June 24, 2004 at 11:04 am #47103
Rollercoaster – Tour De Force
The Stud Brothers / Melody Maker
The Mary Chain, Blur, the Valentines and Dinosaur all touring together proved too much of a temptation for the Stud Brothers who tagged along for the ride, blagged their way backstage and drank all the booze they could get their hands on. Here’s what they can remember.
It’s true that "Rollercoaster" is the best show you’ll see this year. The evidence is there onstage – the Valentines’ dream-quest into ambient heavy metal, Blur’s bold, knowing nihilism, Dinosaur’s compulsive, self-destructive cacophony and the Mary Chain’s indefatigable cool. As Blur’s Damon Albarn remarks with a grin, "It’s the four faces of teenage alienation". And all for 12 quid or, as one spectacularly shabby William Reid lookalike puts it, "a mere one-third of your unemployment benefit". Rollercoaster is undoubtedly cause of celebration.
Nonetheless, there’s little or no evidence of the confident, self-congratulatory camaraderie that apparently characterised Rollercoaster’s American forebear, Lollapalooza. Still, this is only the second night. Dinosaur and the Valentines excepted (te two recently toured the States together), the groups don’t actually know one another. Backstage in Glasgow, the atmosphere’s one of awkward but inviolable politeness. When members of different bands meet, they exchange sheepish nods and single syllable greetings, reminding us of house-guests bumping into each other on the way to the bathroom.
When we finally catch up with the Mary Chain, William’s casually reclined on a sofa and a tired-looking Jim is sitting upright in a chair, both inadvertently mimicking the pose they struck for the sleeve of "PsychoCandy". Jim is unusually quiet, partly due to a monstrous hangover and partly because the Glasgow gig is to be played before the admiring but unnerving eyes of the Reids’ extended family (which, by the way, seems to consist almost entirely of 14-year-old girls and some fairly fierce-looking matriarchs. Plus there’s Jim and William’s delightfully gregarious mother who gives us the distinct impression she’d give a pretty good interview herself).
We ask about the muted atmosphere backstage.
"Well, for a start it’s only the second date of the tour," says William, "so there’s no buddy-buddy, hanging around in the bar. We just say, ‘Hi’, and get on with it. Maybe by the end of it we’ll all be good mates, maybe we’ll all be breaking bottles over each other’s heads, saying, ‘I never wanna see you again in my life, ya bastard!’. Who knows?"
Two weeks before Rollercoaster began, the Maker ran an article in which Murph, Dinosaur’s drummer, suggested that the whole tour had been conceived specifically to promote the Mary Chain’s new album, "Honey’s Dead". Jim and William were reported to have been incensed by the remark when it first appeared in print, but have since discussed the matter with Dinosaur.
"That was said in a conversation, not in an interview," says Jim, "and it should never have been written down. When we approached the others with the idea for this tour, any one of them could have said no. Tours are always to promote thingsg, everyone here is promoting their stuff. You can have a good time and put on a great show, but the idea is promotion. It always is."
Dinosaur’s J Mascis and their extraordinary-looking bassist, Mike Johnson (he appears to have dyed his hair grey), now seem only slightly embarrassed by the gaffe.
"That wasn’t either of us," says Mascis, cheerfully passing the buck. "That was Murph".
Mascis is one hell of a lot more forthcoming than we’d expected. In fact, he might almost be described as garrulous. Maybe he finds it easier to talk in the dark. Dinosaur’s dressing-room is lit by a single sorry candle and the steady orange glow of a couple of jossticks.
"We heard that people might have been upset by what Murph said," says Mike. "Well, not upset, but they might have thought we were…"
He searches for a word.
"Dicks," suggests Mascis, helpfully.
"Yeah, right. Assholes," Mike continues. "But it was just an off-the-cuff remark."
"The weird thing was," says Mascis "that 20 minutes before Murph said that, we’d been explaining to him that all tours are about promoting things. He didn’t seem to grasp the concept. When he said that, we looked at him like, ‘What are you saying?’ because, at the time, touring and promoting was exactly what we were doing."
Mike is later kind enough to introduce us to the Valentines’ Kevin Shields and Bilinda Butcher who’ve just finished the first set of the evening. Kevin seems quietly bemused by "Rollercoaster". Either that or he’s been lobotomised by the extraordinary volume his group employ.
"It’s gonna be really odd tomorrow night," he whispers, "when Dinosaur go on first. It’ll be like they’re supporting us, and we’ve just toured America supporting them."
"It’ll be great," says Mike, magnanimously. "I think it’s so cool supporting you guys. Soon we’ll be supporting you in the States, too."
Do you think any of you have anything in common?
"I think," says Kevin, "the only thing the four of us do have in common is that we’re all pretty much the Establishment."
This notion is one shared by everyone here except the Mary Chain. Damon, unprompted, later repeats almost word-for-word what Kevin has said. It is a peculiar idea because, while it’s certain that all four bands are deserving of music paper front covers, they’re hardly bosom buddies with Simon Bates. Dinosaur are often a wilful shambles who take a perverse pleasure in lacerating their best pop songs with vicious feedback. My Bloody Valentine are arguably one of the weirdest bands on the planet and currently without a recording deal. Blur, carelessly indulging their present obsession with Syd Barrett, are getting stranger by the minute. And the Mary Chain, in our opinion the most immediate and accessible of all four groups, couldn’t get "Reverence", a Top 10 single, on "Top Of The Pops".
"Someone the other day in Germany was saying that we were part of the Establishment," says William, "so I asked him to name a band that were more extreme than us. He couldn’t do it."
The Mary Chain, now embracing Ben Lurie (guitar) and the two former Starlings, Matthew Parkin (bass) and Barry Backler (Barry once auditioned to play drums with Nick Cave’s Boys Next Door), are now an immensely powerful live band. The four of them, lined up at the edge of the stage, three armed with guitars and Jim draped spectrally over the mikestand, look and sound like the classic rock assault. William’s also become a very great guitarist, able to give a new force and aggressive dimension to the Mary Chain’s gorgeously insidious melodies. This new confidence, striking in itself, is accentuated by a simple but spectacular lightshow of sensuous crimsons and velvet purples. It’s the Mary Chain’s most extravagent lightshow to date, so much so that when it was initially proposed Bennie, their longtime tour-manager and friend, expressed reservations.
"I thought it might be too much, too big. I thought it might undermine them."
In fact, it does quite the reverse.
After the show, a jubilant Mrs Reid tells us that tonight was one of the highlights of her life.
"My boys," she says, sounding touchingly awestruck. "I’m so proud of them."
We leave for the hotel so that the Reid brothers and their family can be proud of one another in peace. In the bar, much of what we’d hoped would happen backstage is taking promising shape. This is in large part due to Blur who’ve basically been rocking since four o’clock this afternoon when bassist Alex James decided Guinness was best savoured through a straw. Blur’s dressing-room was teeming with people of indeterminate but doubtless dubious intent and, when earlier we invited Damon to have a drink with us in the auditorium’s bar, he was mobbed within six feet of the backstage area.
Now the boys are heroically drunk. First evidence of this is when Dave Rowntree, their lanky, ginger-headed drummer, starts playing a dangerously competitive game of knuckles with Lampy, Blur’s lighting technician. The game rapidly deteriorates into a continuous rerun of the banned Tango advert, and ends when Dave cracks Lampy with a devastating right hook to the jaw and, as if in sympathy, passes into unconsciousness.
Across the room, Alex, who reminds us a little of Rupert Everett in "Another Country", is being apologised to by a man who was once uncharitable enough to devote a whole feature on Blur to how much he disliked Alex. Alex in turn is uncharitable enough to refer to the man as "an enormous homosexual". Since the man is neither tall nor particularly heavy we can only assume Alex was referring to the enormity of his homosexuality. A good deal of handshakes are exchanged but nothing is resolved.
Damon decides to help Dave up to his room and Alex, having abandoned his penitent adversary, decides he needs another drink. Since the bar has long since shut, Alex clambers over it and tries to operate the pumps. When this fails, he starts picking at the lock of the metal shutter that mercifully separates him from the optics. When that fails, he attempts to vault the bar, fails again and crashes arse-first to the floor, much to the astonishment of J Mascis and the Valentines’ Deborah Goodge, who have hitherto been locked in conversation nearby.
Alex, who appears to have the remarkable ability to sober up at will, then wisely decides the carnival is over, bids us a fond adieu and retires for some well-earned kip.
Jim Reid, probably present for some time (we’re actually in no better state than Alex), wanders over and asks is we enjoyed the show. We tell him it was great.
It was great.
The best show you’ll see this year.June 24, 2004 at 11:13 am #103226
Welcome to the Cheap Seats
J&MC, Valentines, Blur and Dinosaur Jr — All For 12 pounds 50!
The two key words for The Jesus & Mary Chain this year are ‘reverence’ and ‘rollercoaster’. ‘Reverence’ is the name of the comeback single that experts are already calling "a big, bruising wall of gore and feedback." It’s a song that successfully holds true to the classic Mary Chain sound, while embracing dancier rhythms. ‘Rollercoaster’, meanwhile, sees the legendary Scots soundsmiths embark on a real old cavalcade of a UK tour (starting March 24), with My Bloody Valentine, Blur and Dinosaur Jr — serious division one noise bands all — playing sets every night. The idea, as Mary Chain guitarist William Reid laconically admits, was inspired by Jane’s Addiction’s pigeonhole-busting Lollapalooza tour of the US last year with Siouxsie And The Banshees, Ice-T, Nine Inch Nails and Living Color. And the presence of the other three bands should jack Rollercoaster’s expected thrill-count up by several hundred per cent. Also, tickets are going for 12 pounds 50 — pretty reasonable when you consider that seeing these bands on their own would set you back around 35 pounds.
"Basically," says William, "we thought a tour like this would be more exciting, both for the audience and for ourselves. We chose bands which we thought would offer diversity for the audience. I suppose My Bloody Valentine and Dinosaur Jr. have pretty much the same audience as us. Not so much Blur, perhaps. Maybe there’ll be people who come to see them and find the other three bands really good too."
So let’s see. That’s Jim and William Reid of the Mary Chain, Kevin Shields of the Valentines, Damon Albarn of Blur and J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr … who’s likely to be the first casualty to exit bleeding from this battle of the egos?
"There’s not been any problem with billing," says William firmly. "Each band will play 45 minutes and each’ll get a 45 minute soundcheck. We play last every night, and the other three bands rotate the order each time. It’s not your traditional headline/support group line-up. Originally we wanted seven or eight bands but it was too complicated with the venues we’re playing and bands’ schedules, etc."
The more churlish among us, of course, would point out that the Mary Chain’s two-year silence has hardly kept them in the news, and that ‘Rollercoaster’ smells like a blatant attempt to get back in the public’s hearts on the coat-tails of three currently more cred bands.
"We’re very aware that we may have been left behind," William concedes.
"It’s two and a half years since we last had a record out and things have changed so much since then. The Stone Roses hadn’t really been heard of much at that time. Primal Scream have metamorphosed into a completely different band."
And a bigger one than the Mary Chain at that. Has the success of one-time Mary Chain drummer Bobby Gillespie surprised his former employers at all?
"It doesn’t surprise me, no. They’ve always been a good band — right from the start they’ve made some great records. Now they’re getting the recognition they’ve always deserved. The dance thing has been the major thing, obviously."
And what about yourselves? ‘Reverence’ sounds like you’ve been paying attention …
"We’ve been influenced by all these things," says William. "It’s not something that you do in a contrived way, but you can’t help hearing the stuff that’s around and being influenced by it. People who’ve heard the album say it sounds like us but it’s very different — which is what we were aiming for. It’s called ‘Honey’s Dead’, a reference to ‘Just Like Honey’ (J&MC single from 1985) — the idea that the old Mary Chain has been left behind and we’ve moved on."
So how come this album took so long to make? A Valentines-style
campaign-under-cover-of-darkness? A drought of ideas? An inter-personnel falling-out of G’N’R proportions? William explains it was nothing so convoluted.
"There’s no point in making the same record every time you come to do an album. That’s why it’s taken so long, really. You have to wait for the songs to come, songs that are worthwhile. When you do an album you’re, like, spent. All your energy and your ideas go into that record. You can’t just do another one straight away. It takes time."
‘Honey’s Dead’ will be released on blanco y negro at the end of March.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
- Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window)
- Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window)