Day In The Life: Andy Partridge, guitarist and chief songwriter with XTC, and the founder of Ape House records

'Music is too important to be wallpaper'


What do I do all day? Well I'm not taking tea with Bjork in a hot air balloon or anything. I set the alarm even if I know I'm going to have a hangover, but it's always interrupting a great dream. Years ago, DC Comics had this character called Adam Strange. He had a mundane life, but then he got zapped by a ray and sent off to the planet Rann where he had an alternate life as a superhero. My dreams are a bit like that. Then I wake up and find myself in Swindon.

My bed is a lavish French oak four-poster, a real Cecil B DeMille of a beast. Once you're in it you don't want to get out. When I got together with Erica [Erica Wexler; niece of famed record producer, Jerry Wexler] we decided to splash out. I blew all my song writing royalties on it.

Eventually I drag myself up, and go downstairs to check our postbox, which is an old port crate. Our postman puts our mail in it - apart from a couple of subscription music magazines that he takes great delight in origami-ing through my letterbox.

I turn the answerphone up just in case I've had any abusive messages in the night. Once in a blue moon you'll hear from an obsessed fan that has got hold of your number. Some people in Australia who were having a party sang XTC songs into my machine for about 20 minutes once.

After that I make myself a decaff coffee - my prostate doesn't like the real stuff - and get my morning news from Ceefax. I've been keeping up with the McCartney divorce drama.


Thanks to the volume that XTC used to play at, I have tinnitus. Every morning I sit in a hyperbaric oxygen chamber for an hour and 20 minutes, and that helps. The tinnitus hadn't been too bad, but then this year I was making an improvisational record called Monstrance with the original XTC keyboard-player Barry Andrews, and a drummer called Martin Barker. On the last day of mixing, a recording engineer pressed the wrong button, and I got a snare drum at God knows what wattage in my headphones. I think I actually passed out.

After that I had tinnitus 24 hours a day. Until the oxygen chamber treatment it was driving me insane. You can't think, you can't sleep, and for a while I thought about throwing myself under a steamroller. It's much better now, and I even know the notes that are ringing in my ears. My left ear is a D and my right ear is a C. Bit of a bluesy interval, that.


I'm addicted to mulligatawny soup, so I'll have some of that when I get back. Some days, I work in the Sue Ryder charity shop and sort their books. I'm a complete bookaholic, and it brings out the junior librarian in me. If I'm not doing that, I'll be chasing people on the phone about stuff to do with my record label, Ape.

I set up Ape in 2003. It was partly about having a home for my solo box set, Fuzzy Warbles, and partly about trying to right some of the contractual wrongs that had been done to me over the years. I've made more money selling Warbles on my own than I've made from XTC's entire back catalogue on Virgin. The other artists on Ape get a 50 per cent royalty of any net profit. I'm proud of not screwing the artist, whereas a lot of record companies are quite the opposite.

Ape gets lots of unsolicited demos. I don't relish going through them, because you know that most of it is going to be dog shit. Occasionally, you find a real gem, though: Canadian songwriter Veda Hille, for example, or The Milk & Honey Band, who are from Brighton.

I'm a real packaging whore and love working on the sleeve and track sequencing with the Ape artists. If I hadn't become a musician, I might have been a graphic designer.


The Americans seem to like my stuff, so I've been doing a lot of press with them lately. Because of the time difference, the phone interviews are late afternoon. I can't be shut up easily, so I usually enjoy them. Occasionally they're rotten, so you wriggle out of them by saying you've got a burst water main or something.

I might listen to a bit of music between interviews, but I could never have the constant aural pollution of an iPod. Music is too important to be wallpaper, although sometimes I think it's just a nice sensory thing like chocolate or perfume. It's like if you worked on the perfume counter in Debenhams, though: too much perfume and you get desensitised to it. Most of the time I try to stay tuned to Radio Nothing.


Both Erica and myself love Channel 4 News. We're big Jon Snow fans. I think of him as an ersatz uncle and I think he's Erica's ersatz older lover or something, so we both enjoy his company.

After that I might start working on that nice lyrical idea I've thought of while buying more mulligatawny at the Co-op. I keep a little cassette recorder in the room by the kitchen, and I'll go and strum a few chords and sing into it.

I busted a tendon in my left hand ring finger earlier this year, so that meant no guitar for six months. My studio is in the garden shed, and while I wasn't able to play guitar I got it re-wired and re-jigged. I'm not looking forward to learning the new computer recording gear; it took me about a year to learn the Cubase VST system, and now I've got Cubase SX, and everything is different. When I meet Herr Steinberg [businessman behind Cubase software] I'm going to shake him warmly by the testes.

A nice sideline is writing songs for other people or TV. Someone asked me to write something for Jane Birkin's last album, saying, "She wants it on the theme of coming back to live in England". I wrote something called "I Gave My Suitcase Away", and sent it over to the offices in Paris, but they thought it was too jolly, the miserable fuckers. It ended up on Fuzzy Warbles, and I realised it was actually about my attitude to home life.

Before that, Harry Hill called about some music for a pilot comedy called Extreme Soap. I also did a song called "I Wonder Why The Wonderfalls" for Wonderfalls, the Fox TV drama. The buggers sped it up because it was a second too long. It drove me nuts when I heard it.


After dinner, we go and flop on the stupidly expensive bed for more back scratching. Failing that, I love opening a nice bottle of Châteauneuf du Pape, sitting in my old armchair. I'll write some lyrics or flick through a well-illustrated book. I was a slow reader at school, and I never read a book of my own volition until after I left. Now I can't get enough of them - especially archaic history books. The day ends with Newsnight, and a bowl of Weetabix and a banana. Middle age, eh?

Interview by James McNair

Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment
Don (John Hamm) and Megan (Jessica Paré) Draper are going their separate ways in the final series of ‘Mad Men’
tvReview: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Arts & Entertainment
James Franco and Chris O'Dowd in Of Mice and Men on Broadway

Review: Of Mice and Men

Arts & Entertainment

By opportunistic local hoping to exhibit the work

Arts & Entertainment
Leonardo DiCaprio will star in an adaptation of Michael Punke's thriller 'The Revenant'

Fans will be hoping the role finally wins him an Oscar

Arts & Entertainment
Cody and Paul Walker pictured in 2003.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Arts & Entertainment
Down to earth: Fern Britton presents 'The Big Allotment Challenge'

Arts & Entertainment
The London Mozart Players is the longest-running chamber orchestra in the UK
musicThreatened orchestra plays on, managed by its own members
Arts & Entertainment
Seeing red: James Dean with Sal Mineo in 'Rebel without a Cause'

Arts & Entertainment
Arts & Entertainment
Heads up: Andy Scott's The Kelpies in Falkirk

What do gigantic horse heads tell us about Falkirk?

Arts & Entertainment
artGraffiti legend posts picture of work – but no one knows where it is
Arts & Entertainment
A close-up of Tom of Finland's new Finnish stamp

Finnish Postal Service praises the 'self irony and humour' of the drawings

Arts & Entertainment
Pierce Brosnan as James Bond in 2002's Die Another Day

The actor has confessed to his own insecurities

Life & Style
Green fingers: a plot in East London

Allotments are the focus of a new reality show

Arts & Entertainment
Myleene Klass attends the Olivier awards 2014

Oliviers 2014Theatre stars arrive at Britain's most prestigious theatre awards
Arts & Entertainment
Stars of The Book of Mormon by Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park

Oliviers 2014Blockbuster picked up Best Musical and Best Actor in a Musical
Arts & Entertainment
Lesley Manville with her Olivier for Best Actress for her role in 'Ghosts'

Oliviers 2014Actress thanked director Richard Eyre for a stunning production
Arts & Entertainment
Rory Kinnear in his Olivier-winning role as Iago in Othello

Oliviers 2014Actor beat Jude Law and Tom Hiddleston to take the award
Arts & Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for this roles in Sherlock and Star Trek

Arts & Entertainment
theatreAll hail the temporary venue that has shaken things up at the National Theatre
Arts & Entertainment
musicShe is candid, comic and coming our way
Arts & Entertainment
booksHer new novel is about people seeking where they belong
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

    Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

    As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
    Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

    Mad Men returns for a final fling

    The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

    Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

    Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

    Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

    Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

    Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

    Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
    Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

    Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

    The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
    A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

    A History of the First World War in 100 moments

    A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
    Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

    Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

    The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
    Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

    Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

    This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
    Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

    Education: Secret of Taunton's success

    Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
    10 best smartphones

    10 best smartphones

    With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

    The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
    Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

    Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

    A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

    When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
    The pain of IVF

    The pain of IVF

    As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal