Pete Townshend broke his silence on the Who's official website (TheWho.com) and spoke frankly about the band's new music, upcoming road dates, and his state of minds these days. Townshend, who has kept things close to the vest throughout 2018, thrilled fans with the official announcement of the first new Who album in 13 years, writing, "The Who will be back in action this year, with new recorded music, a new stage show (with absolutely no water drenching effects, lol), but some very special events. I’ve suggested we might do a special series of shows for our close fans towards the end of 2019; we shall see, plenty of time to work things out. More details to come soon, but it will certainly be an exciting year for us and it will kick off sooner than you expect. The Who’s managers, with Roger (Daltrey) and I, are still planning things, but we’re all committed to a new WHO year ahead."
Townshend also got personal in his post, talking seriously about navigating through a serious case of the blues: "At this time of year I suffer from a fairly mild form of manic depression that in the past has caused me to turn to all kinds of addictions, prescribed and otherwise. I think it’s what we now know as SAD, but almost as soon as the days start to get longer, it gets better for me. I’m feeling much happier already, and it’s still January. I send out heartfelt love and compassion to all those who suffer from depression more seriously, and not just in the deep winter months."
He went on to say: "Accepting the reality of clinical and psychological depression must be The Big Cause for 2019 . . . some artists have already been brave enough to speak about it. It’s not uncommon among creative people; it’s not uncommon period. Time to be aware, and be as kind as we can to people who suffer from depression that can disable them as surely as a car crash. Medication, very carefully handled and prescribed, can really help so many."
Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey both talked to Rolling Stone about the upcoming album and tour plans, with Townshend wanting to commit to new music before signing on for the 2019 dates, admitting, "I said I was not going to sign any contracts unless we have new material. This has nothing to do with wanting a hit album. It has nothing to do with the fact that the Who need a new album. It’s purely personal. It’s about my pride, my sense of self-worth and self-dignity as a writer." He went on to describe the new songs as: ". . . Dark ballads, heavy rock stuff, experimental electronica, sampled stuff and cliched Who-ish tunes that began with a guitar that goes yanga-dang.”
He went on to say that although everyone in the Who camp seemed excited by his new demos — the most important person kept his distance, revealing, "Just silence from Roger. I had to bully him to respond and then it wasn’t the response I wanted. He just blathered for a while and in the end I really stamped my foot and said, 'Roger, I don’t care if you really like this stuff. You have to sing it. You’ll like it in 10 years time.'"
Daltrey, who had perforated an eardrum in December, explained, "They’re all great songs but sometimes I hear them and I think, 'I can’t add anything to this to make my job as singer worthy of doing anything better than what Pete has already done.' There’s at least five or six I can lay into and I’m sure they’ll come out incredible. Now that I’m healed up, I’m going to spend time getting into them. Okay, so I didn’t get back to him quickly at first. It doesn’t mean anything! I was deaf for about three weeks. It wasn’t even possible for me to bloody hear what was in them!"
Townshend, who has known Daltrey since the pair were in their early teens spoke about how the two surviving Who co-founders deal with one another as septuagenarians: "One of the great difficulties here isn’t that Roger and I don’t get on. It’s that we don’t communicate. Over the years we haven’t really developed a dialogue. I don’t think that the fault is on my side. He feels a bit intimidated, perhaps, because I overcomplicate things, but we think very, very differently. We do talk on the phone. That’s the most significant way we communicate, though we don’t decide much on the phone. He doesn’t text and he’s just now starting to use e-mail, but he isn’t very good at it."
Daltrey admitted: "No, we don’t communicate well. But I’ve gotten quite insular, I suppose. I don’t know why that is, but I accept it. Is the chemistry between us still there? I hope there is. It’s been a year since we worked. We’ll see soon enough."
Townshend said the 30-date tour will be split in two legs and kick off in Michigan in May, hitting East Coast and Midwest cities such as New York City and Chicago with the second leg set for September and October playing the Western states along with a Canadian run. The band will be backed by a local orchestra at every stop.
For Daltrey, he's of two minds regarding the upcoming trek being a "farewell" tour: "I think it is always a mistake to ever say 'farewell,' but this will possibly be my last tour. I’m just being realistic about going through the 75th year of my life. I have to be realistic that this is the age I am and voices start to go after a while. I don’t want to be not as good as I was two years ago."
Townshend confirmed that the dates will feature orchestrations by arranger Keith Levenson, who worked with Daltrey last summer on his orchestral tour behind Tommy. Townshend is hopeful that the band can tackle some deep cuts such as the Lifehouse-era tunes "Time Is Passing" and "Too Much Of Anything" — but Daltrey, who decides the nightly setlist, remains skeptical with what they can serve up to an arena crowd: "You can’t please everybody. Some hardcore fans might bitch and moan, but 99.99 percent of the audience wants to hear the hits. I don’t want people scratching their b***s and going, 'I want to hear 'Baba O’Riley.'"
Townshend laughed when mapping out a timeline for the still-untitled new project, saying, "If (the label) can’t get it by Father’s Day, they don’t care when they’re getting it and so it might wind up being September or October." Daltrey added: "If it takes us until next f***in' Father’s Day, so be it. I loathe that part of the business. I just hate it. That’s why they’re working in an office and we’re on the stage."
Pete Townshend shed light on how after over 50 years, he's able to still consider what he does as "being in the Who": ["When we play songs that we've played at every single Who show — ever; like, 'I Can't Explain,' and 'Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere,' and 'Substitute,' I just get in a groove, and what I find myself doing is amusing myself that this is the 500th time that I've played this song — and it's still a good song. And, y'know, what are we — a Who copy band now? I don't feel like I did in the years prior to Keith (Moon's) death, which was that we were becoming a parody of ourselves. That was really quite a difficult thing."] SOUNDCUE (:28 OC: . . . a difficult thing)