the jesus and mary chain
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Spin Online
Marc Spitz / Spin Online
It's been four years since seminal echo, noise, feedback, pop band, the Jesus and Mary Chain have been heard from and 13 years since the trio exploded on the scene with their fantastic debut, Psychocandy (don't say the name too loud though, they're sick of talking about it). On the eve of the release of Munki, the bands first record on Sub Pop, SPINonline's nervous, die-hard J&M partisan, Marc Spitz interviewed the Mary Chain's Jim Reid and Ben Lurie.

SPINonline: I want to ask you how it feels to be the coolest band that ever lived?
Jim Reid: What can you say to that? You've put us on the spot. The coolest band that ever lived would have something to say.

I think the band that comes in a close second is the Velvet Underground.
Reid: I would accept a close second to them.

No, you guys are first! There's a lot of Velvet Underground references on the new album. On old albums there were musical references, on Munki there's more direct lyrical references -- the song "Mo Tucker" (named after the Velvet Underground drummer) for one.
Reid: For years we were coy about it. Now I just thought, f**k it. It's true. The Velvets were a huge influence of the Jesus and Mary Chain and there's nothing wrong with saying so.

Let's talk a little about the recurring themes in your songs. They're very romantic. You romanticize concepts of death and sex.
Reid: It's not romanticizing it. but it's difficult to discuss some subjects with out making it palatable for people. Sex is kind of romantic anyway. You don't have to do much romanticizing.

A lot of the vocals are delivered in a way that's been misconstrued as jaded or insincere.
Reid: The way I sing is the only way I can. I can't belt out high c's. I can puke up on the high seas though. (laughs)
Ben Lurie: That's a new side project we're working on -- a stand up comedy show.

You'll never hear a Jesus and Mary Chain song on the radio and mistake it for another band. You're kind of famous or infamous for that distortion/feedback sound. But the songs are also really solid like '50s rock and roll or the '60s Phil Spector girl group sound. Is that a conscious thing on your part so you can wig out sonically over that?
Reid: I like to keep it basic. You don't need much to make a point. The kind of people who take guitar lessons before they feel like they're a guitar player... that means your going the Eric Clapton route.

Was it hard to do a follow-up to Psychocandy, which was such a milestone record in 1985?
Reid: We got a bit hung up because everybody was saying "What are they going to do next?" Saying we should split up because we can't follow it. That tends to scare a person. The way we handled it was that we went away for a couple of years to explore what we wanted to do or if we wanted to continue. It all worked out in the end. I mean it still gets on my nerves a bit. No offense but it's 1998. You're talking about something I was doing in 1985. I appreciate that some people liked it a lot. I'm flattered. I'm not ungrateful. But it's been a few years...

I wanted to throw out a couple of my favorites out and see if anything comes to mind. "April Skies?"
Reid: Top Of The Pops -- that was our moment of being Marc Bolan. It felt like we'd made it. Little did we know it was all downhill from there. But I got to strut my funky stuff on Top of the Pops and feel like I was living a fantasy.

"Blues From A Gun"
Lurie: "Blues From A Gun" reminds me of ecstasy. Everybody was taking loads and loads of E then. Which is the reason I've only got half a brain.

Reid: "Sidewalking" reminds me of...all these things remind me of things that get you fu**ing wasted. I think 1988 was the year that I really discovered I was an alcoholic...and I liked it.

You guys still carouse?
Lurie: I like drinking so much that...(pause)...I can't string a sentence together.
Reid: We don't have a blood/alcohol level. We have an alcohol/blood level.

I wanted to ask you about Hope from Mazzy Star. Munki is the second record she's on.
Reid: She was going out with William (Reid) for a spell. Then she wasn't, then she was, then she wasn't, and now I think she isn't. Hope was around during the summer visiting William. He was in the studio doing "Perfume" and she sang on that track. We've always been fans of Hope's voice. We just waited five years or so because we didn't have the right song.

What's up with the title Munki?
Lurie: We wanted an un Mary Chain-like title. We get sick of the way people see us as this one thing. We've been going through a lot of changes. We're not on Warner Brothers anymore. We're on Sub Pop and Creation in the U.K.. Jim's sister Linda who sings the song "Mo Tucker" just thought of it one day and we liked it. It doesn't mean anything. It's just a word. Misspelled on purpose.

So the record's book-ended by "I Love Rock N Roll" and "I Hate Rock N Roll." Is that a mixed message... schizophrenia? Or is it a joke?
Reid: It's just two sides of a coin. William wrote "I Hate Rock N Roll" which came out as a single in Britain in '95. A lot of people liked it but a lot stupid people were confused by it.
Lurie: Sort or like "Duh, I thought you liked Rock and Roll."

I wanted to say also that the record is pretty consistently great. It's my favorite record out this year so far. There's no sonic dud on it.
Lurie: The flip side of that is that you never go "Why don't we put a couple of crap songs on as well?" You always want to put on the best you can do.
Reid: But there are a lot of albums that sound like two singles and about eight b-sides.

Yeah. And with a band like the Mary Chain, you could cruise on your past. but I was totally pleasantly surprised that it still sounds vital.
Lurie: I think it would be boring to just cruise. We have to keep ourselves interested.
Reid: Besides, that's the next album. (laughs)
Lurie: If you find yourself taking the easy route then you should take a break for a while. Take a holiday and come back.

Anything you guys want to add to the SPINonline readers?
Lurie: Check out that "April Skies" website ( because that girl Nina is something.
Reid: Buy Munki. Buy Jesus and Mary Chain. If you don't like it, I'll give you your money back.
Lurie: Monopoly money. I'm starting to wobble a bit. I should probably stop drinking for a while.
Reid: I'm starting to wobble a bit. I should probably start drinking.

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