Q Magazine

Jim Reid on the New Jesus and Mary Chain Album, Being Traumatized by Lollapalooza, and an Unfortunate Iggy Pop Incident

'I mean, William and I still scream at each other sometimes. We're brothers, for f--k's sake! It's bound to happen.'

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Source: Mel Butler

Jim and William Reid: The Jesus and Mary Chain - Now with 100% less infighting!

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The history of rock and roll is filled with many instances of sibling squabbling, from the Everly Brothers to the Davies brothers in the Kinks to the Gallagher brothers in Oasis. While we're not going to make an attempt at listing off the whole lot of qualifying musical partnerships, it's only appropriate for this piece to make note of Jim and William Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain, who've certainly had a few moments over the years where things got more than a little bit tense between them. The worst of it, arguably, came in 1999, when the band broke up, and it wouldn't have surprised anyone if they'd never gotten back together. Thankfully, the Reids reunited in 2007, and while they still have their occasional moments of awkwardness between them, as brothers often do, it's the music that comes first...or at the very least, it's the music that helps keep them on good terms.

Reunited though they may have been, however, it's been awhile since Mary Chain have released a new album, having been silent on that front since 2017's Damage and Joy. In late 2023, however, the Reids announced the impending arrival of their latest studio LP, Glasgow Eyes, and after teasing it with a few singles, it's finally now sitting on record store shelves and available for streaming. While William Reid remains the brother least likely to get on a phone call with a journalist, Jim Reid was kind enough to hop on a Zoom call with Q, during which he discussed the new album, the current state of his relationship with William, the long-lasting effects of having played Lollapalooza in '92, and how an encounter with Iggy Pop went wrong over the initial absence of a soundcheck.

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Source: Fuzz Club

I'm so glad that you and your brother are still together and working together on this new album.

Yeah, here are are again!

So what was the process of you guys getting back together for this one? Was it just a case of, "Well, as long as the wounds are healed, we might well do another one"?

Well, we'd been back together since 2007...but you're asking about how we got back together for this record specifically. We'd been touring over the last couple of years, so it's not like we've really "gotten back together," as such. And the album has been on the back burner now for a couple of years. We started recording it just before COVID kicked in, so it got kinda shelved because of COVID, like everything else did. Then after the COVID hysteria, we seemed to find that we were on the road a lot. And then eventually Fuzz Club said, "You owe us a record." Because we'd already done this deal. So we got back into the studio and got on with it!

As far as writing the material nowadays, do you two still have the same writing regimen? Do you have to set aside time to write songs?

No, we don't force it. It just comes whether it comes. And if takes a couple of years to get an album together, then that's just the way it has to be. I mean, the good thing is, these days we don't really have... [Hesitates.] In the '80s and '90s, it was, like, the record company constantly with a cattle prod behind you: "Do this, do that, jump high, jump through hoops," whatever. Now it's just we do whatever the hell we want, when we want to do it. So it's a much better way to be in a band, if I'm being honest.

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I was going to ask if it was more satisfying going the indie route rather than the major label.

To me, it doesn't really matter. As long as you get treated with respect, whoever you find yourself in front of. A lot of the times with Warner Brothers Records, I wouldn't say there was mutual respect there. I mean, we had our difficulties. So, yeah, Fuzz Club so far seems pretty good.

How did you guys find them? Or did they find you?

I can't remember how it all came about! We've got a manager, a guy named David McBride, and he was just out shopping the band about, and...I don't remember whether they contacted us first or we contacted them first. But, I mean, it happened. That's all that counts. [Laughs.]

As you said, you and your brother mended fences back in 2007. Is the relationship still as strong now that you're back in the saddle again?

I mean, I'd be lying if I said it was all a bed of roses. I mean, we still scream at each other sometimes. We're brothers, for f--k's sake! It's bound to happen. We still shout, we still have arguments, but it's not quite as insane as it was in the late '90s. In the late '90s, we argued all the time. About anything and everything. Until it got to the point where we just couldn't be around each other anymore. So, no, it's nowhere near that bad. It's acceptable. It's a relationship where working is doable now, whereas you go back, like, 20 years, it was just unbearable.

With this new album, it's very reminiscent of older material, which is wonderful. In fact, the new single, "Girl 71," is a great blend of fuzz and jangle, which is the perfect Jesus and Mary Chain song, I think.

[Laughs.] That sounds good, yeah!

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Over the years, you've occasionally cleaned up the sound more than the way things were originally. Was that just a matter of musical evolution?

It was just a matter of... Well, yeah, it was, but it was just a matter of, if you find yourself in the studio and you've got a record to make, we learned quite early on with the Mary Chain that you shouldn't force a record to be what it doesn't want to be. We tried to make an acoustic album once, and it just wasn't... You know, you're sitting there with all of the acoustic guitars, and you want to get an amp out, but you're thinking, "Ah, but this is the acoustic record!" And then we just thought, "Well, f--k that for a game of soldiers! Let's just make a record! It's a record!" And that's the way we always treat it.

We try not to... We go in with songs, but we try not to go in with too much of a finished product in mind, and there's two reasons for that: one, you can never get what you've got in here. [Taps head.] It never comes out that way, so you have to accept it. A record should be allowed to just take its own direction anyway. It sounds weird to say it that way, but that's the way it worked. You go in, and you try things out, and it's almost like the record's another presence in the studio. And it kind of suggest things, or you try things out and immediately you think, "That's never gonna work," or immediately, "Yeah, that is gonna work!" So you just let it organically grow the way it's meant to.

When you look at your back catalog, is there an album that worked better than you expected it to work? Or one that surprised you?

[Laughs.] Well, no, because if they didn't work, we just simply would've shelved them and started again. I mean, we have had a couple of aborted attempts at making albums in the past. When you're not feeling it and it's not coming together, what you do is, you pack up and go home and come back in six months, y'know? And we've done that. We've done that in the past. You'll be doing an album, and you just think, "We could continue with this, there'll be a record at the end of it, but it's just not gonna be as good as we'd like it to be, so...let's just come back when the mood is right." So, no, there's none that took us by surprise, because of that very reason. We didn't keep running with the ones that weren't gonna make it at that time. I mean, it would've been the same record, the same songs, but it would've sounded entirely different.

Was there one, then, that went in a direction that you didn't expect?

No, I mean, they all ended up being what we had expected to a degree.

To go way, way back to get the answer to a question I've never known the answer to, what inspired you guys to do a cover of an unreleased Pink Floyd song as the B-side of your first single?

Because we were - and still are - massive Syd Barrett fans. In fact, I was just looking on YouTube just before this interview, and I was watching the video for "Jugband Blues." There's an old '60s clip with Syd in it, with Floyd singing a version of the song. It's great! So, yeah, we're massive Syd fans, and we heard some scratchy old bootleg of ("Vegetable Man") and thought, "Wow, it's a great song! We've got to do it!" And I wish we wouldn't've, 'cause our version of it is pretty bloody awful, I think! [Laughs.] But our heart was in it. It's just that we weren't that good of musicians at that time, so it kind of came out a bit...a bit sort of punk rock.

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Were you surprised when Bobby Gillespie went on to such huge fame after working with the Mary Chain?

Absolutely not! I mean, Bobby has had his ups and downs in music, and I remember doing interviews when [Primal Scream] were down on their luck for awhile, and I remember telling everybody that would listen, "They're gonna be back, and they're gonna be bigger than ever! You should shut the f--k up about it!" Because a lot of people seemed to enjoy that he was down on his luck for awhile. And I said to everybody, "They're gonna be back! You mark my words: they will be back." And here they are!

What do you recall about the experience of doing Lollapalooza '92? I actually saw the show in Charlotte, North Carolina.

[Groans slightly.] Well, you probably know, then. It wasn't... Again it's sort of like with the albums: it's about timing and stuff. That wasn't the right time for us to be doing Lollapalooza. A few years later we would've got it, and we would've just accepted it. But at that time, we had it in mind how it was all gonna go down, and then we thought, "Daylight? Do we really want to play in daylight?" But we thought, "Ah, f--k it, it'll be all right!" And we got there, and...it felt like standing on stage naked. That's what it felt like. And it was just, like, 'F--k, why did we agree to do this?" And we tried to get out of it! [Laughs.] We went to the promoter and said, "We don't like this. Can we go home?" And they were, like, "Yeah, you can go home! But first of all you're gonna have to give me two millions dollars!" And we were, like, "Okay, we'll just stay, then. We'll just stay." And that was it: we just stayed. And we made the best of it, and... Y'know, we just didn't enjoy it.

That was it. We didn't enjoy it, and it felt to us like the audience weren't into what we were doing. It was right in the middle of the grunge thing, and everybody just wanted to see Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and the [Red Hot] Chili Peppers. They weren't interested in bands like the Mary Chain or Lush. So it was a tough one for us to do. But a couple of years later, playing big festivals, kind of getting used to the idea that you're playing outdoors, you realize that maybe everybody's not your fan out there, and you kind of understand. It clicks. You think, "Oh, f--k, that's how we should've gone into Lollapalooza, with that attitude of, 'Eh, what the f--k, just play the songs." Instead, we were like rabbits caught in headlights. It was just traumatic for us. To be honest, I'm not even sure why it was so traumatic. But it was.

By coincidence, I've just talked with Miki Berenyi from Lush.

Ah, yeah! She's sang with us a couple of times in recent years, actually. And Emma of Lush just sang "Just Like Honey' with us a couple of months ago.

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Source: Will Harris

The Jesus and Mary Chain perform at Lollapalooza in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1992.

Given how huge your back catalog is at this point, when it comes to doing set lists, do you feel like you're obliged to do the chart hits? Or do you try and mix it up with occasional deep cuts?

Well, we do some songs from each album, and some of them are more obvious than others. When I go and see another band, if they start doing really obscure B-sides and stuff like that, or the new album in its entirety, I don't like it. So I know what it feels like to be out there. So we give them what they want. We give them a good mix of Mary Chain songs. And on the coming tour, there will be songs from every album...and that includes Glasgow Eyes. It's not gonna be all the album. It's probably only gonna be a handful of songs from it. But I think if you're a Mary Chain fan - and I'm assuming if you're standing in front of us, you will be - I think you'll enjoy the show.

I've got a couple of stock questions I like to ask everyone. Do you remember the first time you met someone where you had to fight to keep from going full fanboy?

Oh, that's a weird one with me, because it's probably Iggy Pop, but...we played a gig with him. It's quite a well-known story, actually, but we played a gig with Iggy Pop in the '80s, and his crew just treated us like absolute dirt, y'know? And it was a co-headlining thing! And I honestly believe the Mary Chain were selling as many tickets as Iggy. And we weren't gonna get a soundcheck and all of that. They said, "You're not gonna soundcheck. There's not enough time." Now, Iggy had just stood on stage and run through every song he's ever recorded for about four hours...and there's not enough time for the Mary Chain to take a 10-minute soundcheck? [Laughs.]

So I'm sort of like, "F--k, there's Iggy Pop. Whoa, Iggy Pop!" But then I'm thinking, "Why are we being treated like this?" So in the end, this idiot tour manager for Iggy, they sent Iggy into our dressing room, thinking, "Oh, as soon as Iggy goes in, they'll just go, 'Ooh, yes, yes, Iggy!'" And Iggy said... [Croaking.] "Hey, you guys, is there anything I can get you?" And I said, "How about a soundcheck?" [Laughs.] And he just went, "F--k you! I was really looking forward to meeting you guys!" And he stormed out. And that was it. That was my meeting with Iggy Pop!

Now, eventually, we did get our soundcheck. They came and said, "You can do five minutes." So we went out and did one song, and that was it. And then we went onstage that night...and I trashed Iggy Pop's backline. I chucked all of the monitors off the stage. Like, flattened 'em. And our tour manager came up and said, "Look!" And he had the side doors open at the stage. He said, "You'd better run out of those doors, where there's a van waiting for you, 'cause these guys are gonna kill you!" So that's what we did...and then we had another two gigs to play with them! [Laughs.] Rock 'n' roll, man...

When you look through the Mary Chain back catalog, is there an album that you'd say was underrated or didn't get as many people listening to it as you'd hoped would?

Oh, that one's easy: Munki. Munki came out... Just everything was going wrong for the band at that time. The music didn't suffer, that's the weird thing. I think it's as good as any other Mary Chain record. Better than some. But at the time, me and William wanted to kill each other. We hated each other. We couldn't be in the same room as each other. And then you've still got grunge going on in America, and you've got Britpop going on in the UK. Nobody was interested in the Mary Chain! We couldn't... Y'know, like, the whole Britpop thing, half of those bands couldn't have been anywhere without the Mary Chain paving the way! But for whatever reason, we were not included in that scene. Nobody was waiting for a new Mary Chain record. And we wanted to destroy each other. So...it was not a good time.

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How was Creation as a label at that point? Because I know that was after the Blanco y Negro era.

I mean, Creation at the beginning and Creation that we came back to with Munki was two totally different things. We didn't really deal with many people that actually worked for Creation. Because Creation at that time had sold out to Sony Records, so we were doing all of our dealings with the guys at Sony, who just didn't give a s--t about the Mary Chain. They were just, like, "Mm-hmm. Right, Mary Chain who? What do you do again?" So they put it out, and they did next to nothing to promote it. So it just died a death.

The early days of Creation must've been quite an experience, just in general.

Well, it was pretty chaotic right about then. [Laughs.] None of us knew what we were doing. [Alan] McGee was running it out of his back bedroom. He just had, like, boxes of records in a spare room and his bedroom. And it was just like playing gigs in rooms above pubs and stuff like that. But it was fantastic, y'know? It was all very exciting.

Is there a particularly chaotic gig from the early days that stands out?

Well, there was quite a few where there were riots. I mean, the audience were literally tearing the house down, but there were two gigs where it was actual riots. Really, people were going bananas. And then it became the thing to come to a Mary Chain show with a baseball bat, y'know? There was extreme violence at some of those early gigs, and it got totally out of control. And it was nothing to do with us. I mean, I don't know how it all came about, but...I guess the sound of the guitars? The violence of the sound maybe suggested actual violence? I don't know.

Conversely, how surreal was it for the band to make an appearance on Top of the Pops?

Well, we sort of grew up watching Top of the Pops. I'm sure British people must tell you what it means in Britain. We grew up watching David Bowie, Marc Bolan, later on punk bands, all on Top of the Pops. And you think, "Wow, that's it! One day I'll be on Top of the Pops!" And then you find that you're there...and, of course, you're totally nervous as hell. We all just got incredibly drunk...and we were never asked back again. [Laughs.] That was it. One Top of the Pops performance, and they wouldn't have anything to do with us after that!

Would you say that was the most memorable proper pop star moment for the band?

It was definitely up there!

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Lastly, for someone who's heard the name of the band over the years but doesn't actually know the band, is there a gateway track into your music that you'd recommend?

Well, it seems to have done quite a good job, but...since "Just Like Honey" was included in the film Lost in Translation, that has served that very purpose. We've found a lot of new fans - or, rather, a lot of new fans have found us - because of that song being included in that film, I think. So, yeah, try that, and try "Never Understand." And if you like both, then you'll like the Mary Chain.

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