The Jesus and Mary Chain - Jim Reid on Touring “Psychocandy” | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Jesus and Mary Chain - Jim Reid on Touring “Psychocandy”

Sweet Simplicity

Sep 11, 2015 The Jesus and Mary Chain Bookmark and Share

The Jesus and Mary Chain‘s frontman, Jim Reid, learned early on that pop music can be destroyed by an overly fussy approach to writing and recording. For the sake of his songs (and sanity), he has tended to avoid retooling and revisiting his own music much over the years. However, the 30th anniversary of Psychocandy, his band’s iconic 1985 debut, has given Reid an occasion to look backward. Perhaps because the record has been an indie rock pillar for decades, it can be difficult to imagine an era when it wasn’t a universally revered work. Reid, however, can still recall the sting of wounds suffered from a combative relationship with the media and record label execs, as well as the rush of inspiration that initially triggered Psychocandy‘s noise pop burst.

To celebrate the album’s milestone, an entire 2015 tour has been planned around the idea of The Jesus and Mary Chain playing their first record, start-to-finish, in a live setting. With a couple of recent U.K. dates behind him and a string of North American shows on the horizon, Reid connected with us to discuss playing Psychocandy live, dealing with music industry opposition, and some persistent rumors. [Note: These are extra portions of our interview with Jim Reid, quotes that didn’t make it into our main print article on The Jesus and Mary Chain.]

Michael Wojtas (Under the Radar): So how are you approaching playing Psychocandy in a live setting? Back in 1985, you guys had a reputation for putting on chaotic shows…

Jim Reid: In the past, we never really played the entire album live. There are tracks on Psychocandy that we never played live, and I guess that’s why it makes sense to do it now. There are two options for a Psychocandy showto do the type of show we would have played at that time, which is something we really don’t want to do. We couldn’t. We’ve just moved on from then. The other [option] is to actually play the album, or as close to it as we can reproduce live. And that seems to be working out quite well.

In an interview a couple of years ago, you mentioned feeling a lot of opposition from the music industry in the band’s early days. Can you elaborate on that?

Opposition was really something that was constantly around throughout The Mary Chain’s career. It was never easy and we always came up against brick walls, people who seemed to be offended by our existence. Even Warner Bros. Records didn’t seem to like the band. Every time we released a record, it was a struggle to get it past Warner Bros. Supposedly your own record label is supposed to be there to help you. And nobody played it on the radio. It was just a constant struggle to get the music across to people. It certainly felt like there weren’t too many allies back then. It’s a bit weird now, because people don’t realize how difficult it was. They just think it was plain sailing, when it wasn’t.

And even in positive reviews of Psychocandy, the music was called nihilistic, sadistic…why do you think it provoked these kinds of reactions?

The record is just a record, you know? At the end of the day, why would a record upset anybody? It’s not like we were singing about fatalism, or killing people. It’s a record, I can’t imagine how it would cause any offense to anybody.

There have also been a lot of unsubstantiated rumors about that era. Like that you incited riots at shows, or that hard drugs or bad acid inspired Psychocandy...

You pick up on bits and pieces of that stuff, but I will say Psychocandy‘s got nothing to do with a bad acid trip. We were doing a bit of acid right about that time, but the end result of that was not Psychocandy. People will sort of run with things that they hear. There’s a lot of inaccuracies, and you can’t really correct them all.

Have you gone back and listened to Psychocandy very much over the years?

I don’t listen to the music that much, to be honest, but from time to time I see if the music sounds good, and it usually does.

Since you’ve been revisiting the album in concert, have you come across any aspects of the record that you’d change if you could?

Constantly. That’s the same with any record. The trick with making an album is that at some point, you have to say, “Look. This is finished.” If you allowed yourself, you could just be in the studio forever. You can always say there’s one more thing you could do to make it better. The fact of the matter is, there really isn’t. Or maybe there is, but at some point, you have to draw a line and say the record is done. There are a lot of bands that get kind of dragged under by doing that, because they don’t know where to stop. There are always improvements that could be made. It’s just part of making music. Any record we’ve made, I always think, “Oh God, why didn’t we do this, why didn’t we do that?” The thing about it is, it’s a snapshot of where your mind was at that time. If we wrote and recorded those songs now, would we record them the same? No, we wouldn’t. But we did then. And it still makes sense to me, that we did it that way.

Then are there any songs you wouldn’t touch? Or that best embody what your mindset was back then?

It’s not about one song really, I think it works as a whole. It’s difficult to pick one song that would represent Psychocandy. I suppose “Just Like Honey” could be candy, and psycho would be something like “Never Understand.”

Can we talk about that contrast?

We already had learned that kind of thing worked. If you could listen to “The Black Angel’s Death Song” on the same record [The Velvet Underground & Nico] as “I’ll Be Your Mirror,” it worked then. So it’s going to work again.

[Note: This article first appeared in the digital version (for tablets and smart phones) of Under the Radar’s April/May/June 2015 print issue. This is its debut online.]


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