The Jesus And Mary Chain
On Their Past, Present & Future…
November 2011
Questionnaire: Steve Bateman

“Like The Velvet Underground, their most obvious influence, the chart success of The Jesus And Mary Chain was virtually nonexistent, but their artistic impact was incalculable; quite simply, the British group made the world safe for white noise, orchestrating a sound dense in squalling feedback which served as an inspiration to everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Dinosaur Jr. Though the supporting players drifted in and out of focus, the heart of the Mary Chain remained vocalists and guitarists William and Jim Reid, Scottish-born brothers heavily influenced not only by underground legends like The Velvets and The Stooges, but also by the sonic grandeur and pop savvy of Phil Spector and Brian Wilson. In The Jesus And Mary Chain, which the Reids formed outside of Glasgow in 1984 with bassist Douglas Hart and drummer Murray Dalglish (quickly replaced by Bobby Gillespie), these two polarized aesthetics converged; equal parts bubblegum and formless guitar distortion, their sound both celebrated pop conventions and thoroughly subverted them.

In late 1984, the band issued its seminal debut single, "Upside Down," a remarkable blast of live wire feedback anchored by a caveman-like drumbeat; the record made the Mary Chain an overnight sensation in the U.K., as did their nascent live shows, 20-minute sets of confrontational noise (performed with the band's members' backs to the audience) which frequently ended in rioting. The follow-up, "You Trip Me Up," further perfected the formula, and led to their 1985 debut LP Psychocandy, which gift-wrapped sweet, simple pop songs in ribbons of droning guitar fuzz. After a two-year layoff (during which time Gillespie exited to form Primal Scream, and was replaced by John Moore), The Jesus And Mary Chain returned with Darklands, a dramatic shift in approach which stripped away the feedback to expose the skeletal guitar pop at the music's core. After a sprawling 1988 collection of singles, B-sides, and demos titled Barbed Wire Kisses, they emerged with Automatic, which introduced a more tightly coiled brand of feedback while jettisoning Moore's live drums in favor of synthesized beats.


After another long absence, the Mary Chain (minus Hart) resurfaced in 1992 with Honey's Dead, and earned greater U.S. visibility thanks to a spot on that summer's Lollapalooza lineup; the first single, "Reverence," also won them renewed notoriety at home when Top Of The Pops banned the song because of its opening lines, "I wanna die just like Jesus Christ" and "I wanna die just like JFK." With 1994's gentle, largely acoustic Stoned & Dethroned, they even reached the U.S. pop charts thanks to the lovely single "Sometimes Always," a duet with Mazzy Star's Hope Sandoval. Another collection of scattered sides, The Jesus And Mary Chain Hate Rock 'n' Roll, followed a year later, highlighted by the single "I Hate Rock 'n' Roll", a scabrous swipe which reclaimed the pure noise attack of their earliest work. Moving to Sub Pop, they returned with Munki in 1998. William Reid left the group during the subsequent tour, and in 1999, The Jesus And Mary Chain officially disbanded.” ALLMUSIC BIOG

With individual solo-projects eventually giving way to the group’s reformation in 2007 (for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival), a Best Of compilation was later issued in 2010 – although due to William’s reluctance of being seen purely as a nostalgia act only concerned with churning-out songs from their past, JAMC haven’t toured in years. Keeping their name in the public-eye however, this past summer, reported: “Having completed their superb Suede reissue campaign, Edsel Records now focus their attention on Scottish alt-rock band The Jesus And Mary Chain. All six studio albums – Psychocandy, Darklands, Automatic, Honey’s Dead, Stoned & Dethroned and Munki – will be reissued in late September and early October. Released in pairs over three weeks, each album will be expanded to 2CD+DVD with all the non-album b-sides as well as previously unreleased demos and rare outtakes. The DVD element for each issue will contain promo videos and previously unreleased archival TV appearances.”

Having managed to overcome their sibling-rivalry and alcohol / substance abuse, when questioned about The Jesus And Mary Chain’s future, Jim commented: “It’s kinda always been William’s songs and my songs; very rarely have we actually sat down and written together, but traditionally, he’s always been the main songwriter in the Mary Chain. He always was and always will be, and if we do another album then it’ll probably be largely William’s songs with about four or five of mine.” Pondering in other interviews: “Every record you make you kind of understand more. It is closer to you. The further from making a record you get, the further you forget why you made them.” And: “I think it’s hard to be in a band with anyone, but if you’re not brothers then you can just go your separate ways. You can try it out, scream at each other, say things that cannot be taken back and do things that mean that the situation can no longer exist, and then you’ll no longer see each other again. But when it’s your brother, you still say all of those things, you still do all of those things, but because you’re brothers you come back. The Mary Chain would have probably broken up in 1985 if we hadn’t been brothers. It was that that kept us going.”

After starting-out being on the dole for 5 years and with William altering the group’s original name from The Daisy Chain to The Mary Chain, before finally settling on The Jesus And Mary Chain. By wanting to make the music they’d always wanted to hear and which didn’t exist at that time (Einstürzende Neubauten playing Shangri-Las songs), they in turn also sounded like The Velvet Underground, Hank Williams, Bo Diddley, The Beach Boys, Dick Dale and Phil Spector, whilst looking like Bob Dylan, The Beatles in Hamburg and Johnny Cash! With Jim summing-up JAMC’s career as “like a bunch of halfwits stumbling through a minefield. There were triumphs, there were disasters, and there were loads of missed opportunities. That's what the Mary Chain were all about. We really were not very well equipped to be in the music business, with the exception of being able to make quite good music.” He now answers a Q&A exclusively for R*E*P*E*A*T…

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1.To begin with, how are you feeling about your back catalogue being reissued and how involved were you in the compiling/remastering of each release?
“It’s always good to have the Mary Chain records out there and readily available. We were pretty involved with the whole project, but it really wouldn’t have happened without Matthew Jones at Demon Records who went above and beyond the call of duty and did a fantastic job.”

2.A lot of musicians believe that “you have your whole life to write your first album, that the second album is a reaction to this record and that by the time of your third album, you’re much closer to establishing a defining sound / identity of your own.” Would you agree with this and how would you describe The Jesus And Mary Chain’s musical evolution?
“It’s true that your first album is written over a period of years and the records that come afterwards have to be put together much more quickly, but you soon get used to this. With the Mary Chain sound, we tried to re-invent ourselves with every album. I think it’s fair to say that something like Stoned and Dethroned and Psychocandy are at opposite ends of the spectrum. But it would just have been too boring to record Psychocandy 2, 3 and 4 etc.”

3.Although you now live in Devon and William resides in LA (with you both currently focusing on solo-projects again), I have read that you’re open to the idea of working on / releasing new JAMC material in the future. But, I was interested to know if it’s freeing having a lot of LPs behind you and what for you are some of the pros and cons of being in an established band?
“Well, obviously people who come to see the MC will be reasonably familiar with what we are all about, which gives us freedom to play pretty much wherever we want… but at the same time, it can be difficult to introduce new material.”

4.Have you and your brother ever had a routine to songwriting – Fran Healey once stated that whenever he “sees a plectrum, it’s a sign that he should write” – and do you find that you question yourselves more now compared to when you had a youthful naivety?
“William writes more songs than I do and is pretty much a natural songwriter. William writes songs because he has to – with me it’s much more difficult, writing doesn’t come easy to me, in fact there are times when I couldn’t care less whether I never wrote another song again.”

5.What was the most amount of songs that the Mary Chain wrote in a short space of time, and prior to splitting in the late ‘90s, what was the longest time that you went without writing any new music for?
“I’m not really sure. There was a period about ’87, when apart from releasing an album you would release double pack editions of the singles, which would mean multiple b-sides. Around about this time it seemed like a very grinding and demanding schedule.”

6.Did you ever write a track and think, ‘That sounds like a Hit’, and was mainstream acceptance / chart success something that you consciously strove for, i.e. singles that would best present you to the public?
“We always wrote tracks that we wanted to be hits. Not because we felt that we had to, but we grew up watching Bowie and Bolan on TOTPs, and then later punk bands like the Buzzcocks and The Pistols. It was always our aim to get our music out there and to be on TOTPs. Sometimes though, you would come up with a tune that you thought would be a sure-fire hit and it would sink without a trace, as was the case with Head On.”

7.I really love your duet with Hope Sandoval on Sometimes Always, but from all of your treasured artists / groups, are there any duets that you rate?
“I always loved a good duet, and I think Nancy and Lee was pretty much the blueprint.”

8.You bought your own studio in London in 1991, ‘The Drugstore’, and so I wondered if it’s still important to you to have a place of familiarity to write and record in, or do you now like the idea of changing things up – even perhaps working with different producers?
“We were always open to the idea of working with different producers, we just couldn’t find any that understood what we were about. The Drugstore was great in the beginning and we recorded Honey’s Dead there, with a totally professional attitude. But the records that came later, the professional attitude started to slide a little, probably because of the introduction of drink and drugs into the recording sessions. I don’t believe the music suffered though, it just took much, much longer to achieve.”

9.Once each of your records were nearing completion, did you ever feel the need to add a certain type of song to the tracklisting in order to alter the way in which it flowed or would be perceived?

“The only time that happened was with Munki and it was after a meeting with Rob Dickens at Warner Brothers. He said the record didn’t sound finished and that it needed more songs, and as a result, we went away and recorded Mo Tucker, Perfume and Cracking Up. So I think he was right. But nobody bought the record anyway so what difference does it make?”

10.When it comes to lyrics, do you like to reveal what your songs are about or do you prefer people to take their own meaning from them?
“I’ve never liked to have lyrics explained to me by people who have written songs, I think it is up to the listener to make something out of them. I don’t really mind if people listen to our songs and get something other than what was intended in the lyric. Just as long as they get something out of it.”

11.Do you have a favourite MC era / any favourite artwork, looks, photographs and videos?

“I think pretty much all of the albums stand up – but I always feel like I have to argue on behalf of Munki, because I think it’s too often overlooked, and although the band went through some pretty terrible times and eventually disintegrated, I still have some pretty great memories from the particular period. Also, some of the b-sides from this period were as good as anything we have ever written or recorded. Looking back on it now, I think that we both knew the band was coming to an end and just wanted to record as much stuff as possible before it blew up.”

12.The reasons why you signed to Blanco y Negro have been well-documented, but are you pleased with how the band and your relationship with Creation Records / Alan McGee is depicted in the documentary, Upside Down?
“I don’t know, because I haven’t watched that film. Nothing against Creation or Alan, it’s just that I don’t like watching myself on the screen, or hearing other people’s anecdotes of occurrences that happened a lifetime ago.”

13.Over the years, did you have many famous fans on your guestlists + were you given any noteworthy things by The Music Industry, in terms of awards, sales recognition discs or even freebies?
“Famous fans, there were a few. Rachel Welsh and her daughter in New York, Roseanne Barr in LA, Kenneth Anger in LA, Steffi Graf in Berlin… I’m sure there were others, but that’s all I can think of at the moment.”

14.Has the group surpassed your expectations – because your influence is evident in so many contemporary acts – and what have been some of the standout moments in your career so far?
“I don’t really think it’s surpassed our expectations, it was always meant to be a long-term thing. The bands that we were into were like 20 or 30 years before us and we wanted to have that kind of appeal too. But it is great to think that people are still making music because of the Mary Chain.”

15.Lastly, chips or cream buns?

“Why not both? But if I had to, it would be chips.”

A very special thanks to Jim, and to Sarah @ Fifth Avenue PR, for all of their time and help.

“Just Like Honey”

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?