Canadian band The Tea Party are no strangers to Australia and tonight they are swinging back into town to celebrate 20 years of arguably their very best album Transmission.
Libby Parker had a chance to chat with bassist Stuart Chatwood about the tour, the album and one of their fans, Robert Plant.
The Upside News: What was it was like re-recording some of the biggest tracks from Transmission after so long?
Stuart Chatwood: Well, we had started the tour, I think, in February, learning the songs again in January, and we had such a great time across Canada, where we played 34 shows, and we went down to the States and did a few shows down there as well. We had a couple days off in Toronto. 20 years had passed since the original recording, and the songs had evolved so much live, and we wanted to put a different spin on it, that was more relevant to who we are now.
I mean, back then, we wrote about some ideals, and in the intermingling times, we’ve lived some of these ideals. So, we just thought it would be a fun thing. We weren’t sure what we’d do with it, because, you know, just thought we’d capture it for ourselves, and then we decided to put it out, I guess we should have put it out right at the Canadian tour, but we just thought it was a good time now before these Australian dates so people can hear a different version before they head out to the concerts.
TUN: And what sorts of differences did you bring to it, and why did that difference come about?
Stuart Chatwood: Just each tour, successive tour, we’d approach the songs a little differently. So we’d pick up things over the years, and just, you’ve got to remember when you record something in the studio, you’ve maybe written the song, sometimes in the studio. You might be recording a song you’ve played only three or four times, so after we’ve played these songs a couple thousand times, you work out what drum fills you want, and how you want to play this song in particular. And what sounds best. You try things, some things didn’t work, and some things replaced some of the things that did work initially in your mind, and you’ve improved on them, so.
TUN: So tell me about the collector’s item coffee table books that’ll be available on tour.
Stuart Chatwood: Yeah, I’m not sure if we’re selling to the public, but I know that was a special thing we made for the people that wanted to get involved in the VIP meet and greet thing.
We just wanted to do something special for these people, and these are the most loyal fans that have been with us for all 16 prior tours of Australia, so, but back then we had done some amazing photographs with Joseph Cultice, who’s quite a famous rock photographer. He’s shot, you know, research his name and you’ll see who he’s shot, everyone from Bjork to Ozzy Osbourne, but just, he’s done some great photos with us that the public hadn’t seen.
There are a lot of stories that haven’t been told, so we thought for the text in the book, we would just let all the people that we know in the industry that were involved in the record, or that were touched by us somewhat, to share their thoughts. And one of the Australian promoters, Sam Righi, that started with the band in the beginning, he kind of explains how the band broke in Australia, because a lot of people are still mystified, you know. Why are you guys so big in Australia? So, if you want to find out, you can just read the chapters in the book, so.
TUN: And speaking of your biggest fans, what’s your favourite fan moment, whether it’s here in Australia or overseas?
Stuart Chatwood: Just when you see fans in obscure places. I was watching a travel show about the hike that you do to all the churches and monasteries on the northern side of Spain. I forget the name of the hike, but it ends up in the church just north of Portugal on the Atlantic Ocean, and you have a big party with all the other pilgrims. And this travel show was reporting it, and this guy comes on, talks for about two minutes, and he’s wearing an Edges of Twilight t-shirt. Cool stuff like that. Or we’re in the Paris Metro and someone shouts across: Tea Party! You know, so, Australians find us everywhere, I guess.
TUN: Yeah. We get pretty excited about that sort of thing.
Stuart Chatwood: Yeah, and just finding out famous people who like you, you know, like when Robert Plant went to buy a car for his son, he actually went to my sister-in-law’s dealership in Birmingham, England. And his name was Bob, and she’s like, okay Bob, come in and sign the paperwork, and he came in, and it’s Robert Plant.
TUN: Oh my god.
Stuart Chatwood: And Robert Plant, she said I don’t, my sister-in-law, she’s like, I don’t really know if Robert Plant knows the Tea Party. I know you guys played with him, and you told a tall story about partying with the guys afterwards, so I’m just gonna ask. And Robert was like, absolutely, you know, I’ve got all their records. And he started going album by album: Edges of Twilight, Transmission, they were my favourites, you know…
TUN: Well, that’s the review you want, isn’t it? To get an endorsement from Robert Plant!
Stuart Chatwood: Yeah, I’ll take that. I’ll take that over Pitchfork Media any day.
TUN: Absolutely. So, in your 20 years, what do you feel has been the highlight in all that time, since that album?
Stuart Chatwood: Well, the low, I mean, two low-lights before I say a highlight. Our manager in 2003 passed away from cancer, and that was an extreme low point for the band. It probably led to the breaking up of the band in 2005, but before he passed away, we were fortunate enough to play a concert in Canada that was the largest ticketed event ever in the history of music in Canada. It was headlined by the Rolling Stones and AC/DC, and we were on the main stage as the third or fourth band on, so we were quite honoured. The crowd was 490,000 people. So, that was definitely probably a highlight.
TUN: We are all looking forward to you guys coming to Adelaide. What are you looking forward to about coming back to Australia?
Stuart Chatwood: Well, I love playing the Thebbie, so I’m looking forward to playing there again. It’s just such a great classic theatre. It’s a good rock and roll room, and we should have some amazing projection behind us from an Australian artist, Robert Buratti. He lives, I think he was raised in Sydney, but he’s lived in Perth for a while now, but he’s a very esoteric artist with some dark imagery, and, like he runs, I think, the rights for Salvador Dali in Australia, I think. You know, lots of great things, and he took each song and made a short video we’re going to play behind us, so it’s just, I mean, it emphasises and works in conjunction with the music, so it’s pretty cool.
TUN: Cool, and what about Adelaide? Have you spent much time here? What do you think of our humble little city?
Stuart Chatwood: Well, we’re all huge wine buffs, so you’re the capital of wine for the southern hemisphere. We’re actually making a Tea Party wine called Transmission. We’re making three wines: a shiraz, a grenache, and a blanc de blanc champagne style. And it’s very, very limited edition, and I don’t even know if it’s gonna make it to the public, to be honest. But we’re just doing a trial run to see how things will work with our partners down there, and if it works well, for our next album, we’ll hopefully release a larger quantity of wine with the Tea Party name on it, so.
TUN: If you could go back to 1997, what would you change, or what would you relive?
Stuart Chatwood: I wished we maybe had managers that were more in line with our line of thinking, maybe, because, you know, we were doing quite well in Europe at that time, and our manager wanted, our manager managed Rush, and he wanted to take us to America. So, we kinda stopped going to Europe, which I think was kind of a mistake. In terms of Australia, it’s been a great love affair over the years, so I don’t think I’d change much. The thing is, so if we would’ve broke in America, I guess we’d be huge in Australia, it might have spoiled things, so you never know, so.
TUN: Tell me more about your recording with Glen Campbell. It’s beautiful. How did that come about?
Stuart Chatwood: Oh thank you. In 2006, when the band was on the hiatus, I spoke with our former A&R guy from Atlantic, who’s also a recording artist himself, Tim Sommer. He’s quite an interesting guy, from discovering the Beastie Boys, to being one of the first VJs, video jockeys, on VH1. And an A&R guy that signed major stars like Hootie and the Blowfish and stuff like that. But he played in a lot of noise rock bands, and ambient bands, and he had an ambient project in New Orleans that sort of fell apart after Katrina. And he went to New York and reacquainted himself with a doctor from NYU that he was friends with earlier. And she had a daughter that suffered from sensory processing disorder. And they decided then and there to try and make music that helped her relax, because she found the music from his project from New Orleans relaxing. So, we wanted to raise awareness for sensory processing disorder, so, and that was 2006, so we wrote this ambient folk music album, and we got some celebrities to sing on it. So, we have other tracks featuring Mavis Staples from the Staples Singers, the Black Boys of Alabama, Jakob Dylan, and Robin Zander from Cheap Trick, and a few other artists.
TUN: Oh, cool.
Stuart Chatwood: But the project’s called Uncommon Folk. And, yeah, so we hope to have that out. We’re gonna probably release another single from Mavis Staples. The Glen Campbell single came out in September, I think, thereabouts, or August, I can’t remember.
TUN: You’re a busy man.
Stuart Chatwood: Yeah, and I do the video game soundtracks too, so, that’s probably my main gig. I’m releasing a double vinyl for my Darkest Dungeon soundtrack, which is a hit indie title, but it’s done well, it’s sold a couple million copies of the video game.
TUN: That’s really cool. Thank you so much for chatting with me!
Stuart Chatwood: Thanks, Libby
Catch The Tea Party at Thebarton Theatre tonight. Grab your ticket HERE.