England - Full Moon 62 - 11/01/01
an interview with Jason Pierce
Genius at work: Jason Spaceman talks!
Is there anything that Jason Spaceman can do wrong? He made music history over 15 years ago
with the legendary Spacemen 3, and after their demise returned with Spiritualized and things
got even better: The third studio album by his new band, 1997's Ladies And Gentlemen We Are
Floating In Space was a masterpiece of epic proportions, probably one of the best albums of
the last decade. For the phenomenal live shows that followed the record he assembled a new
line-up of his band, a seemingly perfect group of musicians. Soon after the tour ended, however,
Jason sacked the whole band. The guys went on to form their own band, Lupine Howl, who released
a fine album on Beggar's Banquet earlier this year. That album and the often delayed new
Spiritualized album left people wondering if Jason really did the right thing by letting his
band go. The answer is quite spectacular: The new album, Let It Come Down, features a 100
(!) piece orchestra and Jason at his best: Powerful, emotional and spiritual. The record is ever
bit as good as Ladies And Gentlemen... and that alone says a lot. A few hours before
Spiritualized's stunning two-hour-performance in Hamburg, Germany, we had the rare chance to
meet Jason, who - very much unlike his tired looking, drugged out alter ego of 1997 - looked
great, had tons of fun and smiled a lot more than you'd expect it from a man who usually can be
found exploring the darker sides of life.
Luna Kafé: What's it like to be Jason Spaceman in the year 2001?
Luna Kafé: More so than before?
Jason: "The same as before really!"
Luna Kafé: You look very relaxed, the tour is going well, I guess?
Jason: "I love touring. It's the best bit about being in a band and being a musicians.
I don't understand anybody who doesn't enjoy it. I just don't know what you do if you're a
musician and you don't enjoy playing music. There's not a lot else to do!"
Luna Kafé: Yet you spend more time in the studio than on stage...
Jason: "Making studio records is just a means to that end. That's why I make records. If
I didn't need to make records, I would play like shows, because if you're making a record you
work completely outside the music, trying to be objective about what you're doing. Doing live
shows, you're working within the music, making changes from within. Also, making a record is not
really about playing music. For the whole duration of making the album you can't physically play
longer than the record is, that's 70 minutes over a year or even two years. So that is not really
about playing music. It's about creating a sound that is more than just a record of one
Luna Kafé: Talking of the construction of a record - do you start with the whole
and then pick the pieces that fit best, rather than the usual way of trying to make 10 or 12 new
songs fit together? After all you repeatedly included re-recorded old songs on new albums?
Jason: "With this record it was about writing orchestrations that were absolutely integral
to the song. The whole record starts with the orchestrations and then they dictated how the songs
should go: Lyrics, arrangements and things. With most orchestrations and choirs - that kind of
instrumentation being put within other people's music it's like an addition to their music. For
me it just was a way to start making a record that was so removed from how the last one was put
together. It dealt with the harmonies and the arrangements rather than the sonics."
Luna Kafé: Is that a totally new approach for you?
Jason: "I try to approach every record I make that way: Step outside of my expectations
of what I'm able to do. It's the only way that I can come up with something further on from the
last record. That puts me in a position where I CAN'T say: I know what to do here. I say it
every time I make a new record: I could make another 10 albums like the one I just made and a
lot faster, because I know what to do and what roads not to go."
Luna Kafé: So you would rather make a not-so-good record as long as it's totally
Jason: "No! It's not about making a statement. It's about progression and aiming a lot
higher with each record."
Luna Kafé: Is having new musicians every now and then a part of that process,
Jason: "Somehow, yeah. But in saying that, it's all about the interaction within the
band. It's not about having people with great abilities, who can learn their parts, it's about
people's ability to listen. As musicians the new people have the same abilities as the people
who aren't around anymore. The main difference with this band compared to the last is: they
wanna tour! And Spiritualized has always been about touring, playing music live. That's where
the music is the most electric, the most powerful and the most emotive. It you cut that out of
the equation, it's useless to be in a band. The last band just didn't want to tour. I've said
they wanted to cash in, but maybe that sounds a bit unfair. They only wanted to play the dates
that paid well and they wanted to do as few of them as possible. As soon as your motive is to
cash in, you can't go back to where you were before. You can't buy back your integrity. The only
goal after that becomes: How much money can you make and how comfortable can you make yourself?
I just don't see that as any great goal of mine. On tour, we are losing a lot of money, but
it's not about doing it for nothing. It's never been about how little I can pay people, but how
MUCH I can pay them!"
Luna Kafé: One thing about the lyrics: The spiritual/religious references tend to
play a bigger part recently...
Jason: "I take you on your word for it, I haven't checked it, I haven't done the count"
Luna Kafé: Maybe it's just a feeling?!
Jason: "I think it's because the gospel choir was very much part of the session. It wasn't
about having a gospel choir on a couple of tracks. It wasn't to create huge dynamics between the
songs. They all have the same kinda sound. Once we set up the drum kit, we didn't move it around
in the studio. And there wasn't gonna be any kind of 'How are we gonna treat the strings on this
song?' They were gonna sound like the voicings that people knew. In an odd way it was laying the
whole thing bare., where the notes would have to matter and the voices. It's a bit dump to talk
about 'laying it bare' when I got 100 people to play on it, but in a musical sense it was."
Luna Kafé: So the spiritual references are in there to trigger a certain reaction
in the listener's brain?
Jason: "Of course. There's nothing on earth like a gospel choir... you can't write for
it. You sing a line and they sing it back to you as a choir and that's phenomenal, it's a
fantastic feeling. I think even if you are not religious, if you go by any of those churches
and hear that kinda music, people get stirred by it. As far as the language is concerned: It
makes the meaning a lot broader to people. If you just say 'can you hear me', it's kinda
colloquial, putting in 'Lord' makes the whole message a lot more universal."
Luna Kafé: Last question: Where have the jazz influences gone?
Jason: "They are still there, but the instrumentation is less obvious, because it's
orchestrated. The whole album started with the orchestrations, so they dictated the way it went.
And having 100 people play freely is quite impossible, too. But it [the jazz] hasn't disappeared.
I just got this fantastic quote from this guy, who's actually a journalist from America and he
was asked to sum up Spiritualized in three words and he said: 'Stooges for airports!' I thought
that was great, because there is something on the new album that is more than just orchestrated
Spiritualized tour The US in November and will embark on another European tour in March.
Copyright © 2001 Carsten Wohlfeld
Copyright © 2001 David Bluhm
Photos by Carsten, from Spiritualized's recent Hamburger concerto.