Les Inrockuptibles n°27 - January-February 1991 translated.

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Les Inrockuptibles n°27 - January-February 1991 translated.

Postby Tony » Mon Jun 14, 2021 9:27 pm

14/06/2021
The La's - Mersey Paradise
© Les Inrockuptibles

The enemy is invisible but omnipresent. It tries to poison the La’s, it goes after their music. With these fundamentalists, the exterior world and this distorted time are just so many threats that must be fought in the old-fashioned way: harmonies, melodies, heart and vibrations. Because at home, in Liverpool, everything is made of wood: The studio, the guitars, the skulls. Stubborn as mules, they persist in searching for gold in the most hackneyed and slippery banks. The River Stones, River Kinks, MerseyBeatles: Where only the great golden sieve of Lee Mavers can raise gold nuggets the size of watermelons with each stroke. Son of a gun.


LEE: People never understood our sound. That's why we released so few records. In the studio, nobody there knew how to capture our sound. They rebuked our spiritual views with bad faith. But this sound, we have it. And they don't hear it. Nor do the people from the record companies ... "spirituality, pfft!" ... We have never been satisfied with our recordings, each record has been a stopgap. Under these conditions, it is better to leave. That's what we did while recording the album. We turned our backs on them and slammed the door. We didn't finish the recordings, they released the record without our knowledge. They erased some tracks, chose the order of the tracks, the horrible cover art and it all came out against our will.

Nothing in your discography satisfies you?

No ... (Silence) ... All I like are our demo tapes. But I also know that you have to be successful to be listened to by your record company. And with our lousy records, I don't see how we could get anywhere. It is a permanent struggle to impose our wills. Sometimes fight to even eat, they do not give us a penny. I would rather be on the dole. At least I'd be sure I had some cash in my pocket. But now all I'm learning is to live with frustration. And it's been going like this for three years.

Most groups would have already given up. What gives you the faith to continue?

The music. The heart and soul of our music, its reason for existing, its meaning ... For me, it represents everything. I gave it the last six years of my life. The songs are pieces of my soul ... It's not “Hey guys, listen to my song, it's pretty good”. This music is me, I can't tread lightly: It's Lee Mavers speaking. That's why I can't stand what has been done to my songs. No one has succeeded in being faithful to them.

The press praised you from the start, proclaiming you “the great hopes of pop” already, after your first single from 87. Did that praise carry weight afterwards?

No. We never cared about what people expect from us. We never asked anyone to believe in us. It is the record company that makes people believe this kind of thing, to make the public wait and terrorize the group. They don't scare me. The La's would exist without them. All that interests me is our music.The spirit of the music, the rhythm, the melody ... But nobody listens to me. To them, I'm just a scally. They lock us up in studios which cost £10,000 a day. And you see, this studio around you, it only cost us around £7,000. We built it. This is where I want to record our next album, but they don't understand that stuff. At their place, we spend a fortune to painfully record records that we never like.They only believe in synthesizers and computers, as if they were flying an airplane.

What do you tell people from record companies?

When I tell them the truth, they get aggressive, slam the door : “I can't work with such people!” (smiles) Today, they only speak to us on the phone. It went exactly like that with Lillywhite and John Leckie. But I don't care. They say we are difficult - but they are impossible. In the studio, all the engineers collapse in front of the producer. He's the boss, the one who gets paid by the record company. And these idiots only listen to those who give them the money. All they want is to finish on time and pocket the cheque. They therefore despise the opinion of the group, think only of their small interests. They have blueprints and if you don't conform to them, they know how to break you. So they try to change you because you scare them. But the problem is different with the La's: it is not us who do not fit into their schemes, it is them who do not fit into ours! (smile) And we will exist long after they do.

While recording the album, were you talking to Lillywhite or spending your time fighting?

To argue, it takes two. And when I have said what I have to say, I don't have a middleman. So we were talking in a vacuum, each certain of his position. But who ultimately decides? They do - them and their money. Me, I only have the press to express myself. I hate being in this position, I don't want people to believe that these records are really mine, that they represent me. If I were allowed to release the songs as I understand them, the people who think our album is good would probably run away. It would be too hard for them. Our released recordings have no spirit, no presence. This is why I listen to music: for the presence. Many go to seek it from church; I find it on some records.

But your records are well above average!

No, they are mediocre. Nothing shines. They are just ... "not bad" (silence) ... Wait, listen to this instead! (he searches frantically in a drawer and triumphantly takes out a cassette) ... Listen to this, listen to this wonder. It'll rip your head off! These are our first demos, they are four years old. I find them much better than our records (he closes his eyes and dances, possessed) It's a tenth generation copy, but I still prefer this sound (as he nods his head, the music is rough as sandpaper) Here is our music, here is the La's. Listen to this spiritual presence ... It vibrates, it hisses. Our album is cold, dead, clinical. If your own music doesn't give you chills, it's useless: It's just cabaret, casino music. I know what I'm looking for, I know what I want out of life. My music isn't free, it's not just a convenience. I always knew where I wanted to go. I grew up with these sounds. It is the sound of Liverpool, that of the sea, the wind, the docks.

Over the years, the lineup of La's has continuously evolved. Where do these constant changes come from?

People have no faith. Not as much as me. I couldn't tell you where it came from, words wouldn't be enough ... It's in my soul, in my heart. I believe in my music like others believe in God. You cannot demand the same faith from your musicians ...It is for this reason that it is so difficult to find people, and to stay with them. But I am not a dictator. Only, no one has better ideas than mine. So it's me who decides. So far, everything has been based on chance. Look at the Beatles, the Stones, James Brown ... They've all had the chance to meet the right people at the right time ... My time may not have come yet. It may never happen. If only I was given my chance, if I were finally allowed to control our destiny.

What scares you so much about technology?

Technology, put in good hands, is a wonderful thing. But I only see dirty hands. I only see folk enslaved by their machines. We only know how to master our own technology. But we know how to achieve our sound: a bit of Gypsy Kings, a bit of old Rolling Stones, a bit of the early Who ... Organic, earthy, real music. Bass, dry guitar, electric guitar, small drums. With that, you can do anything. Clean sound does not have to be clinical. On TV, when you see a motorcycle on the screen, it shakes the table. Today, no record shakes anything. There is no longer the slightest solidarity between music and furniture.

Before forming the group, I was nothing, just an unemployed fella from Liverpool. We would sit on the floor, smoke a joint with our friends. I was already thinking about this group, I had it in mind. But I had a hard time finding people. So I had to wait for years, until I was 24. I couldn't find anyone who could understand my ideas or carry them out. Neither faith nor talent. They did not know how to concentrate, they wasted my time. I spent my time with my guitar. I started playing it in '84, I was 22 years old. I know that was late, but before that I was totally irresponsible. I didn't start thinking until that age. Until I was 18, I didn't have to think about it, because I was a kid. After coming of age, I started doing anything I wanted. I just wanted to have fun. Then come the age of 22, and you realize that you can't live like this forever. I would get high anywhere, I would take the money where it was, I would only think about laughing. So we had to get out of this life

... I'm going to tell you a story about my childhood. I was 18 months old and I was in my crib. The Beatles had just landed and I was sitting up and screaming “Yeah, yeah, yeah” on my little bed. I even got a photo and a little article in our local newspaper, the Liverpool Echo. My mother had given me this haircut before, I never changed it ... And then, a few years later, I started playing guitar on a tennis racket. The music played, always having been by my side, even though I didn't get my first real guitar until I was 22.

At school, you had never been tempted to form a group?

No never. I was too busy with the girls and getting into trouble. Too many problems with vandalism, police, gangs. I was a normal kid:, we robbed houses. Just a fucking criminal. But I knew my group would exist someday, that I would be somebody. My parents hardly cared about music. They had too much work with their kids to care about The Beatles. But it never worried them that I am passionate about music. The people of Liverpool are totally ignored by the government. No pennies, no jobs happen here. It is therefore normal to waste time. Here, either you become a criminal, or you become a footballer, or even then a musician. Me, I tried all three (laughs)...

But I was too lazy to progress in football. All I wanted was not to work, not to end up static. I couldn't stand the discipline. I never went to school. And when, by chance, I went there, no one could know that I was anything but a jerk. I destroyed everything, I spent my time fooling around. It amused me that professors took me for a fool. It has always been more their problem than mine. I know I can discipline myself if the game is worth the effort. And only music can get me out of bed right now. Music makes me happy - or mad with rage, if the sound escapes me. If I can't do what I want with it, it's like throwing tomatoes at me, like the sound itself spitting at me. There is nothing more frustrating than those tomatoes thrown at me by the speakers. Under these conditions, I prefer to leave screaming, kicking this material that betrayed me. Even on stage, I can't show the true face of my music. Because I'm never the one controlling the sound. There are other fingers on the keys, which I will not be able to kick out until the day we are successful. That day, a lot of people will pay.

Do you really think your demos - unproduced, rough - could lead to success?

Yes. I know they're not perfect, but I'm not a perfectionist anyway. All I want is to capture a spirit. And that you can only do with a certain sound. Do you remember the first records you bought? I only bought them based on the sound. I didn't give a damn about songs, I wanted dirty guitars, noise, The Sweet, Gary Glitter (screams)

Why can't you explain it to a producer?

He wouldn't understand, I know. All they care about is money. I don't even know what they are for, it'sthe sound engineer who does all the work. They just sit there and ask stupid questions ... "Uh, can you explain the sound you want to me?" How to explain music in ten minutes? If I start explaining to them what I'm looking for, they yawn to get a cup of tea. I understand their usefulness with a group without ideas or with a group that is looking for itself. But not with us.

Are you not distraught when you see the enormous sum swallowed up in your album, thatyou have started from zero two or three times ...

I find that very disturbing, of course. Especially since this money was wasted against our will. We wanted to do everything here, in our wooden studio. On fourtrack, we have good vibrations, real whistles, the wood is shaking. We could have done the album in a day. In their modern studios, it already takes a whole day to think about the song. I never get to know what's going on around me, everyone ignores me, despises me and I don't understand anything about their world. I don't even know if they themselves understand what they are doing. They do it all, but the pilot doesn't know what's going on in his fucking plane. He is content to imitate what he has been taught. They want to turn my music into numbers with their digital bullshit. Their machines are bones with no flesh around them. Me, I don't even want to know what they're up to now. My sound, I can do it very well, without them.

In Liverpool, do you feel stronger on friendly soil?

When we signed our contract, we went to live in London for three months. In the house where we lived, we weren't even allowed to plug in our guitars. As soon as we started playing, the neighbors called the police. You realize, they wouldn't even let me play my music (panicked eyes) In addition,we had lost all our creativity. We had moved to be closer to the business, to be part of it. But we quickly realized that it didn't exist. It's just a pond, they're all wading around, all lost in London, for no reason. And I don't want to be seen in their company: too many deceivers, lies, greed ... They only think about their ambition, don't give a damn about creativity. None of them are able to create anything or recognize talent. It will end up falling on them one day, because everyone would be happy if they signed real artists: they would be even richer and we would all be smiling. So we quickly went back to Liverpool. Here I can breathe, I am close to my roots. In London, I had not forgotten my roots, but they should not be reduced to a memory, I need to feel them close to me. It is from this well that I draw my ideas, my inspiration. Of course, the streets and the sky are as gray as anywhere else. But everything has a different flavor. This is the North, this is my home. Here I understand people, I know when they are lying, I know when they are sincere. I understand their language. The rest of the country points the finger at us, laughs at us, never takes us seriously. We therefore deal amongst ourselves. It's important for my ego, my balance, my pride. Liverpool is a very cosmopolitan city, very open to religious, political, scientific ideas ... Here, the Spaniards have mixed with the Irish, the blacks with the yellows, the Europeans with the gypsies ... I call the city the Cross because everything intersects there. Local humor also comes from this openness. People spend their lives making fun of each other. It forces you to be on your guard all the time, to watch yourself. Elsewhere, people are less than alert, they let themselves go. Not here. You can't, you have to be careful, it's necessary for your balance.

Have you ever felt the weight of your local elders, the Beatles, the Mersey beat?

No one here is walking the streets talking about The Beatles. That's good for the Japanese, the Americans and the British who come here. The Manchester scene keeps pointing at us “Ah,Liverpudlians, what will you say to our domination?” They are at the top of the bill, so they are waiting for our response. But what they forget is that they themselves are only responding to what happened in Liverpool in the sixties. So we are one step ahead (laughs) The Mancunians, they accept everyone in their bandwagon. So, of course, there are so many and they seem invincible. It is their strength. Everywhere else - and especially here, in Liverpool - the groups are moving out, they want to throw the others out of the wagon.

Liverpool has changed a lot: working-class neighborhoods are razed to make them shopping centers, and docks are built for tourists. Is the city losing its mind?

Liverpool becomes the largest McDonald's in the country. We should rename the city McDonald City, this shit is everywhere. People have lost their minds. In Manchester today there is a greater sense of community. But no, everyone stays in their own corner, despising their neighbor ... “I'm alright, Jack, sod off” (smile) Where has the conviviality, the esprit de corps gone?

For many, Liverpool rhymes with drugs, aggression, violence ...

It is our way of speaking that gives this impression. Myself, you can notice it, I get carried away easily. It's my way of expressing myself. It's necessary because if I don't monopolize the conversation I don't understand anything people say (smile) As for drugs, I don't see the slightest problem. There would be a problem if they did not exist. They should be sold over the counter here, it would prevent a lot of violence and unnecessary death. In Liverpool, most crimes are linked to drug trafficking. I can be perfectly happy just smoking a joint. But it's normal that so many people take harsher things: wherever there are people crammed into cities, there must be drugs. It's not exclusive to Liverpool, it's the same in Manchester or London. We all need drugs to be sociable, whether it's tea or a joint. Not crack or heroin. These are totally unsociable drugs. Smackheads and crackheads only talk to smackheads or crackheads. Or to no-one.

Heroin has wreaked havoc in the groups here, Pale Fountains most of all...

Michael Head? Was he addicted to heroin? Then he's a weakling. I took heroin and quit overnight. It's not the drugs that are hard or soft, it's your personality. We can always stop. Do you know why I started? Because I was at a party where there wasn't a (normal) joint left. What a hero, I got down to it; I wasn't even addicted. It wasn't the lifestyle that goes with the heroin that attracted me. No lifestyle has ever fascinated me. I adapt to a situation, that's all. I could spend twenty years in prison, that wouldn't destroy me. I will always be there, underneath. I have too much faith to give up. I have my universe, without black and without white, without left and without right, without yin and without yang.


Is there room for anyone else in this universe?


I didn't create it. I was pushed into it by force. I want to mix with people. But I don't interest them, because I'm not famous. Nobody tries to know me. It was already like that long before the band, I'm used to it. I don't think I'm further ahead, spiritually but ... I allowed myself to move forward. I know we were nomads centuries ago. We planted wheat, we harvested it, we replanted it. The problem is governments. Without them, people would manage cleanly, without wars. But they lied too much, society has become bad, killed by greed. The spectacle continues, the rulers lead and the humble carry them, on their knees. I want to become a nomad again, so I have to live by ignoring the rest of the world, I have no choice.

No one can live like this. Either you are trying to change the world or you are killing yourself.

I don't want to change anything, people will end up doing it themselves. I see this new era coming. We separated politics, religion, science, culture. Everyone in their corner. We created this unstable balance from scratch, in order to govern better. But we are going to come back to a more global thought, finally end this joke.
I spent years alone with my old, dry guitar. I forced everyone to listen to me. In the end, people ended up joining me. I could hear them playing behind me. If I found them good, they had the right to stay. But I never really looked for musicians. The training took place as if with magnets, by attraction of personalities. The first year together, we gave at least three hundred concerts. Then we signed with a big record company, we had to take a real agent, who neglected us ... then no more concerts. So I didn't learn anything for years. You can't know how much I miss this life. I love these sensations. You excite the public, it excites you, it snowballs. It's such an electric shock, everything fits together, finally. I could continue the concerts until exhaustion, you really have to unplug my amp to stop. It is white energy, white light, an incredible source of energy.

Do you feel the same sensations at concerts of other groups?

No, I don't go anymore. The local scene has never attracted me. Echo & The Bunnymen, the Teardrops, they were so morose, they copied the Doors so much. I don't even want to think of a piece of song that I like in all these bands. Over forty years of music, I will only keep a handful of heroes ... Chuck Berry,Bo Diddley (his first album only), John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, the early Presleys, three songs from Eddie Cochran, Buddy Holly, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, three songs from the Kinks, a compilation from the Who - their problem is the lack of consistency, just some good songs - some old Stones, Hendrix,the Doors, some Simon & Garfunkel, James Brown, the early Led Zeppelins, the Sex Pistols and some acid-house tracks. These are the ones who have achieved something. Oh, I forgot Captain Beefheart,what a magician! It is surely him, the best of all. We must add Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino and Roy Orbison(smile)... He cannot be forgotten, with his heart and his huge Spanish guitar. Modern music does not approach these untouchables. It lacks the mind, the heart, the reason, the brain, the rhythms, the levitation. Only the acidhouse approaches the perfect balance between everything. Our demos do it. On my cassettes, I had mastered everything: the rhythm, the melody,the sound. I would so much like to be judged on those songs that no one can hear. Tell your readers not to buy our album, this technological rot. They will be disappointed, they will take me as being mediocre. Listen to the sound Shel Talmy made for the first Kinks singles. And for I Can't Explain by the Who. Beautiful American sound. Listen to the sound of Beggars Banquet of the Stones. These are the producers we need! But they're too old, they wouldn't understand modern studios. George Martin wanted to keep up with technology and what has he been up to since the Beatles? Absolutely nothing.

Roughly speaking, everything seems to stop, for you, at the end of the sixties. What was the magic of those years?

Most of the good songs were written around this time. And my ears can only take good songs. I also find more heart in the 50s. James Brown, five years before Elvis, was already sublime, funky, groovy (he sings) ... The sixties, it's only rhythm'n'blues, everything is stolen in the fifties. But this rhythm is ultimately jazz. People call us revivalists. Are Christians and Muslims being called revivalists? Me, I'm only interested in the real matter, where the soul is.

You seem very aware of the musical heritage. Can you write without being aware of it?

When I started writing, I didn't know half of these names. But I realized that I was walking the same path as them as soon as I heard their records. Their recipe, it will always work. It has been that way for forty years. We are the heirs, that's why we will always get out of it. We write without forcing ourselves, I never had to concentrate to find a song. Everything comes at once: the words, the music,the melody ... I remember getting Son of a Gun. I woke up with a melody in my head. I finished the song before I even got dressed. By the time I put on my underwear, I had a song ready (smiles)... Even the lyrics. I hurried to write them down so as not to forget them. It was like ... photocopying something lying around in my head. I don't know where it came from, my brain must work like a blender. It stores, kneads and reproduces what I hear or will hear. It is a memory that works as well with the past as with the future. Oftentimes I am unable to know where these songs come from, I am sure I have never heard them before.

Do you remember the day you found the melody for There She Goes ?

Wait, stay there, I'll show you (he grabs an old, dry guitar) ... I was playing with the strings and I found the chords by chance (he plays) ... I don't understand why people are surprised, there isnothing simpler than this melody (he keeps playing the melody) I must have an antenna in my brain which receives all the vibrations. The words come automatically. All the songs that I keep have revealed themselves to me like this, all at once.

“A melody always finds me”, as you sing on Timeless melody. Is it really that easy?

Yes. Ask my manager. I wrote Timeless Melody while we were having a conversation. Suddenly the idea came to me and the whole song was finished in a matter of moments. Fortunately I had a guitar on hand. I didn't understand what was happening to me, it was very weird, the impression of taking off. It started with a big shiver down my spine ... And after that, you can't imagine how easy it was. Anyone could do it. The problem is, everyone is wasting their time doing other things. I am constantly waiting. So that when inspiration arrives, I can devote myself entirely to it. The only gift I have is to have known how to wait, to be free when it was necessary to be so. You just have to relax, inspiration always comes. And the only way to achieve this relaxation is by doing nothing, so the mind is totally empty, ready to receive.

British Northerners are known for their attachment to values. What are yours?

I believe in a certain morality, in roots. People care too much about prices. I care more about value than price. That's why I hate society. Prices have turned us into robots. I know this is not a new opinion, but it makes me sick. Everyone is lying, to play their part well, so that their head does not stick out in the army of robots. So, of course, we are accused of being violent. But I'm just like a deer defending its territory. I don't hold out my fist, but I feel attacked when they take the La's for lightweights and we forget our soul, the organic and true side of our songs. We must therefore defend ourselves. Let us take care of ourselves, then we will have so many good things to offer the world ... If it can wait any longer.
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Re: Les Inrockuptibles n°27 - January-February 1991 translat

Postby Silva » Mon Jun 14, 2021 9:49 pm

Thank you
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Re: Les Inrockuptibles n°27 - January-February 1991 translat

Postby atticusedwards » Fri Jun 25, 2021 4:33 am

Thank you
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