The Jesus and Mary Chain: ‘Don’t ask about 1985. I can’t remember’
The 1980s Scottish noise rockers are back. ‘We didn’t give a f**k then and we certainly don’t now’
“Hardly a punch has been thrown”: Brothers William and Jim Reid enjoyed recording their new album in Dublin
Scottish noise pop legends The Jesus and Mary Chain are to release their first album in 18 years. The East Kilbride outfit’s seventh studio album, Damage and Joy, was partly recorded in producer Martin “Youth” Glover’s house in Spain, but also in Dublin’s Camden Studios (formerly Pulse), which is now owned by the Blizzards singer Bressie.
“Dublin is a great place,” singer Jim Reid enthuses. “William’s [Reid, guitarist and Jim’s brother] other half Bernadette is from Dublin, so he spends a lot of time there. It just seemed like a really good idea. It was all pretty laid back and we were left to our own devices, which is just the way we like it. We don’t like people getting in the way.”
We were bracing ourselves for World War III
The reason The Jesus and Mary Chain took so long to record a new album is Jim’s famously fractious relationship with his brother. “It’s just hard for us to stop arguing for long enough to make a fucking record,” Reid confesses.
“Having said that, this was far easier than we thought, which was shocking. We were bracing ourselves for World War III. Youth’s involvement was to be like a United Nations peacekeeper, but as it turns out, we didn’t really need that. We just knuckled down and made a record.”
The opening line of Simian Split will raise a few eyebrows: “I killed Kurt Cobain / I put the shot right through his brain.” This provocative lyric is reminiscent of their 1992 top 10 hit Reverence, where Jim sings, “I wanna die just like JFK.”
Life is too short
“Well, it is what it is,” Jim replies a little frostily. “People can make out whatever they want from it. I didn’t write it. William did, so I don’t really want to talk about it. It’s just a song. Move on. We don’t give a fuck. Life is too short. Everyone’s scared of stepping on someone’s toes. We’re not getting any younger. We didn’t give a fuck back then and we certainly don’t give a fuck right now.”
On the release of Psychocandy in 1985, Jim, William, Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie, who now fronts Primal Scream, became infamous for 20-minute feedback-drenched sets that often descended into full-scale riots.
Legend has it Creation Records boss and then manager Alan McGee hired two former SAS bodyguards to protect the band, who quit as soon as they realised how much mayhem the job involved.
At the time, British news bulletins and the tabloid press covered the tour in all its violent and chaotic detail. Alan McGee declared: “This is truly art as terrorism.”
Reid is unsure whether this tour came to Dublin’s SFX. “Fuck, don’t ask me,” he laughs. “I can’t remember last week. Life is just a series of alcoholic snapshots and my own life is like a lot of jumbled up Polaroids but I don’t know what order they come in. That’s sad, but true.
“A record helps crystallise memories. Psychocandy is the crystallisation of a period of time, as was Darklands, and so on, but the actual events that surround them remain very hazy.”
This recent burst of Mary Chain activity comes on the back of the 30th anniversary tour for Psychocandy in 2015. “Initially, it was very scary to be honest,” Reid says. “We resisted it for a long time and for very good reasons. First of all, we weren’t sure if we wanted to do it, and secondly, we weren’t sure if we could pull it off.
“We quietly took it aside and booked a rehearsal room and tried it out for a week or two to see if it could fly, and it sounded great. There are songs on Psychocandy we never played live, for reasons none of us can remember.”
I was doing my best to act all cool but all my children kept saying: ‘Da Da, I can see your baldy bits'
Prior to this, The Jesus and Mary Chain played one major festival show a year. Scarlett Johansson sang backing vocals on Just Like Honey at Coachella in 2012, a song that soundtracked the climactic scene of Lost in Translation. Meanwhile, Bilinda Butcher of My Bloody Valentine guested on the same song at Primavera in 2013.
Act all cool
“Primavera was lovely,” Reid says. “I was with my kids. I clearly remember before we went onstage I was doing my best to act all cool in front of The Valentines, but all my own children kept saying was, ‘Da Da, I can see your baldy bits. Your belly is over your belt.”
Even though Jim and William now play a lot more than one show a year, Reid is a firm believer in touring at their own pace. “It is very different to back in the day. It was like a machine back then and it wasn’t particularly enjoyable. People were always cracking the whip. Whether you wanted to tour or not, there always seemed to be someone telling us we had no choice.
You never made any money from touring, it was all about the record. Now, it’s completely the other way round
“Now, if someone offers us a festival, we do it if we want, and this is how we approach live work. I wish it was always this way, but for reasons I could never get my head around, it wasn’t.
“All the rules that existed back then have been completely turned on their head. You never made any money from touring back then and it was all about the record. Now, it’s completely the other way round.”
In Zoe Howe’s absorbing biography of the band, The Jesus and Mary Chain: Barbed Wire Kisses, she says that Jim and William’s sister Linda Reid is nicknamed Kofi Annan for her role in keeping her bickering brothers in check, helping her mother broker Christmas Day truces and generally trying to prevent her siblings from killing each other.
How are relations between Jim and William at present? “Things are good at the moment,” Jim answers. “It’s better than it has been for a long, long time. We seem to be getting on so much better. I’d say it hasn’t been this good since the 1980s to be honest, which is very weird territory for us. Hardly a punch has been thrown.”
- Damage and Joy is out on March 24. The Jesus and Mary Chain play the Academy, Dublin on April 7
Sibling Rivalries – Blood Relatives in Bands
“Liam is rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy,” Noel Gallagher once said about his little brother. “He’s the angriest man you’ll ever meet. He’s like a man with a fork in a world of soup.”
Brothers Ray and Dave Davies have rowed over absolutely everything. Dave alleges Ray ruined his 50th birthday party. “Just as I was about to cut the cake, Ray jumped on the table and made a speech about how wonderful he was,” the guitarist said. “He then stamped on the cake.”
The Beach Boys
The Jesus and Mary Chain do a mean version of Surfin’ USA by the Beach Boys. The Wilson brothers actually make the Reids look harmonious, as Brian and the other Wilsons still bitterly contest rights to the original name.
The Pointer Sisters
Brotherly tiffs are well-documented in rock'n’roll, but sisterly relations can also go sour. Ruth, Anita and Bonnie Pointer had a nuclear fall out over their mother’s burial wishes. Bonnie alleged that their mother was cremated because it was cheaper, despite wanting to be buried.