Holly was lucky enough to chat to Andrew Innes of the legendary Primal Scream right before the release of their 11th studio album Chaosmosis. Innes discusses his love of playing live, the reality of being in a band in this day and age and shares the band’s experiences recording with Haim and Sky Ferreria.
HOW DID THE SONGS ON CHAOSMOSIS COME TOGETHER AND HOW LONG WAS THE RECORDING PROCESS?
We wrote the songs really quickly this time but then as usual a couple of them took a bit longer to finish. We’ve had the studio for about 20 years but got a notice to say that they were knocking the building down and turning it into luxury flats. That seemed to galvanize us into doing some work. We knew we had about six months left in the studio and we recorded most of the LP in that time. It was quite quick for us because sometimes it takes a lot longer.
WHAT’S IN THE NAME ‘CHAOSMOSIS‘ AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR THE BAND?
That’s a hard question! I guess we’re moving away from the chaos period. I think it’s just a good title and it probably means different things to different people. For the band we’re moving away from the chaos by osmosis (laughs).
YOU AND BOBBY PRODUCED THE ALBUM TOGETHER. WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF A BAND PRODUCING AN ALBUM THEMSELVES?
We produced it with a little help from Björn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John fame, he sort of co-produced some of it. With us it helps to get people to come in and help us. You can be working at something for a long time and not realise what’s good anymore. It’s quite good for us having a producer to look over things. Basically a producer is someone you trust who will voice their opinion and not mind if they don’t agree with you. We like that sometimes because you have so many ideas for a song and after a while you don’t realise what the best idea is and then somebody can come in and go “Well that’s your best idea so why don’t you repeat that” or “That’s not such a good bit, lose it”.
The producer is kinda like a film editor. Most directors if left to their own devises would make four hour films. An editor cuts it down and keeps the good bits, bring out the story better. I guess that’s what a producer does for us in particular because we always have too many ideas and too many things going.
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ‘WHERE THE LIGHT GETS IN’ AS THE LEAD SINGLE?
Everyone we played it to said it had a good chorus! Basically that was it. We know Noel Gallagher as we release the records through his label and his quote was “It’s the best chorus you’ve written in 15 years”. When people like that tell you it’s a good chorus it’s probably a pretty good chorus. That’s basically what you do. It’s kinda like you know yourself but then you play them to people who’s opinion you respect and they’ll tell you. Everybody seemed to think it had the best chorus.
IS THE TRACK TITLE ‘100% OR NOTHING REFLECTING OF THE BAND’S ATTITUDE?
I think that’s a more personal relationship song but yes, we tend to either do things or we don’t. We don’t really do anything half cooked and we haven’t really since day one.
A NUMBER OF THE TRACKS ON CHAOSMOSIS FEATURE OTHER ARTISTS SUCH AS HAIM AND SKY FERRERIA. COLLABORATING WAS SOMETHING YOU DID ON RIOT CITY BLUES BUT WHAT WAS YOUR MOTIVATION TO BRANCH OUR ONCE AGAIN AND WORK WITH OTHER MUSICIANS?
We’ve been together for over 30 odd years now so it brings a bit of change and it’s exciting if you work with someone fresh. With Haim we had the song ‘Trippin On Your Love’ and we thought of The Mamas and the Papas. We wanted some California sunshine on this record and Haim do that. They’re three sisters from California who sing beautifully together. While they were in doing the first song we went “Oh we could use some backing vocals for ‘100% or Nothing’ as well” and they were more than happy. They’re great singers, absolutely incredible singers. It’s just exciting, they’re great to hang out with and it makes your life easier. You go home and think “That was worthwhile, I’ve done something different. There’s a slightly new sound to one of our records because they’re singing on it.” They brought their magic to the record and generally made something better than it would have been if they hadn’t been on it. At the end of ‘100% or Nothing’ it’s Este singing “What do you expect?”. She’s the bass player of Haim and doesn’t do lead vocals but she’s an amazing soul singer. They’re that gifted with their voices and that talented. They’re incredible.
The same with Sky Ferreria – we were looking for someone as we thought ‘Where The Light Gets In’ would make a good duet. We were thinking of people and we liked a couple of her tracks. We knew somebody who knew her and again it was just a phone call and she said that she’d love to do it. We still get shocked that these people want to be on our record. With the last record we had Robert Plant singing, this time we have Haim and Sky Ferreria. We’re absolutely blessed that these people will give their time and effort and musicianship to making our records better.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO GO ABOUT TRANSFORMING THE SONGS TO A LIVE CONTEXT AND FOLLOWING ON FROM THAT DO THE BAND HAVE PLANS TO TOUR EXTENSIVELY THIS YEAR?
I hope so, I need to get out of the house! I enjoy making records but I really want to get out and play. We’re in the process of rehearsing and to take the songs so that they become live songs. It’s different doing things live. We don’t just come out and play the CD so we try and make things a bit more ‘Primal Scream Live’. Some songs are usually better for that than others but you don’t know until you’ve rehearsed them and played them a couple of times.
SOME OF YOUR CONTEMPORARIES HAVE BROKEN UP AND REFORMED WITHOUT RELEASING NEW MATERIAL. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE MAKES PRIMAL SCREAM PROLIFIC AND WHAT IS THE KEY TO KEEPING IT TOGETHER AS A BAND IN THIS DAY AND AGE?
It’s getting harder to keep a band together in this day and age. A lot of the things put in place 20 years ago like the gig circuits are going. People don’t sell records so you can’t live from your record sales. You meet a lot of young kids and they’re in four or five bands because you can’t make any money being in one band, but hopefully one of them will be successful. The venues that used to support a live circuit have disappeared. They’re gone because they’ve been turned into luxury apartments.
What keeps us going? Well we just enjoy it. I’m lucky to wake up in the morning and go and make music and hopefully get enough money to pay the rent! We’re lucky and we work hard at making the records and hopefully we can keep going. Sometimes we wish we’d split up and reformed, it’s the easier way! People aren’t really interested in your 15th album or your 23rd album. It’s quite hard to keep it interesting. I guess people like new things. People love a band’s first record and then they seem to die quickly.
WHAT EXCITES YOU MOST ABOUT BEING A BAND SO FAR INTO THEIR CAREER? ARE YOU AT TIMES SURPRISED THAT THE BAND HAS LASTED THIS LONG?
Oh yeah, we sort of thought it’d be over Christmas 1986! (laughs). So many people have come and gone, we always have people leave and join the band. There always seems to be new blood coming in which gets you going again. When Mani left The Stone Roses or they split up, I can’t remember which way round it was, he joined in 1996 and brought this incredible new energy into our band because he was dying to do things. Then of course he left us to go rejoin The Stone Roses because they were reforming.
We had Debbie Googe from My Bloody Valentine playing bass for a year or so and now Simone Butler and she’s playing bass for us full time. It always stays interesting. You never really get that bored, there’s always something exciting happening.
COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOUR LABEL FIRST INTERNATIONAL STARTED AND WHETHER YOU HAVE RELEASES FROM OTHER BANDS IN THE WORKS?
Basically we’re licensed through Noel Gallagher’s management company. Noel’s really the boss. That was the name we came up with but we’ve got no plans for other releases because it’s hard enough putting your own records out. I don’t think we want the singer from another band phoning up at one o’clock in the morning because they weren’t happy with the pictures on the front sleeve of the record or they’re not happy with the mixes. I’m not the sort of person who can handle that. It’s bad enough being the person phoning up at one in the morning saying they don’t like the mixes, I wouldn’t want someone doing that to me. I realise I’m not cut out for the business end of it. You have to sort of be a diplomat to run a record company. There are quite a few characteristics that I certainly don’t have.
YOU’VE ACCOMPLISHED SO MUCH IN YOUR CAREER. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS LEFT TO ACHIEVE?
I just want to get out and play live, that’s what I really like doing. I can’t wait to come and play these songs live because we’ve made a good record. My favourite part has always been playing it live. We’d like come out to Australia and play it live, it’s always good fun touring there.
If Vivian Lees (co-founder of Big Day Out) is listening or reading your article, get us a tour! I’m not doing anything next January! That was always the best thing about Big Day Out. It was freezing in England and you got to go to Australia for three weeks, it was amazing. Some of my fondest memories were at the Big Day Out. It’s really sad it’s not running anymore, but all good things have to end.