Billy Ficca of Television

drummer Billy Ficca of TelevisionAfter Television emerged from New York’s punk underground in 1977 with their landmark Marquee Moon album–a sly balance of dissonance and melody, which became a template for The Strokes, Sonic Youth, Interpol, and countless others–they never really toured much. Odd, then, that since Television is now basically a part-time concern squeezed between the members’ other projects, they’re touring somewhat regularly and visiting exotic ports of call like Brazil, Iceland, and Russia.

“We played in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and we met some people who knew about Television from way back–when nobody was touring there,” recalls drummer Billy Ficca, the anchor in Television’s sea of wiry guitar improv. “It was interesting to know they’d even heard of us. We transcended the Iron Curtain. Mustn’t have been made out of very heavy material.”

Ficca’s unique drumming–a solid yet spacious style equally informed by jazz greats like Elvin Jones and rock icons like John Bonham–is key to the languid, noir-ish instrumentals on Television singer-guitarist Tom Verlaine’s recently released solo disc, Around. Not that Ficca recalls exactly how it all went down, seeing as the album was recorded in the late ’90s. Advertisement

“It was a lot of improvisation,” Billy says. “I don’t know how many takes we did of each song. I do remember saying, ‘Well, I’d like to do another take,’ and Tom would say, ‘Nah, that’s okay.’ Tom would sort of have a basic arrangement in mind and we’d go off from there.”

As for future studio collaborations with Verlaine under the Television moniker, Ficca is uncertain, if for no other reason than all the principals have a fairly full plate. “A while ago we were working on new stuff,” he explains. “But people get busy with their own projects, so I just don’t know when that’s going to go; there are no immediate plans. It might happen, or it might not happen at all.”

Patrick Berkery