Q&A: Roger Daltrey
By Jill Kipnis
LOS ANGELES (Billboard) – Roger Daltrey, lead singer of
legendary British rock act the Who and a solo artist in his own
right, was in Los Angeles recently for Rock ‘n Roll Fantasy
Camp, a four-day event that gives amateur musicians the
opportunity to play onstage with rock legends.
This year, Daltrey jammed with eight or nine amateur bands
alongside other such participating music greats as Cheap Trick,
Neal Schon of Journey, Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead, Mickey
Thomas of Starship and Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers
The camp came at a time of great activity for Daltrey, who,
despite his goal of a life of leisure, is working with
songwriter/guitarist Pete Townshend on the first Who studio
album in 14 years. Together they are about to set out on their
first Who tour since 2004.
Daltrey also might be returning to the small screen in an
upcoming TV pilot, and he is coordinating efforts for a biopic
about Who drummer Keith Moon, who died in 1978.
Though Daltrey and Townshend have disbanded and re-formed
the Who several times since the early 1980s and pursued their
own careers, the two keep reuniting to recapture that Who
Q: What is it like working on a Who album again?
A: We are doing it in a very different way. All the time
that (the late bassist) John (Entwistle) was in the band, we
kind of felt we had to go in as a group. Now, it is really only
Pete and I, and Pete wants to do all the guitars and some of
the bass playing. Whether we will end up going into the studio
with a band and recording it all again, I don’t know. These are
all the kinds of bridges that we need to cross.
Pete’s written a song about Stockholm syndrome. It’s called
“Black Widow’s Eyes.” The fact that he’s done that in music and
words, and he completely sums up Stockholm syndrome in this
song, is so haunting. Imagine how difficult it is for Pete. He
doesn’t need to write another song. God almighty, all that
music out of one head. But he seems driven at the moment, which
is great because I’ve always felt that he was the kind of
writer who would write his best stuff at the age he is now. His
skills have caught up with his intellect.
Q: Will the album come out this year?
A: It will come out when it is ready. What’s the point of
trying to give yourself deadlines that aren’t really important?
I think we have to get it good before we can finish it.
I have three tracks written already. One of them is
particularly fantastic in the older Who-type vain. Another is
particularly fantastic in a completely different way. These
songs are all about the spirit and the emotion. Whether or not
they are successful in today’s world, who knows? The business
is totally different now.
Q: What can you share about upcoming touring plans?
A: We have got a European tour booked. We are starting it
in England, where we are doing some shows in June. Then we go
to France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany. Festivals. We haven’t
played in Europe for a very long time. They have kind of
forgotten about the Who. If we can go out and play festival
spots and play our hits, we can relight the fire. It’s amazing
when young people see the band. We’ve had an incredible
resurgence with young people.
Q: Are there any plans yet for U.S. dates?
A: We are still figuring it out … It will probably be
later in the fall.
Q: Does it surprise you that you are still working with
A: We didn’t used to think it would last through the end of
the week. I mean, really. It’s almost like this was the way it
should be. I don’t know why. There is something that joins us.
If I know too much about it, it might go away. It’s very weird.
It’s extraordinary. And you can actually see it. You can see me
on the stage on my own and Pete on the stage on his own, and
I’m one thing and Pete’s another thing. When you put us
together, this thing happens. Chemistry. It was even more so,
of course, when Keith and John were there.
Q: What continues to inspire you musically?
A: Life. What I hear. If I’m playing anything at home, it’s
probably classical, mainly because I haven’t got much hearing
left. What I have got left, I want to keep.
I’m not a natural songwriter. I’m a dramatist of songs. I
have to observe and try to understand the space in which the
songs exist, the root. They’re more than words and notes. To
me, they are a whole lot of little, tiny vignettes of people
and places and characters going through a particular thing.
Q: Will there be more solo albums?
A: I don’t know. I just have a good time these days. You
give up a lot of your life when you’re doing it, even though
it’s a fabulous life. It’s not real life. In the last two
years, I have started to train myself to enjoy doing nothing.
In this mad world that we live in, people think you’re mad if
your cell phone’s not ringing every two seconds. Then you have
5,000 e-mails to answer in the morning, and nobody likes them.
Q: Are you still involved in a TV pilot?
A: I don’t know. I know my agent has been running around
after me, and I’ve been trying to ignore him. I love acting,
but the Who comes first. I’ve been very privileged in my life
because of the Who. I hope I’ve got the integrity to say, “This
ain’t working anymore” when it doesn’t.
Q: What can you tell us about the Keith Moon movie?
A: I can’t really tell you much other than we are in very
early production stages again. We’ve had three or four scripts
written, and we’ve never quite nailed what we wanted to do.
We’ve got a new writer. A very famous writer, a Pulitzer Prize
winner indeed. I can’t name him because I don’t know the
situation at the moment. You can’t tell someone’s life story in
two hours on film. If I can do it, I hope to make a real rock
‘n’ roll film that will be funny, poignant, sad, celebratory,
all the things that Moon was. But if I can’t, I’m very glad
that I’m holding the reins and stopping any bad films of Keith
Moon being made.