IN THE STU­DIO: SPIRITUALIZED

Ja­son Pierce opens up on the painstak­ing cre­ation of his first al­bum in six years.

Q (UK) - - Contents - JAMES OLDHAM

“I get fix­ated,” rea­sons Ja­son Pierce as he re­flects on the long and painful ges­ta­tion of his ex­cel­lent new al­bum.

If you want to know why the new Spiritualized al­bum has taken so long to make (it’s been a painful six years since 2012’ s Sweet Heart Sweet Light), the an­swer is the same as al­ways. “It’s to do with my ob­ses­sion,” grins Ja­son Pierce (aka J Space­man) rue­fully, sit­ting out­side an East Lon­don bar hav­ing just come from a fu­neral. “I get fix­ated, it feels like mad­ness. I’m al­ways chas­ing the things that are wrong with some­thing…” What makes the ges­ta­tion of And Noth­ing Hurt – for Spiritualized, an unusu­ally con­cise, nine-song suite of over­whelm­ing heart­break and beauty – even more re­mark­able is that you can find live ver­sions of over half the songs on­line from the end of 2012. What hap­pened next was sim­ply the prod­uct of Pierce’s self-doubt and un­ceas­ing de­sire to ex­plore ev­ery pos­si­bil­ity he could. Ini­tially, he con­sid­ered John Cale or Bowie-pro­ducer Tony Vis­conti to make the record, but when those con­ver­sa­tions didn’t progress he started record­ing at home. In his head, the sound he was reach­ing for was go­ing to be as am­bi­tious – and di­verse – as any­thing he’d at­tempted be­fore. “I wanted it to be like a Lee Perry record mixed with some­thing a lot freer,” he ex­plains. “It was go­ing to draw on the strings of all the things I love from dub to soul to free jazz.” Early on in the process – 2015, he thinks – he ac­cepted some as­sis­tance from former The Verve/Art Of Noise pro­ducer Youth. It was a disas­ter. “I’ve tried to avoid that as a sub­ject,” is all he’ll say about it now. The ef­fect was to make him, in his words, “hole up” and start the process again from scratch. His drive came from the fact that he felt he had to bet­ter him­self, had to re­shape the no­tion of what a Spiritualized record sounded like. “I’m get­ting older,” he says shrug­ging. “Too many records by peo­ple my age sound like [ they’re by] peo­ple pre­tend­ing they’re 30 or they’re us­ing the same mu­si­cal shapes or lyrics. That’s not for me. If I’m go­ing to make a record now, it has to be bet­ter than that. It also has to re­flect who I am, not who I was.” This aim proved eas­ier said than done. As time ticked by, ses­sions came and ses­sions went (nine or 10 stu­dios are listed on the al­bum cred­its), the same with mu­si­cians. At one point, for ex­am­ple, he con­vened a ses­sion with This Heat drum­mer Charles Hay­ward and dou­ble-bassist John Ed­wards, who he knew from the East Lon­don, Café Oto im­prov scene. That didn’t work ei­ther. “It sounded like a con­ceit. It was like I was push­ing it into a cor­ner it didn’t want to go into. As I’ve said all my life, you can wil­fully make strange mu­sic, you can change the time sig­na­ture, but that doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily make it good.” Along the way, he looked for and found dis­place­ment ac­tiv­i­ties: in 2014, he re­leased an ex­per­i­men­tal record with US drum­mer Kid Mil­lions (Live At Le Pois­son Rouge) and con­trib­uted a rough and emo­tive song (Al­ways For­get­ting With You (The Bridge Song)) to the Space Project com­pi­la­tion. Other col­lab­o­ra­tions fol­lowed the fol­low­ing

year with Pri­mal Scream and Chilean trio Föl­lak­zoid, while in 2017 he pro­duced a hand­ful of tracks by Lon­don trio Yak. Mean­while, work pro­gressed on his own record in a stu­dio put to­gether in an up­stairs room at Pierce’s East Lon­don home. Lack of money meant that the strings he’d dreamed of be­ing like those in a Gil Evans orchestra or Ray Charles ses­sion ac­tu­ally ended up be­ing sam­pled from out-of-copy­right clas­si­cal records. It took weeks to con­struct but the end re­sults are vast and rav­ish­ing, never more so than on The Prize’s slowly un­furl­ing grandeur. Things were be­gin­ning to take shape, the songs grad­u­ally re­veal­ing them­selves as be­ing much straighter mu­si­cally than Pierce had orig­i­nally en­vis­aged. “I wanted it to sound like it was all beamed down from a satel­lite – kind of, ‘What is this?’ – but [ the songs] didn’t want to go there,” he says. At this point what be­came in­creas­ingly im­por­tant to him were the words, the de­sire to con­vey real truth, and in that re­gard this re­ally is one of the great, heart-wrench­ing Spiritualized records. From I’m Your Man’s un­flinch­ing self-por­trait (“If you want wasted, loaded, per­ma­nently folded, try­ing the best that he can/Then I’m your man”) through to A Per­fect Mir­a­cle’s rap­tur­ous but re­morse­less ex­am­i­na­tion of the du­al­ity of love, it feels like a bru­tally hon­est snap­shot of Pierce’s psy­che. And then, fi­nally, it was done. “I have this idea that great al­bums sound like they go in a cas­sette player in a car,” con­cludes Pierce, look­ing down at his hands. “The car is al­ways in Amer­ica, it’s al­ways dark and it’s usu­ally in the desert. In the end th­ese songs sat­is­fied that.” Af­ter the tor­ture and agony of its cre­ation, the end re­sults are more ef­fort­less and rhap­sodic than any­thing he’s ever achieved be­fore. Some things, it seems, just can’t be rushed.

“I get fix­ated. I’m al­ways chas­ing the things that are wrong with some­thing.” Ja­son Pierce

“And for my next drone...” Pierce at work, East Lon­don.

In it for the long haul: Spiritualized’s Ja­son Pierce, Stron­groom stu­dios, East Lon­don, 10 July, 2018.

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