Damage and Joy, the new album from The Jesus and Mary Chain, has been a long time coming.
Nineteen years, in fact, from its predecessor, Munki, and ten years even from the point at which the band’s notoriously combustible songwriting core, brothers Jim and William Reid, decided to let bygones be bygones and reform for live shows.
Singer Jim Reid, 55, admits there was a period when he and William simply couldn’t agree how they wanted to do another album.
“I guess that was when we got back together in 2007 – that was the reason why we didn’t do the album then,” he says. “It wasn’t the only reason but it was one of the reasons why we didn’t do an album right away; we couldn’t agree not just how the album was going to sound but how we were going to record it.
“At that time I didn’t feel right about doing a record. William wanted to do it right there and then. But there were other reasons. One of my daughters had been born in 2007 , I didn’t want to disappear at that time to the studio and off on endless tours. I wanted to enjoy having another child in this world.
“There was also the fact that the record we’d made before that was Munki which was incredibly difficult to make. It was quite painful being in the studio making that record – that was still quite fresh in my memory so there was no real rush to get into a recording studio at that point.”
Over the years that followed Jim says he found “various reasons” to put off recording. “I would do interviews and people would ask ‘When’s the record out?’ because everybody had got wind of the fact that we were supposed to be doing one and I just kept saying, ‘It’ll be out soon, soon, soon’ and then so many years had gone by and I thought ‘This is just ridiculous, I’m going to have to tell people that there’s no record or we’ll have to make a record’, so I just thought it would be better if we made a record, really. I went to William and said, ‘Fair enough, let’s do it’.
“We weren’t really sure how it was going to work so we both just tried it out. We were also worried that it was going to be World War Three again in the studio so we thought maybe if we get a producer. We’d never worked with one before.”
Youth – real name Martin Glover, sometime bass player with Killing Joke – turned out to be a shrewd choice. “He’s a bit of an old hippy,” Jim says. “As it turns out I got on fine with William during the making of this record but having Youth around he is quite a calming presence. If the s*** would’ve hit the fan Youth would’ve been good at calming the situation down, but as it was we just needed him for the reason he was hired for which was a producer.”
Damage and Joy may contain one or two nods to modernity but by and large the classic Jesus and Mary Chain sound seems very much intact. Jim says that was intentional. “There’s no point in coming back after such a long absence with a record that sounds like another band. There wasn’t really much of a brief or a blueprint but if there would’ve been it would have been ‘Let’s make a classic Mary Chain album’. Nobody said that as we were recording it but I think that was definitely at the back of our minds. As soon as you’ve heard five seconds of the first song you know what band it is.”
The single Rock ’n’ Roll Amputation heralded the band’s return in uncompromising fashion. It would also seem to sum up their feelings about the band’s place in the music business. “The song was written a while ago, actually, and it was about being out in the wilderness,” Jim explains. “It could be a song about the end of a relationship but I think the relationship is the Mary Chain and the music business. At that point I felt as though no one gave a stuff about the Mary Chain and it felt as if nobody cared that we’d been exiled, we were no longer welcome in the little club called the rock ’n’ roll business. It was like we were somehow outside and it felt like we were never going to be there again – that’s what that song is about, rock ’n’ roll amputation.”
Jim originally recorded the song Facing Up To The Facts with his post-Mary Chain outfit Freeheat. How literally should we take the line “I hate my brother and he hates me”? “It’s kind of true,” he says. “I don’t hate William, he doesn’t hate me, but we sometimes do and it’s part of the reason why the band has lasted as long as it has, I think. That’s what makes the sparks fly, that’s the engine, the powerhouse of the Mary Chain, the tempestuous relationship that the brothers have. That’s what makes it keep going. We’re getting along quite well now but we’re never going to be getting along that well and if that time comes I think that’ll be it, I think the Mary Chain will just collapse.”
Two years ago, when The Jesus and Mary Chain toured their landmark debut album Psychocandy to mark its 30th anniversary, Jim reflected that the band’s original driving force had been hatred of a lot of the music that was around at the time. Even in their mid-fifties they still feel the same. “It’s probably similar to then. It’s probably more just the desire to make a really good record against all the odds at this time in our lives,” he says.
“I don’t know what people are going to make of it, all I know is I feel quite proud of it, so does William and that is an achievement. I hope other people like it. If they don’t I guess we can live with that as well but I feel pretty good about having made that record and that’s the driving force, just at the end of the day you can think, ‘Christ, we can still do it.’”
Having in the past acknowledged the band’s capacity for self-sabotage, Jim seems to have reached a stage where whatever will be will be. “It’s become so much a part of what we are that I don’t even give a s*** any more,” he jokes. “Just make a record and we’ll fumble through and f*** everybody off without trying. We really do try and be friendly and nice to everybody and do the right thing but it just never comes out that way.”
Damage and Joy is out on Friday. The Jesus and Mary Chain play at The Church, on Woodhouse Lane, Leeds on Monday March 27. thejesusandmarychain.uk.com