3 December 1988 – Sounds

We’re Leading The Revolution – Which Way Did It Go?

Are Spacemen 3 really kicking against the pricks with their new single, ‘Revolution’, or have they just got their head in the clouds? Ron Rom brings mainman Pete Kember down to earth. Photo by Greg Freeman.

This is a public announcement, pinheads!!!

Spacemen 3 want a revolution, know what I mean? The boys from Rugby are a bit pissed off with the system which has made them what they are.

Their new single on Fire is called ‘Revolution’, and it’s one of the best records released by an independent band this year. Adjectives that come to mind are unrelenting, punishing, psycho-delic. The razor-blade riffs lead you into a sonic underworld of alienation, desolation and raw power.

But, unfortunately, the well-intentioned sentiments of the song are a little shallow and, at worst, clichéd. After an hour with Pete Kember (aka Sonic Boom), Spacemen 3’s mainman, my views remained unchanged. He comes across as a man whose head is so far up in the clouds that he’s in danger of hitting the moon.

But I’ll put my cynicism to bed for a while and let this Spaceman tell you how you can be a part of the revolution – how to change the world in three easy stages. Interested? You will be?

Pete: “It’s not about machine guns and bullets it’s, erm, about a revolution in people’s minds, and thinking about how they can change the world in their own small way.”

It all sounds pretty reasonable, but I thought revolutions exploded after years of frustration, poverty and injustice – people starving and so on?

Pete, rolling his second joint of the afternoon, replies as the red rings around his eyes get brighter and bigger.

“Certainly, but in the western world we are getting away from that in the 20th century – there aren’t so many people now who can’t feed themselves. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is OK. There are a lot of crazy things that need changing in this country and I’m sure everyone can think of at least one.”

Why now? Spacemen 3 have been playing for almost five years, mixing distorted psychedelic noises with a soulful, deep dream pop and they have never seem inclined to enter the political arena. And yet now, they’ve released a record which is more a statement of intent than a song.

“It’s a kind of rallying point. I could see a lot of people were pissed off and wanted to change things and I thought it was time, y’know.”

What can the record hope to achieve?

“I haven’t got any solutions – all I can say is that I’m doing my bit. There isn’t a single solution but lots of solutions to a lot of individual issues. Y’know, from the drug laws, to the ozone layer and ridiculous things like not being able to print f*** in a music paper. It’s pretty stupid.”

Yeah, right on – more legalised drugs, less aerosols and f*** after every f***ing word in your f***ing copy of Sounds. Some revolution, matey. I’m sure the people of Nicaragua took up arms because they couldn’t find a swear word in their copy of El Soundos.

As for the coffee-table politics of stranded whales and the ozone layer? Well, I’m not too sure if the sacked seaman, the redundant miner or the other two million unemployed place these issues at the top of their priorities.

Pete: “I’m not interested in politics. I know nothing about it. They’re just an ugly bunch of bad actors.”

Well, there’s an original line.

Pete: “Wouldn’t it be amazing if there was a party who had half of the Tory policies and half of the Labour Party’s?”

Do you think proportional representation would be a better way of representing people’s views?

“What’s that?”

Ahhhhh! I explain proportional representation. Five minutes later…

“Yeah, that sounds like a much fairer way of doing it.”

Now that we have averted the revolution with proportional representation, we can get on with some of the serious stuff.

We could have concentrated on how Spacemen 3 feel they’ve been ripped off by the likes of Loop and My Bloody Valentine. Or how, were they from America, they would have received a lot more attention than they have. Or how they choose to sit down when playing live because they hate “rock out with your cock out” rock ‘n’ roll attitudes.

We also could have analysed how a public schoolboy like Peter Kember dropped out with two O-levels, went to art college simply to form a band, and became an estate agent and heroin addict at the same time.

Then we could draw our own conclusions on why this individual is crying out for a revolution now.

At the heat of Spacemen 3 is a destructive feeling of alienation, which their loyal live following shares.

However, their next album, ‘Playing With Fire’, planned for release early next year, shows another side of Spacemen 3 – a slower, melancholic, blissfully refined pop band. It echoes The Beach Boys’ ability to make the good times seem like brilliant ones and the bad ones seem terrible.

“We always tried to show both sides of the group from very early on. We’re about ups and downs. I have had some brilliant times that I wouldn’t have missed for the world and I’ve had some horrendous times.

“Our music is about the highest highs and the lowest lows, and we’ve always tried to show how a band could uplift people with sound.”

How important are drugs to you?

“I think we’ve got more out of life by taking some drugs.”

That’s quite a statement.

“I know, but I mean it. I really do think that I’ve got more out of life with drugs than I would have done otherwise. I’ve had more really amazing experiences already than most people have in a lifetime.”

We discuss the pros and cons of legalising drugs. I disagree with most of his points because addiction is one of the most degrading states to which any human can stoop. However, Pete doesn’t view his habits as a problem and we agree to disagree. But what about the damage to your body?

“You couldn’t tell what drugs I’ve had today. You’d be amazed if I told you. I’m not going to tell you, but you would be amazed. If I told you what drugs I’ve had today you would expect me to be crawling around in the gutter.”

I try to look impressed. I’m not.

On leaving Pete floats on like a man who is willingly taking a roller coaster ride to wasteful self-destruction.

I came to interview Spacemen 3 with an open mind and if it looks like I’ve given Pete Kember a hard time, I can only say it wasn’t intentional – his band are one of the most interesting around.

It’s just unfortunate that their leader displays the logic of a space cadet who has lost all touch with reality.

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