Pete Astor is very good company. I think. I never met him. Never really even heard him speak to be perfectly honest. But I had bought, as a teenager, bought a 7” single by The Weather Prophets (or which Astor led), Almost Prayed from a long forgotten record shop in Loughborough. Located near McDonalds, where I had also bought previously, and fell in love with records by Spacemen 3 and CUD I tried my luck based on those age old principals of I liked the name and they looked pretty cool. Anyway, from the moment I got home, Staring at it on the bus as you did (I did) wondering what it’d be like, and put it carefully on my parents turntable, his music has stuck with me, like an old friend.
From there, of course I’d bought the 1987 album Mayflower (this time from the unforgettable Left Legged Pineapple), and as you did in those days, by scouring Melody Makers and NME and listening to John Peel and taking snippets fed to you by record shop workers, I discovered previous band The Loft. From there I’d gone on to buy his records as a solo artist on Creation, and kept him pretty close as he carried on releasing music ever since.
So as an excuse more than anything, upon hearing of the reissue of The Loft’s great 80s indie single ‘Up the Hill and down the slope’, out on the brilliant Optic Nerve reissue 2.0 series, complete with coloured vinyl, postcard and poster, we managed to grab a few words with him
Difficult times, how has this crisis affected You? all safe and well?
Yes, a whole bunch of dates that I was going to do cancelled, playing with The Nightingales and The Catenary Wires. However, a few are already re-scheduled and hopefully most of the rest will be also. My teaching at the University has become more busy since the college has gone entirely online, not to mention attendant pastoral issues that the virus has brought up.
But yes, strange times. Whilst being aware of all the danger and hardships that many are currently suffering with, for me, I’m starting to enjoy the focus that this gives me.
Optic Nerve are about to release a reissue of The Loft’s single – Up the hill and down the slope on 7” – what do you remember of that time?
I went to the fairground at Alexandra Palace and came back and wrote the song. I’d been obsessed with Syd Barratt’s Octopus and tried and failed to work it out, so I think that came through in Up the Hill and Down the Slope a bit.
Are you surprised that all these years later people remember The Loft with so much affection?
Yes – its lovely. It’s a good feeling to think that people appreciate what we did – we worked hard on making the best music we could.
I read the band split after playing Hammersmith Palais – was that planned?
Ah, the hot bloodedness of youth!
The record came out on Creation originally – how did that deal come about, did you know Alan McGee already?
We used to go Alan’s club The Living Room because it was one of the few places in London where we felt at home. So much music at that time had become horribly ‘pro’ and boring and The Living Room possessed some of the spirit and feel of post punk and punk. Also, importantly, there was always only a handshake deal which remained in place until Alan sold the label to Sony and I got my catalogue back.
You went back there (to Creation) for a couple of albums with The Weather Prophets, and then your early solo records – was he very supportive of what you were doing?
Absolutely. Alan always had a brilliant instinct for the music itself. The Weather Prophets recorded a version of Almost Prayed, which at that time was a very expensive studio for us and the label. What we ended up with was a clean and rather bloodless version of the song. I remember having a discussion with Alan in one of my office phone boxes on Crouch End Hill just after Christmas and he agreed that we should go with an earlier version of the song which was not as slick but had the spirit. This took a lot of courage from McGee – it must have really hurt his pocket at the time – but he always went with his artistic instinct in those times. This is what made him and the label work so well.
And you’ve carried on making and releasing music since those days – what drives you?
Well, the way I see it is, I’m a lifer. This is what I do and it’s a real privilege to still do it and for people to listen to it and support it.
You play now and again with The Loft still, and teased you had ‘plans’ on the bands facebook page at the end of last year? Can you divulge any further?
Well, we’ll have to see.
Any other plans? I was thinking the other day it’d be nice to get some weather prophets reissues on vinyl and maybe (Creation solo albums) submarine and zoo?
Again, maybe. But I do also rather like the idea that people have to dig around to find stuff.
And so, with guards plans for The Loft, and things up in the air, that was it. But whatever does happen, we still have the music to fall back on. Especially when you’ve been falling back on it for 30 years or so anyway.
Pop over to Optic Nerve’s we site and get yourself a copy (and pick up some of the other delights on offer as well) www.opticnerverecordings.com