web the site

Hosted by...


Elastica interview by Adam Walton
(The Musical Mistery Tour) By Adam Walton.

ELASTICA
Recorded in 2000 prior to the release of 'The Menace' with Justine (guitar + vox) and Mew (keyboards)

EVENING, WELCOME TO THE PROGRAM.

BOTH:

Hi ya!

WAS THERE EVER A POINT, JUSTINE, WHERE YOU THOUGHT THE SECOND ALBUM WAS NEVER GOING TO COME OUT?

JUSTINE:

Yeah, there was actually, during '97. Donna and I decided that we were no longer going to make music together and I basically had a year of writing and recording in my basement... not doing stuff that I thought was going to be for Elastica. It wasn't until late '98, when I bumped into Annie and she said she was gagging to do some stuff, and met up with Paul who I had seen playing with Linoleum and thought was a fantastic guitarist, and then met Mew, and we decided that we had nothing to lose so we went in to do some rehearsals and it worked really quickly.

ARE ANY OF THE SONGS THAT YOU WROTE IN YOUR BASEMENT, NOT INTENDING FOR THEM TO BE FOR ELASTICA, ON THE MENACE?

JUSTINE:

Yeah, they are. 'My Sex' is one of those songs, and 'Miami' is the other one.

AND THEY'RE PROBABLY SONGS THAT HAVE BENEFITED FROM THE FACT THAT YOU WROTE THEM WHEN YOU WEREN'T NECESSARILY THINKING ABOUT AN ALBUM.

JUSTINE:

It was really healthy for me, it was kind of like therapy. I was just writing because I wanted to, not because I needed to.

MEW:

There was no pressure, was there?

JUSTINE:

I think that it was really important for me to feel like the pressure was off and take a step back from everything, and remember why I had got into music in the first place.

MEW, YOU MUST BE RELIEVED THAT THIS ALBUM IS ALREADY A BIG STORY, WHAT WITH IT HAVING TAKEN FIVE YEARS TO APPEAR... IT DEFLECTS SOME OF THE ATTENTION AWAY FROM YOU'RE JOINING OF THE GROUP.

MEW:

Erm... yes, I suppose it has to a certain degree. I didn't really feel any pressure at all, the only time I have felt under pressure was when we played Reading because that was such a huge crowd of fans, I was worried about whether they would accept me or not... because it looks quite different visually as well. I haven't really felt that pressured, to be honest with you.

ONCE YOU'VE GONE THROUGH A BAPTISM OF FIRE LIKE THAT, YOU PROBABLY FEEL LIKE YOU CAN DO ANYTHING, DON'T YOU?

MEW:

Oh, I don't know about that! (laughs) But yeah, it was a complete baptism of fire. I loved doing it, though.

JUSTINE:

She took to it like a duck to water.

WHAT ABOUT JOINING A BAND IN THAT SITUATION, WERE YOU EVER WORRIED THAT YOU WOULD DISAPPEAR INTO A MUSICAL BERMUDA TRIANGLE AND NEVER BE SEEN AGAIN?

MEW:

What, because they hadn't put a record out for a while?

YES!

MEW:

I think I probably thought the complete opposite of that, really. I mean, I was in a band before and we didn'thave any recognition so being asked to join a band like Elastica made me think the complete opposite really.

IT HAD TO BE A GOOD THING. ONE OF THE THINGS I REALLY ADMIRED ABOUT 'THE COMEBACK' WAS THE AUDACITY IN RELEASING 'HOW HE WROTE ELASTICA MAN', HAVING MARK E SMITH SINGING ON THE LEAD SONG, WHICH SIDE-STEPPED AN AWFUL LOT OF THE SOAP OPERA THAT HAD BUILT UP IN THE PRESS AROUND THE BAND, WAS THAT THE INTENTION?

JUSTINE:

Yeah, I think we felt like it was really important to stick something out and break the deadlock and we'd done this track with Mark and I thought it was cool. I didn't want to put anything out that was referring in any way, or intended to be an answer, to '13' (Justine's ex-partner Damon Albarn's 'Blur' album that was supposedly influenced by the demise of their relationship). It was just important psychologically for us to put something out.

HAS THERE EVER BEEN A CASE, DOING SOMETHING LIKE THIS INTERVIEW, WHERE YOU ALMOST FELT AS THOUGH YOU NEEDED A NOTE FROM YOUR PARENTS TO JUSTIFY THE BAND'S ABSENCE?

JUSTINE:

(laughs) Yeah! The dog ate the LP! I tried that one, but no-one bought it!

DID YOU INTENTIONALLY KICK THE ALBUM OFF WITH 'MAD DOG' BECAUSE IT'S THE TRACK THAT IS MOST REMINISCENT OF THE DEBUT ALBUM?

JUSTINE:

I think that Mad Dog was my first little foray into programming, my first experience of Cubase. I think that Mad Dog, Generator and Your Arse My Place are all more Elastica Mk 1 stylee!

AND THIS IS GOING TO BE THE NEXT SINGLE, ISN'T IT?

JUSTINE:

Yeah, it's going to be released May or June time.

I LIKE THE LITTLE BIT OF THE STRANGLER'S 'NICE AND SLEAZY' ON THE BASS LINE... WAS THAT AN INTENTIONAL TWO-FINGERED SALUTE TO THOSE CRITICS WHO HAD HARPED ON ABOUT 'WAKING UP' AND ITS SIMILARITY TO 'NO MORE HEROES'?

JUSTINE:

Yeah, well we like putting two fingers up!

IF ANYTHING, I THINK THAT THIS ALBUM SOUNDS EVEN MORE IMMEDIATE AND ORGANIC THAT ITS PREDECESSOR, AND THAT ASTONISHES ME BECAUSE OF THE AMOUNT OF TIME IT HAS TAKEN TO COME OUT, WAS THAT THE INTENTION? MAKE IT SOUND LO-FI AND SCUZZED UP?

JUSTINE:

Well, actually what happened was we decided to put the EP out, which was demos and stuff, and we played Reading and I just thought that the new material was sounding a lot better live than it had done on tape, and also it had been a long slow process recording previously with Donna and stuff, so we decided to go back into the studio and re-record the whole thing in 6 weeks and actually record the stuff that we'd been writing with the new band as well. I think that the reason that it sounds live, is that most of it is live! There's hardly any overdubs on it, the whole thing was done really quickly with the whole band in one room playing together.

THERE IS A COMPARISON, PERHAPS, TO BE DRAWN WITH THE OASIS ALBUM (standing on the shoulder of giants) BECAUSE THEY INTRODUCED TWO NEW MEMBERS WHO NEVER REALLY GOT TO BE INVOLVED ON THE ALBUM... AND YET BECAUSE OF THE WAY 'THE MENACE' HAS EVOLVED, IT HAS A LOT OF MEW ON IT, THERE'S A LOT OF PAUL. THAT MUST HAVE BEEN GOOD FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW, MEW, TO JOIN THE BAND AND HAVE WHAT YOU WERE DOING ACCEPTED IMMEDIATELY.

MEW:

Yeah, it was a relief. It was nice. I don't mind singing the songs that Donna wrote because they're really good, I don't find that weird... it's fine.

AND BECAUSE THERE'S BITS OF YOU ON THIS RECORD IT GIVES YOU A BRIDGING POINT TO CONTRIBUTE MORE FOR THE NEXT RECORD.

MEW:

Yeah.

JUSTINE:

I actually thought it was really important for us to put an album out that was played on by the current band, that was another reason for going in and re-recording the record.

SO THE NOTION OF THE BAND IS STILL REALLY IMPORTANT TO YOU, EVEN AFTER YOU'VE BEEN THROUGH SO MANY DIFFERENT EVOLUTIONS OF THE LINE-UP IN THE LAST FIVE OR SIX YEARS?

JUSTINE:

Yeah, I think that I was very lucky because I think that the chemistry in the band is really, really good and that's something that you just can't fake. It's either there or it isn't... but it took a while to find just the right people.

IS THAT ONE OF THE REASONS WHY IT TOOK A WHILE?

JUSTINE:

It's one of the reasons... we went on a hell of a long tour after the first album. I think the first album was just a lot bigger than we could possible have ever imagined at the beginning. We were on tour for nearly two years and we got back in '96, pretty exhausted, and people we're basically saying to us 'Where's the new album?' and we hadn't started it because we'd just got back from tour. Our bass player, at that point had left, and we'd had to get Sheila Chipperfield in, went into the studio and just didn't feel like anything we were coming out with had that spark to it. As a result we decided to break the band up, I took a year out just writing in the basement and just took a step back and I think it was really important to do that.

HAVING NEW MEMBERS IN THE BAND MUST HAVE HELPED BLOW AWAY SOME OF THE CYNICAL COBWEBS THAT HAD MAYBE GROWN IN YOUR MIND IN THE INTERIM?

JUSTINE:

I think that sometimes it's really important to take that step back if things aren't going that well in your life. Just be honest about everything... OK, this isn't working, just stop it. It isn't the end of the world, it's better than carrying on with something that isn't working... which is something that basically drains you of energy. Once I'd made that decision that the band was no more it was basically up hill from there.  I think that it reminded me of why I'd got into the band in the first place.

THERE'S EVIDENCE OF THAT ALL OVER THE ALBUM, ESPECIALLY ON A TRACK LIKE 'YOU'RE ARSE, MY PLACE' WHICH SOUNDS LIKE A BAND THAT'S GOT ALL OF THE ENTHUSIASM OF HAVING JUST GOT TOGETHER. IT'S GOT THAT SCUZZINESS AND HUNGER!

JUSTINE:

Scuzzy, we like that!

ALSO, MORE SO THAN ANY BRITISH RECORD THAT IMMEDIATELY SPRINGS TO MIND, IT HAS A HUGE AMERICAN, ROCK 'N' ROLL INFLUENCE... 'YOUR ARSE', 'kB' AND 'LOVE LIKE OURS' SEEM TO SHARE SOME OF THE SAME HERITAGE AS THE LIKES OF THE JOHN SPENSER BLUES EXPLOSION... EVEN CHUCK BERRY... WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT MAKING THE RECORD?

JUSTINE:

Not really! (all laugh) I think that 'Your Arse, My Place' is probably the first song that I've written where I've let myself go into the 12 Bar Blues area, so maybe that is kind of what you're picking up on.

MEW:

It was the whole band as well, though, wasn't it?

JUSTINE:

We just kind of jammed it out.

MEW:

Annie started playing a riff and we all joined in.

JUSTINE:

And me and Mew just decided to sit down and make up some lyrics. Basically making up some stuff that we thought would make the rest of the band laugh, which is always a good starting point!

IS YOUR PRESENCE IN THE BAND, MEW, FUNDAMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE MORE KEYBOARD DRIVEN SIDE TO THE SOUND?

MEW:

I think that the band were heading that way before I joined anyway, because they had Dave Bush from the Fall. So I think that a lot of it had to do with him, so we worked together and I think we ended up complimenting each other too.

FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW, JUSTINE, THE ADDITION OF MEW AND PAUL TO THE LINE-UP MUST HAVE OPENED UP NEW CREATIVE VISTAS FOR YOU?

JUSTINE:

Yes, definitely. Having Mew's energy is a really cool creative input. Also, Paul is the most fantastic guitarist, he plays in a completely different way to anyone else I've ever seen. I saw him play with 'Linoleum' and I just stood there with my mouth on the floor, I've never seen anyone who played the guitar like that. He's an incredibly spiky player and that's been really inspiring.

MEW:

Especially live, because Paul will all of a sudden start playing stuff that I've never heard before! And you'll look over and think, 'Cor! that's absolutely amazing what he's doing!' It doesn't even sound like a guitar half the time.

THAT MUST BE INSPIRING BECAUSE IT STOPS YOU FROM SOUNDING CLICHED, OR AT LEAST YOU CAN APPROACH CLICHES AND GIVE THEM A LICK OF NEW PAINT!

JUSTINE:

Yeah, I mean, normally guitar solos make me run screaming from a building but I think Paul can get away with it because they're like guitar solos that you've never heard before!

DID YOU INTENTIONALLY STICK MORE ELECTRONICA ON THE ALBUM TO MAKE IT SOUND MORE 21st CENTURY?

JUSTINE:

I think that it's just a natural process of evolving. You've got the guitar, you do some songs with guitars, then you want to get hold of some keyboards! I think having Dave in the bad as well really helped. I was really into the Fall album 'Code Selfish' and looked up who had done the programming on that, saw Dave Bush's name and headhunted him. I think that it was of an organic thing, really, rather than a conscientious decision.

TELL US ABOUT THE TRACK 'MY SEX'.

JUSTINE:

'My Sex' was written in the time when I was thinking that Elastica wouldn't continue and I was just writing more for therapy than anything with my flatmate Loz Hardy (Kingmaker). We were doing stuff in my basement, as I mentioned earlier, and that track is from that period. It was done on an 8 track machine and it's a very personal song and I might have to leave the room when you play it.

IT'S AN ASTONISHINGLY INTIMATE POINT ON THE RECORD, AND THE POINT WHEN YOU CAN HEAR ANYONE'S PRECONCEPTIONS ABOUT 'ELASTICA' JUST FALLING APART BECAUSE IT'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT TO WHAT YOU'VE DONE BEFORE.

JUSTINE:

And I think that it was just important for me to be making music and not really writing for any reason in particular. In a way that song was never meant to see the light of day, but people around me heard it and really liked it and persuaded me to stick it on the record.

MEW:

It's one of my favourites.

AND YET WHEN YOU STICK SOMETHING LIKE THAT ON A RECORD YOU HAVE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE ASKING YOU ABOUT PERSONAL PARTS OF YOUR LIFE THAT YOU PROBABLY DON'T WANT TO BE TALKING ABOUT... HOW EASY HAS IT BEEN TO DEAL WITH THAT?

JUSTINE:

I think that it's always difficult making your private life public. It is something I avoid really... I don't usually write personal lyrics, but I think 'My Sex' is written more as a therapy. It wasn't really written for anyone else to hear.

BECAUSE YOU'RE WRITTEN IT THAT HONESTLY IT GIVES IT AN EMOTIONAL INTEGRITY WHICH PROBABLY EXPLAINS WHY IT IS SO AFFECTING.

JUSTINE:

It's very difficult to explain, and I do geniunely find it hard to be in a room with anyone else when I hear that song. I'll just pop out...

THE LIMELIGHT IS A NECESSARY EVIL, A BY-PRODUCT OF WHAT YOU DO... FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW MEW DOES JUSTINE GIVE YOU GOOD ADVICE AS TO HOW TO DEAL WITH THIS 'MAD' WORLD THAT YOU'VE ENTERED?

MEW:

She definitely does. She's had so much experience of dealing with things in the public eye.

JUSTINE:

Just run screaming, that's what I say! (laughs)

SO HAS IT BEEN INTIMIDATING FOR YOU, OR HAVE YOU ENJOYED EVERY ASPECT OF YOUR IMMERSION INTO ELASTICA'S WORLD?

MEW:

It's not been intimidating... not really, no... I'm just enjoying hanging round with my mates and, you know... the album is really brilliant, doing the shows has been really cool, and we've been having a really good time. It is just like being in a gang. I haven't found any part of it intimidating... yet! I'm sure there will be little things in the future.

A LOT OF THE TIME, WHEN A BAND COMEBACK WITH THEIR SECOND ALBUM, THAT HORRENDOUS WORD 'MATURITY' GETS BANDIED ABOUT... BUT I THINK THAT 'NOTHING STAYS THE SAME' FROM THE ALBUM IS MATURE FOR THE RIGHT REASONS... IT'S KIND OF CYNICAL, BUT EMBRACES CHANGE AT THE SAME TIME... WHICH IS POIGNANT BECAUSE OF THE AMOUNT OF CHANGES THAT ELASTICA HAVE BEEN THROUGH.

JUSTINE:

Nothing Stays the Same was actually written by Donna. I just think it's a really brilliant song that sums up lyrically a lot of what we were going through. We tried to keep the recording really simple and true to the demo... a little bit Velvets, a bit of Phil Spector.

DO YOU FIND IT WEIRD WHEN PEOPLE BUILD UP THEIR OWN INTERPRETATIONS OF THE SONGS THAT MIGHT BE AT ODDS WITH WHAT YOU WERE THINKING ABOUT WHEN YOU WROTE THEM?

MEW:

Everyone's going to do that anyway. Everyone gets their own ideas from different songs, they can make of them what they will.

I SUPPOSE THAT IT WOULD BE MORE GALLING IF THEY DIDN'T!

JUSTINE:

Totally, yeah... it would mean that you'd failed to capture their interest.

I KNOW DONNA ISN'T HERE TO EXPLAIN IT, BUT ANOTHER REASON THAT I LOVE THIS SONG IS ITS INHERENT SIMPLICITY, AND IT WOULD SEEM THAT THIS ALBUM EMBRACES THE PRINCIPALS OF MINIMALISM AND SIMPLICITY.

JUSTINE:

I would definitely agree that the best songs tend to be the most simple ones. I think that it's easy to over complicate the issue and that is probably something that we did when we went on our foray! But now we've kind of dragged it back down to basics in that six weeks when we re-recorded and I'm really pleased that we did that.

THE DEBUT ALBUM WAS NUMBER ONE, A HUGE SUCCESS, EVER GENRE-DEFINING... BUT 'THE MENACE' IS ALMOST ITS ANTITHESIS... SOMETHING THAT PURPOSEFULLY AVOIDS THE LURE OF COMMERCIAL SUCCESS...

JUSTINE:

I don't think we ever planned it either way. It was always going to be more of an organic process. Really, if you worry too much about what you should be doing you find that you can't do anything at all. I think that there was a naivete with the first album that maybe made it more commercial. At the time, though, the success of that came as a surprise too... we couldn't believe that as may people were into it as there were.

I CAN SEE THIS ALBUM FULFILLING A SIMILAR KIND OF ROLE BECAUSE JUST AS 'ELASTICA' FILLED A VOID AT THE TIME OF ITS RELEASE, SO SHOULD 'THE MENACE'... IT'S NOT AS THOUGH ANYONE ELSE IS DOING THIS KIND OF THING! AND EVEN THOUGH IT DOESN'T HAVE TOO MANY 'RADIO FRIENDLY' MOMENTS, THE SCENE WILL TRANSCEND THAT SOON BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY RADIO FRIENDLY BANDS AROUND ALREADY!

JUSTINE:

I agree. I think it's a weird time at the moment, and a lot to react against. I think that we've always done our own thing, whether or not that's fashionable. I think that it's a good feeling to have stuff out there to react against, and feeling that you want to chuck the telly out the window when you see Top of the Pops. What we're doing is probably a lot quirkier and odder than most of the guitar music out there, but, again, you can't change a scene unless you put a record out... so hopefully that will help!

IT'S NOT COOL TO WANT SUCCESS, THOUGH, IS IT? FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW MEW, DO YOU HAVE ASPIRATIONS TO SELL SHIT LOADS OF RECORDS AND TRAVEL THE WORLD IN CONCORDE?

MEW:

I'm definitely looking forward to travelling and seeing the world. As long as people get it and they enjoy it like I enjoy it, and we keep on having a good time... that's the main thing.

JUSTINE:

I think that that's a really important point. With commercial success it does stop being your thing, more and more people get involved and have opinions on what you're doing and that can be quite a dangerous thing.

MEW:

Especially with this band.

JUSTINE:

Yeah, and I think that in many ways that is what stopped it from being fun the first time round. If anything, I hope that we're allowed to exist in a more underground way with this record.