Major Boom – Spacemen Split
Spacemen 3’s Sonic Boom and Jason Pierce part ways. Boom discusses the RECURRING aftermath.
After exchanging blasts in the British press earlier this year, Spacemen 3 guitarist-songwriters Jason Pierce and Pete Kember (a.k.a. Sonic Boom) appear to have nothing left to say to or about each other, and have begun to take the first steps toward distinguishing their post-3 stardoms.
Prior to the US release of Spacemen 3’s RECURRING album, original member Sonic Boom reports from London that the band he built from old guitars and a head full of haze is “defunct. Totally defunct.”
Continuing, he explains: “The album was recorded about a year and a half ago. After we started recording it, different factions were moving in different directions. More and more it became the sort of group I didn’t want to be in any longer, and I think the rest of the group had similar feelings.
“Nonetheless, we knew that it would be one of our best two albums. I think it’s as good as PERFECT PRESCRIPTION, if not better. We knew that we would split up as soon as it was finished, but we decided to finish the album, and end on a high note, as it were.”
The range from hymns to beatboxes that the album spans represents the breadth of Spacemen 3’s career, as well as a load of tangential excursions. With a diversity that indicates the tension which stimulated its completion, RECURRING is significant justification for temporarily staying together.
“The record was sort of done in two halves,” Kember says. “I can only talk for the songs I wrote, but I certainly wanted to do something that had a much more upbeat, happy kind of vibe to it, especially after [the Sonic Boom solo LP] SPECTRUM, which was quite depressing. I was feeling a lot more positive within myself, and I wanted it to show. The situation in this country was more positive than it had been for maybe 5 or 6 years, and I just wanted to include that in the music.
“There have been up vibes on our records before, but never as much as on this one. Even Jason’s songs don’t seem as totally sad as they have been in the past.”
Slipped in among the gently pulsating and shimmering Spacemen 3 material on RECURRING is an explosively dynamic rendition of Mudhoney’s “When Tomorrow Hits.” The song’s message can be literally interpreted as a stab at the limited popular appeal of their American colleagues, responding to the mischievous Seattlites’ negative interpretation of a political Spacemen 3 song as a drug-addled ode to the repetitive life of a heroin addict undergoing methadone treatment.
“We were touring Europe at the same time as them, and someone pointed out that they were doing ‘Revolution’ for the encore at most of the shows. I had gotten a couple of tapes of it, and we were quite amused. Mind you, at that point they were using the same lyrics as the Spacemen 3 version.
“I got in touch with them, and said I liked that version. As it happened, they sent back a tape of the album they were recording at the time, and ‘When Tomorrow Hits’ stood out from the rest of the tracks as a good song, and we thought we would do a version of it. Later on they said that they wrote it to be a Spacemen 3-Wire-Stooges song, so I guess that’s why it appealed [to us].
“Originally we were going to be doing a double single with Sub Pop, but I spoke to the guys at the label, and one of them turned out to be such a dick that he turned me off in about 5 minutes. Then Mudhoney released ‘Revolution’ as the b-side to their single, with their interpretation of the lyrics – which all I can say is I didn’t agree with – so we thought we’d put out ‘When Tomorrow Hits’ as something separate.”
Yet there is no glazing over the central role drugs have played in Kember’s conceptualization and execution of Spacemen 3’s music.
“I somehow find a way of playing music and including the feeling of listening to music on drugs within my playing. If you listen to Chuck Berry on LSD, it sounds different than when you listen to Chuck Berry,” he asserts, and in his enunciation the psychedelic distinction between the two is made quite clear.
“By listening to how something like that sounds, and really breaking it down, and working out what it is that makes it sound like that – that enables you to reproduce that state by reproducing that sound.”
“The way a lawnmower sounds to me from taking LSD, or from inhaling butane, or from inhaling ether – or a whole series of lawnmowers in the summer – I think it’s things like that that the music came from, the way sounds fade against each other. Not all of the intense feelings and things I write songs about are from drugs, but it certainly was a big influence.”
While Jason Pierce prepares to present the public with the debut from his new band, Spiritualized, Pete is starting to buzz with a new band project in cooperation with producer/guitarist Richard Thornby.
“I’m certainly not going to continue solo. My solo album was a side project, not meant to interfere with Spacemen 3. I’ve always been interested in moving on and incorporating new elements into the basically sort of formulaic thing I’ve got going. Although I won’t be within Spacemen 3, I’ll still be continuing in the same direction. I’ll just continue to keep changing the basic minimal drone I’ve brought to Spacemen 3.”
– Ian Christe