Why are you reissuing Ladies & Gentlemen?
It was a decision made at altitude. On the top of Mount Buller in Australia. It was properly high, really really high. People were really getting cold and sick.
We were out in Australia to do the All Tomorrow's Parties show with Barry and Deborah Hogan. It started off with them saying "Will you do Spacemen 3, would you do this, would you do whatever?" And it got down to: "Would you play Ladies & Gentlemen in its entirety at one of the "Don't Look Back" shows. And the reality was, we'd never played it back-to-back so it's not like it's something that anybody has ever done. I think the band is absolutely on fire at the moment, so it wasn't daunting.
Do you consider L&G to be your most special album?
As soon as Barry suggested it I said: "But why not do Pure Phase, because that's absolutely beautiful." And then somebody else would tell me that Let It Come Down was the big deal. So I think its people's contact point with the records that make them special.
I was with Samantha Morton recently who was talking about a film that she made called The Unloved that she took to a film festival and suddenly had the realisation that it was no longer her film. I thought that she was going to say that it was made for a company, and because there were all these people that were involved in it, she felt that she had lost control. But what she actually meant was that the film belonged to the people who watch it. It was their film now.
You wrote most of L&G by singing into a Dictaphone?
Yeah I have two of them. Maybe I should take pictures of them. They were performed in a way that it was impossible to replicate. Most of the songs were tune based. I can't write the chords to "Broken Heart", and I still don't know what they are. When we play it live, the band tells me what chords to play.
Do you still have the original Dictaphone recordings? You should release them too..
They're so ragged.
But people will love that.
Yeah but it's just another world to start going through that stuff. Because there's a lot of it. A lot of them are really bad. They're quite shocking.
Shocking in what way?
They're just hard to understand. Some of them you can't even work out the language!
There are two previously unreleased songs on there. "Beautiful Happiness" and "Rocket Shaped Song" what made you decide to put them on there?
I'd completely forgotten about them. I think what happened that when ‘Ladies & Gentlemen' came together they obviously didn't fit. I presume they must be unfinished, but I think they SOUND far from unfinished. Most unfinished stuff doesn't get better with time. I found the Jim Dickinson mixes and other bits and pieces and they were just as good now, but with re-issues there's a risk of raiding the larder and just throwing everything you've got on there for the completists.
When L&G was released, the press made a big deal about your break up with Kate and how it was maybe referenced in some of the songs.
Everybody loves an angle don't they? They love a story. Similar to this one, 'Songs in A&E' was apparently about my illness - yet it was all written before I got ill. With Ladies & Gentlemen, I'd written these songs that were undeniably gonna work.
You worked with Jim Dickinson on this and he once said: "The record itself pre-exists, in the collective unconscious of the people who are going to participate. But I think the story reveals itself. You don't find the story, the story finds you." Did you feel that with these songs and what had happened in your personal life, that that philosophy had really come home to roost?
With "Broken Heart" for example; it would be too maudlin to have broken up with somebody and then to sit down and write "Oh, I have a broken heart". I can't see me in that situation. I'm not that literal a person. I don't think I'd even say that. You know…"Hey how you feelin' today?"…. "Oh, I've got a broken heart!" My songs are way more abstract than that.
Working with Jim was incredible. He taught me things I will never forget. They sound foolish now, but they still mean so much to me. Like, "rock'n'roll is brown and fuzzy". I never wanted to let him or his words down. I know exactly what he meant by that, and what I mean by that. He also said: "(When you're making a record), you've gotta leave space to let God come into the room".