The Jesus And Mary Chain And Glasgow Eyes: 13th Floor Interview

The Jesus And Mary Chain are just about to release a new album titled Glasgow Eyes...incredibly 40 years after they formed in Glasgow. We found guitarist Jim Reid in Glasgow where he is happy to tell us how the record came together seven long years after their previous long player.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Jim just as the band was rehearsing for a tour to follow the album’s release this Friday.  Jim was in a talkative mood, ruminating on Glasgow, the band’s legacy and brotherly love….

Click here to listen to the interview with Jim Reid:

Or, read a transcription of the interview here:

The Jesus And Mary ChainM: And how are things in Glasgow these days?

JR: We’ve only just arrived. I mean, we don’t live here anymore, I don’t know if you know that, but we I haven’t lived, me and William, in Glasgow for nearly 40 years now. We left in 1985. We don’t come back as often as we used to, because everybody’s either dead or left.

M: I was gonna ask you if it had changed much, but that kind of sums it up.

JR: It’s all changed for the better, I think. I mean, it was a bit sort of down in the heel when we lived here. There was a lot of shabbiness, so a lot of crumbling buildings, quite a lot of crime and deprivation. But it seems to have picked itself up and it seems to be a much more interesting place to be.

M: And you recorded the album there at Mogwai’s studio, right?

JR: We partially recorded…mostly recorded it there. And we’re actually we’re going to be going back there today because we are rehearsing for our tour. And we are rehearsing there, and we’ve got a little gig in Glasgow on Tuesday.

M: Right, kind of like a warm up for the tour.

JR: Pretty much, yeah, I mean, we were going to warm up in Leeds, right and then there was no Glasgow gig planned. It was just an Edinburgh gig and then I got a barrage of emails and text messages all complaining about…”What the fuck!  You called the album Glasgow Eyes and you’re not even playing here!”. So we had to slot in a Glasgow gig double quick.

M: There is a good point to be made there. Yeah. Mogwai was just here in Auckland they played  down the street last week, I think it was.  Do you know those guys? Why did you select the studio?

JR: Well, we bumped into them from time to time, our a manager David McBride, he managed Mogwai for years and years. He doesn’t anymore, but he’s still very friendly with them. And so we were looking for somewhere to finish off the album. and David says, “I think you’ll be very comfortable, ” in the castle of doom.

M: Of course!

JR: So we were doomed and that was it. It was a very good fit for us. So job done.

M: Was your previous album recorded there as well?

JR: No, that’s the first time that we’ve ever been to that studio.

M: And the previous one came out like, what, seven years ago?

JR: Yeah, that was recorded at the producer’s place, Youth.

M: Yeah, he’s with Killing Joke, right?

JR: He was Yeah. And he’s produced just just about everybody ever since.

M: So did you self-produce this new album, you and your brother?

JR: We did.  We have produced all of our records. The only time that we’ve ever used a producer was Damage And Joy with Youth. And it was just an experiment because we hadn’t been making records for quite a long time. And we thought maybe having a… well also, you know, we thought having a producer in the studio may help keep the tension down if you get my drift. Because the previous record, Munki, was…with the band more or less disintegrated during the making of that record. So we thought you know, a producer could act as a kind of a referee, you know what I mean, or a peacekeeper. And it kind of worked out that way, you know, because you’ve got this other guy this kind of authority figure, if you like, in the studio. And he was pretty good at that. When it started to get like, you know, heated, he would come out…”Settle down, boys settle down”… we were being a bit childish. Let’s just make the record.

M: So were there any moments like that I’ll making this record?

JR: There always is but we’ve learned how to not go too far, if you like these days, I mean, it got as bad as I think, hopefully it ever will get in the late 90s. And, and we, you know, we were terrible from not learning from our mistakes. But on that occasion, or with that situation, we actually did learn how to not rub each other up the wrong way, at least too far. We will always argue, we are brothers, you know, there’s a lot to argue about. But we know know where that line in the sand is. And we can attend to sort of like approach it. And then when we get there back off, because if you go over that line…I remember from the 90s that there are things that were said that we’re best not said. And once you’ve said, it can’t be taken back.

M: I was just listening to a new album by another band of brothers, The Black Crowes who are back together again. And they’ve had their ons and offs through the years. Is that a brother thing? Have you ever kind of swapped stories with other brother bands, the Davies brothers or anybody like that?

JR: I haven’t really discussed that with any other rock’n’roll brothers, but yet, we don’t really run into that many people to be honest with you. I mean, I can understand…I recognize a lot of the you know, the pitfalls. I’ve seen it…watching the Gallagher Brothers, you know, it was like, you know, it was like watching me and William all over again. But on a bigger stage, I suppose. So totally go to Oh, and Mickey always said, you know, he was totally prepared to deal with the Gallaghers because he’d already been through it once with me and William.  I believe that that would have been very helpful to how he dealt with those two.

M: So you guys kind of celebrated your 40th anniversary of being a band recently as well. So does that give you pause to think back and reconsider or consider your legacy? What you would have done differently, better or worse?

JR: I mean, yes, but I mean, at the same time, you know, when you’ve been around this long you do…when you’ve been making music this long together…and there have been a lot of mistakes, not musical mistakes, but a lot of mistakes, with regards to how we treated each other, and all of the, you know, very public roles and what our view, so you can reflect on that anyway. But I suppose being back in Glasgow, making this record, also, we’re doing a book, which is not quite an autobiography, it’s just I was talking to a journalist, doing many doing many, many interviews, but basically, raking through the band’s history.

M: Are you doing the interviews separately or together?

JR: Separately. It’s done. It’s done. The interviews are done. The book is more or less ready to, to go to press. It’s not coming out til later in the summer, I think. But anyway, it deals mostly with the early period of the band that goes up to the 1990s breakup. And then maybe there’s a little bit about what we did afterwards. But that was kind of weird, like going through quite in detail and depth, or those stories, all of those, you know, crazy nights and crazy, crazy days. And it does tend to make you kind of dwell on it a bit. And yeah, think well, what, you know, what could we have done. Like, the night at the House of Blues when the band broke up, in 1998, I’ve raked over that evening probably 1000 times trying to think of…did it really need to go down that way? And I really don’t think it did, but, fuck it, it’s all done now, you can’t undo it.

M: That’s a fact. So let’s get to the record, Glasgow Eyes, from your point of view, does it have a particular sound? I’ve listened to it a few times, it has a little bit more electronic stuff going on it to my ears, but there’s still plenty of you know, fuzzed out guitars, which is what we need.

JR: Well, I mean, when we make a record, generally the general rule is that we don’t try and kind of decide beforehand what it’s going to sound like. But on this occasion, what we did say was that we were going to get synthesizers involved a bit more heavily than we’ve used before. I mean, there’s nothing on this record sonically that we haven’t done before. We’ve used Moog synths, we’ve used drum machines. But on this record, we’ve done that a little more. So it’s more electronic than I think most people would expect the Mary Chain to be but, fuck it, that’s what we felt like doing.

M: There you go. And it opens up with a tune called Venal Joy. So why is that? Why have you chosen that to kick things off with this record?

JR: Well, it just kind of sets the tone pretty nicely. I think it’s upbeat. It’s got that electronic sounds. And yeah, if you kind of get over that, then you’ll be with it for the rest of the album a thing of you sort of hear that and think, “fuck, turn that off!”, then the album’s not for you.

M: Gotcha. And you have a tune called American Born, which is an interesting title for a couple of guys from where you’re from…believe it or not, I’m English born, but I have an American accent…so I’m kind of interested in all of that. What’s behind the song, from your point of view?

JR: Well it’s William that wrote the words…William lives in America, and I guess its just his perspective as an outsider, but living in America, like he lives with Americans, you know, I mean, that’s what it’s about, I guess.

M: Have you seen that affect him in any way?

JR: Um, sort of, I mean, like, you know, obviously, you know, for most of his life…he’s actually lived in America for more than, let’s see now, 23, 24 years, something like that. And so, yeah, I mean, so he tends to talk a lot about what’s going on in the United States, rather than, you know, maybe perhaps a bit out a touch with British politics or what have you. Although he does keep in touch, but he’ll run for hours about, you know, Trump or something like that. How was it possible that Trump could have been president and looks like could be President again? So things like that. Yeah.

M: You gotta wonder. Yeah. Are you guys fairly political animals, I noticed in Silver Strings there was kind of lyrics about rockets and nuclear submarines and things like that. Is that a part of…do you guys talk about that stuff? Whether it should be part of the music?

JR:Politics in music I think don’t really go well together.  Political yeah, but that’s more on a personal level, I think. I think when bands try to change the world with a song, it cannot always fall flat on its face. I ‘ll talk politics all day if you want me to, but not in a song.

M: You have a song just before that called the The Eagles and The Beatles. So classic rock all over the place there. But it seems to be mostly about The Rolling Stones. And there’s a great riff in it. And you mentioned The Faces, so what brought that on? I got to figure that’s coming from you with the riff.

JR: Well, that’s William again. I mean, it’s just him talking about our childhood, I think, and the music that got us, that got us into music and got us into being in a band. You know, as far as it is it reminds me of when me and him were young, listening to music and tons of The Pistols and all of that.

M: And then there’s another song called Second of June, which is kind of self referential. And music wise, it kind of goes into this kind of droney thing a little bit more than we hear on earlier in the album. Did you think about the musical journey, as it were, from beginning to end and bringing it up to that point?

JR: Well, no, you don’t really sort of analyze your own music to that degree. I think.

M: Some people do actually. (Laughs)

JR: I don’t like to…I can talk a little bit about it. It’s a song…in the very first verse, I’m singing to William, no, my mother. In the second verse, I’m singing to my brother. And the song’s called the Second of June. My mother’s name was June. And I’m an I’m a second child, so there you go.

M: Oh, that explains a lot. And it sounds like almost like a Farfisa organ sound on the following track, on Girl 71.

JR: There is. We were trying to do the right kind of Won’t Get Fooled Again, doo doo doo,  yeah, yeah, it’s all out there for grabs, yo u know?

M: And I gotta say I love the title of the last…the Hey Lou Reid, but it’s spelled Reid as in your Reid so just having a bit of fun there or what?

JR: Yeah man, why not? Why not? I mean Lou was hugely influential to us. So in REID we made him ours, really. We took Lou Reed and kept him under the bed somewhere.

M: Right? Did you ever have any interaction with him? He is a he’s a mercurial character, some people have great things to say about him. others not so great.

JR: I could have met Lou Reed, but I chose not to. I’m incredibly shy, first of all, but Lou Reed, how terrifying is that? And I know this reputation. But we were in a festival in Scandinavia in the 1990s. And it was one of those ones where everybody was hanging around the hotel bar afterwards. And with the same agent, the same booking agent, and, you know, I ended it the agent came up, and he said, “Come on, on I want to introduce you to Lou”. And I was like, “No way! No way!” And he was like, “What’s wrong?” And I was like, “Oh, I couldn’t do that. I’m just too scared to meek, t too timid”. So I declined. I could have met almost everybody you could name but…ooh ooh, I don’t want to do that.

M: And what happens when the reverse happens? Because people…I know they admire you and they look up to you guys. What happens when that encounter happens on the other end?

JR: We’re pussy cats you know, anybody that comes up to us usually walks so we have the smile on your face.

M: Well, that’s not a surprise. I remember the first time I heard your first album, Psychocandy, and still, the feeling, still stays with me to this day. This is when it first came out. And when was it early 80s or whatever. And it’s one of those mesmerizing, dreamlike feelings that stays with you for a long period of time. Is that what you guys have in mind in general with your music to make that kind of impression?

JR: Well, we want it to last. When we made Psychocandy we didn’t really see it is just entertainment for that particular year, 1985 it came out, and, you know, if people would have tapped their toes to that in their bedsits in 1985 and then forgot about it in 1986, then that would not have been job done, because that’s not how we saw it going down. We make music to fit in with people’s lives, we want people to take that music with them to wherever they’re gonna go next. And that’s the same with any record we’ve made, you know, and I guess that we got, we got it, right, because what he has, you know, 40 years later, after, you know, the first single was 84, so it’s 40 years since starting this band. And you know, here we are still talking about those records we made then, and we’re still talking about records when making now. So, I mean, that would have been a fantasy to me, but then, you know, we’d still be making records and 2024. People would still think that they were relevant. If somebody would say to me, that you’ll be making an album in 2024,  I would have thought, oh, God, that sounds kind of embarrassing. It sounds like it’s got to be awful. But you know, here we are. We’re making this record and so far the reactions to it have been pretty positive. So, not bad for a couple of guys in their 60s!

M: No, no. And as a guitar player, what do you do to keep yourself interested in the instrument?

JR: Oh, well, I mean, I don’t even consider…I play guitar. And it is for fun. But I don’t really think… I could never join another band as a  guitarist. I’m not good enough. I couldn’t even get in The Ramones.

M: Well, you may be right. I mean, Johnny was pretty good.

JR: Oh, well, I mean, yeah, it never lost a chord man. You know, he was just like, he was like a machine, Johnny Ramone.

M: That’s that’s interesting, though. And do you see the band having an impact and an impression on any newer bands that are out and about these days?

JR: Well, I mean, it’s not really for me say. But I’m told that we are name checked on a regular basis, which I guess is healthy. Again, back to what we were  saying earlier you know, it was music that we made back then that we thought it should you know should last for years and there are bands now that are forming that are name checking the Mary Chain that weren’t anywhere near born when we started so great.

M: Yep, yep. Yep. It’s pretty cool. I’ve seen you guys a couple of times, you’ve played the Power Station around the corner here, here in Auckland, are there plans afoot to head down to this part of the world again?

JR: There has been some talk about coming to the antipodes so, yeah, yeah. I mean, we want to, we like to do that. But you have to kind of fit it into…I mean, it’s so isolated Australia and New Zealand, isn’t it? So you have to kind of tie into an Asian trip as well and it makes more sense. But we are talking about doing that and we’d love to.

M: So you’re rehearsing for these shows coming up and you got the new album, new songs. When you rehearse, what do you have to work on as a band?

JR: Well, I mean, the new stuff was a bit challenging to fit that into the set. We’re not going to overwhelm people with like, you know, 20, what is it, 12 new songs. I personally hate it when one of my favorite bands brings out a new album. You go and see it on the play the whole fucking thing. You think, well, hold on, you want to hear some of the back catalog.  It’s always gonna be based on your songs that people know. And then a sprinkling of the new stuff.

M: Is there one song on the album you’re most excited to play live?

JR: All of them, I think would sound good live. But I mean, I think Venal Joy and…JAMCOD and  Venal Joy, I think to sound like you’re going to be boot stompers.

M: All right. Well, hopefully we’ll get to see you guys down here. You always go over well, so there’s something about that post-punk thing and New Zealand which kind of fits in with the whole Dunedin Sound and The Flying Nun thing that all makes sense. And I think part of it is what you guys do. So thank you very much and good luck with everything.

The Jesus And Mary Chain release Glasgow Eyes on Friday, March 22nd