One thing about BOBBY GILLESPIE, right, he’s no time-waster.
Straight in the door to face Primal Scream’s Fan-ish Inquisition, he’s clapping his hands together, then laying them flat on the table with an exaggerated BANG. No messing about. No idle chit-chat. No need for other band members. He’s ready to get down to business. Isn’t he? Oh. He’s just walked back out again.
When Bobby returns from a brief moment of composure in the hallway, he admits he’s a bit concerned. He’s not sure he’s “very good at this” or that he’ll be able to summon up adequate responses. There’s a photographic spotlight on him, hundreds of probing e-mails in front of him, and he feels like he’s facing interrogation. He is, but he needn’t worry. Despite his crisis in confidence, Bobby Gillespie is an articulate, impassioned character, who talks it like he walks it. He’s a social historian of sorts, fighting the Thought Police with coruscating, driving, profoundly disturbing rock’n’roll music. And once he gets the verbal engines up and running, there’s no stopping him. Ready? Deep breath. Here we go.
Where does the death of Creation Records leave Primal Scream? Will you join Sony and subvert the mainstream from the inside or try to stay independent?
(Andrew Aston, West Midlands)
“We really don’t know. Creation doesn’t exist anymore, so I guess we’re on Sony. And there’s probably going to be a war. Things don’t look too good at the moment. It’s pretty fucked up. I think Alan is going to help out for maybe the next six months, but we signed to Creation – we never signed to Sony. I don’t think I can work with these people. They’re very conservative. For instance, Creation released ‘Echodek‘, which was a dub version of ‘Vanishing Point‘, and I don’t know if Sony would let something like that happen, because they might deem it uncommercial. We’ll have to see. Maybe it could work out, but I don’t think it looks too good. We’re contracted to them for two albums and it would be nice to have a good relationship, but we’re not going to take any shit. There’s so many labels inside Sony. It’s like its own universe. So maybe if we ended up on the right label and worked with the right people it could be good.”
Did the knowledge that you would be passed over to Sony influence your decision to release ‘Swastika Eyes’ as a single?
(Alessa Gillespie, Manchester)
“No, not at all. We chose it because it was a great comeback single. ‘Swastika Eyes‘. Great title. Great record. Great sounds. Great lyrics. You know what I’m saying? You can always come back, you’ve just gotta come back stronger.”
At this stage in your career, how do you rate the early stuff? Do you still think that ‘Gentle Tuesday’ is wicked, or are you now ashamed of this era?
(Natan Doron, London)
“I still think ‘Gentle Tuesday‘ is a great record. But I think The Byrds were a lot better at making that kind of music than we could ever be. Or Love, or Buffalo Springfield. But we were trying to reach for something greater, take something higher, you know, make something beautiful. I love ‘Gentle Tuesday‘, but I don’t think that first album’s all that good. I’m not embarrassed by it, though. There’s one song from that album called ‘Imperial‘, which we played on our last tour, that was another great single. We got to visit Abbey Road when we were making it, which was pretty exciting at the time. That was back in 1987, before people had heard of The Beatles.”
Why did you choose to collaborate with Kevin Shields?
(John Weldon, Waterford)
“We’ve known Kevin since 1988, when we used to go see My Bloody Valentine, because they were labelmates of ours on Creation. He’s a friend and a good musician, so we just got together. He’s coming on tour, playing guitar for us. I just think he’s an incredible fellow, so I’m quite happy.” Would you ever do an album of covers, and which songs would you pick?
(Danko Steiner, New York)
“Yeah, but I can’t say who or people will steal my ideas. I’ve got some great ideas for a covers album, but it wouldn’t be anything anyone would expect. A bit of country stuff, maybe. Deep soul. I don’t know, it would be nice to re-interpet some songs. And there are a lot of great songs that people probably haven’t heard that you could bring to their attention. We’ve covered ‘Five Years Ahead of My Time’ by a band called The Third Bardo, a real obscure American ’60s garage band. That’s going to be on a single in the summer. It’s great, I think. It’s just some American kids that took too much acid and wrote this fantastic psychedelic song, so we covered it, but we played about with it and did our own version. If we did do a covers album, we’d fuck around with the songs, not just copy them like most people do.”
What bands do you think will be big this year?
“I don’t know what bands will be big, but I know what bands should be big. Like Royal Trux. I think they’re rock’n’roll stars. And I like Bonnie Prince Billy, who is Will Oldham, a fantastic songwriter. That’s two people I’d like to see be successful because it’s long overdue.”
Does this feel like the first year of the 21st century, or the last year of the 20th century?
(Clay Banes, Berkeley, California)
“Someone actually sent that question in for me? Oh, they live in California. Well, then, the answer is, you should take some California sunshine acid, whoever you are, and find out the answer for yourself. Then tell me, because I don’t fucking know.”
Do you hope that your fans will be inspired by the political content of your music, or are you happy for them just to like it for the tunes?
“Just like it for whatever they like it for, I don’t care. We ain’t preaching to anybody. If someone just loves it as a great rock’n’roll record, that would make me really fucking happy. People should take from it what they will. Once they’ve got it, it’s theirs.”
Why have the band become increasingly political the older you get? Or has it always been there and now you’re bringing it to the fore?
(Chris Lindsay, Scotland)
“Everyone in the band had that Scottish Socialist upbringing. So it’s always been there. We’ve just started writing about different things. Maybe we found it harder to write about these subjects before, but as we’ve gotten to be better songwriters we’ve learned to express ourselves in a more clear and defined way. Also, it’s been twenty years since Thatcher was elected, and we are only now really seeing the damage that she has done to the country. Maybe now is the time to write about it, because it’s more a part of the powerlessness that people have. I’m writing about the culture. Twenty years ago there was a Trade Union movement, and now there is none. Twenty years ago there was a strong left wing opposition, now there is none. It’s a one party state. It’s like America, with a delusion of democracy. So, now we’re in a position where we can write about it, because we’re seeing it and feeling it and we’re angry about it. Although, I know it sounds pretentious, but ‘Imperial’ – which was our third single or something – was about how, if you look at the history of left-wing movements, there’s always in-fighting and they end up killing each other while the right-wing just stand firm and fucking stay in control. That was an early stab.”
Do you think a band can successfully record a rock’n’roll album without any use of guitars?
(James War, Glasgow)
“Yes. The first Suicide album, there’s a great example.”
You’ve always been a fan of Madonna, and you’ve mentioned other pop singers from time to time. What are your top five pop songs?
(Oliver J., London)
“I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Madonna – I’m a fan of her singles. Last year’s single of the year was ‘Beautiful Stranger‘. There are a lot of great pop singles. Like, Blondie are amazing. But they’re just fucking in another realm, though, they’re incredible. Or I could say T. Rex’s ‘Get It On‘, but that’s a rock’n’roll record. Okay, it would have to be Madonna, ‘Into The Groove‘, then ‘I Feel Love‘ by Donna Summer, ‘Heart Of Glass‘ by Blondie, ‘Blue Monday‘ by New Order, and ‘Sheena Is A Punk Rocker‘ by The Ramones.”
What’s the best possible direct action you would like to see from someone hearing the ‘Exterminator’ LP?
(Michael Lock, Perth)
“Tear their clothes off.”
Do you set out to make your albums appeal to weed smokers with all the weird noises and whatnot or is it just a fluke that they’re the most amazing thing to listen to when stoned?
(Ryan Scott, San Francisco)
“We’re a bunch of psychedelic heads, and if it fucks up our heads then we want it to fuck up your head. Keep on trippin’, brothers and sisters.”.
Do you agree with Alan McGee that the future of music is through downloading off the internet?
(Warren Duff, Stapolin)
“I don’t know that much about it. But if it destroys record companies, then it’s good. Whatever gives the bands the most artistic freedom and the chance to make more money out of the fruits of their labour than the record company does is alright by me. Because right now, record companies are worse than the fucking mafia. The money that they give you as an advance is just a fucking loan. It’s a debt that’s beyond a mortgage. I mean, we’re okay because we started out with Creation with a 50/50 deal, which a totally Socialist record deal. Most of them only give bands like ten or eleven percent, they just rip people off. I really don’t know about this internet thing, but if it liberates the bands to press up their own CDs and sell them straight without having to deal with the record company middlemen, then I’m all for it.”
Come back to nme.com tomorrow for Part 2 of Bobby Gillespie’s Fan-ish Inquisition…