Chase The Sun

16 May 2013 | 10:28 am | Bryget Chrisfield

"You always imagined that to get into some of these clubs you had to dress up in expensive designer clothes, but when the acid house thing hit it was more democratic, and more about expecting anything, you know?"

More Primal Scream More Primal Scream

Listening to Primal Scream's incandescent new album More Light, which is still on high rotation and yet to be ejected from the car stereo, serves to illuminate just how many important bands cite the Glaswegian outfit high up on their influences list. Kasabian is one band that springs to mind, but when asked whether he rates the Leicester lads' output, Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie's not playing: “I'd rather just talk about Primal Scream. Maybe talk about our record.” 

Yeah, no worries. River Of Pain is awesome. “Oh, thank you.” It really takes some unexpected twists and turns. “Mmm-hmmm.” Can you talk us through some of the compositional decisions, like that random orchestral interlude? “Well that's actually the Sun Ra Arkestra playing on there. Are you familiar with the Sun Ra?” Affirmative. “Yeah well that's Marshall Allen and three other guys on there. For that [song] we get the Arkestra, plus we get a 30- or 40-piece orchestra – strings and stuff. So we mixed two of them together to make that middle section of River Of Pain. It's kinda like a free jazz, dark blues, Walt Disney kind of thing going on there. You know, it's kinda – kind of dark.” It's definitely a cinematic listen. Your mind gets carried away on visual tangents. “Oh good, that's the idea.”

Robert Plant puts down some guest vocals for Elimination Blues on the new album and Gillespie assures me these weren't phoned in. “He came into our studio… Andrew [Inees, guitar] engineered it and he set up the mics and everything. [The band were] in one room, and then I was in the other room with Robert, countin' him in, sayin', 'One-two-three-four,' and giving him the nod where he had to sing and stuff. So that was kinda a great experience.” Admitting they've been friends “since the mid-'90s”, Gillespie adds: “Robert played harmonica on one of our albums, Evil Heat, about ten years or so ago”. 

On whether there's anyone left on his collaboration wishlist, Gillespie eventually comes up with a corker: “Kurt Cobain would have been pretty good, we thought about him.” Via hologram? “Well, back just before he died,” Gillespie stresses. “When he killed himself, Andrew Innes said, 'Oh, it's a shame, we could've made a record. It could've been really good.' So that one, he got crossed off the list in 1994.”

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Apart from making More Light, Primal Scream spent the time in between records touring the world. Australian audiences were treated to the Screamadelica shows as part of Big Day Out 2011 and then we didn't have to wait too long before the band returned for Meredith Music Festival in December 2012, this time to show off their extensive back-catalogue and a handful of new songs. “It was a really magical energy in the audience,” Gillespie remembers of the aforementioned festival appearance. “It was like a force field. I loved that gig.” When told the festival site's named Supernatural Amphitheatre, he ponders, “Oh, maybe it's on some kind of energy thing comin' out of the earth. Have you heard of these things called ley lines? Some people believe that there's energy lines, grids of energy, that go all 'round the earth. A lot of churches are built on pagan holy sites and they reckon that the pre-Roman British people built their holy sites in these special places because there was some kinda magical energy. You know what? Some people believe that Buckingham Palace is built on a convergence of ley lanes. St Paul's Cathedral will be on a ley line, so that means that the royal family or the church are basically blocking all the natural energy that's comin' out of earth, that should be comin' to the people… So basically they've appropriated our power and our energy to rule over us. Some people believe that, you know, and, I mean, I don't know if it's true.

“But I worked in a factory when I was a teenager and a guy was writing a book about ley lanes, so that's how I found out about them – he was the one that explained it to me… There's more to the fuckin' universe than people realise, I think.” Suddenly Gillespie digresses: “Is it okay? I just want to put a jumper on, 'cause it's gettin' chilly.”

A female voice advises there's time for one more question while Gillespie rugs up. He returns. Final question: Would Gillespie be so kind as to tell us about the first time he wandered into a dance party? “Oh, okay. Er, first time would've been 1988. I lived in Brighton and this girl I knew, Tracey, she worked on the door at the Escape Club, which was a kinda cool club. Anyway, I really liked this girl – I don't mean, like, romantically, but she was the girlfriend of a guy I knew and she was a really cool girl – and she tipped me off that there was gonna be a really cool party in a warehouse under the Brighton Main Line railway station. And me and my friends went up there, and, um, I think we'd taken some speed, and, ah, we just went looking for [the party], just to see what it was like. There was a couple of guys dressed up casual – just like guys from an estate – and they were playin' records. And we didn't really understand the music or really get it, but we kinda thought it was interesting, you know? And there wasn't that many people there, but that was the first time I'd ever been to, like, a warehouse party or a rave. That would've been maybe the summer of '88 so that's just when it was starting up.”

So what about those raves where you'd be given a phone number to call and then you'd be given a vague sort of address to head towards? “Yeah, there was a bit of that going on,” Gillespie recalls. “But, I mean, what I used to do is go to this art club, and then basically you'd come out at two in the morning and then you would just hang outside and say to people, 'What's happenin'?' And, once you were a bit of a face in the scene, people would say, 'Oh, there's gonna be a party at Black Rock', which was a kinda groyne. You know what a groyne is? Those walkways that go out into the sea. Well, somebody would just set up decks in the groyne and loads of kids would get there and just dance. And, you know, they'd still probably be high from being on ecstasy at the club since, like, Wednesday or Thursday night.”

Before acid house, Gillespie reflects, “You always imagined that to get into some of these clubs you had to dress up in expensive designer clothes, but when the acid house thing hit it was more democratic, and more about expecting anything, you know? I mean, stylistically, sartorially, it wasn't great – it was just, like, t-shirts and jeans and stuff and, you know, long hair – but loads of colour.” And happy pants. “Sorry? I can't remember them, but I just remember taking loads of ecstasy, really, and havin' a good time,” he laughs. So what would've been Gillespie's longest stint without sleep then? “Er, I'd go three days or something – or four days. We did used to go for days and days.”