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THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN The X-Press Interview


Before Oasis made sibling rivalry cool, Jim and William Reid were leather pants wearing rock renegades who were showing disdain for themselves and each other. The brothers hid glorious melodies under a wall of feedback with their band The Jesus and Mary Chain. The band’s 1985 debut  record Psychocandy had them labelled the Sex Pistols of their generation, as they led the way for post-punk bands of that era. 
Surviving a family feud and over three decades of making music, The Jesus and Mary Chain return to Australia with a batch of new songs from their latest angst ridden full length Damage and Joy as well as the effects laden ‘hits’ from the preceding decades. CHRIS HAVERCROFT spoke to frontman Jim Reid ahead of their show at the Astor Theatre this Saturday, March 16.

The Scottish music scene has always appeared to be tight knit. Are you still connected to the scene or the people you used to meet at Stephen Pastel’s record shop?

I live in Devon in South West. I haven’t lived in Scotland now since January 1985. Its been a long time. From time to time I like to go back, but everybody that I knew has moved away really. There is less family and friends there now as they are all scattered around in other places.

Damage and Joy was your first record in almost 20 years. Why was 2017 the right time to finally make that record?

I guess that it is always the right time if you have a decent record to release. It took so long for us to record it, because the band reformed in 2007 and we were quite nervous about going into the studio together. The memories of the making of the album Munki were still pretty fresh with me and I didn’t want to go back and relive that experience. I kept making excuses as to why we couldn’t record and eventually so much time had passed that I thought fuck it, lets just do this thing as I wanted to have a new record.

Do you enjoy having records out, or is it a bit of a chore?

It what keeps a band going, really. You can tour your back catalogue, but we had done that already. I just wanted to have some songs that we hadn’t played to an audience before.

There are the rumours and half truths about the band that have always surfaced. There is the notion that you don’t like being in the studio and you don’t like touring. There’s not much left to like about being in a band…

I don’t like being in the studio. I do like when the record is done and you can see what all the work has been about. The reason that I don’t like being in the studio is because it is so difficult to get what is in your head down onto a recording on a machine. You kind of hear what you want it to be like and getting it from your head to the machine can be quite painful. It never works out quite like you imagined it. At the end of it, sometimes you get a happy accident where it doesn’t turn out like you expected it to but its actually pretty good. There is a lot at stake in the studio. It can sometimes get away from you and is a difficult process, but once it is recorded it is a great sense of achievement.

I do like going on tour but I get really nervous before a show. I do like touring and I do like playing a show, but I suffer a bit from stage fright.

How do you manage that anxiety?

There is nothing that helps me unfortunately. The only thing that helps me is booze. I’m a bit of a drunk so I try not to drink. I just deal with it. I know that once I am out on stage and have played a song I am fine. It is just when you walk on that I think, “Jesus Christ!” Once you are out there and have played a song, I think its ok and the audience is fine and I settle down after that. About an hour before the show is when I really suffer.

Most people go to the same office for their job every day, but you find yourself in a different venue each day on tour. That can’t help your anxiety…

I am painfully shy. When I look back on it, I wonder how the hell I became a singer in a rock and roll band. I am one of those people that don’t like crowds, and I’m not comfortable meeting people. I am an extremely shy human being, but then look at what I have to do. I do actually enjoy it, It just doesn’t come naturally to me.

The early shows were said to be around 20 minutes long and you’d have your back to the audience. Do you ever feel tempted to revert back to that when it gets overwhelming?

Strangely enough, those 20 minute shows were so few and far between that it is incredible that people still talk about them. We only did a handful of those and I never ever played a show with my back to the audience. Not once. I’m not sure where that one came from. William used to crouch down in front of his amp to get the feedback, so maybe it came from that. He wasn’t turning his back on anyone, he was just doing what he had to to get that squealing, screeching noise.

Is it frustrating that there is still a perception that you are a band that is reluctant to have success and yet with everything you do, you have shown you know how to be a very successful rock band?

I really don’t mind people talking about anything to do with the band, but if something didn’t happen I will correct people. I don’t mind talking about things that happened in 1985, sometimes its fun to reminisce. It is strange thinking about all those years ago and it feels like talking about a different person.

How are you a different person now?

I am not that different a person now to be honest as I don’t feel that people change that much. I am sober at the moment and that is probably the biggest change for me. I do fall off the wagon from time to time but it has been a couple of years now. I am more relaxed now about the idea of being in a band. When I was younger I felt not good enough and that I needed to be more of a frontman and more like Iggy Pop and the way I dealt with it was to drink more and take drugs. It made me more animated but it was also incredibly unhealthy. Nowadays I go on stage and it’s just me. Take it or leave it, like it or loathe it, its just me and I am a quiet guy and I like to get on with the job of just singing songs. Hopefully the songs will carry it through. I figure that it is not about me and my mini nervous breakdown, it is about putting the songs across to people. I don’t need to take my shirt off and get up on the PA stand. It wouldn’t be good to watch with my belly these days.

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