"It's a group of musicians that Roger has chosen": Pete Townshend is candid about the live lineup of The Who in new interview

Pete Townshend of The Who performs at The O2 Arena on July 12, 2023 in London, England
(Image credit: Matthew Baker/Getty Images)

Pete Townshend's latest reflective interview with Mojo magazine is a typically forthright affair: The Who's icon doesn't flinch from an opportunity to be honest. Even to the point of revealing he had nothing to do with choosing the musicians who have toured as The Who in recent years.

"The interesting thing about Roger and I is it's not a band," says Townshend, while also revealing his current relationship with and singer Roger Daltrey is "better than it's ever been".

When Roger brings me onstage I am filling the shoes of a guy called Frank Simes

"It's a group if musicians that Roger has chosen," adds the guitarist, when asked how he'd describe The Who now. "I have not chosen any of the musicians I tour with – not even [drummer] Zak [Starkey}. When Roger brings me onstage I am filling the shoes of a guy called Frank Simes, who Roger tours with solo, and who is a guitar player and musical director."

Townshend admits he's "not 100 percent happy" with the situation but counters he's still out there celebrating his life and music regardless of who occupies the other roles in the touring band. 

"So I am happy to do it," he adds. "Someone reading this will say, 'Stop fucking complaining, Townshend, and put a band together of people you do want to use.' But that scares the shit out of me.

"I'd get Simon Phillips on drums and Pino Palladino on bass, and I'd dig 'Rabbit' [keyboardist John Bundrick] out of his bed," muses Townshend. "And I'd get some fabulous shredding guitar player… but the problem is, they'd all be far, far superior musicians to me.

I'm no Joe Satriani, but I'm playing pretty well

"Look, although I said I wouldn't pick this current band, they're still great musicians," he reasons. "It just feels easy and safe. But there are still places in the show where I get to express myself. I'm no Joe Satriani, but I'm playing pretty well, and Roger is singing great. His voice went for a few years, but he fought to get it back."

This is in contrast to comments to The New York Times earlier this year where the musicians suggested he didn't enjoy playing live anymore. Townshend also assures Mojo that The Who aren't necessarily over yet, and for any shows he can't make – he has a stand-in waiting in the wings.  

"When I can't pull it off, guess who pops out and says, 'I can do it! Me!'? My brother, Simon [laughs]"

One thing Townshend won't be doing is hiring Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam producer du jour Andrew Watt to helm a new Who album.

"I would certainly not consider going into a studio with Andrew Watt," he tells Mojo. "He is a very good friend of mine, but I know he would put me to work, and in two weeks he'd end up with an album he'd be very happy with and I wouldn't [laughing]. However fun one might have, it would be too much like hard work.

Read the full interview in the new issues of Mojo magazine.   

Rob Laing
Guitars Editor, MusicRadar

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before MusicRadar I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar in the UK. When I'm not rejigging pedalboards I'm usually thinking about rejigging pedalboards.