Good Old Boys

Chris Lowe is a chuckler. Asked how rehearsals are going for his Radio2 gig, he laughs and says, ‘Getting there. It’s mostly refreshing my memory – which is appalling. I’ll have to use sheet music.’

Big guffaw. ‘That’s not very rock’n’roll is it?’ And he’s off again.

Such affability hardly squares with the solemn, sullen, silent image Lowe has cultivated during 20 years as the-one-who-isn’t-Neil Tennant in the Pet Shop Boys. But then, the group who this week will be in concert on Radio2 and doing a four-song set in Later… with Jools Holland on BBC2, is very different from the electro-pop outfit who became the most successful duo in UK chart history.

‘We’ve always gone with whatever we felt worked with a song’, says Lowe. ‘Orchestras, string quartets, whatever. But the new CD and line-up are quite a change: we’re using guitars, and performing alongside just two guitarists and a percussionist.’

This scaled-down approach contrasts with past concerts: huge events featuring dancers, sets by the English National Opera and films by Derek Jarman. Lowe says it stemmed form their having had hits long before they’d played live: ‘Our first ever concert was at Wembley Arena. We were scared and needed lots of props to hide behind. Now the emphasis in on us as musicians, playing songs’.

Lowe maintains that while the Pet Shop Boys have always gone their own way, the shift is in part ‘a reaction against manufactured bands’. As chart musicians get older (‘I’m 42 – it’s crap’, he says), he believes that when they hear the latest pre-fabricated groups, ‘It’s very easy to think, ‘Is it just me, or is this really terrible?’ But no, it isreally terrible’.

Particular wrath is directed towards outfits such as Hearsay, and the programmes that nurture them: ‘Popstars[/ and Pop Idol make great TV’, says Lowe, ‘but sadly you end up with a record and an act when they’re over. Couldn’t the winners just get a prize and disappear?’ And for once, there’s no chuckle.

(Taken from AIMOO forum – posted by .RENT)
Taken from: Radio Times
Interviewer: Quentin Cooper