Special thanks go out to White Rabbit
who graciously transcribed these from >her< own collection! (sorry again
for the error!)
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Mojo, Feb 1998
Rolling Stone Jan 22, 1998
Magnet Jan/Feb 1998
Mojo, February 1998
In this article, Jason makes what you could call "controversial" statements about the recording of Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space and in general his relationship with Kate Radley. The article also takes a decided jab at Lazer Guided Melodies -- unfair. Note the amount of times Mojo incorrectly spells "Krayola" :-) . Or, for that matter, the photo caption which refers to Thighpaulsandra as "Jim." The fact that Jason refers to Sonic as "Pete" indicates a degree of resentment as well. - Aaron
THE MILE HIGH CLUB
SPIRITUALIZED: a concoction of the cosmological and the pharmaceutical
enjoying high times in Britain. Now Jason Pierce is spending two months
turning on America. Barney Hoskyns straps in for the ride.
(Jason in front of the CN Tower, Toronto)
With as much double entendre as can be squeezed from the phrase, Jason
Pierce is billing tonight's little soiree as "The Highest Show on
Earth"-- the event in question being a concert played at an altitude greater
than any in previous musical history.
"High" is certainly how you feel 114 stories above Toronto, scoping
city from the central viewing deck of the science-fictional CN Tower.
And that's before Spiritualized have even struck the first note of an
awesome, laser-strafed set that will guarantee them immediate entrance to
the next Guinness Book of Records.
(The band warms up for the CN Tower show)
The group are a little over halfway through a six-week tour of North
America, their second visit to the continent in 1997. The 27-date trawl
has already taken in such landmark venues as San Francisco's Fillmore
and Minneapolis' First Avenue, and will continue onto the East Coast and
to the South, with shows at New Orleans' House of Blues and Austin's
Liberty Lunch. On the back of a transcendental and widely hosanna'd
performance at London's Royal Albert Hall in October, Pierce and colleagues
are in a buoyant mood regarding the road. (A live album from the Albert
Hall show is due for release this year.) For a band who have turned the
studio into an almost Spectoresque laboratory for their symphonic
storms, the tour is a reminder that Spiritualized were originally launched
as a purely live entity.
As they break into the opening cosmic-gospel medley of Oh Happy Day
Shine a Light, it makes perfect sense that Spiritualized should be
performing halfway up the Canadian sky, dazzling a select gaggle of
Torontonian liggers with their huge, hypnotic sound. (The group's acclaimed
light show has been trimmed down in order not to confuse low-flying
aircraft.) Jason Pierce's music has always been about reaching for the
stars, soaring heavenwards to leave behind the mundane world we inhabit.
‘Mr. Spaceman', as Pierce has dubbed himself ever since his days n Rugby's
brave, seminal Spacemen 3, aims for nothing less than exaltation, a
kind of euphoric disembodiedness that's reflected in the title of the
band's remarkable third album, _Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in
Space_. (The very name Spiritualized suggests some strange process of
In this sense, getting ‘high' is about so much more than the narcotic
stupor to which Pierce refers in so many of his songs. It's about being
swept away by dense, shimmering waves of sound that seem to weld
Stereolab and Steve Reich to The Doors and _Dark Side of the Moon_ and carry
you, ecstatic, into the celestial firmament. No matter that Jason
Pierce remains statue-still for the entire CN Tower set, or that his eyes
and lips barely open as he sings: close your own eyes and you're
instantly rushing with him through the star-flecked cosmos. How far the band
have come from the blissful enervation of their debut _Lazer-Guided
Melodies_ (1992). As they burst joltingly into Electricity -- a song no less
thrilling than the classic of the same name by captain Beefheart,
himself a cited influence on _Ladies and Gentlemen_, it's like hearing
Spacemen 3's Take Me to the Other Side yoked to Phil Spector's River Deep,
"I think you have to be honest to make this kind of music," Pierce will
tell me in New York a week later. "But it also has to be a lot larger
than life. It has to deal with the extremities, it can't deal with
mediocrity. It's not about the day-to-day stuff -- it's the big picture."
Perhaps God isn't in the details after all.
Watching Jason Pierce on stage--a surprisingly strapping fellow for
man widely assumed to be a far gone drug fiend--you can still make out
the moody, taciturn boy who skulked behind Pete "Sonic Boom" Kember in
Spacemen 3. Thinking back to those fuzz-toned days, you realise how
alone and adrift they must have felt in the relentlessly bouncy mid-80's.
Self-raised on a small-town diet of the music from The Cramps and Roky
Erickson to The Stooges and Esquirita that they learned about in ‘zines
like Lindsay Hutton's Next Big Thing, they wanted no truck with Little
England, dreaming instead of Vox amplifiers and drug-crazed Americans
in sunglasses and polo-necks. "I liked the fact that The Cramps let
people know about their influences, rather than just saying We landed and
came up with this sound," says Pierce in his soft, patient voice. "It
was through The Cramps that I learned about things like The Red Crayola
(Sonic Boom, Willie Carruthers and Jason in a late Spacemen 3 photo.)
Without further ado, Messrs Boom and Spaceman hit on a fanatical
psych-punk sound that drew from the twin streams of The Stooges and the
Velvets and threw in explicit references to mind-altering medication. "The
idea of space just seemed to fit in with what we were doing," Pierce
explains. "It seemed like we _were_ spacemen, like we weren't doing the
things that made it easy to slot into normal life in Rugby." A small
coterie of acolytes took notice. Almost everyone else ignored them. Nor was
the Spacemen cause helped by individuous comparisons with the similarly
drone-friendly Jesus and Mary Chain. "I couldn't see any similarities
to what we were doing," says Pierce. "I've come to since love
_Darklands_, but I still don't get the first one, and I still don't think it
mirrored what we were doing at all."
Revisiting Spacemen 3 albums like _The Perfect Prescription_ (1987)
_Recurring_ (1991) a decade on, it's extraordinary how many of the
elements that make up Spiritualized were already in place at the time. The
Velvets influence may be a little more to the fore (e.g. Transparent
Radiation), and the general prostration before the Stooges, Suicide at
all a little too confining, but the interlinked themes of intoxication,
space travel, and religious rapture (e.g., Walkin' With Jesus) are no
less overt that they are on _Ladies and Gentlemen_. What's most obviously
missing is the epic quality of Spiritualized on the latter album and on
_Pure Phase_ (1995)-- the careening intensity of Medication and These
Blues and No God Only Religion.
It was only after a bitter parting with Kember--to whom he hasn't
spoken in eight years--that Pierce began working towards what he called "the
ultimate sound", one combining exultation with more Lou Reed vocals,
and fusing spacey guitars and keyboards with "soulful" horns and strings.
Taking the remains of Spacemen 3 with him and adding his
then-girlfriend Kate Radley on keyboards, he created the 13-minute symphony--and
Spiritualized. blueprint--that was 1991's Feel So Sad. A year later, at the
height of shoegazing vogue, _Lazer Guided Melodies_ took its place
among Primal Screams Higher Than The Sun and My Bloody Valentine's
_Loveless_ as a pinnacle of the new drug pop.
Next to its successors, if must be said, _Lazer Guided Melodies_ now
sounds listless to the point of torpor. "_Lazer Guided Melodies_ was an
incredibly frustrating way of working," Pierce confesses. "The musicians
at that point were just people who played parts for me. Since then,
I've tended to work a lot more _with_ musicians. Now it's not such a
strain for me, in the sense of having to get the sound I hear in my head.
And that's not just the core of the band, but people who've played on
the records like Dr. John and Alexander Balanescu."
(Jason Pierce: Working "with" musicians)
Much more exciting, and more beautiful, was _Pure Phase_, suspended
between the crazed rush of Medication and the gossamer loveliness of All
Of My Tears (unforgettably graced by The Balanescu Quartet.) Not that
you'd have known it from a pop press which shifted allegiance from
dreampop to Britpop. "It just showed what a transitory thing hipness is,"
remarks Pierce of the album's fate. Fortunately, by the time
spiritualized. had finished work on _Ladies And Gentlemen_, the press had moved on
from Britpop, and Pierce was back in favour.
He says that he started _Ladies And Gentlemen_ with a view to
eliminating the most obvious ingredients in the spiritualized. sound. "Before, I
was doing stuff like putting glockenspiels against tubas and bass
harmonicas, trying to get different sounds. Now we've actually got the basic
horns/strings/backing singers line-up that's all over every record from
Memphis to Philadelphia. Of course, some of the old stuff went back
in-- the tremolos and the drones. Those are things you can't change
anyway, like my voice. What tends to stay is the stuff that doesn't sound
familiar--it's a strange editing process. Cop Shoot Cop [the long closing
track on _Ladies_ featuring the legendary Mac Rebannack] has elements
of everything from The Red Crayola (sic) to Miles Davis, but not in an
obvious way. The closest things we could talk about when we were making
it were _Clear Spot_ and _There's a Riot Goin' On_. No that they sound
like this record, just that they used the familiar line-up and came up
with something so _odd_!"
The result is a record that takes _Pure Phase_ as a departure point
dispenses with its long electronic interludes. _Ladies and Gentlemen We
Are Floating in Space_ brings together late Brian Wilson and
_Screamadelica_, Heroin and _The Sun, Moon and Stars_, in a huge river of sound
that courses through the chords and riffs. Here are surging peaks that
rival Bittersweet Symphony and _OK Computer_, troughs of despair and
druggy blankness that rival the Velvets at their most deadpan. "_Ladies
and Gentlemen_ was probably the best two years of my life," Pierce says.
"It was an _ecstatic_ time."
Yet for all the horns and gospel choirs and Dr John piano licks, it's
fundamentally classical, funk-free sound: one need only compare
spiritualized.'s Stay With Me to the shuddering Lorraine Ellison classic on
which it's loosely based to gauge the difference between Pierce's white
light/white heat ‘spiritualization' and the choked agony of black soul.
Critics have made much of Pierce's obsessiveness on the album--which
has been linked to his break-up with Kate Radley, now married to The
Verve's Richard Ashcroft--but the voice of Broken Heart and All Of My
Thoughts is so flat, so sweetly defeated, that it's the very opposite of
"soul". (Sometimes Pierce's lyrics verge on the maddeningly vacant: Cop
Shoot Cop's "Jesus Christ died for nothing, I suppose" is a priceless
example of Pierce's impenetrable cool.)
I ask Pierce to what degree his music expresses the yearning for
religious bliss. "There is that kind of feeling," he says, "but I know enough
about how consciousness works to know that music isn't tapping into
some cosmic spirit. Somebody wrote in a live review that there were five
of us in the band and God on feedback, but I don't believe that. I mean,
it's powerful, but then music is _physical_--you _do_ feel it in your
(Spiritualized take Toronto)
Spines are certainly reverberating as spiritualized. tear into No God
Only Religion high over Toronto. With keyboard player/Kate Radley
stand-in Jim Lewis playing the song's horn riff, and the gaunt,
pipecleaner-thin Sean Cook forsaking his bass to blow an ear-bleedingly loud harp
solo, the band enters the wild abandoned terrain of the best jazz-rock,
bouncing off each other as the song builds to a frenzied climax. Damon
Reece is an admirably untamed, intuitive drummer, and he drives the song
to a point of furious intensity. Locked together in a trance are
Pierce, second guitarist Mike Mooney, and saxophonist Ray Dickaty. Sometimes
spiritualized. cross the fine line between trance and boredom the wrong
way. Tonight, more often than not, they reach the peaks.
"The CN Tower was probably the best show we've ever done," Pierce tell
me in New York, 38 floors over Times Square (we can't keep meeting like
this.) "There's no point in doing places like that or the Albert Hall
and not really excelling. There's no point in going to the top of the CN
Tower and just being a kind of bar band in the corner. It had to be
amazing, and it was. After _Lazer-Guided Melodies_ I went more for how I
thought jazz was created -- people feeding off each other and inspiring
each other -- and I think it shows live."
A major inspiration in this department was the experience last year
supporting Neil Young, whose long time manager Elliot Roberts also
represents Spiritualized. Pierce even spent the night on Young's ranch
after the band's San Francisco show in November. "I love the way Neil and
Crazy Horse work off each other musically," he says. "When we were
touring with them, Like a Hurricane became a more screaming, psychedelic
thing, and I think that affected the way we were playing."
How did spiritualized come to be managed by Roberts? "Erm, I just rang
him up. I don't think people in England had been getting what we were
doing, and I thought someone like Elliot would. The fact that Neil's
been with him since Buffalo Springfield was as good a recommendation as
anyone could get."
Like Young, Pierce is famously adverse to compromising, a trait that
has seen Spiritualized incur some fairly hefty debts over the years.
"I've over-borrowed to do certain things," he admits. "I don't like the way
bands would do a special show for the press in London with a horn
section or whatever, and then drop the horns for the rest of the country. So
when we did _Lazer-Guided Melodies_ we toured with a full horn section
everywhere." The elaborate packaging of _Pure Phase_ and _Ladies And
Gentlemen_ also came directly out of the band's pocket.
"So much music is about compromising with commerce," he says. "And
there are so many different levels of that. The boy groups are the industry
at its purest, but even the supposedly cooler, more independent bands
have the same kind of business behind them; they're just not so blatant
about it. I don't know whether my attitude toward things like MTV has
been tainted by the fact that we _haven't_ had those opportunities. But
even if we had had them, I'm not so naive that I don't understand the
way they work."
One of the most insidious marketing techniques of recent years has been
the use of behind-the-music ‘stories' to beef up inadequate music.
Pierce is especially bored with the music press trying to get the scoop on
his drug use, and on the demise of his relationship with Radley. "I
don't think anyone genuinely listens to lyrics in that way, but it's a way
that comes with the marketing of records. With the Righteous Brothers'
You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling or Ray Charles' I Can't Stop Loving
You, you don't listen to them and think, This is about a moment in the
author's life that he's set to music. You relate it to your life -- it
doesn't have anything to do with the author anymore. But often today the
music isn't strong enough, so they have to market a story instead. And
I'm involved in it, obviously: if I hadn't been doing interviews I
wouldn't even have come to that conclusion."
Given that Spiritualized present drug use in a remarkably matter-of-fact, demystified way, it is strange that people seem so intent on portraying Pierce as an irreparably wasted junkie. "I love the Hunter S. Thompson line, that if he'd really done all that he'd be dead," he says. "I think it all comes down to the counter-culture: it's still seen as rebellious behaviour, and it still works. I've never tried to use drugs as a selling-point, and I've always thought that if you _have_ to take drugs to enjoy a band, then
there's something wrong with the music."
Regarding his former paramour, who pulled out of the American tour because of poor health, Pierce confirms that Kate Radley "is still a member of the band [and] will be playing again next year." Asked whether the tabloidesque fascination with their separation and its effect on songs like Broken Heart was annoying, he claims he didn't read the stories. "One of the first NME
pieces took this line, and no matter what I said after that, it didn't seem to change the story. It happened once before with Spacemen 3, when they already had the story that Pete was a wealthy ex-public schoolboy who lived in luxury while I lived in the slums."
Pierce seems happy to be on the road in America. As we speak, he is
looking forward to the Avalon in Philadelphia -- "one of the best-sounding
halls in the world" -- and to playing Austin, where his friends the Butthole
Surfers dwell. (The Buttholes' Paul Leary was one of several prospective
candidates to mix _Ladies and Gentlemen_.) "I really like America, and not just
the East and West coasts. I think Americans _get_ Spiritualized, in that
they appear to be in it for the music. They want to know about Gil Evans and
Miles Davis. I meet very few fans of the group who are just
contemporary music fans -- like, into British music of the '90s. They're not into us
and any four given British bands; they're more into the history of music
and finding out what they've missed. I'm the same, basically. I'm not into
being hip to what's contemporary. I think there's so much stuff out there
that's been done better before.
"See, I don't think what we do is radical at all. It's only radical
contrast to other things. I don't think it's that difficult to be
ambitious and stay true to what you wanna do."
MAGNET Jan/Feb 1998
THE YEAR IN MUSIC - SPIRITUALIZED
by Fred Mills
Whether Spiritualized makes "soul music for the 90's"--as leader Jason Pierce is wont to assert--or simply soulful music, it's hard to deny the emotional fluency, not to mention sheer sonic bliss, of _Ladies and Gentlemen We are Flaoting in Space_. Upon its release, the long-awaited third Spiritualized album, with its miasmic blend of gospel/R&B drone, psychedellic overdrive and slick pop melodicism, struck chords on both sides of the Atlantic (and drew the wrath of Gracelend's gatekeepers, who objected to the inclusion, on initial pressings, of the title's cut's "Only fools rush in/I can't help falling in love" lyric.) Spiritualized as also a significant concert presence in '97, first as the afternoon highlight of the Neil Young/H.O.R.D.E. tour and then during a headlining essay of clubs and medium-sized venues that was staggeringly transcendent (with some shows topping the two-and-a-half-hour mark) as it was deafening; pure, primal rock 'n' roll by any other name.
ROLLING STONE Jan 22, 1998
Random Notes by Matt Hendrickson
To promote their latest album, _Ladies and Gentlemen We are Floating in Space_, Spiritualized tried to do just that. The English band lugged its gear up 113 stories to play atop Toronto's CN Tower, the tallest structure in North America. Some of the 150 attendees felt woozy during the set, and frontman Jason Pierce says it wasn't due to the trippy light show. "The building was moving 12 feet in either direction," he exclaimed. "We were literally floating in space."
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