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Spectrum Is Green

The Kitchen Brothers, Dan and Julian, take a trip with the revolutionary Spacemen 3. Frontman of Space, Sonic, shares his otherworldly thoughts on Loop and the English Disease… subsequently the Spacemen 3 and Lizardmen 2 are all caught exposed in the ladies toilet by a Polish fascist.

From the planet Rugby, Spacemen 3 have landed at the Notre Dame Hall, London, a venue which does not even boast a dressing room. Most of the interview therefore takes place in the ladies toilet, and another piece of rock history is born. The current Spacemen are Sonic (gtr, organ, vocals), Willie (bass) and Joe (drms). Together seven years in their search for the ultimate Spaceman, Sonic and Jason have been through 4 drummers and 2 bassists, 5 albums, including 2 live ones, and in the last 2 years have been achieving real critical acclaim and a heady following. Their latest LP, “Playing With Fire”, on Fire Records, is their biggest seller to date.

Sonic tells how it is: “We built up over a while with Glass Records. If it’s happened, it’s by mistake. It’s taken us all by surprise really with this album, because the last one was just as good, but people totally missed it.” – But the more famous you get, how do you reconcile the simple  acts of making music and getting stoned with ‘shifting units’ and the business bollocks that exists even on indie labels now?

“We’ve always been licky, ‘cos we’ve always made songs that people wanted to hear anyway. We want to do well, we want as many people as possible to hear it. After all, we’ve spent a lot of time writing and recording it. There’s too much for us to do at the moment with music as well. So we needed a manager. We did it all ourselves until about a year ago. He’s a real business head, but trustworthy as they come. At least he’s honest about being dishonest.”

Musically, Spacemen 3 have been tagged as ‘derivative’ and ‘sixties merchants’ by one hack and ‘revolutionary’ by the next. Do you see yourselves as repeating music that has gone earlier, but changing it a bit?

Sonic: “We don’t really see it like that, we’re not really into guitars. On some of the albums I haven’t touched a guitar, it’s whatever makes the noise that’s important. I play guitar more like a drummer anyway!”

OK, how about revolutionary?

Sonic: “Our first LP had feedback all over it. It was ahead of it’s time; ahead of Loop; ahead of the fuckin’ Mary Chain!!!”

But wasn’t there some association with Loop?

Sonic: “Yeah, they really ripped us off!! Their first record sleeves, their sound, their live shows, just about everything. Their first few gigs were supporting us. The first time they had acid was when we gave it to them. Then they started calling themselves Loop. The first album was alright but it wasn’t anything we hadn’t done already.”

So what do men of space listen to?

Sonic: Not just 60’s stuff, 50’s stuff as well, R’n’R, Blues, seventies stuff like Suicide, Pere Ubu, Kraftwerk. We’re not into most stuff done since 1982.” Do you listen to reggae? “Yeah, but I wouldn’t say it was a musical influence.”

Sonic and Jason are responsible for the song writing, but what do they try to reflect in their music? Is it just about getting smashes and having a groovy time? Sonic: “It’s conveying the experience through music, turning feelings into sounds, sounds can really induce that feeling.” But do you want people to get stoned and listen to your records? “If they want to that’s fine. It’s up to them. Some guy said the other day that in a room full of people on magic mushrooms, the only album he can put on to keep them all happy is ours. That really made us happy!!”

Spacemen 3 have become an important band to those seeking the ultimate noise dream. Other bands use noise in a druggy way but never refer to their own drug habits publically. I ask them what they think about the sort of hypocrisy which seems to characterise most other musicians?
Sonic: “We think they’re absolute pussies!!!! We’ve had a lot of bad press due to that. People have preconceptions about drugs and people who take drugs, and people tend to form a lot of opinions about things they know nothing about, especially in this country. Nothing will change that, we’ll just leave it to Happy Mondays to sort that out.” Are you into acid as well? “Yeah, all sorts of stuff.” Have you got any? “You should try Spectrum, it’s better than Ecstasy.” At this point we are brutally forced out of the ladies toilet by a licensed, fascist caretaker who resembles a Polish dyke railroad worker. Much distressed by what she has just witnessed, she mutters ‘disgraceful’ under her breath. Upstairs, competing with the support band’s soundcheck, we chat about the tour, which has been going really well. Do you enjoy playing London?

Sonic: “Yeah, the audiences are nice to us here, they cheer from the start. Everywhere else it’s like they wait till they know you’ve gone and then try and get you back.” How about Europe, what sort of response do you receive from European audiences? Sonic goes on, “We’ve played in Germany and went down really well there. When you go to places like Germany and Holland you see how different things can be, quite easily, not just the way that they treat bands.” True, art and music always appear to be more subsidised and promoted in Europe. Have you ever considered living abroad? “Yeah, ideally, rather than here. It’s all to do with the English disease, we just think we’re so fuckin’ good at everything, and most of the time it is bullshit!! People don’t really question what they’re doing very much and that’s the main problem.”

Sonic echoes what the multitude believes. Neither opinionated nor full of shit, Spacemen 3 produce a music that roars in the face of reality. It reinforces the Spacemen’s own philosophy of open-mindedness not ignorance, what’s more we had a really nice conversation, lightly interspersed with a Spectrum green.

[Reproduced without permission from Lime Lizard, April 1989.]