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McCartney II: Paul McCartney Interviewed By Other Artists
Luke Turner , June 15th, 2011 07:54

We asked the likes of Chris Carter, Gruff Rhys, Alexis Taylor, Ty Bulmer and Erol Alkan to ask Paul McCartney about some of the techniques and influences used on McCartney II. Questions asked by Stephen Dalton.

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I first became aware that Paul McCartney had a life outside The Beatles (who I've never really liked) and Band On The Run nearly ten years ago, when I used to regularly go to much-missed genre-busting London nightclub Trash. Except I didn't become aware of McCartney per se, just an incredible pop song that went "dit dit dit dit" with a terrific chorus about not needing a disco dancer, a true romancer, and so on. I remember the track got quite a reaction when it was played by DJs Erol Alkan and Rory Philips, everyone assuming it must be a new track from some incredible new synth group they'd discovered. But no, it was Paul McCartney's 'Temporary Secretary'. That track, and McCartney II, have been admired by a new generation of musicians. We asked them for questions to ask Paul McCartney when we did our main feature on McCartney II (read it here). This is what they came up with, and his responses:

Erol Alkan, DJ: Which musician did he greatly admire while making that album?

McCartney: Certainly Talking Heads. I love David Byrne's eccentricity, that's very appealing. And I like his not-mainstream attitude... I was also listening to things like John Cage, Luciano Berio, Cornelius Cardew. I went to their concerts in London because I had plenty of time on my hands so it was the kind of thing I would go and see. Again, just to see what it was about, not necessarily because I was a massive fan. It was more like: what is a prepared piano? Oh, that's what it is. You know, funky stuff like that.

Chris Carter, Throbbing Gristle & Carter Tutti: 'Temporary Secretary' sounds ahead of its time; what did he use to make that melody sequence? What combo of sequencer/synth was it? Although if he's anything like me he'll have trouble remembering exactly from that long ago, ha!

PM: I actually know because I just tried to find out recently... I thought that I had one but it turns out I rented it. It's an Arp sequencer, but we've just found one. Wix, my keyboard guy, has just found one so we might have one soon. We looked at the modern versions but the old one is better, and also I kind of know my way around it.

Ty Bulmer, New Young Pony Club: As an ex-temporary secretary, that is my favourite track on McCartney II. Is it about anyone specific, or did he just like the rhyme?

PM: Erm... yeah, I did have temporary secretaries. After I left Apple I still had business stuff coming up, so in trying to figure out how I could cope with that there were a couple of times I just grabbed someone to just put my letters in order and help. But that track isn't about a specific person. What it's about is, there was a guy called Alfred Marks, he had the Alfred Marks Bureau - he had the same name as a comedian on the radio when I was growing up. So it was just the funny paradox of seeing adverts for the Alfred Marks Bureau, the idea of some comedian having a Bureau was just funny. It said 'Temporary Secretary', and I thought, that's a kind of funky thought. Then there was the secretary thing: take a letter Miss Smith, sit on my lap... all that kind of stuff.

Gruff Rhys, Super Furry Animals: Firstly, I'm a big fan of McCartneys I & II. My question: I presume TLC gave you a writing credit for their version of 'Waterfall'... I personally love both versions. Do you find covers of your songs flattering or does it depend on the version? (And what do you think of TLC's? And did you ever get to hang out with Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopez? Ok, that's about three questions...)

PM: The only thing I know about it was there was a big hit that started with 'Don't go chasing waterfalls'. I'm not sure I've heard TLC but in general, I really do like covers of my songs. Some people go, 'Jeez, you really must hate that one?' But you know what? They did my song, and I'm flattered.

Alexis Taylor, About Group & Hot Chip: I grew up listening to 'Check My Machine' and generally dancing round the living room to it as a four or five-year-old. I still listen a lot to the album (which I discovered about eight years ago) now - it is one of my all-time favourites. How did you come up with the groove for 'Check My Machine'? It is almost reggae but totally its own sound and style. And what were the voices sampled from?

PM: There's no sample, it's me singing live! That's the crazy thing with that album, it wasn't done like albums today. Like 'Secret Friend', I think it's about eight minutes long, and I would stand there with the tambourine and maracas for eight minutes. Nowadays you'd just go chicka-chicka-chicka-chicka, and then loop it. 'So Check My Machine' is just me – the drumming is real and the singing is real. Old school? Ha! Well there was no other school at the time. I suppose we were inventing the new school.

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Jun 15, 2011 12:21pm

This is great stuff. They all asked sharp relevant questions. Such a nice change of pace from the Beatles questions. Seriously, there should be a moratorium on asking Paul any Beatles questions for the next 10 years.

And I've now listened to the whole McCartney II reissue a couple times and it's fantastic, especially Blue Sway, Temporary Secretary, Secret Friend and Check My Machine.

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Lilian Duff
Jun 15, 2011 4:38pm

Havent received my McCartney-Deluxe Edition-Digital yet so cannot comment----but I know it will be great x

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Mitch Scharoff
Jun 18, 2011 6:15pm

Someone should finally, publicly, say: Paul's POST-Beatles work is genuinely SUPERIOR to his Beatles work; his writing, arranging, playing dozens of instruments has vastly improved and
expanded his musical 'palette', so that more often than not, he is consciously, successfully PAINTING WITH SOUND. Give a serious listen to the whole CHAOS & CREATION...album, or "Pretty Little Head"(Press to Play), the arrangement on "Distractions"(Flowers in the Dirt), the Apple 45 "Thingumybob"(Black Dyke Mills Band), "We All Stand Together"(45), or even his AWESOME DRUMS on
Steve Miller's "My Dark Hour", the unreleased "Return to Pepperland"... I know, I know: I'm citing extremely differing
pieces, eclectically different from each other; but you should
Thank God we've got a guy like Paul who constantly tries to do new stuff. I'm NOT so interested in hearing him sing (e.g.) "Drive My Car", "Yesterday" or "Let It Be" live - but
put him into a STUDIO, it's like putting a Master Chef in a kitchen! Have a seat and get ready for whatever meal he prepares. Bon Appetit!

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Jun 18, 2011 8:15pm

In reply to Mitch Scharoff:

Your post reads like a Paul Morley article. HE.

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Jun 26, 2011 3:03pm

Interesting Q& usual more to the Mac than people generally give him credit.

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Jul 22, 2011 10:44pm

you die in 1966 willam campbell

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Sep 6, 2013 10:46pm

Does anybody know what synth McCartney was running his ARP Sequencer with ? When I listen to McCartney II I can here the Jupiter and the Mellotron and the CS-80 .. but not quite sure which synth is chirping away with the sequencer. Anybody know ?

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Sep 6, 2013 10:46pm

Does anybody know what synth McCartney was running his ARP Sequencer with ? When I listen to McCartney II I can here the Jupiter and the Mellotron and the CS-80 .. but not quite sure which synth is chirping away with the sequencer. Anybody know ?

Reply to this Admin