Richard Tandy Interview

Skip to first unread message

Andrew K. Heller

Dec 13, 1994, 12:04:42 AM12/13/94


Subject: Re: The Richard Tandy Interview

Hi, Jeff and Steve,

> Richard Tandy Questions
> Your wife mentioned that you were writing and singing some material. Is
> it your plan to be the multiinstrumentalist that Jeff Lynne is on his
> production efforts?
At the moment I'm making demos at home, and doing everything myself with the
aid of drum machines, etc. I guess a lot of people are working like this
nowadays, as today's technology makes this possible.

> Not many people who like ELO realize that you are a guitarist and bassist
> as well as master keyboardist. What is your educational training on each?
I had piano lessons as a child, and when I was a teenager rock and roll came
along, and I started to learn guitar. No lessons, just hours of strumming.

> We're going to look back over your musical history. What was the degree
> of your involvement with the Chantelles?
The Chantelles was one of the first real groups that I played in. I was still
at school at the time I joined, and all the late nights affected my school
work, so against all advice, I left school and turned professional.
The line up at the time was:
John Fincham Bass and vocals
Tim Bellamy Drums (Later replaced by John Panteny (Pank))
Tony Allen Sax
Richard Tandy Guitar and harmonica.
John Downing Road Manager
We played Jazz Blues style, in pubs and clubs in the Midlands area.

> Some sources mention you as a member of the Move. What was your
> involvement with them?
At the time when the Move recorded Wild Tiger Woman, one way of promoting
records in England was to play live radio shows. In order to do this, they
needed a keyboard player, and since I was a friend, I got the job. In fact,
there were very many of these radio shows, and so I got to travel with the
guys quite a lot. When Trevor Burton had an accident and dislocated his
wrist, I stepped in and played bass for 2 weeks, mainly because I knew the set.
I was also in the studio when they recorded Blackberry Way - and there was a
harpsichord in the studio and everyone agreed that the sound fitted in well,
so I played it.

> On what ELO songs can we hear you as a guitarist and/or backing vocalist?
Can't really remember, I'd have to look at sleeve notes in order to jog
my memory. One I do remember is the guitar solo on Shangri La.

> Were the keyboard duties that you and Jeff shared a 50-50 deal or did you
> do most of the keyboard work?
This varied a lot over the years. At the start, I probably did most of the
keyboards, but as recording techniques changed and synthesisers and electronics
came into the picture, Jeff did more and more. For example, when we recorded
On The Third Day, most of the tracks were started with Bev, Mike and myself,
in the studio, and Jeff in the control room. By the time we got to Balance of
Power, the usual way was to have a stack of keyboards in the control room, and
me and Jeff playing along to a drum track, and Bev adding his things later.

> 1978 saw you on the cover of Keyboard magazine with your whole tour gear
> around you. Has sequencing and MIDI helped to streamline the number of
> keyboards you require onstage?
The last time I played on stage with ELO was 1986 and Midi wasn't around then,
to any great extent. Nowadays I find midi invaluable in my home studio.

> In that article, you cite Tony Banks and Jan Hammer as influences. Are
> there any others? What bands or types of music do you listen to today?
Although I admired the playing of Tony Banks and Jan Hammer at the time,
in looking back I can't say they have been particularly influential. At my
present stage of musical evolution it would be more correct to say that I
have been influenced by everything that I have heard. I was probably more
influenced by other musicians when I first started playing than I am now,
for example, on guitar, my early influences were people like T Bone Walker,
Buddy Guy, Wes Montgomery, Joe Pass, Duane Eddy, Scotty Moore, George
Harrison, Joe Brown, Greg Allman, in fact the list is endless. In the
sixties, I think that keyboards went out of fashion with the onslaught of
guitar groups, but when groups like the Band and solo artists like Elton
John came along, they reawakened my interest in keyboards. People like
Alan Price and Georgie Fame also made me realise I should start practising
my scales again, although I regret that I have never been able to play
blues piano like Otis Span or Memphis Slim.
Nowadays I find myself listening to less and less music on the radio, or on
record. I don't really know why, and I think I may be missing out on a lot
of good music that might be out there. I guess I'm too wrapped up in my own

> In terms of recording with ELO, could you explain the process of creating
> a song focusing on your involvement with the song (kind of like a
> "Richard's guide to keyboarding a song for ELO").
First of all, it would be more correct to say that Jeff created the songs,
and I helped to create the recording of them. As I mentioned earlier, the
processes changed a lot throughout the history of the group. Basically,
there were three periods, pre orchestral, orchestral and post orchestral.
In the early days the group would rehearse a song together and get an idea
of how to start recording it, usually as I mentioned with Jeff Bev and Mike
and myself, and the string section would be added later. Also bear in mind
that these were early days for electronic keyboards, all we had was a mini
moog, and so that would be dubbed on later, by Jeff or myself.
When we started using a full orchestra, things changed. An early part of
the process was to get the arrangements for the full orchestra, which
normally involved me sitting down with Jeff and Lou Clark. I would play the
tunes through on the piano, Jeff would suggest riffs and things, and Lou
would write them down, then Lou would say "How about some of this", and I
would say "What about a one of them", and so the string arrangements came
about. We next heard them when we got to the studio and the orchestra
was running through them. That was quite an experience. In the meantime,
the rhythm tracks would have been laid down as before, with the emphasis
more on simplicity, so as to leave space for the orchestral parts. For Bev,
however, this would normally involve double tracking his drums in a suitably
ambient space, very often the toilets. After the orchestra was recorded,
other keyboard bits were overdubbed, with the number of electronic keyboards
growing by the minute.
Post orchestral, the number of sound textures and sequencing possibilities
had increased enormously, and my contributions could be anything from laying
down a basic string pad, watching Jeff lay down a basic string pad, working
out sequences on an Oberheim Sequencer, twiddling the knobs on all of the
great toys that we'd got, saving sounds, loading sounds, sitting down with
calculators working out the milliseconds, I guess you'll get the picture.
I also found time to actually play the odd keyboard. This has turned out
to be a long answer, and it still hasn't given the full picture. We all did
the best we could to make a good record.

>How much do you depend on sequencing through MIDI?
I use it all the time for my home recording.
>What kind of MIDI and sequencing gear are you currently using? Can you
>compare it to the gear you used in the 70's with ELO? How is
>functionally different than now?
The basis of my home studio is a Fostex 16 track and a Soundtracs 24 input
mixing desk. On the midi side, I use a Roland MC500 sequencer, which is
well past it's sell by date, but I'm very familiar with it and can work
very quickly with it. I am beginning to realise I should get something
more modern. I use a Technics PX7 digital piano as a Master keyboard, a
Roland Juno 2, (mainly as a string pad),an Alesis SR16 drum machine, an old
Yamaha DX7 for bass,(I find the six algorithms give a nice depth), and my
latest toy is a Korg Wavestation SR. I also use reverbs and effects by
Yamaha and Alesis, but I don't use midi with those.
It's hard to draw a comparison with gear from the 70's. We were thrilled
when we got our first MiniMoog, although a little disappointed to realise
it was monophonic. I played a Wurlitzer EP200 on stage for years because
it was the only electronic piano that fitted in with our sound. It was
a lot better when we could afford to take a grand piano around with us.
A modern digital piano would have been wonderful back then. One of the
big differences is the tonnage of the stuff. The last pre midi keyboard I
bought was a Yamaha CS80, which weighs in at 250 pounds!

>How has MIDI affected the creative process in putting together a song?
For me, it has been a great help. Within a few minutes of getting an idea
for a song, I can have a rough track happening on the MC500, which I can
then rearrange with ease, and play guitar or sing along to.

>What are your views on digital recording?
I'm in favour of anything which can help to make a good sound. I don't
know very much about the analogue v. digital debate, but I know that people
do hold opposing views. In my situation I use a dat recorder to mix onto,
and I think it's wonderful, in spite of the transport sometimes having a
mind of its own. I wish that dat recorders were available to more people
and that prices would come down. I would also like to have a look at the
Sony Minidisc system, and of course I look forward to the day when our
computer will be able to record and store hours of music easily. Not too
far away I think. If this sounds like a begging letter to Sony and Apple,
well ......

>By 1983, Kelly Groucutt put out a solo album, you had Tandy/Morgan, Mik
>Kaminski had Violinski, Melvyn Gale had Wilson Gale and Co., and Bev was
>touring with Black Sabbath. Do you feel that these outside projects were
>necessary to preserve ELO?
No, I don't think so. Working with Dave Morgan was something I did when
ELO wasn't working, and I presume it was the same for the other guys.

>With the exception of the first album and "Roll Over Beethoven," Jeff has
>been the songwriter and producer of ELO. Was this because no one else
>has material to offer or because Jeff wouldn't allow it?
>From my point of view, I didn't write any tunes during that period. I
don't know why, because I wrote songs before ELO, and have written many
since I stopped working with them.

>You've been considered Jeff's right-hand man in ELO and his production
>efforts. How's the relationship with him these days?
Fine, I don't see him so much lately because he spends most of his time in
America, but we speak on the phone regularly.

>Couldn't he help you get a record deal? He does owe a lot to you for
being a major contributor to the ELO sound.
Well, I suppose he could, but I don't like to ask him. He's a good friend,
and anyway I should be able to make it on my own.

>(You'll have to think back fo this one) How did it feel to step out that
>spaceship during the 1978 Out of the Blue tour? Was it a major rush or what?
Yes, it was a fantastic experience. However, behind the scenes there were
one or two unusual moments. We were all on risers, powered by hydraulic
jacks like they use in auto repair shops, and some nights there were doubts
as to whether they would all rise up at the appropriate moment, and if they
did, whether they might instantly go down again. While the intro music was
playing, we were all perched precariously inside the space ship, waiting for
our risers to go up, and preparing to jump onto someone else's if ours
failed. Overall, it was a fantastic set, and great credit should go to the
guys who created it and kept it working.

>How much effect do you think Xanadu had on ELO's decline in the 80's?
>You guys seemed to be blacklisted on FM radio after that.
At the time, I just considered it another bunch of songs. Working on a film
was an educational experience, and Olivia Newton John was great to work with,
and a very fine singer. Since then, people have commented that this was a
bad career move, maybe they are right, it's hard to say.

>The Time album was a departure from the ELO string sound and instead
>embraced synthesizers. How much studio work was required for that
>album? What was the group's general impression of it then? How do you
>feel about it now?
The Time album coincided with the explosion in keyboard sounds and
electronics that I mentioned earlier, and I considered the album a fusion
of ELO strings and modern keyboard sounds. I liked it a lot at the time,
maybe because I thought my keyboards had a lot of prominence, and I still
like it now.

>Secret Messages said farewell to Mack and Musicland. It also seemed to
>phase out Kelly Groucutt as Jeff took over the role of bassist. Was this
>a tense period of time? How did the band feel about not touring?
It wasn't a tense period for me, but I realise that others may have felt
differently. As for how the band felt about touring, it's probably well
known that Bev likes touring, Jeff likes recording, but I was just happy to
be part of either.

>Secret Messages was also supposed to be a double album. Why was it cut
>down? What tracks would you have kept on there?
I don't know why it was cut down. I would have kept all the tracks on there,
because I thought that this was an intensely creative writing period for

>Balance of Power was ELO's last album with you and Jeff. Some get the
>impression that it could have been a one-man effort. What were Bev's and
>your role at that point? Are there some tracks where Bev is replaced by
>a drum machine?
No, it wasn't a one man effort. Bill Bottrell worked extremely hard, the guys
at Hartmann Digital worked wonders offsetting 2 24 track Studers, and we
finally ended up with Mac at Musicland again. As for the drum machine thing,
by this time, most of the tracks were recorded to an electronic pulse of
some sort, mainly to have precise control of the timing which all our
electronic stuff required. Since drummers were the first musicians to have
some of their functions usurped by electronic devices, this meant that Bev
was often playing his top kit to an electronic bass drum. For me, it also
meant that some of my keyboard parts could be played by an Oberheim

>The last performance with you and Jeff was in Stuttgart opening for Rod
>Stewart. Jeff forgets much of his lyrics and his head just didn't seem
>to be in it. What's the story?
It's hard for me to answer this question. I can't presume to know what
Jeff was thinking at the time.

>Rumor has it that in 1987-88, you and Bev were considering an album or a
>band called Afterglow. Could you comment on this?
This is the first I've heard of this, or else my memory is worse than I

>What can you tell us about the supposed get-together of John Payne and
>ELO for a pre-"Part 2" band in the late 80's?
This is the first I've heard of this, or else my memory is worse than I
>Tell about the formation of Tandy/Morgan. Who were the members?
I've known Dave Morgan for years, since the Chantelles days. He's a very
talented singer and songwriter, and I had been helping him record his songs
since the days when our studios comprised a B & O in our Mothers' front rooms.
In the late 70's he had written a collection of songs which he called
Earthrise, and had recorded them at home, playing most of the instruments
himself, but also with the aid of various friends (but not me, I was busy
with ELO at the time.) When Dave played it to me, I was knocked out. Some
time later, a friend of mine called Brian Leahy offered to put up the money
for us to go into a studio and turn it into a complete album. Unfortunately,
we didn't have much promotion in place, so it never really saw the light of
day. Dave and I carried on working together on his songs, and at this time
Martin Smith came along and joined in. The results of this period of time
were later collected together on a CD, The BC Collection, which Dave put out
himself, mainly for the English ELO fan club. It wasn't ever really a group
as such, just friends of Dave who worked with him.

>Who is singing lead on "Hiroshima"?
Dave Morgan.

>After listening to B.C. collection. It's pretty clear that the instruments
>AND style you used on the songs in that CD sound awfully familiar to what
>we've heard in Jeff Lynne solo and ELO songs. Although you can be found
>working on some of Jeff's songs as keyboardist, your influences to those
>songs seems extremely strong. Many listeners to Lynne-solo and 80s ELO
>songs have assumed that the styles and little ditties Lynne has put into
>the songs (sounds patches and keyboard riffs that are characteristic to
>those songs) are those of Jeff's. Is that true, does Jeff depend a lot
>on you to help foster his style and sound? Please comment.
One reason for the similarity of sounds is the similarity of the instruments.
Jeff had an Oberheim, I had an Oberheim, Jeff, myself and Dave all had
CS80s, and we all came from the same background with the same influences.

>You wrote "Take Away the Sadness" for Jim Horn's Work It Out album. How
>did you get involved with that project?
Jim Horn was working with Jeff on an album and mentioned that he was looking
for songs for his own album. Jeff told me, and so I sent 2 songs to Jim.
One of the songs I was really excited about, the other I sent as an after
thought. One night Jim phoned up and said, "Hey man, Great song", and so
he recorded the one I'd sent as an afterthought.

>You, Jeff, and George Harrison strum away on "Every Little Thing" and a
>few other songs from Armchair Theatre. Was that a great experince or
>what? Have you dealt with any of the Beatles at any other time?
It was an incredible experience. George was very nice about everything.
I guess he must have got used to people being in awe of him. He invited us
down to his house and I played piano on a couple his tracks. He also
played slide guitar on Jim Horn's version of Take Away the Sadness.

>Do you ever sit back and listen to any of the ELO albums from the 70's
>and 80's. Most of the members of Part 2 said they don't listen to the
>old stuff. In fact, what they enjoy seems to run counter to what the ELO
>sound was like.
I've listened to most of them since they were reissued on CD, and I think
they are a body of work to be proud of.

>How did you and Jeff get involved with Julianna Raye's Something Peculiar
>disc? This almost a first for the two of you to work with a woman.
Jeff was producing her album, and doing some of the work for it at his house
in England. He asked me to play keyboards on a few tracks, and I was happy
to do so.

>Rumor has it that there may be an ELO reunion in '95 to celebrate 25
>years of ELO. (You may not be able to comment on this, but we though
>we'd throw this in anyway.) Do you have any information regarding this?
No. This is the first I've heard of it.
>Lets's get into your personal life a little. Other than being a
>musician, do you have any other career interests?
None that I could make a career out of.

>Please tell us a little about your family, hobbies.
Married 11 years, no kids. As for the hobbies I'd like to say I do
hang gliding, grand prix racing, mountaineering, bungee jumping, surfing,
and round the world yachting, but I'm too scared and too unfit for any of
those. So I just practice my guitar and piano, and watch sports on the
t.v. Pretty boring, huh?

>Do you like to travel? If so, what has been favorite you've visited?
Touring was a great way to see the world, but I couldn't pick out a
favourite. Our first arrival on American soil, at the Hyatt Hotel on
Sunset Boulevard, would take a lot of beating. I actually moved to LA, and
lived in an apartment block in Kings Road, a few blocks south of the Hyatt.
A few years ago I developed a fear of flying and this has curtailed my
travelling somewhat. Occasionally, my wife insists we go on holiday, and
drags me off somewhere. I would like to go around the world again, this
time at a more leisurely pace, so I may have to come to terms with this
flying thing.

>What kind of food do you like?
It would be quicker to say what I don't like. Particular favourites are
fruits of all sorts, seafood,( like the Assiettes de Fruite de Mer that they
serve in France, with oysters, mussels, crab, etc), sushi, (unobtainable
where we are living now), Mexican food, Indian food, Chinese food, Italian
food. In fact all the above except for the fruit is unobtainable here in the
wilds of North Devon, so maybe that's why they are favourites at the moment.
Toast is pretty good, too.

>Where do you see yourself going musically in terms of the types of songs
>you'd like to record?
>How has your recording style methods changed over the years (since the 70s).
>Where do you see yourself going musically in the next few years?
Where I see myself going and where I end up going are often two different
things. When I get an idea for a song, it seems to take on a life of its
own, and doesn't always go where I want it to. As long as my playing and
singing keeps improving, and I think at the moment it is, I can't ask for
much more. I obviously hope that my songs will be released at some time,
but I'm not great at the business side of things.

>Do you ever get out to the states? (LOTS of fans would love to meet you!)
Not as much as I'd like.
>Can we expect to hear other collaborations with you and Dave Morgan and/or
>Martin Smith.
We've got nothing planned, but I still see Dave often, and chat with
Martin on the phone.

>Are you planning to work with Jeff on any new projects? please ellaborate
>if you're not restricted from doing so.
Once again, nothing planned.

>We've heard you attended an ELO Part 2 concert. What are your thoughts
>on this other band? Were you ever approached to become a part of it?
>Would you have any interest in doing so?
I enjoyed the concert, especially the part with the Moscow Orchestra, but
the rest of the set was quite a strange experience. To hear someone else
playing the parts I used to play was weird. Bev did call me up right at the
start, but at the time I was quite glad to stop the recording touring
recording touring schedule, and wanted to concentrate on my own tunes.
Now that I've been concentrating on my own tunes for 8 years, I quite miss
the recording touring recording touring schedule. Isn't that the way things
always are?

>What former ELO members do you still keep in touch and/or record/jam with?
Jeff is the only one I keep in touch with. Whenever we get together, we
usually have a pretty good attempt at doing Beatles, Everley Brothers,
and various other songs of our youth.

>Do you feel ELO is better received in the US or the UK these days?
I don't really know.

>In the video for "Calling America," you seem to be smirking as if saying
>"This is so stupid." Was that how you felt? How do you feel about videos?
I don't really know which part of the video you're referring to. At one
time in the recording the director had me standing right near the edge
of the top of a very tall building, and I was petrified. You may be
mistaking a smirk for sheer terror. As far as videos go in general, I feel
that music is an aural thing, and when videos first started, I never
imagined the dominance that they would attain. I thought that people would
go back to just listening to music, but that's another thing I've been
wrong about.

This was harder than I thought. I've reread the answers I've given and
some of them could have been longer and some of them shorter, but overall
I hope it makes sense. There were 3 questions towards the end about musical
direction where I felt that the one answer covered all the questions, and
also I was getting pretty tired by then. Anyway, I hope this is OK, maybe
you can get in touch and let me know what you think?

Best wishes.


Carts: 2600 103; 5200 20; 7800 20 (MINT); Lynx 5
Systems: 2600A 2; 2600JR 1; Sears SVA2 1; 5200 2; 7800 2; Lynx 1; 800 2;
1200XL 1; 600XL 1; 800XL 7, 130XE 1; always lookin' for more.
Oh.. and 1 Vectrex with 20 carts, including light pen.
ELO listenin', Dr. Pepper, Kool-aid, and Red Devil drinkin', Atari lovin',
cags-faq writin', fuji worshiping Ghoull-Man.

Feb 11, 2014, 10:44:34 PM2/11/14
Calling in 10 years into the future as a 21st Century Man(!) just to comment on this interview, great questions and Richard Tandy gave some great answers. I love how Richard is so honest about some of those really obscure ones like "You're smirking in this music video, why?" "I have no idea." Frankly I'd probably be the same way on obscure stuff like that. But you did ask some tough questions and he answered them pretty well. Cool stuff.

Nov 3, 2015, 9:45:37 AM11/3/15
Richard - I'm an old fart now ( and you more so). I lived in Manor Farm _ and remember a few times sitting on your front step discussing life when you were about 14/15. Glad that it has all gone so well.

John W
Message has been deleted

Dec 22, 2016, 11:23:52 PM12/22/16
On Thursday, December 22, 2016 at 11:22:47 PM UTC-5, wrote:
> How sweet to see that this interview is still out there! I'm the "Jeff" addressed at the beginning. I did this when I was contributing stuff to Steve Rifkin's "LIGHT!" ELO fanzine. This was a great time as I just conducted this interview and then met most of the members of ELOp2 after a gig at the Valley Forge Music Fair. Then, seven years later, being at the VH-1 taping of Storytellers and shaking Jeff's hand as he was waiting to take the stage for the encore. Great times - although much greater now that Jeff is getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Reply all
Reply to author
0 new messages