Some encounters are really different from others. I dreaded finding myself facing the leader of Spiritualized. I imagined it particularly difficult, closed. I had already had this same feeling vis-à-vis Bobby Gillespie, and I was wrong. This time again, my fears were unfounded, even with these forty-five minutes late which nearly derailed the interview. English was thus shown to be incredibly kind, calm and talkative. Throwback to this happy moment that took place on a beautiful sunny day last December.
This new disc arrives quite quickly after the release of And Nothing Hurtwhile it had taken six years between your previous album and Sweet Heart Sweet Light. So the pandemic didn’t delay the writing, recording and release of your album?
No, actually it helped me, in a way. Suddenly, I found myself with space to work. You can imagine that I have a positive feeling about the pandemic, while many people have lost loved ones during it, and others were trying to save lives. I’m not happy about all of this. But I was able to work really quietly, I didn’t go out, I was no longer invited to parties. I went back to this album that I originally wanted to release at the same time as And Nothing Hurt. I wanted it to be a double album but the record company didn’t agree. They told me that nobody would buy a double album and that it would be a failure. I didn’t agree, but that’s how the music industry works and I had to resolve to release the first half of this record as And Nothing Hurt. The rest of this disc is in fact a progression. One can believe that it is an album which follows the precedent with tracks of its recording not used or of the pieces which could not appear on the first disc and which are found here compiled. But no, they are two separate discs as was my first intention. You know, my way of working is slow (laughs).
Did you try to cover your tracks by getting out first And Nothing Hurtand Everything Was Beautiful then ? Kurt Vonnegut’s short story entitled “Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt”…
I quite like this idea. In fact, when I left And Nothing Hurt, there was no indication that anything else was to follow. But it is important to understand that Everything Was Beautiful is not the second part of And Nothing Hurt. My way of working has changed. I was in my room in front of my computer and this way of working in this place gave a real live effect to this album, whereas for And Nothing Hurt I used a completely different process. So it’s not a second chapter. It seems to me that this disc has a much better mood. What disturbs me moreover because on And Nothing HurtThere are Perfect Miracle, which kind of sounds like a perfect pop song. On Everything Was Beautiful there’s nothing like a fairly conventional three-minute track. Matt Colton mastered the disc. He worked on this one and told me he didn’t want to change much because it looked like a great day for the person speaking on the record. And that, I think, is the best compliment he could give me. I didn’t expect anything from him, I never even met him. And it’s really amazing to hear him tell me that this record is very good. I can only agree with him (laughs).
On the cover of And Nothing Hurtthere are these signs in Morse code and on Always Together With You, we hear these Morse code beeps. With every question and answer posed in this song there is a beep that follows. Is it sent to someone you love?
The key to an album is not to redo what you did before. The mixing of the album was done in a very different way from the previous one, precisely so that we don’t expect the same on this one. Most people say: I really liked the last mix you did, would you like to do the same for mine? And that’s the last thing I want. My intention is totally different. For And Nothing Hurt, nothing worked, I wonder how the album could be finished. I was reassured on the subject by telling me not to worry and that everything was going to be fine, but I especially did not want to relive this kind of situation. And I also didn’t want to reuse the same methods as in the past. The transmission beep was already present on Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space. My daughter did the intro for the song, which of course is reminiscent of this album. The album is a kind of perdition for this character and that simplified everything else. There is this despair, this coming out of loneliness and many details that give this feeling. This is ultimately what makes it different from the others.
Is it important for you to go from a piece that moves like Best Thing You Never Had at much more melancholic moments such as let it bleed Where crazy ?
Yes, and it always has been. It is important that the chapter be spread out in its entirety. It’s all about choice and that’s mine. At the beginning Mainland was an entirely instrumental song. I added lyrics only a few weeks before we mixed it. It didn’t work, once again. It was like the song wasn’t finished and it bothered me a lot. When you make an album, a certain tempo has to be on it. And it’s important to know how to manage the ups and downs that you encounter at that time. So for me, yes it’s essential that we find these different atmospheres throughout the record.
The A Song is the most psychedelic song on the album, especially with this cacophonous passage in its last part. Does it really express what’s inside of you? I want to talk about this progression which becomes uncontrollable and which even goes to chaos…
I think it’s especially in the last song that there is real chaos. It is something perfectly abstract. It’s not always easy to create such chaos in music and especially to make it uncontrollable. It’s really something that I cared about and I don’t want anyone to miss this emotion. This tension present in I’m Coming Home Again, it’s about playing live and constantly evolving when you think it’s going to end. And the thing is, once it’s over, you just want to play it again because there’s something literally addictive about that sound movement and it feels like an endless loop. There is something fascinating about all of this. My music doesn’t always contain the melodies one would expect, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be really beautiful for some people (laughs). Suicide’s first album is a mixture of Elvis-style boogie woogie, krautrock and blues, but it’s still a magnificent musical work. It doesn’t really contain any melodies but it’s still an incredible record. It’s special, unique and something you’ve never heard before.
Precisely, the last song of the disc seems very cinematographic to me, you never wanted to compose the soundtrack of a film?
I would love to but I was never offered this. I met Lilly Wachowski a long time ago. I could have made the soundtrack for one of his films, but I got very sick at the time. I had to take care of myself for a year and a half. So they added one of my songs to the film’s credit, just so I could get some money. But otherwise, I never had this real chance to compose a soundtrack. I probably don’t work fast enough (laughs). I’m serious, the process for movies usually requires being quickly productive. So it must not be for me.
For the campaign to re-edit your discography, I thought you would release the discs identically, especially for Pure Phase. On the vintage vinyl, there are two versions of the track of the same name. But ultimately no, the reissue tracklisting differs. Do you know why ?
No I do not know. I don’t understand why we changed the original tracklisting. When I was asked if I wanted this new edition to be like the original CD or the original vinyl, I have no idea why they changed from the original vinyl. I just know that there were twenty-four or twenty-five minutes maximum available per side, that’s what I was told. But then, frankly, I don’t know any more. I do not understand that the tracklistings of the two formats were different. I don’t remember.
Plain Records reissued Pure Phase in identical vinyl in 2011, but the quality of the pressing is poor. In particular, there were quite a few problems with static electricity…
I’m not a fan of colored vinyls, but for these reissues they really are superbly pressed. There’s a lot of vinyl that’s way too big, that takes a lot of oil and that’s something that bothers me, but it doesn’t bother the music industry at all that presses and re-presses everything, anything and anyhow. Frankly, it disgusts me. But I assure you that Glow In The dark who pressed Spiritualized album reissues doesn’t work that way. They are extremely careful and the sound reproduction of these new editions is really excellent.