The moment's gone (a tribute to The Wedding Present)

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Gedge interview in Chapel Hill, by Daniel Gill

Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 05:21:15 -0500

hello all, it's 2:40 in the morning and I just got back from TWP show in Chapel Hill. Absolutely astounding, to say the least. This was my first time seeing them, and I was lucky enough to talk with David for about a half an hour before the show. I found Mr. Gedge looking rather bewildered and lost in front of a video/book store and introduced myself. We tried to find a quiet place to do the interview, since Yatsura's drummer was sound checking all by himself. we ended up backstage, but ended up having to move back outdoors because of all the racket. I'll stop boring you with useless details and discuss the show. I'll agree that Gedge needs a hair cut, but it wasn't THAT bad. I didn't have the guts to bring up that issue in the interview, either. The set list was almost exactly the same as I've seen it listed on this list recently, but they played "blue eyes" and I don't remember seeing that song on those lists. Highlights of the show: "Come Play with me" and "Venus", also "kennedy" of course, and "loveslave". Many strings were broken by both Gedge and Simon. The band seemed to be a bit road weary, but in good spirits. The crowd was quiet and respectful, they even moved around a little bit (at least the people around me did). I wasn't too impressed with Yatsura, although I've heard their new album and I thought it had some decent tunes on it. Overall, I couldn't have asked for a better show. Now, on to the interview. I tried to ask David about some of the things we've been discussing on this list, so maybe this will clear some things up. Also, thank you to everyone who wrote me with suggestions for questions. (I was able to include almost alll of them, except that darn haircut one!).

I entered this interview a nervous wreck. I just received an email today from a friend of mine who interviewed them several years back, and she described the experience as one of the most "traumatic experiences of my life," but she did not explain this statement. David didn't really help that much, I mean he was nice and polite, but I could tell that he was annoyed with my presence, I know he probably has to do tons of these things on every interview, but he really just looked like I was bothering him by talking to him. Once we got started talking, we both loosened up a bit. I had this great idea that to make this interview a little different, I would make a tape of 4 or 5 obscure american bands that i know he hasn't heard yet, play it for him and get his response on each one. I asked him if he wanted to do this, but he said "No, I hate doing that sort of thing, because I know how much work goes into writing a song, and I feel bad when I have to criticize other people's songs." "OK, fair enough," I thought, "there goes half of the interview time I had planned, what now?" But, it turned out OK anyways, just read on.......

(DG = David Gedge, not Daniel Gill)

ME:Is there a reason that you don't play older material, other than the fact that you have basically an entirely different band on every tour?
DG:Well, i think we do play older stuff, actually.
ME:I mean pre-Bizarro stuff.
DG:Well, we played "My Favourite Dress" on the last tour.... It is a bit weird, because it is like a different group, you know, the sound's changed quite a bit. ME:So, it just wouldn't fit in?
DG:Well, we've tried it occasionally, it just sounds odd. I think we've actually improved as a group, as well, since the very beginning. It's just a matter of trying to make a good set, really, regardless of where it comes from. I've picked one or two songs from every LP pretty much. We have mostly been playing the new ones, along with the old, apart from George Best, I suppose. (Note: apparently he doesn't consider "Tommy" to be an "LP" since he played NOTHING from it.)
ME:I've noticed that in several of your cover songs, "Getting Better" and "Box Elder" in particular, you have taken the liberty of changing some of the lyrics when they seem offensive ("woman" to "brother", "fuck" to "right" etc.) Is there some sort of puritan ethic behind the Wedding Present?
DG:Well, I think when you do covers, and you sing other peoples' lyrics, you do sort of have to stand by that ethic of "i won't sing just any jibberish just because they did it first" I think on that first one ("getting better") that lyric was actually quite mysoginyst, and I wasn't happy singing it that way, so I changed it to "brother," because I did used to be cruel to my brother. On the second one ("Box Elder") it just wasn't me to use that particular word (fuck) in that particular context. It's a very American phrase, maybe, and I thought it would be sort of pretentious to try to sing it in that way.
ME:How did you pick that song ("Box Elder") to cover? DG:Well, our bass player at the time, Keith, went to America for a holiday, and he brought back that 7", so we heard it then, and we thought it was a good song. We thought we could actually do it better, really (laughter ensues) to be honest, so we had a go with it.
ME:When did you actually meet Pavement?
DG: I've never met them.
ME:I was under the impression that you were friends or had toured together or something like that.
DG:Well, I've seen them, but never talked to any of them. I think they wrote and complained, it wasn't our fault really, because when Bizarro came out in America, it had Box Elder as a bonus song, and the record label forgot to credit Pavement with writing the song. I think Pavement thought that we were trying to rip them off, thinking that we'd claimed that we'd written it. That's the only time I've communicated with them.
ME:At what point in your life did you realize that you were a good songwriter and that the Wedding Present was going to go somewhere?
DG:Well, I've never felt that. (Lots of laughter) But, having said that, I can't think of a time in my life where this is not what I wanted to do. It sounds quite babyish, in a way, but when I was little, and people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, most people say a train driver or an astronaut, I would say I wanted to be in a pop group. Ever since I can remember, I've always wanted to be in a pop group, and I pretended I was in a pop group even before I was actually in a pop group, and now I'm in a pop group.
ME:So, when did you start taking seriously the writing and recording of songs and other things that pop groups do?
DG:Since I was seven, I suppose.
DG:Well, I've always written music, stupid lyrics and things. I was in bands in college.
ME:What instrument?
DG:Well, I had a little organ, I played the keyboard. But, to answer your question, I didn't really get serious untill after I left the University. That's when we really started on the first record.
ME:So, right after that was when George Best came out? DG:Well, about two years after that.
ME:Did you ever have formal guitar lessons?
DG:(a resounding) NOOOO!!!!! I had formal singing lessons for awhile, though. The woman who taught me was a bit weird. Well, for starters it was really rather operatic, like "AHHHHHH" (imitiates opera singers). She was quite young, though, she had this piano and she had me practice all these scales. But, she said I wasn't breathing properly, so she showed me how to breathe. She said "Give me your hand," and she put my hand on her breast, and she's like "feel right there" and I was like "yup, yup" (much laughter, for a long time).
ME:So, you dropped out???
DG:I didn't go any more, no. There were about three lessons, total. I wasn't quite sure as to whether she was actually making some sort of sexual advance towards me. ME:How much older was she?
DG:well, probably about the same age I was. I think she was a student, yes, a music student at my university. But yeah, it was scary.
ME:How many times have you been to America now? DG:We come quite often, I think about ten times now. But, I guess for big tours, we've been about 4 times. We come over often, to do recordings, or little tours, and just a few months back we were in New York for the CMJ. Before that, we came over in May or March for a little mini tour.
ME:Is there any area of America that you've grown particularly fond of in your travels here?
DG:No, in fact, one of the things I like about America is the fact that everywhere is actually different. In Britain, well, it's so small, that it's the same no matter where you go. In America, you can be in the desert one week, and then you can be in the Rocky Mountains, and then you can be in three feet of snow in Minnesota, because you've got all these long drives, you do tend to zip around, and see all these different things. I really enjoy that.
ME:Have you ever played in Florida?
DG:No, we've never played there. I don't know why. ME:Well, I grew up in Florida and listening to your music, it was frustrating when you would skip Florida on every tour.
DG:Do many bands go down there?
ME:Well, recently it's been getting better. There are lots of good places to play in Gainesville, Jacksonville, Tampa and Tallahassee.
DG:It's just never been mentioned, you know. I guess the closest we get is maybe Atlanta.
ME:Yes, a lot of people drive up from Florida to see shows in Atlanta or even all the way up here, which is a 10 hour drive from there. (I can tell he feels a bit guilty now, so I drop the subject. by the way, during the show, he gave a special thanks to "everyone who came from Florida"). ME:What's the most recent record you've bought? DG:Well, the most recent one I've got is a Man or Astroman? single, which folds out into the shape of a UFO. Actually, Versus' new CD is quite good. I offered to buy it, but they gave it to me free. (a boring conversation about Yatsura ensues, which I will skip, but an interesting quote about opening bands--"in Britain, sometimes we have to play with these heavy metal bands, stripped to the waist, with their leather trousers on, screaming into the microphone.") ME:Exactly how huge are you in Britain right now?
DG:Well, we're bigger in Britain than we are here.
ME:Do you feel a big difference in the crowds you play to?
DG:Well, to be honest, I know the record label will hate me for saying this, but I prefer playing smaller clubs. It's really intimate and the sound's usually better. The worst kinds of places are places like Brixton Acadamy, which is about 3,000 capacity, and it's just massive, high, atmospheric roofs. Most people want to be massive I suppose, I just prefer the smaller places. To me, a concert is a concert, no matter where it is.
ME:Do you think there's a reason you've stayed so obscure over here as opposed to other British bands??
DG:Yeah, I think we've been very unlucky with our record companies over here. We've had a series of labels. Not all of them have been appropriate, and the ones that have seem to go out of business soon after they sign us. (laughs) The worst one was RCA, which we were on for ages, which wasn't very good, then they licensed us to first warning, who put out hit parade 1, then went out of business before putting out hit parade 2. So, we basically went bust between part 1 and part 2 of a 2 part series, which can't be good for our popularity over here.
ME:So, that's why I had to pay import prices for hit parades 2 + 3?
DG:yes, it's interesting, I've found that we don't have millions of fans over here, but the ones we do have are very loyal. it takes a lot of work to be a wedding present fan over here, but worth it, I think!!!
ME:Indeed!!! What do you think of the music scene in britain right now?
DG:I think it's quite good at the moment, actually. I like this resurgence in guitar music. The britpop groups are OK.
ME:Who are your favourites?
DG:I like Oasis, I suppose. I mean, none of those groups are particularly challenging. It's opened up the underground a bit, though. This whole group of post-Stereolab groups are great. But, the main thing is that radio's (BBC)been a bit more radical. It used to be centered around Micheal Jackson and Prince, and now that Oasis are massive, Blur are massive, and Pulp are massive, it's made it so that smaller bands that sound like that can get on the air now much easier. It's been good in that respect. The press has gotten really boring, though. It's strange, radio turns radical, and the press gets boring. In melody maker, every week it's Oasis. If it's not Oasis, it's Blur. The press used to be where you would hear about new bands, now it's the radio. It's because the press knows that if they have the Gallagher brothers on the cover, they will sell a lot more copies, so why should they put anyone else on the cover????? (AT this point, an obnoxious sound man starts yelling into the mics, and we move outside in the cold. David suggests sitting in the tour van, but we never make it that far)
ME:What does your family think of your music? They annoy me about it, really. They were always trying to talk me out of it, saying "why do you want to be in a pop group? you should get a normal job, la-di-da-di-da, be a teacher or something," and i would say, "but no, i want to be a musician," which is fine i think, because you know, i was in college, and they wanted a career to arise from that for their child, fair enough. But, once we finally were successful, and they'd come to a concert and see us selling shirts, and all these people who actually enjoyed the music....
ME:then they were proud!
DG:Right! Which is very hypocrytical, I think. I did an interview once with this bloke who got ahold of my parents, and he asked them "how did you feel when david was growing up?" and they said "oh, we've always been very supportive of David" and i was like "WHAT?!?!?" "LIARS!!!!"(laughter). It's completely untrue. i did find that quite annoying.
ME:What do you think of Cha-Cha Cohen?
DG:They're alright. The two simons are in it with keith + jaqi. They've done a peel session that sounds a bit like Beck.
ME:Beck??? Really??? I have the singles, and I didn't think they sounded like Beck.
DG:Right, the singles sounded like the Fall, but the Peel Session sounds like Beck. They've completely changed, they're like dance music now or something.

ME:If you could have 3 bands from any era play together, as your "dream show" who would you choose??
DG:I think it would definitely be My Bloody Valentine. It's hard to say, it depends on what mood you're in. I'd probably say New Order, if I could choose their set list. (laughter). the Cocteau Twins, or the Fall, or Stereolab, depending on my mood.
ME:Do you consider the Go-Betweens to be a major influence?
DG:No, not really. I never really liked them, i found them quite boring. I liked the song "cattle and cain," though, obviously.
ME:have you ever been on American TV besides the Conan O'Brien show?
DG:Not nationally, no.
ME:So, Andy Richter's a huge Weddoes fan?
DG:Yes, and speaking of huge, you should see Conan. he's massive, he's probably a full foot taller than i am.

©2005 Chester Severien ([email protected])