Innerviews, music without borders

Nick Beggs
Anything can happen
by Anil Prasad
Copyright © 2015 Anil Prasad. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, No Derivatives license.

Nick Beggs

Don’t even think about trying to pigeonhole Nick Beggs. The British bassist, Stick player and songwriter has a footprint that’s stamped across a wide range of genres including progressive rock, pop, Celtic, funk, and soul. Collectively, his own band and project releases have sold more than four million copies. He’s the prime architect of Kajagoogoo, a synth-pop band that catapulted to success in 1983 with the global smash “Too Shy” and periodically reemerges for recordings and performances.

After Kajagoogoo’s heyday, Beggs embarked on a career that found him working with some of the biggest names in rock and pop, including Belinda Carlisle, John Paul Jones, Howard Jones, Gary Numan, Maddy Prior, Cliff Richard, Midge Ure, Seal, and Tina Turner, just to name a few. In the progressive rock universe, he’s performed with Steve Hackett, Steve Howe, and Rick Wakeman on numerous tours and recordings. Beggs has also served as a primary band member and contributor to the progressive acts Iona, Lifesigns and Fish on Friday.

Currently, his focus is working with Steven Wilson, the progressive rock artist enjoying significant acclaim and commercial success with Hand. Cannot. Erase., his latest release. Beggs features prominently on all of Wilson’s last three studio albums and associated tours.

As a solo artist, Beggs has explored the solo Stick instrumental space across two albums: Stick Insect and The Maverick Helmsman. A recent compilation, The Darkness in Men’s Hearts, brings together the best of the two recordings, along with unreleased material. The discs showcase Beggs’ deft touch on the Stick, shifting from the kinetic to the ambient as he explores the wide-ranging melodic and rhythmic possibilities of the instrument.

Beggs is unique in that he also had a brief career as an A&R man for Phonogram Records in the early ‘90s. He experienced the cutthroat, numbers-driven world of major labels in a way few artists ever have. It helped further his pragmatic streak, one which finds him balancing aesthetics and audience appeal in order to propel his output as far as it can go. In addition, he’s a celebrated illustrator, best known for Dangerous Potatoes: 13 Stories About Evil Vegetables, a series of quirky children’s stories.

On stage, Beggs is known for his animated, commanding and occasionally show-stealing presence. Those tendencies also translate into his social media posts, often featuring incendiary and hilarious photos and content. When you're in Beggs' orbit, there's never a dull moment.

Your main focus at the moment is the Steven Wilson band. What drew you to establishing a long-term working relationship with him?

I’ve waited 20 years for an artist like Steven to come along. I used to think about someone like him from an A&R head space. My thought was “We need a great visionary like Peter Gabriel to come along, who says “I have all these colors on my palette that I want to splash across my work.” He’s an artist that draws from the same influences as me. He’s an answer to my desires. I hold him in very high esteem. He knows what he’s doing to a terrifying level of accuracy. I’ve never met anyone like him.

I’m grateful Steven wants to have me around. He’s one of the good guys in the music industry and I feel like I’ve found a great musical home after 32 years of playing in a lot of bands. He asks my advice when the occasion arises and I feel honored that he trusts my judgment enough to do so. But make no mistake about it, he’s a guy who really knows what he’s doing.

Nick Beggs

Describe how you and Wilson collaborate.

Steven will tell me how he wants me to play bass. If he thinks I’m not going to do it the way he wants, he’ll do it himself. [laughs] He’s very multilayered. We have different ways of working together. Sometimes we’ll file share. Sometimes he’ll say “I don’t really know what I want to do here,” but that’s happening much less these days. Now, he knows exactly what he wants more often. Sometimes I’ll say “I think you should do this” and he’ll listen. There’s a track he’s releasing in the future that he asked me to play on. I said “I’d love to play Stick on this.” He said “I don’t think it needs that.” I replied “Trust me” and sent it to him. He agreed and was really glad I suggested it. If he says he wants something specific and I think he’s right, there’s never any argument.

I should also mention that Guthrie Govan is also an extraordinary bass player. Marco Minnemann is an amazing guitarist. There is an incredible amount of talent in the band. I have tremendous respect for the guys and love performing with them. They also teach me a lot. Playing with people like Marco and Chad Wackerman is an education in a really good way. They’re gracious and generous. If I look at Marco and go “What the fuck are you doing?” he’ll go “There it is!” [laughs] He’ll give me the geography. Some drummers won’t do that. They want to see you drown. Not these guys. They want everyone to succeed.

When Guthrie and Marco were unable to do the current American leg of the tour, Steven appointed two excellent guys: Dave Kilminster on guitar and Craig Blundell on drums. These gentlemen stepped into the band at a moment's notice and put their own stamp on it. They're both brilliant and professional. It’s an honor to also work with them.

Of course, Steven is the chief architect of it all. His 5.1 surround work is also a whole other level of expertise that most people wouldn’t ever be able to get their heads around. The other thing about Steven is he has so much in the can. He’s thinking albums ahead. He’s like Prince in that way.

What’s your take on Wilson’s new album Hand. Cannot. Erase.?

As Steven’s said, it’s a bit closer to Porcupine Tree, but I think it’s a step forward too, in that there are some things that can probably be played on radio, like the title track and “Happy Returns” which is anthemic, with a great secondary hook. Steven does ask me to put my A&R hat on and I tell him what I honestly think when he does.

You’re currently in the middle of Wilson’s highest-profile touring cycle to date. The group is playing larger venues and selling out multiple nights worldwide. What’s your perspective on how things are elevating for the group?

Although Steven’s audience has always been loyal and enthusiastic, there is a palpable sense of this thing growing. The audiences are larger and more exuberant. His chart positions have been higher and therefore his stock is rising exponentially. It’s a great thing to be a part of. The production values of the show have also gone up this time around, so the “wow” factor is also there in abundance. We are getting the interest of some pretty cool people because of it. For instance, David Gilmour and Phil Manzanera came to the London show. It was amazing just knowing they were in the audience.

I understand you played a role in spurring Steve Hackett’s Genesis Revisited II project to life. Describe your involvement in encouraging Hackett to pursue it.

I had been part of Steve’s band for quite a few years prior to Genesis Revisited II. One day, Steve said to me “You were an A&R man. What would you do if you were me? How would you get me back to the Royal Albert Hall?” I said “You’ve got to do a Genesis Revisited II. In fact, it would have probably been better if you hadn’t done Genesis Revisited I, because now is your time. There are so many tribute bands out there. The soil is ready to be harvested.” He replied “That’s very interesting. I’ve heard that from a number of other quarters.” So, we had dinner a few times with me in my A&R head space. When I occupy it, it doesn’t always please everybody. But if we’re talking about being honest, I have to call things the way I see them. So, I did with Steve. I said “You need to have guest vocalists and they need to be as high profile as possible. You also have to do all the iconic Genesis songs from when you were in the band, because the other guys in the group aren’t touching them." None of the tribute bands have a direct lineage to the band, other than being fans. I had seen The Musical Box live and they were fantastic. They’re completely committed to it and what they do is highly respectable. But Steve was an actual member of Genesis, so he has even more of a right to do it.

I couldn’t be part of it initially, because when I left Steve’s band, it was to join Steven Wilson. So, I helped Steve conceptualize it from my position, but I was kind of gutted. Lee Pomeroy, who’s a very good friend of mine, was able to play bass for initial touring. He’s a big Genesis fan and knows even more about them than I do, so it worked out well. There came a point in 2014 when Lee could no longer do it, because he had commitments to Take That and Gary Barlow. Steve called me and said “Lee can’t tour in 2014 and I’m worried. Are you available?” I said “Apart from recording with Steven Wilson and playing with Kim Wilde, I’m free. But I don’t play electric guitar.” Lee was playing both bass and 6- and 12-string guitar for Steve. But Steve was sweet and said to me “I think you can play electric guitar. But if you can’t, we’ll drop the songs you can’t play.” I replied “Are you kidding? If you drop ‘Supper’s Ready,’ there’s going to be a lynching.’” [laughs] So, I had to learn how to play 6- and 12-string guitar in three months. Lee had already done all the hard work, so all I had to do was learn a facsimile of what he’d done. I’ve never had so many dark nights with the demons in my life. I spent three months sweating blood learning guitar prior to the tour. Thankfully, Felix Askew, the son of Steve Askew, the guitarist in Kajagoogoo, is a degree student. I asked him to transcribe the parts and give me tab. I also had four lessons with him. Lee worked out alternative voicings, because some of the guitar parts were too difficult for me. We came up with voicings that I could play. I’d sit with Roger King and go through it all.

I also had to have a double-neck built. I had a conversation with the luthier Hugh Manson and his brother over the phone in Germany. Hugh later told me the BBC wanted to do a special on me and the building of the guitar. So, when I came to pick it up, there was a camera crew filming me and my reaction to seeing this guitar for the first time. There was a bit of pressure happening, you might say. [laughs] Steve seems to be happy with how it went. It’s a shame I couldn’t do the 2015 tour with Steve, because I’m back with Steven Wilson. Lee came back to do the South American leg.

Nick Beggs

What does that early Genesis music mean to you, personally?

When I was 12, I started listening to many of these progressive bands. There was a group of five of us and Thursday night was my record club. Everyone would come around to my house and sit in my bedroom. We’d all bring our favorite records, put them on and talk about them. We’d really analyze them, including what was going on with the production and guitar sounds. I was tinkering around with instruments at that time as well. By the time I got to 15, I decided I wanted to be a professional musician. Genesis’ Seconds Out, A Trick of the Tail and Genesis Live helped train my ears. Today, you have to go to college to do that. That’s what you do when you take a course in music. By and large, many people seem to have forgotten how to do that with music on their own. They mostly don’t sit down and analyze it, thinking “Right, I’m going to listen to the bass lines across the whole record and discern what’s going on and where they’re going.” So, for me, playing this music was profound.

When you first formed Kajagoogoo, your preference was to play progressive rock, but you chose to make a strategic shift in order to propel your career. Give me some insight into that decision.

We all know how punk came to overthrow the kings of progressive rock. I think it’s a terrible shame how that occurred, because I love punk, too. I think the Sex Pistols, Stranglers, XTC, and Devo were incredible. I never understood why Billy Cobham gave Devo such a hard time. I thought they were totally inspirational. There wasn’t much music I didn’t like. But I could see the way things were shifting in terms of the zeitgeist and the way the press responded to things, as well as the groups, gangs and cliques you were supposed to affiliate with.

My good friend Jakko Jakzyk once told me a story about a fusion band he played in called 64 Spoons. They were opening for a punk band and sound checking. The punk band was standing around watching him, being really intimidating and one of them sarcastically shouted “Look, they’ve got a fucking hippie on guitar and he’s really good!” [laughs] It was like that was the worst thing in the world. I always thought that was a misnomer, because musicianship should be respected, not derided. So, I could see I wasn't going to be able to reference the music I loved if I wanted to make a career out of it, because I’m a pragmatist.

I had a really hard adolescence. My mother died when I was 17. My father left when I was 10. I had to look after my sister. I felt if I was going to become a professional, long-term musician with a sustainable career, I had to play by the rules of the time. When we were putting Kajagoogoo together initially, we went through so many reinventions to arrive at the formula that worked. We used to sound like a cross between Devo and Talking Heads before Limahl joined. Nobody would touch us at first. We then moved on to use the specific sounds of the time, which sound very old hat now, like slap bass doubling up with the bass synthesizer and electronic drums that didn’t sound like real drums. Nobody had really heard much like that before Kajagoogoo.

In 2013, you released a solo Stick compilation combining the best of your previous two albums called The Darkness In Men's Hearts. Tell me about the title and your goals for the release.

When I was touring with Steve Hackett, he asked me to play a solo piece of music. So, I wrote the piece “The Darkness In Men's Hearts” for that occasion. The way the chords work says a lot about how men wrestle with anxiety and demons, while trying to find some light. The piece has some resolution in the chords in how they resolve. So, it goes from quite a dark place to an almost lilting conclusion.

I think in this day and age, if you make a record, it tends to be used as a promotional tool, because it’s difficult to make any money from one. Being the pragmatist that I am, I felt the reason for doing it was to say “I’ve made two Stick albums, and therefore I can do that. If you want me to play Stick for you, I can do that, too.” It’s designed to appeal to the other creative mindsets around me—people like John Paul Jones, Steve Hackett and Steven Wilson. Perhaps there will be other people who hear it too and say “I’d like a bit of that.”

In terms of what my Stick pieces are about, we’re getting into the more complicated aspects. “Lula” is one of the pieces from my album Stick Insect and is the name of my first daughter. I wrote it for her before she was born. I was trying to express as best I could about the fact that she was about to come into this world.

Another piece is about an old girlfriend. I remember when I played it live, one of her friends came over and said “I’ve never heard her described so eloquently by anyone before. It absolutely sums her up.” The intellectual part of musical expression is the motivation, but how you get there has to be guttural.

You’ve integrated Stick into myriad pop and rock projects. Do the artists you’re working with proactively ask for its inclusion or do you typically suggest it?

It’s asked for quite often, but usually the people asking for it don’t know what it does. I’ve got a setting in my head which asks the question “Will the Stick work on this?” In my opinion, it doesn’t work on everything. Tony Levin can make it work on nearly everything. I can’t. I’m very careful about where I put it. If I pick the right place for it, I feel it has a lot of theatricality and can make a powerful statement. When I was working with the John Paul Jones trio, I used a MIDI Stick and triggered orchestral parts, amongst other things. On the Genesis Revisited II tour, I used Stick on “Fly on a Windshield,” “Broadway Melody of 1974” and “Lilywhite Lilith.”

Many major acts have asked you to be a member of their live band. What do you think makes you appealing to them?

The fact that I can do the job, musically, is a given. They know I can play the parts. But I think I’m very often picked for bands because I bring something to the stage more than anything. When bands are thinking about how they’re going to realize the show live, they think “If we stick freak boy on the left, it’s going to look kind of interesting. That side of the stage is taken care of.” [laughs] I think there’s an element of truth to that. Musically, it’s hard to comment on. I just do what I do. There are a lot of people who play better than I do, but I have a particular way of doing things. I have to quote other people who say “It sounds like Nick Beggs” when I play. When Chris Squire plays, the way he follows through with his thumb on the down stroke is partly what defines his sound. Even when he plays on another instrument, it always sounds like him. I think there’s an element of that when talking about what I do. I’ve developed a lot of techniques including double-handed tapping, slap bass and using picks in my playing. I have a Catholic overview of the music that includes lots of colors. Now, the guitar has come into that paradigm. After he saw a Steve Hackett show, Steven Wilson came up to me and said “So, you’re a guitarist now, right? Well, I may ask you to play some guitar on tour for me, too.” [laughs]

Nick Beggs

Provide a snapshot of your life as an A&R man for Phonogram from 1993 to 1994.

It was very short in that it lasted eight months. I was made redundant after a new managing director came in. While I was there, I helped coordinate a top-20 hit for a band called Let Loose. Part of my A&R process to get the gig was to sit down and listen to the demos for their new album, because they hadn’t had a hit. The label had put a lot of money into the band. The guy who gave me the job was a legendary A&R man called David Bates, who signed Tears for Fears and other big acts. He said “All right, listen to the demos and tell me which one is the hit.” Afterwards, I said “No hits there.” He said “Okay, what do we do?” I knew the problem was there was no writing formula or writing relationship between the musicians. There was the lead singer who had an element of writing about him and two musicians who couldn’t write. I said we have to put the lead singer together with someone like Nik Kershaw who has a real musical understanding in order to develop a viable single. They did and they came up with a song called “Seventeen” and it got to number 11. But by that time, I was made redundant. I really liked being an A&R man, though.

To be a successful A&R man, you have to practice a type of quiet brutality. How did you handle that?

The most difficult part had to do with all my friends who thought I was going to instantly give them a record deal. Some of my friends would come and sit in my office and say “Where do you want me to sign? And can you call me a taxi?” [laughs] I said “Do you realize my neck is on the line? My brief is to sign the next Rage Against the Machine or find a pop hit.” Babybird's manager came in and played me the demo for “You’re Gorgeous,” but I passed. Stephen Jones never stops teasing me about that, but I was told not to sign one-hit wonders. Very often, your hands can be tied by the department. Conner Reeves’ manager came in and played me “My Father’s Son” and I thought it was fantastic, but the label wouldn’t let me sign him because they said he was too old. The precursor band to Skunk Anansie came in too, but they didn’t have any of the songs they became known for then. They also had another name and I wouldn’t sign them. People would get really pissy with me. They would say “This is going to be massive!” I’d say “Well, it doesn’t sound massive, right now.” The truth is, A&R men are just like anyone else. If they tell you they know what they’re talking about, they don’t, really.

I remember while I was there, Steve Howe called me and asked if I’d do a Yes-related tour. I had previously worked with him on his Grand Scheme of Things album. I said to my boss, “How do you feel about me doing it?” He said “I want you to do it. I want you to be out there playing, too.” In the end, I think Steve knew that as an A&R man, I would have had my feet in too many camps and it would have been a conflict of interest, so it didn’t happen.

After you were made redundant, what was next for you?

The week I was made redundant, I was hospitalized and split up with my wife. We had a two-year old daughter and I came pretty close to having a breakdown. I had taken the A&R position so I could spend more time at home and support the family, but the marriage became very difficult. So, while I was in the hospital with my life in pieces all around me, I thought “What am I going to do?” It didn’t help that I was suffering from a secondary kidney infection and was delirious. After that point, I didn’t do much for about two years. I kind of stayed in. I was unemployed. My Kajagoogoo royalties were dwindling, too. There was also a potential big legal case against a manager because there hadn’t been any taxes paid. We owed the Inland Revenue a lot of money. You see, we thought the expensive accountants we had been paying every month were taking care of things. But what do you know? I learned how to keep books and file accounts pretty quickly after that. The whole period gave me a lot of experience. When Kajagoogoo toured again some years later, I did all the bookkeeping and worked very closely with an accountant I could trust.  I knew where every single penny went.

For awhile, I was very depressed. I didn’t do much other than ensure I saw my daughter regularly. Then I got a call from Alphaville, the German electro-pop band based in Berlin. Marian Gold from the group asked if I’d like to go to Berlin and help program material for a new album and live work. I said I’d love to and got on really great with him. I liked the band and thought I could make it work because I understand electro music. While I was in the middle of it, I got a call from Belinda Carlisle asking if I’d jump in on bass for a tour. She also said there would be an album to work on. I was torn because I felt I was going to let Marian and the band down. I appointed a guy called Martin Lister to take my place. He stayed in the gig for 15 years. He died in 2013, but remained in that gig for the rest of his life. So, it was quite a good appointment. I thought I did good. I went to Malibu with Belinda in 1994 and we recorded the A Woman and a Man album, which was just rereleased. It was a David Tickle production. We toured that quite a lot. Next, I got some production work with a Japanese artist named Cozi, who did kitsch electro lounge music with a jazz aspect to it. Howard Jones then asked me to work with him and we toured together for a very long time. Things started to pick up. John Paul Jones then called me and asked me if I’d be in his power trio on Stick and things kept moving forward. I was being taken further and further from the A&R office and never returned.

In 1990, you joined the Christian Celtic progressive band Iona for a few years. You consider this a significantly impactful period. What about that experience meant so much to you?

I spent a lot of years playing in Gospel-based bands as I was exploring my own faith and how I felt about spirituality. But there was also quite a vibrant scene with some amazing players around. Iona was one of those projects I really enjoyed working on. They’re all such wonderful people and the complexity of the music challenged me, too. I played some Iona demos to Robert Fripp one evening and he graciously offered to guest on the Beyond These Shores album because he liked them so much. He plays some wonderful soundscapes on it.

Iona represented the first time I actually realized I couldn’t escape from true progressive music. It was very liberating to not just be tied into pop, rock or funk idioms. There was no thinking about a three-minute single. When I joined Iona, it had already done its first album which sold really well to their market. They wanted me to help them realize the band live. So, it was let’s stick gonk-boy up there so people look at that part on stage. But it wasn’t long before I was thinking about getting the band to consider singles and that’s what we did. We tried to generate material that would get played on radio. They asked for my thoughts and listened to me. I said “You can do whatever you want, but you need three standout tracks that can be played on radio. Don’t think about a ballad first. Think about it last. And if you possibly can, don’t have a ballad at all.” [laughs]

I went through a lot of changes later on while still in Iona, and also, my first marriage ended. I felt like it was time to move on with several things, so I left. But we’re still friends.

Nick Beggs

Provide some insight into your forthcoming project, The Mute Gods.

A good friend of mine, Thomas Waber at Inside Out Records, said to me “You're doing all this work for all these great solo artists, but nothing of your own. You should be doing more.” So I decided to put a project together as a vehicle for my own songwriting. I’ve never really done that before. The first bridge to be crossed with any new project is the title. What do you call your new band? It took ages to find a suitable name for one of my earlier projects, Lifesigns, and I knew my new project would be no easier. But in the end I settled on The Mute Gods.

The name resonated with me for a lot of reasons. We seem to be living in a time of heightened religious fundamentalism in which people deliver the wrath of God or speak out on his behalf. So, I’m sure you can imagine the problems I’ve had trying to get the record label to allow me to include the song “Jesus Thinks You’re a Fuckwit.” When did God appoint these dubious PR men? From where I’ve been sitting, I don’t hear God saying anything. The people in this world who should be listened to are often the ones who are silenced. The voice of reason seems strangely quiet in the face of so much media disinformation. So, there you have the setting for this record.

I wrote most of the material while touring in 2014. During that time, I had become interested the life and work of Phil Schneider, a government geologist who also became a key voice in exposing alien activity on Earth, and the frankly incredible things he spoke about before his untimely death. This inspired the track, “Do Nothing ‘Til You Hear From Me." It also acted as a rather neat title for the album. It sums up how I feel about religion while addressing the more specific issues that General Eisenhower warned the world about, including the military-industrial complex.

The record has a number of moods. But overall, it’s a rather disgruntled rant at the dystopia we've created for ourselves and our children. The song “Swimming Horses” is a warning about the passing of time and the rising of tides. “Feed the Troll” is a dedication to all those who have too much time on their hands.

The person who has helped me realize this record is Roger King. We worked together for quite a few years in the Steve Hackett band and when I approached him last year about producing, I was honored and surprised when he agreed. His strengths are my weaknesses and I believe we complement each other rather well. But the public will have the final word on that.

After working extensively with the Steven Wilson band, I invited Marco Minnemann to play drums for me. Although I have a couple of other guest drummers like Nick D’Virgilio and Gary O’Toole, Marco is playing on the majority of tracks. He also added his genius with some sound modeling and guitar.

Sonically, you can expect an album that tips its hat in the direction of alternative rock and pop. But other than that I’m not going to try categorizing it. The record is due for release in early 2016.

Why did you choose to depart from Lifesigns, the promising prog-rock outfit you co-founded in 2012?

Our debut album sold really well and got some great reviews. But John Young wanted to start touring and I said “I’m with Steven Wilson, Kim Wilde and Steve Hackett at the moment. You’re starting a brand new band and you need members who can commit to a level I’m unable to.” With my blessing, they got another bassist named Jon Poole, who’s fantastic. John and I are friends and I felt it was important to remain so. I go and see them play live sometimes and now the band has a trajectory without me. But I will always feel a part of it in some way because of that first record.

Tell me about the creative outlet Dangerous Potatoes represents for you.

It’s a collection of stories I brought my children, nephews and nieces up on. They were borne of the need to find a bedtime story in an instant. I thought there was something interesting there and said to myself “I’ve got these stories. What am I going to do with them?” I chose to work them into 13 television scripts and took them to production companies. Many industry people said they liked them, but the financial arrangements weren’t attractive. Some said the idea hasn’t been thought through enough. What I decided to do was put them out as a box set of books in which you get everything, including the character profiles and images. So, I did that with the idea that I’ll have something to send to production companies, as well as something for people who want the stories for their kids. Who knows? From time to time, I get calls from people at media companies who say “Will you send us Dangerous Potatoes?” At some point, it could still get picked up as a TV series or a film. It would be a dream of mine to have Tim Burton pick up on it, because it’s quirky and dark.

You’ve also done two Steven Wilson comic books. What spurred those to life?

It started with a drawing I did for Steven’s birthday a few years back. We had a day off in Amsterdam and I thought “What would Steven do on his day off?” So, that turned into Steven Wilson’s Day Off, in which he’s ironing, getting eggs everywhere, frying with a synthesizer in the back, all while having these strange demonic visions going on in his head. After all, he’s the quintessential multitasker. It was actually Steven’s tour manager, Dave Salt, who suggested it should become a comic book. It sold quite well, so I did a second one called Steven Wilson and the Guitar of EPIJ. I called it that because Steven doesn’t like the term progressive rock. He prefers “Experimental Progressive Industrial Jazz.” That’s his genre. [laughs]

What draws you to juggling so many balls in the air simultaneously?

The irony about all of this is that I wasn’t ever supposed to become a musician. I was supposed to become an illustrator. I trained as one. Becoming a musician is borne out of the fact that I get restless and I can’t just do one thing. If I get frustrated with music, I’ll start sketching, painting or cartooning. Some people think I’m a polymath, but I don’t think that’s true at all. Perhaps if I had taken all my energy and put it into one thing, I would have been far more successful at that one thing. But I spread myself too thin. I can’t help it. I get bored really easily and then anything can happen—and usually does. [laughs]