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Me and the Muse: Interview with Bobby Gillespie

Primal Scream is releasing a new album, “Chaosmosis”, and their leader talks about the songs and eras that spawned him.

53-year-old Bobby Gillespie is the lead singer of Primal Scream, who released their 11th album, “Chaosmosis” on March 18, 2016. An American singer, model and actress Sky Ferreira participated in the recording of the first single “Where the Light Gets In”. The band has existed in various forms since 1982, Gillespie and guitarist Andrew Innes have always remained in the lineup. The album “Screamadelica” (1991), which mixed rave, rock, gospel and dub reggae, brought the group fame and the “Mercury Prize” award and to this day remains a milestone in the world of music.

When I was little, music was in the air. In the 60s, my dad had a folk club in Glasgow, and he played both Jerry Rafferty and Billy Connolly. He recorded the performances of folk singers, and then we listened to these crackling records. My dad loved Ray Charles, and he has a hit collection on Stateside – “Busted”, “Take these Chains from My Heart”, “The Cincinatti Kid”. Classic.

My mother loved Supremes and Elvis. I remember how I admired the cover of Suspicious Minds, its unmatched face. My brother and I listened to “A Boy Named Sue” and laughed at the words, and then turned the record over to the other side and sang along to the words “San Quentin”: “San Quentin, rot and burn in hell for you.” This has had a strong impact on my development.

I grew up on the popular Top 40 radio – Sweet, Slade, Bolan, Bowie, Mott the Hoople. Great glam rock. The first single I bought was “Hell Raiser” Sweet. I moved to a new school, and one boy stood up for me in a fight. I came to his house and saw his “Electric Warrior” T Rex. This was an important point. Another boy brought “Aladdin Sane” [David Bowie] to school and said: listen. Song “Time”: (sings) “Time – he bends like a whore, falls to the floor, caressing himself. His secret is in you and me, boy.” Another important point. It tore off my roof.

Punk was my starting point. My brother and I turned on John Peel on the radio because we heard that he had to put on “God Save the Queen” Sex Pistols. Apart from him, no one set her up. I had read about them earlier and felt that something was brewing, but it was simply divine insight. I was at a Clash concert with Richard Hell at Glasgow Apollo, it was another insight. I was obsessed, and I could not express my feelings to anyone until Alan McGee (head of Creation Records) appeared. From this moment our mission began.

I regard music as a work. Andrew and I go to the rehearsal studio five days a week, from noon to six. Sometimes nothing happens, and we just watch videos on YouTube, or I go for a walk, and he plays with a drum machine. And sometimes everything goes as it should, and the magic begins.

A song can begin with a piece. It can begin with a refrain, or even with one line, or a riff. It happens that Andrew will play something, and I immediately compose a whole song. And it happens that the line comes to mind when I ride a bus or walk down the street. It seems to me that consciousness should be active all the time, even during rest.

We are always happy to help other people in creating what we hear in our heads. When we wrote “Country Girl”, there was a riff, the song began with him and dangled for a long time half-ready. Then came Youth [producer Martin Glover] and immediately said: class, but the song lacks a refrain. Therefore, it’s good when other people come to you, your like-minded people: Youth, David Holmes, Andrew Weatherall, Kevin Shields.

Main sources of inspiration for Bobby Gillespie:
The Sex Pistols – God Save the Queen
From this song I felt alive, I never felt like that again. It was beating from her with some kind of energy, which aroused something in you that you had not previously suspected. She shaped my anger of a working-class teenager. This song put me at the beginning of my journey, and for this I am very grateful to the Pistols.

Public Image Ltd – Metal Box
She is from a completely different world, but at the same time it was this record that best described the foggy, gray, dull, depressed state of Britain in the late 70s. It’s still before you get to the words. This is a very important statement, showing how the so-called non-musicians can create unearthly music. She still resonates.

Sly and the Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin ‘On / Miles Davis – On the Corner
I can’t separate the two albums. We listened to them endlessly on tour in 1986: one was on one side of the cassette, the other on the other. “Riot” is such a gloomy urban paranoid, closed funk, practically death funk, because it stands still, it generally does not move anywhere. In “On the Corner” this is also there, but I find it very meditative, at least I found it under amphetamines. [Laughs] Here the whole thing is cut and combined, and the producer, Theo Masero, is just a master of this approach. This is completely unrealistic music.

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