In the last issue of literally Chris
Lowe was interviewed at length. 'Last issue it is Neil
Tennant's turn. The following conversation with Chris
Heath took place at Swarm West studios on the morning of
What sort of mood are you in?
Oh, a pretty good mood. We're just listening to the
seven-inch mix of "Go West", which we've recorded for some
reason, and I think it sounds really good. And outside
it's actually quite a nice morning the sun is shining, the
sky's blue. Before I came here I had breakfast and
listened to Madonna's new album. I think it sounds quite
good. There's one track, with Spanish guitar on, where I
think she sounds like Kylie Minogue. To be honest,
although I would regard myself as a fan of Madonna,
I have never liked a Madonna album. Apart from the first
one, before she was famous.
Do you like being
Urn... yeah. When you go on holiday you
get away from everything and When I was in Spain on
holiday I sort of forgot that I was me, do you know what I
mean? And we went to this town called Ronda, a famous old
town, very nice, and we were sitting in a cafe and these
kids recognized me and then more of them came, and I had
my Polaroid camera and I got one of them to take a
Polaroid of me and them, together and all the rest of it.
They were really nice. And by the end there was
quite a large crowd and When we left everyone applauded
and I thought then "it's sort of quite nice being famous
sometimes". When people sort of like you or what ever. I
like it When people like you. And, actually, we don't seem
to get a huge downside of that. There was a period When it
started to get on my nerves. That was, as I've mentioned
before, When people started stealing my rubbish. It really
upset me, that, for some reason. I found it spooky. But we
seemed to have passed that. And as everybody always says,
you can get into restaurants. Another weird thing about us
and fame is that we seemed to get more famous after we
were at our
most successful. That's something I can
never quite understand, but it doesn't bother me.
Do you think you're better friends with Chris now than
before the Pet Shop Boys became successful?
before we were famous we were only friends, so therefore
we were probably better friends, because our relationship
was: we were friends. Now we're these sort of
battle-scarred veterans who have been through a lot
together and so our relationship is different. And also we
don't socialize as much as we used to. Which is not to say
we don't socialize together - we do - but we have
different friends. We always have had. I don't see Chris
at the weekends as a rule. And I don't go clubbing as much
- I used to go clubbing with Chris quite a lot. Although
if we're on a promotional tour or something like that I
will still go clubbing with Chris. But you can't live in
each other's pockets all the time. I feel very comfortable
with our relationship at the moment. It just seems totally
unforced and quite relaxed really. Particularly because
we're not on tour or anything like that. We're writing
songs, and we really have film doing that. I've always
liked being with Chris, When he's in a good mood, because
he's really good fun. And also there's something about
Chris that just completely fascinates me. I think it's
probably true to say that I'm more fascinated by Chris
than Chris is fascinated by me, but that's always been the
Why is that?
I think I'm more
predictable than Chris is, whereas Chris is completely
unpredictable, and I think that's what's fascinating about
him. That's how it's also been: Chris is the unpredictable
one, which I found invigorating, and l think Chris relies
on me to a certain extent, in a way which I can't rely on
him, because to a certain extent he's unreliable. Those
are the sort of parameters of our relationship.
you think you'd be friends if you weren't in a group
Well, we were friends When we weren't in
a group together. If we got dropped by EMI or something,
we'd still be friends.
Do you really sit round
reading history books, sipping fine wine and listening to
Yes, I do. That's not all I do,
of course. But I like reading books. I like classical
music. I don't just listen to classical music although I
don't sit at home generally and listen to techno. It
doesn't really excite me, whereas at one time I used to
listen to dance records at home all the time. I went to a
club last weekend - chemistry at Heaven - and I was just
thinking how crap the music sounded to me. With rave
culture there's a big thing happened around drugs really -
a form of music has been created, the vast majority of
which can only be enjoyed if you are on ecstasy or have
taken a lot of ecstasy in the past and therefore can
imagine what it's like to listen to the record on ecstasy.
If you haven't taken ecstasy a lot you can't really
appreciate it. When I used to go to clubs, it was the
music - a Shannon record or something -that made you
really excited; now a days there seems to have to be a
combination of that and the drug. The music sounds great
through the prism of the drug experience - it otherwise
doesn't make very much sense, and that's a shame.
Do you ever think you're too old to be a pop star?
No, actually, I don't. Mainly because, as I've said
before there's always going to be people older than us. I
mean Right Said Fred are all older than Chris Lowe, for
instance. I don't think age really comes into it. I think
you just have to be comfortable with what you do. There is
a thing with Chris and I: we don't want to make "mature"
music. When Behavior was approvingly commented on as being
"mature" we weren't very happy about that, because
"mature" implies a having given in sort of thing. The next
album will be much less "mature", and more sort of "fun".
Even though, actually, I really like Behavior I've always
written songs from my own age point of view and I'm still
doing that. I think that's one of our appeals. There's a
song I've written for this new album called "Young
Offender" in which I'm comparing myself to someone
Do you want to make a solo album?
No. We do always have this joke that I'm going to make
an album called Neil Sings Noel but I think it's most
unlikely. I don't think I should put my energy into a solo
album. It would be very self-indulgent, and I think it
would be rather confusing. And also I don't know who I'd
make it with. If I made a solo album I'd probably try and
rope Chris into it, and then it wouldn't be a solo album.
How would you feel if Chris made one?
Well, I think it would be quite good if Chris did a solo
album in a way. I've always thought there is a
disproportionate focus on me because When you're the
singer you always get more attention, so I think it would
be good. I would quite like to see Chris at number one in
the charts by Himself. It would be good for the Pet Shop
Boys, I think.
Do you think it annoys Chris When
you sing songs for Electronic?
I think Chris has
remixed feelings about it, but I don't know, because of
course he would never Say anything about it. I mean, I did
the records with Electronic because I like doing them with
Johnny and Bernard, and so does Chris When he's worked
with them, but Chris can't be bothered to spend a lot of
time in the studio When he doesn't have to. I'm quite
happy to do that.
Does it worry you that you
singing "Disappointed" with a different group might be
confusing for the public?
Yes, in retrospect it
does, but actually I really like the record. I don't know
how confusing it is. Someone told me they thought the Pet
Shop Boys had broken up because I'd made that record.
Maybe there's something in it. But it's totally
rectifiable When our next record comes out. And I always
think one of the strengths with the Pet Shop Boys is the
cast of characters. It isn't just the two of us: you buy
into Derek Jarman, you buy into Electronic... that's one
of the things I, personally, like about us.
Chris really annoy you?
No.1 mean, the occasions
When he does annoy me are When (laughs) he's being
annoying. When we used to have to do thousands of
interviews and stuff, sometimes I used to think Chris made
it more hard work than it was, but that was quite a long
time ago. And sometimes I have thought - I don't think
this now - that I just get taken for granted. It's assumed
I'll turn up, it's assumed I'll check that all the artwork
is fine, and sometimes if Chris cares to get involved
he'll suddenly come up with a whole list of complaints,
whereas When it was happening he had no interest in it. I
find that Irritating but that doesn't really seem to
happen so much at the moment. Our organization has a
mechanism now so that everyone knows everything.
What do you think you do that annoys him most?
don't know, actually. I don't want to give the impression
that Chris and I have a relationship which is totally
based upon each other being annoyed by the other one.
Maybe it's that I sort of bulldoze through things. I don't
know, because of course he would never tell me.
you think you are too bossy?
No, I don't think I
am. I think I'm assertive, rather than bossy, and I think
it's a good thing. And as Chris Is himself would admit, he
relies on it. But Chris is always the secret weapon in the
Pet Shop Boys, because people always talk to me about
things, but if Chris phones you up about something, you
know there's a problem. And I shamelessly use Chris - I
will say, "I'm annoyed about this, but Chris Lowe is
absolutely furious". And people are sort of frightened of
Chris. They think he'll go off his trolley or something.
So actually it's the classic hard-and-soft police
Do you think of songs all the time?
Yes, I do, really. There's part of my Iran that is
always thinking of ideas for songs. And I do sometimes
make up songs in my head. We've just been doing a song
called "I Wouldn't Normally Do This Kind Of Thing" and it
was because I just started singing it in my head in a taxi
to an airport to go to Edinburgh. I forgot about it, but
it just didn't go away, this stupid song in my head. I
don't even know if I like it, but I wanted to demo it to
get out of my head.
Do you keep a pad beside the
I write them down in my Filofax. Actually I
write songs in my sleep all the time, but they're normally
crap. It's routine for me to wake up in the morning with
some funny song in my head but it's normally absolutely
glassily. They all sound like Michael Bolton songs.
Do you ever wish that you were still a journalist?
No, I don't I occasionally get asked to write pieces,
but I find it very hard work to sit down at a typewrite
So, for instance, When I wrote a piece for Details
recently - the one reprinted in Select - it was done as an
interview with you, and then we worked on the transcript
together. I've always said that I enjoy music because it's
a collaboration - I've never liked having to sit alone in
a room to work
Why don't you drive?
for years I've lived reasonably near the center of London
and there doesn't seem any need to drive, because you've
got to have a car parked outside your house, you've got to
get MOT and they always break down. Chris's car seems to
spend tons of time in the garage. Even yesterday the left
indicator light wasn't working so he had to take it to the
garage. And I just couldn't be bothered with all of that,
so I take taxis, and occasionally I get on the tube.
You still get the tube now?
Yes. Usually I get
a taxi, and I walk a lot, but I got the tube last week.
It's often quicker, getting the tube.
You have your
well-known moral objections to cars, but if you lived
somewhere less convenient would
you drive? If I
lived in the countryside?
Well, that's probably
why I wouldn't live in the countryside. I sort of think I
would crash a car, but I would probably get one. My moral
objection is only that I think there's too many cars, and
I think people think there's no alternative to cars and
it's one of the great problems with our society is that
under Mrs Thatcher it stopped being a shared experience.
All the great institutions of society built up from the
Victorian era onwards, like public transport, are being
needed now, because people just want to have everything at
home, and they want to drive until capsules to someone
else's home, and they don't want to share things anymore,
and I think that's a big mistake.
Did you ever
start learning to drive at all?
Yeah. My father
once gave me a driving lesson in this park near us. And I
did a three-point turn.
Why did you get your hair
cut so short?
People get most annoyed that I don't
have lustrous curly hair anymore, but the reason I got my
hair cut short is that my hair is getting quite thin and
you can't really have lustrous curly hair at the front and
not at the back, which is the way it is. So it's better to
keep it short, and I quite like the way it looks. In
photographs it always looked great When it was curly and
all the rest of it, but I'm afraid nature had other plans.
When did you last Cry?
The last time I
cried really was at a funeral. It was rather embarrassing,
actually. I had to read this bit of The Bible, and I
couldn't stop crying When I started to read it. It was
just upsetting, and also the bit of The Bible was very
beautiful, and I just started to cry, and carried on until
I regained my composure. I cried quite a lot that day.
That was the fireman described in "Your Funny Uncle".
You don't cry very often?
No, I don't. There
you are. I'm obviously hard as nails. Actually, I think
that crying is an important experience that shouldn't
really be devalued by doing it too frequently, because
actually it's the ultimate emotional release. If you cried
every day at the drop of a hat, then in the situation I
was talking about you'd have nowhere to go, at it were. I
sometimes feel slightly tearful watching a film or
whatever, but I won't be in floods of tears.
do you feel happiest?
I have various kinds of
happiness. When I'm with people I like. When I'm with
friends, having a good time. Sometimes When I'm in the
countryside, being somewhere beautiful on a nice day - I
think as you get older you enjoy beauty more, if that
doesn't sound too Nick Rhodes to be true. When we're
writing a song and it's going really well. After sex.
Sometimes I feel happy When I'm by myself, sitting at
home, reading a book or something, in the morning, and
it's a nice day outside, and it's just peaceful and I'm
not being bothered by anyone. Of course, half-an-hour
later I'll be bored to death.
Can you imagine the
Pet Shop Boys ever splitting up?
No, not really.
It's not the sort of thing we would do really. I can
imagine us having a row and saying "right! that's it
then!" but we'd change our minds. I can't really see an
alternative, and I don't want to rind one.
think the Pet Shop Boys might go on more or less forever?
Yeah. I'm afraid so.
Copyright Areagraphy Ltd
1992: All Articles have been
Taken From Literally 1992