Social networking on the internet is a truly remarkable thing. The opportunity to present specifically tailored questions to iconic figure and founding brother of The Jesus and Mary Chain - Jim Reid, could not have materialized any other way. To say that I have been passionate about the music his band produced over the years would be something of an understatement. Having provided the soundtrack for the most significant aspects of my life during the 1990's, I more or less think in "MaryChain terms." The band's lyrics and melodies are so embedded on my emotional coding, that they continue to provide the standard for how I measure all music that has come along ever since. Getting to meet Jim in person when they toured their reunited band in 2007 was as memorable a moment as any can get. Being conversational friends with Jim now on the internet is almost too good to be true. However, that is the reality and the reason this very specific interview exits. Jim was kind enough to answer questions that focused on their tours of America, and the shows I was fortunate to attend.
Here then, the exclusive DaveCromwellWrites interview of Jim Reid:
At the beginning of 1990, you toured “Automatic” throughout America. It was a particularly significant time for me as it was my first chance to catch you live. You were to appear in New York in early March (at the venerable “Studio 54” location which has been leased out at the time and was booking rock shows as “The Ritz”). The original show had to be canceled at the last second due to some unforseen event. Do you recall what this was? Ultimately the show happened at the end of that month and it was my first experience of you live (which was a magical event for me). Do you recall this tour well, and can you share anything about it that stands out in your mind?
Jim: It was a strange period for the band, in the UK the writing seemed to be on the wall. The whole Manchester thing was going on and there were a lot of people who seemed to think this made the MC obsolete . Our single Head On which we had imagined would be a smash hit completely stiffed. However, we soon discovered that elsewhere in the world it was business as usual. Head On got heavy rotation on MTV, and for the first time when we toured the US, people who worked in the hotels that we stayed in had actually heard of us and were asking for our autographs. As far as the Ritz shows were concerned, the 2nd show was cancelled by the NY fire department, I cannot remember exactly why, but I am sure it had something to do with palms not being greased that ought to have been. I wasn’t aware at the time that this was the original Studio 54. I only found that out years later. Nine Inch Nails were the support band on this tour, and they seemed to do much better out of it than we did.
Later on that year, on Saturday 16 June 1990, you performed at a large outdoor arena show at Giants Stadium in support of Depeche Mode. I bought tickets to the event specifically to see you. Seeing Depeche Mode was a nice bonus, but for me an afterthought. How was that tour? Was it all part of the same tour – but simply another leg of it? I got the sense that you might have been a bit frustrated in that support slot – not being able to play your full show – and having to play in bright daylight. My recollection of the event (admittedly I was in “nose bleed seats”) was that it was difficult to hear you clearly. What was that whole experience like?
Jim: The shows with Dépêche Mode came about because they seemed to be fans of the band and they asked us to play with them. The giant stadium show I thought was pretty good. We didn’t take it too seriously. Thought it might be a bit of an experience. I thought the crowd weren’t too bad either, even though they all seemed to be about 12 and female. We were meant to do 3 shows with them. We did another one and Toronto, and we were supposed to do Dodgers Stadium in LA, but the people from the stadium refused to let us play because they were offended by the band name. Only in America.
In the summer of '92 I once again specifically bought tickets to a festival tour (Lollapalooza) for the primary purpose of seeing your band. The show we attended (and I recorded from my seats) was at the Jones Beach Theater in glorious Long Island (where I presently reside) New York. I have read more than a few reports over the years where you said you were not happy with the tour. One particular quote that stands out in my mind was that you were purposely forced to play at a lower volume than the events headliners. That you actually offered to “pay for more sound” but were denied that option. Even though we enjoyed your show (and I still have the recordings to prove it) your frustration with it all was apparent. How bad did it actually get? Was there anything enjoyable about this time?
Jim: Yes Lollapalooza was a bit of a nightmare for us. It was originally sold to us as a democratic event where nobody was actually the headline act. Of course, from the very beginning I knew this was bullshit, but I would only find out how bad it was when I got there. When it was said to us there was no headline band. We suggested that perhaps the MC should play last, which was generally met with laughter, then we found out that the Chili Peppers had brought in extra PA, when we suggested that we might do the same, we were told that it was not an option. It was also unfortunate that we went on after Pearl Jam, when the tour was booked nobody knew who they were, by the time we hit the road, they had sold about 1 million albums. We even tried to switch places with them, but they wouldn’t have it. Generally the whole atmosphere on the tour was devoid of any bad behavior, it was like a rock ‘n’ roll version of The Stepford Wives. Everybody was drinking mineral water and doing press ups, any rock ‘n’ roll shenanigans generally had something to do with either The Mc or Lush.
(In spite of the restrictions placed on the band, I remember being thrilled to see them - loved their set, and manged to record a number of their songs from my seat. Here is one of them)
Kill Surf City by DaveCromwell
Later on that year you embarked on your Rollercoaster tour of the US Curve and Spiritualized. We caught that show in New York at Roseland Ballroom in January 1993 (once again, trusty recorded hidden on my person – treasured dat cassette tapes having been lovingly played periodically ever since then). Our impression that night was that you were firing on all cylinders. Were our impressions correct? Was The MaryChain content with being in their rightful positions there – as headliners?
Jim: I cannot remember that particular show, but I thought the tour was pretty good, and we were generally just happy to be back with a roof over our heads and bright shiny lights in our eyes. As for firing on all cylinders, cocaine had become a regular occurrence with me at this particular point.
(Fortunately, I have a number of tracks I personally recorded from that show, and you can hear how well the band was "firing.")
Between Planets by DaveCromwell
Who Do You Love by DaveCromwell
It wouldn’t be until 2007 until our particular personal crew would get the opportunity to see you perform live again. The much heralded reunion of the band played two nights in New York, during the month of May. These two shows (and the events leading up to it) have been previously chronicled in the now legendary “Rob Dobbs and Dave Cromwell Excellent Adventure” (found here: http://mog.com/DaveCromwell/blog/164291). Getting to meet and speak with you, Jim – will always be an important and memorable event in my life. It just has to be that way. It is as much a testament to the importance the music you made over the years left an indelible impression on the significant passages of my life. Is there anything about the two New York shows you did on that tour that stands out in your mind?
Jim: When we did the reunion shows I had been sober for quite a few years and my main concern was whether I could actually play a show sober. I had never played a single show with the MC without being under the influence. It’s fair to say that when I first stepped up to the mic at that warm up show in Anaheim that I was shitting bricks, but the show went well and when I realized that I could do it I felt confident. The New York shows I enjoyed. We met up with our old manager Jerry Jaffe who we hadn’t seen for many a year. On the whole a good time was had by all.
Having covered my personal experiences with your US tours, perhaps a question about the influence of American artists on your sound. It its simplest equation, your appreciation of both The Velvet Underground and The Beach Boys led you to create this hybrid sound. However, you’ve mentioned The Stooges, The Shangri-Las and Phil Spector as equally important sonic influences. Even though you are a Scottish band, your sound was decidedly based on music created in the United States. What led to the initial fascination with these somewhat at-odds inspirational sources? What made you think to put them all together?
Jim: We were interested in a lot of American culture, but by the time we played America the things that interested us about the USA were gone. Rock ‘n’ roll is an American invention and it’s hard to be interested in it without also being interested in American culture. It may seem odd that a bunch of scruffy kids from Scotland should be interested in what was happening in America in the 60’s and 70’s but I don’t think it’s that different from The Beatles or the Stones trawling through old blues music for inspiration.
How do you feel about the new generation of bands that have looked to your sound as an influential springboard for their own creativity? There is a quote that has gone around for years now, saying to the effect that every band that became of fan of The Velvet Underground, went on to form a band of their own. One might say a similar thing has occurred with The Jesus & Mary Chain. I know you’ve been quoted recently as stating you admire The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and a personal fave of my – The Raveonettes. Do you give your blessing to other bands that pay homage to you – like the UK's Blanche Hudson Weekend, Austin, Texas’ Ringo Deathstarr, or New York bands A Place To Bury Strangers and The Vandelles?
Jim: I haven’t heard all the bands that are supposedly into the MC I am pretty out of touch really. All in all though I think it’s flattering but you should always bring something of your own to the table, otherwise it could end up as pastiche. The MC were always about spreading a message – we didn’t invent anything we just picked up the pieces that we found and rearranged them. Our message was always ‘do it yourself, what harm can it do?’
Do you have any one particular fun or interesting story to share about any of your time in America? There is some amusing footage of you and William experiencing the hustling insanity of New York and Times Square. Walking past all the peep shows, and street hustlers. Was there a fascination in that? Did you ever wonder how anyone could live in all this madness?
Jim: America was always hugely entertaining to both myself and William. William now lives in LA. Although I said earlier that the America that we had been so inspired by was gone there was still enough of a residue and we felt like we’d walked into a Scorsese movie the first time we arrived in the US, which was New York March 1985. We played a couple of gigs at the Dancerteria and although they were only club shows I honestly don’t think that I had been happier at anytime in my life up til that point. A promoter called Ruth Polski who was known for taking a risk brought us over, she died a tragic death a few years later. She was a lovely woman.
Early proof of one fans admiration.
Meeting Jim was both surreal and spectacular.
This past fall, Demon Music Group re-issued the band’s six studio albums in a deluxe rollout replete with B-sides, demos, radio appearances, and multi-page booklets. Each reissue contains two CDs and a DVD.The 1985 debut classic Psychocandy and its follow-up, 1987's Darklands, came first.. 1989's Automatic and 1992's Honey's Dead will followed a week later, and 1994's Stoned and Dethroned and 1998's Munki arrived after that. For the full info on what's packed into these over-stuffed releases, go to the Demon Music Group website. You can preview all of the reissues in three dimensions, by way of 3DiCD, an interactive system that allows you stream audio snippets and flip through virtual reconstructions of each re-issue's liner notes. Here's Psychocandy: