David Gedge: "We were almost destined to be a ‘John Peel band' because we were influenced by all the music that he played. It was a way of absorbing what he was doing, and giving it back to him" - Interviews - Soundblab

David Gedge: "We were almost destined to be a ‘John Peel band' because we were influenced by all the music that he played. It was a way of absorbing what he was doing, and giving it back to him"

by Rob Taylor Rating: Release Date:

Edsel Records have recently re-issued a truck-load of classic Wedding Present albums, spanning about 11 years from 1985’s George Best through to 1996’s Saturnalia, in hardback book form, each containing the original album supplemented by exhaustive bonus selections, Peel sessions, other BBC sessions, a-sides, b-sides, live concerts, and each one containing a DVD, including Top of the Pop appearances, music videos and interview segments with Keith Cameron.

 

Soundblab's Rob Taylor caught up with David Gedge on November 27 to discuss the re-issue programme, and other Weddoes related news.

 

The Demon Groups re-issue of George Best, Bizarro, Seamonsters, Watusi, Saturnalia,  the collection Tommy, and the expansion of the EP Mini, coupled with just about every live session and tour recording available for each time period, is quite an exhaustive programme. In total it amounts to 26 hours of music. How were you involved ?

 

Is that right, is that how much it is? Well, I’ve listened to it a lot of test pressings in the last year!

 

It happens to be one of those jobs where there’s a lot of archiving, and a lot of documentation so, when Demon came to me and said, here’s what we want to do, we’re interested in doing this project, I thought it sounded great, a way to bring together all the material, the sessions, the appearances, and put them together on one package. I thought, it's never going to happen again, this really, this is the end of it. They’ve done a really great job with the sound.

 

Of course, there was the fabulous Peel Sessions box set from a few years ago, so it's not an entirely new experience for the band, these well compiled retrospectives?

 

The Complete Peel Sessions boxset is one of the things I am most proud about releasing, and at the same time Sanctuary, who put it out, went into liquidation, I think, so it's great to have the sessions on the re-issues.

 

For me, the BBC sessions, and in particular the Peel sessions, sound really great on these re-issues, quite a crisp production.

 

We were very limited in our production costs in those years, so couldn’t afford fantastic studios, so to have the opportunity to record [for the BBC] was amazing.

 

John Peel was a zealous advocate of The Wedding Present.

 

Well, he was a fan of the band. People always say that we were lucky that John Peel was a fan of the group but in some ways it was kind of obvious really. I had listened to that programme as a teenager quite religiously. If I wasn’t there to hear [his programme] someone would record it for me.

 

I was a fan of Peel and quite obsessive about that, so when it came to The Wedding Present, we were almost destined to be a ‘John Peel band' because we were influenced by all the music that he played. It was a way of absorbing what he was doing, and giving it back to him. It would have been disappointing had he not liked The WP!

 

What was he like in the studio? Was he low-key? Did he have input into what was played?

 

He was never there! He just issued the invitation, and handed us over to the BBC and their producers.

 

I didn’t imagine him to be so aloof?

 

[His philosophy] was that bands could do whatever they wanted; the sessions were described as ‘works in progress’, really. It was more of an experimental thing, like when we came in to do the Ukranian folk music , it was definitely not an obvious thing to do, I don’t think he even knew. You could do that at that time!

 

John was there for some of the live ones, like when we played at his 50th birthday party. He was obviously there for that, but by and large he probably thought it was a boring place to be, a lot of hanging around and miking up. His passion was playing music that he thought was great on the radio and introducing other people to it, that was his forte.

 

In listening to the re-issues, I was struck by how good an album Watusi is, in spite of its lukewarm reception at the time.

 

Watusi, definitely, when it was released 20 years ago, garnered mixed reviews, shall we say from both fans and the media. It was quite a departure for the band, it was quite brave, if I don’t say so, being distinctly un-Wedding Present sounding. A lot of people were just disappointed that it wasn’t a more aggressive, loud-guitar record, like those we’d churned out before. It was more of a relaxed pop record.

 

Watusi showed a deference to the golden age of pop. The surf-rock ventures are really well executed and a lot of fun.

 

We wanted to delve back into pop history a bit. We had this discussion about how people used to achieve dynamics and song arrangements before the advent of distortion and over-drive pedals, sophisticated recording sessions and the like. It came more from the arrangements of the songs, so we decided to move into that area, and [introduced] some different instrumentation.

 

We looked at 60s surf music and The Monkees, and The Velvet Underground, and bands from 1950s and 1960s I suppose. The producer we worked with, Steve Fisk, was of a similar mind. He was kind of an underground producer from Seattle. Steve made some great suggestions for the record, and being a keyboard player as well added value to his input.

 

Songs like 'Flying Saucer' on Hit Parade 2 show the more obvious hallmarks of the Velvet Underground inspiration.  The on-going trance jams like 'What Goes On' came to mind.

 

Meant to be quite hypnotic. I think 'Flying Saucer' always goes down very well live. It's the repetition, it's the movement of it, it's a good driving song.

 

What about Slanted Enchanted and albums like that? Did that album by Pavement influence you? 'Loveslave' adopts a similar guitar sound.

 

Yeah, I love that album. I think they were influenced by The Fall there. Our bass player went to New York and came back with Pavement’s first EP, which had 'Box Elder' on it. We thought it was a great song, and a cover to use as a b-side.

 

Using Steve Albini as a producer on Seamonsters: Was the move towards the grungier side of rock something that was a natural progression for the band, or was Albini engineering that ?

 

I wouldn’t say it was natural exactly. I just think it was a conscious thing that we wanted to do something different. At that point we had done George Best and Bizarro, which were kind of more ‘jangly’, as the word is used to describe the music which is more indie-pop really.

 

We’d done that, so we started to experiment with a noisier sound, which involved bringing in more layers of guitar. We were all fans of Albini’s bands, and he’d only just recorded and produced Surfer Rosa by Pixies, which I though had a fantastic sound on it. It sounded weird, but at the same time it was three-dimensional, it had colour in it.

 

We thought this could work for us, so we asked RCA if we could work with him, and at first did an EP to see how our relationship would work, moving from there to Seamonsters, and it changed the way WP sounded. Again, it wasn’t exactly popular, but The Wedding Present has always evolved.

Cover versions appear on Hit Parade, some more successful than others. ‘Falling’ from Twin Peaks is one of the covers which surprisingly works well.

Very hard to cover live strangely, it’s so minimal. The singing was fine [to master], but it's so naked and every little mistake is obvious. I love that song.

 

Your songwriting has mostly revolved around love, lust,  relationships, romantic misfires, but not usually politics.

 

There are occasional touches of lyrics that are political, but shy away from it because I’m not really good at it. I think I’m quite good at writing lyrics about relationships, the way people relate to each other, their little affairs, obsessions and jealousies. I stick to the things I know best, really. What I tend to do is observe.

 

I’ve always been fascinated by what people say to each other, especially in those kind of situations, the beginning of affairs or the end of them, the twists that happen in-between. The lyrics have always been very conversational.

 

I’ve noticed that the lyrics have been reproduced in some of the re-issues, and I’ve never done that before because the lyrics are meant to be heard in the song. When its written down like that, its more like the dialogue from a play.  

 

The lyric and the song have to coalesce and compliment one another. If I like the song I pay more attention to the lyrics.

 

I think I’m the same, they’ve both got to work, basically. It's like you see films which are well made, shot and directed, but the stories or dialogue are poor, and its just a shame, it could have been so much better. The same as in music. Often I’ll hear a really great track, with really great sound, and the lyrics will be dreadful.

 

Which of the re-issued albums are you most proud of?

 

Impossible to say, really. I’m proud of them all really otherwise I wouldn’t have released them. They’re all my babies so I can’t choose.

 

Having said that, we’ve just finished a tour here in Europe, the UK, France, and Belgium, and we’ve been playing Watusi live. That has brought home to me that it’s one of my favourite records, because of the quality of the songwriting. It was a bit overlooked at the time. It came out in 1994, and hasn’t been available for nearly 20 years, so its great that it’s come out in this format.

 

I’ve always wanted to ask: Why George Best as a subject for your debut album?

 

I just thought it was a great name for an LP. I grew up in Manchester at a time when he played for Manchester United, which is the team I support. He was quite an iconic figure, especially to a growing lad.

 

He was one of the greatest footballers the world has ever seen, but then also he did have that kind of rebellious nature, and he railed against the establishment. He looked great with his long hair and his shirt hanging out of his shorts, when everyone else’s were tucked in. He looked really cool, and he was friends with The Beatles, so he was an inspirational figure especially for me. He wasn’t really a subject for the album as such, just a great cover!

 

There was someone at the NME who was wanting to accuse me of associating the name of The Wedding Present with George Best, and I kind of thought "Yeah, I think you’re right actually, but why not ?"
 

Do you get the sense these days that these days you really are The Wedding Present, after all the personnel changes?

 

I see what you’re saying. I can see why people say that, that David Gedge and The Wedding Present are the same thing because I’m the only one that's been in there for the 30 years or whatever, but The Wedding Present is made up of who’s in the band at the time.

 

I’ve never been dictatorial about the way the band has been run, or honed the musical direction according to my tastes. I’ve always found it more interesting with new people coming into the group from different backgrounds and influences. Occasionally you end up in a new [direction] that you like. I’ve encouraged people to come in and mess around with the formula. I’d be stupid not to.

Comments (19)

This comment was minimized by the moderator on the site

Brilliant! I've gone through slightly obsessed stages with the Weddo's. Love 'em! Favourite album would probably be Seamonsters.....or Bizarro...

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Too hard to choose ;/

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These re-issues are the whole kitchen sink ! I'm really loving Watusi, and the Hit Parade packages, but there's something about the frenetic popiness of George

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....Best I'll always love

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George Best is great. I picked up a load of Hit Parade 7inches in Oxfam a few years back, 'Falling' is an incredible cover!

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And their version of The Go-Betweens 'Cattle & Cane'

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their interpretation of Close Lobsters 'Lets make some plans' is better than the original for me

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seamonsters is their best album i would say but all their early work is awesome

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He told me that he regretted the Cattle and Cane because it didn't add to the original ! I thought it was good.

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I love "Chant of the Ever Circling Skeletal Family". He sounds more Mark E Smith than MES. Really versatile voice.

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