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Primal Scream

Out of the Darkness

Aug 26, 2013 Primal Scream Photography by Kate Garner Bookmark and Share

Never afraid to try something different, Primal Scream has taken many sharp turns across their 10-album discography. More Light, their first record in five years, is the London-based band’s return to radical, sophisticated rock music after the retro styling of 2006’s Riot City Blues and 2008’s reserved Beautiful Future.

“We wanted to make a more psychedelic, experimental rock record,” says founder and frontman Bobby Gillespie. “We wanted to mess with time signatures, stretch the songs, make them nine minutes long, but at the same time make them tense and interesting.”

Work began on More Light when Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes departed to the Belfast home of producer David Holmes for a five-day musical retreat. While little actual songwriting survived from those sessions, they did find a kindred spirit in Holmes, who understood their vision and stayed on to produce the album.

“He took us to Woody Jackson’s Vox Recording Studios out in Hollywood, and that was fantastic,” says Gillespie. “He’s got the Wally Heider [console] where they recorded Creedence Clearwater, they recorded American Beauty by The Grateful Dead, If I Could Only Remember My Name by David Crosby…they were all recorded on that fucking desk. More Light was recorded on it. I mean, ‘Proud Mary’ was recorded on that desk. ‘Proud fucking Mary!’”

Gillespie’s enthusiasm is clear as he lists the records with which More Light shares company. He is a scholar of rock history, and Primal Scream has given him the opportunity to collaborate with several of rock’s legendary figures over the years. On More Light, he’s reunited with Robert Plant, who provides backing vocals on “Elimination Blues.” (The singer previously played harmonica on Primal Scream’s 2002 album, Evil Heat.)

“We’ve got a connection with Robert that I think is pretty deep,” says Gillespie. “[The song] was missing something. We needed a really high voice to sing some lines…. One morning I was getting coffee up near my studio and Robert walked past with his girlfriend. We saw each other and I ran out, we hugged. He asked me how the band was doing, and I told him we were trying to finish our album, and he said, ‘Well, if you need anything, you know how to get a hold of me.’”

More Light boasts several other impressive collaborators. The Pop Group’s Mark Stewart sings on “Culturecide,” and the Sun Ra Arkestra added strings to “River of Pain” while they were stranded in the U.K., due to the 2010 volcanic eruption in Iceland that grounded flights in Europe. The nine-minute album opener, “2013,” features guitar work from My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, who spent eight years as a touring member of Primal Scream.

“It explores this idea of what happened to the voices of dissent,” Gillespie says of “2013.” “Did they become part of the establishment? There’s no counterculture anymore, there’s no youthful radicalism. There’s no radical music. It just seems that everybody’s very conservative. You get conservative art for conservative times…. When I was kid, I thought by the 21st century we would be living in an enlightened, rational time, but we’re notwe’re going backwards…. J.G. Ballard said there was no need to read science fiction novels anymore because we’re living in a science fiction novel. Reality is stranger than fiction. I feel the same way. It seems strange that art doesn’t reflect the truth of our reality in 2013. It seems like everything is really tranquilized and fantasy. Everyone’s too self-obsessed.”

While Gillespie’s proclivity toward political songwriting hasn’t changed, other things have. Most notably, he’s been clean and sober now for five years; More Light is the first album he’s written and recorded with Primal Scream since making this major change to his lifestyle.

“It’s been a really great thing for my work,” he says. “I’m definitely sharper, more alert. I just feel really strong about myself and sure of my abilities. When you’re clean, you feel more sensitive, and for an artistic person that’s going to help your work. You feel more, you think more, and you can make sense of it.”

The rocker turned 50 last year and has a wife and two children to think about while he’s recording and touring. His sons were born in 2002 and 2004.

“In the old days, I wasn’t really taking care of myself, and the tours would really take a lot out of me, because I’d abuse myself, my mind and my body,” he says. “Now I take care of myself. The tours are fine. I don’t hurt myself, y’know? I come off tour and I’m normal. I’m fine for my kids. I try not to go away for long. I don’t want to be away from my kids for two months, that’s too much, because I miss them and they miss me.”

Even though Gillespie has settled down, his musical ambition has not been compromised. More Light has all the hallmarks of a Primal Scream record: It’s a complicated, multi-layered album, and the most exciting one the band has put out in more than a decade.

“A lot of the songs have dark subject matter, and basically we shed more light on some of these subjects,” Gillespie says, explaining the album’s title. “It’s not saying ‘fuck you,’ like Vanishing Point, or XTRMNTR, or Evil Heat. It’s kind of open. It’s not embracing, but saying ‘more light’ is kind of hopeful. There’s a bit more love in it, you know?”

[This article first appeared in Under the Radar’s June/July 2013 print issue.]

Primal Scream have some upcoming U.S. tour dates:

10/11/2013 @ Regency - San Francisco, CA Regency
10/13/2013 @ Fonda - Los Angeles, CA Fonda
10/14/2013 @ Glass House - Pomona, CA
10/15/2013 @ Belly Up - San Diego, CA

Check out the videos for “2013” and “It’s Alright, It’s OK”:


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December 22nd 2015

Cri primal
Out of the Darkness @ replique montre