Primal Scream: ‘I’m Only A Singer In A Rock ‘N’ Roll Band’

Bobby Gillespie doesn’t shy away from the tough questions.

“It’s kind of like a perfect slot for us. We’ll have a lot of fans out there. It’s gonna be a motherfucker.” We’re chatting to Bobby Gillespie the day after it’s been announced that Primal Scream will be playing before the Stones at Glastonbury. It seems the perfect occasion for the band to celebrate their place as one of rock’s most enduring modern bands.

They’re now on the verge of releasing their tenth album ‘More Light’, yet Gillespie seems just as energised and excited about music as he did 30 years ago. In contrast to the drab, bland de-politicised music makers of now, his anger and passion is refreshing from someone who could be considered an elder statesman of rock.

It feels odd to call him that. He certainly doesn’t sound like a man considering taking early rock’n’roll retirement. Indeed ‘More Light’ feels like a band refreshed, cherry picking moments from their past - krautrock, gospel and, of course, political anger - and fashioning them together to create something that rivals their best work. The result is a sprawling, psychedelic journey, following the relatively lacklustre nature of their last album. “On ‘Riot City Blues’ and ‘Beautiful Future’ they were short concise rock’n’roll songs,” Gillespie explains. “This time we knew we had to do something new and different.”

That’s where David Holmes’ production skills came in. “He’s incredible and really encouraged me with my lyrics. I’ve noticed that the songs that mean something to me are the ones that I’m almost scared to sing. And there’s a couple of songs like that on this record.” Joining Holmes on ‘More Light’ is a veritable rock hall of fame, including Robert Plant, Kevin Shields and Mark Stewart and the Sun Ra Arkestra. But Bobby is keen to stress that this album is about the band.

“Most of the album is me and Andrew with Darrin – and then we got in Jason Faulkner. So right there you had the fucking band. Then we layered everything else on top. We’re not getting them in because they’re famous. If we were directors we’d pick a certain actor to play a certain part and that’s the way we look at making records. I mean of course it’s a total fucking thrill to have Robert Plant in your studio. When we recorded ‘Elimination Blues’ Andrew was in the control room and the song didn’t have an arrangement then so I was just scat singing the track and I had to count Robert in. It was amazing.”

Gillespie, it’s obvious, is in a much happier place. He’s now quit drugs and getting clean seems to have re-energised him. “The thing with taking drugs is you cut off any emotional attachment to the outside world. Not having that means that you feel more. I don’t think I could have written songs like ‘River Of Pain’ and ‘Walking with the Beast’ ten years ago.” But clearer and cleaner doesn’t mean he’s any less forthright with his opinions. He’s not surprised that few bands are kicking up a political storm.

“Guy Debord had a whole critique of how consumer society was created to distract people from the effects of capitalism, and I can understand why people become distracted and don’t really care what’s going on. But, you know, I’m only a singer in a rock ‘n’ roll band but I’ve got an opinion. The government know exactly who they’re hurting – the most disadvantaged, helpless people in society.”

There’s no sign, then, of Gillespie easing up and we ask him if he can believe the band have made it this long. “I don’t look at it like that. The fact that we could record and do gigs – that’s basically been the purpose of our lives. When we do gigs we put a lot of good energy out there and we get a lot of love back every time we take the stage. That’s our art.”

The Rolling Stones are going to have a tough act to follow.

Primal Scream’s new album ‘More Light’ will be released on 13th May via First International / Ignition Records.

Read the full interview in the 29th April edition of DIY Weekly, available from iTunes now.