Primal Scream are back with a banging new single, a bunch of cool
collaborations and a fierce new attitude: Paul Benney speaks exclusively
to the band, hears half of their new album and finds out why they're so
bloody angry. Shooting from the hip: Simon King
It's September 1999 and Jockey Slut and Primal Scream are hanging
out in the band's compact Primrose Hill studio, listening to tracks tram
their new album. There's pictures at Maradonna and The Sex Pistols on
the mall and military headgear sits on tap at the mixing desk. Bobby's
milling about chatting, Innes is pushing buttons and Mani is knocking up
Mancunian-strength spliffs. All seems relatively calm in the Scream
camp, a band obviously confident in their work and enjoying the
recording process. And then something happens that changes the mood
entirely. The phone rings. "That'll be the Tuesday posse", says Bobby,
"all coming back fromm oblivion otter the weekend. People seem to think
that this studio is tar parties rather than for making music. Sometimes
I'll be doing a vocal and someone will burst into the studio and say
'Wasn't that a laugh at the weekend!?' right in the middle at it! I'd
never dream at bothering people when they're working. Let's get out at
here before they all start to turn up."
Primal Scream, the 1999 version, is a very different beast than accepted
Scream wisdom would have you believe. The band's seminal Screamadelica
album was synonymous with their immersion in acid house and the
E-drenched nights (and days) that went with it; their ill-toted 'Give
Out But Don't Give Up' album was a journey to the heart at rock'n'roll
with a total commitment to the cliched excess that's a part at the
package; and 1997's excellent Vanishing Point sounded smacky whether the
rumours were true or not. Today, music is the only drug the bond are
interested in. They've done it all and now find the very idea that Class
A narcotics could aid the recording process ridiculous. "You can't do
yourself justice it you're in the studio off your head" says Mani. We've
got to remain faithtul to ourselves, there's a time and a place for
everything and the studio ain't it. "Drugs are just a means at control
anyway" adds Bobby in his distinctive Glaswegian drawl. "It's a control
virus that we're all susceptible to."
Since Vanishing Point the band have hardly had a break, doing the
festivals and touring the likes at Japan in '98 with Bobby taking one
holiday - to Columbia! - before locking themselves in the studio to work
on an album due early next year.
There's little pomp or circumstance with Primal Scream. They may believe
in the power at music but otter nearly fifteen years in the game they
see the music 'industry' as exactly that - a game. There's no
restrictions on the length at the photo shoot or interview, no pop-star
attitude, just a group at cool blokes who want to make music but realise
photos and interviews, although mere fluff, are usetul tools for selling
This is their first press call for well over a year
and Jockey Slut suggests that it might take them a while to get into pop
star mode tar the photos. What do you want us to do? asks Bobby while
Mani rolls another at those spliffs . (Innes never has his photo taken
and Duffy has just decided to disappear). "Shades on or off?" he says
holding up some classic mirror numbers. "Shall I wear this T-shirt let
says 'Let it Rock' on the front and 'Let it Roll' on the back! or shall
I go back and get my black jacket? Ahhh fuck it, just point the camera
at us and we'll blag it." Within half an hour they've thrown shapes,
looked cool and generally performed for the camera. Total professionals.
We wander up Primrose Hill to do same more photos, Bobby and
Mani saying 'hello' to various people along the way. A lady pushing a
pram asks them when they will be gigging again! We find a suitable
location and the pop star cool goes out the window -Bobby and Mani ore
two mates mucking about in a park. Mani shouts out a playful 'guten tag'
to two blonde girls, although they pretend not to hear. With the photos
done, we wander back to the studio to tind the rest of the band, but use
the back streets so as not to walk past the pub for fear at being
dragged in! "If I lived in London I'd die" says Mani!, "there's always
somebody trying to get you to do this or that."
With Innes and Duffy on board (Throb, although Jockey Slut is assured
he's very much still a part of the band, isn't here, perhaps because he
has just become a dad!) we move to the Russian Tea Rooms around the
corner. Coffee, mineral water'and all-day breaktasts ordered, the tape
recorder goes on and everyone shuts up. We're out at practice laughs
Jockey Slut has heard five tracks that will be on the
new album, described by Innes as "A lot harder, more up, fiercer,
angrier". It is an angry record continues Bobby. "We're angry at
ourselves and angry at what we see. We're just trying to describe our
surroundings. Lyrically and sonically it's about what it's like to live
in a modern city, it's a hard, concrete fucking sound. We just want to
make a record sound as hard and angry as the world. It's music that
sounds like it was made in a city. Not in a studio out in the fucking
'Swastika Eyes' 'co-produced' by the
Chemical Brother's - Innnes doesn't believe in the idea of a remix, "A
'remix' is an insult. It just sounds like some guy's taken £6,000 and
sent you back their new drum machine!") sounds like Dave Clarke sampling
the bossline from 'Block Rockin' Beats' with Bobby's vocals adding a
political dimension - like on angry 'Out at Control'. Jockey Slut
suggests it sounds like 'punk-techno': "It's not techno, it's
punk-disco" shouts Innes. "It's Sylvester meets...oh I hate all these
sub-genres. As far as I'm concerned, it it makes you dance and feel good
then a dance record and that's all that matters."
'Exterminator' (co-produced by Brendan Lynch) has Bobby repeating the
phrase 'No civil disobedience' over and aver until it degenerates into
simply 'fuck, fuck, fuck...' from what sounds like sheer weariness of
tighting. "I love that track" says Bobby. "The chorus just sums up
British culture. People ore just happy to exist and take whatever shit
they're given." This track, along with other newie 'Insect Royalty' has
most in common with the sound at Vanishing Point.
'Pills' (co-produced by Dan the Automator) is possibly the first time
you'l hear Booby rap on record and unsurprisingly sounds like Dr.
Octogon who the Scream are big fans of; "'Woke up, still drunk, throwing
up, pissing blood, sick guts, sore skin, bunged up, pulled in, fade
away...' It's a hangover record but...it's funny" explains Bobby giving
us an impromptu rap in the process.
Most startling though is 'Blood Money' - a seven minute bassline-driven,
fucked-up, jazz-punk mantra that has even greater mind-altering effects
than the ex-Stone Rose's aforementioned roll-ups. We were working on
this strange jazz instrumental thing says Bobby, that was quite filmic
and soundtracky and we thought that maybe David Holmes might be right to
do some good work on it. And he was.
My Bloody Valentine's Kevin
Shields will also be on the album and Holmes' engineer Jagz Kooner will
be doing an alternative mix of 'Swastika Eyes' for the flip-side of the
single. Cool collaborations are everywhere in '99 and Bobby's involved
in most of them. He can be heard on the two best albums around at the
moment, contributing backing vocals to The Chemical Brothers/Bernard
Sumner epic 'Out of Control' and singing on Death in Vegas' 'Soul
Auctioneer'. "It was nice to be asked" says Bobby amiably. To
collaborate with friends who are doing goad work and good music to come
out of it is the greatest thing in the world.
Primal Scream's new single 'Swastika Eyes' is the first four/four record
the band have put their name to since the Screamadelica years, yet they
claim never to go to clubs. "I don't go out much because if I do I don't
get home for two days, but the other reason is because I don't like the
music" deadpans Bobby. "You don't have to go to a club to listen to
disco anyway" adds Duffy.
"'Swastika Eyes' is about the new world
order, American international terrorism" explains Bobby. "The
Americanisation of the world. It's about control. It's a great image, a
great insult 'You've got swastika eyes' - it applies to any
authoritarian figure; a politician or a policeman - you see them
everywhere." The Creation press officer has told Jockey Slut that the
title is going to change. "No, the title isn't going to change" insists
Bobby firmly. 'She might have said that but she works tar the other
If there is one identifiable theme to Primal Scream
'99 its got to be 'control'.
"Wasn't same DJ (Judge Rules) trying to ban light-sticks or something"
spits Bobby. "What the fuck's all that about? Who the fuck is he to tell
some kid who's paying his fucking wages for playing somebody else's
records not to wave a lightstick? I'm all for it. Great. All power to
them, that's what I say. And those old bastards trying to spoil it for
However that doesn't mean that The Scream have
been won over by the joys of ATB/Binary Finary etc. Innes currently
rates Asian Dub Foundation, Death in Vegas, The Chemical Brothers,
Tricky and Mogwai but always ends up going back to Gorecki and
Stockhausen. Bobby's been listening to lots of Miles Davis live, Sly
Stone and James Brown and Mani is currently enjoying the virtues of
Public Image's Metal Box and Joy Division. Again.
"I don't think
there's any bands - rock or dance -making any statements any more" says
Bobby returning to the point. "Rock music is finished, it's dead. it's
over. Who's taken it any further than people like Public Image? I
don't even care any mare anyway...East Timor - that's funded by
Britain. We sell Indonesia all the arms. The fact that we can bomb Iraq
every single day and nobody cares...1 don't know, maybe this isn't the
right place..." Bobby tails off. "Britain's part of the American empire,
we're just an aircraff carrier for America. We're not even saying that
we can make a difference, we're just saying what we feel. We can at
least say that we're not part of that culture but we don't think any
further ahead than that. We're not an anarchist cell. This country's the
shit hole of Europe, it's fucked. The drug dustbin...everybody's smacked
up or coked up...everybody's fucked, We live in such a negative culture
that there's nothing better to do than take drugs." Everyone erupts into
laughter. Not because the band aren't serious about what they're saying
but they know there's nothing worse than preaching in a music magazine.
"It's better than talking about a fucking new drum machine or something
though," asserts Bobby.
Is there anything good about England? "Yeah,
what I've just had - a cooked tucking breaktast!" shouts Mani.
the band are really looking forward to is playing live again but it's
unlikely to be until next year; "We're always shit at the beginning of a
tour so we're playing Australia first," they laugh.
"The live shows
will be angry but they're also going to be celebratory," enthuses Bobby,
"they're not going to be confrontational - we're not trying to fuck
everybody off. Playing live, it's a pleasure, it's a joy. It's going to
be up - we want the ladies dancin', it's not guys' music. We're
different from everybody else because we're trying to do something new,
something powerful that means something. Something emotional."
in the pub up the road, Mani is bouncing around from person to person
like a social pinball, Jack Daniels in hand. Innes is happily sinking
pints, chatting too member of Asian Dub Foundation about a new band
called Invasion ("I'd definitely go and see a band with a name like
that" he says). Bobby has an orange juice and apologises that he has to
get off to see his girlfriend and Duffy says that he's got to go and see
his mate off at Heathrow. "You've been seeing him off every night for a
week" laughs Innes, 'and you just turn up the next morning with a
massive hangover and your mate still back at your house!' Maybe the
Scream haven't changed that much after all.
'Swastika Eyes' is out Nov
1st on Creation.
David Holmes on working with the Scream...
"I rang Jagz
(Holmes' engineer) up and he was walking in the park with Bobby and he
passed the phone to him. I told him what I was up to in New York. I had
this club in like a bunker, playing Funkadelic, Public Image, the
Stooges, Tamla Motown and experimental records to about fifty peo- pIe
He was really enthused about where I was coming from. We have very
similar influences. He asked me to do a track - 'Blood Money', it's 134
bpm jazz-punk with Mani doing a Jah Wobble-type bassline. It turned out
fucking amazing. They let me hear the demos to another track, 'Keep
Dreams', which I asked to work on too. It's like 'Sunday Morning' by the
Velvet Underground. I've also mixed 'Swastika Eyes', it's twisted,
heavy, hi-nrg with army boots on.
It's fucking amazing working with
them. There aren't many bands like Primal Scream around any more.
There's too many bands playing it safe. The Scream wear their hearts on
their sleeve. They've zero tolerance for anything negative. It's pure
punk. They don't give a fuck. They've got a vast knowledge of music -
it's quite an education working with them."JB
on not working with the Scream
"I don't want to get into that
one, to be honest. People change and their musical tastes change. It
just seems a bit too obvious. It's just luggage, you cast your mind back
and you'll have certain benchmarks in your mind that'll affect you in
the studio. I couldn't do them justice. They seem to be doing alright
without my influence. Keith's ITenniswood) been working with them - one
Lone Swordsmen is befter than none!" TM