Boys’ singing happened (“Neil mainly
but a bit of Chris”) and where Johnny Marr
“We could hear him in the kitchen
downstairs,” my tour guide says. “It was really
Further upstairs there are more rooms, and more people. Some talk about writing “More
than a dream”. (Up the top of the house, a fair
amount of ducking is required.) Literally is also
shown where the crowd vocals were recorded
for “Love etc.
” Then Literally is led into a
much larger drawing room with a view over the
garden. “We’ve been building up for years and
years and years,” Brian Higgins says. “We were
just in a bedroom above a shop 15 years ago.
He apologises for the wait. “Busy, busy, always
busy,” he mutters. When Literally mentions
the remarkable and large cast of characters
here, he says, “It’s very difficult to get in.
Everyone’s hand-picked. Your talent just gets
you an interview — it’s character and attitude and
application that determines things, it’s not talent.
Talent just gets you on the pitch. Nobody knows
who or what they’re joining when they come here
but it’s been thought through exactly how they’ll
get on with people, so as a result it’s a house
full of enormous ambition but with people who
are very, very quietly determined as opposed to
showy people: ‘look at me, look at me, I’m the
finished article’. I guess it’s full of people who
want to be coached, who want to know stuff.
sort of mirrors me and Miranda — we’re obsessed
by knowledge. We want to know more about
ourselves, we want to know more about how to
do things better, we want to know stuff. And so
I guess that’s the culture there, and so we look
for people who are probably a bit like that. We
know we’re not the finished thing. You put us in a
corner, I’ll tell you how good I think we are, but
that’s to stay back here driving it — at the forefront
is: ‘How can we improve, how can we get better,
how can we make it more exciting? How can we
not go stale? How can we stay exciting? How
can we stay relevant?’ It’s all of those questions.
Puzzles. Non-stop puzzles. So I suppose this
house is full of people who are up for puzzling
that out with me, but letting me be the person that
actually fills the crossword in, because only one
person can do it. But this is a group of people who
all want to know the answer as well. So it’s a bit
like that... I think that’s what it is.”
He adds — he is already on a roll, and
Literally, who is anyway quite happy to listen, is
yet to get a question in — “But the youngest artist
is 15 and the oldest person is 55, and I think that’s
fantastic,” which leads h~m to reminisce about his
and its probable relevance to how
he has come to do things. “I came to it late... I
think most people in the music business probably
have their first successes or get heavily involved
with it in their early 20s — that never happened for
me. I had a record deal when I was 19 and then
got dropped, and so I had to work in business and
write songs at night. By the time I got to 28, 29,
we were starting to have hits in the daytime and
I was still working — it was only when I had a
number one hit in America...” — he is referring to
Cher’s “Believe” — “. . .that I actually left work,
full time employment. That was ten years ago,
when I was 32. So to come to it at 32, I cherish
every day. Because I’d got to the point at about
29 where I never believed I’d ever leave work.
I’d started to have hits, but I thought this is the
way it’s going to be: I’m going to work in the
day and I’m going to have a hit a year, and I’m
going to have more money than anyone else I
know, but generally speaking this is my life, and
I’d accepted that that’s what it was. And then
suddenly it changed. And so as a result of that I
cherish every moment and every single day, and
that’s the truth of it. This is my life. I don’t have
a life outside of it,
I don’t want a life outside of it.
That’s it. I’m obsessed by it. And very lucky to be
able to be obsessed to this degree. But it has to be
driven by success. If there’s no success then there
are no people — that’s a fact. Otherwise it’s just a
weird guy in a house who buys in all these young
friends — it has to be successful.”
And then, with a little encouragement, he
begins to speak about the Pet Shop Boys. Some
of what he’ll say today will be news even to Neil
and Chris. They’ll turn out to have no idea, for
instance, what he had originally planned to say to
them on their first visit.
“It’s funny,” Neil will say, when told,
“Because when we went down there I thought we
wouldn’t work with him, I think.”
“I didn’t think for a moment he wouldn’t
want to work with us,” Chris will say. “It didn’t
occur to me.”
“I think I was thinking that we were
auditioning him,” Neil will point out.
“But I knew they had a whole thing going on.”
Before our conversation, Literally has
noticed a note on the wall in one of the downstairs
rooms that says “Brian, leave by 4pm for a
haircut”. If that is a current message, he will turn
out to have far too much to say to make it:
Do you remember when you first heard a Pet
Shop Boys record?
Yes. That would have been on Top Of The Pops...
I guess it would have been January ‘86. “West
End girls”. I was struck by how they looked
incredibly different — incredibly different from
anything else that was around. I don’t know how
I thought about how they looked, but I thought
“West End girls” was just an incredible record.
Incredible record. So, yes, I remember it very
What seemed different about the way they
I think it was Neil’s long coat. And he wasn’t
an obvious front man, I suppose, in the way
that people have been projected for years and
years and years before then. I think he was more
enigmatic. But the music was the thing that I
was blown away by. Just at the age I would have
been at — I would have been about 19.
And then I
loved the second single, “Love comes quickly”,
and obviously that was a relative stiff which
was weird. I always found that was strange. I
couldn’t understand why it was never a smash.
But I was intrigued by the Pet Shop Boys, there’s
no doubt about that. I thought the second album
was amazing. I was making the album that got
me my first record deal when that album came
out. And the music I was making was incredibly
hip — the house music thing was just exploding in
this country on an underground level and I was
doing those sort of records and was starting to get
a lot of interest because of that. I can’t remember
what we eventually called the record, to be honest
— it didn’t do anything. But I remember coming
back from the studio and listening to their new
album on a cassette in the car and feeling very
relevant because everything I was doing was very
electronically based. It was a continuation of what
they’d done on the first album. They’ve always
been so strong, chordally, the Pet Shop Boys, as
well as melodically.
How much did you follow what they did after
What was the third album?
That was the colours?
I don’t know. I thought it was alright. But the Pet
Shop Boys to me as an influence.., the first two
albums. And that’s basically that. That’s where it
I know a few songs after the first two albums,
but I don’t know that many. Not really.
What was it about those two albums?
Well, I was obsessed with synthesisers, and I
guess my obsession with synthesisers had been
based around Duran Duran and the way they
utilised synths, which I thought was amazingly
clever, and Japan, and Depeche Mode. They were
my three groups that I probably obsessed about
and aspired to be. But back then, especially where
I was from in Cumbria, you’d never see a Jupiter
8 in the flesh, let alone be able to afford one.
Because why would one of those ever find its way
up there? It never would. So I was just obsessed
with electronic music, and its inaccessibility to
me made me more obsessed. Particularly as I
was a keyboard player. I had what they called a
Casio MT-40 keyboard which was a white tiny
thing that introduced a range of home keyboards.
It was the most repulsive thing going — it wasn’t
remotely analogue, it wasn’t remotely like a
so I used to get effects pedals and do
anything I could to change it and to make it swirl
about with these pre-set sounds. So for me the Pet
Shop Boys were the first group that I felt pushed
electronic music forward beyond where Japan,
Depeche Mode and Duran Duran had taken it.
And in many ways the songwriting was superior
to those three groups. Undoubtedly — melodically,
lyrically, in every single facet. And so I felt that
they progressed a genre that I was obsessed with.
So I admired them and wanted to know about
them because of that.
Were there key soags for you apart from “West
Ead girls” aad “Love comes quickly”?
“Tonight is forever”, I think it was called — I
loved that off the first album. Second album, I
liked the album version of “Heartbeat”, didn’t
really like the remix. Didn’t like “It s a sin —
that was never my type of song. But I thought
“Heartbeat” was incredible. “Rent”, things
like that. “King’s Cross”. They’re the ones that
immediately spring to mind. I also loved “It’s
alright”, which came much later. And I liked their
remix version of the first album as well.
Aad what caught your atteatioa at all after
I liked the verse of “Being boring”. I liked the
intro of the Kylie duet they did towards the end of
the last decade, with the choirs at the beginning.
That’s probably about it, really. I’m very
competitive musically, so I couldn’t name loads of
songs by any group that I would say really mean
a lot to me, so the fact that there’s seven or eight
with the Pet Shop Boys that genuinely do for me
is a lot.
Did you thiak about them at all ia those years,
aad thiak what you thought they should be
Yeah, I felt — and Neil knows this — that they
became less and less broad, lyrically, and they
ceased to speak to me. And I just felt that whatI was getting, rightly or wrongly, was Neil’s
personal life. And I wasn’t interested in Neil’s
I was interested when I felt they
were talking to me, and when I felt they were
talking about broad subjects. And the amazing
soundscapes that Chris and Neil would paint.
It was a world in which I felt a part of, and
welcomed into by then. Obviously a lot of songs
are personal, but if you’re interpreting a song
as a listener as a broad meaning, that’s their
prerogative. When I felt that they stopped inviting
me into their world and talking about purely their
own one and telling me what that was like, I
wasn’t so interested.
And was there anything musically that you felt
Yeah, I think the rhythm programming had gone.
Didn’t you say, when you started working with
them, something like that they hadn’t made a
good record since 1988?
Yeah. Or ‘89. Something like that. But I believe
that to be true. As a fan of theirs. I’m sure if
I trawled through all the records I’m sure I’d
find things that contradicted that, but generally
speaking I felt that.
So what was your instinctive reaction when
they approached you?
I didn’t want to do it. Because I’d just had a
difficult experience with another big group, in
Franz Ferdinand, and I thought, “Well, these lot
will be worse.” But I respected them so much,
and respected the request so much, that I felt it
was better to let them know that face to face, as
opposed to a dismissive “No, we’ve not doing it”
through their manager.
So you thought you were meeting up with them
to gently say no thanks.
So what happened when you met them?
I told them about why I felt I would be bad for
them, because I know what I like and I don’t
understand what I don’t like, therefore I dismiss
what I don’t like. I don’t dilute, I don’t have a
I have no interest in what I don’t like.
End of story. And so I’ll always walk. So I wanted
to highlight that. I said that and they said, well,
we really want to work with you now, because
we think you’ll push our standards far higher.
And I thought, well, that’s good. That made me
more interested. Because I wasn’t trying to put
them off, I was just telling them the truth. I felt
that they would be very difficult because they
have a clear vision, and so do I... and so what
happens in that situation? But I think they came
to me because they knew that they’d identified
something from us that they wanted, and I was
pretty much saying, “Well, you know, you can’t
break off the bit that you think you like and leave
the other bits aside because I won’t let you do that.
” If you get me involved with this I really am
involved with it and you have to be prepared to
go through that with me, and it’s not always an
incredibly pleasant experience.
What was the thing you thought they just
wanted to get some of by working with you?
I mean it more from the perspective that
obviously no one asks to work with me unless
they’ve heard something on the radio or seen
something in the charts that they themselves
relate to. You wouldn’t want to work with me if
you’d heard loads of stuff that you didn’t relate
to because that wouldn’t make any sense. So
therefore people are coming to me already with
a quality idea in mind, because they’ve heard it.
They want that. They want whatever it is they’ve
heard applied to their project. But people need
to understand that when they hear something
that we’ve done on the radio, a process has been
followed to achieve that. It isn’t just something
that I pull out of a hat. A very particular, precise
procedure has been followed which is supposed
by a philosophy which is supported by a mentality
which is supported by a lifestyle — the whole
thing goes back back back back back. It’s a puzzle
to me, and I’ve puzzled it all my life, and I guess
I’ve worked with people that I’ve been with for
thirteen, fourteen years and we’ve puzzled it
out together... and we’re just not interested in
the way other people do things. And we’re not
interested in celebrating in the way other people
celebrate. We’re just not interested in anything
other than the way we want to do things, I
And it’s a mentality that you can’t break,
because it makes us unhappy and then you won’t
get what you want anyway. Everything about us
is about enormous enthusiasmfor something. And
therefore big artists can come in and they think
“they’re the flavour of the whatever, let’s take
their thing and then we’ll do what we want with
it...” Well, no, that’s not acceptable anyway. I’ve
had that experience happen where the big artists
were fine until they got into the mix room and
then they basically pulled the record to pieces.
So I took my name off the record and the writing
credits off the record. Because they’re assholes.
And they sold about 20,000 copies, and they’ve
never been seen since. So big artists are often
jerks of the highest order. And often people
say don’t meet your heroes because you’ll be
let down, and I sort of understand why people
would say that. But, no, I think at the end of the
day they came to us because they knew that they
needed something that was more relevant than
they themselves were able to provide, which is
very, very good... which is why they’ve had such
a long career. Because they’re bright. And they
know when they need help, I think.
And so that
was basically that, really. I think they wanted
some sort of regimented creative program — but, I
think they would agree, it’s totally creative, within
a very regimented structure. In fact it’s so creative
to the point where Neil would think that the chaos
of the creativity was overwhelming at times.
That’s how creative it is. But obviously that sort
of mentality, to be able to cope with information
on that level, I’ve trained not just me but myseW
Miranda, Tim, we’ve trained our minds to think
that way for many many many many years. That’s
why you couldn’t really copy our way of working
— because you’d be overwhelmed with it.
So what else happened in that first meeting?
Did they play you songs?
Yeah, I think we went through 12 or 13 songs. I
think by that time we’d agreed that I would only
get involved if we co-wrote a handful of things,
to make it interesting.
And fascinating. Because I
certainly didn’t want to just produce an album of
songs for someone else. They played me through
a load of stuff and I think I picked about eight or
nine that I would have been motivated to turn into
What was the difference between the ones
you were choosing and the ones you weren’t
Probably just the content of the songs, I suppose.
And the voice. It is all about, to start with, you
have to have a voice. I felt he was singing too
high in certain songs and I said, what would it be
like if he dropped that a semi-tone, dropped that
a tone. All these different things which they went
away and did, and those things sounded better,
I think, because of it. And I just think it was about the lyrical content. I was saying, “What’s
that about? What’s this song about?” I’d be
asking him. How broad was it lyrically? I didn’t
particularly want to make any records based on
the things that had concerned me of the records
of theirs that I’d lost touch with. So I picked the
ones that I felt I would be motivated to turn into
records, bearing in mind that we had nothing to
do with them particularly other than we needed
to modernise them and make sure than sonically
they sounded very good.
Once you’d decided to make the leap to do it,
did you still have reservations?
No, because I think the speed with which
Chris Lowe came out and said, “We definitely,
definitely want you to make this record.
was so adamant about it that I thought, “Well,
you guys know where you’re at here. Because
I’ve said to you all the things that should really
bother pretentious artists that aren’t self-aware as
to the quality of their own material and it hasn’t
bothered you, it’s actually motivated you, which
says to me you’re in the right frame of mind to
work with somebody like me.” And so I felt fine
about it. It’s all about people’s reactions. If they’d
gone a bit, “Hmmm,” I’d have thought, “You
know what? There’s a train that leaves here at
twenty past four.” But they were motivated by my
focus. Directness. Well, I’m not direct, I’m very
focused. I know what I want. So that motivated
them. It was an instantaneous motivation thatwasn’t a ploy or an act or anything like that,
so I immediately felt heifer. Obviously I had
preconceptions as to how I thought they might be,
and they sort of answered those that they weren’t
that very quickly. And that’s why they’ll have a
20-year career, or have had one, and are still very
relevant, whereas obviously lots of other artists
who on the surface might be hipper than them
won’t be here in a few years time. Because they
don’t have that intellectual understanding. And
that’s what doing well in the music business is all
about. Where are you? You need to know. And I
think they knew that.
When they came down to work for the first
time, what was that like?
It was fine. We knew how we wanted to write so
they had to get with our writing program pretty
quickly. Which was a bit worrying for Neil, I
think, but he got into it, and was very happy. I
didn’t know the dynamic in a writing situation
between him and Chris so I was asking a few
questions and eventually was able to ascertain
that we had to give Chris a melodic input and
the best way to do that was to put him in a place
on his own with some music and get him to start
writing out melodies on the keyboard which is
what he did. And it was fantastic. And he really
loved it. But I think we’d reasoned out that was
the best way to do it. As Chris went upstairs very
happily Neil said, “You didn’t really well there.” I
said, “What do you mean by that?” He said, “Oh,
he’s walked out at this stage before now.” He said,
“However you did that, it was very good.” And
then I went up to see Chris an hour or so later and
he was genuinely beside himself, happy happy.
But that’s Chris.
Do you remember what he was working on?
I think he was working on “The way it used to
be”. He heard that very quickly and wanted to
work on it.
I think they found this idea of generating many
multiple melodies over something, and then
selecting from them, somewhat unusual.
Obviously I’ve been writing songs my whole
life.., at a piano, melody, lyric.., can do it all, to
a very very very very high standard. And I know
how to get it out of other people as well. And so
I probably consider myself, rightly or wrongly,
a melodic expert. The expert on it, I suppose. I
do feel that way about it. If a melody’s crap, it’s
crap. There’s no debate about it. I don’t like it. It’s
obviously a bit difficult because something such
as that is so subjective, but generally speaking
I think I know. I have to believe that. It’s not
that I can hear every hit that’s in the chance,
because I can’t — it isn’t about that. But I only
understand what I understand. Therefore, through
understanding and watching other people write,
and observing how they write, I tried to come
up with a way that ensured that people didn’t
get stuck in melodic cul-de-sacs, where they would spend time polishing ideas that basically
weren t any good. Melody is the raw material of
It’s not lyric, it’s a melody. It’s a tune.
That’s what people latch into first: do they like
the sound of that, and the voice that’s resonating,
and all those sorts of things. So therefore I avoid
cul-de-sacs: “right, here’s the verse”, and then
you write whatever verse you think’s good,
“and then we’ll write this, and then we’ll write a
chorus”. It’s not that it doesn’t work, but I find it
really boring and it means you can spend a hell
of a long time working on ideas that ultimately
aren’t going to go anywhere. And so therefore
I encourage true melodic expression whereby
you’re confident enough in the surroundings that
you’re in to basically pour into a Dictaphone
every melodic idea your brain can give that piece
of music within a six, seven or eight minute
period of time. Nine minute period of time. I then
comp those melodies down and then select the
ones that I really like, that I hear. And then I’ll
make a gut decision as to whether or not I think
there’s enough melodic content with which to
make up a song. And then once that’s decided that
yes there is, therefore you go about the process of
lyricing all of those things. You lyric everything,
you sing everything, and then it’s based upon the
best vocal performances. Because you may well
write a lyric that’s fantastic against a melodic
thing that when you get in the studio doesn’t
actually sound that great, so you’ve got to get rid
of that immediately.
So it’s all based on the taste
test, I suppose. The vocal has then got to deliver
the whole thing, so basically you line up the top
six, seven, eight vocal performances and then
you have the intellectual challenge of knitting it
together, which I love, and which is fascinating.
And very challenging.
Are you surprised that more people don’t
make records this way, or is it something that
only works because it’s very specific to you?
It’s obviously very specific to us. I can only
say to you that the challenge built within it is
overwhelming sometimes. It’s very hard. And
we’ve trained our minds to work this way over
many many many many many years. So I think
to some people it would probably be nonsensical.
But let’s talk about an example of a track that
clearly uses that system. “Under Pressure”, David
Bowie and Queen, there’s virtually no repetitive
parts in that song. Now, I didn’t listen to that
as a young guy and think, “oh, that’s the way
to write songs”. It’s just the way I fell into it,
wanting to do things that are original and different
but still very very commercial. I found that I
was becoming obsessive about knitting things
together. A chorus is obviously constant, but I
didn’t understand why everything else around the
chorus had to be constant too. I can’t remember
my precise motivation for doing it or why it’s
ended up that way, but it sort ofjust has, really.
I’m clearly not the first person that’s done it
But I think it’s about personality — you’re
pursuing something that’s remarkable, original,
makes people sit up and take notice, but at the
same time has enough catchiness and commercial
awareness to draw them back to it again and
again and again. I want people to be listening
to things hundreds of times and finding nuance
that they didn’t hear previously. What is that? Is
that a scream for attention? I don’t know. I don’t
care. But that’s how I hear music — looking for
the originality and the rememberability. It’s the
hardest thing, to get the balance between those
two things. I’m interested in where avant garde
and pop collide. But the “pop” word is critical
within that. “The Sound Of The Underground”
is very traditional — the verse, bridges, are all the
same, and that record is regarded as a very genre-
defying pop record. But “The Show” is incredibly
complex in the way it’s knitted together, and it
hangs by a thread. If you altered one of the parts,
it definitely doesn’t work.
But something incredibly original done in the
right way is the most pop thing on earth, isn’t
Yes, completely. I’ve just gone beyond the point
where you would start at the verse and finish
the verse then go to the bridge and then finish
the bridge then go to the chorus and finish the
chorus, or whatever. I think you can achieve all
that by doing it in a wider, broader way. And I
think the path to true originality is that at some
stage the originators must be confused. They have to be. If you are to achieve something with true
originality. And I know people could read this and
say, “well, he did that, and that’s not particularly
original”. I can only say I aspire to it. Whilst, at
the same time,
I’m obsessed with hit records. I’m
obsessed with hit records. I don’t want anything
that isn’t a hit. So you have to understand how the
two things merge together, because a cool record
that isn’t a hit is a waste of time. It is, for me. A
waste of time. A cool record that’s not known by
anyone, it’s a waste of time. It’s about trying to
get your music played to as wide an audience as
you possibly can and trying to fulfil as much of
an original aspect within that as you possibly can.
So it’s a very challenging burden that you place
on yourself. But I think it’s at the core of why
we ye had such a long, long run of hits, and why
so many of those hits have got really particular
highlights within them that don’t necessarily
relate specifically to anything else around them
at the time they’re released. And I think that’s a
good body of working.
How smoothly did the writing side of it work
with Neil and Chris?
It was great. It was really good. I think Neil got
into it because he realised he was writing stuff
initially that was good and then five minutes
later he was writing something that was better.
I think Neil would admit himself that the first
thing generally he would come up with himself,
that’s what he would run with, and that’s what I’m trying to block. Don’t back your first idea
because it might be the third one that’s the winner.
But songwriters generally are arrogant, and I
would include myself in that — the first thing you
do that you like, you think that’s the one and you
follow it. And I’ve seen us write too many bad
songs, or average songs, that followed that. So
our system defuses songwriter arrogance and puts
a much more labour intensive melodic aspect to
it. You work for the melody a bit harder. Most
songwriters, and as I said I’d include ourselves
in there, can fall into the trap of thinking that the
first thing they’re enthusiastic about is fantastic,
and that’s a big error if you’re wanting to have
lots of hit records.
What was the first song you were writing with
the Pet Shop Boys that really seemed to come
I think it was “The loving kind”. That was the first
thing that we did down here: myself and Miranda
What was the process whereby you realised
they had doubts about it as a Pet Shop Boys
record and then you thinking of another
purpose for it?
I think because the backing track for “The way it
used to be” and the backing track for “The loving
kind” had similar sort of chordal sentiments —
fairly nostalgic, fairly downbeat,
— and Chris had his heart set on “The way it used
to be”, I think he saw “The loving kind” as a
competitor to that song and as a result of that he
How did you feel about his reticence?
I thought, fair enough. We’d agreed to do three
songs, and once I agree something I agree it.
There was four. So Ijust said to him, “Make a
decision — I need a decision right now.”
Were you already thinking: this could work for
I think once they made a choice I immediately
thought that it could work for Girls Aloud.
Did you at any point think they’d made a
mistake, not doing it for themselves?
I sort of didn’t care, really. I never thought about
it from that perspective. Because we were only
going to do three songs. We already knew “Love
etc.” was going to be the single — that was always
decided from day one. And therefore I didn’t
think that they were making a commercially
dodgy decision. Because “Love etc.” was the one
they wanted. They felt they had to release “Love
etc.”. Even before there was a song on it they
wanted “Love etc.”.
Even before it was called
“Love etc.”. They were adamant about it.
Because the backing track wasn’t supposed to
be available to them, right?
Yeah. I didn’t want to give it to them. Because it was earmarked for another project.
Did you mind when they were keen on it?
No, I didn’t mind, I just wasn’t going to give it to
them. Chris kept on about it, and he could see that
I didn’t want to play it. I don’t think Neil got it
initially. Chris got it. I think Chris got Neil onto it,
and then Neil eventually said, “Can we hear that
piece of music?” Then he started to bang on about
it. Then I was lying in bed one night, and thinking
“for fuck’s sake...”, and then sort of thought,
“No, I can see it. This is a move that they could
and should probably make”. So I sort of relented.
Did it easily and quickiy find its way to what it
In terms of the raw material, we got stuck into it
straightaway. There were probably lyrics being
sung down the afternoon we got stuck into it.
Were you very confident about it straightaway
as something that could be a lead single?
Yeah. I think the first 45 seconds, minute of that
track are as good as anything we’ve done. They’re
amazing. So, yeah, it had all the potential. It had
its own complexity that needed to be worked out,
as all our tracks often seem to have.
What did it have that seemed special to you?
Well, it was very different for them. It was much
more aggressive, which is not a word you would
apply to the Pet Shop Boys particularly. It was
aggressive which I really liked — I’m a very
aggressive person and I like music to attack.
To shoot you in the arm a bit. I want that from
it. There’s a driving aspect to a lot of the music
we’ve made over the years. Girls Aloud are
different because Girls Aloud have become such
a big group that it’s up to us to deliver what they
need to fuel the Big Group-ness.
So Girls Aloud’s
records were more driving and pumping and
innovative then than they are now because that’s
not what’s required. They need to be fulfilled as
the big stars they’ve become, so “The Promise”
was the sound of a big group, a group about to
be huge. They needed the theme tune to that.
They didn’t need “The Show”. They didn’t need
“Biology”. They needed the theme tune to the
biggest girl group on the planet, and that’s what
we felt “The Promise” said to us. That’s where
I’m doing the right job for the girls. But generally
speaking my own default position in music is to
have something aggressive. So for the Pet Shop
Boys to get into that idea as well with that record
I thought was great.
There was a moment, wasn’t there, when you
and Neil got into quite a disagreement?
Yeah, it was hilarious.
What do you remember about that?
Obviously Neil’s a very very very intelligent
man, and he’s self-confident in his own ideas and
all that sort of stuff. And I think he told me how
something was going to be before I’d finished
my own experimentation process of it, and I
just... I won’t be told in that sense. You can ask.
Or whatever. But generally speaking it was that.
I need to cross all the “t”s and dot every “i”,
particularly in a system that’s as strange as ours.
Sometimes it’s about going away from something
just to come back to it. And to have surety, to
have knowledge, that you did everything and tried
everything to make things as good as they can be.
And I just felt his excitement was interrupting that
That’s the point I’m making: you can’t
break off the bit that you want and then decide to
curtail the involvement there because you think
you’ve got what you want. You can’t do seventy
per cent down the track and then stop. You go
the whole hog. And I’m the only one who knows
that journey. So I think it was that. I think his
convictions were generated by his own excitement
of how things were going. Whereas when I hear
something I think is amazing, I’m excited for
about 15 seconds, and then that’s it. I never feel
the same way about it again, unfortunately. I’m
looking for the faults in it. That’s all I do. And so
I have great moments with all of the records that
we make but they’re very small and very quick.
And after that I start looking at the problem and
Did it end up more like he wanted it to be, or more like you did?
I probably need to remember specifically what it
was about. Was it a structural thing or a lyrical
thing? I can’t remember.
Wasn’t it about whether you repeated
something in exactly the same way or made it
That’s exactly what it is.
Neil wanted to alter the
lyric on the second half of the second chorus,
or something, and the lyric that had been done
sonically wasn’t good enough. It just wasn’t
sitting correctly. And so the debate was whether
it was better to repeat something that worked
or change to something that didn’t work — the
change on paper looked good, but didn’t sound
good. So it’s better to repeat something that
sounds great as opposed to change something and
sonically lose that standard. It ticks an artistic
box, it doesn’t tick the listener’s box, and I will
always be on the side of the listener, not the
artist, whether I’m the artist, Miranda is, Neil, or
whoever. It doesn’t matter. You have to deliver for
the listener. So I think that’s what it was about.
The second half lyric that Miranda and Neil had
come up with wasn’t good enough and I didn’t
like it. The words didn’t sit as well as the first
half did. And so I said, “Well, if you’re not going
to make it better then we’ll run with the first half
again.” Which he objected to, because he wanted
the lyrical expression. I said, “Fine, well choose
fucking better-sounding words then.
” It was a bit
And what happened in the end?
It changed. I think all of us eventually were
crunching words. And this went on for weeks
— not the argument but the need to find better-
sounding words. Eventually we got it. It was
a completely valid discussion. At the end of it
Neil said something like, “The South Bank Show
should have filmed that.”
As you worked on the whole record, were there
songs that you thought were the key songs or
I thought at the end of the day that they were
really serious about wanting to make a statement
with their first single, which I thought was really
admirable, and I thought it was the right thing
for them to do. So after that I thought, well,
you re doing the bravest thing here by really
altering your sound and altering your perception
completely, so therefore it isn’t really for me to
suggest what happens after that. So I never took
an interest in it particularly. I don’t have one to
this day. It’s their career. They need to run with
Do you not even have an opinion of what you
think the singles should be?
Not really. I only have opinions where I think it
can be felt or heard. I don’t sort of opine for the
sake of it, generally. I don’t bother.
Because it’s a
waste of effort. I think they need to run with this
album and live with this album and everything
else, and they’re experienced enough to know
what should be coming after it and everything
else, so I would just tell them to get on with
that. And they’re songs that they’ve written
themselves, so I think they need to do that. If it
was our album and we’d co-written the whole
thing I think I’d probably have much more of
an opinion on it, but as I didn’t, I don’t think it’s
So do you have a much more proprietary
feeling about the songs you’ve co-written on
the album than the others?
No, no, not at all. Not at all. I committed myself
to spend as much time on their songs as the ones
I’ve co-written, otherwise I wouldn’t have done
it. If I say I’ll do something I do it to the absolute
Which are your favourite songs on the record?
I really like “Love etc.”. I really like “King of
Rome”. I really like “The way it used to be” — I
think that’s one of their best ever records. I really
like “Legacy” — I think the string arrangement in
“Legacy” is just incredible. They’re the four that
immediately spring to mind, so those four.
Were there any where, at any point, you
wondered whether they should be on the
We were pretty ruthless.
“The way it used to be” has got a fascinatingly
un-repetitive structure. Was that Xenomania’s
No, no, Neil pretty much mapped that out himself.
He loved it. I think I interjected at one point, said,
“Come on, this guy’s going on and on, we need
to break it up here.” But generally speaking Neil
had it mapped out in his own mind and I think he
got 70 per cent of it right. We altered 20, 30 per
cent of it.
Which songs were hardest to realise?
“Love etc.” was hard, to get that one right. We
spent a lot of time on that. Some of the tracks
that we built up from scratch like “Building a
Generally speaking, though, it was pretty
easy — it wasn’t a difficult process. It was fine. We
made things like “Beautiful people” from scratch,
and made three versions of the same record then
layered them all on top of each other to create
this very dense sound. We had a meeting, we
sent all the musicians off very specifically to do
three separate versions of the same song — three
separate drumbeats, three separate everything
— and they all came back and we collided it all
together and it sounded great. So, yeah, it was
quite easy. Just the detail. Moderuising sounds
and stuff like that is what a lot of the effort went
Were there typically things that you’d have a different perspective on to them, where you’d
want something more one way and they more
No. I think generally.., they were finished with
the record when they came to me, they felt they’d
thrown their best ideas at it, certainly the eight or
nine songs that were their own. And obviously
“Love etc.”, “The way it used to be”, and...
what’s it called?
“More than a dream”.
“More than a dream”. Sony — I always used
to forget what that was called. I never could
remember what it was called. Because it actually
started life as “Where the animals are”, or “Where
the creatures are” or something...
“Where the wild things are”, I think.
Yeah. So I would say to him, “What’s that wild
creatures song?” He’d say, “It’s ‘The way it used
to...”’ — no! I can’t remember its name now.
What’s it called?
“More than a dream”.
“More than a dream”! I’d always refer back to
the wild creatures thing. So... we were basically
just sort of updating things. I think they just loved
hearing all these ideas flying around in their
songs, and I guess the brutality with which ideas
were rejected, they loved that as well. They knew
we really meant it.
Then afterwards you mixed the bonus album.
Yeah. We did a load of work on it before we’d
really agreed to do it entirely, I think. I can’t
remember why. And they came down... I think
we’d left the album in our own minds. We’d
gone, we’d left the building, we were onto other
things, and all that stuff, so it was weird to go
back on it, and I think had they not liked what
we’d done we’d have dropped it immediately.
And we sat down and listened to everything and
Neil produced this long list of negatives. And I
was thinking, “Here we go... I know where this is
” I let him get through about four things
and I said, “Neil, do you flicking like this? Where
are we with this?” He said, “No, it’s incredible — I
just want to change these things.” I said, “Alright,
OK, fine.” So we were able to finish it. It sounded
great. It was a hipper version of the record. I
thought the song quality was really high on the
record and I wanted to make it a listening album
as much as a sort of dance-y sort of record, but
balancing those two things out. We didn’t make
that first record as ultra-snazzy electronic cutting
edge as you possibly could, because I don’t think
that would actually sit with who they are and
where they are in their careers. You’re trying to
balance it out — you’re nodding to the past, you’re
nodding to the future, but you’re not ruthlessly
trying to turn it into some sort of ridiculously
ahead of its time type thing, because that’s not
what’s required at this stage in their career. I
wanted to just people into the idea that these guys can write really fantastic songs. And “Love etc.”,
sonically, will take on anyone. Will take on all-
comers. So I didn’t think they needed an album
of that sort of challenging stuff. But the remix
album afforded us the opportunity...
and them, it
was their idea, it wasn’t our idea, and they wanted
to do that: make it more dancey, more electronic,
more everything. And I think that’s the right place
to do it. I don’t think the album suffered because
it’s not full-on nosebleed stuff. I think it was an
album to be listened to, first, but very relevant,
Working with them, what did you learn about
them, and how they work together?
What did I learn about them? I think they’re
fantastic people. They’re fantastic people. It
makes total sense why they’ve had their career.
Which is good, because you’d be disappointed if
it didn’t make any sense why they’ve had their
career. It’s very difficult to survive in the music
business for however many years, I think. Really
difficult. Very few people do it. And I think to
do it there needs to be some sort of outstanding
qualities in the people, and is it was nice to be
able to identify outstanding qualities in Neil and
Chris, which I could, and did, quite easily really.
Chris lives his life in a euphoric state of mind or
a doomsday state of mind — it’s one or the other.
I don’t think it’s anything like bipolar, he’s just
like that. He’s capable of enormous euphoria,
and that’s what comes out in his music, and he’s
exceptionally bright, and he’s got a very good
heart, Chris Lowe. And he’s an electronic pioneer.
He’s one of the greatest. So you’re working
with one of the greatest modem musicians of
all time with Chris Lowe. And so to have such a
personality that’s capable of reaching such scales
of happiness sort of makes sense. That it would
have to be a person like that that could have done
some of the musical things that he’s pulled off
over the years. That’s how I sort of summed up
Chris Lowe. A real lover of life. But also this
doomsday aspect as well, which is hilarious. He
really makes me laugh when he’s like that. It’s
quite funny — there’s some S bends going out of
Westerham and on one of the bends there’s an old
house, and I remember driving Chris back to the
station and he said, “Oh, I couldn’t live there.”
And I thought, “Why would you ever want to
live there? Why are you thinking that way?” And
I said, “Why?” And he said, “Because I’d stay
awake all night waiting for the juggernaut to tear
into the house.” I thought, “That sums you up.
thought it was hilarious. But seeing how happy he
is in music, and seeing music come together, he
has incredible enthusiasm — a super-human level
of enthusiasm. And that’s great to see. I love it.
Neil’s an intellectual — very, very, very clever,
incredibly charming, very bright, very quick-
witted, but probably believes everything he says
is right. Everything. So therefore he probably
needs someone to catch him a little bit just to
make him question himself a little bit, because
he’s fearsomely clever, but he’s not always right.
But what a fascinating guy. He’s amazing.
Do you get a sense of why they work so well
Yeah, I think so. I don’t know. Let me think about
this. They dovetail perfectly, because Neil is an
extrovert in some ways, and I think Chris is, but
he’s more reserved with it. You only see Chris
when he wants you to see it, whereas Neil’s a
natural performer I suppose. And that to me is
where it’s at — there’s so much power in Chris,
but it sort of comes out through Neil to a certain
degree. You understand Chris’s power within the
project, and everything else, is pretty huge, but
I think Chris clearly admires Neil. And Neil’s
outward confidence and outward expression, and
all of those different things.
You can see the fact
that they both still really admire each other. I
see that very clearly — I love it. I love things like
that. I love longevity in relationships, because it
requires flexibility and a lot of love and a lot of
care for the other person, and altering yourself to
fit. And I’m obsessed by long term relationships
in music — it’s the key motivating factor that
bonds us together here. I’ve been with Miranda
every working day for 13 years, and its more fun
today than it was a year ago, and than it was two
years ago. I’m obsessed with that. It’s the binding
force that keeps us altogether here. Tim I’ve worked with for 14 years, Nick Coler ten years.
So therefore if you’re coming into situations with
people who you obviously admire from afar,
don’t really know them very well, and you can
see how much mutual admiration and enthusiasm
they maintain for each other, that’s really good,
because it helps you to understand what it’s all
about. I’ve obviously been with other groups
where that’s not there — absolutely not there in
There might be a bit of respect but
there’s nothing else.
How have you felt about how the album has
been received out in the world?
I think it’s great. I think they’re always going
to have difficulty in this country, because this is
the hippest country in the world, hippest city in
the world. Radio One is such a hip thing, youth-
driven. And to be fair to Radio One, the average
listener is thirty or something and they’re doing
everything they can to get that down, which I
think they need to do. We knew they loved the
record but we always knew that it was sending
out all of the wrong signals to people above
them and to the wider audience if they got
totally involved there. It’s a really difficult one.
I wish we’d met the Pet Shop Boys 15 years...
well, if I say 15 years ago it wouldn’t be any
good, because I was really crap 15 years ago. I
wasn’t a patch on what I am now, in terms of my
understanding of things and stuff like that. But
if I was me now and I could have met them 15
years ago, then fast forward 15 years again and
they’d have been played on Radio One. I think
the difficulty with Radio One and the Pet Shop
Boys is what’s happened in the last number of
Whereas other groups that are more mature,
if you like — say U2 — were able to keep their
finger on the pulse commercially, longer, and as
a result of that they still get played because it’s
like an unbroken chain. Whereas I do believe
that the Pet Shop Boys’ chain did break. And that
mightn’t be something that they want me to say,
or necessarily believe to be true, but as an ex-fan I
absolutely believe it to be true. I think they ceased
to be relevant to a wide audience. And that’s what
the problem with Radio One is. It’s like they’re
coming back... but you’re coming back at this
age, this level of maturity, whereas U2 have been
around a bit longer but they’ve never broken that
link. What’s the quality of U2’s records and stuff
like that, I don’t know. But things like “Vertigo”,
regardless of their content as a song and the age
of the person writing lyrics like “vertigo...” — I
mean,what does that mean? -but the point I’m
making is, it sounded like a hit. It sounded like
They sustained that. And I think Neil and
Chris became more introverted in the way in
which they were looking at it, and that’s probably
where they lost it slightly. I think their problem
is that they didn’t work with enough producers
that were songwriters in their own right, because
I think had they done that more pressure would
have been put on the songs. I think as they got
older they tended to work with people who were
getting older as well.
Before doing this did you even listen back to
the last couple of records to see where they
were coming from?
I listened to the last album, yeah. I thought it was
airight. But it’s difficult. I think the Pet Shop Boys
became about a wry eyebrow. That there had to
be something witty in it. Had to be. “I’m with
stupid”. All these different things. Really, just
write a great song. Write “West End girls”. Write
something that will really resonate with people.
Whereas I think they became more about how
clever they could be. But that’s me as a critic of
them, so whether or not that’s right I don’t know.
But that’s just my perception of them. They’ve
made loads of records I don’t know anything
about, that I’ve listened to the first singles and
thought, “Nah, that’s not going to happen.”
Do you think you’ll carry on working with
I really love spending time with them. Me and
Miranda actually went out with them last week,
which was great to see. So yeah, I think so, if
they wanted to. Yeah. I’d love to get Chris down
here to do some music, and for me, Neil and
Miranda to sit and write against it because I
think that would be good for everybody. I think
we can continue on in that perspective. If they
wanted to make another record with us and stuff like that then... yeah. It’s a nice thing to do. As I
said, I don’t do too much of that sort of thing — I
have to really believe that there’s going to be an
enormous commercial point to it.
Only because of
what we’re prepared to invest in it, emotionally
and time-wise and at the expense of other things
we’ll let go because of it. But I would probably
make an exception for them, because I do think
that they’re fantastic people.
Was it a success from Xenomania’s point of
Listen, I think our lives are better here and more
enriched because of our work with the Pet Shop
Boys. I totally believe that. And so I think that’s
really good. I mean, I don’t know, it’s really
difficult because we’re so awkward — we only
know what we know, and we know it better than
anybody else. So as long as that continues to be
successful then we’ll continue to be awkward
with it. And not wanting to dilute things or play
a game or do a project so that you can wear a
badge saying “we did that”. Because that doesn’t
mean anything. We’re Xenomania, so fuck you!
Seriously. That’s how we generally view it. Is
that arrogant? I don’t know. I think all successful
music entities have their own very strong thing.
I’m lucky — ours is 12 years, 13 years long.
And you obviously have a deep sense that those
feelings are a big part of what makes it happen.
Yeah. I don’t know. I spend my life puzzling. That’s what my life is — a succession of puzzling.
And whether or not you’d be involved, where
do you think the Pet Shop Boys should go from
Well, I certainly think that from a touring
perspective they’ve got a fantastic business there,
which is great. Lots of people will pay to come
and see them — I think that’s a great thing. I think
— difficult to sort of say really — I think they’re a
heritage act. And the beauty of being a heritage
act is that you can entertain lots of people in the
live area. I still think they have a chance of selling
records, as long as records continue to be sold, or
having airplay, or being relevant. As long as they
remain committed to the attitude that they had
when they wanted to work with us, which was
to be relevant and to work with people that can
make them do that, and make them try to aspire
to higher standards. I think if they continue to
do that... I said this to Neil last Thursday: “The
fact you released ‘Love etc.’ to me stands you in
incredible stead for the next three to fours years.”
Because it’s very difficult to release a record
these days and put it out and be successful with
it if it doesn’t sound like anything else around
it — it’s really hard. Because obviously everyone’s
worried about the recession, independent radio’s
worried about advertising revenue, all those
different things, and so therefore it makes it far
easier for media in general to be more herd-like
than they normally would be anyway.
it’s very difficult to suddenly come and land with
something that doesn’t sound like anything else.
I think the fact that they wanted to do it, and they
embraced it, and they were absolutely determined
to do that, that attitude says to me that they’re
going to have a lot of fun over the next three to
four years. Because they still want it. And they
sort of know it when they hear it, and they’re right
in that. So I think their instincts are very good. So
I would have thought the future’s very bright for
the Pet Shop Boys, because of that attitude.
What do you think they learned from working
I don’t know. I think our enthusiasm for pop
music, and how important we think it is, and how
seriously we take it, and how hard we’re prepared
to work at it, and everything else, that would have
reminded them of what they would have been
like, I would have thought.
Did you learn anything from them?
Completely. I thought it was fantastic how they
are with each other. We’re about longevity now at
Xenomania. You can’t get away from it — we’ve
been around a long time. Because we have such
a youth development policy here and are very
very very free and open with our experiences, so
therefore you’re merging very experienced people
with very young people and it’s all meeting and
colliding in the middle together, that in itself
gives us the fuel. Because we’re only going to win if we write better songs than everybody else
and our records sound more interesting and more
original than everybody else, and the only way
that’s going to happen is for us to have a very
open mind as we go forward. And so seeing how
they are and seeing how flexible they were able
to be with me, that explains their 25 year career.
That explains it all. So I was able to learn from
that perspective, about embracing new methods,
and new everything. But we sort of stand for that
to a degree. I think it’s locked into our culture.
So maybe they confirmed that our culture’s a
good thing. Maybe. Possibly. And I think it was
fantastic to see how considerate they were to
each other, because that holds the key to our
own longevity, that the key people within the
organisation here, the chief writers, look after
each other and take care of each other and then
willingly pass that knowledge on to younger
people who give us their fearlessness and allow
the whole thing to collide. So Pet Shop Boys
and Xenomania was a bit like Xenomania within
itself. The age gap between the Pet Shop Boys
and the key Xenomania people they worked
with — myself, Miranda and Tim — is mirrored
identically internally within Xenomania. It’s a
generational thing. It was confirmation of lots of
things. But it was probably more about how they
are with each other, and that explains why they’re
so important and why they’ve had a great career
and why I think they’re still relevant and they can
still be relevant. So, yeah, I’ve learned a lot.