Unlike many Behind the Music casualties, Gillespie doesn’t look at that time with regrets or remorse. And why should he? Have you listen to Screamadelica or XTRMNTR lately? They’re still a fiery pair of polarized LPs, coming from two sides of a drug-addled mind. (The former feels like a loose-limbed MDMA high; the latter a twitchy, paranoid speed trip.) The band’s tenth album, More Light, isn’t exactly an apple-cheeked look at sobriety either. While Gillespie’s creative vision may be as clear as ever, that doesn’t mean he likes what he sees: the harrowing fate of the UK’s lower and middle classes, the “anti-establishment” artists who have bought right into the system, and Primal Scream’s own complacency. In many ways, More Light is a nasty comedown, withdrawals and all. There’s a sliver of hope running through this otherwise brooding psych-fuzz-electronic-boogie masterpiece, but you have to dig into the muck with the group to find it.
ore than a mere survivor, the 50-year-old version of Bobby Gillespie doesn’t look all that different from the one that helped make Screamadelica a cornerstone of acid house the same year Nirvana delivered “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The shoulder-length black hair, the prominent nose, the wiry frame that seems in serious danger of snapping in two—it’s all there still, with a couple added wrinkles, as if the Primal Scream frontman made a decade-old deal with the devil to remain forever young. Quite a feat considering what the Scottish artist has put his body through. But for the longtime advocate of intoxicated creativity, getting higher than the sun, not surprisingly, eventually lost its luster. “I thought, ‘You’re always having a bad time when you take this stuff,’ ” admits Gillespie, as he sits at the offices of his UK label. “I was really punishing myself.”
self-titled: You revisited Screamadelica on tour in 2010 and 2011. Do you think that had an influence on the sound of More Light? The success of the Screamadelica shows gave us a lot of confidence, but we never consciously thought about the music having an influence. Maybe it’s the fact that the tracks were widescreen with a lot of space in them. Live, songs like “Come Together” and “Higher Than the Sun” could go on for 16 minutes. We’d play them with three different parts, taking different bits of remixes and putting them together. When we first started writing the songs for More Light, we felt we wanted to make a freer, more expansive, cinematic, psychedelic, experimental rock record. You can hear that in a song like “River of Pain,” which starts and ends with a more traditional pop sound but has an almost free-jazz middle section. I’ve got to give [our guitarist] Andrew Innes credit there. He came up with the riff, and when he found it, immediately there was an atmosphere there. He came up with the drum break as well, what he called a “belly dance rhythm.” You got the Sun Ra Arkestra to play on that song as well. How did that come about? They played in London over two nights in ST—071