Former Cure drummer Lol Tolhurst, ex-Siouxsie and the Banshees drummer Budgie and producer Jacknife Lee have teamed up to form a new supergroup and share their debut single ‘Los Angeles’ featuring LCD Soundsytem‘s James Murphy. Check it out below along our interview with the legendary sticksmen.
Announced today (Monday July 24), the trio have shared details of their debut album’ Los Angeles’ – released in November via Play It Again Sam. The record will feature guest appearances from Primal Scream‘s Bobby Gillespie, U2‘s The Edge, Civil Rights avant-gardist Lonnie Holley, Mary Lattimore, Starcrawler‘s Arrow de Wilde and Mark Bowen from IDLES. The first taster of the record comes with the punky industrial rave of the title track, featuring James Murphy – presenting the dark side of a city that “eats its children” in a struggle for survival.
Tolhurst and Budgie, who first met in 1979 when The Cure were on the road with The Banshees, had always longed to work together before they found themselves together in LA piecing a project together with Jacknife. Over time, the city itself would prove to be the muse for the songs.
“We picked the right people,” Tolhurst told NME of the guests they landed upon. “We gave people free reign. They did all the lyrics – apart from ‘Train With No Station’ which I did with my son – and they were responding with whatever the music made them feel. Somehow we ended up with this very coherent album.
“We said, ‘This has to be called ‘Los Angeles’ because it’s about the place we made it and our experience there.”
Speaking of his own time as an LA resident, Tolhurst said: “I’ve lived out here nearly 30 years, and it’s been a completely different experience for me than others.
“A lot of people come out to see the glitz and glam or to get discovered, or they could discovered then destroyed or just destroyed. I came out here and found acceptance and love, which I didn’t have before. I found the community I needed to be who I am. The lyrics came back and they were writing about all the different aspects of either living in LA or living through the pandemic. I hate to use the term ‘concept album’ because we threw that away with punk, but there is a concept to it. It’s a story.”
Budgie agreed: “The concept was unexpected and was given to us. From the early days of playing two shows a day for three nights at The Whiskey, then walking back to the Tropicana to get a lift to the ocean, LA has always been this crazy place for m – and a great place to go to start a project.
“It was the place I went after me and The Banshees fell apart, where I could pick myself up.”
NME sat down with the two legendary drummers to find out how they came to form this project, their A-list guests, working with Jacknife, and what they may or may not know about the new Cure album…
Hello Lol and Budgie. What can you tell us about the Genesis of this record?
Tolhurst: “Originally Kevin Huskins from Bauhaus was going to be part of it, but he had to leave to go play with the band. The initial idea was to be something like The Three Tenors, but The Three Drummers – we could have no singers. Budgie finished his tour with John Grant, I have some friends on the coast so I just piled my car with stuff to make noise, we went out there and disturbed the neighbours for a bit and we came up with some stuff.
“All drummers are friends, so I’m friends with Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee. He has a big house with a beautiful studio. We went over, he said, ‘Don’t bother bringing any drums because I have shitloads’ – and he was right. We did some great work there.”
Budgie: “We started mixing, we had a singer for a bit, but it didn’t sound right. We went, ‘Oh well’, and then Lol mentioned Jacknife.”
L: “I’d met Jacknife socially as he lives near me. I took the hard drive with all of the stuff that we made and said, ‘What can we do with this?’ He had a listen and said, ‘Let’s just start again’. Budgie came back and stayed at my house for about two or three weeks, we’d go to Jacknife’s house every day and started working in a way that I haven’t done in years. Jacknife is a real audiophile and has about 20million LPs with 20 or 30 coming every day in the mail. We would sit around, drink coffee and listen to music.”
What was each day like at Jacknife’s studio?
B: “We were surrounded by historical vinyl from all corners of the world. It really was a little mystery tour through everything, and the music was always a part of the conversation. Lol was messing around with loops in his new synth, Jacknife and his engineer were always setting things up, we’d wander out into the house and things just started. We didn’t know where we were going and thought that at best we’d have an instrumental album. We were talking a lot about our favourites. Brian Eno’s albums with Robert Fripp were always a thing at the back of my mind.
“We were pooling our influences, and even our own back catalogue. We were looking back and reclaiming some of the beats that were given away in favour of the song. Now that’s the way it should be, but we were letting those drum beats loose again and seeing what happened this time. We were flexible.”
T: “We were reclaiming our art. If you’re the drummer in a band, then it’s a bit like being a shop assistant. People don’t always look at you as a person, they look at you as an adjunct to the whoever is making a sound with their mouth at the front. It’s not the case me for me or for Budgie, so we didn’t need to prove ourselves in that way. What happened just evolved from the conversation we were having in the studio every day.
“We’d listen to records, go make some noise for a few hours, go home, come back the next day and Jacknife would just press play and say, ‘What do you think of this?’ He’d rearranged everything.”
Two drummers and a superproducer is an unusual chemical compound. How would you describe that alchemy how you all gelled to come up with what would become songs?
T: “The most important part for me was that he had a vision of who we were as people that we didn’t have of ourselves. A lot of times you see yourself in one particular way, and he would say, ‘No, you did this’. He doesn’t like to make music without having a conversation.
“I knew it was right when it started to remind me of the way we would work at the start of The Cure. We would make these triptych songs that would go on for 10 or 15 minutes, and then we’d take the best bits to become one song instead. That’s a very natural way of doing things, and a way I hadn’t done since I was a teen. Back then we would just go to Robert’s [Smith, frontman] house and rehearse for three days a week, just sit in the room and play.
“If you like at the history of The Cure and The Banshees, we changed things up all the time. Music is in the only artform where people are expected to make things in the same form over and over. Nobody expects a painter to paint the same picture. What we discovered with Jacknife was that we had good communication.”
Is there a vibe, character or theme that holds this record together?
B: “I’d say being liberated. The producer wasn’t just the guy at the desk – he was involved in the whole process and made you excited about the things you were going to do. This was closer to working with [former art-rock band] The Creatures than The Banshees. “It was about how you feel than what you achieve, which was a real revelation. We were pinching ourselves when we were going back to Lol’s place. ‘Is this really this good? Is it really happening?’”
T: “When I played the old songs to Jacknife, we had a long talk for about three or four hours. I phoned Budgie and said, ‘I think I’ve found the man to do this’. I was in tears by that point, and it was more because we found someone who understood the process of making stuff. I was thinking, ‘Oh, that’s a Cure beat’ or ‘That’s a Banshees beat’ or ‘That’s a lyric we’d have done with The Cure’. It was more about going with how we felt emotionally above anything else.”
How did you come to end up with these guest vocalists?
B: “We were just about to go into lockdown and we were talking about what to do with these long instrumentals, and the first plan was just to send them to anyone who wanted to listen. I’d known Bobby Gillespie for years, but I had a good chat with him at a festival. I’d met James backstage once at T In The Park.
“It was nice to meet sanity in the insanity. Jacknife started sending out the tracks and we just waited to see what we got back.”
T: “I knew James as well because his son is a drummer and wanted to learn songs so I would send him videos of me playing stuff. James is a real music buff and historian. We knows more about me and Budgie than we know about ourselves. We told him we’d send him a couple of tracks to see what he thought, and I think part of him was anxious because it was two people he knew a lot about and wasn’t sure of how he’d perceive anything. Eventually, we calmed that side of things down.”
B: “Bobby came back with three lyrics, so Jacknife went about carving them up to make more song structures. We had a wishlist, I won’t go into the names, but not a lot of people came back through not wanting to leave their homes during COVID. We asked Joe [Talbot, frontman] from IDLES and he couldn’t do it, but Mark Bowen the guitarist could. He was over in LA doing other work with Jacknife. Each artist brought another layer.”
U2’s The Edge is on a few tracks. What does he bring to the record?
B: “His notoriety! We were just gobsmacked that he had even the time or inclination to even consider it. Jacknife has just been working with Bono and The Edge lives on the next hilltop. I’d met him a couple of times passing in a hotel or Soho or something, and he always took the time to come over, say hello and be approachable. It always gave me a warm feeling that The Edge found time to listen to what we’d been doing and lay down guitar after guitar. It’s not guitar you’d expect. I know he cited John McGeoch from early Banshees as an influence. It was nice to bring that cycle into it.
“I was shocked when John died and it made me come back look back at things. It was nice to loop this back to more of the people from where we’ve come from. It makes it all the more solid and addressed.”
T: “Edge has always done stuff outside of U2 that is more experimental. He played with Jah Wobble, so his mindset is more like ours.
And Lol, is there anything you might be able to tell us about The Cure’s long-awaited new album ‘Songs Of A Lost World‘?
T: “I don’t know. I saw Robert and the chaps a couple of weeks ago. They came to my adopted hometown to play. We had a brief chat about things, and I’m sure their album is coming out soon. It was a nice chat. It was like being back in the pub in 1977. We’re just excited to get this album out in November.”
What does it mean to have this record finally ready to drop?
T: “When you’re a young guy, you see life as a linear path. It’s not; it’s more like concentric circles. You fall off one circle if you’re not doing great, then you repeat the same again, or you move on to another. John Lennon once said, ‘Life is what happens while you’re making other plans’. The less we planned this, the more it worked.
“This is exactly the right time to release this now because everything is coalescing at the same point. We had a twofold slogan while making this album. It was from Waiting For Godot: ‘Nothing to be done’ and ‘Everything will be done’. Whenever you reach a point of frustration, we just said, ‘Nothing to be done’ and it worked, every time.”
Lol Tolhurst x Budgie x Jacknife Lee release ‘Los Angeles’ on November 3, with plans to tour also in the works. Check out the artwork and tracklist for the album below.
1. ‘This Is What It Is (To Be Free)’ [featuring Bobby Gillespie]
2. ‘Los Angeles’ [featuring James Murphy]
3. ‘Uh Oh’ [featuring Arrow de Wilde and Mark Bowen (Idles)]
4. ‘Ghosted’ At Home [featuring Bobby Gillespie]
5. ‘Train With No Station’ [featuring The Edge]
6. ‘Bodies’ [featuring Lonnie Holley and Mary Lattimore]
7. ‘Everything And Nothing’
8. ‘Travel Channel’ [featuring Pam Amsterdam]
9. ‘Country of the Blind’ [featuring Bobby Gillespie]
10. ‘The Past (Being Eaten)’
11. ‘We Got To Move’ [featuring Isaac Brock]
12. ‘Noche Ocsura’ [featuring The Edge]
13. ‘Skins’ [featuring James Murphy]