Jason Pierce: New York Times Profile

February 26, 2012 at 3:02 pm (Uncategorized)

I got into Spacemen 3 / Spiritualized late. Still, better late than nver. This piece is from today’s paper. Spiritualized plays Toronto May 5th.

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Heroes From Detroit, Texas, the Library and the Pharmacy

By MELENA RYZIK

JASON PIERCE does not like working in the studio, and he’s not pussy-footed about it. “I have this love-hate relationship with making records,” he said. “Mostly hate.”

Here’s the love part: “I have to make records,” he said. “It allows me to do the thing I love most, which is tour. Touring is like being in a waterfall, it’s just rushing through you and you’re not trying to capture it.”

Mr. Pierce, a polymath British musician, is the force behind Spiritualized, the spacey rock group whose towering arrangements and wistful lyrics have been swallowing audiences for two decades, most notably with “Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space” (Dedicated) in 1997. His latest album, “Sweet Heart Sweet Light,” due from Fat Possum in April, tweaks that sound with more forward vocals and melodies, though Mr. Pierce, 46, was still working on it at the last minute; despite his in-studio ambivalence, he spent two years recording in Los Angeles, Reykjavik and Wales, and a year mixing in his home studio in London. “The possibilities really are endless, and I kind of get lost in that,” he said. As he was finishing the mix in London, he recently spoke with Melena Ryzik about some artists who have inspired him, becoming more classic-pop and his favorite music to trip to. Here are excerpts from the conversation.

Q. You had one book on your list, “Knockemstiff,” Donald Ray Pollock’s interconnected short stories. Did you read it while you were recording?

A. I become a kind of cultural hermit when I make a record, really. That was a book that was given to me recently that just got me reading again. It’s about Middle America and people who live in these small towns. It reminded me of Denis Johnson, of that kind of writing — that you can write about squalor and poverty and the language can still be great. The lines in it just knocked me dead, in their simplicity.

Q. Are you attracted to darker stories?

A. I guess. Rock ’n’ roll is always built on shaky ground, and this is what makes it: the very cornerstone of rock ’n’ roll is that Robert Johnson sold his soul to the Devil at the crossroads.

Q. Link Wray, the rockabilly pioneer, has something of that. His chunky guitar sound is still influential.

A. He’s amazing. There were three records that were made in the ’70s for Polydor, they were made in his little three-track studio. They feel like they were made with no expectations, they just had to make the record. Everybody’s looking back with rock ’n’ roll: “These were the classics, these were the great moments.” There were an awful lot of records that weren’t waving flags at you from the shelf, but I thought every time I played them, “What a beautiful record.” Those Link Wray records sound like that, I have probably played them every day for a year.

Q. What did you learn from listening to the Beach Boys’ “Smile Sessions”?

A. I just found myself listening endlessly to the outtakes. I’d heard the music before but not the conversation, the way people interact in the studio. It’s nice to be able to listen to somebody, eventually, failing to make a record. It’s nice to listen to something that didn’t get finished.

Q. You don’t listen to a lot of new music, do you? The only newer artist you listed is Panda Bear, from Animal Collective, and his solo album “Person Pitch.”

A. It’s a rare thing to be able to find something completely new that I want to play all the time. There’s this idea that you can’t create new music, it’s like creating a new animal, [but] that record is so authentic. I can play that record first thing in the morning and it just fills me with joy. I’ve never heard anybody deliver a whole album that way. I don’t know what he does, if he sits in the studio and ponders endlessly in tiny details. It doesn’t sound like that, it sounds like he’s got this joy and love of singing. It’s so enthusiastic. He sounds like he’s drunk a bottle of Jägermeister.

Q. You also chose Royal Trux’s album “Accelerator,” and it is a really forceful live band. Is that part of what you like about it

A. I think live music is just a totally different thing, but “Accelerator,” more than most records, translates that. And it sounds modern. It sounds like it’s properly digitized, and the silences are very silent, and the volume is squashed and lifted in a properly digital way, but it’s ferocious.

Q. What was the sound you were going for with your album?

A. I wanted it to be a pop record. I don’t mean pop like popular, just that you don’t have to prepare yourself for it, it makes sense at any time. You can play the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby,” and it just works for any time. I had this thing where I thought all rock ’n’ roll records are made by young people, graffiti on your walls, throwing stones on you. They’re full of the kind of the arrogance and simple-mindedness of youth. And then I listened to other records that had absorbed some wisdom, like Iggy Pop. I think rock ’n’ roll generally ages really badly, because people try to pretend they’re kids, and they try to relive their youth all the time. I don’t think Iggy does do that, I don’t think he’s going through the motions of being a 21-year-old when he performs now.

I bought [Iggy and the Stooges’] “Raw Power” when I was 14, that was the first record I bought. I didn’t know anything about it, I had no friends that were listening to it. They used to sell records in the chemists’, Boots chemists. I saw the sleeve to “Raw Power,” I saw the silver pants, and I went home holding that. If you’re going to start anywhere in music — I got lucky.

Q. A lot of your music is kind of trippy, was that your intention with “Sweet Heart”?

A. Not particularly on this record, I really wanted to be very direct on this record. It’s almost like the medium of pop, you can’t hide in the distortion or abstraction of it. Once music started to try to explore that inner-mind kind of feeling, then it lost its way. I think the best record for acid is “Slippin’ and Slidin’ ” by Buddy Holly, and I don’t think that was his intention. It just sounds amazing.

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