Butch Vig and his new band ‘5 Billion In Diamonds’ have premiered their new song and video ‘Gravity Rules’. Check it out below along with our exclusive interview with Vig.
Vig, Garbage drummer and the legendary producer behind Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, Smashing Pumpkins’ ‘Siamese Dream’, Foo Fighters’ ‘Wasting Light’ and countless other seminal albums, has teamed up with UK DJ James Grillo and UK producer Andy Jenks to form 5 Billion In Diamonds.
Featuring Ebbott Lundberg from Soundtrack Of Our Lives, the psychedelic ‘Gravity Rules’ is the first taster from their self-titled debut album, due for release on August 11. The album features the all-star line-up of guitarist Alex Lee (Goldfrapp, Strangelove and Suede), bassist Sean Cook, drummer Damon Reece (Spiritualized, Massive Attack and Elizabeth Fraser) – and guest vocals from Helen White (Alpha), Sandra Dedrick (from The Free Design), and David Schelzel (The Ocean Blue).
See the video for ‘Gravity Rules’ below and read how the album came together in our exclusive interview with Vig.
5 Billion In Diamonds – that’s a cool band name, if you don’t mind me saying…
“Well, that’s James’ idea for the band name. He was trying to channel our love for all the music that we were referencing on the album from the ’60s and ’70s. He was trying to come up what he thought would be the title for a cult classic B-movies. It does kinda sound like a cult Michael Caine B-movie thriller from 1967 or something. As soon as he came up with the name, that gave us more of an incentive to start writing songs.”
When did you guys meet, and when it make sense to start working together?
“I’ve known James for close to 20 years now. My wife and daughter were very close to his family and at least a couple of times a year, we’d hang out with them. We spent a lot of Christmases in England or they’d come over here. James and I bonded over film, music, and wine – we both love Sauvignon Blanc and we drunk many bottles while we were making this movie. About three years, we went to an arthouse screening of ‘the Thomas Crown Affair’. Fuelled by many bottles of Sauvignon Blanc, we started talking about how great the score was. We started talking about great albums from the ’60s and ’70s, then after all this wine as challenged each other and said ‘if we’re going to do a score, what’s it going to sound like?’ So we wrote an imaginary soundtrack to ‘5 Billion In Diamonds’.
And what about Andy?
“His friend Andy, who lives in Bristol, is a super great guy and talented musician and producer. We enlisted him and he jumped on board. We started writing songs with no plans to even release and album. We just started sending each other beats, chords and samples. One of the reasons that it took so long is that I was working with Foo Fighters and Garbage, James has a full-time job and Andy works in a studio on other projects. It kept spiralling until a year ago when we realised that if we could get some singers on there, then we’d have an album.”
So it’s a record of guest vocalists? What other guests are on there?
“Yes, initially the tracks all start as instrumentals but we wanted them to be ‘songs’. The record became more focussed and glued together when we had some singers. We sat down and wrote a list of dream vocalists. One of the first people that James wrote on there was Ebbot Lundberg from Soundtrack Of Our Lives. We’re huge Soundtrack fans. About four years ago when they were getting ready to break up, they did a series of shows up in Stockholm. We went up to see them. James, fuelled by many glasses of vino, just bum-rushed them as said ‘hey, Butch and I have a band and we’d like you to sing with us’ and he just ‘ja, I would like to sing with you’. It really was that easy. He sang on like, four songs. That happened really quickly.”
“Well, the same thing happened with David Schelzel from Ocean Blue. James flew all the way from the UK to Los Angeles for 48 hours just to see Ocean Blue play a show about a mile from my house. After the show, it was the same thing – James just bum-rushed the band. A few weeks later he came down and recorded some tracks. It’s funny, I’ve been in the music industry for a long time and sometimes the infrastructure just gets in the way. This was just a labour of love for all of us.
“Sandy Dedrick from The Free Design plays on it, we just emailed her. It all just came together. We wrote ‘Glider’ in the spirit of The Free Design. There are about 80 or 90 vocal tracks on the record and it has a little bit of an electro-krautrock feel to it, but the vocal was totally inspired by them. Helen White sings on three or four tracks – those are the four lead singers.”
Is ‘Gravity Rules’ representative of the album?
“‘Gravity Rules’ is a bit of an anomaly. It’s based on a sample that plays through the whole record. James brought in a sample by a band called Les Enfants Terrible, we tried to recreate it but we just fell in love with it. The song still channels the vibe of the record – moody atmospherics, analogue keyboards, chiming guitars and a minimalistic drum groove. It’s one of our favourite tracks on the record.”
“If you hear the sample by itself, it sounds like someone is mumbling ‘Gravity Rules’ off mic after 40ft away, so Ebbott said ‘that’s cool’, I’ll make a lyric out of it.”
So if you were to imagine a plot for the movie ‘5 Billion In Diamonds’, what do you think it would be?
“That’s a good question! We’re all mad for psychological thriller, so it would probably start as a heist then turn into a wild, frenetic, killing frenzy – with a lot of spookiness.”
Does this mean that you’ve finished any work with Foo Fighters?
“I’ve just been working on some movie soundtracks, and now I’m fully into the zone of working on new Garbage material. Garbage are on tour all summer, then we’re looking at doing some live dates with 5 Billion Diamonds.”