My Interview with Paul Webb, Rustin Man/Talk Talk: “Reunion? It’s Never Going To Happen”

Domino are proud to announce ‘Drift Code’, the second album by Rustin Man, and the first revealing his own inimitable voice. ‘Drift Code’ will be released on February 1st, 2019.

Before he became Rustin Man, he was known as plain old Paul Webb, former bass player and founder member of Talk Talk and O’rang with ex-Talk Talk bandmate and drummer Lee Harris. ‘Drift Code’ is Rustin Man’s first release since 2002’s acclaimed ‘Out Of Season’ album, recorded with Portishead’s Beth Gibbons.

Eric: This is your first album in 16 years. Did you miss having an album to launch, having that excitement as you’ve been spending a lot of time on this one.
Paul: Yeah, now that’s coming out. It’s funny with music because a lot of people think the actual having it out, it’s the best bit. But the best bit of making records as actually making the record.
Eric: This album took a bit longer than you even though.Did you think back in 2002 when the last Rustin Man album come out that it would take 17 years? Did you expect to have an album out sooner?
Paul: I don’t know how quickly it was going to take, but, but definitely by the end of the tour withh Beth, I definitely felt like it was a time to make another one quickly. It was really nice doing all the production and I got very involved in the arrangements on the album and I kind of felt like I’ve learned so many things over the years. It was time to just to try it all at home and try my own voice and try writing for my voice and seeing how that all came along. Doing it that way, it’s fairly uncompromising when I kind of took that approach.

Eric: You mentioned that through the necessity of recording over a long period of time, the album has an unfixed or uprooted quality.
Paul: A bit of both. It just took me a long time to learn all the instruments got play to have a lot of influence on the album. A lot of those things like guitars are all good and I had to kind of, you know, become a Jack of all trades, master of none. So I had to kind of learn them. And that took a long period of time. But what that does, that kind of feeds into the music because I had to work all the way through the album on one instrument and then come back again and start on the next instrument. And by the time I’ve done that, the tracks give me a new perspective and I get to hear it with fresh ears again. So that was an interesting way of looking at the record because the songs kind of grew over time and they kind of changed over time as well. So I think the actual kind of time thing is kind of works in its favor.

Eric: It’s truly a solo album in every sense. Was there a reason why you chose to play ever instrument as opposed to hiring session musicians or forming another band?
Paul: I love playing with other musicians. I love the camaraderie. But for this album, I wanted to know what it felt like coming all from me.
Eric: Take me back to the O’rang album time. It’s not even available on Spotify or any streaming service, so people might know know about it.
Paul: THAT was very enjoyable to do. We’ve come out of Talk Talk. At the end, everyone just got very much into improvisations and we pretty much got into slowing it all down and just seeing what music we could create. Looking back on it now, that was a different head space than O’rang and who knows, Paul and I could definitely go back. There’s no reason why we wouldn’t.

Eric: When you leave Talk Talk, and Lee leaves after the group’s final album, was it easy to get back into a working groove with Lee? Did you both still have the same ideas for making a new record, and one away from singer Mark Hollis?
Paul: It’s is always about experimentation. We would just kind of start, and it took a bit of time to get started because we were writing in a quite structured way, but we ended up recording in a studio and we had a different energy than Talk Talk. But once you get over the part and you know what you’re doing, you can then easily move along.
Eric: When you leave a band like Talk Talk, a group that grew in popularity due to the last two albums, Spirit Of Eden and Laughing Stock, and especially with music critics and other bands over the years, do you feel any pressure that anything you do right after is going to be set up against those last two albums? Do you even care about what others are thinking at that point?
Paul: I’ve don’t believe you can think like that because you run the risk of never releasing anything after that. The thing about Spirit Of Eden, that was such a kind of game changer because that was such a record on its own. It wasn’t influenced by anything else around it. It just took you to another place. It was one of those records and, when thinking about it, every record I’ve made, from Talk Talk to O’rang to Rustin Man, I’ve always tried to make music that does a similar thing, taking you wherever it takes you, takes you somewhere you’ve never been before. That’s always what I’ve tried making records for, to strive for.

Eric: When Spirit Of Eden came out, I remember all the 5-star reviews, just how many bands loved that record – Alan McGee from Creation, Guy from Elbow, but it wasn’t just the music that blew them away – it was the behind-the-scenes stories that were coming out: The label had no idea what to do with that record, they were wanting a radio hit, Mark was a mad scientist during the recording. I’d love to know what it was like for you during the recording – was any of the outside business influences even getting into the studio?
Paul: We never got caught up in that because the work will come out the way we wanted, but I remember Spirit Of Eden coming off of The Colour Of Spring album, which was a critically acclaimed, and pretty commercially successful record, so that time we’d be left to our own devices and the label was happy to leave us in the studio for a year. It was only afterwards when anything negative happened, but we were all convinced it was the best Talk Talk record and it just sounded like nothing else. But the thing was, when the album was released, it didn’t sell that many records.
Eric: I bought 40 copies, I think. Every single one of my friends got a copy from me. That’s how much I loved this record. I don’t think I ever bought a record for someone!
Paul: Ha! Yeah, it’s just one of those albums that raises in statue year by year. Even when I did the Out Of Season album with Beth, what, 17 years ago, even then, Spirit Of Eden wasn’t as big then as it is now. It’s just one of those things, isn’t it?
Eric: You know what? I love the fact that you’re still proud of that record. It makes me happy to know an album that might not have sold, but has a lot of good fans, and growing every year, that fact that you still like it, and can see the constant and continuing praise, you’re good with it. And that’s pretty cool.
Paul: I mean, I love that record. And I love it when people like yourself tell me they still love it, or when I meet people and they tell me that record got them through their university or that endless summer, because, that’s what all music is, it’s a backdrop to your life.

Eric: Let’s get to the new Rustin Man record. Do you even have an audience in mind when you’re creating a record? Are you writing for an intended audience or are you just trying to bring out the best music that you can?
Paul: I’m actually playing to where we live. The place that I record in is where I live with my wife, my kids. It’s the studio and our domestic space and that domestic space is what I’m playing to it, it’s there to work within that environment. The thing with music is that you can’t gauge what someone else is going to like, there’s no way you can do it. You can’t guide it, you can respond to it. So, you know, I can only judge things on what I like, so, that’s why I also do it all with myself.

Eric: So why do you think you’ve finally got to finish the record? I mean, 17 years is a long time, were you thinking if I don’t get it done now, I might not ever release it. How do you know when it’s done after working with it for over a decade and a half.
Paul: It’s funny, I was never working to a time. I was never thinking, you know, if I never finish it, I never finish it. The thing is at the end of the day, you continue to record and you listen to the tracks, and you hear if something is irritating you and you just kinda like, well I’ve got to figure out what is irritating me about this track? And then you take that bit out. And then you keep going every day until you wake one morning, and there’s nine tracks in front of you and there’s nothing irritating you at all. And that’s when you know it’s finished.
Eric: Were there certain tendencies as learning how to write and learning to perform when you were in Talk Talk that you still do now on this record?
Paul: Oh yeah, even the way I’m still playing bass guitar is very much so in the same way as the early days of Talk Talk. It was a very melodic bass. It’s still in my way of learning of guitar and that kind of guidance in the way I kind of constructive things and how to create spice in those albums. Yeah, that’s all fed into this.

Eric: OK, so for almost 30 years, I’ve waited to ask someone from Talk Talk this question. What happened with the band at the end? Why the split? When do you see cracks in the band?
Paul: It wasn’t so much cracks in the band, but Lee and I really enjoyed touring, and Mark didn’t, really. That was it. He enjoyed being in the studio more than being on tour. He didn’t want to be away from his family, so you know, that’s what happened in the end.
Eric: Did you ever hold it against Mark?
Paul: Oh no, it wasn’t like that, you know? It was a very different work ethic. I was a bass player in a band and, and a bit on the outside, I was six years younger than Mark and I always loved the why he worked and where he took the direction of the band. So I was happy just to help.

Eric: Do you ever see Mark at all?
Paul: Naw, we don’t see each other. There’s not a lot of older musicians I keep in touch with anymore.
Eric: What’s wrong with you Paul? How come nobody likes to talk to you anymore?
PauL: Ha! I know! It must be something to do with me? No, I know a lot of musicians, and you stop working together and you move along, you know what I mean?
Eric: Do you ever any massive offers on the table to reform Talk Talk and tour?
Paul: Oh yeah, all the time, but it’s never going to happen.
Eric: Are you going to tour this record?
Paul: I’d love to, I’m just going to wait and see how the record does. The music industry is so much different than what it was. I don’t really have expectations, so I’m just going to hang in there and see what happens.
Eric: Do you recognize the music industry at all now?
Paul: Oh yeah, but that’s really because my daughters are telling me about what they’re listening to, and how they’re playing it on streaming, but yeah, it’s really, really different. My oldest one just applied at a job at a record store, so I think she dropped my name in there.
Eric: I guess they know what you did, do you ever get the old albums out, or to the YouTube to watch the old videos? Do they?
Paul: Oh naw, to them, I’m just dad.
Eric: It would be really funny if she ends up working there and then all of a sudden she’s talking all of your records kind of putting them at number one on the chart.
Paul: Ha, yeah, she’s a great musician, playing sax, and my other daughter is playing clarinet. They’re both quite graceful in their playing, so I suppose you might find them on my next record.
Eric: You could call it Rustin Man And Daughters.
Paul: Yeah, that could be!
Eric: Out in 2042?
Paul: Hopefully a little bit sooner than that.