Gimme Your Answers: An Interview w/ Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey

Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey
Here’s to Future Days! For the first time in a near three decades, Tom Bailey performs the classic Thompson Twins’ hits for fans on the Retro Futura Tour. Joined by Howard Jones, Midge Ure of Ultravox, China Crisis, and Katrina of Katrina & The Waves, these iconic new wave artists will play Toronto’s Kool Haus tonight. It’s no secret that Thompson Twins are one of our favourite groups, so we were more than thrilled when the opportunity of interviewing Tom Bailey arose! Enjoy the new exclusive interview below as we discuss why he chose to start performing again, a name for his all-female backing band, and his feelings on current music. Tickets are still available from the Retro Futura Tour website.

AMBY: Hello Tom, it’s nice to meet you! I want to say thank you so much for speaking with me. Thompson Twins are one of my favourite groups and I really appreciate your time today.

Tom Bailey: Wow. No problem, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for supporting me.

AMBY: The pleasure is mine. You have officially announced that you’ll be performing Thompson Twins material for the first time in 27 years, and I feel it’s safe to say that all new wave fans have rejoiced. Welcome back.

Tom Bailey: [laughs] Thank you. That’s very nice. I’m very excited, you know? It’s kind of taken me by surprise a little bit because six months ago, I didn’t know this was going to happen. I can’t wait to start to enjoy revisiting all of this music again. It’s all very, very exciting for me. I’m a little bit nervous as well because it’s a big step!

AMBY: What was the moment you knew it was time to get back out there and start performing again?

Tom Bailey: It’s a strange thing… I was doing some writing for a Mexican artist called Alex Syntek who wanted to write something with me in the Thompson Twins’ style. He said, “why don’t you sing on it?”. That kind of got me across the line without realizing that I was doing it – singing on a pop song. I enjoyed that very much. Then Howard Jones and I had dinner and he said, “look, I’m thinking of touring the states and would really like to do it together”. I thought to myself, “why not?”. Then I went back through the Thompson Twins’ catalogue and thought of which songs still excite me. Luckily, they all did. I was able to make a short list of the hits as a setlist – there were a couple I decided not to do – and we got everything together. It was sort of like riding a bike, you know?

AMBY and Tom Bailey: [laughs]

AMBY: Your first performance is at the Henley Rewind Festival. I read that you’ve been running some formal rehearsals individually with your new band lately. What have the rehearsals been like? Do you feel all of the songs rushing back to you as if the near three decades haven’t gone by?

Tom Bailey: Interestingly, I have an all-female backing band. This is not something that I set out to put together, but it just happened. After looking for the right musicians, I came across two keyboard players and a drummer who are all brilliant and happen to be women. We’ve been meeting in individual sessions but have yet to all play in the same room. The music is very high tech so we’re making sure we’re well prepared.

AMBY: Something I found funny was that you wrote on Facebook how you’re trying to think of a name for the backing band. Have you thought of anything yet?

Tom Bailey: [laughs] Oh, yes! It was quite funny because I had lots of amusing suggestions. Some of them were hilarious. I really wish that there hadn’t been a band called The Sisters of Mercy, because that would have been perfect.

AMBY: I was thinking something along the lines of The Future Days.

Tom Bailey: For sure. There were a lot of things that could have worked well. We haven’t quite discussed it. Maybe I should actually discuss it with them as well? [laughs]

AMBY: After the initial performance at Henley Rewind Festival, you embark on the co-headlining Retro Futura Tour with Howard. Which songs do you think you’ll enjoy playing the most? Which still heavily resonate with you?

Tom Bailey: I looked at all of the hits and there were a couple I didn’t want to do. But strangely, there’s a song that we never really released as a single but it had been in a movie so it became popular. It’s called If You Were Here. I really enjoyed reconstructing that song and working on it. Sometimes when re-hearing the songs, you get into a strange realization of “I never really understood what this song was about when we wrote it”. There are some things that have emerged with the benefit of hindsight. This happened with several of the songs that I wrote; I think I understand them more now than I did then. Of course there’s the big hits like Hold Me Now and Doctor Doctor which are great songs to perform.

AMBY: I’ll soon have the pleasure of seeing you perform in Toronto. I was wondering, do you plan on playing Love on Your Side? I’ve always loved that song, especially the part where you incorporate the keys of In the Name of Love. It’s so clever.

Tom Bailey: Yes. I don’t want to give them all away!

AMBY: [laughs] I completely understand. Thanks for letting me know, I can’t wait. Thompson Twins are known for the excellent use of synthesizers. Nowadays, many new bands and artists are using synths in their music to give it that new wave nuance. When it comes to the bands out there now, what are your feelings on current music?

Tom Bailey: I’m no expert, to be honest. I think the music business has changed beyond belief; I can’t recognize the same ways of musicians developing their careers. It’s really tough now because the media has taken too much control of the situation and it seems to me that music artists are created partly through TV shows and by marketing exercises. It’s not fair for the new and young musicians to share their art. It’s harder for the ones who have to build themselves slowly by playing live venues, slowly working their way up, releasing independent records, and then hopefully be able to distribute music around the world. That’s the way things used to work, and it worked really well. Oddly enough, the internet has undermined to some extent because there’s so much music available online. Young bands have to do very well before they start earning any significant money, which means that they can’t afford to pursue it and they have to do something else. Talent is being wasted.

AMBY: I’m happy you brought that up. I interviewed Howard the other day and we spoke about how much easier and more accessible it is to create music with all of the equipment out there, and how people don’t necessarily having to learn an instrument or hone that ability anymore. What are your thoughts on how accessible it is? Is it a benefit for those young musicians or a detriment?

Tom Bailey: Back in the day, you would go begging for permission to go into any kind of recording facility. Now, of course, so many of us can record in our bedrooms because we have a laptop or computer that has that type of software. It’s no longer quite as special to get into the studio. That can also lead to a lowering in quality, but also widens the availability and makes it more democratic. It’s not the same kind of people making the same kind of music all of the time. So, that has to be a good thing.

AMBY: Is there anything you’d like to do that you haven’t done in your career? Is there any kind of project or secret passion you haven’t explored yet and would like to?

Tom Bailey: Not particularly. I’ve been very, very lucky. A lot of my dreams have actually been realized because of the success with Thompson Twins, but also a lot of the other things I’ve done like my interest in electronic-dub music. These things have satisfied my career and brought me some amazing challenges, so I’m not really looking for more trouble [laughs]. However, I’m open to all ideas.

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Thank you Tom Bailey, for giving us your answers!

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Interview by Alicia Atout | @AliciaAtout

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