Primal Scream

Directing the Sound

Jun 13, 2016 Issue # 57 - M83 Photography by Sam Christmas Bookmark and Share


"I just think of the record as ecstatic depressive realism, but I'm kind of laughing when I'm saying that but I'm also being fucking truthful," says Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie of the band's twelfth album, Chaosmosis. "It's dark but it's honest. It's just the way I fucking see things. Other people maybe don't care to see things in that way, but it's just how I see them."    

And indeed, Chaosmosis goes to some somber places and exorcises some demons. But it also covers a wide swath of emotions, accomplished via rhythms and textures that accentuate Gillespie's innate ear for melody, and some big name guest stars, namely HAIM and Sky Ferreira.

While a cynic may view these guests as a crass grasp at relevance, Gillespie fervently disagrees, and listening to the finished product, it's hard to disagree with him. "We wouldn't ask to work with Sky or HAIM unless we felt as though there was a connection," he says. "We knew that we could make great music with those girls. We had a connection and friendship with HAIM, and we'd worked with Sky on her music and from that came the idea to sing on 'Where the Light Gets In,' and we just knew instinctively that it was gonna work."

On "Trippin' on Your Love" and "100% or Nothing," the Haim sisters (Este, Danielle, and Alana) lend the tracks a subtle blue-eyed soul component that doesn't overwhelm the trademark Primal Scream beats and melodic signifiers. "Well, if we were movie producers, you'd have to choose the right actor for the role. And that's kind of what we're doing here," explains Gillespie. "We're not trying to jump on anyone's bandwagon for their fame or trying to connect with young people. We're conscious artists and musicians and we're recognizing other souls we can make music with. I'm saying it as a production choice. We want to direct the sound and image of our songs as a production choice and making a beautiful record. And the Haim sisters singing on '100% or Nothing' is the California sunshine gospel pop sound, and they're the best at that."

"Where the Light Gets In" features Ferreira's keening vocals bleeding together with Gillespie's dark intonation, combining to create an unlikely, ebullient yet wounded anthem. "With Sky, you can sense hurt in her voice, even as a pop artist," says Gillespie. "I knew she could sing that part perfectly as the duet. I knew she could play that role and sing that song sincerely. That it would be real. And we were right. Her performance was fantastic."

Since entering the public's consciousness on NME's seminal C86 compilation in 1986 with the fey number "Velocity Girl," Gillespie knew even then that his band could accomplish remarkable things musically.

"We knew rock 'n' roll was a dark, powerful force. It was a malevolent force, and not in a nostalgic way, but I knew we had it in us to show people how great rock and roll could be. It sounds arrogant, but it's not meant to be," he says. "Primal Scream and The [Jesus and] Mary Chain were a reaction to the awful music of the '80s. We just took the whole fucking thing seriously. It was an experiment, but I knew if we took it far enough we'd get somewhere. We had the spirit of rock and roll in us, and it sounds a bit wanky and arrogant, so I apologize for that, but we had a drive to keep going until we'd made a great record. And Screamadelica, Vanishing Point, XTRMNTR, and the last couple, I think we've made some great ones. I don't want to sound arrogant at all, but I know that we've won the respect of a lot of our peers and young bands and even older artists as well have told us they've dug the band. It's nice to get that."

[Note: This article originally appeared in Under the Radar's May/June 2016 Issue, which is out now. This is its debut online.]

www.primalscream.net



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