Neil Halstead of Slowdive on Reforming the Classic Shoegaze Band and the Eventual Return of Mojave 3 | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Neil Halstead of Slowdive on Reforming the Classic Shoegaze Band and the Eventual Return of Mojave 3

Bypassing Memory Lane

Feb 21, 2014 Slowdive Bookmark and Share

“The intent is for us to do another record,” says Neil Halstead, founding guitarist and vocalist of the recently-reunited Slowdive. “We all really want to do that. Whether we manage it or not, I’m not sure yet at this point. We’d gone into it with that intention because we all want to make this more than just a trip down memory lane. We want it to be something creative as well.”

Spurned by harsh music critics and dropped by Creation Records, the quintessential English shoegaze act Slowdive split up in 1995 after only three albums, and long before they were able to appreciate the scope of their influence. That changed when the big news broke last month: Slowdive’s original lineupHalstead, guitarist and singer Rachel Goswell, bassist Nick Chaplin, drummer Simon Scott, and guitarist Christian Savillwas getting back together after two decades. Better yet, it wasn’t only for a handful of nostalgia shows: a new album could come out of the reunion as well.

“Over the years we’d sort of come around to the idea of doing something together again,” Halstead says. “We talked over the summer about possibly doing a record, and we thought if we played some shows we could kick-start it in that way. Then we got an offer from Primavera, and we thought we’d give it a go.”

The Barcelona-based festival made headlines when it was announced they would be hosting one of Slowdive’s first live performances since 1994. (The band has since added scattered European dates and a stop at Chicago’s Pitchfork Music Festival to the tour itinerary.) Although it’s hard to imagine, Halstead believes Primavera Sound might have been the first proper offer the band has ever received to reunite.

“I’d certainly always been asked [by fans] about it, and I’m sure the others have as well at various times,” he says. “I’m not sure any offers ever came to us through any agents, or anything like that.” He laughs, and then adds: “This one came through, and we’re grateful for that.”

They held their first rehearsal for the show in January, diving immediately into songs they hadn’t played together in two decades and sounding better than any of them had expected after so many years apart.

“It was a very lovely surprise, really, because from the very first song it fell together beautifully,” he says. “Actually, Nick [Chaplin], who has not played bass in 20 years, probably knew the songs better than anyone! I asked him about it, and he said those were some of the only bass lines he’s ever had in his head.”

Not every song they tried in that first practice session came along so smoothly, however.

“We noticed at the rehearsal that a few songs were trickier,” he says. “A couple songs we tried, we were like, ‘Oooh, we’re going to have to really sit down with those and figure out what’s going on there.’” He adds that they’re really hoping to play songs from their final record, Pygmalion. “We never got to play that one live. It’s still the early days, and we’re still trying to figure out what songs we might and might not do.”

They plan further rehearsals to help brush off the dust that has settled over the intervening 20 years. Halstead even admits to having to relearn some elements of the electric guitar, which he rarely played over the last decade.

“Myself, Christian [Savill], and Nick have been emailing and Skyping, just trying to figure out the tunings on these songs so we can play them the way we used to play them,” he explains. “The other thing is actually getting the pedal boards together, stuff like that. It’s been an exciting challenge, because pedals are way more interesting now than they were 20 years ago…. We’re not going to be using the same setups we were using, but I did go on Guitar Geek to check out my old setup and see what it was.”

Fanssuch as those on gear site GuitarGeek.comhave been dissecting the nuances of Slowdive’s sound since the band’s split. Some of them have gone on to form their own projects, and many of this new generation of shoegazers count Slowdive’s music as one of their prime inspirations.

“It’s really nice people are still listening to the records,” Halstead says. “When I tour, I’d meet young kids who tell me they’re really into Slowdive, and that always blew me away. It’s a constant source of gratification for me that people say they listen to Slowdive, and that it inspired them to start a band or make music.”

Not to be lost in the excitement over the reformation of one long-dormant band is a promise of new material from another: Halstead admitted to us that Mojave 3 may also be approaching the end of its hiatus. The primarily acoustic country-influenced rock act was formed by several of Slowdive’s members (including Halstead and Goswell) in 1995 following the shoegaze band’s dissolution.

“We did some recording last year,” Halstead says of Mojave 3, which hasn’t put out a record since 2008. “We did a couple weeks in the studio. There is some material in progress; we just haven’t gotten around to finishing it off. I really hope we do, actually. It was a really fun recording session. Simon [Rowe] came and played guitar, and he’s not played with us for a long time.”

For now, though, Halstead is taking it one reunion at a time.

“There is some rustling under the Mojave 3 covers,” Halstead confirms. “Hopefully, the Slowdive thing doesn’t come to immerse us, and we’ll still be able to figure out another Mojave 3 record as well.”

[Note: A separate, even more in-depth, feature on Slowdive’s early years and their reunion will appear in a future print issue of Under the Radar.]


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