Primal Scream


The vivacious and highly infectious Primal Scream are rolling into town this month headlining the NME Riot tour. The band, who are currently out on the road playing the heart out of their ninth studio album ‘Beautiful Future’, are oozing confidence and playing what the vast majority of music journos are claiming  as their best shows since their conception, which believe it or not, goes as far back as 1982. Bassist and all-round manic-manc Mani (just try saying that quickly a few times – I dare you) spares some time away from the madness to share the love with the Outline massive…      

It’s 10am on a Monday morning so I think for both our sakes I should start with a nice and easy one to get us going, so how was your weekend?
This weekend, what have I done? Watched United, I did Soccer A.M. on Saturday morning which was good fun, had a nice dinner with me missus and some friends and then went to see me mate’s band Pure Essence on Saturday night, so it’s been a pretty full weekend. So a bit of T.V., got to see some football and listen to some music, so it was a good weekend…  

OK, so your latest album title ‘Beautiful Future’ – what’s it all about?
I think the idea behind it is sweetly sarcastic. Bob’s lyrics are quite dark behind a more poppy approach to the music and ‘Beautiful Future’ is kinda sarcastic ‘cause for most people, it isn’t looking like a beautiful future at the moment. It’s that mixture of both the dark and sarcasm that he [Bobby Gillespie] does so well…

I believe nearly half of the album was recorded with Björn Yttling [from Peter, Björn and John] at Atlantis Studios in Stockholm. Why did you end up doing it there?
Quite often we just usually do stuff in our room in Primrose Hill. This time we thought we’d demo the songs there and then give them over to someone else and get their perspective on it. We liked what Bjorn was doing with his Peter, Bjorn and John thing. He’s a young and up ‘n’ coming guy, so he’s got a lot of points to prove to himself. We liked his ideas and decided to work with him; we liked the way he uses space within his tracks. With him being Swedish and having a really old school studio set up, which was where ABBA used to record their singles back in the day – we like Stockholm, we’d always had a great time there – we thought, ‘yeah, what the heck’; it’s a different way of working for us, but we thought we’d give it a shot. I’m so glad we did it. The place is like a dying breed of studio, proper old school, loads of old equipment in there. There was really good feel about the place, (laughs) you could smell the ABBA off everything. It was prefect. I think we banged out five tracks in fours days. Bang, two takes and then we’d moved on. We worked very quickly. So there’s none of that being too precious and trying to chase the perfect thing…

You’ve really captured a great energy on it…
It’s superb. I think with this album you get the sound of a band who are oozing confidence and really enjoying playing together, y’know…   

Reading a little further into your time there, is it true you got to play around on some of the instruments that ABBA had used on some of their most well known songs?
It was the actual grand piano used for ‘Dancing Queen’, so we thought ‘let’s get a little bit of that going on a Scream record. I love old studios like that with a bit of history about them…

For me, the tracks ‘Uptown’ and ‘Beautiful Summer’ are both awesome, but they take the band into foreign waters regarding their sound?
More often than not, Bobby and Andrew [Innes] will get me playing du-du du-du-du-du. For ‘Uptown’ they’d gone out for their lunch so I had control of the studio, so I just fired that one down, but doing it a little bit more funky than usual. They didn’t really know what I’d done until it came to the mix and it worked out a nice pleasant surprise for them. I let me funky soul slip out on that one (laughs). A lot of people wouldn’t expect the Scream to do a Philadelphia type soul or disco track, but it’s good; it’s kinda smooth and beautiful. We are getting to be really accomplished players now. We’re not scared to take chances and try different things. I agree with you about ‘Beautiful Summer’ as well. That’s a really dark little track. As regards to my favourite track, I really like the version of ‘Over & Over’ that we did. It’s an old Fleetwood Mac song, so we got the lady Linda Thompson in. I think we did the song justice. I love the Scream when we do a lovely heartfelt ballad, ‘cause we can do that as well as the kick ass Rock ‘n’ Roll. We’re a good band now so we are confident we can take pretty much anything on and give it a shot…   

As well as folk supremo Linda Thompson, there are also guest appearances from CSS’ Lovefoxxx and the magnificent Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme. That’s an unusual contrast of styles?
Yeah, myself and Darren [Mooney, drummer] were massive Queens of the Stone Age fans and we’d been trying to indoctrinate Bobby and Andrew and the rest of the band for years. We wanted them to get the power of that band, and the power of Josh. Now we’ve ended up forming a bit of an alliance with Josh and the Queens boys. I would love to go out and do a ‘Screaming Queens of the Stone Age’ tour. I think Bobby went to Los Angeles a few years ago and Josh just kidnapped him off to his studio in the desert to do a vocal for him. So when Josh was in London, we just dragged him off to our room for a jam session. We somehow, with the miracles of technology, managed to lift his guitar track from the jam we’d done and then built a song around it. Like I said, he is a powerful man… With Lovefoxxx, she’s just great. We’d done this more electronic based tune ‘I Love to Hurt (You Love to Be Hurt)’ and Bobby wanted a female counter point vocal. We’d become friends with Lovefoxxx and the CSS crew about five years ago in Sao Paulo at a party and we forged a good friendship. Lovefoxxx is the kind of person who will walk into room and her smile will just light it up. She’s great at what she does and she was perfect for the track, she’s just brilliant…  

The Scream  appears to be in a very good place right now with a new approach to writing and recording. I’d even read an interview with Bobby, where he was saying that you were already thinking about the follow up to ‘Beautiful Future’. Is this true?
I think we’ve tidied up our act a lot. We’ve cut a lot of the partying out and at the moment we are just so confident of ourselves playing-wise and we are happy with ourselves as people. So it’s just easy to go and make great music with each other. We’re always looking forward. We’ve even been writing half bits on sound checks around Europe on the tour. I think we are already underway towards the next one now. It’s great, we just want to keep it moving.

Difficult to define I’m sure, but would you be able to tell us about a favourite one-off Primal Scream show that you’ve played?
Bloody ‘ell, there’s been a few really great moments. Just let me think about one absolutely mental one… on the Riot City Blues tour, we played to about 17,000 crazy Scottish people at the SECC in Glasgow. It’s not everyone’s favourite venue to play – these big arenas aren’t usually. It’s quite soulless and the sound can be a bit bad, but the sight of 17,000 rampaging jocks going mental will live with me forever. It forced us to raise our game as well. You see them having a good time and it rubs off on us. 

I’m assuming you were a fan of the band before you actually joined, so I wondered going back in the day, which were your favourite Scream tracks, and are they still favourites for you to play 12 years on?
I always liked stuff like ‘Gentle Tuesday’ and ‘Ivy, Ivy, Ivy’ oh and ‘Crystal Crescent’. I was also a really big fan of ‘Screamadelica’. At that time we were smashing it with The Stone Roses and it was great to see another band mixing it with rock and dance. Glasgow and Manchester are almost like twin towns so we always had an affinity with Primal Scream when I was in the other band. If you look at the Scream’s back catalogue we’ve got such a powerful repertoire and we’ve started dusting off old songs and giving them a modern-day polish up and we’ve started getting them back in the set again. Songs like ‘Highlander Son’ are coming back on board. I think for years they were maybe been a bit embarrassed about doing the old songs but now we’ve got the approach of ‘c’mon, if people want to hear them, lets do ‘em’  

Currently we can’t seem to move for people talking about this massive credit crunch which is heading our way. So I wondered how you think it’ll affect a band who’ve sold over 10 million albums?
I’m not really too bothered. You see, we’re not really that affluent by any stretch of the imagination. I don’t think that’s why we do it; I think it’s for the sheer love of Rock ‘n’ Roll. The credit crunch can never kill Rock ‘n’ Roll and we’ll see to it that it doesn’t…

Are you confident in Gordon Brown’s abilities to sort it all out?
D’you know what, it’s the Americans’ fault again, innit. And then it’s left to ordinary people like you and me to bail these banks out. Why don’t all these guys who take, say, 22 million pound bonuses just say “eh are, d’you want it back?” That would sort it out, but they don’t, do they… I have a real problem with upper class twits playing roulette with other peoples money and that’s basically what banking is. I think Ken Dodd was right – “keep it in a box under your bloody bed”…(laughs)

Ok, so you’ve played a lot of shows in a lot of countries on a lot of different stages, but if you could play in any setting in the world where would it be?
Bloody ‘ell man – I’ve always been of the mind that I want to play gigs everywhere, so how about on the moon in front of all of our mates. Yep, we’ll take all of our mates to the moon and play a gig there. 

I believe you’ve all cut back on the partying these days, so what do you get up to between shows when you are out on the road?
Nowadays it’s just music, music, music; we’re forever listening to tunes or watching DVDs of say like Johnny Cash or Sly and the Family Stone or Arthur Lee of Love, y’know, it all revolves around music when we’re on the road or on the bus. We just sit down and try and put the world to rights, nattering-wise. We’ve all grown up now. Everyone’s got kids, a few of us are in our mid-forties now. It’s time to pass the baton on to some of these rap-scallions like the Arctic Monkeys or someone like that in their twenties who’ve got the energy to do it. We’ve had our go, we’ve won our gold medal and it’s been well deserved. It’s time to push it on. We’re still alive (laughs) which defies the laws of gravity… how that’s happened I’ll never know (laughs).

Right, on to the good stuff – football. I believe that although English, you were actually brought up as a Republic of Ireland football fan?
Yeah, I still am as well. My family are from Castel Dermott in County Kildare. I was always brought up to be Manchester United, Glasgow Celtic and the Republic of Ireland. That’s my Father, Son and Holy Ghost. I hope the new guy Trapattoni can do well. They seem to be doing ok again at the moment, ‘cause they had been a bit in the wilderness since the old team disbanded with all the old greats, but I think some of the new kids are starting to do well. British football in general is in a great state at the moment, so let’s make sure that Ireland qualifies for the next World Cup. There’ll be a good old knees up for all the boys if that happens… 

Is it true you wanted to be a chef? If so, do you cook for everyone whilst on tour?
I’ve no time to cook when we’re on tour, but yeah, I’m a demo when I can be mithered. Me Dad and Brother are both chefs but I ran away to join the fucking circus (laughs), but I don’t mind getting a pan and knives out every now and again. I find it therapeutic in a way…   

Staying on the subject of extra-curricular activities, can you tell us about side project ‘Freebass’ with Andy Rourke (Smiths) and Peter Hook (Joy Division / New Order)?
Yeah, it’s moving very slowly. We’ve just kinda got a singer, so he’s beavering away putting some lyrics down. It will be completed or something will be heard by next year…

Is it true you have a lot of cats?
Actually I’ve only got one left now. I used to have four, then one gave birth to kittens, then there was an extra five kittens. There were nine cats in the house at it’s zenith. So we are down to one now. I recently had to put one to sleep – me alpha-male of twenty-one years. He had a really good knock though. But he’s been gone a couple of months ago now, so it’s quite sad. So I’ve started collecting vintage Scooters instead now. 

So do you get on with dog people then?
Yeah, but I’m not the sort of guy who could pick a warm dog turd up in a plastic bag… it’s just not my scene man (laughs).

It’s Monday today. Are you on your way to do Mani’s Manic Monday, on The Revolution 96.8 (an Oldham based radio station) when we’re done here?
It’s all gone tits up, the radio thing. The powers that be at the Station have changed the music policy. They wanted everyone to start playing Pink and Robbie Williams and that sort of thing. So we’ve all just upped and walked out. The roster of DJs that were there are trying to set up an internet station now so we can still keep together. It was great playin’ the likes of Joy Divison and all the other stuff that never makes it on to national radio outside of the John Peel show at that time of day, and there was such a listenership for the station that everyone’s kinda devastated, y’know. But hopefully something will come through the internet soon. It was great not having to adhere to a play list. If I wanted an afternoon of Reggae Dub, I was free to do that and often did.    

If you were twenty years younger, which band would you like to play bass for?
Erm, I like the Last Shadow Puppets – Alex Turner and Miles from the Rascals. Big grand Scott Walker type tunes. I think they’re pretty interesting….

Are you the sort of guy who likes to put ridiculous requests on riders?
No I’m not – you mean like white lilies and blue M & Ms and stuff like that? Never any diva-ish requests I’m afraid. You just get what you’re given and like it. I think it’s as simple as that.

If only the whole world had that attitude…
Yeah mate, there are people living in shop doorways who don’t get any sort of riders. D’you know what I mean…

Finally, you’ve played in Norwich before; have you any lasting memories of being here?
Well the first time I played with the Roses we played in that old church, the Arts Centre. It was amazing. We got to stay in some student accommodation somewhere when they’d all gone home. Everyone was in like a little monks’ cell. There was nobody about – it was some art area. So I think we all took acid; we all went mooching about. I think John Squires and the sound engineer got the potters wheels going and we ended up mooching about in the loft space and we had a rummage through all the stuff up there. That was quite memorable really…


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