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A Fucking Nazi

Drugs, destrudion, breakdowns, politics, paranoia, more drugs: is there anyone more rock'n'roll than Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie?

Your our last memory of Primal Scream is probably a strong one.

It was Sunday afternoon at last year's Glastonbury and the multitudes were revelling in Brian Wilson's hippy vibes. The sun was shining and all was at peace with the world. Enter Primal Scream. Bobby Gillespie's gang had been at the festival since Friday, heading straight there after recording their forthcoming album 'Riot City Blues' at Olympic Studios in Barnes, London. On arriving, they hooked up with their pals Pete Doherty and Kate Moss, then proceeded to get teeth-grindingly wrecked on as much speed as they could find.

BBC viewers had a fbretaste of the trouble to come when they saw bassist Gary Mani Mounfield and Bobby being interviewed live by Colin Murray and Edith Bowman. On being asked what they thought of that night's headliners Basement Jaxx, Bobby announced, "They're cocksuckers - no offence to cocksuckers." There'd been even more uproar in the bands enclosure. Inside was a poster with the slogan 'Make Poverty History', which the entire festival's bands had signed. With indelible black marker pen, Bobby crossed out the world 'Poverty' and wrote 'Israel'. Taking to the stage, a foam-flecked Bobby informed the startled crowd that they were "a bunch of fucking hippies", asked, "Did anyone come to see Kylie? Fuck you", and, referring both to Mani and Ian Brown, the headliner on the Other Stage, enqldred, "Would you like to hear The Stone Roses? Well, you're 15 fucking years too late." The gig came to a messy conclusion when Bobby and Mani refu::;ed to leave the stage. Their version of John Lennon's 'Gimme Some Truth' ended only when the plug was pulled and security bundled them into the winhFS. Some music fans later wrote to NME to claim that, amid the mayhem, Bobby had also given a Nazi salute. "Screw the nut, maie;' one told Bobby, "you're a 45-year-old dad fi' Glasgae"

Bobby Gillespie is indeed the middle~aged father of two young boys (Wolf and Lux), yet for 20 years he's also presented himself as the ultimate rock'n'roll star. Musically, he's demanded comparison with the greats, strewing interviews with references to classic rock'n'roll records, comparing his band to the Sex Pistols and claiming to be as politically 4-Real as Public Enemy or MC5. Bobby's styled himself as bad as Iggy, with a capacity for drugs that could leave Keith Richards gurning in horror.

In short, despite being a) an unremarkable singer and b) a terrible dancer, Bobby's showed himself right in the pantheon of rock'n'roll greats, and it's worked. Primal Scream's third album, 1991's 'Screamadelica', saw the band transformed into starry-eyed musical visionaries, blending soul and psychedelia with rock and dance to create a Nlphoric classic. Their sixth, 1999's 'XTRMNTR' (or 'Exterminator' if you insert the vowels), fused garage and krautrock to create a ferocious wall of sound.

Yet the band have always had their knockers, who think that behind Bobby's cool facade lies a middle-aged man relying on borrowed poses, a well-thumbed record coJIection and the musical talents of Scream collaborators like Kevin Shields and Andrew Weatherall. Those cynics will have a field day when they hear 'Riot City Blues'. The experimental edge of' 'XTRMNTR' and 2002's 'Evil Heat' has disappeared along with Kevin Shields. Instead, there's Stones-style rock'n'raunch last deployed on 1994 album 'Give Out But Don't Give Up'.

Lyrically, the anti-American politics of the 'Exterminator' period have been binned in favour or rock'n'roll fantasies whose (somewhat hilarious) titles say it all - 'Suicide Sally And Johnny Guitar', 'Boogie Disease', 'Hell's Comin' Down' and 'Nitty Gritty'. Yet the signs are that 'Riot City Blues' and its rollicking lead single 'Country Girl' could deliver Primal Scream their first big- hit since 1994's Top Tenner 'Rocks'. It's a big, dumb, Saturday night record full of songs seemingly precision. tooled to blow away festival crowds. Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles was raving about it weeks ago, a fact which pleases Bobby immensely. "I'd love a hit record. You always want your records to be in the charts, even 'Swastika Eyes"'.

You join us in a west London boozer with Bobby and Mani, who joined the band in 1996 after The Stone Roses split. Bobby's dressed in what (probably to wind us up) he claims is a genuine Nazi black leather trenchcoat. He looks healthy. "He's looking fit as fuck, man!" barks Mani "I'd bang him over this table now given half the chance."

Bobby attributes his healthiness to a quiet home life, regular swimming and being "pretty happy. I've got to look after my boys so I can't get fucked up or I'll just be in a mess." This moderation is a far cry from the 'Give Out But Don't Give Up' era, when half the band were addicted to heroin, or a nasty period of amphetamine psychosis at the beginning of this decade, of which more later.

'Riot City Blues', Bobby says, is "definitely a rock'n'roll record. Songs with big choruses, songs that'll sound amazing live." The lack of electronics and politics is down to the fact that "you've got to keep doing something new to excite you." Kevin Shields hasn't left. He never joined. He's been like a permanent live member since '98 and hopefully he'll play with us in the future. He wasn't , the right guy to mix this record. We wanted to do it quickly so it sounded really fresh and alive. Kev's hours are from lam to lOam, but I've got two kids, so I've got to be up at quarter to seven!"

Still, this is a record that demands questions to be asked of it. Which is exactly what NME is about to do... NME: How can a middle-aged father of two sing something like 'Suicide Sally And Johnny Guitar's "She got her wings giving head to a priest/The fucker choked on his rosary beads", with a straight face? Bobby: "It's a laugh. Rock'n'roll should be fun. If you listen to that song, it's fucking hilarious."

Have Primal Scream not gone a bit theatre?
Bobby: "There's an element of theatre to everybody in rock'n'roll. Can you name one artist without an element of theatre?"

Arctic Monkeys - and that's why people like them.
Bobby; "They will when they"ve been around long enough and they're still wearing the same hooded tops and singing about Sheffield. After three years that'll be their act."

Do Primal Scream really still mean it?
Bobby; "We still play the songs with as much conviction and passion. You can hear in this new record that we still love music. It's not a band that's going through the fucking motions."

What happened with your Glastonbury performance?
Mani: "We needed throwing off, otherwise we'd still be there now! The thing was, everyone was 'oh so nice' and 'oh, Brian Wilson' and we just went, 'You bunch of fucking hippy bastards., A lot of people said, 'What a piece of shit' but I've got the DVD - faultless. People must have been on worse drugs than we were to be coming out with that. There's fuck all up with it!" Bobby; "We never slagged off Kylie, either. We love Kylie! She asked us to write a song for her once, but we were in such a bad state we couldn't.

Did you give Kylie her first E, as is rumoured?
Bobby: "Nah, when we did the photo session with her [for the cover of old indie mag Select] she was pretty straight. We definitely tried. So yeah, we never slagged her. I was trying to wind up the crowd, but it never worked because they were too dead."

Did you give a Nazi salute?
Bobby: "I don't know, you tell me! If you look at the things we've done in the past, like benefits for Satpal Ram [who was jailed for life after defending himself against a racist attack in Birmingham], the Liverpool dockers, the Palestine refugee children, you'll

know what my politics are. I'm no fuckin' Nazi."

But you did write 'Make Israel History' on the poster.
Bobby: ':Alright, aye. Yeah, I did. So, I support Palestine, OK? That's it." Aren't you worried that it all adds up to you looking like all anti~Semite? Bobby: "There's Israeli and Jewish people who support the Palestinian cause as well. We did a lot of work for the Hoping Foundation to raise money for children in the Palestinian refugee camps and the lady who got us involved is Bella Freud, Lucian Freud's daughter and Sigmund Freud's great granddaugi:lter. They had to flee Austria to escape Nazi persecution, and she believes in the Palestinian cause. To say we're anti-Semitic is a smear, so you'd better watch what you're saying. Because you oppose one country's government's policies doesn't. mean to say that you hate all the people from that country. I don't like Bush or Putin or Tony Blair, but I don't hate American, Russian or British people. Most people are just trying hard to get by."

Don't you support Hamas? Or Hezbollah, the Lebanese antiIsraeli resistance movement?
Bobby: "No, I support Celtic. I never Mid that, that's a lie. I don't like seeing anyone being oppressed or humanity not being respected. I believe in human rights. But I'm not here to talk about the politics of the Middle East" This is NME and you're asking me if I support Hamas! You don't ask fuckin' Ian Brown that, or the guy from the Arctic Monkeys."

It's true, we don't. But then Primal Scream have always been a band who aspired to more than just music - they wanted to mean something. This time, however, the manifesto seems to be less, "Kill all hippies", more, "What the hell, let's party". Primal Scream are equally a band of myths: as keen to circulate outlandish stories about themselves as they are to pepper old interviews with obscure rock facts. Bobby laughs: "I'm a rock'n'roll fan! I love rock'n'rolI people. I love myth and even if something's a lie I don't care. Besides, Primal Scream's myt.hs are all true. You should know that!" Time to put some of them to the test...

MYTH 1
Primal Scream are banned from Top Of The Pops because in 1995 they refused to do the show. The reason? It involved flying into Luton Airport, which wasn't rock'n'roll enough. Bobby: "I read years ago that The Yardbirds' Iast gig was at Luton Polytechnic. And me and Andrew Innes, have always said, 'We can't go near Luton'. It would be terrible if we crashed at Luton Airport or if the last gig was there. It's not right, is it? It's not mythical. It's not legendary. We were on tour in Dublin and then we were going to play Cork and they wanted us to fly from Dublin to Luton, spend an day at Top Of The Pops, which involves hanging about for nine hours, fly to Cork and miss the soundcheck and do the gig. And we decided, 'You know what? Let's just get on the bus and go to Cork.'

We thought it was a waste of a day. The record, '(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind' was at number 65, it's not like it was Number 10. I don't think we were ever banned from Top Of The Pops. But the amount of times we've had the phone call: 'You'll never work in this business again!' We get it all the time. We don't care."

MYTH2
Bobby once found himself jamming with both Liam G and his krautrock heroes Can. Bobby: "Me and Mani met [Can mainman and drummer] Jaki Liebezeit and [Can guitarist] Michael Karoli at a dinner in Cologne and gave them a CD which was 11997 single] 'Kowalski'. Three weeks later they had a party in a club off Oxford Street and I went down. I met Jaki and he said, 'I really love the music and especially the drums on track one.' I said, 'Well you should - they're yours, we sampled them.' And then the next day he came to oW' studio in Chalk Farm and he played the drums on a couple of tracks. Then Liam turned up at teatime with Brian Cannon, the guy who did the sleeves for The Verve and Oasis. Liam was like, 'Who the fuck's this old guy?' - he didn't know who Jaki was and Jaki didn't know who he was. But Brian Cannon was like, 'Fuck, it's Jaki Liebezeit!' Anyway, things got more out of control and wilder and Michael Karoli turned up. I was pretty fucking wasted and I said to him, 'Show us how you fucking play.' There's this style he plays with half. open chords and he was showing me and I remember Liam saying, 'I don't know who you are, mate, but if he says you're alright, you're alright.' Anyway, eventually it became Jaki on drums, Michael on guitar, Andrew Innes on guitar, me on vocals and Liam on keyboard, so we had a jam. I remember us leaving the studio at 3am, walking up the road arm in arm. It was lovely. And Liam giving me a big kiss!"

MYTH 3
Five years ago Bobby had lost the plot so much that he was found shouting at the Tannoy at Chalk Farm tube station. Bobby: "Well (long pallse). I don't know where that came from. I never went mad. I was laking too much speed and having a bad time in my personal life for a while, I managed to extricate myself from one relationship and I got into another relationship - with women, this is and there was a lot of weird things happening. There was a lot of heavy personal stuff going down and I had to leave the house I was living in." This house was shared with Justine Frischmann, who in 2001 told NME, "Bobby couldn't cope as a human being. He couldn't feed himself and he was too paranoid to answer the door." However in 2002 Bobby refused to talk about her, an edict which still stands today.

Bobby: "I moved in with Alan [McGee], down the road in St John's Wood and he took me out of the scene and looked after me. I went to live in his house in Wales. I think he might have sent Pete and Carl there as well at some point. I went there for a few weeks and just tried to get my head together. I sound like Syd Barrett, right'!" Bobby smiles, unable to resist comparison with another legend: "And it worked. I wasn't like a cabbage but I might have been if I'd kept going."

These days Bobby lives with Katy England, executive fashion editor of Dazed & Confused. and right-hand woman to designer Alexander McQueen. This has caused yet more suspicion among the doubters, who noted the artwork by filshion designer Julie Verhoeven, the appearance of Bobby at Paris fashion shows and - above all'Some Velvet Morning', the duet with Kate Moss on 'Evil Heat'. They concluded that far from being a socialist band of the people, Primal Scream had turned into a bunch of champagne-quaffing ponces.

"I don't really care how we're perceived as long as people dig the music" Bobby says. "If you actually saw the people who are close to the hand, you wouldn't say that. There's a lot of heavy guys, a lot of unsavoury charaders." But you made a record with Kate Moss. Surely that was a mistake? "Not at all," leers Mani. "Kate's a lovely girl. We liked the song and we thought we'd check out what she's like in the studio. It was a good chance to have a look at her hottom for a bit." Mani wiggles his tongue lewdly. "Very nice. Sorry, Kate. I think it's a great song. I'm arsed that people slag it. We don't give a shit. When we put stufr out we know it's good for us, and if people don't want to get on board then fuck 'em. Go and listen to Hard-Fi or summat."

"I know what you're getting at, but I don't think it makes any real sense," adds Bobby. "We're a hardworking band. I go to the studio five days a week. My girlfriend works in fashion and now and again there's something she might want to go to so I go along - that's what you do. It's a bit weird, it's like saying your girlfriend's black so you must be black. Or your girlfriend's Jewish so you must be Jewish."

You went to Elton John's wedding.

"Yeah," says Bobby, looking slightly taken a back that we know. "But that's a long story." Isn't it harmful for your reputation to get involved in showbiz like that'? "I'm not involved in showbusiness," Bobby says, gelting worked up. "If that kind of scene was affecting us you would hear it in the music and you would see it in the fucking attitude} 've got unstage. When I'm onstage, I don't give a fuck. You saw that at Glastonbury. Whatever happens, happens. You don't know what you're going to get when you see Primal Scream. Showbiz is the last thing we are. We don't give a fuck. And if we offend people we don't care either. If you're showbusiness you're scared of offending people, you don't get involved in the causes we get involved in. We ain't showbiz. Showbiz is doing what you're told. Have we ever played the game?" No. "Well then."

He's right. they haven't played the game. So what are primal Scream and who is Bobby Gillespie? Ultimatley, he's aman who's dedicated himself to rock'n'roll, an uber-music fan who deamt himself into the place occupied by his heroes, and who despite 20 years of everything from ridicule to drug addition has kept on keeping on. We salute him - obviously not a Nazi one, though.

Originally appeared in NME 15 April 2006.
Copyright © NME.

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