Finnigan - "Okay the first question is from Alan
Skeets – I have always been puzzled by the 45 degree
turn away from the tribal style of Mik’s drumming
on the early albums, to the more straight forward
style of the later albums. Was this an evolution or
an enforced revolution, or did the songs just lend
themselves to the earlier style."
– "This is quite common. I know exactly what
they mean but the thing is if you do the same drums
all the time it kind of limits the rest of the band
to doing the same roles that they do – people fall
into roles with the patterns that they play, you know.
If I play a tom-tom orientated drum part, then Kevin
used to play a certain bass line. If we did that forever
the band would get completely bored with it and am
sure so would the listeners. You can’t stand still."
- "Alan Skeets again –It’s seven years since
the break up and I can’t believe a drummer of Mik’s
stature hasn’t had offers to join other bands. Has
he and why didn’t he?"
– "Well the answer is I haven’t had one offer
to join any band, which you would call a band, until
recently. I got an offer to join Chicken Legs Weaver
which I took and I was grateful for the offer. I think
its great and I’m really enjoying it."
- "How did that gig go then?"
– "It was really good, I was so nervous. I was
marching round the gig not knowing what to do saying
like ‘let’s do it now!’ No, it was great, it was really
good. I didn’t make one mistake which is not bad with
14 numbers and only six rehearsals."
– "So it was the first time you’ve played live
in seven years?"
– "First time I’ve played live since the Comsats
gig in Swindon in ’95. Funny thing is once you’re
on stage it’s like you’ve never been away – it’s all
there again …"
MF - "Alan Jones asks – What is your favourite
era of the Band’s career?"
– "The first album, because it was all so new
and so good for the band. A band wants to get somewhere,
to get a record deal and get an album out and then
everybody go crackers about it. It was just a wonderful
feeling, it’s like a quantum leap from obscurity to
national press. So, without a doubt, the first album
and the time around the first album."
– "Some people may be a bit surprised by that,
because a typical fan might think you would prefer
Sleep No More and perhaps see that as your
album because of the drums?"
- "Yeah, I thought it was a great album to do
after the first album. It would have been tempting
to do like another Waiting For A Miracle part
2 sort of thing. I know what you mean about the second
album but I think the thrill of it all was based around
the first album. I actually thought the music on Waiting
For A Miracle was more original than Sleep
No More. I thought Sleep No More was almost
written with the sound of the album in mind, music
almost tailored for a sound, whereas with Waiting
For A Miracle we had much longer to get the album
together than the second."
– "Thank Mik for his enormous contribution to
the Comsats sound and for the amazing versatility
that he brings to his trade, an example being the
enormous sound of Dark Parade as a contrast
to the glorious, understated, you’d never know it
was there, subtlety of Pray for Rain. There
wern’t any drums on that, were there?" [laughter]
- "There were absolutely no drums on Pray
For Rain." [laughter]
– "But you’ve always said you made a decision
not to play on that."
- "Percussionist decision though isn’t it?"
– "Yeah, oh yeah I was always big enough to know
when not to play." [laughter]
– "We’ll try a little scatter gun approach as
some people sent a list of questions. This is from
Rolf - Love the drumming parts in most of the Comsat
Angels albums. At what age did you start making music
and was that playing drums?"
- "I had some piano lessons when I was a child
but I hated them. I used to play very percussively
and loud but I’d always wanted to play drums since
I was about eight, even before actually. I used to
love it and I loved seeing drums on TV in those big
jazz bands. So exciting and my parents wouldn’t let
me play drums, too noisy. Basically it was piano or
nothing. That was the sort of deal, so I actually
started playing drums when I was about seventeen.
I took it really seriously when I was about nineteen
and put more practice in then. I was always interested
but it was definitely nineteen when I started taking
- "Which music or band influenced you the most?"
– "The Rolling Stones probably as a child. Well
at an earlier age because the drums were quite clear
on their records, you could actually hear what the
bass drum was doing and things like that, you couldn’t
on a lot of records. Things like Honky Tonk Woman
with a cow bell on the beginning and the drums dropping
a slow funky beat is the sort of thing which would
have actually influenced me. Having said that, earlier
in life wanting to play drums like the big bands.
Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich - drummers like that, fast
and furious and really rhythmic. So there’s never
really been one. I used to like Ringo for his simplicity
- proof that you can have simple sparse drums on quality
material. Listening to some Beatles tracks now especially
stuff on Sergeant Pepper, there are tracks
the Beatles did which are like the drums on Total
War, just simple but in strange places. Later
I used to like drummers like Jaki Leibezeit in Can.
He was fantastic, so mesmeric. The strokes he used
to do, so unusual he would put beats in places no
other drummer would. Oh
and Sooty!" [laughter]
- "Not Animal then from the Muppets?"
- "No. Animal did drums a disservice, he destroyed
all Sooty's good work!"
"What do you consider the peak of the Comsats
– "The peak? I’ll be very harsh on myself - it
was Sleep No More. I don’t think things were
quite the same after Sleep No More and I could
go on for hours telling you why I think that but if
the band had split after Sleep No More, it
would have been known as one of the greatest album
ever made. The fact that we stayed together longer
and made more albums, in a strange way it some how
dissipates the quality of something like that."
– "A lot of us would disagree..."
– "Yes, a lot of the questions suggest that some
albums were better than others. I mean how long should
a band exist for, did the Comsat Angels exist for
far too long? But we’ll go into that another time!"
– "Okay, in contrast, what was the rock bottom
of the Comsat Angels?"
– "Rock bottom ? Artistically as opposed to spiritually,
I think when we started on Jive records I wasn’t quite
aware of the regime that they imposed upon us to tow
the commercial line. I have regrets about it. When
we signed, I was keen to sign for them but I don’t
think I knew fully what was expected of us and I used
to get pretty down about it and also on Polydor we
had one album out every year and there was always
plenty to do all year round. Writing, gigs and then
with them we managed to get Land out, again
at a years gap then there was this awful period between
their disappointment with Land’s performance
and wondering what to do next and trying to get something
else together which was basically some success by
some singles. All of a sudden I felt the whole thing
had been taken out of our hands – you know it was
an abject time really."
– "It was nearly two years wasn’t it?"
– "It was the first time I got sort of professional
depression. I actually got down about the slowness
of everything and the music sounded so ‘poppy’ and
as much as you tried to make tracks sound like more
powerful the whole production seemed to win the day.
It was all pop and layered vocals, and pleasant sounding
guitars and nice keyboards and all that. You know,
I think it’s a credit to the band that we came out
with the music we did on those Jive albums. I think
they could have been really awful records rather than
records not as good as they could have been."
– "Is there a chance of the band re-forming ever,
in your view?"
– "I know people like the idea of re-forming
years after they existed, but I’d rather do an album
than do gigs. But I don’t think that will happen anyway,
as much as it would be nice, well more than nice actually.
have trouble with moving backwards. The biggest cliché
you’ll ever hear is ‘moving on’. Whatever that means,
on to what? Or away from what? I don’t think so. It’s
a kind of nice day dream though."
- "Tony Kinson asked – What tracks would you
put on a compilation album for someone who had never
heard the Comsat Angels?"
- "I’d just lend them the last one we did. [laughter]
I’ve got a problem with that. I can’t do that, there
are a few bands I can’t do that with. Make me a best
of REM say, I can’t because I mean they’re a band
who’ve virtually only done one crap album in their
life and they’ve done about ten albums now."
– "Back to the Comsat’s compilation – which songs?"
– "I couldn’t really. I would have to have some
sort of theme to it. I could be selfish and put the
ones with my favourite drumming, even though the ones
with my favourite drumming aren’t my favourite songs.
Not because its the drumming, [much laughter] but
just because that’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
I used to love the drums to More on the third
album but I was never fond of the song – I think it
was under produced. I think it sounded dry and tinny.
I got slagged off for it anyway, the journalists said
I was just ripping off Flowers of Romance by
Public Image and if you actually listen it’s a different
rhythm for a start. More is more old fashioned
rock and roll rhythm, more Buddy Holly."
– "Who said that?"
– "Lynden Barber of the Melody Maker."
– "What music are you listening to at the moment?"
– "Oh, right, crikey, so many things, more old
stuff. When I say old I mean long before I was born,
twenties jazz stuff, really far back. I listen to
loads of 50’s and 60’s jazz, I love that stuff, the
invention and improvisation of all that. Lots of new
bands, White Stripes, Johnny Dowd an American singer/songwriter
guy. I like the band I’ve just joined. Anything that’s
a bit rocky and a bit fresh really. I like the Strokes."
MF – "Top 5 albums of all time, could you do
– "I could name a few – couple of Beatles wouldn’t
go amiss. Revolver, most of the Beatles albums.
Not so much of The Stones albums though. I always
thought they were more of a singles band, although
a lot of Stones fans would disagree with me. Pet
Sounds by the Beach Boys, Kinda Blue by
Miles Davis, My Favourite Things by John Coltrane,
anything by Sarah Vaughn. Joy Division’s first album,
Elvis Costello’s second album there are hundreds of
them really, too difficult to pick five. Oh, and of
– "Are you aware that to a lot of people the
world over, the Comsat Angels music was, and still
is very important and has given a lot pleasure over
– "Well, I’m getting more aware of it since I
met you, yeah, that’s nice. There is a strangeness
between someone who’s in a band who other people like.
It won’t be the same reasons, you know even though
I strongly relate to the band. It isn’t the same way
as people who are fans of the band. So when you’ve
lived it, it’s your work, your ideas and aspirations,
so its nice that people like the band’s stuff. The
only thing that was missing was more success really
because I think we had sustained quality with our
material. You know, in a way its of its time but in
another way its bigger than that. There’s over a decade
between the first and last albums, it’s like a diary
of where we were musically at that time."
– "Do you still keep in touch with any band members?"
– Yeah, Andy is still a friend of mine, he doesn’t
live too far away. I don’t see Steve and I don’t see
Kev. I see Terry a lot, I don’t see Simon as much
but he and Hilary have had a baby boy – Jude. So I
think Simon is really happy, he’ll be really happy
about that. He doesn’t play live anymore or in a band
or anything. He’s a great bloke, he’s an example.
He’s so kind & calm and a very generous person
– "With the magic of hindsight would you have
done anything different when you with the Comsat Angels?"
– "Yeah! I would have insisted that we were more
professional from the outset – respected the golden
opportunity we had more, instead of taking if for
– "Things like Jive?"
– "Yeah, I wouldn’t have signed for them with
hindsight, it was just something we did at the time."
– "What about Island?"
– "I wouldn’t have signed for them either."
– "But I always thought when you signed with
them - At last the label that might understand them."
- "It wasn’t though, it wasn’t the label it used
– "Right, another question, this time from Kate
Booth, who asks – What was it like working with Robert
–" I never really worked with him [laughter].
Do you want the truth? Next question! It was really
quite incongruous. I didn’t really think Robert’s
music had much to do with the Comsats – even though
he really loved the Comsats. He loved the Comsats
far more than the Comsats loved Robert Palmer. It
was quite a wheeze meeting him, it was quite flattering
someone famous likes you and comes a long way to see
your gig. He came from France to Holland one night
to watch us which was really nice but he was really
into the Island deal, but I didn’t think the association
did us much good and certainly, well, musically he
sang one small piece on one song, You’ll Never
Know but that was it really as far as I was concerned.
Steve had a closer relationship with him and I think
they tried to write material together."
- "Steve helped to write a few songs for one
– "Yeah, I had precious little to do with him.
I didn’t quite understand what the relationship meant."
- "Elliot Wheeler asks – What do you remember
about the rotating headlining tour with The Sound
in 1981? Was it a good experience?"
– "No, not really, it was confusing, it was actually
a compromise. It was supposed to be 3 bands of similar
sort of popularity doing bigger halls, and all we
were doing was playing in halls we’d played in at
the beginning of the year. So it was kind of pointless.
There were these rotating headliners - some people
didn’t like the Comsats and vice versa and people
turned up and had missed the band they wanted to see.
If you were a Comsat fan you presumed they were going
on last and it was all right, but it wasn’t my favourite
tour, there was that confusion about it."
- "Elliot Wheeler again – Your lowest ebb Jive
or Dream Command?"
- "Well, I think I had been hardened against
future disappointments by the 7 Day Weekend
experience. In fact one night we went to see the Long
Ryders. I was so excited by this four piece band on
stage knocking out this music at the Mean Fiddler
that when I got back to the studio later, I just went
into this strange mood. I started destroying the leisure
room – I threw this beaker at the video player which
was miles away and it hit it full on – I mean the
chances of doing it again are about million to one.
I’d be there about a 1,000 cups later still missing.
It crashed straight into the controls and broke it
– the studio manager Chris next morning came in and
went berserk and that was it. I was just so frustrated,
I was watching these guys down there rocking and rolling
and everyone enjoying it, and it was so exciting and
all the excitement had gone from us and it was just
locked in the studio with machines playing the music.
In fact they used to hire session men without our
permission – and this guy turned up, he looked like
something out of BayWatch, to do backing vocals, this
kid. Steve had a fit and came to me and said what
do you think about them using another singer on the
track and I said well, they are not using me. In fact
let’s get everyone on, in fact lets make a point and
have none of the band on it!!"
- "They used a couple of women singers."
– "Oh yeah, Stevie on Day One, she also
sang on I Love a Man in Uniform."
- "What is your favourite Comsat Angels track?
Is it possible to answer that?"
– "Hard to say, there are a couple very well
sung, meaningful and convincing. I like the weird
things, Monkey Pilot, & Dark Parade,
I loved that. And soft tracks, a delicate side to
the band which I really enjoyed, such as After
The Rain, Pictures, tracks like that, you
know. Carried Away that sort of bracket of
song. Cutting Edge, that was just a jam in
– "The instrumentation – Steve had the song.
That was two takes spliced together. Late night jazzy
blues feel to it. When I’m listening to the Comsats
it would be that sort of thing."
– "Do you listen to it now?"
– "Hardly ever actually, hardly ever. I would
never listen to it if I was on my own. I would play
it to other people. It’s not because I don’t like
it or anything its because I lived with it for so
– "If you had an opportunity to play with another
band, who would you play with?"
– "Who would I play with? Do you mean who has
ever existed or who is around today?"
– "Who has ever existed."
– "Oh, Jimi Hendrix then – laughter – yeah, that
would be all right. Wouldn’t have to worry about the
band projecting or anything then would you?! Just
sit back and play drums – Jimi would do everything!"
- There’s an essay from Rob in New Zealand. He’s a
drummer – question – The heavy tom sound of Sleep
No More and Dark Parade heavily influenced
me. I couldn’t understand why when a band with one
of the best and most innovative rhythm sections around
changed direction to something less invigorating."
– "Does he mean the Jive albums?"
– "I think so – although he says part way through
Fiction he can pick that up the change. I don’t
agree with him on that!"
- "I think Fiction was a very over rated
album. It was badly recorded, it didn’t sound that
great, it didn’t know where it was going. I mean where
do you go from Sleep No More? There’s two ways
you go, either completely different or you make it
even heavier than Sleep No More, twice as ‘boomy’
but people really liked that album. We were even struggling
on that album to get enough tracks together to release
it. I’m sure Pete Wilson wasn’t as into that album
as he was to the previous two. It was, get an album
out every year, you never really had chance to look
round. People really liked that album. It was just
a jam really – the jam was there before the song,
Steve wrote what’s on there to the jam. Tracks like
Zinger which again were rough jams with a few
ideas at the last minute. I think sometimes, it came
together strangely, you know, you don’t rate it, you
think you will have to work on it before it can become
a finished thing."
– "What Else!? is a great track."
- "I really like that, we always play that live
all the way through. Bird Man yeah, I kinda
half liked it, but it’s got a massive middle bit that
goes on forever."
- "So we’ve been through half an album you don’t
like and found that you really like the songs?!"
[ Laughter]. I reckon Fiction sums up the first
part of your career - you’ve got elements of Waiting
for A Miracle, elements of Sleep No More
and in some songs both elements come together."
– "Maybe it should have been the second album."
– "There is some really heavy drumming and dark
sides to it but within the songs you get those dynamics
then you get the ‘poppy’ end."
– "We got slated by Melody Maker by Lynden Barber
- a friend – who just said it was shit. But then NME
gave it 5 stars and he’d never written about the band
before to my knowledge, before the review of that
– "It’s got After The Rain as well, what
a great song."
– "Yeah, but then the quiet ones are my favourites,
but then again I like What Else!?."
– "So folks, we’ve talked Mik back into liking
Fiction then?! Another
question - Did you want to experiment with using drum
– "Oh yeah, good things came out of it, like
Mr Memory, you can only do that with a drum
machine. It worked so well and only took 2 minutes
to convey the idea to put on the machine. I suggested
that the bass line was tighter than the bass drum
giving it that sort of relentlessness without too
– "From Phil – Which Comsat album were you happiest
– "The Glamour. It was lovely to do Chasing
Shadows after the Jive albums, more basic again."
-"Do you think the Comsats had some place musically
to go after The Glamour?"
– "Yeah, as soon as you’ve done one album, it’s
like decorating your house, as soon as you’ve got
one room right you drift on to the next. It’s like
that with albums. It would have been a great album
the next one, I could tell already with the songs
we were getting through."
– "Some of those you previewed on that last tour?"
– Yeah, Helicopters. I mean on that tape from
the Mean Fiddler both the audio and the video, sounds
– "Took me a while to work out it’s a drug song
as well. Isn’t it?"
- "I thought was the same subject matter as Dark
Parade –military helicopters arriving etc."
– "When Kev left was it hard to strike up an
understanding with Terry?"
– "What about feelings when Kev left?"
- "I was a little surprised he didn’t actually
leave saying, nothings happening, I’ve given it my
best shot - I’m into studio stuff now and that’s it.
I had left the band for a while and done some stuff
with Jenny Jones, singer songwriter, but I still used
to listen to My Minds Eye. I may not have been
in the band, and been in this folky thing & I
was listening to My Minds Eye on tape and thinking
I should be playing that and not what I’m playing
. And I just knew Kev wouldn’t be into it anymore,
so we had to think seriously of getting some musicians
in. Something to fatten it up."