An Interview with
Spaceman Jason Pierce
photos and story
by Karena Bernard
introduction by Gregg Mitchell
Like no other band in the 90s, Spiritualized has intergrated & subterfuged the main influential ingredients in post Beatles rock n roll - the Beach Boys, Stooges, the Velvet Underground, Suicide, punk rock, My Bloody Valentine, the Pixies - all the while managing to create some of the most original, dissonant and timeless pop music in recent memory.
Rather then rely on these influences, Jason Pierce - the spaced out mind behind Spiritualized's beautiful madness - makes the music explode with a mark & sound of it's own, proving the landmark work "Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating" to be as important and monumental as "The Velvet Undeground & Nico", "Raw Power" and "Pet Sounds."
But what about the sheepish Major Tom behind the controls? In the creative spirit of such legendary loonies as Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett & Julian Cope before him, Jason Pierce has (inadvertently?) cultivated himself an image of blissed out existence - not at all content, not quite drug free, and somewhat resigned to it all. Perhaps it would take a mad man to marry the subtle brutality of an album like "Suicide" to the psychedelic majesty of "Sgt. Pepper" - and then throw some gospel & brass into the mix. But the chaotic blend works wonders and, like the work of the more mellow but equally mezmorizing Mogwai, redefines the dynamics of pop music like the Pixies & Nirvana nine years before.
Still Performers Run Deep
Jason Pierce looks about as comfortable as a cat in water under the flood of camera flashes as he and his band, Spiritualized, open the last set on the final night of Reading Fest 1998. As the photographers work the Melody Maker stage, he keeps his eyes closed and stands fast (stage left, not center stage), seeming to focus inward while his fingersfind the right places on his guitar. The instantly recognizable opening notes of Electricity, the single from their acclaimed breakthrough release, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space are answered with cheers from the audience. No member of the band has yet spoke one word, nor will they do so during the entire set. That was just fine, however, as the sequence of electronic amalgamates is all the communication needed.
Opener, Electricity is the band's most commercial number. It has great energy, attitide, lyrics and melody. It's a song that gets your attention on the first play. The other songs on Ladies And Gentlemen take a little longer to get their message across. But when they do they take you to a much, much deeper place than Electricity. During the remainder of the set, repetitions of melody twirl around layers of sound; build, crash and then ebb. Each composition is an impressionistic audio painting splashed upon the audience as canvas. Sharp electronic sounds intermittently splice the even hushed rhythms and reverberate to indpendent, or no rhythm. Aside from a cheer as soon as each new song is recognized, the audience is quiet, but very attentive as the 'spirilozidine' takes effect.
Go to: TransAction Magazine: Front Page
Karena Bernard: Are the songs on Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space autobiographical?
Jason Pierce: I guess the music we do has to be honest. I always thought that to get soul into music you have to have no compromise and be honest. It's not autobiographical in a sense that I'd be writing a diary or something. I don't think music can be autobiographical in that way. It has to be larger than life. The music we deal with has to do life the highest highs and the lowest lows in those extremes. I don't live in those extremes. If I did, I'd be a schizophrenic and I'd be out there. So I think it has to be larger than life. It doesn't have to do with mediocrity.
K: Do you listen to your own music?
J: Recreationally?-no. I hear it occasionally and stuff. I know its finished and I know its done, but to play it so many times during the making of the record. Also a lot of people said stuff like Spacemen 3 is great to trip to and I find that difficult in those situations to hear my voice. Most people can't listen to their own voice off the tape machine.They are so used to hearing their own internal voice in their head. The tape machine sounds a bit weird. It sounds a bit higher than people are used to. I guess I have that problem as well..
K:Do you find you have to push your music to the edge?
J:If you want to write music about that -yeah. Like what I said about being honest, but I don't know if that kind of stuff can happen. I personally don't think the author of the music is that important once the music has been made. If you listen to the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That Loving Feeling" or Ray Charles' "I Can't Stop Loving You", you don't listen to those songs from the author's perspective. You don't think about them writing about a specific event in their life, you think about how it affects your life.
K: The creative process -how does it work?
J: Well to me, it's like work. I sit down and do it. This album took me 11 days to write. I don't put myself into any kind of situation. I feel like its work to sit down in the studio and work. I don't think in a way that a lot of musicians do in that, musics floating around and you act like a (congru??) and try to grab the music. I find that lazy. I find if you actually sit down and work at it, it will come to you. Rather than waiting 2 years for an album to be made-you gotta make it happen.
K: What happened with the set of first songs on a tape?
J: The tape was lost, but I found it. Some of them were the same. Cool waves was on it and one other song. It seems weird to put the rest on it because its hard to work on tracks now that you did 2 and a half years ago. I don't think much of that tape will ever get out.
K: What was your attitude when you lost the tape?
J: Didn't really bother us. It was a reference of ideas and stuff. It's a tape and it's not like its that precious. It probably did me a favor. It made me write a whole load of new stuff that worked out fine.
K: If you moved to America, where would you live based on your tours?
J: I guess I would live where I have the most friends in NY, LA, or San Francisco. I know a lot of people there who I really like. When we tour, a lot of people like NY. There isn't any place when we tour where we have the need to get out of. I like wherever we tour.
K: What do you like better: Cats or Dogs?
J: Cats because they are low maintenance. I had two. They take care of themselves.