Playing TONIGHT at the Troubadour
Interview with David Gedge
by Alexander Laurence
CINERAMA is a solo project formed by The Wedding Present's David Gedge. Their debut long player VA VA VOOM was released in 1998 to universal critical acclaim. Following the initial success and the limitations placed on them by restrictive record contracts, Cinerama decided to set up their own label, Scopitones. In 2000, Gedge went on to release some singles and a follow-up long-player: DISCO VOLANTE.
For their second album, David renewed an old friendship when the band flew to the United States to record with producer Steve Albini. Albini worked with David in 1991, when The Wedding Present recorded their highly praised Seamonsters album. This time, however, the chosen location was Albini's own custom built studio in Chicago. Although, quite different, the third album was another collaboration with Albini. The finished product is TORINO. It is a harder-edged record. Cinerama are currently on their longest tour of the USA that will last five weeks, mostly during October 2002. David lives in Leeds. I was able to talk to him before one of the first gigs of the tour.
AL: You did much orchestration on these last two Cinerama albums. Did you do that a lot before with The Wedding Present?
David: Absolutely none. That was the main reason I wanted to start Cinerama. I didn't think it was fair to the people in The Wedding Present to say suddenly that I wanted a string section. So I had to go solo. That was five years ago. Now it's become a proper band of its own.
AL: You did the first Cinerama record with Cooked Vinyl?
David. I didn't like them. Cooked Vinyl is a weird label. The people who run the label don't have an interest in music. They are just interested in selling records. They signed a lot of established bands who have a huge fanbase like The Wedding Present. Then they just sell records to those people. When Cinerama came along, I thought it was going to be a departure and an entirely new thing. They just try to interest Wedding Present fans. I hoped that they would do something with more imagination. So I just got frustrated really. I parted company with them, and then spoke to a few other labels, and just decided to do it myself.
AL: Are you a fan of the Scopitones films of the 1960s? They were like video jukeboxes and the real first MTV.
David: Yeah, that's where I nicked the name. They are great. It's a great story how they happened. They came to America and then a few years later they were gone because TV came along, much like cinerama. Cinerama was a three-screen thing. The Cinerama Dome in Hollywood is not an actual cinerama. There are only two left that actually exist. One's in Ohio, and one's in Yorkshire where I live. I always thought it was a cool name for a band.
AL: You have done a few albums with Steve Albini. Many of us in America think of him doing some harder edged stuff like Big Black and Shellac.
David: That's what he's known for. He's just my favorite engineer in the world. He does bring a harder edge. But this album really needed it. The first Cinerama record is a good pop record but in retrospect it does sound light. I need some edge and darkness. The records with Albini just sound more powerful. Cinerama has evolved in that direction with the songwriting.
AL: These songs on Torino sound like chapters in an ongoing novel.
David: That's just the way that I do it. There's no real plan. The way I write is very honest and it's based on relationships. It's related to film. It's all about relationships: how they do it, why they do it, especially in times of emotional stress, like the beginning or an end of a relationship. I tried to write about other things but I have never been happy with the results. Sometimes I feel that I am limiting myself to this one subject, but it's such a massive subject. All my favorite music has always been love songs and about similar stuff.
AL: Do you read poetry?
David: I don't think that my stuff is very poetic. My stuff is more like a dialogue. I have always shunned poetry, metaphor and imagery. I am in favor of straight-forward speaking. Speaking the way people speak to each other. Anything else is pretentious and unsatisfactory.
AL: We were talking about filmic music and soundtracks before. Do you like things like John Barry and Serge Gainsbourg?
David: I have always loved that stuff. I couldn't do that stuff in The Wedding Present, so that was the focus of this new band, Cinerama. John Barry has changed my life. The arrangements he did are absolutely fantastic. The compositions are like a classical composer doing pop music. He has twangy guitar in there. It's such dramatic and exciting music.
AL: Are the three records you have done as Cinerama a trilogy?
David: Maybe. I always felt that after I have made a record, I should go back and make a different record. I hate those bands who make a record and then a year later they make the same record. Why bother? That's why I started Cinerama. Torino sounds nothing like the other two: it's harder and darker. The arrangements were slightly different. It was the same thing in The Wedding Present.
AL: Are The Wedding Present going to reform and tour at any point?
David: It's funny. Seamonsters and Bizarro, two of our albums, were re-released a few years ago. They were remastered and all that. The label said "Do you want to tour?" And I thought well, yeah, maybe. We never split up. So I called the other members of the band and they were looking in the diaries and asking "How long is the tour going to be?" There wasn't that excitement there to do it again. I am more excited about Cinerama myself. I make more money from The Wedding Present but money isn't everything. When I got involved in the remastering those early records, I got excited again myself, because I haven't heard those records in years. So we ended up playing a few of them in the Cinerama set. We are like a cover band. It's good because you can cherry pick the songs because there are 150 Wedding Present songs altogether.
AL: Simon Cleave was the guitarist in The Wedding Present. He plays in Cinerama. What do some of the other members do?
David: The drummer is a tour manager now. He was the tour manager of the Wedding Present as well, and when we stopped, he went on to do that full-time. He works with Mogwai and a few other bands. The bass player is a website designer now. Like everyone else.
AL: You started The Wedding Present around 1995. Not many bands from that time are still around intact.
David: Even in The Wedding Present members come and go. They think "Yeah, I'll be in a band and travel the world and play music." Then you do it and it's great but you end up sitting in the van for twenty hours a day. You are away from home six months a year. It's quite tiring to travel around on a bus on a big tour. Those people do it for a few years and they become bored. Others like myself have stayed around.
AL: You have done ten quality albums over the years. Most bands only do one or two good records and then they are gone.
David: Success changes people doesn't it? I have met bands when they have just started and they are enthusiastic about writing songs and doing great music. You meet them a few years later, after they have had a little success, and suddenly they are different people. Then they do a record that is just rubbish because they have spent too much time and too much money.
AL: You never hung out at the Met Bar?
David: It's weird. Had I lived in London, I would have probably been more successful. That's where the mover and shakers are. But that's not me. I can't do that.
AL: Did you go to the Hacienda?
David: Yeah, because I lived in Manchester for a while. It was just another nightclub really. I haven't seen that movie 24 Hour Party People yet. I should go see it. People have told me it is good.
AL: What do you think of Britpop? Did you have any contact with those bands?
David: I like some of those groups. Blur supported The Wedding Present a few times when they were just starting out. It was before they got really big. It was a good time in music. If nothing else it meant that radio would play guitar music rather than that horrendous crap that they usually play. It's gone downhill again recently. There were a lot of good bands to come after The Wedding Present like Blur, Pulp, and Oasis. We were sort of included in that. I don't think we would have if we had come out later or now.
AL: What do you think of Suede?
David: I never liked them. I have never been a fan. It's too affected for me.
AL: After Britpop, there was many boy bands and nu-metal. But now there are guitar bands again like The Strokes and The White Stripes.
David. The Strokes are great.
AL: What do you think of The Streets?
David: The Streets are rubbish. It's English hiphop. It's really bad. It was nominated for the Mercury Prize. I just don't get it.
AL: Were you ever nominated fro The Mercury Prize?
David: No, because we never entered it. I am don't like the idea of competitions in pop music. Either I like a record or I don't. The Mercury thing: you have to pay two hundred pounds to enter into it. If you get shortlisted you have to pay another two thousand pounds. It's just another bizarre idea by the music industry. It's like a marketing ploy. You pay us money and everyone puts "Mercury Music Nominated" on the album.
AL: Do you read books?
David: No, I don't read books at all. I think life is too short. Books were invented for Victorian times when there was no TV and no films. People had long dark nights to read all the time. That's fine. Now we have so much more to fill our time. Film is the ultimate medium, and in a way film has replaced books. When I was growing up I was much more in comic books. It's not as respected in Britain as much as it is in America. When I come to America I love pop culture and comic books.
AL: Do you have any advice to young musicians?
David: Take Fountain. That was Mae West. That was the advice she gave to all the aspiring starlets who came to Hollywood. It's a road. Apparently it's a road with less traffic. I might call the next record "Take Fountain."
AL: Are there any other bands that you like?
David: I like Broadcast. The Pixies are great. And I like Hole.
AL: Did Courtney Love write letters to you?
David: No, but she actually slapped me across the face once. It was at The Reading Festival. She was with a friend of mine who is a writer. He said "David I want you to meet Courtney Love." I was a massive Hole fan. She said "You worked with Steve Albini." And then she slapped me, but it wasn't serious. I think that she's a bit out of her head really. It was strange to get slapped by one of your heroes.