Story by Andrew Perry
Photos by Simon Fowler
Not a snakeskin boot in sight. None of the trad rock that smeared all
over 'Give Out But Don't Give Up'. Headfuck Dub, gleaming psychedelica,
six heads firmly in the clouds and a bass player who used to be in The
Stone Roses And you thought Primal Scream were all over....
Bobby Gillespie has his back to the sun. In the small balcony garden of
the north London pub, he sips from a seasonally fitting juice drink
while, behind him, the combined expanses of Regent's Park and Primrose
Hill absorb their first decent rays of the year. There are hundreds of
kids out there playing footie with renewed vigour (muddy knees, jumpers
for goal posts, hmmm...) and just over the road, about six teams' worth
of under 15 girls' hockey talent are snaking their way over the zebra
crossing for an afternoon of running about in shirt skirts and hurting
each other's ankles.
Chalk Farm may be coming out of the darkness, but our Bob remains with
his back to it all, unshaven, unkempt and unflinchingly masked by a huge
pair of bug-eyed shades. In all fairness, he's making remarkably good
sense for a man who hasn't been to bed for two days. With enviable
animation, he chats with the debris of last night's playback party for
Paul Weller's new album 'Heavy Soul'.
"Aye, it's a proper album," he tells it's producer, Brendan Lynch,
probably not for the first time. "Short, punchy tunes. Hard as fuck.
That's what he does best."
Except for keyboard maestro Martin
Duffy, none of the rest of Primal Scream are on
hand. Andrew Innes, one half of the Scream's axe
duality, scuttles in briefly wearing a Brazil shirt but
soon disappears, his head bowed to the sunlight.
The other half, 'Throb' Young and the band's new
bassist, Gary 'Mani' Mounfield, have yet to return
from Portugal after the Porto-Man Utd game.
"Hahahaha," cackles Gillespie unsympathetically,
"they're still out there dodging the rubber bullets
with the rest of the fellas."
Duffy it seems, has been carrying the baton for
absent friends. Ever since he joined The
Charlatans, filling in for the deceased Rob Collins,
the pocket-sized Brummie has enjoyed the ques
tionable luxury of being in two of the hardest
partying bands in Britain. After finding uncon
sciousness elusive this morning, he simply went
off to a hotel across town to join the band that
Innes now sarkily refers to as his "new mates". In
the end, with their new full-time replacement in
tow, the Charlies had to send Duffy back home
because they had to straighten up for their live
performance on TFI Friday.
It's sort of heart-warming to know that though
the seasons, along with the crap Britpop bands,
may come and go, the Scream are just as you'd
expect to find them - scattered, battered and
holding it together in the face of superhuman
chemical odds. Less endearing, however, is when
Gillespie marches off for "a minute" that turns into
about three hours. This is roughly what happened
last time Select tried to interview him.
EVENTUALLY, THE ROSES MADE THEIR 'SECOND COMING'.
After ten years in the wilderness, Paul Weller final
ly regained his stride with 'Wildwood'. Who knows:
maybe one day Oasis will fall, only one day to
reward guardians of The Falth with that killer
Bands that are worthy of your patience, of your
adoration, of The Faith - they don't come ten a
penny. To the above line-up of undying idols, we
should add just one more name. Primal Scream.
Whatever evils they may be seen to have commit-
ted in the past five years, you should be in no
doubt that, in the next couple of months, they will
be back, back, back - being inspirational, messing
with your head, skating on a thin ice of decency
and making everyone else sound like John
Shuttleworth. Any day now, they will be releasing
'Kowalski', the most astonishing, ouflandish single
of the year so far. And there will be plenty more
where that came from. In short, the Scream will be
rewarding that Falth in spades.
At the beginning of 1996, Select unanimously
voted 'Screamadelica' the best album of the
decade so far. A year or so later, only a fool would
want to revise that position. In the face of every
thing from the two Oasis albums and Shaun
Ryder's best two LPs to 'Nevermind' and 'Blue
Lines', it's still the last record that everyone - even
goths - would have to agree actually said some
thing about the times we live in.
More than five years since it came out, and
now it seems to say more than ever. At every turn,
you hear premonitions of dance culture's ever
spiralling hedonism. You glimpse its attendant
void of fuckedness on 'Higher Than The Sun'. You
even hear the craving for simple, neo-classical
rock 'n' roll pleasures - from back when Weller was
unsigned, Ocean Colour Scene were still baggy and
Noel was out toadying in Estonia for the Carpets.
'Screamadellca' had everything and, to the vast
majority of its disciples, the Scream quickly threw
the whole lot away agaln. Since then, fending their
corner has been a hard task indeed.
As they went on to pursue the more traditional
elements of 'Screamadelica' on 'Give Out But
Don't Give Up; they left in their wake a feverish
cult for whom the old vision was something to live
by, to raise your voice about, to hold up as true
Sure, 'Give Out...' did succeed in bringing the word 'soul' back into
common parlance, but being indie Britaln's first unabashedly rock-beast
album since punk (abiding image: Throb's crotch loom- ing forth on the
cover of 'Jailbird'), it did little else but soak up the critical flak
from the same tightarses who, but a few months later, would fall
hook, line and sinker for 'Definitely Maybe'. One thing it certainly
didn't do was sell. After s monstously dispiriting trawl
around America as support to Depeche Mode (see Select September 1994),
the Scream were down, out and seemingly hell-bent on self-destruction.
Their radio plugger Gary Blackburn attempted to salvage something from
the campalgn by blagging them a Top Of The Pops appearance scarcely
earned by their chart position for '(I'm Gonna) Cry Myself Blind'. The
band famously blew it out, on the grounds that being flown into Luton
Airport just wasn't rock 'n' roll enough.
Since then, they've been pretty much missing,
presumed addicted to something horrible.
Rumours slowly circulated that the Scream were
now heading for an all-out Northern Soul album,
news that was backed up by their bowling-shoe-
stomping cover of 'Understanding; featuring
vocals by '60s pop diva P P Arnold, for a Small
Faces tribute album. When, early in '96, sources
close to the band announced they'd heard another
eight sketchy tracks in that vein, that was almost a
cue to mourn the band's commercial - and, more
something happened. Maybe the band realised
themselves that what soul evangelism would earn
them was a future of minority respect: headline
gigs at the Astoria, Mojo interviews and the obliga
tory hats-off from the Dadrock fraterity. And so,
in the grand tradition that stretches back to 1988
and their mutation from The Byrds into The MC5
in the space of a few months, the Scream seeming
ly dropped everything and began exercising the
kind of Dexys-type stylistic volte-face that, in the
past, has had them labelled everytldng from acid
house visionaries to dance traitors.
THERE HAVE BEEN SEVERAL SIGNPOSTS ALONG THE WAY
that all sense of logical progression had gone out
the window in favour of devil-may-be-arsed
exploration. It all started with the movie premiere
of Trainspotring, where the band were the person
al guests of Irvine Welsh, who'd asked them to
provide a track for the soundtrack LP. Afterwards,
they all retired to The Ship in Wardour Street, got
steaming drunk and ended up getting chucked
out for lewd behaviour. The party lurched off
towards Heavenly's offices, where one employee
was on the phone and, hearing the racket outside,
held the receiver out of the window so her mate
could hear the mob below chanting. "Fuck you!
"That's Primal Scream with Irvine Welsh," she
beamed, at which point her mate started record
ing the whole shameful scene as her answerphone
message. A few days later, tunes got hold of the
tape and the band began using it as an inspiration
for their soundtrack tune.
So that explains the closing 30 seconds of 'Trainspotting; but less
explicable is the preceding ten ruinutes of music, which they devised
with none other than Dr Screamadelica, Andrew Weatherall, at the
controls. With perhaps a faint nod to his 'Dub Symphony' mix of 'Higher
Than The Sun;, he turned the band's increasingly groove-led
modus operandi into the kind of widescreen psychedelic dubscape that
might readily have come out on a label like Ninja Tune.
Amid all the clamour for Iggy Pop and Underworld, the track was greeted
by a rather puzzled silence, but the Scream camp was
revitalised and - never too brisk in getting under
way with a new record - the band pursued their
new lead. But, as Weatherall was getting deeply
involved with his own staunchly techno project,
Two Lone Swordsmen, they were on their own.
The second pointer came in response to anoth
er compilation offer, this time in honour of Euro
'96, for which they teamed up with On-U Sounds
dub wizard Adrian Sherwood who, in the late '80s,
made probably the only decent album ever to be
inspired by our national game. 'The English
Disease' pitted terrace chants and TV commentary
against brain-crushingly abstract dub music. The
only difference on the equally perplexing 'The Big
ManAnd The Scream Team Meet The Barmy Army
Uptown' was Mr Irvine Welsh, whose leery rants
against both teams and supporters got the tune
banned from the official tournament LP by the FA.
Their eyes re-opened by Sherwood's toxic
mixology; the Scream were, come May/June,
knocking out their crucial album, but to the out
side world, the only further sign of life came in
low-key remixes of Ruby and The Aloof - a prac
tice they'd not been too embroiled in since '91.
Then, of course, towards the end of the year came
the announcement of Mani's free transfer from
The Stone Roses, and, like The Church of England
in times of war, The Faith began to welcome back
its lapsed congregation.
None of this, however, can have prepared the
world for 'Kowalski'. It's less a taster for the album,
more an open threat to anyone foolish enough to
catch its eye. Just like the first time you heard
'Higher Than The Sun', you wonder what on earth
you're listening to. Riddled with nutso dialogue
sampled from the movie Vanishing Point, it also
features Mani's first killer bassline for the Scream,
the sound of chainsaws going off in Satan's echo
chamber, and Bobby Gillespie capping the air of
menace with the whispered vocal of a man who
hasn't been to bed for a week. Which he probably
hadn't. The overall effect is like helicopter rotor
blades threshing your brain.
When tapes first circulated some weeks ago,
the initial reaction was, 'This can't be the single:
it's too much.' In the meantime, it's rarely been off
the stereo, or the radio, starting some six weeks
ahead of release. Having sworn never to work with
the band again, plugger Gary Blackburn took one
listen and came back on board. Given the odd
strategic TV appearance, h&s talking seriously
about 'Kowalski' going in at Number One.
After a debut airing on The Evening Session,
Steve Lamacq commented that if the whole
album's like that, his neighbours had better move
out right away. Last time we spoke to him, he said
they'd already booked their flights to Melbourne.
Everyone's talking about the Scream again, and
they'll continue to do so once they've heard that
album, affectionately named 'Vanishing Point'.
Rearing it pre-release, however, is not the usual
run-of-the-mill, the-tape's-in-the-post exercise.
Fiercely proud of their efforts and in a mood of biz
balting malice, the band aren't handing it out to
anybody. When someone at Creation's parent company Sony sent out a couple of tapes, they nearly
got fired. Select had to make countless trips to the
bands publicist just to be played a few tracks.
It was well, well worth it. You want zeitgeist?
One track on the LP, a cover of 'Motorhead' by
Motorhead, has its first verse sung through a Darth
BOBBY GILLESPIE DOESN'T LIKE SITTING IN PUBS. STILL
wearing those all-extinguishing black shades, he
finally returns to pick up Duffy - who's still going
strong - and lead the way down the road to the
'Studio; in the son-of-hi-tech '90s, means a
reception desk with uniformed staff and a bloke with a tie on and B
clipboard leading you off to the 'unit' you require. It means a whole
load of up-to-the-minute equipment that would get you out of the Earth's
atmosphere if anybody knew how to work it. It means air conditioning,
pale grey decor and a selection of herbal teas. Tidiness. Service.
Forte Travelodge. It means dead from the neck down.
The Primal Scream of 'Kowalski', by contrast, are in a very real sense a garage band. So,
their studio is a garage, with an adjoining spare room and toilet. It
was here that the whole of 'Vanishing Point' was recorded, and it looks
like the whole band slept here for a year as well. No wonder Mani calls it "The
Bunker". It's difficult to make anything out, because there's hardly any
lighting, and you're quite likely to stamp on a vintage 1960s guitar
that's lying out of its case on the floor. Weller was in here the other
day playing Who songs on the Rickenbacker, windmill action and all.
The main room, containing just a small drum
kit, a few amps and guitars, is little bigger than the
stage at The Camden Falcon. The next room is
even smaller, and full of dated analogue key
boards, computer screens you recognise from
crap old movies about the future and a 24-track
mhting desk which would appear to have actual
dust from 1973 on it.
The WC isn't so much unhygienic as just hall of
rubbish and broken glass. "We often shove the guitar amp in there," Gillespie candidly reveals. "You
always get a better amp sound in the toilet"
You have to duck to avoid the Airfix models of
Stukas and Messerschmitts dangling overhead.
Ditto for the Celtic and Manchester United scarves
knotted to what used to be a neon striplight.
Like someone's bedsit, the walls and ceiling of
evety room are plastered with cuttings, photos,
mirrors and mementos. "That's the Reichstag as
the Red Army took Berlin," Gilliespie points out,
ever the host. "That's two Japs saluting with the
headline, I Apologise For The War. That's the
Tartan Army when they took Wembley in 1977..."
Pictures of such diverse figures as Spike
Milligan, Queen Boadicea, Robert De Niro (in
Mean Streets), Peter Cushing and Diego Maradona
("our favourite football player") mingle with an
unlikely galaxy of stars from the world of reggae -
Lee Perry; Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Joe Hill from
Culture. Perhaps in their honour, there presides an
air of hushed spiritual quest.
"This place wasnae built for music," Bobby
understates. "It's a dance studio or something,
that's why you've got all these fucking mirrors
everywhere. But if the musicians are good, you can
record music anywhere, man. Stax, Hi, Can's
Innerspace - they were all old cinemas.
"The great thing is," he continues, "Innes, ever
since I've known him, has always managed to make
records in his bedroom. A lot of 'Screamadelica'
tracks like 'Higher Than The Sun' and 'Don't Fight It,
Feel It' - recording for them started in his council
flat in the Isle of Dogs. There was a bedroom there
that was disused, where we hid all our equipment.
I'd sleep in there sometimes."
'Vanishing Point' was made in the same low
life atmosphere and, by and large, Andrew Innes
was in charge. From the second room, he'd engi
neer and orchestrate the jams going off next door.
Most of the LP arose from live improvisation.
"Then later on," Bobby continues, "we'd layer
other sounds and loops over the top, and the
vocals. The whole thing's very symphonic. If you
could hear on these tapes (he gestures towards a
heap of cassettes with fag ash on them) all these
different sounds are on them."
Dispensing with the instrumental restrictions
of the last album, you might find Throb on key
boards (as, incidentally, you did on 'Higher Than
The Sun'), or Innes on bass, or Duffy playing
melodica - that's him on 'Trainspotting'. There's
quite a lot of sitar on it, as well as Indian percus
sion instrument, the tabla (remember the gatefold
pic from 'Screamadelica'?). You'll also hear a
bassoon, a theremin and drums going through a
wah-wah pedal. Shed Seven it ain't.
As on 'Tralnspotting' and 'Kowalski; most of the rhythm tracks are from
a drum machine, while bassists include Mani, sometime Weller cohort
Marco Nelson and Glen Matlock ("The guy who wrote Anarchy In The UK;"
reminds Minister of Truth Gillespie). Denise Johnson, on the other hand,
"never got the call". Once recording was completed on a track, the band
would repalr to OCS's equally seedy Moseley Shoals in Brum,
where it would be mixed and produced with the help of Brendan Lynch.
Settling down with Bobby and Duffy to do a formal interview about all
this is a much less relaxed affair than the guided tour. Ever since
about three dates into that Depeche Mode tour in Summer 1994, Gillespie
has withdrawn from being the most garulously eloquent interviewee in
the business, to fielding even the most neutral factfinding question
like a court summons. Talking about the past, the drugs, the US tour -
it's one big no-no.
After the public ridicule afforded them for
'Give Out...; the current mood of the Scream
camp is best summarised by the words etched
into the run-out groove of the 'Kowalski' 12-inch:
"PARANOIA IS TOTAL AWARENESS."
A fair portion of the impetus behind the record
seems to be negative energy. Not for nothing does
'Kowalski' have chainsaws on it. So how do
they feel about the post-Britpop world they're
"It doesnae really matter what anybody else is
doing, right?" Gillespie spits, still wearing the
shades despite the near-total absence of light.
"I tell ya, we dinnae give a fuck. We're doing our
thing. They can all get on with it. We can't be both
ered with it. Who cares? There's no fucking
When pushed, Bobby expresses delight in
'North Country Boy' by The Charlatans, and a
young band called Asian Dub Foundation.
"Proper fuckin' band, man, dead exciting," he
enthuses, his lips turning to a snarl. "The British
music industry is still as racist and dumb as it ever
has been, right? Nobody'll fuckin' sign ADE They
mix in dub, jungle, hip hop, political lyrics. The
singer's got the presence of Ian Brown. Why won't
anybody sign them? I've got a pretty good idea. If
they were four tucking white kids with guitars..."
So, THE SCREAM GENUINELY DON'T CARE WHAT THE POP
world makes of'Vanishing Point'. They fully expect
the snide observations that they've fled the sink
ing ship of their soul direction, and they're
purposely not even going to answer back. Instead,
Gillespie picks up an unplugged electric guitar
and starts playing a song that turns out to be
'People Get Ready' by The Impressions. While he
sings and strums, Duffy joins him on melodica,
and this impromptu duo rattle on for a few, very
surreal minutes. Some kind of verbal response
would have been preferable.
Talking about the actual music turns into a
very sticky business.
"You can call it what you want," Duffy offers
generously. "Ultra cigarettes. Ultra everything.
Ultra fucking psychedelic Primal Scream. All the
way. Psychedelic storm troopers coming back
through history. Weren't we, Bob? From the year
dot. (He pauses) But how big is the dot, you know?"
Good attitude. What the new model, darkness-
drenched Primal Scream do like is Vanishing
Point. Once you've seen the movie, its Scream-
friendly aspects are obvious. Gillespie describes it
as "a punk-rock speedfreak existentialist road
movie" - which covers most of his favourite things
in life. Chased across three states by the police in
his white Dodge Challenger, the pill-popping
hero, Kowaiski, is soon presented as "the last
American hero" by the black funkateer radio jock,
DJ Super Soul. Hence the samples on 'Kowalski'.
"We like the DJ more than the music he plays,"
Bob grudgingly explains. "That's why we wrote
'Kowalski', because the soundtrack, we felt, didn't
suit the feel of the movie. We thought we'd try and
make the right music. That was the challenge -
something that captures the feel, the paranoia, the
amphetamine, the claustrophobia, the way the
guy's focused and locked in."
Why does the movie mean so much to you?
You make it sound rather symbolic of the tour
with Depeche Mode...
"There's no point in talking
about that," Bobby snaps. "That
was three years ago. It's the past.
It's gone. It's not interesting."
"The first time I saw it was about three years ago," Duffy remembers,
more affably. "The bloke in the film is driving a car at a certain
speed, and the tour bus we were driving was going at a speed, so it was
like double speed. Double motion all the way... My personal opinion of
that film is that point... That point is like... When it's actually,
the bloke is... (motions something very tiny with thumb and forefinger)
You could say it was death, you know what I mean, but it's too small a
point. Small. The vanishing point is massive. If you had to try and
describe all the shit that you're into, that's what it all boils down
to. That point. Wham! You're dead. He's in the bloodstream, and he's
"Duff's got it!" Gillespie
exclaims. "That's the point of
'And the point is, you're
dead," Duffy concludes. "You're
dead as well, you know what I
mean? Join the club."
Gillespie: "No it's not. The
film makes us happy."
Another fan is Irvine Welsh, who scripted - and
appears in - the video for 'Kowalski', for which the
band invested in a Dodge Challenger of their own.
Gillespie excitedly calls it "a cross between Faster
Pussycat Kill Kill and The Sweeny' which is about
the size of it
"It's got Kate Moss in it," he enthuses, "as a hit woman sent to
exterminate the band with extreme prejudice. She and her mate hotwire
the Challenger and come after us. We see them in this bar and I get
karate-chopped, Duffy gets bottled, Mani gets chopped... It's amazing -
the band gets fucking offed! Then they throw us into the fucking boot of
the car and drive us through London and throw our bodies into the road.
We're just lying there. Then we start disintegrating into stars and
disolve into the ether."
Bobby pauses for breath. "Kate's amazing, a brilliant girl. In the video, she's hard as fuck. Kate's like
a mini-Manson family, man - helter skelter coming down on the Scream."
"Did you see that picture of Fidel Castro in
Jamaica?" Duffy slurs suddenly, apropos of noth
ing. "The President of Jamaica died and he went to
the funeral. You never see Castro out, do you?
When I was over there, he made a speech in St
Paul, right? It was in Spanish, but it was on for
about an hour. I didn't understand a word, but I
watched him for about 15 minutes. He was just
going at it. He's a weird tucking customer, I can tell
you... He gave up cigars. Did you know that? They
tried to put gunpowder in his tucking cigars."
'Aye," nods Gillespie bitterly. "The CIA have
been trying to take him out for years, man.
"But he's still there, man," beams Duffy. "He's
got his good points and his bad points, but he's
still fucking there!"
AFTER A THUNDER OF FOOTSTEPS, ALL OF THE SCREAM BAR
Throb emerge at the top of the stairs, ready to do
their photo shoot. Mani lopes straight over to the
stereo and bangs on the Black Grape album at hefty
volume. Gone are the shades, stubble and sinister
vibes of a few days ago. Today on Planet Scream, it's
all smiles, expletives and unprintable anecdotes.
"The fuckin' wild bunch," Gillespie grins. "Back
for one last bank job."
As well as Mani, there's a new drummer in tow
called Paul Malreany. Gallagher-eyed and with an
East End accent like they don't make 'em on the
telly he looks naggingly familiar from other bands'
photo sessions. "I know he's got previous,"
says Gillespie, scratching his head, "but I don't
exacfly know what his crimes are." His nickname is
Mr Big. It's probably best not to ask why.
Mani offers to have his pictures done first and
shadowboxes terrier-style at the camera. He
would look like a bit of a wanker if he wasn't Mani,
and behaving like this all the time.
"He's just what we needed," admits Gillespie
quietly "Everything's there, know what I'm saying?
The football, the rock 'n' roll, the politics, the spir
it. And he's got those Slavic cheekbones. He looks
like one of the fucking Red Army defending
Stalingrad against the Nazis. He's totally heroic."
Like a total pro, he's also done with the lens
man in two minutes fiat. Gillespie up next. He
makes to throw the same shapes as Mani, and
everyone pisses themselves laughing.
Shorn of his familiar scarecrow barnet, Innes
declines the opportunity to be photographed.
Even in the 'Kowalski' video, he would only appear
wearmg a pilot's helmet. Predictably, he's also not
talking. "I have nothing to say, I'm disillusioned
with the industry" he half-apologises before nip
ping off to cut tracks for a forthcoming single.
"That's Innes, man," shrugs Gillespie. "That's
where his head's at, and he can't think about
Mani, on the other hand, is always up for a
chat. He has the air of a man who's happy in the
knowledge that he's made the right move. "Yeah,"
he confirms, in his tarry brogue, "it was an easy
decision for me to join the Scream. I've always
known of them, right from the early days. There
was always that 'Velocity Girl'/'Made Of Stone'
thing going on there. They're probably one of only
three bands I'd even consider joining."
And the others? "The Beastie Boys and The
Jesus & Mary Chain. Hahaha."
Mani laughs a lot, and so do the rest of the band
when h&s around. Their working relationship is a
loose, unspoken thing which suits both sides.
"I never even heard nothing until the day I
turned up at the studio," he remembers. "They go,
'Right, we've got this track called 'Kowalski', we're
rolling the tapes, make something up.' That's how
it works. I like working like that, it's dangerous. I
like danger. There's not enough danger in music
any more. On the edge. Risky The Scream. Totally."
So on the edge, in fact, that like a spy maintaing an ordinary civilian life, Mani sits at home in
Stockport without the faintest idea of when the
phone will ringwith news of his next assignment.
"I'm a Mancunian, mate," he reasons. "I don't
wanna move to London. I'm happy to commute. I
like being on the train. When they need me, I
come down. And then I go home afterwards.
Hahaha. It's easy, mate. I'll probably have to spend
a lot more time down here when we're rehearsing
up the tunes for the live shows. Who knows, I'll do
the Monday to Friday, and go home for me tea at
me mum's on the Sunday..."
LIKE BRIAN BLESSED TAKING THE STAGE AS CHARLES I,
Throb finally makes his grand entry, hugs people
with a hearty roar and then spends all his time on
the phone (as with Innes, he declines a tape-
accompanied conversation). When he joins the
rest for a group photo, there's a tangible sense that
they're enjoying lining up together again.
In good spirits, Gillespie suggests riding back to
his place to hear 'Vanishing Point'. Chex Bob, a
modest ground-floor flat he shares with his girl
friend Emily, is a couple of minutes'
walk from the studio.
Unlike the latter, it's uncluttered and
impeccably tidy. Over the fireplace, there's a poster
of Lee 'Scratch' Perry blowing smoke at you. Neatiy
stacked by the stereo, there are records and CDs by
Neu!, 23 Skidoo, Public image Limited, Motorhead,
Joy Division, The Third Bardo (whose '60s garage
classic 'I'm Five Years Ahead Of My Time' the band
have just covered) and a whole selection of reggae
reissues on the Blood & Fire label - Burning Spear,
Keith Hudson, Tapper Zukie...
Gillespie cranks his amp up to Rasta sound
system volume levels, puts on the DAT of
'Vanishing Point' and goes next door to wash his
hair. You wouldn't want to be his neighbour.
There's a brief overture of scary dubbing, before
'Burning Wheel' thunders into being like the
Jefferson Airplane or something off PiL's 'Metal
Box'. Duffy calls it, "The Wacky Races of psyche
delia," which rather belittles the evil, 'Slip Inside
This House'-style atmosphere.
"Through my diseased eyes," it goes, "I'm sinful,
sly I can't stop stealing/I will pay the price of being
a thief when I stop breathing/If you could see what I
can see/Feel what I feel/When my head is on my
fire/When I'm a burning wheel" Keep reading,
Paul Draper. "Through my bleeding eyes/I'm filthy,
sly/I crawl with insects/I'm anaesthetised, I'm
demonised, caught in a vortez/Ifyou could see..."
At this stage, you're fairly sure you're not listen
ing to Kula Shaker, and you roil on through
'Kowaiski' and a couple of'Trainspotting'-style lo-
fi funky instrumentals, 'Get Duffy' (chilled) and 'If
They Move, Kill 'Em' (coked) - the latter now
minus the eponymous sample from Sam
Peckinpah's The Wild Bunch, which couldn't be
cleared in time. If these were theme tunes on the
telly, you wouldn't be changing channels.
Next, there's a disturbing three-song sequence which plumbs the depths
of drugged psychology 'Out Of The Void' is a desolate ballad of hopeless
addiction, like 'Damaged' without the laughs, which segues straight into
the narcotically dubby 'Stuka'. Like a lost out-take from 'The Grim
Reaper Meets The Rockers Uptown', its vocals are bizarrely delivered
through a vocoder (final refrain: "If you play with fire/You're gonna -
get burnt/Some of my friends are gonna die young").
'Medication; on the other hand, is the only nod towards the boo
gie-mungus Scream of 'Jallbird' and 'Rocks', a desperate statement of
intent to shrug off the strung-out blues, to come out of the darkness.
When a cover of Motorhead's 'Motorhead'
crashes in, Gillespie marches back into the room
wearing just a towel, a finger moustache and a
Nazi salute. He cracks up. "That's Lemmy goose-
stepping," he explains, pointing at the speaker.
"The fucking Obergruppenfuhrer of ampheta
mine, man." Ten seconds from the end, a giant tiff
slashes through the scuzz (abiding image: Throb's
crotch looming forth on the cover of 'Jailbird'),
before the whole song literally explodes to a finish.
After 'Trainspotting' (a last-minute inclusion),
'Long Life' draws the curtain on the album in the
same beautifully elegiac mood as does, say,
'Decades' on Joy Division's 'Closer'. It's the most
fragile affirmation of being alive you'll ever hear,
and seals the impression that Planet Scream has
been a painful place to inhabit these past couple
of years. Overall, in sound and vision, you're
reminded of those heroically obnoxious classics of
yesteryear: the muffled surliness of Sly Stone's
'There's A Riot Going On', or the experimental
antagonism of PiL's 'Metal Box'. The ray of sun
shine, the moment of redemption among the
bitterness and paranoia, comes from the one
album track we haven't mentioned, the sec
ond single from it, and the best thing
they've ever done, 'Star'.
Its inspiration comes from the hard-bitten spirituality of roots
reggae. 'Vanishing Point' is basically a modern dub album,
propelled by the righteous purpose of echo-enhanced sound
manipulation. If that sounds more Screamadeilca than 'Give
Out...', think back to Gillespie and Duffy's impromptu version of
'People Get Ready', which was originally sung by
soul singer Curtis Maytield's first group, The
Impressions, but later translated into 'One Love'
by The Wallers.
Reggae began as a Caribbean clone of soul
from the American South, whose radio stations
could often be picked up as far away as Jamaica.
The bond between the two musics stretches even
further back to the days of slavery; which was,
obviously, bitterly remembered by African
descendants of both communities. And, besides,
what is the concept of the Black Star Liner - the
doomed shipping seivice set up by proto-
Rastafarian prophet Marcus Garvey to take the
African people back to their homeland - but a
symbolic extension of the quest for freedom that
exists in all great pop music? Plus, Jali's own rude
boys make very cool rebels and smoke enough
spliff to put the Brazilian rainforests in the shade.
For those kind of reasons, punk- most notably
The Clash - embraced reggae in the late '70s, and
now the Scream's musical journey has led them to
create vibrations that aren't so much irie as 'influ
enced' by Rastafarian righteousness and ire.
Bringing soul and reggae back into harmony, 'Star' features both the
Memphis Horns and Jamaican dub legend Augustus Pablo on melodica, who
apparently walked into the studio, listened back to the song without
saying a word, did two takes, told the band that the second was the one
they'd use and walked out again.
It's a magical tune, its unforgettable chorus
of"Every brother is a star/Every sister is a star" deserving of the finest
summer days to hum it in. As it lilts from the speakers, Gillespie
fishes out a carefully typed lyric sheet for it headed 'Consciousness'
- the word Rastas use for religious- political awareness. One hard-to-
decipher couplet reads: "The Queen of Engiand, there's no greater anar
chist/One man's freedom fighter is another's terrorist."
You've probably always sensed that Scream music is music that inwardly
rages at the obscenity of latter-day capitalism, that walks past
every homeless person wrapped in a blanket with a heavy heart, that will
vote Labour at any opportunity. The band may like a bit of a flirt with
Martin Bormann chic, too, but here's their first ever 'statement' song -
a declaration of resistance, equality, freedom, solidarity, The Faith.
Next up on the Gillespie stereo is a DAT of
Adrian Sherwood's dub remixes of every track on
'Vanishing Point'. While Emily trims his hair, he
grabs a pen and paper and starts jotting down
tities for each mix, in a dub album style. 'Get
Dufly' becomes 'Cry Duff', a nod to Prince Far-I's
seminal 'Cry Tuff Dub Encounter' series.
As the even more astrally-inclined head music
rumbles at bowel-blasting volume, you begin to
wonder what the wide world will make of the '97-
model Scream. After panning them out of sight for
it at the time, many have since got hooked on rock
classicism and might prefer to slip back into the
cosy traditions of 'Give Out...' rather than face up
to what amounts to a scarifying wake-up call for
the chemical generation.
In many ways, 'Vanishing Point' is 'Scream
adelica' Mk 2: a state-of-the-party album - and of
course, six years on, the patty isn't a pretty sight.
People are expiring left, tight and centre. Tear it up
for 72 hours and you've lost half of your brain. The
people you hug tonight will have eaten all your
bread by the time you chuck them off your sofa
tomorrow. Reliably enough, Primal Scream are
even tight about the drugs: everyone)5 on speed,
even if they thought they'd taken E or charlie...
But do people want the truth? Are the Scream
out-reaching their audience? "Think of the indi
viduals that are involved in this band," Gillespie
suggests, now fully dressed, drying his hair and
looking just like he did when 'Higher Than The
Sun' came out. "Robert, Mani, Duff, Innes,
Mulreany, Innes, myself... You're not gonna end
up with a record by The Longpigs."
Will people buy it? "I don't know;" he replies. "If
they don't they don't. We love it. We're proud of it. I
played a couple of tracks to a pal of mine and he
says, 'The Scream are the Total Football of music.
Ajax '74, Johnny Rep, Neeskens and Cruyff' - that's
good enough for me."
SEVERAL DAYS LATER, THE PHONE RINGS. NOt THE USUAL PR spiel, but
Gillespie calling, just to let us know that Asian Dub
Foundation are on tonight at the Astoria 2. It turns out that he's
right about ADE They are very excellent, a breathless fusion of
everything from ragga to PIL. At the bar afterwards, the Scream are
there in force, and the vibes are very, very good. "Look at these
dexys," Gillespie winks by way of explanation, producing a sheet of
tablets. "Pure fuckin' mod gear." Alex Nightingale (the band's manager,
son of DJ Annie) has just returned from a holiday in Switzerland and
hands around snaps of himself sitting on top of the Eiger with
headphones on listening to 'Kowalski' at top volume. "I tell you,
mate, he says, "it passed the fucking test."
At about 1.3Oam, Select gets its audience with
Innes. He's got an El Vez T-shirt on, even though
he's never seen the Mexican Elvis impersonator
perform. The only topic of conversation is to be
ADE "They're fuckin' proper, aren't they?" he
barks. "I mean, why won't somebody sign them?
The industry has got to be full of racist scum,
hasn't it? There can't be any other reason for it Will
you say that in your piece?"
OK. Now do we get a tape of the album?
Vanishing Point: The speed paranoia 'Classic' that inspired 'Kowalski'
OK, so this is the movie that inspired the new
Scream album. What's it all about?
Back in the early '70s, in the wake of Easy Rider,
it seemed like everyone was making dystopian,
existential road movies like Two-Lane Blacktop,
Electra Glide In Blue and this little pessimistic gem.
It's the tale of wired, blank-eyed car delivery driver
Kowalski. who bets a load of drug money that he can
drive a supercharged 1970 white Dodge Challenger
the 1,500 miles from Colorado to San Francisco in
under 15 hours.
So it's about a car journey, then?
Well, it's actually more a car chase: more than 100
minutes of benzedrine-fuelled automotive action,
featuring corrupt cops, nude biker chicks and
Cleavon Little as soul-saving blind radio DJ Super
Soul, who provides a Sly Stone-style commentary on
all of Kowaiski's outlaw antics (his voice is sampled
on the Scream single). All that and a soundtrack -
of grit-spittin' country rock and fuzztone soul.
Violence, corruption, nudity, soul? Take me to
Not so fast. This was made in 1971, remember.
Despite being a pill-popping, auto-wrecking, DJ-wailing
anomaly, Vanishing Point also takes itself completely
seriously. It thinks it's a parable about freedom. That
nude woman on the motorbike? She represents
Kowaiski's dead wife and loss of innocence. A lot
ofthe time nothing happens. And the world gone
wrong' that Kowalski is protesting against? That's
represented by an offensively stereotypical depiction
of a couple of predatory gay men.
Make up your mind here. Is it any good or not?
It's pretty good, but leaving aside all its po-aced
pretensions, it's ultimately the wooden performance
of Barry Newman as Kowalski that tips the film out
of the running. He's rubbish. Still, if you're obsessed
with drugs, soul music and the American counter
culture, and decided to watch it at three in the
morning while plotting the direction for your next
album - well, then you just might think that it was
the best film ever made. AM
Bob Morris is the bloke dressed as a fishwife in the 'Kowalski' promo- and this is his set report
It takes little imagination to predict - what'II happen when
you bring together Primal Scream. Irvine Welsh, a couple of supermodels.
the full Scream Team, free booze, various military uniforms, an
overgrown transvestite and 'Fatty's Bar & Grill', the legendary
late-nite drinker in London's East End, which is run by Scream road marshall Steven `Fatty' Molloy.
The call came in: 'Bob, we want you to dress as a woman." For such an
occasion, I'd usually dress up as me mum-and
that's exactly what I did. Eleven anion the sunniest day of the year so
far: the team are all here. roll call as above. Scream manager Alex
Nightingale keeps nagging. and I'm forced to sit tight for half an
hour's make-up. There are questions regarding the impossibility of
buying court shoes in size eleven. More importantly, does my bum look big
The story of the video, scripted by Irvine Welsh, revolves
around a pair of overaII-wearing supermodels cuffing 'Fatty' Molloy to his
bed in a compromising position, while the band play
dominoes and then zoom about the countryside in a Dodge Challenger.
Cue link to Vanishing Point, starring Barry Newman, a 1971
road movie with lots of speed.
Irvine Welsh has already been up all night beavering away at a new
screenplay (or was he just out on the piss with Shaun Ryder?).
Anyway, by midday he's already in evidence extolling the virtues of the hibs system over European
(i.e successful) football. In between takes. Bobby and Innes
try on various military uniforms.
Innes finally settles on a US Gotcha' mats snapped pilot's outfit
- complete with helmet
which, much to the amusement of locals, he wears down the pub.
Bobby, Mani and Duffy go for street clothes and Throb for the
grey-rock-star-in-the-Persil-ad lookm while Nightingale, Welsh and drummer Paul
Mulreany end up playing a gang of scoop reproters. I keep the TV gear
on a few hours too long -
you know, just to keep the people amused.
And what about the supermodels? A huge silver winnebag seven o'clock in the evening,
Kate Moss and her entourage. A very drunken jock writer attempts to introduce
himself to the occupants, ending up having in-depth discussions with the spare wheel.
Myself and Innes had already to go down he pub to watch Celtic/Rangers, but in order not to be rude,
we sneak out of the car park with a certain Mr Welsh bouncng off the walls
behind us . We reach the Felch & Firkin only to discover the entire Scream Team have had
exactly the same idea at the same time.
Cut back to some lonely supermodels: "We turned up or the band's video."
says a disconsolate Ms Moss, "you'd think they'd have
the courtesy to turn up as well."
Things get very messy in the pub and Rangers lose 2-0.
But Kris Needs and Irvine get talking and are going to record
together. Primal Scream? The last great British heroes, The
question is not when they're gonna stop, but who's gonna stop
'em? Me? I think I've found my thing in life...BOB MORRIS
Originally Appeared in June 1997 issue of Select Copyright © Select.