April 1988 – Sowing Seeds 5

It’s Monday, 4th January and an unusually packed out Dingwalls is witnessing, nay experiencing 45 minutes of the most intensely blistering confusion since, erm, the morning after New Year’s Eve. (Well I bet you can’t remember what happened either!!). Anyway, after stunning the amassed crowd with a set of unrivalled sneer energy, the SPACEMEN 3 retired to the cramped dressing room where I tentatively pursued them…

The group comprises ‘Sonic Boom’ (grunge), Jason (squeal), Bassman (thin) & Rosco (convulsions). Their name is derived from, er, space, man, & something about the third eye. Sonic’s real name is Sonic, but sometimes he calls himself Pete for a giggle. So here goes…

*First the inevitable ones… How long has the band been going & how did you form?

Pete: Five years ago. We just knew each other from college and bands. We all used to smoke dope and stuff like that, seeing each other at people’s houses.

*Is there any kind of group ideology, a reason for existing as a group?

Pete: For purity, for accuracy & for revolution.

*So it’s a kind of artistic thing?

Pete: No, not at all; it’s a religious thing. We’ve got religion.

*How did the deal with ‘Glass’ come about?

Pete: Well, the JAZZ BUTCHER, who were on Glass at the time really liked us, came to see us in Northampton where we were playing a couple of gigs at this really good dive called ‘The Black Lion’, which has now been bossed in an closed up cos it was too outrageous. He was dead into it and took a tape to Glass & Dave Barker (Glass supremo), and Josh, er sorry, Robert, who works there as well, were both well into it so they signed us. Er, Robert’s in LOOP now. (Mmmm, the mystery thickens).

*So when did Loop start, cos the first time I saw you lot was when Loop were supporting, downstairs at The Clarendon.

Pete: Right, well that was about Loop’s second or third gig… what was that, about a year ago?

*Are you pissed off that Loop have become ‘press darlings’ and get massive interviews and you get slightly (!) smaller spaces…

Pete: (Emphatically) As long as the press wanna slag SUICIDE like they did last week I don’t want nothing to do with them. The guy who wrote that, a guy called Sam King, he couldn’t even have gone to the gig. His main thing was how old Alan Vega was, or how old he looked or how fat he looked, when they were doing some absolutely amazing things which I’ve never seen bands do before. They were pioneers of what they did and they’re still pioneering stuff all the time.

*Do you rate them as one of your major influences then?

Pete: Yeah, definitely. Music really came together for me when I heard THE STOOGES, MC5, SUICIDE and stuff like that when I was tripping. I was into those bands anyway, but when I heard that stuff when I was totally out of it, I just thought that’s it, there’s no bands doing that at the moment, we’ve gotta go for it y’know. There’s no bands making good drug music, that’s the slot we’re gonna fill!!.

*Do you get bad reactions from using the slogan ‘Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to’?

Pete: Oh, I don’t give a shit who agrees with that, the press or anyone. We’re gonna do what we want and they can like it or lump it. I mean, John Peel and Janice Long hate our fucking guts!

*Yeah? But just before you came on tonight the block said, “Blah blah… loved by Johnny and Janice, blah blah…”

Pete: I know, I told him to say that, ha ha ha!!! Yeah, well, they hate us so much. They’ve even sent our records back! They don’t just fucking not play them, they send them back!!!

*When Peel played ‘Rollercoaster’ once, he cut into about 4 or 5 different records all the way through. (That version is about 17 minutes long)

Pete: Yeah, I mean that’s just wanky, isn’t it? What a wanker, what an old, bald, boring wanker. The guy should be out to graze, or something. He has no fucking idea about music, you just have to look at what he was playing for most of the seventies to really get a hold of the guy, a load of fucking shit.

*Don’t you care much for the current indie scene then?

Pete: No, not really. There’s not many bands I like at the moment. There’s about half a dozen bands in this country that I can really get into.

*Name some names…

Pete: Okay then, there’s BIRDHOUSE, SIRENS OF 7TH AVENUE, THE HYPNOTICS, er, JESUS & MARY CHAIN although I’ve only just discovered them in the last 6 or 8 months.

*Do you like Loop then, because they seem to be doing the same thing as you…

Pete: Loop? I don’t think they could write a song for toffee. I can’t hear any lyrics on their new album that mean anything, the guy can’t really write lyrics. Yeah, they’ve definitely got a talent for that they’re doing. They’re good at what they’re trying to do and that’s cool. They’re different from us. I think most people know the egg came before the chicken.

*They’ve become more performance oriented now, standing up and jiving around!

Pete: That’s right, they used to sit down and totally ape their whole act. Well, y’know, Jason washed his hair and Robert was in a bit of a dilemma over what to do. What’s the next move? Let’s be serious, they’re a good band. I haven’t seen them live for some time.

*I saw them a couple of weeks ago and it was just So loud! It was that, and then Suicide the night after, and my hearing just went!!

…Before continuing. Note well, the Spacemen 3 come from Rugby. Read on…

*I’ve been told to ask this, but do you play rugby often?…

Pete: “Aaaaaaarrgghhh@*$%”*!! (Undecipherable profanity)

*Erm, (Dodging swipes), Do you ride around in a smelly old tour van?

Pete: No, our shit doesn’t stink!

*You don’t seem to do massive long tours, only one-offs now and then.

Pete: Well, yeah, we’re doing a tour in March in this country. We’re going to Europe this Sunday for a month… Germany, Holland, Belgium & a few other places.

*Do you have a bigger following there?

Pete: Oh, everyone loves us everywhere and they can’t get enough of our records. That’s the main thing we seem to find, ha ha ha ha! No, it’s better in Europe than it is here… More money!! They look after English bands over there.

*What became of the ‘Indian Summer’ thing you did at the Hackney gig? (A ten minute drone produced by Pete & Jason with a couple of wacky Eastern thingummywatsits)

Pete: Yeah, me and Jason just do that now and again. We do a gospel soul show as well; Staples singers songs and heavy religion. We do ‘Indian Summer’, which is like heavy religion as well, on Sitar and Sazz (?), and we do a thing on organ and guitar.

*Can you actually play sitar properly, don’t you need to spend your whole life perfecting it?

Pete: No, it’s dead easy. I just play it like I play the guitar. Mind you, I don’t play guitar like a guitar, so I dunno. This guy called Chris Heath, a journalist who writes for ‘Q’ magazine, he taught me ‘Louie Louie’, & ‘You Really Got Me’, ‘Mongoloid’ by Devo… those were the first things I learned.

*Your stage act is very minimal…

Pete: ‘Minimal-Maximal’. Alan Vega taught me this and he’s bang on. If we jump around… every band jumps around! It’s direct. We just wanna concentrate on the music and play it as best we can.

*Ever thought of getting in some Whip dancers?

Pete: No, we have a lightshow but nearly everyone has ripped it off so we don’t use it very much. Not naming any names or anything!

*Since it’s just after Crimbo, do you go in for all the festive stuff (Yo ho ho)?

Pete: It’s a good excuse to get doubly out of it! I got some nice pressies I suppose: socks, underpants, a shirt. I got a book on The Who called ‘Before I Get Old’, which is quite funny. I like the first few Who singles… brilliant stuff, try to rip it off all the time!!!

*Can you manage the axe solos yet?

Pete: No, I just like grungy noises, I just play ‘A’ through everything and Jason does all the other bits. I just sort of go ‘GRRRRRR’.

*And go out of tune a lot eh?

Pete: Yeah, but we do give it a bit of a bashing inbetween. You wouldn’t like it if you heard it out of tune, nobody would. Maybe when I’ve got twenty guitars and someone to tune them.

*Haven’t you got a proper roadie to run around and cater for your every whim?

Pete: I’d better be careful what I say about that. Yeah, we have got some roadies but I don’t really expect them to do that. Well, they just drive and drink the beer and try not to crash the van.

*On the ‘Rollercoaster’ 12” how did you manage to keep grinding away for about 20 minutes… didn’t your arms ache?

Pete: We used to do it live that long. We’ve done 20 or 30 minutes gigs of just ‘OD Catastrophe’. It’s just one chord, minimal-maximal.

*Do you each take it in turns to have a rest and wander off down the bar?

Pete: No, we all play as hard as possible at the same time. That’s why it sounds like a guy farting!!!

*On the last LP why did you put loads of different versions of songs that have appeared elsewhere, like on various scattered EP’s?

Pete: Well, ‘Transparent Radiation’ is straight off the 12”, but it’s much edited. ‘Things’ll Never Be The Same’, we might put that on all our albums cos I really like that one. ‘Feels So Good’ we re-did it totally differently. ‘Walking With Jesus’, it’s a three minute fuzz thing on the single and a five minute acoustic on the album, very very different. Sometimes we do a couple of versions, they evolve and we release them again.

*Have you got any plans for your next LP?

Pete: Yeah, it’s gonna be called something like… no, I’m not gonna tell ya because we haven’t decided yet. We’ve got all the songs, it’s gonna be really heavy… louder than the second one and a bit mellower than the first one.

*The last one was a lot more varied than the first.

Pete: There were only two heave tracks and there will be more on the next.

*Have you started playing any yet? You do that ‘Revolution’ one…

Pete: Yeah, we do ‘Revolution’, ‘Come Together’, the first one we did tonight, that’s a cover. We don’t play a lot of the new ones at the mo’.

*Yeah, but when the LP comes out you’ll start playing them and stop playing the oldies!!!

Pete: Maybe we’ll play longer.

*You don’t get much time in a support slot…

Pete: No, it’s very restricted, about half an hour. We’ll keep doing good supports when we can get them, like with Suicide, they’re one of our favourite bands. I used to be really into The Cramps and The Gun Club but they’ve really gone up the spout for me lately. The Cramps last album had two good tracks and the rest was chickenfeed. I saw them in Cov’ on their last tour and it was like a parody of their former selves. He best the mikestand over his knee in some kind of defiant gesture and did exactly the same the following night in Leicester… SPINAL TAP!

*Would you support some band you hated just to get more exposure?

Pete: Yeah, we’ve supported loads of bands we hate. If the money’s good, we’ll be there!

*What about the Spacemen’s political slant…

Pete: Labour are shit. Tories are shit, and the Liberals are shit!!!, that’s what’s wrong with our political system. We need a fucking BIG change in it, and that’s what our next album’s gonna be about. Spacemen 3 get political!!

*What, like The Shamen? (Christopher Mayhew)

Pete: (Singing the chorus from CM says…) I think that blokes a dodgy fucking dick. He dropped some acid and it totally freaked the guy. I thought that record was really baaad as well, I hate hip hop. I really do like The Shamen, great guys, made some great records, but that wasn’t one of ‘em!

*Do you see them persuing the same goals as you, cos they seem to be well into, ahem, mind expansion?

Pete: Yeah, our heads are getting bigger all the time as we [indecipherable].

*Any advice for impressionable youngsters?

Pete: Yeah, go out any buy all our records, take loads of drugs, fuck yr Mother, kill yr Father, generally have a good time, do anything, chuck yr pets out, be nasty, fuck hippies and I want everyone to be totally disgusting…

The Spacemen 3 should make movie soundtracks, the ones where everything falls apart, the nuclear reactor overheats and there’s no happy ending! They can be beautiful and terrifying in the same instant. They may not get on TOTP, but that’s for the better: if they did your telly would break! Just remember, there will always be a part of some far distant catastrophe that is forever Spacemen 3.

If there’s any Deadheads out there who want a Spacemen 3 t-shirt, (complete with lots of spirally colours and the motto “For all the fucked up children of this World we give you..”), send £6 inc P&P to

PO BOX 8/CORBY/NORTHANTS.

…and if you want badges, posters, etc. write to the address on the records. GO DO IT NOW!!!!!!!!

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2 Comments

  1. “He has no fucking idea about music, you just have to [listen?] to what he was playing…”
    While “Listen to” makes sense, the word isn’t long enough, and is probably “look at”

    1. Yeah, “you just have to look at what he was playing…”. I’m sure you’re right, and have changed it to that. Thanks again!

      There was a brief interview with Peel during the Glastonbury 2004 coverage just before Spiritualized started playing. Peel said something along the lines of not ever having met Jason, but he did get a rather cross letter from him after he played other records while also playing the long version of Rollercoaster on one of his shows, which he self-effacingly said he probably deserved. I expect it was the other main Spaceman who actually wrote that letter.

      (There’s an extract from that Peel show on the band biography page of this site.)

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