PRIMAL SCREAM guitarist Andrew Innes is ready for Galway. “When you get on stage you realise it’s all worth it,” he says. “When people are cheering you on it’s hard to beat that and you think, ‘It’s great to be in a band’.”
Tomorrow evening from 7pm, Primal Scream, innovators, great survivors, and now elder statesmen of British alternative rock, take to the stage of the Galway Arts Festival Big Top in a bill that also includes Spiritualized.
“We’re just back from touring and I’m trying to wash my clothes,” Andrew tells me with a laugh, during our Wednesday afternoon conversation. “That’s the glamourous rock’n’roll lifestyle for you. We’re looking forward to playing Galway. It should be a good day. I was talking to Jason Pierce from Spiritualized and he’s up for it as well.”
Alongside vocalist Bobby Gillespie, Andrew is the longest serving member of Primal Scream and he has featured on every album from their 1987 debut Sonic Flower Groove up to last year’s Beautiful Future.
“It’s been 25 years we’ve been together as a band, we should get a gold clock this year,” says Andrew in a tone that betrays both pride and amazement at the band’s longevity. “The band is part of what you are. You look at the old records and say ‘I was doing that back then’. It’s a document of your life.”
Primal Scream was founded in 1982 by Gillespie as a side project to his main duties as drummer for the Jesus and Mary Chain. He appeared on their lauded 1985 album Psychocandy before quitting to commit himself full-time to the Scream in 1986.
Gillespie recruited Andrew, an old friend he had known since they were teenagers in Glasgow in the 1970s, as rhythm guitarist. In the late 1970s, Glasgow, like many other cities in Britain (and Ireland ), was a harsh place to grow up. The economy was stagnant, unemployment was high, there was the three day week and industrial unrest, and Thatcher loomed on the horizon.
This was the ‘No Future’ the Sex Pistols sang about and the only forms of escape were football and music. Andrew - like Gillespie - is a follower of Glasgow Celtic FC (“There’s Irish on my mother’s side,” he says. “The Irish are everywhere.” ) but music - more specifically punk - gave the young Glaswegian hope for the future.
“There was nothing to do in Glasgow but I was obsessed with music, still am,” says Andrew. “You bought these seven inch singles and they were like things of magic. There were a couple of record shops in Glasgow and I used to go to Brucie’s, he later became manager of Simple Minds. He would let people stand around and listen to the new LPs and singles and it was a fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon. It was like a youth club.
“When you see the history of punk now on the TV everybody claims to have been into it but nobody was into it back then. You’d go to gigs and people would actually try to bar you from getting in. It was exciting and you didn’t know what was going to happen.
“I know people who went to those gigs as well and they are still involved in the arts and music. They were outsiders and didn’t fit into normal growing up. Punk changed their lives. It had that ‘Do it yourself’ attitude. The Buzzcocks made their own records and that was the first indie music.”
Inspired by the spirit of punk and a love of 1960s psychedelic rock, Primal Scream set out to conquer the world. They signed to Warner Brothers and in 1987 released the Byrds/1960s jangle rock orientated Sonic Flower Groove.
The album was not particularly successful and the band were dropped. They then turned to their old friend Alan McGee of Creation Records, who had also grown up in Glasgow and was inspired by the punk ‘Do it yourself’ ethos, and released the much stronger, more hard rock/alternative rock Primal Scream in 1989.
That same period also saw the rise of acid house and the Scream were suitably impressed. “We have always been into acid house,” says Andrew. “We were going to the clubs in London in 1988 and 1989. It was a magical feeling. Everyone there was friendly and against the Tories and giving two fingers up at them, saying ‘We’re going to have a good time anyway’.”
This new music would put the Scream on a course that would provide their commercial breakthrough and more importantly, allow them create one of the most important albums of the last 20 years - 1991’s Screamadelica.
Together with the dance/techno DJ and producer Andrew Weatherall, what the Scream created on Screamadelica was an overwhelming, extraordinary, and courageous exploration of dance, techno, house, and trance that somehow managed to keep its rock roots. The album turned rock fans onto the possibilities of dance and showed that guitar rock was not about to be overwhelmed by the new dance scene.
“Andrew Weatherall [dance/techno DJ and producer] came to review us for Melody Maker and we thought he was a total dance head,” recalls Andrew, “but he really likes Thin Lizzy and T Rex so we became instant soul mates, and have been ever since.”
The band asked Weatherall to remix some tracks. Weatherall set to work on ‘I’m Losing More Than I’ll Ever Have’, the stand-out track from Primal Scream. Its horn section formed the basis of ‘Loaded’, the band’s first major hit single and a taster for their new album Screamadelica.
“His first go at ‘Loaded’ was quite normal. We said ‘We want you to mess it up’. He did it again and it was great,” recalls Andrew. “A lot of what propelled us towards Screamadelica were samplers. You didn’t have to write songs on guitar. You could sample a bit of James Brown and add all these dreamy sounds and all these musical colours would just explode.”
The impact of the album, the rise in the band’s profile, and the pressure of coming up with anything to match it took its toll and the early to mid 1990s saw the band struggle with drugs.
“We’ve done our share,” sighs Andrew. “You couldn’t have made Screamadelica without the influence of Ecstasy but when you get more interested in the drugs than the music - and the drugs do take over eventually - it’s time to stop. I’d rather be a musician than a drug addict any day.”
In 1996 the band received a new lease of life when former Stone Roses bassist Mani joined. Over the next few years the Scream delivered three of their best albums - Vanishing Point (1997 ), Xtrmntr (2000 ), and Evil Heat (2002 ).
The album’s combined the band’s love of classic rock and techno/dance to stunning effect and returned Primal Scream to public and critical favour. Many credited Mani with injecting fresh life into the group and Andrew does not disagree.
“Mani’s a force of nature,” says Andrew. “We were in a bad way and down at the time but he lights up any room and he lit up our band. He’s a rock’n’roll star.”
With the aforementioned ‘experimental trilogy’, 2006’s Riot City Blues, and last year’s very fine Beautiful Future, the Scream showed they were still very relevant and they can now be considered elder statesmen of British alternative rock.
“I hope we’re still relevant,” says Andrew modestly. “What do people like best about our band? You should ask Noel Gallagher about that. He has a very good line about what people like about our group. I wish he had been our manager. I’d be living in a big house in the country now!”
For tickets contact the festival box office, Merchants Road, 091 - 566577. Tickets are also available through www.galwayartsfestival.com