Elimination Blues: The Return Of Primal Scream

Bobby Gillespie in conversation...
Bobby Gillespie by Clare Shilland

Primal Scream’s comeback has been, appropriately, deafening. Their first album since 2008’s ‘Beautiful Future’, ‘More Light’, landed in May to a series of great reviews. Clash weighed in with one of its own, stating that the band’s tenth studio set found them with plenty of new ideas at play.

With the Bobby Gillespie-fronted outfit, founded in Glasgow back in 1982, having recently announced a new set of live shows for December – check the news section for information – Clash caught up with said singer to shoot the proverbial on all things Scream(adelic).

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'Invisible City', from 'More Light'

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Did you always intend ‘More Light’ to be angrier and darker than ‘Beautiful Future’?

No, because sometimes the lyrics are the last thing. We didn’t know what the songs were going to be about; we just had a strong desire to make music. But the unspoken thing was that we felt that we wanted to make something more free, experimental, psychedelic and maybe less classically structured in terms of the song structures.

I’ve been reading a lot these last few years, way more than I’ve ever read. The words just seem to come flowing quite easily. I think it’s the times we are living in; we are responding to the times more than anything. As artists you’re affected by your environment – you’re affected by your culture, external as well as internal.

You can say it’s personal and political; it’s not just f*ck the government. It’s angry but it’s not just angry. There’s a lot of damage in the record – psychological damage, economic damage, spiritual damage. I think there's a lot pain in the record.

Aside from your long ‘Screamadelica’ tour and losing your bassist Mani to The Stone Roses' reformation, what has had the biggest impact on the Scream in the last five years?

Me getting clean, although I don’t know if we should put that in.

Perhaps people know that anyway?

I know, but I don’t want to make a big deal of it. But I think that’s the answer. I don’t think we would have made this record had I still been using. I was making a mess of things, so I just changed my life and made it better and I did something else. I think I’m a better writer, a better performer, and really working on trying to be a better artist. I think my perception is stronger. I also had to take a good look at myself.

So there’s a lot getting revealed?

It’s good. You’re facing yourself. You’re not running away from anything anymore, you’re not desensitising yourself. I definitely feel more confident and stronger and assured in my abilities, and I hope that doesn’t sound arrogant because I am humble about what we do, but I’m just trying to be the best artist or songwriter that I can be, or we can be. But I think I’ve got clarity of vision now that I’m not blocked; nothing’s getting in the way of my… I almost said ‘manufactured reality’, but, you know, ‘consensual reality’.

Very few artists, on their tenth album, would be saying they were trying to be better artists, because by then most people would be coasting.

We ain’t coasting, man. We’re not f*cking coasting.

Do you think that’s because you’re off the drugs and can see the job that needs done with more clarity?

No, we always wanted to be better artists. When we started I wanted to make a record as good as ‘Forever Changes’ by Love. That was my dream; we always said from day one we were always trying to make classic, beautiful records that meant something to people, and that chimed with people’s vision of reality. The idea was always to make great art.

When younger I would never have considered myself an artist, I would have thought that was pretentious. We always wanted to reclaim rock ‘n’ roll! In the ‘80s when we started, rock ‘n’ roll was like a bad word. We wanted to try and make it beautiful and dangerous again, and sexual and psychedelic, and give it the meaning it once had. In the ‘80s it was so f*cking corporate.

‘Screamadelica’ is like an art-rock record. ‘Vanishing Point’, ‘XTRMNTR’ and ‘Evil Heat’ are art-rock, do you know what I’m saying? [There were some] connotations that we were new romantics or something, you know what I mean? But we always put rock ‘n’ roll first. Some of my favourite bands are art-rock bands, like Can or Roxy Music.

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'2013', from 'More Light'

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Interview: Matthew Bennett

Photography: Clare Shilland

This is an excerpt a full(er) feature on Primal Scream, crossing from the music into the band’s political ideologies, which appears in the current issue of Clash magazine. Find further details, and buy yourself a copy, here

Primal Scream call at Benicàssim, amongst other festivals, this summer. Follow the band's progress via this here official website

Get the best of Clash on your iPhone - download the app here (featuring Bobby's top punk LPs of all time!)

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