My Bloody Valentine - Glide on Time
MUCH HAS BEEN HEARD OF THE VALENTINES SINCE 1988'S
EPOCHAL 'ISN'T ANYTHING'. THIS WEEK, THOUGH, THEY BREAK AN
18-MONTH SILENCE WITH THE RELEASE OF A NEW EP, 'GIDER'.
CHRIS ROBERTS MET THEM DURING REHEARSALS FOR THEIR NEW
ALBUM AND FOUND A BAND STILL DEDICATED TO THE IDEA THAT
DREAMS CAN BE SET TO MUSIC. PICS: TOM SHEEHAN
MY BLOODY VALENTINE ARE SITIING IN THE basement rehearsol
studio they've just rented. I am wandering around upstairs walking into
lots of offices and insisting that one of my favourite groups is somewhere
In this building; I know they are. I get lots of blank stares from men in
stripey shirts and ties too tight for their necks. Their reaction to the name
of the band is of course perfect, but it doesn't help. In the corridor I spy
two-likely-looking young pop fans and ask them if they've seen My
Bloody Valentine. They say no but they did see me on stage with The
Blue Aeroplanes once. This is highly confusing, like the punchline of a
surrealist joke. I run away in a blind panic, hoping they'll put it down to
arrogance. Sprinting around the comer I nearly knock over Bilinda Jayne
Butcher who is on her way to the canteen.
Bilinda shows me through to
the rehearsal room where Kevin Shields, Colm O'Ciosoig, and Deb
Googe are surrounded by roughly 57 guitars and 43 amplifiers. While
keeping up a conversation about tremolo arms, it occurs to me that this is
something like sitting in a room with Shakespeare and a to0 quills and a
to00 sheets of foolscap. If anyone has made mare intriguing sounds than
My Bloody Valentine in recent years, they have yet to enter our sphere.
"Isn't Anything was the last great album of dreams. Certainly it was the
most influential record of this era, spawning dozens of imitators,
interesting or otherwise. An the more commendable then that the group
have at last returned with an EP, "Glider", that is completely different,
utterly compelling, and again indisputably transcendent.
I TOUCH one of
the amplifiers for eternal good luck and we adjourn to the pub. Four
hours later Kevin is still happily talkng about the state of the art and the
Valentines' almost devotional attitude to their music which has infuriated
many, but which gets results others can only strive to contrive. The rest
of us nod in the right places while Kevin holds forth. I'm told this is quite
normal. Debbie says she switches into "listening mode"
for interviews. Kevin evidently cares about the band more than most of us
care about our livers, and makes much sense.
"We were suprised at all
the attention back then but at the some time we were daring people to
ignore us. Because we were making the music everyone was talking
about and praising but that no one could actually hear anywhere! You
read about it, but you never heard' it. People always make things sound a
bit better than they are.
"Every time you get media attention you get
people coming along to see what's happening. We'd had it twice before on
a smaller scale, so we weren't 'amazed'. We'd been around for a while -
the word isn't cynical but you know how things go. You don't suddenly
think 'everyone loves me'. It's only for a while. Nothing lasts forever."
you felt any pressure to match the sublime "Isn't Anything"?
seem like we haven't done anything for ages, but we've been recording
since the beainning of '89. There's about 30 pieces of music. The bit that
counts isn't making up the stutt, it's realising what's good and bad of what
you've done. We've got quality control. That's all!"
The next album, which
will be preceded by another single, is nearly finished (bar the vocals,
which they always do at the last minute). If "Glider" is any indication- they
haven't lost the magic wand. It's a lilting scattered dance haze which in
the current climate (there's to be an Andy Weatherall remix, about which
they're somehow both apprehensive and apathetic) may bizarrely give
them a hit. Apart from the hypnotic noise swirl of Glider" ("it's not abrasive,
it's mellow and laid-back"), the EP also features two songs more relative
to their past, the sinister."Don't Ask Why and the immensely seductive
"Off Your Face".
More than with any other band, when I hear The
Valentines I don't want to ask why. This music is so right that analysis
"When you make it you certainly don't analyse it. But
then nothing you do turns out like you thought It might. It always turns into
something else which leads to something else; you just let it go
wherever it goes. You can talk about it, but I don't really think we
any more ability to describe it than anyone else."
The secret probably lies
somewhere between amplifiers, tremolo arms, and attitude. We'll call it
"I don't know why we do music really, to tell you the truth. I
don't know what this band exists for. But, if you completely forget all
preconceived ideas about structure and just do whatever comes naturally,
then there's a greater chance you'll
do something that sounds free and easy. That's also why our songs
haven't got too many clever bits in them. Cos it means you have to think
too much about it."
They're very generous to other bands. On the subiect
of their numerous clones Kevin says, "I genuinely believe that unless
you're a genius you have to be derivative firrst to get to know how to be
original. And most geniuses aren't in the music business nowadays cos
it's too much hassle."
Where are they then? "They're probably sitting at
home, thinking. Or sitting on mountain tops! Music might be a throwaway
culture but we don't make records to be thrown away. We don't share
that philosophy of some bands that it's only for the moment. Compare it
to books - if you want ta be a writer it takes years to get even your first little
thing published. And getting a film together takes years. People in their
forties are considered young in those fields, but in rock music people
at them cos they're considered old."
Only because "rock stars" dance and
leap about. Well, you don't. "I don't have to worry about that, do I? I'll be
quite comfortable when I'm 90. I'll probably be more lively when I'm
90, I'll nod my head a bit. I'll have my own stage act using involuntary
"Anyway the new kind of rock 'n' roll is definitely House
music. All the young kids everywhere, the way they dress, their attitude
towards life, everything. It's like all the previous youth explosions. It is
that. That is what's happening. Most parents genuinely can't see
anything in House music. For the first time since Punk . . . but even punk
was probably more accepted. At least there were tunes there."
I don't enjoy
the music. I think, maybe, I'm an old fogey.
"But if you're in a room with a
bunch of people and you've taken something or you're just comfortable
and relaxed, then the music makes complete sense. It really does. If you
sit at home it doesn't make sense."
Ah, that's it, I must be one of those
geniuses who sit at home thinking (or at least playing records with loud
guitars on). Will "Glider" go down well with "the youth of today"?
with the people who are into that? No, it doesn't really sound right, if you
play it loud, for that kind ofatrnosphere. For clubs you have to have certain
sounds and space to let all the power come through. 'Glider' would just
sound like lots of noise. Plus that rhythm is awkward you'd keep waiting
for it to get straight. Sometimes rhythms are really liberating. They
take the emphasis off what' s around you.
"This idea of an Andy
Weatherall remix is just another thing. It's not us any more. Us is the
record you have. If everyone loves this remix, that's too bad for us. Cos
it's someone else's record using our ideas. It can't be ours."
IT does seem a bit gross that the divine Valentines are to be shunted onto
the same dancefloor as the desperate Primal Scream. On the other hand,
it'd be a travesty if they weren't given the same realistic commercial
advantages of their inferiors.
"We're Creation's token arty band! That's not
accurate of course, but we do exist for the purpose of doing what we want.
Ah, that's why we exist. To indulge to our hearts' content. Everyone's
afraid to even ask us how things are going in case they set us back
another few months. The only think that could change that is if we started
having lots ot hits. Then we'd be hassled for more, and that could be bad.
But, I don't think there's a real danger of that."
Kevin has a record of
disagreeing with engineers who think they know how a four-piece band
should sound (his ambition is for the group to get their own studio) and, in
fact, ended up doing the vocals for "Gilder" with one hand holding the
microphone and the other hand twiddling the knobs on the desk. I tell him
I can't hear the words.
"Wooh, yeah! That's the chorus! Oh there's words
there all right. Loads of words. You can hear that there's words though.
Can't you? "
Yes, but not what they are.
"Oh, that's all right, that doesn't
This kind of sums up Kevin's feelings about lyrics. "When you
know you really have to do it,you just forget everythmg and you do it. It
you try to be clever and wordy, unless you're really clever, the chances
are you'll fall flat your face. If you just write whatever's in your head at
the time, it's your subconscious. Your conscious - mine, anyways
what's going on."
Bilinda, whose contributions lend an extra dimension and
scratch your eyesout with a smile, would second that. "I once spent about a
month writing some lyrics, then when it came to the day I was due to sing
them they were crap, they were completely wrong and awful. It's just best
to leave them till the end, once you've got a picture of what the song's
about, the feeling and the atmosphere."
All this supports my theory, that
some wonderfully sussed guardian angel watches over My Bloody
Valentine and makes sure all their accidents are beautiful. When you can
hear the Valentines' words though (and I'm hardly the first to notice this)
the constant (and glamorously decadent) themes are sleep, dreams,
daeth, suicide, oblivion. . . we attempt a couple of false starts in this
direction before Kevin responds to the question: have you all got a death
"It just seems like everyone I know is . . . the whole business of
suicide doesn't feel that alien to most people. A lot of people I know go
through phases of being totally nihilistic - they don't care about anything.
I don't know whether it's just the people we know or what. But, in the
past few years, life to most has gone a bit weird, yknow? One guy I met
said it hadn't, and that surprised me! You just can t take anything for
granted any more - you could go mad. Maybe it's as you as you get older.
I just remember that years ago I never
thought that. . . that things could be so bad! You know what I mean? That
things can be so bad is amazing! And you know it's all in your head, but
you can't help it, you can't control it. If you could just change your frame
of mind things's be better, but you can't."
A lot of it is that when you're a
kid you think: it'll be great when I'm a grown-up. Then when you get to see
a grown-up you think: hang on, this is shit, this is really difficult. . .
"Yeah, nothing's there. There's that horrible feeling. When I was
really young, I used to think if ever I felt like committing suicide I'd go off
and park myself in the middle of the Sahara Desert and see what
happened. Or go on some crazy adventure. Stowaway on board a ship or
something. Just do something insane, if I really didn't see any point in
living. But the worst thing that happens is you get to the point where you
think, 'Yeah, but even if I was doing that I'd still feel the same'. It's not
your situation that causes this, it's the strength of the leelina you have.
The actual practicalities of life aren't so hard, it's just that frame of mind
where you don't care about anything."
"You see it quite a lot," says Colm
in an even deeper Irish brogue than Kevin's. "It's just people with broken
dreams. Everybody gets to a certain age where they realise their dreams
are either gonna wark or not. So you try, to keep working at them. And
then it gets really dlifficult when reality hits you smack in the face. You
don't want to compromise this dream, you want to go ahead with it, but
you see a lot of people around, everywhere, whose dreams have been
shattered, and then. . . you begin to wonder."
And, if you give in, accept
it's over, then it's 50 years of "making do" ...
"Fifty years of looking
forward to whatever's on TV on a Friday night," continues Kevin. "At least
some people are happy doing that. I don't know anybody's who' s
completely content. Nobody. Evervbody feels like they're . . . not like
they're about to fall apart, that sounds too dramatic, but. . . on the edge.
like it wouldn't take an awful lot to push them the other way and things
would just go completely."
Someone very clever once said something
like, "I can deal with the despair it' s the hope I can't handle".
"It's always like, 'Oh , next year' , , says
Colm. "Then clutching at that for another seven years. . ." Kevin reckons
My Bloody Valentine doesn't bring in peoce of mind or that much money.
But says its something to do.
SOMEONE is singing "Mad About The Boy" on telly behind me but Kevin is
bemoaning the fact that the live gigs side or the music industry is run by
"thugs and gongsters". The band have been banned from the Town &
Country Club. "If you go on about it like I am, you get victimised. But how
far can they blacklist us? If voicing my opinion gets me in trouble, then too
That's, er, the history of politics.
"The biggest laugh is you've got
Margaret Thatcher, as her usual pompous self, going, 'Yes, we support
the people in Romania, we think it's very good!'. Yet Ceaucescu was
was always saying , 'It's only a small faction . that are causing trouble. Which
is exacty what she says, now, here. It's becoming more and more obvious
that people like her are out of fouch. That's what's wrong, more than
anything else. Besides the fact that she's incredibly immoral."
mentions that the Mirror is "eclipsing" The Sun which, we all agree, is
progress (apart from, I would point out, its pro-Arsenal sports bias and its
right-of Nazi pop page).
Kevin adds: "A lot of human nature is shit, it's
crap, it's horrible. The thing is, we're just in a band. You know? It's such a
traditional thing these to be in a band like this. The only worthwhile thing
we're doing is the aspects which haven't been done betore. So it's
THE Valentines played a few dates in America last year. New
York was great, but very smelly. Bilinda
thinks maybe that was the van, but Kevin reckons he asked a passer-by
who confirmed it was the streets. Everybody looked like TV characters.
saw Alcatraz. They're obsessed with De La Soul and Dinosaur Jr, and
think Candy Flip have pointy noises like Swedish people. Bilinda saw God
in Stockwell and it was the best thing she'd seen in years. I find this
Funnily enough, the early period where the group were
dismissed as "jangly indie pop" was in truth their "most conceptual".
was an experiment to try and concentrate on writing tunes. But, we had
this frequency on all the guitars that physically damages your ears. That
was the wholepoint. That it actually wrecked people's hearing. And we
sang those songs with really sweet titles about really sordid things. We
were too subtle, though. You have to scream 'F***." f***" motherf***.' and be
called something like 'Rape Everybody' to make any impact as
In retrospect, the album title "Ecstasy" was ahead of its time. . .
"No, come on. The ecstasy thing had been going in America for years,
it's no big deal. It's just anoiher drug over there. Here, everything's based
on trends. And we're not going to port of this new thing that's happening. I
mean you saw us support The Primitives once, people like that are dead
musically now. They're gone, part of the post. And, in a couple
more years time, when there's a whole new bunch of great bands, we'll
still be as relevant. We're too inconsislent to be commercial."
me off for the over-the-top "Isn't Anything" review where in I described
as "the blood of Christ" or somesuch. He was particularly disappointed
previously, very sanely compared "Strawberry Wine" to The Byrds which,
as chance would have it, he considered vaguely appropriate. Okay, with
"Glider" I'll cut my hands off when I get to "the sweat of Mary Magdalene".
Kevin: "Either we've become numb from years of distortion or it's kind of
and smooth. Not slow, no Slow in a kind of. . .I don't know ..."
Colm: "It's like the
first side of 'Isn't Anything'. That kind of diversity."
Kevin: "But, in a way, it's
heavier. God, I don't know!"
Colm: "It's describing the impossiblel!"
That I'll believe. I tell the
effortlessly quiet Deb Bilinda I'm sorry they haven't been "brough in", but if
a person's speaking always let them carry because I was so well
"Oh, it's fine," says Deboie. I never speak. I'm still back thinking
about evervbody we know being completely f **ed. l'm still back on that one.
Going through everybody I know, thinking, 'Yeah, that's true.
Flashes of happiness,
now and again, perhaps."
Llike this: today as on many days before, My
Valentine are ma~ing the most bewitching noise world.
Originally appeared in Melody Maker, April 28 1990
Copyright © Melody Maker Magazine