Exclusive: Pete Townshend Speaks Out
The Who's Pete Townshend says his life is getting back to normal after a traumatic six months. The artist was accused of using his credit card to access a Web site containing child pornography and dowThe Who's Pete Townshend says his life is getting back to normal after a traumatic six months. Townshend was accused of using his credit card to access a Web site containing child pornography (true, he says, but for research on an Internet campaign against child porn and for his autobiography, which details sex abuse perpetrated on him as a child) and downloading such material (untrue, and declared such by British police).
"I know I'm innocent," Townshend tells Billboard.com, "and apart from the first day when I heard the news when I was quite shaky and made quite a shaky statement I think, I've been absolutely certain that it was not about me." After accepting a caution from police, Townshend was shocked to be placed on the U.K. sex-offenders' list, albeit for a limited period and at very low status.
Due to recent events, Townshend's name is now known to a wider section of the general public than even the millions of Who fans, but he feels to an extent insulated from that scrutiny. "The people that I really care about are the people who have reached out to me in these troubles, and those are friends, fans, family and strangers who feel they know me through my work," he says.
He emphasizes that he is not smug about what has occurred. "I have been rapped on the knuckles and I don't want to appear like I don't take this thing seriously," he says. "There is a measure of the kind of rock'n'roll arrogance that I still carry in my dotage that made me think I'd have no trouble with it. I really thought of myself as a professional researcher who worked to help victims, not a guitar-smashing rock star. But the old rock star arrogance carried me into very dangerous water."
However, there's no disguising the sadness that Townshend now feels too awkward about the issue of child abuse to do anything other than continue raising funds for its treatment. "I should say no more really because I think what's actually happened here is that I have been silenced," he says. "On this issue, the issue that I was so passionate about, which was the subversion of the Internet, here I am: I can't really say a thing."
Townshend has been working on his autobiography, but the project has stalled for unrelated reasons. "I'm about a third of the way through," he offers. "I was loving it and I got to the part where I leave art school and then off I go with my guitar and I join the Who, and I started to get incredibly depressed. I started to think, 'Oh f*ck, I've got to sit here for two years writing about the Who'. So I couldn't do it. And then circumstances recently made me feel that people really need to know who I actually am, and the only way that they'll have a chance of understanding that is if I dispassionately write my life story. So I'm thinking about getting back to what I call the morning program: sitting down with a piece of paper and picking it up."
Writing about the Who may not be something Townshend is keen on, but there is the probability of one last new studio Who album, rehearsals for which had started before Who bassist John Entwistle's sudden death in June 2002. The impetus for completing the album is coming from vocalist Roger Daltrey.
"He seems to be determined to get me back into a studio and to push me to making what he would call a Who album with him," says Townshend, "and I'm in no mood really to turn away from his friendship. He's been such a fantastic support to me in my recent troubles. So we'll probably go into the studio later this year and try and [get] some material out."
For more of Billboard.com's exclusive interview with Pete Townshend, visit the site on Friday.