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Photo from Spiritualized's recent Hamburger concert flag England - Full Moon 62 - 11/01/01

Spiritualized
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?
Jason: "Fascinating!"

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 particular format."

Photo from Spiritualized's recent Hamburger concert 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 different?
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, too?
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"

Photo from Spiritualized's recent Hamburger concert 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 session recordings."

Spiritualized tour The US in November and will embark on another European tour in March.

Copyright © 2001 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

Copyright © 2001 David Bluhm e-mail address

Photos by Carsten, from Spiritualized's recent Hamburger concerto.

You may also want to check out our Spiritualized articles/reviews: Amazing Grace, Let it come down.

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