Acid house hedonists, indie rock ‘n rollers; Primal Scream are a band who have built a thirty-year career on the art of reinvention and they are bringing their incendiary live show back to Australia, more powerful and engaged than ever. Primal Scream will always say it with passion and energy and will be wowing Australian fans in February 2018, playing an all-encompassing greatest hit set including tracks from their legendary 1991 album Screamadelica. Hi Fi Way: The Pop Chronicles spoke to Andrew Innes about the upcoming tour and their awesome album Screamadelica.
Great news that Primal Scream are coming to Australia, and even better still you guys are coming to Adelaide.
I can’t remember, I don’t think we came to Adelaide last time, did we? Was it the last Big Day Out?
I think it was the tour before that, when you played at Heaven nightclub. I reckon that was at the tail end of summer, I reckon.
Right, oh well. Tell you what, your memory will be better than mine anyway.
So the band’s looking forward to coming back?
Well it’s just got cold here, the leaves are off the trees, and we’re starting to put the big coats on, so it’s time to go to Australia. It’s time to get out of London and go to Australia. We always have a good time down there, so I can’t wait.
I noticed in a press release that the tour’s focused on greatest hits, and some hits off of Screamadelica. Is that pretty much how the show is leaning or are there other surprises in store?
Well if that’s what the press release says, far be it from me to contradict our own press release. I don’t know, I’ve not got that far. We haven’t started rehearsing yet, so we’ll probably work it out when it gets to rehearsals.
When you start rehearsals do you go in with what songs you want to play or likely to play, or do you do rock, paper, scissors? How does that work when you start rehearsals?
There’s certain songs that you’re expected to play. I guess you’ve got to rehearse them, I can say that people do want to hear certain songs. Then you might look at the last set list and then look at the big list of songs to see if there’s anything you fancy dusting down and don’t fancy doing from the last set. We didn’t come down there for the last LP so we might chuck a couple of them in to see how it goes and then see what happens.
There haven’t been too many updates on the official Primal Scream website, has there been much happening behind the scenes or is everything focused on touring at the moment?
We were out most of the summer, playing festivals and playing gigs in Europe. I can’t remember, that stopped about the middle to the end of September so we have been playing. Then we’ve been trying to write some songs in between. It’s just the usual, really, if we’re not playing gigs, we’re in the studio trying to work out some new stuff. It’s not very rock and roll. It’s not tours of debauchery and stuff like that anymore.
Bit too old for all of that?
You have to pick your fights nowadays. You don’t just go in swinging, like you used to. You have to pick your fights carefully because you get hurt now, if you pick the wrong fight you get hurt!
Chaosmosis is a great album. Were you happy with how that was received right around the world?
Yeah, I think so. It’s weird, we’re in a weird place now with people because you’re older I don’t know that people really want to hear your new stuff and because it sounds pretentious but as an artist; you’re always thinking about new things and trying to do something new. It’s a kind of weird position in a way. You’re not sure how many of your fan base really want to hear anything new but the reason you’re here is because you’ve always tried to do something new. The reason you’ve got a fan base is because you’re always trying to do something new. So it’s a sort of weird position to be in but you know it’s good.
Is it hard to gauge that because people aren’t buying albums, so it’s not like you can say, “Oh, we’ve sold one hundred thousand.” Everything is based on streams and YouTube views and that make the lines blurred in working it out?
Well, it makes a blur because the streaming sites don’t really pay you. They say they do, you can maybe make a living if you’re Taylor Swift off streaming, but you can’t certainly keep a five-piece band going off streaming if you’re Primal Scream I find. It must be really, really hard for new musicians because when the music business went in the early 2000s, there was always this layer in between, where you could sell one to two hundred thousand worldwide. Now you maybe did twenty thousand in each country. Then you could go and tour these countries and economically you could keep a four-piece band going because you got a certain amount of mechanical royalties. There was that level of musicianship, or musicians, which allowed you to be an artist because you didn’t necessarily have to be phenomenally commercially successful. You could get by on selling one hundred or a couple of hundred thousand records. You could all rent a flat and have a living wage out of that, but that level of the music industry is completely gone. You either don’t sell any records at all or you’re up in the Adele bracket. I guess it’s like society. The top one percent of the music business gets all the money and everybody else gets nothing.
Is something like a crowd funding model or similar something the band would look at for the next album?
I don’t know. We’ve been lucky that we could make our last LP, we funded that okay. I don’t know where we’ll fund the next one from. I guess that’s where the independent music was viable as well. We came out in the 80s and the early 90s because we could do enough business to keep going and keep a band going. Whereas now that whole middle strata is gone, it’s gone out of life as well where either you’re in the one percent or you’re not. It’s a mirror of society. I think it must be really hard for so many bands now, people work as solo acts, or at the most two pieces because it’s just not economically viable to afford four people anymore. It sounds like I’m moaning, I’m not, because people can also make a record on their laptop now. You can make a record that sounds as good as anything else on your laptop, so maybe you don’t need a four-piece band anymore. Maybe it’s just the way the music has gone.
Does it also make it hard when you’re contemplating making a new record, or once you’ve made a new record, that you always get benchmarked against albums like Screamadelica or even some of the earlier albums?
Not really, because it doesn’t come into it when you’re making the record. Maybe when people are doing their reviews of it they’re always mentioning Screamadelica, but do you know what? That was nearly thirty years ago, and you just do what you do. I get up in the morning and I go in and I try and make music. I really enjoy doing it and at the time I think it’s good. It’s not really for me to say what’s the best. I just go in and make my music, and just keep hoping people like it.
I think when people get an LP that they really love, when they’re eighteen, or nineteen, or twenty, maybe they’re looking for that feeling again. When they go, “Oh their new record is not as good as Screamadelica.” They’re trying to recreate something that was back when they were young, and music had that first impact on you. The stuff you like when you’re from the age of about fourteen to about twenty-five is a big part of your life. It’s part of your growing up and so the music you encounter then tends to have a real profound effect on you. I know, to me if I hear a Slade record, or a T-Rex record, that brings back to me that feeling that other people probably get off Screamadelica. I just hear that and think, “God that was when I was young, and it was my music.” The first music that I thought, this is for me, was Bowie, T-Rex, Slade. The glam stuff. If you put that on now it gives me that feeling.
Was that time period of making Screamadelica, and when it came out was that the best period of being in the band, or is that just one of many great periods of time of being in Primal Scream?
I don’t know, that’s a tricky question. It was a good period in our lives, it was exciting but the music scene was exciting then.
Has there been much thought about what you might do with the album, and how it might sound, or is it a bit too early to gauge?
Yeah, it’s a bit early, because we’re just starting it really.
Do you all kind of write independently and then bring ideas back to the table? How does it work for Primal Scream?
Normally Bobby and I, we just go a room we have set up with guitars and stuff, and bits of equipment and try to make some music. That’s what we do, just get up in the morning and go to work.
Have you put a timeline on it?
Oh no, there’s no timeline on making a record because you never know how long that’ll take. What we’ve tried to do since Vanishing Point was make it kind of like a job. We go in Monday to Friday and try and write songs. That’s what we’ve always tried to have a bit of a discipline about it since 1996 because I think it’s the best way for us to work. It used to be a lot more haphazard than that with our working arrangements in the early days.
Interview by Rob Lyon
Catch Primal Scream on the following dates…