Live at Folkestone, from the Official Spiritualized site
Shane Jesse Christmass speaks to Jason PierceJason Pierce calls from London were he's having "just a couple of days break" from touring. Pierce grew up in small town England in a place called Rugby. "It was like any small town I guess. We made our own entertainment. We put the local bands on and we played in Spacemen 3, that was doing a show every second week."
about the Spaceman's vision
Pierce has been making music for the last 21 years, 13 of them with his therapeutic and murmuring orchestrations that make up the transcendent sound of Spiritualized. Amazing Grace is the band's new record, and the general press line has been that the coordinated, bombastic classical feel of their last album Let It Come Down has gone missing. Fans that've been there since the early albums (Lazer Guided Melodies and Pure Phase) would be interested as to why Pierce has drifted from drones and phases to a more traditional song writing structure.
"When things evolve there isn't really any design to it. Y'know it's quite messy and it just changes to the random elements. I guess the main deal is every time we try and do something new, we always do stuff where we don't know the answers. Where we're not just treading water and saying ‘Hey, we can do this again.' I guess you lose a little bit of what you know you're able to do each time."
"The way my ear is listening to music at the moment, is the more naked the sound is, the more my music gets towards Robert Johnson or Howlin' Wolf, almost like field recording, the more effecting it seems to be. It's not necessarily losing drones or losing that kind of space to it, this record was most about losing any kind of process or any kind of production."
Jason believes that Amazing Grace was recorded "just to lay ourselves really open. Almost to say ‘these songs had better stand up, they better be able to hold their ground, because that's all you're going to get.' The opposite of that is that I was hearing so much music where you almost didn't need a song, or anything new to say, if you had great production or great sonics, like ‘this is an interesting sound', but they're not actually saying anything."
"I wanted to try and make something where the sounds of my voice on this record, would just be the sounds of my voice going down a microphone, there wouldn't be any kind of EQ to it, almost not using the studio to make the record."
The music of Spiritualized has always had an immense sorrow beneath it. Jason thinks that the gospel of his music is "seeking redemption or seeking solace. This music has always been absolutely satisfied, like from a position of ‘I can deal with whatever you throw.' All of the lines are really active, like Let It Come Down and "Lord Let It Rain.""
This activeness is especially evident on a tune like "Hold On." "I think it seems like a really human song. I think it's a bit like I'm giving advice, like someone's come to me to give advice, and I'll give as best advice as I possibly can, but I'm probably the last person you'd want to be asking advice off. That's what I like about the album. It's fallible. It's got this ‘I'm only as human as the next guy' feel to it."
"It's not as simple as reading it like you're reading my diary. Y'know once you start writing things down it becomes about poetry, it becomes about the way the words scan. What I love most about Rock and Roll is this way that you can say things that are trite or mundane, but when you put them to the music they become fantastic, like amazing, magical poetry. You can say lines like "I Can't Stop Loving You" or any number of lines like that, and on their own they don't really stand, but with the music they become like magic."
"The core to the songs was recorded in a day. The main reason behind that was I'd just made a record with Spring Heel Jack, which was a free-jazz record, and I loved the way that those guys made this music. It was very immediate and very spontaneous, and it was all about reacting to what was in the room. I figured the only way we could get anywhere near that feeling on a Spiritualized record was to introduced the songs to the band on the day that we recorded them."
"So what you're actually hearing on this record is the drummer playing to a bass line he's never heard in his life before, contributing to me delivering the song, to words he's never heard. What we got down was this moment in time where people are still exploring, there was still everywhere to go with the songs. Once you've learnt to do something, you learn how to make things easier for yourself, or you learn how to not make mistakes, and I wanted to get something unique on Amazing Grace that we'd never get again." Pierce realised he had a finished take when "you play it two or three more times, and you realise you that you had it three times ago. So maybe eight to nine takes?"
Jason mentions that reviews and those idiots in the UK press don't mean much. "I don't read them to be honest. I know what I say and I know how I would put things across. I think when you read about yourself it's like listening to two people talk about you from just outside the room, and when they say good things you're with them on that, and when they say bad things, they're so off the mark."
Around the Spacemen 3 days, it was always the MC5, The Stooges and the 13th Floor Elevators being cited as influences, but Dion's "Born To Be With You" is a record that is never mentioned. "I think it's fantastic. Actually to be honest I think it's got about three great tracks on it, and then it kind off loses some of it. I think three great tracks on a Dion album is fantastic. I think the "Back Yard (Your Own Back Yard)" song and "Born To Be With You," and then there's another track that I really love of that. Have you seen it's been repackaged with probably one of the worst Dion albums of all time?"
In the NME review for Amazing Grace, the reviewer claims that in 2001 Jason Pierce declared himself a genius. "Did I? No I didn't. I think a problem with a lot of journalism it's about personality; it's not really about music. Y'know people bemoan the lack of good bands at times, but sometimes I miss that Barney Hoskins or Lester Bangs type thing, where if they say ‘I would sell my Mother to own this record' the first thing you want to do is go find that record. It's about being able to translate that excitement without it being about mundane stories about the characters in the band."
Pierce knew that he didn't want Amazing Grace to be processed because "it was something that I've never done before, and I got this huge amount of energy and learning from playing alongside Han Bennink, Evan Parker, Kenny Wheeler and Paul Rutherford, the giants of European free-jazz. They took what America was passing to Europe in the late sixties, early seventies, and just ran with it, and the two musics have never come back together. It was trying to apply that to some recording technique that I didn't know how the hell it was going to work out."
Pierce believes that for Amazing Grace he was "in a position to let stuff go. Because I obsess over the music I make. It was almost like trying to let it go without going through that process, and it didn't work out. Even though the recordings went down in a day, I still obsessed over them for the next three months."
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