May 28, 2022

Photo: Kate Abbey

The twelfth and latest Tangent album Songs From The Hard Shoulder finds Andy Tillison the same supercharged creative powerhouse he was twenty years ago when the band’s debut album hopped into the spotlight and won over an unsuspecting progressive rock crowd. In fact, he may be even more invigorated now. With the band’s strongest lineup now well established over recent years, they’ve been consistently delivering masterful and ambitious works of breathtaking complexity, beauty, and – perhaps most impressive – originality. The Tangent craft a sound all their own, fed by countless influences and led by the fiercely unique Tillison who explores as many vocal styles as he does lyrical topics. Songs From The Hard Shoulder is the newest chapter in a series of adventurous albums (and this one even throws in an extended cover version of UK’s In The Dead Of Night with some fiery additions that are unmistakably Tangent).

Every one of the players is outstanding, but the music never devolves into mindless wankery or competitive showboating (is there a more distasteful concept in music than competition?). Songs are the priority, although the band can really cook too, launching into exploratory jams with regularity. Tillison is a skilled keyboard player who employs a wide array of vintage and modern sounds. He and guitarist Luke Machin throw down killer leads and solos over the formidable rhythm section of drummer Steve Roberts and bass god Jonas Reingold, while modern legend Theo Travis colours the music with sax and flute (and just to take this opportunity, if you’ve never explored Travis’ own stellar catalogue, do so immediately. I recommend 2015’s Transgression).

I can say quite simply and with full confidence that The Tangent are one of the top bands working today. They satisfy listeners with their established sound complemented by surprises with each new release. Their fans know this, of course, but there are a lot of people out there who don’t know they’re fans yet as they haven’t been exposed to the music… and that really needs to change, for their own benefit as much as that of the musicians. If you’re a newcomer, I urge you to take that plunge, starting with this brand new release and its richly layered prog rock suites (though to be fair, pigeonholing them like that does the band a disservice, as they are much more than prog rock, and always have been, with fearless explorations into jazz, funk, electronic, and beyond). And to your great fortune, you will find a further eleven full albums to explore from this most rewarding of bands. What more can I say without sounding like I am on the payroll? I’m just a fan who was lucky enough to hear The Tangent from their first release onward, and I’m thankful for having their music in my life for twenty years. There’s nobody else like them.

The ever-eager Tillison sat down with me for an hour-long chat about this fantastic new platter (and whatever subject met our fancy along the way).

VT: Congratulations on Songs From The Hard Shoulder as well as the 20th anniversary of The Tangent!

AT: Thank you, yeah! That’s 20 years ago right now that we were recording the very first record.

This is a new form of band, a new animal.

Andy Tillison, 2022

VT: When we last spoke in 2020 for the Auto Reconnaissance album, you mentioned that that album felt even more like a proper band working together than Proxy had before it, and likewise Proxy had felt like more of a proper band than Slow Rust before it. Do you think that trajectory has continued with Songs From The Hard Shoulder?

AT: Yeah, I think so. Obviously I do think about this, you know. When I was a kid, my dreams of being in a band were very different to how this is. I dreamed of us all touring the world together, and sharing hotel rooms and being together all the time, living close by and being able to rehearse and pop round to each others’ houses. And of course that’s not how it turned out at all, and there’s this sort of thing that maybe we’re ‘not really a band’. But I would argue entirely the opposite, that somehow or other we have become a band – we’re just a different kind of band. There’s a huge difference between the way we work and a situation whereby I become the songwriter and I ask musicians 1, 2, 3 and 4 to play some stuff for me, I then put it all together and that’s the album. That’s not what we do. We all react to one another, we all have our input and our roles to play where each person is the master of their own part. Each one shapes the piece. I’m beginning to become aware of it, that this is actually a new form of band, a new animal.

VT: I honestly think this is the strongest lineup you’ve ever had, it just feels like it has all the right ingredients.

AT: It does, I totally agree with you. Really, it’s been almost the same lineup now since 2014. There’s been only one change, and that was adding somebody, drummer Steve Roberts who joined for Proxy in 2017. So it’s been five albums now with myself, Jonas, Theo, and Luke, and the last three also with Steve. So I think those days of The Tangent being a revolving door policy band are behind us! (Laughing) It’s come to the point now where it would be very difficult to deal with the departure of somebody. We might be able to do it, we might not. We just have to hope that nobody leaves! It’s never going to be everybody’s bread winning gig, it’s something that we do because it’s… us.

VT: I always say any band with Jonas Reingold is automatically going to be at least a good band, most likely a great one.

AT: He’s one of the world’s finest.

VT: The different styles he can cover… amazing.

AT: Yeah, he covers a lot of styles, but… well, I know a lot of people go ‘Oh, that’s a Chris Squire bit’ or ‘That’s a Jaco Pastorius bit’, but you know, I know his playing. He can do it all, but in the end, he does what he wants, particularly for The Tangent, and his character is stamped all over it. He’s a crucial player, very open-minded, and an exceedingly funny guy, it’s been an honour to work with him this whole time.

VT: This album didn’t immediately grab me after the first listen as an obvious classic. But on spin #2 and #3 and so on, things slowly emerged and revealed its layers of depth. And those albums often become the biggest for me, like Topographic Oceans. I don’t know if it’s like that for you.

AT: It is, and the way I like to describe it is that when an album grows on you, it takes good root in you, you know? The ones you have to work to like. Of course, it’s a risk for bands nowadays to make a record like this, because you betcha we knew we were making a record that was going to take a bit of work to like and to get to discover its secrets. And of course the risk in 2022 is that this is no longer 1976. And there’s a record you might like just one click away. If you don’t get people’s interest, it’s one click and they’re on to somebody else. That’s the way things are. But there’s the question of whether artists are just going to accept that, lie down and surrender and say ‘Okay, we better just write commercial stuff that people are going to like instantly’. There have to be some bands that say ‘No, fuck all that, we will just stick to what we wanted to do’, and if people do click away, then so be it, we just hope that some people will not do that. But yes, records like that for me in the past were Tangerine Dream’s Zeit, The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway by Genesis was a really, really big shock… those eventually turned into good, solid favourites for a good part of my life. You mentioned Tales From Topographic Oceans, which for me was an instant classic, but it was mainly sides one and four that got me. And now many, many years later, the one that really fascinates me is…

VT: Side two?

AT: Side three, The Ancient. Just one of the most astonishing pieces of music I think I’ve ever heard. There’s literally no other example of music in the world quite like that side of music, and you just have to go ‘Wow! I’m so glad I put the time into discovering it.’ And there are still people who haven’t, who say ‘Oh, I won’t play side three’ (Laughs) And I just don’t know how you can do that! But of course, I did exactly the same thing.

VT: You and I are both old enough that we sat in front of our stereos and listened to entire albums, even doubles like that one, looking at the artwork and reading the lyrics, and that attention span really isn’t there these days.

AT: Yeah, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a generational thing in terms of human genetics or anything like that. If back in those days, you and I who were listening to those albums in front of our stereos on a Tuesday afternoon on summer holidays… if there’d been video games then, we would have tried them. (Laughs) We’d probably have liked them, and Netflix as well, actually. ‘What a great idea that is! And this internet’s pretty good too.’ We’d have gone on YouTube, and we’d be messing about and not had as much time to listen to records, and we’d have also developed this short attention span. I mean, try to tell my kids that on a wet Tuesday afternoon on summer holidays when there was nothing to do, that the only thing you could do was listen to records, that was the only media available. And they say ‘Well what about the TV?’ Well no, there wasn’t any TV. And that’s probably something you don’t even get, because in Canada there probably was TV during the day. In the UK, it didn’t start until 4:00 in the afternoon! (Laughs) It was just a test card on the screen until then. So my kids say ‘Well put a video on!’ Well, they hadn’t invented video recorders. ‘Well what the hell did you do?’ We put records on! ‘Just records?’ They can hardly believe it.

VT: And yet they’re still my favourite form of entertainment.

AT: Mine too.

VT: The Changes is the 17 minute opening track to Songs From The Hard Shoulder, and we could spend the whole interview on this track, but I have to acknowledge that huge Zappa vibe in the intro!

AT: Oh right! Well, you know throughout my life I haven’t listened to a lot of Zappa. I’ve always been aware of him, and people used to ask me about him, and I’d say ‘I guess what I’m doing is saving him up for a rainy day.’ And then we had a rainy day. And that lasted two years, it was called COVID. So I took the opportunity and taught myself a lot of Zappa, and listened to him. I found out a great deal about him, and just what an amazing musician and composer he was, and what a broad-minded individual. Eventually I was keen to try some of the new things I’d heard, so yeah there’s definitely a Zappa feel to it. The big brass section, there’s vibes playing behind everything, a big-sounding ensemble. Yeah, it definitely owes something to the Zappa I’ve been listening to over the last couple of years.

We think we’ve produced more 15 minute songs than any other artist ever!

Andy Tillison, 2022

VT: I like how you merge themes of isolation and disillusionment in this track with upbeat and uplifting music, rather than going the more obvious route of sad, minor key ballad-type songwriting. And that’s something you’ve done in the past as well.

AT: I think it’s very easy to go down that ‘Always be sullen’ route, and there are plenty of artists who I really like who are usually sullen. There’s not much brightness in their music, there’s not much ‘up’ stuff. But I really want there to be an uplifting experience when my music comes out. Having spent a lot of my life listening to diverse artists, for example on one side Peter Hammill with Van Der Graaf Generator and then on the other side, a band like Yes, who were – in atmosphere – almost diametrically opposed to each other, I try to find this place somewhere in between. You can have the dark sections out of which the light can come.

VT: There’s a lot of great playing and soloing on this album. I love that middle section of The Changes where you’re soloing on the Hammond and Luke throws in little guitar licks where he finds the spaces, like he’s trading off with you.

AT: Yeah, this is one of the things that’s happened as the band have gotten to know each other better. Of course, Luke and I are not trading those licks in the same room. I did my licks here (points to his keyboards). I was first, that was my solo. He then played his bits, which of course included his guitar solo at the end. Now, the thing was, I already knew Luke, and I thought ‘This thing will be great with guitar interjections’… I didn’t have to say it. It just happened, and I knew it would, I was leaving the spaces for him. And he didn’t have to say ‘Are these spaces for me?’ He just knew they were. (Laughs) And as I wrote the backing track for his solo at the end, I could hear it in my head, I knew what it would be like, and I was able to build it up as though he was there… I was hearing him already! That’s what I mean about this ‘new’ kind of band; we are reacting to each other but we’re not even there. And I know that sometimes, he’ll surprise me and do something completely different, and that’s the beauty of it – that’s why it’s a band.

VT: Do you think much about your solos beforehand, or are they pretty much first take, off the cuff kind of things?

AT: They’re certainly not always first take. Sometimes they are. There’s one that is on this album, and I’m probably more proud of it than any other solo I’ve ever done actually. Obviously it depends on if it’s a ‘groove’ solo, like the one you’re talking about in The Changes, where I think I recorded it on a loop. I played it about six times and then just went through and found out which was the best. But the ‘one-taker’ was in GPS Vultures, the second song. And that sounds like it was an acoustic flamenco guitar solo. But it’s not, it’s a keyboard solo, and that was just one take. And it wasn’t even going to happen. I just reached this point where the song ran out, I was playing an acoustic guitar patch, and I just kind of continued. And it just… happened! I remember it so well because my heart started beating faster, and I started thinking ‘Andy, this is really good!’ (Laughing) And I don’t often think that! I thought ‘God, I hope I don’t fuck this up now!’ And of everything I’ve ever played, that’s probably the moment I’m proudest of. It’s on this record. And a lot of people will think it’s Luke! (Laughing)

Photo: Sally Collyer

VT: The GPS Vultures is a killer instrumental. It’s GPS Culture’s madder cousin.

AT: Yes!

VT: But it doesn’t really have that much in common with its namesake.

AT: No, no! The thing is, it’s a variation. It’s basically a piece that’s made out of the same couple of building blocks. It’s like building a new Lego house. It’s the same Lego, but you made a different house with it. So I just took my little bricks from GPS Culture and turned them into another piece. You know, where could those ideas that I had in 2006 have gone now? Since I’ve listened to Frank Zappa, and discovered Luke, and all these other things that have happened in my life since then, you know? Where would those chords have gone this time? They went here.

VT: Your instrumentals are often what I call ‘journey’ songs. They take you on these little adventures. And to be honest, that’s not much different from your vocal songs, they are often journeys as well, they just happen to have… well, words.

AT: (Nodding) That’s it, yeah! The whole purpose of the band since day one has been a storytelling band. You know, try to provide that cinematic experience. It goes back to what we were talking about earlier, the lack of attention span… music is one of the original storytelling forms. Before there was any media, before there was radio, before there was broadcasting, music was one of the best ways you could possibly tell a story. There were operas with pieces of music that would tell these stories. So all we’re doing is carrying on an ancient tradition. And when we look back on it, we think – we can’t confirm, but we think – that The Tangent has actually produced more songs over 15 minutes long than any other artist… ever. We’ve checked Neal Morse, we’ve checked Roine Stolt, and we’ve beaten both of them. And it was never a contest, it was just that when we looked at it, we went ‘Bloody hell, look how many we’ve done!’ And you know, that’s what the purpose of this band is, we take ’em on a journey!

VT: Speaking of lengthy pieces, my favourite of these new pieces, and possibly one of my favourites you’ve ever done, is The Lady Tied To The Lamp Post.

AT: (Pleasant surprised tone) Oh really, that’s your favourite? Okay, well most people I’ve spoken to like The Changes the best, so I’m glad there’s somebody who really likes The Lady.

VT: It’s one of these highly ambitious pieces you’ve been doing more of the last several albums. I’m thinking of tracks like Lie Back And Think Of England, A Few Steps Down The Wrong Road and the like. It’s full of time changes, mood changes, killer playing, an interesting story, and some positively delicious Van Der Graaf-inspired moments.

AT: (Smiling) Of course.

VT: There’s a frantic section where you’re singing ‘Don’t want to give her drug money so just to be sure let’s just leave her’, and Luke does these ultra-fast guitar notes… so many little moments that make me smile, what a brilliant track.

Photo: Kate Abbey

AT: (Imitating heavy, chugging guitar) Yeah, you see that’s a classic example. Those little bits came out of nowhere, you know. Luke sends me these guitar parts back, I put it on, I’m hearing the guitar parts for the first time, and I’m going ‘Ahh yeah, brilliant. Ahh yeah, love that one too. Ahh yeah, that one’s just perfect, that’s exactly what I want.’ And suddenly we get to that bit, and I’m going ‘WOAH, what the fuck was that?!’ So I have to rewind and listen to it twice. And I think ‘Oh, I’m not sure about that.’ And then I listen to it again: ‘Yyyyeah, I see what he’s doing…’ and then again: ‘Actually, I quite like it!’ and on the fifth time, ‘Ahh, that’s bloody brilliant, that is!’ So you know, that’s how it works, I just have to avoid the old kneejerk reactions, which is one of the greatest things you have to overcome when you’re involved in writing music and inviting other people to interpret it. When you’re not being a kind of dictator and you’re actually asking people to help you. There are these kneejerk moments, where they’ve done something that you were just so not expecting, and it sounds like something’s invaded your music, and all the white blood corpuscles rush to the invading bacteria. And in the past, I’ve reacted too strongly and said ‘Oh no, I don’t like that!’ and pressed Erase. Nowadays, I know ‘Never do that, Andy. Always give it a chance.’ And because I’ve given things chances now, there’s hardly any tape on the cutting room floor for this album. Nearly everything that everybody did is there, as they played it. All it took was for me to get used to it, instead of reacting against it as the producer. So yeah, that was a fantastic moment that you’ve just mentioned!

VT: At the end of the piece, you’re on a bit of a rant. It’s one of your more restrained rants, but a rant all the same. But then the song fades out and we don’t get to hear everything you’re saying!

AT: I decided to fade off on that one because I think that the overall message of the song is: This isn’t going away. You know, it just continues, there are homeless people all over the world. It’s such an easy problem for us to fix, as a species. I mean, we could fix this problem. But we’ve decided for some reason that it’s not one that we’re going to fix. And it just goes on, so I thought the song can’t end. How can the song end? It just has to carry on. That’s how I saw the fade. It doesn’t matter, me ranting. It just carries on forever until the problem is solved.

VT: The album closes on a shorter note with Wasted Soul, which despite its title is quite upbeat, with a lot of groove and a touch of funk to it… it has big horns, it’s a very bright, sunny song, a fun way to end the record.

AT: I think that was necessary after we had The Lady Tied To The Lamp Post. You know what I was saying earlier, that you need to have the darkness in order for the light to come through. Well, unfortunately in the case of a song about homelessness, there isn’t really a lot of light, it’s not a subject where there is a happy ending. So I decided to end the album with Wasted Soul which is very up-tempo, it’s very much inspired by those late 60s big soul sessions, you know, things like Phil Spector with Ike & Tina Turner, or the Tamla Motown sessions, everybody in the studio all at once. That kind of atmosphere I wanted to try and recreate. And you know, I love so much more music than just progressive rock music, and in the past we’ve delved into all sorts of different music that inspires us as musicians. From funk to disco to electro dance to atmospheric, ambient music, punk rock, metal… we’ve done jazz, we’ve done orchestral, and this time we just decided ‘Okay, let’s have a bit of 1960s soul to finish this one off’, and that was a lot of fun.

The Allium: Una Storia album was a delight, we’ll do another, no doubt about it.

Andy Tillison, 2022

VT: Last August, I enjoyed reviewing the Allium: Una Storia album, and it’s still one I enjoy pulling off the shelf and spinning. How do you look back on it now? Were you happy with the response to that album?

AT: Everybody I know who heard it liked it. I didn’t see many bad reviews, it had some nice things said about it. I absolutely adored making that record, it was a lot of fun and the quickest record I’ve ever made. I really do believe it sounds like it was supposed to. It does sound like a 1970s progressive rock album made in Italy. It wasn’t released on Inside Out, it was an independent release, so it was never going to sell as many as a Tangent record, we just didn’t have the distribution. But the point was that it was something to do, and it was something we enjoyed doing. It was great for Jonas to be able to play guitar, it was great for me to be able to play drums, everybody had fun. And you know, we created an ‘old’ band! It was just a delight to get involved with, yeah. We’ll do another, there’s no doubt about it.

VT: Some musicians have said that when someone plunks an album down in front of them to sign, the cover conjures flashbacks to the circumstances surrounding the making of that album, both good and bad. So I’m wondering, what would spring to mind if I plunked this one down? (Holds up the Tangent CD The Music That Died Alone.)

AT: That one? Well, the first thing that goes into my mind is my daughter asleep in bed whilst I was trying to record it. She was a teenager, and she’d come to stay with me, and I was recording the album. She was doing that ‘teenager’ thing of sleeping all day, and I was just belting through the record, and I was doing that thing in the Canterbury sequence where I was going (sings) ‘ba-da-bup-ba-ba-ba’ with my voice, and I was doing it for hours trying to get it right. And she just slept through it all. And then she woke up and said ‘Dad, what were you doing, singing?’ (Laughs) And now she’s grown up and become an amazing woman, and she’s having a baby. But yeah, The Music That Died Alone is obviously a very important record for me because it’s the first time I had any musical success. I know it sounds young now, but I was 42 years old and that’s actually quite old in rock and roll terms, and I’d been a musician for 30-odd years before that. I’d been making records all that time, most of which are unheard, unknown, and unreleased. And suddenly when this album was released, I was getting letters from people in South America saying how wonderful it was. And going out and touring, playing in the States, I played in Canada once, I’ve played in Russia, Europe, and it’s essentially because of that record. And there were certain things that made that record very popular. The fact that it had a member of Van Der Graaf Generator on it was one. And it had Jonas and Zoltan, but mainly because it had Roine Stolt. And this certainly attracted a lot of attention. As a matter of fact, I had a very nice phone call from Thomas Waber of Inside Out, after Roine had left the band, about whether or not I was going to continue releasing records as The Tangent. And I said ‘I’m obviously concerned that Roine is gone and he was the reason why everybody liked the records’. And Thomas said ‘I know what you’re saying Andy, but the reason that they like the records is that they’re good records.’ Since then, they’ve signed me up for three albums at a time, and we’ve done twelve now so they’ve signed me a total of four times. One day, I assume they will stop signing me… one day! And I will be shaking their hand saying ‘Thank you very much, it’s been absolutely great’. But yeah, that record means a lot to me, because it’s where it all began. After that point, every time I played the piano… there was a reason. This wasn’t just a mad hope, from now on there were actually people listening. That was a huge moment for me, to realize that after all these years, there are now people interested in what I’m doing. Of course, it’s not Michael Jackson status or anything (laughs), but it’s just really nice to be able to do it. It doesn’t matter how many there are, as long as there are people listening.

VT: How about this one? (Holds up the Tangent CD Not As Good As The Book.)

AT: That one… that’s a tough one for me, that’s the album that saw my whole life change. During the making of that record, my life in France ended, my relationship broke up, it’s the time when I ended up being homeless for a little while, it was a very, very, very difficult few years that began with the recording of that record. I very rarely listen to any of our records, that’s just the way I am. Once they’re gone, they’re gone. I made them for somebody else, not for me. That record holds a lot of sad memories for me. But I know a lot of people like that one, I think it had some good moments on it, but a lot of sad memories.

VT: Okay, just one more (Holds up the ‘Andy Tillison Multiplex’ CD Electric Sinfonia No. 2).

AT: (Cheerier tone) Ahh, right, that one! That was a lot of fun. There was a band over here called XTC, they were this kind of pop group. I don’t know how well known they are over in Canada…?

VT: Oh, they are. Several big hits.

AT: They are, okay. Well they formed another sideline group called The Dukes Of Stratosphear, and they did a kind of psychedelic music. And slowly but surely, more and more psychedelic music from the Dukes started appearing in XTC until they realized that the bands had just merged (laughs). And this is what happened with Multiplex. I thought ‘We should have more stuff like this in The Tangent’. I had a second Multiplex album ready to go, but in the end, I thought the song called Doctor Livingstone should be a Tangent song, and another one that became Andalusian Skies on Proxy. And there was another called Vasco da Gama, which ended up becoming the backbone of the song Lie Back And Think Of England on Auto Reconnaissance. So really, that Multiplex album you’ve just shown me there was a moment where I thought ‘Yeah, The Tangent needs to be more like this, we need to have more jazz rock’. So that was a very important record in the development of The Tangent, yeah.

VT: Speaking of jazz rock, I actually took some advice I’d seen you give someone else and replaced a few of my old Return To Forever CDs with this (Holds up the Anthology compilation) because of the superior remixes.

AT: (Excitedly) Ahhh! That one was redone with total respect for the original mix. It’s exactly the same in terms of the original mix but the quality is ‘Woah!’ And to me, whoever did that, got everything right that I’m afraid in my opinion Steven Wilson gets so wrong when he mixes stuff! (Laughing) You know, I’m a really, really big fan of Steven Wilson, he’s a fantastic musician, I love his songwriting and I love all the stuff he’s done over the years, but I really don’t like the Yes remixes. Oh god! (Laughing) You know, things just get off balance! There’s a bit in Siberian Khatru that he remixed, and you can hear Bill Bruford’s bass drum isn’t in time.

VT: Oh wow! Really? I haven’t heard those.

AT: Yeah! And you think, ‘That’s so unfair!’ Bill was playing this in a time when bass drums aren’t as important as they are now. Therefore, his groove was less about the bass drum and more about the rest of the kit and his work with Chris. And to find that the bass drum had been accentuated, and the groove that’s there at the beginning… I lost it! I never noticed in all these years that that was out of time. And that’s exactly what the Return To Forever remix you’ve got there doesn’t do. It’s still exactly groove and mix-wise as it should have been. Just beautifully done. I’ve even been involved with one of these remixes – I’m not saying which – and I didn’t like my involvement in that either! (Laughing) I just thought ‘No, no, the original is how it should be’. And of course, the main problem I have with all this stuff is that each time an artist does a reissue of a 70s record, it’s one 2020s record that isn’t going to sell, because they’re spending their money on an old one again.

VT: Okay, last question. What do you think about some of the classic bands that are going out in their mid-70s and playing ‘legacy’ shows of music they wrote at 21? There’s a lot of opinion out there that some of these guys can’t do it anymore, that they can’t sing, there are barely any original members, the tempos drag… what do you think?

I love Steven Wilson but I really don’t like the Yes remixes! Oh god!

Andy Tillison, 2022

AT: I think there’s a lot of truth in that. You know, I’ve been to a few gigs which have made me very sad. And I end up thinking ‘Wow, I’ve seen this before a long time ago and it was not like this!’ I’ve never been one to slag off bands at all. But in a general, overall way, something I’ve always thought is that the bands who first interested me in progressive rock music when I was a young man, between 1972 when I bought my first record and 1979 when the UK album closed the curtains on the first chapter of prog, those bands like Yes, Genesis, ELP, Pink Floyd, Camel… they produced unbelievable music. Since that point, there’s hardly a single one of them that have ever released a single record that’s anywhere close to what they did during that period. (Long pause) And then I look at Roine Stolt. And I think that every single one of the records that he’s made since 1994 – and there’s bloody thousands of them! – is better than every record that those guys have made since 1979. Yet people will still flock to see the big name from the 70s. Of course, some will go to the Roine gig as well, but there’s nowhere near as many people at the Roine gig as there should have been! (Laughing) And even fewer people come to see us than come to see Roine. You know, where is the Yes album that makes you go (pumps fist) ‘They’re back!’ Where was the Genesis one? The ELP? There are so few. I think Jethro Tull got very close to making a record as good as they used to be with a thing called Roots To Branches. That was a great record, I really loved it. And I think Do Not Disturb by Van Der Graaf Generator is the only one of all these bands where that one belongs in the main canon. As far as I’m concerned, it sits next to The Quiet Zone/The Pleasure Dome as the next release. The other two I wasn’t bothered about, but Do Not Disturb, I thought is proper Van Der Graaf Generator – the real deal. And it’s modern as well. So we’re talking really, really, really few of these people that have managed to do it. And yet, there’s been so many bright and talented, amazing records made by newer artists that have just been totally overlooked and forgotten. Fuck’n hell, Beardfish! I mean, how did Beardfish have to end up not working anymore? And Ritual… really good band. There’s a band in France called Alco Frisbass who I absolutely adore. And Zopp, I know him. So, so many! And yet everybody’s just interested in what the next Yes album is going to be. Of course we’re all very sad today because Alan White died yesterday, didn’t he? So you know, I just have to remember the really good stuff. I think of Alan White’s work in Sound Chaser on Relayer. That was just woah, totally out there, that track!

VT: Well it comes back to one of your lyrics, doesn’t it? ‘They go running back off to the seventies, and all the other bands are skint.’

AT: Yeah, I think that’s something that has upset me, and of course it’s shaped my life. The simple fact is, if The Tangent had existed at a different time, my life would have been vastly different, and I’d probably be able to afford the electricity bill! (Laughs) And a slightly tidier and pleasanter studio. But it doesn’t happen that way, the world has changed and the 1970s will never happen again. We just have to do the best we can, and I ain’t complaining, because I’ve had an absolutely fantastic time doing what I’m doing, I love it! Nothing to complain about in terms of a life experience, it’s been wonderful making music for so long.

VT: That seems like a good quote to end on.

AT: …but everybody can still send me donations!