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  Pete Waterman: full interview
Updated 05 February 2003, 11.32
Pete Waterman talks to Newsround Extra
Meet the man behind Kylie and One True Voice

NR: What do you think of the whole phenomenon of Popstars?

Pete: I find it interesting. People like to see people being real. I think one of the things people really like, is people being really real.

There's a certain edge about cruelty, if you're honest about it, most people wince but say "it had to be said".

Certainly in the modern age where everything is glossed over, when somebody speaks their mind, the majority of the public go "I'd love to have said that".


NR: Robbie Williams has said that it is cruelty for entertainment, do you think that's fair?

Pete: No, I think he is a prat. An utter and complete prat. Just because he's famous and no one dares tell him he's a prat. I tell him. His last record was a pile of rubbish.

NR: He's not worth the 80 million contract he's signed?

Pete: I wouldn't give him 80 pence. That's not fair, actually. Anyone who can sell as many albums and tours as he did, well that's fantastic.

But that's what it's about. It's about people telling people the truth. If, for arguments sake, you're rude for television's sake, it ain't reality TV, it doesn't work. The public see that you're using a script.

I think that my problem on Popstars: the Rivals was that the public are not stupid.

I kept telling Louis that you can't come out with blind comments that you've thought up the night before, it doesn't work. When he was quick a couple of times with comments that I thought were very funny, I laughed, even if I was the butt of the joke. They were quick and funny.

But when you've got people holding cards up or you're deliberately trying to make a situation for television, it doesn't work.

One of the things people seem to think is "bad is good", but if we'd actually shown you the worst people of Popstars, you couldn't have watched it. So you actually don't show the really bad people. So you actually show the people who are entertainingly bad.

You could say that's cruel too, but it isn't because these people know what they're doing. They're there for a laugh, they're there for a joke. The YMCA girl became very famous. Her mum put her up for that and promised her a week's shopping if she volunteered, because she'd driven her mum mad.

You get students... the Indian lad who rolled out the carpet had been put up to it by his doctor mates. Those are bad, but they're funny, because they don't take it seriously. They're just fooling about.

The Cheeky Girls are funny, but the mother takes it very seriously. But you really can't. When you're a judge, you're sitting there for 12 hours. And if you were being serious for all those 12 hours, you couldn't do it.


NR: Are you saying that it's as much about entertainment as the music?

Pete: Of course it is. The problem is you're only as good as the people you're interviewing, which is kind of what the judges are doing, they're interviewing somebody for a job.

If they're not very good, then you don't have a show. You cannot show 100% of awfulness, you've got to show some really good people.

Hopefully, when you're making these shows, you start to see people really start to shine. You see them really take it on, they develop the character. They take it onto the judges, it becomes a real deal.

I can assure you Simon and I never rehearse anything. We don't need to, we know someone's going to say something and start us off. Or we know we're going to see something that's truly amazing and we're going to praise them.

I know my taste is different to Simon's but I know with Simon, he is passionate about what we know. So you've got two judges coming from different points of view, but we're both passionate about it.


NR: Louis says he's trying to find the new Cliff Richard, what is it you're looking for?

Pete: The biggest mistake I made when I employed Louis is he's a manager. A brilliant manager, but not a A&R guy (talent scout) and that's the difference.

Simon and I are A&R guys. [What Louis said] is a typical manager statement. I'm just looking for the next thing that's going to sell records, I don't care if it's Led Zepplin or the BeeGees. I don't care as long as it's talented.

Louis's already narrowed down what he's looking for. Simon doesn't know what he's looking for, I don't either. It pops up and it works. I think that's where reality TV works, because you don't know where it's going. So you're siting on the edge of your seat saying "What's the next thing that's going to happen?"


NR: What about the public vote?

With the public vote which Simon brought in on Pop Idol. I used to sit on the computer desk sometimes and the votes were literally spinning us round. It was the complete opposite of what you thought.

You've got one track and then the public come in with something else and you realize it is a roller coaster ride and everybody likes a roller coaster ride.

I think one of the problems with reality TV is you can't have a Darius on every show, you can't have a Cheeky Girls, you're not going to have a G...G....G...Gareth Gates on every show.

Great gimmicks, great human stories, but you don't know before you start that you're going to get one. The problem is, now, television wants them, because they see those as the audience grabber.


NR: Do you think the public are bored of reality pop TV?

Pete: Of course not. You wouldn't be doing this spot if they were. I've been in the business for 40 years and people have always been saying to me "Pop music is dead." 40 years! What a long death!

Reality TV is here, it's been here really since the Carol Levis Discovery Show in 1957. It's never changed. It just looks a bit different.

Reality TV will always be here - it actually finds talented people and there are no scripts. The editing is what it's all about. Great editing makes those shows.

The format is not dead. I'd like to purchase the format and own it myself so that only I could make it.


NR: What happens to the acts after the programmes?

Pete: Who cares? After the programme, it's finished. You have a party and the producer doesn't ring you till the next series. That's television, that's what you have to accept. It has nothing to do with the music industry.

We've sold nearly 700,000 records. We are starting the new singles and albums now. The tours are all sold out. It's only TV that has finished.

Just because you don't see them the next day on TV that isn't the end of life. But the media thinks it is now.


NR: On a totally different subject, what do you think about Cheryl from Girls Aloud being locked up?

Pete: Cheryl Tweedy as the bad girl of pop I don't see some how, do you? It's like throwing Blancmange at a party. It's the best thing that's happened to her image.

If you go into a nightclub and have a few drinks, someone's going to have a go at you. If you can't take that, don't go into a nightclub.


NR: What next for One True Voice?

Pete: We're just starting the album. Trying to find out where we're going. Literally, I don't know. People forget that I had to do a TV show, my boys did all the vocals themselves.

That's five weeks doing backing vocals on 53 songs. We had two days to record the single. We didn't buy it in from someone else and put our name on it.


NR: Do you think it's a risk taking on something like Popstars the Rivals and ending up with a band that the public, not you, have chosen?

Pete: Yes, but everything's a risk. When Tim Burns brought me five kids called Steps, that was as big a risk as the public chosing the group.

I've got a slightly different problem to what a manager would normally have in that I've got two young guys, three older guys, people who are good in different genres. If you can blend it, who knows where we can go? That could be a blessing in disguise.


NR: Are you going to do Pop Idol 2

Pete: Yes. If Simon does Pop Idol 2, I will. We are the dream team. I've worked with Simon for over 25 years we know each other. I hope he hasn't changed that much since American TV made him a hero.

Maybe it's time for me to deflate his ego. But I spoke to him throughout the series. Simon's always going to be Simon. He was always arrogant. That's the beauty of Simon.


NR: What do you think about Hear'Say?

Hear'Say was a TV show without music. There was no musical input. It was a television show. That's one of the problems that these formats have.

They have to remember, always, it's a music show. Sometimes you have to pull the director back and shout at them for five minutes. You have to strike the balance.

At one point on Popstars the Rivals I had to say "If you say that this'll make great television one more time I'm leaving" Because it can't all be great TV.

At one point I thought I was doing Coronation Street. I had to say to Louis "This is not about you and I, it's about the kids!" It's not a soap, it's a reality show!

More InfoBORDER=0
WorldSix: interview highlights
WorldPop critic: full interview
WorldLouis Walsh: interview highlights

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