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Then there was Light

With Andrew weatherall, Kate Mss and Robert Plant sll on board, Primal Scream are back with a 21st Century Screamdelica and a resolution to let the music taake you higher than you've ever been before.

They won't say it so we will. There's no band in Britain today that has the rich, kick-arse history of rock'n'roll careering through their veins and attacking their brains more than Primal Scream. It's there in every single reference Gillespie's psychedelic lyrics, allusions to cult films, books, musical heroes and politics even the art on the sleeve of every album comes with its own weight. So loot the knowledge as it's a firing head-trip courtesy of Primal Scream and, if you care to notice it, everything's for free.

Bobby Gillespie should know, he's had ten years worth of interviews to grind the same axe in the hope of waking and shaking the people out of their apathy. Perched on a stool, strumming his guitar, it's as if the Glaswegian pied piper is saying, well, the messages are still there if you want them.

As a band, Primal Scream became a huge, human sledgehammer that slammed hard into the dark recesses of the last decade, finally purging their anger with XTRMNTR. But today, when probed on the politics of both the State and states of mind, Gillespie directs conversation straight to the music. Because it's only now that their personal, new euphoric headspace demands that, armed with the first true British rock'n'roll album of the century, they stick to the music and get on tour. With Andrew Weatherall, Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and Kate Moss all on board, they're absolutely gagging for it. And when Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant arrives at the studio, he's the final ignition point to out the band's boiling energy'. Dig out Led Zeppelin's Black Dog, turn it all the way up and what you'll hear is Primal Scream's visions of what it'll be like when they burst onto stage in this, the summer that Mani predicts will be the third summer of love. Hey, hey mama, said the way you move I gonna make you sweat / gonna make you groove!

"Two years ago when we started this record, I was pretty fucked up in my head," comments Gillespie, who recently became a father, "a lot of the ideas came from then. Then I guess things change, so right now I'm dead happy... it's taken a while." Rewind to 93, when the band and Britain was beginning its hedonistic fall-out from Screamadelicaand the second summer of love respectively. Unaware of what the next seven years would bring, Primal Scream were sifting by the pool at the Chateau-Marmont hotel, LA. "Arthur Lee was there," remembers Gillespie of the day he met the lead singer arid songwriter of SOs psychedelic band, Love who, along with The Byrds are one of his all-time biggest influences. "I was wasted, everybody was pretty fucked up. I don't think he was, but I said, 'Arthur, if I play "Signed DC" will you sing?' I started playing the chords, he sang two verses and a chorus then put his hand into his pocket, pulled out a harmonica, played the break then sang the rest, it was fucking insane!" One of the most aching songs to have ever been written about drug addiction, the band were shocked as Lee took the guitar from Bobby and continued to give them an impromptu show. Released the following year, the third Primal Scream album, Give Out But Don't Give Up went down as one of the albums most wrought with rumours of heavy drug abuse in recent history. As America reeled from the death of Kurt Cobain, Britain's celebrities careered towards a front cover of Vanity Fair magazine that cried "Cool Britannia" with all the semi-complicit acknowledgement of cocaine abuse that implied, while Primal Scream and, inevitably, Creation Records were setting the stage to battle their own demons.

"If you look at Screamadelica as euphoric," comments bass player Mani, "Give Out But Don't Give Up was a really bad period of drug abuse. Vanishing Point is the paranoid come-down and XTRMNTR was like, we're angry cos what the fuck have we been doing?" An angry album, XTRMNTR ran on two trains of thought. "We were trying to plant bombs in people's minds and get them politicised again, cos that's what Thatcher drummed out of people," says Mani. "Superpower foreign policies are just so fascist, destabilising governments and starting revolutions just so that they can build McDonald's. Serbia and Sosnia are both just aircraft carriers for the USA to launch planes from. We never invited them to our party, what are they doing? Why are they fucking it up?" Gillespie treads another more cursory' path. "XTRMNTR, even then, was more about nihilistic drug culture and control, I have a theory about drug culture: if you made the choice to become an addict, in effect you neutralise yourself, so really it's like you become no threat to anybody. Now see it isn't rebellious, it's counter- productive if you want to do anything of any use. I'm criticising self-inflicted narcosis, so that was the closest the record came to being political, and even then, it was just personal, you know?"

Two years on and the latest album has just the slightest touch of the past's destructive embers finally settling, while conversely the band are on a new celebratory, (13th Floor) elevatory trip. Somehow everything from 60s garage bands like the Seeds, Moby Grape to anarchic, electronic bands like Throbbing Gristle, DAS to Can, Faust, punk, Jerry' Lee Lewis and country and western are all wired into this new album, Yet it all makes sense and works, no more so than on the first single, "Miss Lucifer". "That's the electronic rock'n'roll," says Gillespie, who moves onto a haphazard attempt at explaining the whole album. "It's more sarcastic, more hateful, but it's more funny as well, more up, maybe not as angry, something else... sexier I think." Man your turn. "We've moved away from the politics, we got that out in the last album. This, I think, is just a celebration of life, I dunno that might sound a bit cheesy and blast, but we're just enjoying what we do so much now." Okay, one track at a time, From the ashes of "Bomb the Pentagpn" comes "Rise" produced by Kevin Shields, who was given the musical brief of The Plastic Ono Band meets P.I.L. Following the media furore caused by the original title and its chilling message of prophecy that was yanked into the spotlight as September 11 unfurled, Bobby says, "There's a song called 'Rise', there's no song called 'Bomb the Pentagon', that's the best way to put it." Euphoric, electronic and kaleidoscopic, Bobby chants image heavy lyrics like a howling shaman over Mani's driving bass. The track explodes like a flashing psychedelic cannon- ball straight through the back of your head before finally disintegrating into a chaotic dirge.

"Deep Hit of the Sun" is ragged and industrial with a freight-train heart-beat pumping throughout. Guitars wail like sirens singing backwards (Mani: "Backwards shit, all sorts of trickery, whatever you can throw at it, it's all there.") courtesy of studio trickster Andrew Innes. It's taken over a decade, and only Primal Scream know how close the band came to jacking it all in in the mid- 90s. But uplifting and flush as this song is, a line can now finally be drawn between the joys of Screamadelica to the present day. Significant in this is the return of Andrew Weatherall as producer on three of the album tnacks, one of which is "A Scanner Darkly". Named after a book by Philip K Dick (author of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep), it's the disturbing story of protagonist, Bob Arctor, who can't distinguish between his job and his junkie lifestyle. Delusions, schizophrenia and hallucinations all mix into the fold. Gillespie becomes elated while describing the track as Captain Beefheart over Throbbing Gristle with Robert Plant on harmonica. But a few telling lines from the book speak even louder; "he felt, in his head, loud voices singing: terrible music, as if the reality around him had gone sour."

"We all fucking love... no, worship Led Zeppelin!" says Bobby an hour before Plant arrives at their north London studio. Gillespie's getting animated, laughing and clapping as he anticipates the lead singer of one of the world's biggest rock bands guesting on their album. "Robert Plant, what an amazing rock'n'roller, amazing singer. The Zep fucking invented rock'n'roll behaviour! Maybe even better than the Stones, sexier maybe... hey d'you know what, they're not better than the Stones, but fuck me, they're as good as." As Robert Plant arrives in the studio, a warm gust of blonde hair; jokes and smiles, Primal Scream are visibly beside themselves. Plant listens to the track once, takes a harmonica from Throb, the lead guitarist, and goes into the next room to record his material within minutes of arriving. "There are Howling Wolf-style blues on this track, and we know Robert's a big fan so when he passed by the studio a couple of weeks ago, we asked if he'd like to play," says Bobby, who's jumping around as Plant shows a real feel for the dirty, sexy qualities of the track right from the get-go. Another take and Plant adds some long, skitzy notes and then that's it. But not before discussing the fame and misfortunes of other rock stars. "You can't live for disaster," states Plant. Gillespie Iooks up from his guitar and laughs, "well, we tried". Quick as a flash, Plant floors the band, "My God, I should know, I was in Led Zeppelin for christsakes, I never slept for years!" And with that he walks back into the studio for one final go. This time Percy's absolutely cracked it, and Andrew Innes has got a grin wider than the Wafford Gap as he records Plant blowing evil, deep down under delta blues into the microphone. Once Plant's gone, Duffy, the keyboard player, says that it took everything he had not to get emotional. "It's moments like that," says Andrew Innes later in the pub, that keep us together, that make it all worthwhile."

Another guest to appear on a cover version of Lee Hazlewood's duet with Nancy Sinatra, "Some Velvet Morning" is Kate Moss who, after Denise Johnson, is Primal Scream's second chanteuse. "It's a psycho- sexual, psychedelic cowboy song," says Gillespie, "hopefully we're going to get it mixed by Georgio Moroder. Us, Kate Moss and Georgio Moroder, fucking great!" Friends with Kate since she was 15, Gillespie only discovered that she could sing a couple of years ago when she was late in writing a ditty for a website. "There was a guitar there so I said I'll write you a song. She had these diamonds so I said alright I'll write a song called "I Got the Diamond Blues" says Gillespie. "She's got a good voice, good timing, and she's a good dancer If you're a good dancer then you've got timing. Singing's not about being in tune, it's about timing." Then, as he scratches his mop of black hair, "and you need to have the right attitude, you know?" A fact that Gillespie himself has only just become truly accustomed to. In the early days, he'd do take after take with his vocals. "Since Vanishing Point I've done everything in one take. [Before that] maybe I was a bit insecure about how it sounded in my head to how it sounded on tape. Live I was always pretty good so I just thought, you know what you've just got to get it down as it is. So I started just writing the lyrics and singing right away. When I did that, I suddenly became really confident."

So, a belting seventh album in tow, the whole band's in sync and, in their words, feeling better than they have in years. Primal Scream are bursting to go on tour. "When we record in the studio, I love it," says Gillespie, "but really I'm always thinking, this is going to sound great live." For the next minute, imagine yourself as the sixth member of Primal Scream. "If it's a really big gig," rushes Gillespie, "a really important gig, backstage we're playing James Brown records then we'll have the sax boys and the cornet boys playing along. Then the guy goes 'right, you've gotta go onstage', and you walk down the corridor, and you're just waiting to go, and you can just hear the fucking crowd, and all of a sudden someone says 'go on', and you run on, that's fucking ama-azing that feeling, the best feeling in the world! It's like slow motion, it's like being in a movie!" Though it's not without some trepidation that they're preparing to tour "We once went on tour for 22 weeks when 'Get Your Rocks Off' came out," says Gillespie, "it took me two years to recover." And so did the hotel rooms. Buried in the history of Primal Scream is one story with two versions. Photographer, author of Higher than the Sun and living legend Grant Fleming claims that it was England being knocked out of the World Cup. Mani claims that they were in Japan, it was his birthday and he'd rung his wife only to find that she was out. Whatever the excuse, either way a whole mom was demolished. The sofa, chairs, table and TV all went out of the window. "The window was only so small," motions Mani, "I went fucking bananas, broke up the couch bit by bit and threw it all out. Some guy came to the door, there was a cleaner going past so I grabbed the hoover off her, chased the guy down the corridor with it, got my cock out and pissed all over 'em. Not like me at all." A benefit gig was played to pay for the damage. "Typical Primal Scream behaviour," comments Fleming, "while other bands were playing gigs to benefit charities they played a gig to save the promoters' arse". None of the rock'n'roll attitude has faded. "We love it on the road," says Mani with words that have more depth than he's aware, "We half kill ourselves, but now we're bullet proof" Separately, Gillespie adds to the sentiment, "The band's better than it's ever been, personalities, musicianship, attitude, nobody's fucked up either, which is pretty important." Which leaves just one final prophecy to be made about this next album, and it has to come from the lyrics of one of Primal Scream's dearest and biggest idols:
A movement is accomplished in six stages / And the seventh brings return I The seven is the number of the young light/ft forms when darkness is increased by one.
Syd Barrett Chapter 24, Pink Floyd.

Originally appeared in Dazed and Confused, June 2002.
Copyright © Dazed and Confused.

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