Rachel Goswell talks Slowdive’s Reunion and the Possibility of a New Album
Relaunching in a New Era
Jun 04, 2014
Last month, Slowdive performed live again for the first time since 1994. The five original members—singers and guitarists Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell, guitarist Christian Savill, bassist Nick Chaplin, and drummer Simon Scott—have reformed their classic shoegaze group for a series of festival gigs around the world after Spain's Primavera Sound festival asked them to reunite. In our earlier interview, Halstead even discussed the possibility of Slowdive recording a new album if everything goes well.
In this Q&A, Goswell talks to us about how the reunion came about after two decades, the obstacles they needed to overcome before returning to the stage, her thoughts on another album, and the illness that forced her to step back from music for the last six years.
[Note: A separate, more in-depth feature on Slowdive's early years and their reunion appears in issue #50 of Under the Radar, on newsstands now. The digital edition of the issue also includes a bonus feature in which Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell talk about the bands who influenced Slowdive's sound.]
Austin Trunick (Under the Radar): Can you walk me through how the Slowdive reunion came about? Had you all met up in London?
Rachel Goswell: We were offered Primavera. We'd all kept in touch over the last few years, anyway, so we'd stayed in contact. We Skyped each other because we're all in different parts of the country, and just chatted about it, really. Things went from there. We decided that it was a lovely opportunity to play, and obviously, there would be other opportunities. We bounced around the idea of doing another record. It's all sort of grown from there.
Has each rehearsal felt progressively easier?
Yeah, but there are still some songs to work out; there are some more difficult ones, like "Alison" and "40 Days," that we were hemming and hawing over quite a lot. Nick has been going through old YouTube footage to get pointers. He's really sorted on his bass, he knows exactly what he's doing! He and Simon are the best-rehearsed out of everybody, I'd say. And Christian's been working really hard at working stuff out. Christian's stuff was done in all sorts of different tunings, so we've been cranking our brain cells to work all of those things out.
Obviously, technology's come a long way since then. Have you found any of your sounds from the old albums or EPs difficult to reproduce with today's pedals and amps?
Neil and Christian's pedal boards are ridiculous. They've got so many pedals! And they're not using the old [Yamaha] FX500. They've got all kinds of new stuff to play with. I hope now, if anything, that the songs will sound better because of the better technology. I'm still using an old FX500. I hope it doesn't explode on me, or something. Other than that, I'm just using a couple of pedals which are new, up-to-date ones. Lucky, because my partner owns his own small business selling guitar pedals. Boutique pedals. So, we've had a good opportunity to pick and choose stuff, because he's a walking encyclopedia for pedals.
He sounds like a great resource.
It's fantastic. I think he's now quite excited that I'm finally able to utilize his pedal collection. [Laughs] There are hundreds of guitar pedals in my house. It's exciting. He just got me a tiny, digital tuner today. It's just so different than what I used to use.
What old songs are you most looking forward to playing again?
My personal favorite song to play live was "Souvlaki Space Station." It's an epic song, really, a really enjoyable one. I mean, there's not any that I don't enjoy. I'd really like to play all of them. We'll have the opportunity to do it all again.
I know you had to step away from music for a while because of a medical issue that hindered your hearing. Has there been some level of recovery that's allowed you to return to music?
Basically, I had labyrinthitis in 2007 or 2008. It's a viral infection and usually you do recover from it after about six weeks, but to me, unfortunately, it affected my balance quite badly for a whole year. I had to do therapy, which is why I had to drop out of [post-Slowdive band] Mojave 3. I couldn't even walk in a straight line for a long time, and it was tough going. It left me with some irreparable nerve damage in my cochlea, which has ironically given me some level of hearing loss.
I actually do have a hearing aid, but I don't wear it so much these days. The pitch of things in my left ear is different than normal, and I think it's on the higher ranges of pitch where the loss is found. It's quite weird. It also left me with tinnitus, permanently. The tinnitus is always there, but it's exacerbated when there's a lot of loud noise or when I'm stressed. I've had proper musician's earplugs made and molded to do these shows, and I'll be fine. Actually, it's quite funny in rehearsals because I can hear everything really clearly, and the rest of them are all struggling because there's so much top end from all the guitars. I'm hearing everything quite beautifully, but at a quieter level.
What do you feel was the biggest difference between the songwriting in Slowdive and what you did later, in Mojave 3?
With Slowdive, I think the guitars are what made it completely different. And there's an obvious sort of sonic difference in the sound between Mojave and Slowdive. Mojave's more acoustic based, and the vocals are clearer, so you can understand what the lyrics are. But, I suppose both bands have the male-female harmonies. I think the singing was much better in Mojave. I think that just progressed over time as we got older and became better singers.
Neil had mentioned that these rehearsals and performances would help you feel out whether Slowdive had another album in them. What are your feelings on that so far?
I'd love to do another record! I think it would be great fun. We've had a little bit of jamming time in rehearsals. Not enough yet, but I think that will come as we go on, really.
I think with Slowdive, towards the end, it wasn't so enjoyable. I mean, we did implode as a band. I suppose the focus of why we formed the band got lost along the way. I would say it wasn't the drudgery of recording and releasing records, but the pressure we had on us at the time. I think it can be easy for a band to keep going through the motions because that's what they're supposed to do, and maybe lose their passion along the way. So we're going to have to look to see if everybody's enjoying it, which we are, in these early days. We're just enjoying being together and playing. There's definitely a record in there, I think. It'd be fun to do.
Twenty years have gone by since the last time Slowdive performed on stage together. Is there anything you've learned in that time that you wish you'd known back then?
Oh, gosh, that's a loaded question. I don't know, really. For me, I'd like to just take each day as it comes, and not worry so much about stuff. I think you're more prone to worry about stuff and be anxious about things when you're younger. The power of "no," and doing what you want to do rather than what other people want to do.
I think getting older and life experience has made me look at everything in a different way. And I just don't take shit any more, really, you know? [Laughs] I just enjoy the little things in life, and appreciate the good things.
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