We heard that Chris T-T was midway through his 'Love Me, I'm A Liberal Tour' and that he was preparing to take to the road once again with Ex Carter USM frontman Jim Bob in November and December, we thought it was a great time to have a chat. We chatted about all sorts of things ranging from his views on Donald Trump and what's on his Christmas list this year, read on for more....
Hey Chris, the last time we properly chatted was when Jim Bob was on the Isle of Man (mid Noughties) and you played a couple of dates over there with him, I fondly recall slugging back copious amounts of ’Mini Guinnesses’ before having piggyback races on the beach at 1am in the morning, have you been up to any crazy antics of late?
Ha, nothing I’m telling you about in this interview! I loved that trip, Isle Of Man still possibly my favourite place in the world. When I have a bunch of hits I’ll buy a place there.
Seriously, when I think about, say, 2007-2011 when I was partying fairly hard on the road, especially in North America, I can’t believe how safe and polite I am nowadays. I haven’t even been mildly high for maybe two years. Bloody middle age! Quite often I’m doing the driving – so it’s strictly no boozing until the hotel, by which time I’m knackered. For example, I’m answering your Q&A on my own in a cheap motel on the A1 and yeah I stayed up til 4am – but that’s because I was watching the final presidential debate and the only thing I indulged in was some Jaffa Cakes. Didn’t even have a post-gig beer last night. Weak.
You’re midway through your 'Love Me, I'm A Liberal Tour' right now, are there any UK cities or towns where you receive a better reception than others? If so, why do you think this is?
Berlin people are amazing. I love Aberdeen too. So maybe it gets better the further away I get from home, because they don’t know me as well, so I’m more exotic. I used to love Los Angeles loads but haven’t been back for a long while. If I went now, I suspect I’d be starting from scratch again.
Also it changes. Two cities I used to find rough were Manchester and Bristol – where gigs would go wrong, or there wouldn’t be nice crowds. But nowadays they’re two of my favourites; my last few Bristol shows have been fantastic and in Manchester I broke through a jinx. Me and Gill Sandell had a Marc Riley BBC 6 Music session for our duo album and I went up on the train, while Gill drove separately. Then there was this total Virgin Trains meltdown and it was hell on earth trying to get from Stoke to Studio City where the BBC is – it was honestly like a conspiracy to make me miss the radio session. But I made it just, just in time, literally minutes before we were due to start performing. Marc was already on air. After that I felt like, because I made it, because of the positive muju of Marc Riley, and his team (Michelle and Chris I think it was, they are angels and super pro) it had actually helped me beat the jinx. And Manchester gigs I’ve done since then has been smooth sailing and fun.
‘9 Green Songs’ is your tenth studio album release, do you find that the recording process gets easier as you get more used to it or do you find yourself getting more wrapped up in the process (thus taking longer?)
I think doing the vocals, the actual singing, gets easier (and better) each time. But apart from that bit, I don’t think experience plays much of a role or makes any difference particularly – I think how crazy the recording process is, its totally different for each album or project. It depends what you’re trying to achieve. 9 Green Songs was easier and quicker than The Bear but that’s because the album is less musically ambitious and less of a collaboration with other people (in The Bear’s case my band the Hoodrats).
You’re touring with Jim Bob again in November and December, most dates are sold out now, any particular ones you’re really excited about?
I’m excited for that whole tour, it’s going to be amazing. Jim’s crowd is superb, still up for it. I’ll say Leeds Brudenell because I love it there and ditto Glasgow. I wish we were doing more, we’re not going to Cornwall or Kent or further into Scotland. When that tour sold very fast (most dates are sold out, we upped the size of several venues) I was pushing to add shows – but Jim’s team had a tight window, so it couldn’t be done.
You’re on the Xtra Mile record label, I see that you have a member of the ‘Sleeping Souls’ on the road with you right now, do you get to chat to Frank Turner much these days?
Not often. We DM occasionally, he has a lot of people in his life. Also I'm careful to keep anything between me and Mr Turner private because people are over-invested in every word he says. I'd never, ever want to be the dick that makes his public life more complex. Being friends with him (along with a couple of other successful people) has hugely brought home to me the price of being a bit known by the general public, beyond true fans of your music. Like what Russell Brand said in an interview once, you crave fame then it's “ashes in your mouth”.
2016 has been a shit year for many reasons, what highlights have you managed to drag out of it so far (if any)?
It’s funny, everyone’s in shock about 2016 but only cos we’d gotten so complacent before this year; especially comfortable western white men. If people are finding this year tough, wait for the big league symptoms of climate catastrophe to kick in, through the next 10-15 years. There are eco threats all around us that'll make Brexit and Trump and even the Daesh feel like a 45 second comedy sketch.
But sorry, you asked for my highlights. I was in northern Thailand in January doing an arts residency and that was an incredible experience – we’re booked to go back next year but obviously the situation there makes it more complex (the place I go to work with kids is run by members of the Royal Family). Then this summer, less exotic but I was Creative Fellow at a National Trust property (an old workhouse) writing folk songs from their stories – and I met a bunch of lovely people. And then a couple of weeks ago I spent a joyful few days in south west Ireland, performing at an apple festival and hanging with friends. Even right now, I’m having a blast on this tour and I’ll be at a friend’s wedding in Glasgow in a couple of days – and it’s super fun.
I’m a lucky motherfucker, has to be said. I can’t complain, whatever’s going on out there. We can all still grab our fun moments when we need them, if we aren’t too tied to accruing material wealth, or stability.
It’ll soon be Christmas, what’s at the top of Chris T-T’s wish list this year? Have you been a good boy this year?
I’d love a couple of nice little synths. Unfortunately I’ve been pretty naughty this year so I’ll probably get a stylophone.
In a nutshell, please tell us what ‘9 Green Songs’ is all about? Who produced the album and where was it recorded?
In a nutshell it’s a bunch of songs despairing at how badly we’ve fucked up the planet and our own basic societal structures. Jon Clayton recorded it at OneCat in Brixton, on the Coldharbour Lane – Jon has made a whole load of my solo stuff and he played a lot the bits that weren’t me.
I don’t normally ask people about politics but I’d LOVE to hear your views on Donald Trump…
He hasn’t the wit of a fucking slug. He’s a privileged, fetid, attention-hound Jabba The Hutt with a semi for his own daughter and, oh man, I don’t want to be bothered to think about him! By the way, I don’t think Hillary is any kind of a Princess Leia – she’s a Lando at best – but Lando is totes preferable to Jabba until a rebellion actually occurs.
Thing is, there is so much dreadful establishment shit going on in the USA (and around the world) as they fight to prop up their corporate system that wrecked lives of millions of poorer people, they’re staving off revolution or uprising while keeping as much of the wealth at the top as possible. I believe in that fundamental corruption. But it’s a precarious Jenga, which is why people like Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn are so important – not because they create a revolution per se – but because when that mass of terrified, confused people coalesces around someone principled of the progressive old-school left like that, at least they’re more likely to create some messily positive outcomes. Aside from the poison vein of white supremicism running through Trump’s campaign, a lot of those same terrified people are attracted to Trump as an alternative to these overbearing power structures. Ditto Brexit.
Bob Dylan picked up the Nobel Prize in Literature today, would you say he has been a big influence on you and your songwriting?
No, he’s almost no influence at all. Not because I don’t like him – obviously he’s a great artist and one of the best ever lyricists. But I simply didn’t get into him at the age when I was discovering the idea of songwriting. I’ve been inspired by both Woody Guthrie (who informs Dylan) and Springsteen (who is informed by him) more than the master himself.
You live in Brighton, do you get to trawl ‘The Lanes’ much looking for quirky antiques?
Nah, I’m not into antiquing (or shopping as a pastime generally) and the Lanes are full of tourists. You’ll find me out near Preston Circus drinking hipster coffee, or in the museum, which more Brighton people should visit because it’s amazing. Or on the beach on a west autumn Monday when nobody’s there. I love love love the city, though I’m ready to move on – but my other half is doing important work in Brighton, so we’ll be there a while I suspect.
What does the remainder of 2016 and the 1st quarter of 2017 hold in store for Chris T-T?
Touring til Christmas. Going back to northern Thailand in the new year and hopefully the National Trust will ‘release’ (for free) my Workhouse Ballads project. Then some big new action in April / May I’m excited about – but after that a bit of space. I won’t do summer festivals next year.
Fancy a quick game of 'Would You Rather'?
Oh. My. Fucking. God.
I'll take that as a yes then...
Would you rather live with a dog that sings lullabies or a gorilla that can do sign language?
I’ll say gorilla because in general I’d rather live with a gorilla than a dog – and then the other elements just seem peripheral. I love that joke Louis CK’s daughter told him, that he put into his TV show: “Who didn’t let the gorilla into the balllet? ... Just, whoever was in charge of that.” Actually, let’s face it, here you’re offering a choice between: a basically normal life with one quirky aspect (the dog option) or a completely weird life, learning about what it takes to keep a gorilla alive and happy. I’ve no idea if I can afford its daily diet even.
Would you rather eat a slug or a grasshopper?
A grasshopper, I’d prefer crunch to slime. But I’m vegetarian, so get me out of here.
Would you rather be 3 feet tall or 8 feet tall?
8 feet tall. No idea why, it just appeals more. "Short people got nobody," as Randy Newman sang.
Would you rather be Donald Trump’s personal hair stylist or listen to ‘Agadoo’ by Black Lace on repeat 24/7 until the day you die?
I’d take the stylist gig for definite, no question. Think about it: that’s just a day-job working for a horrible idiot. Lots of people have those in real life. Plus I have a penis, so Trump wouldn’t be trying to grab my pussy all the time. And I’d still get days off and such. Actually, thinking about it, it’s probably very well paid, dealing with Trump’s hair… You’ve basically offered me a choice between a lifelong sonic torture and a really good but occasionally annoying career in hairstyling.
If it truly got too much, I’d go Sweeney Todd on him, cut his throat and take those consequences, even that’s better than the incessant sound of Black Lace.
Would you rather know WHEN you were going to die or HOW you are going to die?
Wow, out of nowhere, that is an amazing question! OK I’ve literally pondered this for two hours and still can’t make up my mind. Either seems fucking appalling and I’d just be destined to try to “beat the prophesy” (probably accidentally causing it along the way). I’d rather not die at all, please.
Would you rather appear in The Simpsons or Family Guy?
Would you rather be best friends with Harry Styles (One Direction) or Harry Potter?
Terrible question – if anyone, even the most passionate Directioner (do they still exist?) answered "Harry Styles" they’re be the biggest idiot ever. Obviously if there’s a Harry Potter then there’s actual magic in the world and his universe is real, so what moron would ever, ever choose to be BFFs with some reality TV pop kid who briefly fake-dated Taylor Swift over A REAL WIZARD (and a world saving hero) in that context?
Would you rather fight 100 chicken sized horses or 1 horse sized chicken?
The chicken-sized horses would be a much easier opponent and more valuable on eBay. There’s probably already horse-sized chickens out there somewhere being bred for industrial future-meat by North Korea or Alabama or something. And when you’ve got 100 of something rare, they'll fetch exponentially more cash if you’re careful not to flood the market.
It was at this point we thought it best to let Chris T-T get some rest, he'd been on a real roller coaster of a journey answering our questions and I wouldn't want to be the reason he was having a grumpy day after not enough sleep. We'd like to thank Chris for taking the time to chat to us, we wish him all the best for the remaining dates of his own tour and hope to catch up with him on the road when he supports Jim Bob.
If you'd like to keep up to date with his whereabouts and other social media offerings, all the links are below.