The Inventory: Ben Watt
Roula Khalaf, Editor of the FT, selects her favourite stories in this weekly newsletter.
Ben Watt, 51, and his wife Tracey Thorn are the enduring duo Everything But The Girl. Their nine albums, including Idlewild and Walking Wounded, have won one platinum and six gold disc awards. A DJ and promoter, Watt recently reprised his solo career.
What was your earliest ambition?
Marine biologist or rock star.
Public school or state school? University or straight into work?
Public school. My dad, an atheist and socialist, half-scoffed at it but valued the quality of the education. I quite enjoyed it but came out with mixed feelings. Then I went to Hull University to study drama and English; it was the first big choice I made myself. They had one of the few fully functioning studio theatres in the country; my interview was with Anthony Minghella; Andrew Motion was in the English department; Philip Larkin was the librarian. People went, “Hull?”. I went, “Yeah. And?”If you had a coat of arms, what would be on it?
An old bear and a young seabird. On the shield: a bend in a road; a vinyl record; a crashing wave. The coronet: a paper Christmas crown with a crest of feathers and driftwood. Underneath: a cornfield. The motto: “Forever Undimmed”.
Who was or still is your mentor?
I’ve never really understood the mentor thing. I don’t know if it was my late 1970s post-punk generation but I felt I grew up in a new world – a break with the past; do-it-yourself.
How physically fit are you?
Considering I nearly died in 1992 from a life-threatening autoimmune disease, I think I am in decent shape now. I used to do all-night DJ sets until quite recently. I’ve also discovered a love of tennis verging on the maniacal.
Ambition or talent: which matters more to success?
Depends on what you want to be successful at. I know very talented people who are largely unknown but don’t mind, and I know driven people with little talent who bore the living daylights out of all of us.
Have you ever taken an IQ test?
How politically committed are you?
I vote. Every time I am given the chance. That almost puts me in a minority these days.
Do you consider your carbon footprint?
In a rather desultory way.
Do you have more than one home?
Yes. A house in London and a flat by the sea.
What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?
I can never even think of anything I want for Christmas.
What’s your biggest extravagance?
I bought an extra season ticket at Barnet FC this season thinking my daughter might join me and my son at home games. She’s been once.
In what place are you happiest?
I ask myself this question a lot.
I think happiness often comes in intense but fleeting moments that we then reflect on and magnify, so that a happy moment in a particular place can become the place itself.
What ambitions do you still have?
To do the same but better. I am probably not alone in thinking that every next move is there to atone for the previous mistakes.
What drives you on?
A feeling that I’ve never quite said what I meant.
What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?
Staying with Tracey for 33 years, and looking at all our kids and marvelling at how we all get on.
What has been your greatest disappointment?
Realising that I have a genetic tendency towards depression, and it will always colour my life.
If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would he think?
If you lost everything tomorrow, what would you do?
Fresh starts don’t scare me.
Do you believe in assisted suicide?
On balance, yes.
Do you believe in an afterlife?
If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?
Can’t win with this one. 1.5 makes me look ungrateful. 9 makes me look a bit pleased with myself.
‘Romany and Tom‘ by Ben Watt is published by Bloomsbury (£14.99). His latest album ‘Hendra‘ is out now
Photographs: Ed Bishop; Getty; Barnet FC