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My Bloody Valentine - Glide on Time


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."

Have you felt any pressure to match the sublime "Isn't Anything"?

"It might 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 seems gratuitous.

"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 inspiration.

"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 movements.

"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"?

"What, 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 matter."

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 doesn't know 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 wish?

"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 bad.

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."

Bilinda 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 something. "

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. They 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 reassurrng.

Funnily enough, the early period where the group were dismissed as "jangly indie pop" was in truth their "most conceptual".

"It 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 extremists.

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."

Kevin ticks me off for the over-the-top "Isn't Anything" review where in I described the album as "the blood of Christ" or somesuch. He was particularly disappointed because I'd 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 slow 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 brough-up.

"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


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