[This is pretty much just the pre-edited, raw interview / conversation; most (if not all) of which ended up in the published article, as it appears here.]
[I might have mentioned this once or twice by now, but the finished layout for the complete article as it appeared in 1991, was either lost or destroyed over time. I wish that were not the case, as there were more photos, and some other cool design details in the published piece, but at least you can share what inspired it in the first place. A floppy disc with the original interview was the source for what appears here, before that too, gave way to the ravages of time. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – keeping tabs on the past is a lot of work.]
Q Before you signed with First Warning in the U.S., was there ever any problem coming into this country as a performing group, considering the INS Bill restrictions?
A We couldn’t actually get over here until we were on First Warning, because on RCA we never got the records released. It’s kind of stupid coming over here if there were no records out, because it costs a lot. Once the records came out, then we had no problems getting over here. Someone told me it was because we’d been here before, and because everything went okay, there was no problems, then we reapplied, and it’s easier to get back in. So actually we made it, I suppose.
Q The question of “artistic merit” was never raised?
A Well I haven’t had to deal with it personally, I think our manager did that. As far as I’m aware, it’s fairly easy to get visas at this time.
Q How did it come about that after having put your own records out for so long, you ended up dealing with a larger label?
A Well what happens in Britain is, if we make a record which RCA don’t think they want to release, after a couple of months it comes back to us and we can release it. Theoretically, the same thing happens here. The record came out in the summer of last year and RCA in America didn’t want to release it, so we started looking around for people that might want to release it. In the meantime of course, 30,000 copies of it came out anyhow.
Q Do you suppose there was any problem with accessibility?
A That’s a question you probably best direct to them! [laughs] I guess it’s some chap on the second floor of the RCA building, hidden in Manhattan.
Q Are the reasons never made clear to the artists?
A I mean, I’m not sure they even know who we are. It’s quite a bureaucracy, you know.
Q How long exactly had you been an independent group?
A We signed with RCA in 1988, so we’ve been going about three years. In Britain, we were quite successful our own label when it came to things like “artistic control”.
Q Has the record industry at large expressed any curious attitudes towards the type of records you release?
A Well, we never get played on the radio. There’s a couple of stations in Britain – a couple of hours a night… I mean, the last record got to number 14 in the charts. I know for a fact that it wouldn’t get played throughout the day, because it’s not the sort of record that daytime radio producers feel that they can program.
Q Would you say that you’re considered more “alternative” in Britain?
A I’m not sure that I agree with that, because we’re quite big in Britain. I suppose after a certain time it goes beyond being “alternative”. Here, you can transcend the genre of that, though that isn’t to say that you can get played on the radio.
Q What sort of obstacles have you been faced with up to this point?
A The main problem with The Wedding Present is we’re no longer fashionable. We were fashionable in ’87, and that was probably the only time we ever will be fashionable. The British press is quite fashion-oriented; it’s fairly fickle in that respect. I don’t actually mind it, because I’m a big fan of music, and part of that is change. I don’t mind fashion in music.
Q What sort of feedback do you get concerning your particular style of songwriting?
A It’s usually the censure of interviews at some point. Possibly, because people are talking to a singer, they have to speak about lyrics.
Q The lyrics provide a distinct identity to your music, wouldn’t you say?
A It’s the way I’ve always written; it’s all very natural for me. The lyrics are not particularly pretentious, it’s not so poetic or mystical… it’s really quite straightforward, it’s quite conversational. It’s not like six months in the studio; the music is more like something you’d get up and play live, really.
Q Occasionally the situations your lyrics describe sound intensely personal.
A It probably does – I mean, people think I’ve got this horrid, heartbreaking love life. A lot of those lyrics can be extracted from fairly small incidents. The way I write is fairly conversational. It could be that one song is taken from one conversation. It’s sort of like a play, and you can write about the same thing from different angles; from one person’s point of view, or another person’s, or an observer’s point of view. I’m very fond of breaking things down into very small segments and analyzing, especially what people say at extraordinary times like stress, or over-excitement or something, I suppose.
Q That intensity sometimes is taken very seriously, though.
A People tend to think that all the songs are about – melancholy subjects, whereas in fact a lot of the better ones are about happy things.
Q They might tend to come across that way from the narrative point of view, although you describe situations where you seem to be in control, and allow yourself to explore the extremes.
A I think the attempt is to try and cover all of the different aspects from areas where people completely have no control, to areas where people are in control, to the extent of almost being manipulative. Therefore, you’re learning to see from a different point of view, of someone being controlled, I suppose. People say, “how can you possibly write about it; it seems like a small area” – but it isn’t! There’s a lot of intricate webs of relationships, which is actually perfect material for pop lyrics.
Q How did your association with Steve Albini [who engineered the last couple Wedding Present LPs] affect your marketability, do you suppose?
A I suppose …people have told me that we’ve gotten played more on the radio. We used him because he was a good engineer; we were familiar with his work in the past. We’ve got this Wedding Present “sound”, which sometimes we fail to get out properly – he just seemed the perfect person to actually get that sound out, and he did, I think.
Q The relentless guitars, perhaps?
A Yeah, that big guitar sound again, it’s all very natural. I think that was probably already there, I think he just emphasized it or something.
Q What is the story behind the Ukrainian record?
A We did quite a few sessions for John Peel in Britain – I think it was number four or five or something – and we decided to do something completely different. We had various ideas, like doing Cliff Richard & the Shadows covers. Peter, who was our guitarist at the time is actually of Ukrainian descent, and he’s got these LPs at home; occasionally there’s some quite perky tracks featured memorable tunes, and we ended up doing that. It worked really well, and people really seemed to enjoy it. I have mixed reactions, but we enjoyed it. Actually it was our first release on RCA.
Q So actually that record was just a compilation of John Peel sessions?
A Three Peel sessions – quite funny actually, they signed this big independent group, and the first release they got was us in the U.K. and it was folk music. It probably is quite exotic.
Q Were you doing that quite a lot?
A No, that was just the one tour. It was quite difficult to do that actually, because in a way it was like being in two different groups – all the time involved being in one group, and then doing this as well. It’s not something we could have sustained. I think it was a one-off thing, really. Peter, who was the guitarist then, has left the group now – he’s in his own group, called the Ukrainians.
Q How did the personnel change affect the group?
A The main change is that he actually contributes to the group more artistically. Peter is a friend, who used to play the guitar if you needed him. It’s a lot quicker as well, I suppose time will tell, really.
Q Are you musically self-taught?
Q It strikes me that you tend to redirect the conventionality of a pop style, by making solos out of the odd bent string, and that sort of thing dealing with technique.
A Yeah, I’ve always been fond of that. I’ve never been able to play a guitar solo really, so it’s always just been a type of sound.
Q Are you perhaps more influenced by literature than musical technique?
A It’s quite dangerous to delve into that; it would seem really pretentious at this stage.
Q Was it a matter of being a band first, or did that form present itself for other ideas you had?
A We’re definitely a band first; it’s definitely a style I’ve developed. Earlier on, I used to write more rock lyrics, which now I find quite depressing and silly. I’ve decided I’d like to get out and write a bit more in a direct fashion, and now I’m really enjoying it, but it’s taken a while. It’s not like I was born with this sort of ability to write these lyrics, and therefore I should start a group – it was just the opposite, really. I’ve never really tried to write, apart from being in the group. I’m not sure if I’d be a good writer.
Q There is a certain precise poetry to your lyrics – –
A [laughing] I hate poetry!
Q In the sense of a really interesting conversation, I suppose.
A It’s more like a play or something. I could quite like the idea of trying to write a play or something, one day. I’ll just use the song lyrics; I’ll just convert them into a play or something.
Q What other sort of musical directions can we expect to see from the Wedding Present?
A Well, now what we’re doing are twelve singles, being released in Britain. They’re gonna release them on a compilation called Hit Parade. I think they’re a bit lighter; Sea Monsters is a very melancholy LP – dark, I think. The singles are a bit more pop.
Q The sequence of Sea Monsters is somewhat like a suite, particularly on the CD, where you don’t have the break between sides.
A It is very continuous. We just played a concert in Birmingham – in England – and we played the LP all the way through, basically, and it seemed to really work. It was like a really nice way to finish, after all that.
Q Are the extra tracks outtakes from the album sessions?
A In Britain, after the album came out, we had released Lovenest as a single – as a four track E.P., and the other side had the three extra songs. We recorded fifteen songs, and we used twelve for the LP, and kept three back for the E.P. These songs have never been released in America.
AQ re all of the earlier albums going to be released in the U.S. at this point?
A It would be nice if they came out. I think the only way people in America can get all this is to buy them from us, or imports.
© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 1991; 2022