THE JESUS & MARY CHAIN
Jim Reid sounds relaxed for a man who’s hugely influential band has been off the scene for the past 18 years. Deciding to spark back up in your 50’s is unusual, even in an age of the now de rigueur reunion tour. However, the Jesus and Mary Chain were never like other bands. And with the release of Damage & Joy, the band’s 7th studio album after nearly two decades, they’ve confirmed it was worth the wait.
While fans and JAMC obsessives longed for a new album over the years, it’s easy to see why nobody ever thought it would happen. When it comes to in-band brotherly fighting, the epic battles between Jim and his brother William would make Noel and Liam Gallagher look like sniveling little punks. Riddled with studio fights, 1998’s vastly underappreciated album, Munki, eventually led to the Jesus and Mary Chain’s ultimate destruction. With the potential for an in-studio bloodbath, the Reid brothers thought maybe some assistance was in order.
“The end of the first period of the band, when we were recording Munki, it could be seriously brutal when me and William started at each other. That’s what it was like then. Everybody had known everybody else for years and the band was falling apart internally. It got really nasty and horrible. We were desperate to not repeat that.”
Enter Youth — the first time the band had ever used a producer — into the picture. “When we were recording this record we actually imagined all sorts of nightmare scenarios, with us lunging at each other with daggers. We explained to McGee (Creation Records boss and current manager, Alan McGee) that we were a little bit nervous about going back into the studio,” said Jim. “Apart from producing, he could also keep the peace, so if I start screaming at William or he starts screaming at me, we could go, ‘Right, you sort it out.’ That was the thinking. So McGee said to try Youth. So when we met with him, we explained that we not only needed a producer, we needed a policeman.”
“The studio I find very stressful, anyway,” Jim continues. “It can all go horribly wrong in a second. I mean one minute you’re sitting there thinking, ‘Yeah! This is pretty good!’ and then I dunno… there’s some sort of weird alchemy where you sneeze and it’s all just disappeared.”
Though stressful, Damage and Joy is a result that can’t be argued with. It’s classic Mary Chain from contents to title. “William actually saw it somewhere. It’s the English literal translation of schadenfreude, which is taking pleasure in the misfortune of others. It’s got nothing to do with the album, but we just liked the words damage and joy. We just think that those two words sum up what the Mary Chain are all about: and it’s all contained within this record.”
After coming back to the indie fold in 2007 for Coachella, heading out on a few tours seemed like the natural progression for the Mary Chain — and Jim is a man who likes to play live. “Playing live is straightforward. You know, you plug in, you belt it out and you know it’s going to sound pretty rocking. I much prefer playing live.” Is there any difference between touring now that the band is older (and presumably) wiser? “We can decide to do whatever we feel like doing these days. Back in the old days you signed your soul to whatever record label and they’d say ‘You’ve got an album coming out, you’ve got to go out on tour, you’ve got to promote it.’ Even if you don’t want to, you’ve got to — that’s what you do. These gruelling tours would be booked for you and they’d last forever. Now nobody tells us what to do. Somebody will make us an offer, and we do it if we want to. It’s a lot more civilized. It’s much more enjoyable and much more relaxed.”
The Jesus and Mary Chain. Older, wiser and more relaxed? Jim laughs, “Yeah, I wish.” That may be, but fans are glad that the retirement slippers are firmly in the closet.
Damage & Joy from the Jesus & Mary Chain is out now on ADA/Warner Music
Words: Kari Lloyd
Illustration: Laura Tinald