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In conversation with ATV’s Lee McFadden

I’m very pleased to be interviewing the multi-talented Lee McFadden. According to MySpace, he’s a guitarist, singer and jack of all trades but works in an office to pay the bills. Current bands include Alternative TV, Angel Racing Food (with Jowe Head- ex Swell Maps), Head and Shoulders (Lee and Jowe) and The Long Decline (Kenny Wisdom, Karl Blake plus others). Lee’s guested on records by Gertrude, Sexton Ming, and an uncredited cameo on the latest Subway Sect album. He’s appeared on keys for the Rude Mechanicals (whenever they need him on "Pablo Picasso") and gigged with TV Personalities (again whenever called upon). Somehow this very busy chap finds time to post occasional reviews and interviews for the music page of the Morning Star (UK).
Shelley- When did you first become interested in music and which artists did you like as you were growing up? Can you remember the first record you bought? 

Lee - My parents had a collection of seven inch records, I could name them all when I was only two (in 1969). My two very early memories are seeing Cat Stevens doing Lady D’Arbanville on Top Of The Pops. The one that really did it for me was BowieBowies Pin-ups, The Man Who Sold the World & Aladdin Sane. At infants school everyone was into The Osmonds and David Cassidy – no-one had heard of Bowie singing Starman. The only reason I saw that was because Rupert the Bear was on the same show. The first record I owned was Drive In Saturday. I asked my Mum and Dad to buy it for me aged six. Christmas presents that year from my parents were

Shelley- You’re currently involved with several bands but who were the first group you joined and where was your first gig as a performer?  

Lee- The first band I joined didn’t have a name. They wanted someone to play synthesiser but that came to nothing. I also guested at a mate’s stag do on keyboards. The first proper gig was in February ‘89 fronting an electronic pop band called Stranger. We changed our name to Counterfeit and were lucky enough to sign with Creation records. During the late 80’s I was writing fanzines, going to loads of Indie gigs and got to know Alan McGee so I sent him a demo tape. At this time Creation were about to go bust and he was looking for an immediate success (they didn’t achieve this with us). We played our first gig at the Bull & Gate. The second was alongside a band called Patric (their bassist was ex House of Love). He recommended Counterfeit to McGee who signed us. We did one more gig and finally split up. 

Shelley -You mention that you played keyboards. Did you have piano lessons? 

Lee - No, my uncle suggested I had organ lessons but I forgot about it & then started again when I was fifteen. I began mucking about on guitar when my Brother in Law had an acoustic; I was about six or seven. The only thing I’ve been ever been taught is how to tune the G chord & string up. 

Shelley - I’m really interested to know how & when you got together with ATV?

Lee - I’d seen the band in the 80’s a couple of times. I remember getting drunk at a gig & asking when they were going to play in Dagenham. In 1997 I’d been staying at a mates place in Cheltenham. We’d been to Bristol, to see the Divine Comedy & I was returning home.Gina Birch from the Raincoats was doing a solo gig that afternoon at the Engine Room in Camden supporting the Long Decline (Lee is now with this band) so I went there instead. Gina was being interviewed by a girl (Tracy- now Lee’s partner) & her friend.  Later that night I saw the Long Decline. Mark Perry was playing a Turkish drum which broke during the set. The gig was fantastic. I realised I’d met Kenny Wisdom before and we got chatting. Later I interviewed Mark for a fanzine that Tracy and I were running. One thing lead to another. A couple of years later I received a call from Mark asking me to play bass for ATV at the Union Chapel Bar, a gig for Mad Pride. The other connection with ATV is that Kenny Wisdom (real name Leigh Goorney) was ATV’s manager for several years. 

Shelley - I’d never heard of Kenny Wisdom, it’s interesting to learn about all of the connections 

Lee - Yeah- there are so many. ATV were on Kenny’s record label, Noiseville. If it wasn’t for Kenny Wisdom I wouldn’t have come across all the bands I’m in now. I’ve been in the Long Decline for 11 years. 

Shelley - Were Mark P & Vic Godard with them at the same time as you? 

Lee - I’d guested with the band before I actually joined. Vic was unable to attend a gig so I helped out- Mark P was with them then. They split up for a bit, did more gigs without me (I was in the audience). I’ve never played live with Vic but I recorded with him when he assisted with a few tracks. 

Shelley - I know that ATV live in different areas of the UK & your bass player resides in France. Do you have much rehearsal time before a gig? 

Lee - The short answer is no. Years ago when Mark lived in London we rehearsed with him. Our drummer has a home studio in Leyton Buzzard and for the last couple of gigs Kev, Steve and I have got together with me playing the part of Mark. We rehearse with him at the soundcheck.

Shelley - I saw ATV support Buzzcocks last year in Portsmouth and at Indigo 2. Any interesting stories to relate about those shows? 

Lee - Not really, it was Tracy’s birthday the day before Portsmouth & she was really excited about seeing Buzzcocks backstage. We enjoyed the gigs, there was no-one flooding baths or spraying the dressing room with drugs or anything like that. 

Shelley - It was a shame that you went on first at Indigo2. If you hadn’t given us the times in advance some people might have actually missed you. 

Lee - Some people did. In fact I was gutted because one of my favourite bands are Felt and their drummer Gary Ainge had actually driven down from Leicester. They just missed us. 

Shelley - A question from Ian who used to run the Part Time Punk Fanzine-is Mark P still writing the book you were helping with? Ian says he was also involved but things seem to have fallen by the wayside. 

Lee - It’s currently on hold because at the moment Mark’s putting together a re-issue of the Sniffing Glue book and concentrating on a foreword. I heard this about two weeks ago because I was talking to Mark Stewart (of Pop Group fame-name drop, name drop) Ages ago Mark P asked me if a few musical people wanted to contribute, Billy Childish and Mark Stewart have agreed.

Shelley -Where did the name of your other band, Angel Racing Food come from? 

Lee - Jowe Head said he had a great title for a song- the name of an old condemned shop in Hoxton Street which specialised in selling food to greyhound dogs- “Angel Racing Foods”. Me & Mick had one of those moments & simultaneously said ‘that’s the name of the band’. Jowe thought it was crazy.  I then realised the initials were “ARF”. I went to take a photo of the place a few years ago and it was now an Afro-Caribbean hairdressing salon. I suggested that maybe every time 116 Hoxton Street changes, the band should do the same. I thought we should call ourselves “Chicafrique” but Marina disagreed saying we’ll eventually end up as Tesco Metro. 

Shelley - You’re currently doing some shows with The TV Personalities. How did this occur?  

Lee - Kev Mann (ATV) is also drummer for TVP’s. I’d guested with them a few times  already. On one occasion I went on stage with a stylophone and melodica. TexasBob from the TVP's went to the loo at the 12 Bar Club so I got up & played guitar. The funniest one was at the Wilmington Arms only a few weeks ago. Kev was visiting his son, I was originally in the audience but played drums for almost the entire set. I had a snare, tom and bass drum but no cymbals- it sounded like the old Jesus & Mary Chain.

ShelleyI’ve not heard of them 

Lee - They’re an up & coming American band who are doing the Reading Festival. They recently played in a record shop and thousands of people were turned away. The shows with TVP’s are warm- ups.  It might be the biggest thing since they supported Nirvana in ‘89. 

Shelley- Can you tell us about your other projects 

Lee - Occasionally Jowe Head & I team up as a duo called Head & Shoulders. Hot news- Jowe has just recorded a solo album which I helped out with. Three members of Chrome Hoof, Jane Ruby of Naked Ruby, Miss Roberts from Rude Mechanicals, Jeff Bloom and others have also assisted. The album will be called Diabolical Liberties under the name of Jowe Head and the Demi-Monde. There may be a gig in the future. 

There’s another string to my bow that you don’t know about. It started off as a favour but now it’s become a regular thing. I’ve been nominated as press officer for RIM records which is Sexton Ming’s label. That links into the Rude Mechanicals who I recommend wholeheartedly. I’ve written a Morning Star piece about them & Sexton has signed them to his label. I’ve also guested on some of his work such as “A Lifetime of Nervous Gut Aches Volume 2”. When ATV were rehearsing, Mark P didn’t wish to perform “How Much Longer” as he thought it was outdated. Sexton wrote new lyrics which Mark loved and I sang them on this LP in a Quentin Crisp Voice. 

Shelley - You also write for the Morning Star newspaper. How do you manage to fit everything in with a day job? Does Lee McFadden ever rest? 

Lee - To be fair not everything is happening all the time. Angel Racing Food practice when they can. ATV & the Long Decline arrange gigs or an LP first & then rehearse around that. There’ll be periods where nothing occurs. Of course with the Morning Star it’s whenever I can do LP or gig reviews. 

Shelley - I believe you interviewed Deborah Curtis. As a huge Joy Division fan did you find this an emotional experience? 

Lee -Yeah, about three years ago I noticed that Deborah was being interviewed in the Guardian, it was the 10th anniversary of her book (Touching From a Distance). I made contact through her press officer at Faber & Faber who also used to write for the Morning Star. I was talking on the phone for about 45 minutes & she agreed to an interview later via e-mail for the promotion of Control. I was the only person to do this for the film. 

Shelley - What did you think of Control? 

Lee - I loved Sam Reilly’s portrayal, especially on stage. I was lucky enough to be at the UK  press conference and met him at the Edinburgh Film Festival. Some of the information conveyed doesn’t quite ring true but as Deborah said, things sometimes have to be blended together for a movie.

Shelley - Do you have much time left to listen to music or go to gigs. Who would you recommend? 

Lee - A band called the Wave Pictures who have very strange lyrics, amazing guitar solos, even on ukulele. Also Anat Ben David, the woman from Chicks on Speed who does her own solo music, Subway Sect…... I have a long list. Bitter Springs are definitely recommended. Their EP, Poor Trace has a great short track named a Temporary Hush. It’s probably the best song ever recorded. 

Shelley - Finally, I’m sure everyone wants to know if ATV have any shows planned.


Lee - I’d like to know that aswell. Nothing is arranged at the moment. Kev Mann is in about five bands. Everything’s gone very quiet but that’s not unsual for us. There may be an album (new material) on Overground Records some time in the future. 

Thanks Lee for a very in-depth interview.

To find him in cyberspace check out: 

Lee’s MySpace page

ATV’s official page

Angel Racing Food:

The Long Decline:

Buy Angel Racing Food CD’s at Topplers:

 Photo’s of ATV by Phil Guild. Thanks to Steve Carter for the Angel Racing Food pic’.