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A Quietus Interview

The Jesus And Mary Chain Interview: Alan McGee, Oasis And The Future
Julian Marszalek , October 10th, 2008 10:39

In the second part of our exclusive interview Jim Reid talks to us about indie's Malcolm McClaren, Alan McGee and how the Mary Chain were necessary for Oasis.

Read the first part of our exclusive interview with Jim Reid.

Was Darklands a deliberate attempt to not record Psychocandy 2?

Jim Reid: "Looking back on it - and I’m not apologising for it because I still love that album – but we did deliberately nudge it in that direction. It seemed to us that we’d done Psychocandy and all that anybody wanted us to do was Psychocandy 2 and we reacted against that. There were a lot of people who said, Psychocandy’s great but you’ll never follow it up. You should split up now’ and y’know, we didn’t want to split up. We wanted to make another record but we didn’t want to be told what that record should be like. It was partly self-consciously constructed but we were getting pressure from all sides. We were getting pressure from the music press who wanted Psychocandy 2 or our fans who wanted the noise cranked up and then there were the American record company types who wanted a Bruce Springsteen record or something like that. In the end, you have to listen to everybody and then go away and decide what you want to do.

Did you miss having a drummer at that point?

JR: "No. We always liked rock & roll bands that used drum machines and another huge influence on the Mary Chain at the time was the album by Dr Mix and the Remix and that to us just sounded mental, a feedback frenzy with a tiny little drum machine bopping all the way through it. It sounded great. That kinda sound always interested us, like Suicide and stuff. Looking back on it now, the mistake we made with the drum machines was that we tried to make them like real drums; we should have left them sounding cheap and drum machine-like but we didn’t.

But you certainly nailed the use of drum machines with 'Sidewalking'.

JR: "Yeah, we’d pretty much sussed it by then, how to use a drum machine and make it sound like a bloody drum machine. We dipped our toes into the hip-hop waters at the time. The drum sample for 'Sidewalking' was from Roxanne Shante and we were listening to Stetsasonic and Run DMC and stuff like that."

It's easy to forget just how big the Mary Chain were in the late 80s and early 90s, especially when you think of things like the Rollercoaster Tour.

JR: "Yeah, we chose all the bands for that tour and everybody was saying, ‘Why the bloody hell have you got Blur on the line up’ and a couple of years later Blur were like The Beatles or something. For that tour, we wanted something that represented different styles. Dinosaur Jr were American rock, the Valentines were British indie noise or whatever and Blur were supposed to represent that whole baggy thing that was going on."

How much of an impact did baggy have on the JAMC? You were certainly playing with dance beats at the time.

JR: "Everybody got into that, though; it was hard not to. First of all it kinda scared the shit outta me cos it seemed to make us less relevant but then we got over that and thought, well this music’s good and rather than run away from it we should just embrace it and see what we can learn from it. You can tell on stuff like Reverence and the Honey’s Dead album. Yeah, Honey’s Dead is my favourite Mary Chain album."

How did the appearance of Oasis in the early 90s make you feel? Did you feel that they'd stolen your thunder?

JR: "Oasis was weird because the similarities between Oasis and the Mary Chain were astounding and we thought, this should be us but at the end of the day, fuck it. Oasis are a great band and I like the music too and that’s all that really matters. But there was no malice directed at Oasis but we did feel as we’d missed the boat a little bit."

What caused the rift between you and William that led to the break-up of the band?

JR: "God, I’ve thought about that many times and I’m not sure. At the very beginning of the band, me and William were almost like Siamese twins. Musically we agreed on almost everything but we’d have disagreements over how the songs should sound and we came to blows a few times in the studio during Psychocandy but it was always kinda constructive but by then end of the argument you’d see what the other was trying to get at and it was all towards making a better record but towards the end we were just arguing over anything just for the sake of having an argument. It must be to do with the drink and the drugs. In the beginning, we may have done drink and drugs but never in the studio but then we started to get off our tits in the studio. But yeah, that’s it: once you introduce drink and drugs into a creative situation then you’re no longer arguing about how to make a better record. Y’know, we were never into smack and crack and things like that but there was our fare share of coke and I drank an ocean’s worth of booze. Towards the end, William was into smoking dope while me and Ben were into coke, basically. That was the divide."

What are your memories of the final gig with William in LA?

JR: "I don’t remember much of it at all. I don’t know how I was able to stand up. We’d had a big bust-up the night before and it was decided that the band was breaking up. William had said he was going to do the LA show and then was leaving the band so we’d argued the night before and I spent the whole night just in my hotel room with Ben just getting absolutely off my tits, getting drunk and just line after line and that kept going until showtime the next night and by that time I was complete fucking wreck. I just remember stumbling about the stage and screaming at William. I think we got about two songs into the set before the promoter pulled the plug and gave everybody their money back. The thing that I remember most about that night was that they’d put a padlock on the fridge door of the dressing room and I couldn’t get a drink and I was like, 'Noooooo...!'"

Was there much regret afterwards?

JR: "Oh, it was weird. The next day we decided to continue and finish the tour without William and that was just beyond bizarre. And it so happened that the next gig – and this is just surreal and we’d never done a gig like this before or since – was like some kinda supper club. We basically went onstage that night and we looked out at the audience and the audience were eating their fucking dinner. We’re like. Where’s Candid Camera? We stood there playing all these songs in front of people eating their chicken and I’m thinking, My God! My career’s over!"

Going back to Alan McGee, he seems to have taken something of a revisionist stance over Creation and its back catalogue. Basically he's saying that apart from Oasis, none of it was worthwhile. How do you feel about that?

JR: "Put it this way, it’s up to him to say it but I don’t believe he believes that. There’d have been no Oasis on Creation if it hadn’t have been for the JAMC on Creation. Basically, the success of the Mary Chain and 'Upside Down' was what made Creation in the first place and there would have been no success of Creation if hadn’t have been for the success of 'Upside Down'. If nothing else [on the back catalogue] was valid, well how can that be? That just doesn’t make any sense. Dismissing My Bloody Valentine as a joke band is absurd. But the thing with Alan is that he’ll say something else. He gets different ideas about how things figure with everything else – every fortnight! He’s always been like that. I really don’t believe that he believes that."

So what's next for the Mary Chain?

JR: "We’re just taking our time making this record and when we want to release it we’ll try to find someone who’ll do just that. But we’re not quite sure what we’ve done so far will make the record. There are probably about 15 tracks that are works-in-progress but the way we record, they’ll probably be ready in about 20 years! If we knuckled down to it, we could probably get it done in about two weeks but William’s in LA and I’m here in Devon. But then again, even in a studio we could sit around doing nothing for weeks on end and that’s just the way we are."

To buy tickets to the Nick Sanderson benefit gig featuring the JAMC, British Sea Power and Earl Brutus DJs, click here.