Network: Gizmos for old punks

My Technology; Julian Cope, writer and ex-lead singer of The Teardrop Explodes, talks about double rock guitars, wah-wah pedals and getting his head around modern gadgetry
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The Independent Culture
The wah-wah technology is very symptomatic of the way I am: I came out of the punk scene, and the whole thing for me about punk was to get there whatever way you can. I started using the wah-wah and pedal board because I was originally a very crap guitarist. A big pedal board gave me lots and lots of different sounds, although I played very basic guitar.

My set-up was a double neck guitar made with 1968 Gibson Firebird electric and 1967 Gibson Thunderbird bass guitars, melded together in 1970 by a famous Californian called Valdez, when neither guitar had any special value. A guy playing a double neck looks Herculean - and kind of ridiculous.

My fluorescent level pedal board, which is about 6in high and 2ft across and 1ft deep, was made by Pete Cornish of England, and includes a wah- wah pedal, fuzz, boost and phase. I keep the sound effects really simple as it's my palette of primary colours, my palette of sound. It came in useful in 1990 when I was doing a lot of shows on my own. I really didn't want to be this guy doing a solo shows who comes on with acoustic guitars and is suddenly very worthy and folky.

It's simple technology but everyone has a slightly different way of approaching it, which appeals to me. To be honest I am most interested in the physical look as much as technical specification. When Pete Cornish made my effects box, I told him it had be done in fluorescent yellow as I didn't want to look like a serious musician, what with me being some kind of punk, or ex-punk.

The simplicity suits most Julian Cope songs, as they follow a fairly standard pattern of four archetypes. A ballad, for example, starts quietly, then builds up and moves to the instrumental section, and then all hell breaks loose. It's really a repetition of the earlier verse, but louder. Almost like a barbarian orchestra.

I still make music now and again, that I call ambulance sounds. It's post ambient. The last single I put out was a 73-minute track, and it sounds like turbulence, like cosmic wind. I call it ambulance as in the Liverpool punk scene there was something called an ambulance spliff when five spliffs were put together, and people would say: "Call an ambulance." It's music for when you are lying on the floor. And I happily use computers to make it.

I think any sound is valid music. Switching on the drum machine and dancing around without touching anything is valid. Music purists are actually unhistorically aware: if you go back to 3,000BC a purist would not go down into the echo valley as that'd make the sound false. We would still be beating bones here on this hillside.

Humanity is capable of fakery. I am very much somebody who thinks that if the technology suits me, I'll use it; and if it doesn't, then I won't. I certainly won't complain about technology being inferior because it doesn't suit me.

The only reason I became a writer was because technology made it easier for me. There was no way I could have become one otherwise. When I think that The Modern Antiquarian: [A Pre-Millennial Odyssey through Megalithic Britain] was 9,000 short of a quarter of a million words, the book could not have been got anywhere near that figure without a computer. Technology makes you look good, not bad.

Interview by Jennifer Rodger

`Head-On/Repossessed', Julian Cope's new book, is published by Thorsons, pounds 12.99

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