Photo by Sanna Charles
Daniel Treacy has been missing in action for a while. Back in the 70s and 80s, his group The Television Personalities wrote classic, funny songs like “Part Time Punks” and “I Know Where Syd Barrett Lives”, but the past few years of homelessness and drug addiction haven’t been quite so kind to him. After his fifth stay in prison, he decided to sort his life out a bit.
He’s still homeless (he’s staying at his sister’s), but he has made another good Television Personalities album. Called My Dark Places, and made with a new incarnation of his band, it alternates witty songs with some incredibly bleak, and pretty out-there material. “It’s how I am in real life,” Daniel says, “I have really terrible mood swings.”
He’s got some high hopes for the album, but is also doing other things. He’s doing some artwork, and is also making a film about dogs. He accidentally calls this his “pet project”, a remark for which he immediately apologises. His album is occasionally scary, but he is a funny, frank person to talk to.
Vice: Did you write the songs for the album in prison?
Daniel: I didn’t write anything in prison. But the last place I was in, [the prison ship] HMP Weare, was good for me. It’s a good place. You’re in a cabin, not in a cell, and you wake up in the morning looking over the bay. It’s absolutely beautiful, not like Brixton where there’s four wings and three or four hundred on each wing. You don’t hear anyone screaming at night.
Which other prisons have you been in?
I was in Brixton and Pentonville a couple of times, six weeks at a time. The longest sentence was six months. It’s less than a year in total—it was all for shoplifting, to get money to buy drugs. I’ve been sent to prison for non-appearance in court. I’d have never gone to prison if I’d turned up and paid the fine.
Which prison has the worst food?
Out of the ones I’ve been to, Pentonville, definitely. Disgusting, really disgusting. Brixton’s a close second—because of the number of people they’re catering for, most of the food is brought in from outside. A couple of prisons have chefs, and some have prisoners cooking, god forbid—razor blades in your instant mash. The prison boat had good food. In Brixton and Pentonville you don’t get a choice, and you queue up like in Porridge. In the boat they give you a menu. People go back there regularly.
The Television Personalities’ album My Dark Places is out now on Domino.