Beloved of John Peel and emissaries of the pre ‘indie’ independent music scene, The Wedding Present remain masters of choppy, melodic ditties about (un)requited love, adept at articulating the quotidian events we all live through.
A lot of your songs are gloriously quixotic snapshots about the perils of love with vivid lyrical themes in songs like ‘No’ and ‘My Favourite Dress’ detailing the things ‘left behind’ when a relationship stumbles and falls (‘his’ razor, ‘her’ dress) and being wronged. What have traditionally been your sources of inspiration (life, film, literature, etc.?).
Doesn’t ‘quixotic’ mean ‘unrealistic’? I think my writing is just the opposite. I’m interested in the minutiae of relationships … I like to write about what actually happens, rather than some imaginary situation cloaked in metaphor, hence the references to the everyday … though I have been known to decorate the songs with science fiction or comic book references …
But yes … my sources of inspiration are everywhere… films, books, newspapers, snippets of overheard conversations…
Are you always the protagonist in your missives?
Kind of. In the songs that are not wholly autobiographical I become the protagonist by placing myself in the role… in the same way as an actor does… and exploring how I would feel in that situation, what I would say and do…
Who is/was Kevin?
I just needed a name for the character in ‘Give My Love To Kevin’ and my best friend at school was called Kevin. So I thought… why not?
Your first Top 40 hit ‘Kennedy’ was unleashed on the world in 1989 and is one of the defining songs of the decade. Is it about the dearth/death of the American Dream?
I’m not really one for explaining my lyrics. That’s usually because they’re so obvious but ‘Kennedy’ is different from my usual style. It’s a lot more vague, for one thing. I wrote it after reading about the Kennedy assassination and the theories about mafia and CIA involvement… so draw your own conclusions!
What have you learnt learn from your time with the legendary musician/producer Steve Albini?
I think the main thing I learnt from Albini was that spending a long time and a lot of money in recording studios doesn’t necessarily guarantee that the finished product will be any better… and much of the time it will be worse. When we started working with Albini we went back to using the methods we used when we’d first started recording… just setting up and playing live. The Beatles used to record whole albums in a weekend that way and they didn’t do too badly.
Why were your vocals so low in the mix on (1991’s) Seamonsters?
I think ‘so low’ would depend on your taste. In Wedding Present mixes, the vocal is typically seen just as another instrument and not as the main feature of the arrangement. In Cinerama, my ‘other’ band that’s less the case. So it depends on context.
As one of John Peel’s favourites and in the tenth anniversary of his passing, can you tell us an anecdote about him?
Talking of Cinerama … when we played live at John Peel’s house I proudly mentioned that we had brought along a flautist. He said: “I have to warn you that the last person to play a flute in this room is now buried in a shallow grave at the back of the house”.
Releasing a single a month in 1992 (equalling Elvis Presley’s record for the most U.K. Top 30 hits in one year) seemed like an act of subversion, annoying the gatekeepers in the process, nowadays it would come across as folly. What inspired that decision?
I’ve never wanted to be an album / tour / another album / another tour … type of artist and so I’m always trying to think up new thought provoking and challenging projects. The Hit Parade series was just one of these schemes, along with our foray into Ukrainian folk music, our ‘re-imagining’ of a Wedding Present album as Cinerama, the Mini concept album, my singing with the BBC Big Band … even the Wedding Present comic book…
For an individual that’s always looked ahead what’s your subjective and objective take on the ‘nostalgia’ trip, the self-curation of your history?
Although I still prefer to look ahead I think I’ve grown more accustomed to the concept in recent years … since we started playing some of our older albums live, in fact. I really didn’t want to do it at first but I was talked round. Then I discovered that I actually really enjoyed it! I think I‘ve come to find myself agreeing that a band’s past and present is as valid as its future …
You’re playing at the inaugural ‘Shiiine On’ weekender at Butlins Minehead in November 2015, what are your thoughts on that in what will be your 30th anniversary?
Thirtieth anniversary? That makes me feel like Status Quo. I’m really looking forward to it, actually. It looks like it’s going to be a great event in a great location.
You’re frequently mistaken for being a Leeds fan whereas you are a Manc.
Well, the situation is not completely straight forward. I was born in Leeds, grew up in Manchester and then went back to Leeds University, where The Wedding Present was started. So I have a foot on both sides of The Pennines and probably the only person from Leeds to support Manchester United.
How are you coping with the after the-goldrush days at Old Trafford?
Don’t fret… we’ll be back! I find myself liking very much the cut of Louis van Gaal’s jib.
With most couples opting for money nowadays have you thought about changing your name to ‘Cash gifts only. No toasters required’?
I can’t really see it fitting on a T-shirt.
Who’s your favourite Spice Girl?
What is this … 1994?
Depeche Mode’s Martin Gore resurfaces with an instrumental album that neatly follows his 2012 collaboration SSSS with ex-Mode colleague, Vince Clarke.
Billed as ‘themes from an imaginary film’ MG in many ways pays homage to the film work of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream. This is a nod and wink to his influences both as a band member and as an individual still in thrall to the capacity for music to inspire, create and open up.
With purely instrumental albums a question arises that are they ideas in search of a narrative/thread such as images and words or can it stand alone, freeing the listener to wander, to drift off and become subsumed and consumed by the imagination? Instrumental albums are like a colouring pad, you choose lyrics or images or leave it blank and let it wash over you.
Like Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies the titles and music are purely a guide to deploying your emotions and thoughts, no two experiences will be the same. The track-listing is superfluous, played in another order the results are likely to be different, this is about the journey not the destination. The titles are whatever you imagine them to mean. Where artists like Aphex Twin and Squarepusher choose random, nonsensical titles (e.g. ‘s950tx16wasr10’) Gore opts for predominantly one word titles, code words to unlock and turn the imagination, the keys to another dimension; an emotional and mysterious film of your making: assemble, disassemble and reassemble. Start again. If the tracks are played in a different order = different film, the choice is yours. Let your imagination and emotions run amok.
‘Spiral’ is a machine-like grind, pullulating and throbbing, you detect the influence Gore et al had/have on the likes of Nine Inch Nails and other industrial groups. This could benefit further from being longer. ‘Stealth’ is the sound of surveillance, the crunching and processing of data that watches, surveys, assesses, concludes and reports. You can’t see it, but, it’s got your number(s). The track has a grooving malevolence and is akin to Kraftwerk’s ‘Pocket Calculator’.
‘Hum’ captures the hum of the drone, here to see you through to the last breath of death. The portentous ‘Islet’ evokes Tangerine Dream and is like conversing with the UFO in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. ‘Southerly’s’ drum, thump, pump procession is ceremonial and sacrificial bringing to mind Logan’s Run, the sci-fi tale where no one lives beyond the age of 30 to avert over-population, when the drums fade out your ‘Carousel’ is here.
Overall it conjures a feeling of an uncertain future, one we were warned to be wary of yet have rushed to blindly embrace. A perpetual past-present ensures we’re all trapped in a vibrational stasis, a prison with no bars, guests in Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon. This hour can be anything you want it to be, a Phillip K. Dick outre-sensory interlude or the soundtrack to the ever-high-rising suburban sprawl disguised as progress, unaffordable cubed-rooms in place of history, ‘Ballads for Ballard’, if you like. Needless to say there is a dystopian feel to this album, a futuristic collection that echoes a techno-passed/past-present.
Simon Reynolds once wrote of Depeche Mode ‘the boys from Basildon took the ‘conform to deform’ concept and ran with it’. Gore still is.
Forward thinker and innovation-seeker Jimmy Krankie continues his ‘po-mo’ collage catalogue with this offering. Aside from his obligatory lift from The Beatles (‘Something’ gets its chance to be pilfered) the pint-size maestro’s clearly been chillaxing to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon with some Doves thrown in, the result as unpalatable as you’d expect. His hushed, breathy lyrics allied to another profound ‘film’ leave the victim spiritually bereft.
About as mystical as a Bank Holiday in B&Q. In Goole.
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The blog of Robin Carmody. Liberal humanist, reformed ex-Stalinist and former anti-anti-anti-Semite, melancholy Europhile and romantic-ruralist socialist. Londoner by birth, Kentish Man by upbringing, Portlander by adoption. "More like Roy Harper than Fairport Convention" - Simon Reynolds, 2003. May be the horsiest Leftie in the Anglosphere, but there are many horsier ones beyond.
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