With The Wedding Present gearing up for a celebration of seminal album Seamonsters’ 21st birthday, surely mainman David Gedge would be recharging his batteries for the months ahead?
Not a bit of it, as itm? found out…
It’s Christmas Eve. David Gedge isn’t in the drunktank though; rather, he’s sat on his sofa in front of a roaring fire, eating Swiss Christmas biscuits baked by Pepe Le Moko, bassist in his band. Pepe is the latest in a long line of members of The Wedding Present, in which he has been the one constant factor in the act’s 25 year history.
Now joined – not on the couch, in the band – by guitarist Graeme Ramsay and drummer Charlie Layton, the seminal, archetypal C86 guitar act are planning 2012.
The Weddoes are hardly a Fall-style dictatorship, the affable Gedge no Mark E Smith, firing and hiring willy-nilly. But these lineup changes over the years have, unlike their indie contemporaries, had a prolonging effect on the band, as the singer acknowledges.
“It unquestionably keeps things fresh,” he agrees. “It’s always slightly sad when somebody leaves because obviously you form relationships with people – it’s a fairly intimate way of working, after all. But at the same time when someone new comes into the group you have this whole different set of inspirations and a huge injection of enthusiasm… and it really is like a little rebirth.”
Indeed, the band have, including a break of sorts to transmute into Cinerama, been part of the indie firmament for a quarter of a century. We would say that other bands have come and gone, but the term “and come back again” is more often than not tacked onto that statement. A shame perhaps for Gedge and co. as the band have never got the chance for a massive reformation cash-in.
“Well, The Wedding Present have obviously never reformed because we never really went away,” Gedge concedes. “When I did Cinerama, it was just ‘on hold’… I genuinely think that one reason why we’ve released such a high quality series of varied recordings is because of the different contributions from all the members over the years… and I’m extremely grateful for that.”
Cinerama first appeared following a flurry of contractual obligation albums around 1998 and six years later subtly morphed back into the Wedding Present that (roughly speaking) we know today.
“I suppose the bands merged together around the time of Take Fountain and El Rey, but they’ve definitely diverged again now, because the newer material is a lot harder than Cinerama ever was,” he says. “Coincidentally, during our pre-Christmas band curry last night, our drummer, Charlie, was voicing his enthusiasm for doing some new Cinerama stuff.”
It may well be that Gedge tired of mischevous calls for Wedding Present songs at Cinerama shows, though it could be that these punters revisiting the band every 10 years or so may well have been as confused as the interviewers who are regulars on the Gedge hotline. Although this is less of an issue nowadays.
“Everybody gets clued up on internet these days, don’t they?” the singer agrees. “It only takes a few seconds of research to come up with the whole background story to Cinerama and The Wedding Present. I suspect they all read Wikipedia before they interview me…”
Like the band itself, the original audience have grown with thir favourites, and (as can be seen at any gig) are probably more diverse than any followers of a twenty-something act touring today.
“It’s fascinating,” Gedge agres. “People come and people go… and then people come back again. People dip in and out! Everybody’s got a different take on it, really. Some people enjoy the band, full stop… pretty much everything we do, I mean… and now they’re bringing their kids up to like us… while other people just like one LP and that’s all they ever want to hear… ha!”
So, logically, the band have moved onto touring 1991’s Seamonsters as an anniversary album next year – produced (sorry, ‘engineered’) by legendary grunge svengali Steve Albini, first stop on the album’s ‘world tour’ is the US. Although the reason for taking it to the USA first is more practical than sentimental.
“We haven’t played there for a couple of years and so it seemed the obvious place to start, especially since we’ll be hopping over to Australia immediately after it finishes.”
And Gedge will certainly be able to revisit some old haunts, as he lived in Seattle for several years.
“It’s a great city for music and culture… and very friendly people,” he enthuses. “The forty days of non-stop rain they have every winter can be slightly tiresome, though!” (having visited the city several times in the 90s I can confirm all of the above!)
“It’s just that with my job I can live anywhere in the world, really,” he continues, “so I decided to try some other places too. Nowadays I seem to be mainly dividing my time between Los Angeles and Brighton.”
As another aside, I can highly recommend the DVD of Drive – film of a US tour from the time of Mini, which is available via Lovefilm as well as for purchase at the usual outlets. And this is one tour I’d not mind revisiting if the band continue to do ‘anniversary’-themed tours – see also Saturnalia… or Hit Parade.
Or the Ukranians debut.
Or… my tongue-in-cheek suggestion is met with a positive respionse: “I guess we’ll work our way through them as long as it makes sense and it inspires us to do so. And if there’s a demand for it!”
Indeed, the 4 dates in the post-Xmas period are unusual in that they’re ‘regular’ gigs – trying out new material from 2012 album Valentina and of course some oldies. “The concerts are essentially my attempt to do something slightly more interesting during that ‘dead’ time between Christmas and New Year where nothing ever seems to happen.”
I’m suspecting that David Gedge falls into the perceived Weddoes camp rather than the Elton John bounciness, which he confirms, sort of. “It’s obviously hard not to get excited about Christmas… because it’s kind of in our culture to celebrate it, isn’t it? And you can see how it makes a lot of people very happy.
“But I do tend to try to eschew all the commercialism. It’s a bit like a festival of capitalism isn’t it?”
Bah humbug indeed. “Great food and TV though,” he adds.
And music? “I think a lot of people are looking forward to just getting out of the house and enjoying a spot of rock and roll…”
Legendary tour-haters (and fellow C86-ers) Half Man Half Biscuit live by the maxim “Own bog, own bed”, but Gedge is quite the opposite, as his globetrotting might suggest.
“I don’t have a problem with touring at all – long or short,” he asserts. “I feel genuinely flattered and grateful that there are people around the world who are willing to come see us play. If they’re prepared to come and see me, I’m prepared to travel!”
Even to Scotland in the dead of winter? “The snow last year obviously made it… interesting… but then I’m from Yorkshire… we drive in the snow all the time!”
2012 will see a new release, and as ever will be on their own label, Scorpitones, which has existed for releasing WP material ever since 2005’s Take Fountain (in fact, the label debuting in late 2004 with a self-released single, ‘Interstate 5’). But as Gedge says, the imprint their music appears on isn’t really important.
“When we were signed to major record labels we essentially were masters of our own destiny anyway – we controlled the recording process and the sleeve design and were always heavily involved in all the marketing and promotion.”
And with the advent of digital releases the lines between major and indie have blurred further.
“I think the only difference is that the major labels had much bigger budgets…” he muses, “and I’m sure that that’s not the case anymore. We’ve fully embraced digital in that our recordings are available by download everywhere in the world… but we still release CDs because our fans want to buy them… and we still release vinyl because it’s a superior format.”
And what were we saying about C86?
“Funnily enough… a cassette label has just approached us because they want to release our new album on tape in North America… so maybe we’ll start to do that again too. Maybe we should look at releasing it on phonograph cylinder, next…”
But actually running a ‘label’ label is, perhaps, a step too far.
“It takes all of our time just to operate the Wedding Present on Scopitones, so I’m not actively looking for other artists to sign, no. Having said that, we’ve obviously released recordings by Cinerama… and A Casa Verde – the solo project of our former bass player Terry de Castro.”
Of course, Christmas is a time for tradition. But one that the band railled against was that of the gig encore. For the benefit of anyone rediscovering the Wedding Present on any of the forthcoming dates, it seems that this is another constant feature.
“I just think (encores) are a bit silly really,” Gedge insists, in answer to my question. “It’s a faintly pretentious and embarrassing ritual to plan a set with in-built, pre-meditated encores… which is what most bands seem to do. I just think it’s a bit of a hackneyed old tradition.”
Speaking of tradition… Gedge is a bit of a afficonado of John Peel’s show (and of course appeared on it many a time). With the proliferation of old recordings on the internet nowadays, will he be soundtracking his holiday season with old Festive Fifty recordings?
“I do miss John Peel’s Festive Fifty – it used to be one of the highlights of the festive season for me,” he says. “But I have most of those tracks on my iPod anyway, so they come up all year round!”
Lastly, the Gedge Xmas address and some cracker-level puns. Will it be ‘No Christmas’ in the Gedge household – or will he ‘Step Into Christmas’ in the style of Elton (and the Wedding Present circa Xmas 1992). What will he be doing?
“As little as possible, if I’m honest,” he admits. “We’ve had a hectic last few weeks working on the new album and next year’s tours. So we’re looking forward to a break and Christmas Top Of The Pops… although, here I am, doing an interview!”
The Wedding Present play Glasgow’s Garage on December 29th, followed by a hometown show at Leeds’ O2 Academy on the 30th, and see in the New Year at London’s Dingwalls on (naturally enough) December 31st.