Transcript of NME's interview with the band
Welcome back, then, Elastica. So... What kept you?
Elastica: "......... (much giggling ensues)"
Justine: "(Gingerly sipping pint) Ahmmn mmmn. Aheheheh..."
The ever-protective Dave: "I'm afraid Justine doesn't want to answer that one!"
Justine: "(Another sip) I'm thinking... (sip) Well... we went on tour for ages... and... (becomes incapacitated with mirth)"
Justine: "No we did! We went on tour for years and, em... stop laughing at me!"
Justine: "And... em... (enormous swig, silence, huge guffaws ensue)."
Dave: "She's not giving up, is she? 'And...?'"
Justine: "Shall we come back to this question?"
Must've been pretty dull these past three years for you, eh, Dave? You joined Elastica just as absolutely nothing was about to happen.
Dave: "In a year's time I'll have been in Elastica longer than I was in The Fall and I did six albums with them."
Elastica, says Justine, of the three-year wilderness, "just wasn't any good for ages, really". Relationships crumbling, work-in-progress became "painfully slow". They could have released records, but even they didn't like what they were doing. This time round, Justine has avowed to "worry less, enjoy it more, for what it is. I spent so much time worrying about whether we were good enough and I just wish I'd enjoyed it and gone for it a bit more." This time round, it also "feels a lot calmer and, for me, a lot more supportive and stable. The whole climate the first time around was just too over-the-top and I don't think we were ever really wanting to be as big as we got." And this time around, it seems, Elastica are doing exactly what it takes to make sure it doesn't happen again.
The EP, then: What The Critics Say.
Elastica: "Hmmnhmmn (much hooting)."
1. Making it ineligible for the singles chart is a tardy lo-fi cop-out.
Justine: "D'you think so?"
Dave: "It's value for money, six tracks!"
Justine: "But that's saying you judge how good it is by how high in the charts it gets."
What it could be saying is 'we're putting this out but it's not the real new Elastica, so don't judge it, because it's not real'."
Justine: "Hmn. Well, it kind of was a bit like that to be honest, we just did want to put something out before Reading so that people... We've got so much material that didn't fit on the album and it seemed insane to be putting out a three-song record when we've just got so much."
But wouldn't it have been fantastic to come back with the real all-new Elastica and the Single Of The Year? And it would matter and count, it would be exciting.
"Well, that would be really great," decides Justine, "but I just don't think any of us felt ready to do that and in that sense it is purely selfish. I just felt like I seriously got my fingers burnt last time round and wanted to ease back into it. Do Reading, keep it manageable. And doing Top Of The Pops, covers of magazines just would've been... horrible. 'Cos it's just... it's not been fun for a while and it's been fun for about a year now."
2. It's a Fall record from 1984.
Dave: "There's humour as well, though. I think it's cool!"
Justine: "I don't think it sounds like a Fall record from 1984. It sounds like us. With Mark E Smith doing some guest vocals. But maybe that's over-optimistic of me."
3. It's a calculated ploy to glean some 'indie' 'cred'.
Justine: "Um... right."
Dave: "It's not been that planned out, really."
Justine: "(To Dave, cheering up) It's been a lot more random than that, hasn't it!? (Meanders on about personal 'taste' for several days)... Top Of The Pops is the worst it's been since the '80s so maybe it is a time which does seem a bit more indie, because it has to be, because none of us can compete, really, with Steps. And I'm glad about it, actually, 'cos things have to go more underground."
4. So not-new is the 'new' Elastica, Donna, who isn't in the band any more, is all over the EP.
Justine: "Well, it seems like a good point to be putting it out, it's more logical than putting a lot of her on the album."
But there's loads of Donna on the album as well.
Justine: "Three songs."
That's very odd.
Justine: "Is it? She was in this band making this record for three years."
Isn't this a litigation nightmare?
Justine: "No. She's... despite the fact we fell out... it's been quite amicable really and I think she was proud of what we did in the end."
Dave: "They're good songs."
Justine: "Songs written for Elastica, played by Elastica, arranged by Elastica. I think it would be really sad to not put them out because I'd fallen out with Donna, it would be ridiculous, we would be shooting ourselves in the foot really."
Dave: "And it might be a bit bitchy, mightn't it?"
We discuss, for a while, Donna, the undiscussable. They fell out says Justine, more through working strains than anything else. Donna was, says Justine, "fed up of me interfering with her songs". Donna and Annie had "never got on terribly well" and, thus, when Annie met Justine at a Blur gig two Christmases ago and confessed she missed Elastica so much she "couldn't believe" she'd left and wanted to return, Donna was as distressed as Justine was delighted.
"Donna and Sheila were good mates," adds Justine, "she found Sheila, so that caused a lot of friction".
Sheila gone, Annie back, by the January of last year, it was "obvious" Donna would leave for good, but for "stupid tax reasons, partnership laws and all that crap" she didn't officially leave "er... until the April of this year. Hihihih!" Until then, says Justine, there were times the members of the interim Elastica "couldn't bear to be in the same room together". They'd become, says Justine, "an I-don't-know band". A couple of weeks ago, Donna currently in Wales "getting sorted", as Justine has it wrote them all a letter saying how much she loved the EP and wished them luck for Reading. The friendship is repairing.
"Oh yeah," says Justine, "after Donna had left things got a lot easier between us. I've not got any problems with her personally as a human being."
Around about now, a quite spectacular Justine Frischmann question-avoiding technique comes into full effect. Whenever she doesn't want to talk about anything, she simply stares you out. Really stares, her steady, unblinking, coal-black eyes pinning you with a beam in the shape of a pitchfork to the back of the bar, while she sips and says as few words as she can possibly get away with. It's brilliant. And impenetrable. She should hire herself out for lessons.
People know that Donna had a lot of problems with drugs because people have eyes in their heads. How much did this contribute to the friendship and partnership breakdown?
Justine: "Um... I think I'm not really in a position to talk about other people's drug problems. I wouldn't feel that was fair."
But it's so obvious that was the case.
Justine: "Well, I mean, there were excesses going on and it doesn't help, it just doesn't help... a stable working environment (steely stare over pint and a silence so long Justin begins giggling)."
You were great mates, it must've been tragic, watching her fade away like that.
"Yeah, it's really sad, yep, it is, it's sad. And I wished it hadn't been the way it happened, but... y'know, it's... what can you do? I'm glad the band exists. And I'm glad we're putting an album out. And I'm glad we're all mates (stare)."
How is she?
Dave: "Really well."
D'you think she'll be alright?
Justine: "I think she'll be fine, yeah. It was a big thing her writing us that letter."
5. Loz Hardy.
Justine: "(Grinning) I refuse to accept Loz as the world's most embarrassing person to be involved with on any level! I think he's very talented and I wasn't going to turn round and deny he was anything to do with it in case Steve Sutherland had a problem with it. I'm proud of him even if no-one else is!"
The forthcoming album is, says Justine "wicked", "very mixed" and contains "a lot of quite dark stuff which reflected the state of mind we were in". Talking about it, Justine begins giggling again, pointing at Paul, "and if you're gonna blame us for being too lo-fi it's his fault! He's been giving me loads of records..."
Paul: "Chicks On Speed! Magoo! I love Magoo...."
Hmmn. Is this the Dawn Of The New Indie Uprising? Is that what we're looking at here?
Elastica chortle. And don't deny it.
Justine: "I'm not saying it! Em... can I have another pint of shandy, please? Oh God, have we run out of cigarettes again?"
And Elastica hawk inside their pockets pooling their coinage for one packet of Marlboro Lights between them like an unsigned band 15th on the bill at a Fierce Panda showcase.
Elastica are convinced there will be, very shortly, a vital and vibrant 'alternative' music scene emerging from Britain, within which they hope to 'matter'. What Elastica '99 hope to achieve is to emulate the perverse, uncompromising stance of their heroes.
"Pavement, The Fall," nods Justine. "The Fall were always awkward bastards, and thank God they exist, it's about just doing what you like."
Do you actually care about selling lots and lots of records?
Justine: "No. Never have done. Found it destructive. You have to remember we signed to Deceptive on a handshake for two seven-inches. We sold records despite ourselves. I remember back then having arguments 'cos I didn't want to be on the cover of things. Nothing's really changed. I definitely went through a thing of thinking, 'Fuck it, we can compete with the big boys and I'm gonna do it' and, y'know, we did it. And we ended up seriously unhappy with no bass player. So what do you learn from that, really?"
So. What if you sell 10,000 copies of this EP and that's it. Justine: "That's exactly what we're expecting to sell."
That's a pretty indie-schmindie attitude.
Justine: "Is it? I think it's just realistic! (Much guffawing) I'd object to being called indie-schmindie though, actually, because... (to band) oh go on, support me on this one! Oh, I just don't know why you're so obsessed with what things sell! It seems so weird."
I'm just trying to find out why you do this, and why you're doing it this way.
Dave: "Because we all love music!"
Justine: "I think there's a huge element of rebelliousness, really, in us, and it might be part of the reason we got caught up in the rock'n'roll myth in the first place. I watched all my friends who were in big bands doing it a certain way and I want to be an example of a band that doesn't do it that way and is still, y'know, at a level where people still know who we are."
But not everyone. Justine: "No. Maybe that is elitist. (Cocks an ear to the jukebox where Blur's 'Charmless Man' is chiming forth) This has to come on now... my favourite, this one... Um... yeah, so you can only do what you do, really."
Pthrt! This is indeed turning into a case of the schmindie ethos; 'We just do what we do and if anyone else likes it, it's a bonus'. You don't feel like that, do you?
Paul: "I hate that! That's bollocks!"
Justine: "Well it is very boring but unfortunately it's true of most bands that are any good! It really is! I'm sorry! It's a rubbish quote!"
So it is, therefore, true of yourselves?
Justine: "I refuse to say it! Hihihihih! Oh, you guys make everything so complicated for everyone! We're just trying to put the fucking records out!"
Gossip, then. It's undiscussable. But we'll have a go.
All the exile years' gossip relating to sex and drugs...
Mew: "Back to the first question again, is it?"
...How d'you feel about it?
Justine: "I think it's inevitable, that kind of conjecture. (Stare) And I think there's a lot of people who wanna see fuck-up and fucked-up. If you've been successful. There's a lot of schadenfreude that goes on."
This time, the stare is positively Medusa-esque. Everyone's hair grows a foot longer in the silence.
Which rumours have you been particularly irked by?
Justine: "Nothing in particular, really. (Stare) Em. I heard that I was procuring young boys for Damon. That was a good one. Damon was in fact gay and I used to go out and pick up boys for him."
You were his 'beard'.
"His... beard? Ahmmn mmn. Well. All that stuff was very difficult for a while. And it was particularly difficult because of Damon and Blur being such a big band and I never felt Elastica warranted it really. I always felt it was a hangover from the Blur thing and I did resent it in a way, yeah."
People believe for certain you had a massive drug problem for a long time. Is this the truth?
"Um. I've come to realise that there's not a lot you can do about what people think of you. And I think that that is one of the reasons I'm doing this again, because I've come to that point in my head where I've given up and I realise you can't control that and people are gonna think what they're gonna think (stare)."
Dave: "I just don't think it's anybody's business, it's not relevant. You can't talk about drugs, man, it's personal."
Justine: "And I just think talking about drugs only encourages people to take them. I really believe that. That rock'n'roll mythology. And that's why I don't want to talk about it (stare). There were excesses. But it wasn't all destructive."
Damon has alluded to you in an official interview that scenes round your house had become like scenes from Performance (a film he finds "apocalyptic" and the direct reason '13''s 'Trailer Park' contains the lyrics, "I lost my girl to The Rolling Stones"). Were they?
Justine (blatant smirk): "What that is, is a dig at Brett (Anderson, Justine's ex-boyfriend and sometime heroin user). Oh yeah. Oh yeah (Performance being Brett's favourite film ever)."
He went to all that bother to have a go at Brett? After all this time?
"Damon's very competitive," says Justine, flatly, "very competitive, and he always will be. It's in him. That's how he is. He's very strong."
Hard drugs and massive infidelity on both sides is what wrecked your relationship; is that a true statement?
"Em. Damon and I did practise an open relationship because there was no alternative. Because that's... the way he is. And that was something that I sort of... em, had a problem with in the end. Yeah."
So you had more of a problem with him?
"(Tersely) I would rather not be in an open relationship. And I think that that's something I've come to realise now, yeah."
I think he sees it the other way around.
"Does he? What do you mean?"
I think he thinks you were keener on the idea than he was.
Mew: "That's outrageous!"
Dave: "Nah, that's bollocks, that's bollocks, that. And that's such a weird one, that, imagine me asking you who you've shagged over the last month? Honestly, it's such a fucking pressure, man."
Justine: "Yeah, it is. But it's easier for me now because there's people around me now who aren't in the same industry and it just feels more stable and more normal, really. And I think... y'know, I guess Damon and I both bit off more than we could chew a bit. I certainly did."
How did you feel when you heard '13'?
"Um. I was a bit disappointed by it. I didn't think it was as good as what I'd heard they'd do next. Em. I've kind of long since been... anaesthetised to any personal stuff in songs because people inevitably write about what's going on around them. I didn't see it as that much of a compliment, or it didn't really affect me either way. If it had been music that affected me personally it might have felt more significant."
What's your relationship with him now?
"We're still mates. We went through a lot together and a lot of it was really fun. And we'll always be friends. Yeah. Eight years is a long time."
Mick: "Eight years, that's 58 Fall albums, isn't it (much hooting ensues)?"
Have you talked to him about his imminent fatherhood?
"Eh, yeah I have actually, and I'm really glad for him because he was dying to have a kid and I think it's brilliant he's having one 'cos I wasn't really up for it. That's how things were."
That's very gracious of you.
"I don't think it is gracious, y'know, in the end if you're with someone for that long you do just end up being mates beyond everything."
It seemed very bitter for a while.
"Really? I think Damon felt it was a convenient thing to hang his interviews on. And it's quite typical of him, to find a theme for an album and I think that just happened to be what came into his head to talk about."
That's a cynical thing to say, that it was convenient for him. That's exactly the same as Mogwai saying it was an enormous marketing ploy.
"(Shouts) Well it was! I do think it was."
Do you really?
"Yeah, I really do!"
Dave: "(To NME, appalled) Oh no, don't make such a... don't try and make something there that isn't there... there's not a scandal there..."
I thought Mogwai were being extremely cynical. But you think the same. And you truly know the man.
Justine: "I just... I don't think it's a particularly bad thing but I think that the way the press works, you always have to have an agenda to your album, 'cos that's what you need to write something, and I think Damon knows that and he's very canny and he's very wily and he's very successful and he does tend to do that and I don't think that that's such a shocking thing. I think you're very naive if you think that's shocking."
And with that a light sparks up inside Justine's coal-black eyes which, alongside a slight twitch at the corner of the mouth, seems to be threatening to explode into raucous laughter, as if to say, "You fool! You fell for it!" But she doesn't explode, she merely grins and says; "I thought it was quite... gah-lant, Mogwai sticking up for me actually (referring to Stuart Braithwaite praising the new Elastica EP in NME)! I was quite touched."
The way Damon tells it, he ripped his heart out over '13'.
Justine: "I don't think that Damon necessarily made anything up, I'm sure his words were heartfelt, but I think that there's a degree of knowingness about him talking about it to the press. Does that make sense?"
Dave: "The next album'll be about the baby."
Justine: "Exactly! It will be!"
Dave: "They'll do a cover of (John Lennon's) 'Beautiful Boy'."
Paul: "Pass me the sick bag..."
Justine: "Well, we've done it, then! Drugs, Damon, Donna!"
Justin: "The three Ds!"
Justine: "Switch it off! We're there!"
Er, are we? So are we still going to do the Really Obnoxious And Personal Questions written Q&A, then?
Justine: "No! 'Cos you've already asked them!"
I have not.
"Yes you have! Honestly, I've said a lot more than I meant to!"
Justine: "Yeah! So there you go! I like Mogwai, they're really good! Dave loves Mogwai. And Llama Farmers. And Ten Benson."
Dave: "And Mister Mushroom's Lucky Pants."
Is that real?
Dave: "Yeah, man, it's advertised in your paper!"
Mew: "It's a club night!"
Dave: "Is it? Gutted! We're always looking through NME to wind Paul up and go, 'Mister Mushroom's Lucky Pants've got a new album out!'"
You lot have become a Mister Mushroom's Lucky Pants tribute band, quite frankly.
Justine: "Would you like a 12"?"
And she hands over a 12" copy of the 'all-new' Elastica EP and stares NME directly in the eyes one last time.
"Straight," she lilts, airily, "down the Record & Tape Exchange..."