Optimism's Flames Exclusive:

Dave Gregory was gracious enough to agree to a very relaxed, no deadline sort of Q(you) & A(Dave)thang with us. I hopped on the Chalkhills chatlist (a ride worth taking) and asked for fan contributions.... more to come...

Tim Kendrick wonders...

Which XTC song did you have the most influence on? In other words, which song ended up sounding totally different from its demo because of you?

The most obvious one would be "1000 Umbrellas", since there were only acoustic guitar and voice on Andy's demo. Just like his tapes before the Portastudios arrived and took the fun out of it for the band! "I Remember The Sun" was another; relatively few of the early demos have any keyboards on them, so most of the piano parts came from me. There were no demos as such for the first 3 albums I made with XTC; we got together in a rehearsal room, the writer showed us the chords and melody and we threw stuff at each other - that continued in the studio, too. Impossible to say exactly who inspired what until much later.

Andrew Boyle asks...

If you could have any solo to do over (any band incarnation, not just XTC?) which would it be and why.

I'm never satisfied, and there are far too many to list, but...the intro to "When You're Near Me..." - it's out of tune (but I kinda like it!); Zeke Manyika's "This Lamp" - sorry for ruining your song, Zeke; Jennifer Trynin's "Everything Is Different Now" (sorry Jen, I was fast asleep); Steve Hogarth's "Until You Fall" (attitude can't cover fluffed notes!); and my bass playing on "Egyptian Solution" - it's shite.

From Kerry Chicoine...

This may sound weird, but I'd love to know who actually came up with the idea to do the single-note, 12-string guitar sound just before the start of the ending of 'Then She Appeared'. You know what I mean? It happens just after the second part that starts with:

"And the moon which formerly shone
On the marbled midnight mile
Suddenly just packed its bags
Now shines from her bright smile"............'CHANG-JANGLE!!!!!!'

It's a weird, seemingly suspended note that is to the song as a spoon is to a junkie. I think the placement of it is brilliant. You know, xTc is all about the details!!!!

Actually not a 12-string, but Andy's heavily-flanged electric; dead easy to do - just hit all the open strings. Or drop the guitar on the floor!

Wayne Klein inquires...

Would you consider ever releasing Remoulds? It would be a great Internet only release... & is that Ian playing drums on Remoulds or you (and your crafty use of the drum machine)

I'm currently re-mixing everything I ever recorded on 8-track tape, including the Remoulds tracks; I've re-recorded a couple of them too. When I re-master it I'll see how it shapes up, but it's unlikely. The logistical problems of getting publishing clearance for all of those songs, and paying the owners, are considerable. All the drum tracks are programmed samples run from a sequencer.

Steve Oleson needs to know...

What was it like to record with Peter Gabriel?

It was my first studio session outside XTC and I was nervous as hell. He's a hero, after all. Come to think of it, I should have included "I Don't Remember" in the list of Tracks To Do Over - I can doddle it now. We had to figure out a bizarre tuning for the guitar in order to play the chords he was looking for; if you want to try it, it's (low to high) C#-G#-C#-B-E-F#! I was somewhat overwhelmed by the occasion, but Peter was a very pleasant - and very patient - man.

If you were trapped on a deserted island, equipped with a recording studio, and could only have ONE GUITAR, which guitar would you choose?

My 1953 Gibson Les Paul.

What is your favorite Todd Rundgren recording?

Again, so many magical moments, though I'm a bigger fan of his writing than I am of his recording techniques. I think "Pretending To Care", from "A Capella". Name one vocalist who even comes close.

Which XTC album makes you most proud?

"Fossil Fuel"; there's not a duff track on the whole damn thing.

Do you have any Danelectro guitars?

No I don't, but if you know anybody with an original Guitarlin for sale, I'd be very interested.

During the Aimee Mann tour, did you play "written solo parts", or were you free to improvise, within the constraints of the song?

Clayton Scoble took care of most of the solos; I played keyboards for half the set. We did a stripped-down, grungy version of a 'til tuesday song called "Long Gone Buddy", which was pretty much improvised, but I mauled it. When I finally heard the original I was horrified! I ended up playing the solo on "I Should Have Known"; Aimee was originally playing it on slide on a Strat, which was...fun to watch. Apart from a bit of a free-for-all at the end, I stuck to Jon Brion's original parts; everything he did on that record was just fantastic.

Much thanks to Dave and to all the participants... if you've a burning question for Dave please send it along to me. These questions will be updated every month or so and archived as well.