Kevin Shields interview
March 12, 2004 4:04 PM   Subscribe

The seminal shoegazing band My Bloody Valentine hasn't released a record since its ground-breaking 1991 release Loveless (Amazon samples). MBV's primary voice and reclusive in-general genius Kevin Shields finally gives an interview to The Guardian after 12 years of silence.
posted by xmutex (28 comments total)
Shoegazing, FYI.
posted by xmutex at 4:08 PM on March 12, 2004

Great post, xmutex. Thanks.
posted by homunculus at 4:30 PM on March 12, 2004

This is a realization that a lot of musicians never come to:
"I lost it. I lost what I had and I thought, you know what? I'm not going to put a crap record out."

You lost it? "I think everyone does. Everyone has a certain thing and they lose it and they should move on. But I wasn't ready to move on. I reached a sort of stalemate with myself. I wanted to be where I used to be and have that powerful, strong sense of direction. But I wasn't inspired the way I used to be."

I hope that if he does reform MBV it's because he has found a new sense of direction, but I guess I can't blame him if he just decides to cash in.
posted by malphigian at 5:23 PM on March 12, 2004

Wonderful article, thank you xmutex.
posted by eastlakestandard at 5:30 PM on March 12, 2004

posted by Satapher at 6:05 PM on March 12, 2004

Actually, as someone said when I posted that Guardian link on another board, that's not his first interview in twelve years. This probably is.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 7:02 PM on March 12, 2004

And he talked with Tape Op back in 2001, though the body of the interview doesn't appear to be online. Being Tape Op, it primarily focused on his recording philosophies, but I remember he talked about his life in general as well -- and he didn't seem nearly as reclusive as people had made him out to be. (I interviewed him briefly in '92, and he was totally friendly and gregarious.)

I'm glad he's sticking his head up again -- MBV are definitely among my all-time favorite bands. (Though I never loved the term "shoegazing.")
posted by lisa g at 7:35 PM on March 12, 2004

Good article. The guy sounds like kind of a dick, though. I don't really remember My Bloody Valentine as being so good it excuses the stuff it sounds like this guy got away with, breakdown or no. But then, I was 10 in 1991, and I haven't heard Loveless in that long.
posted by Hildago at 8:52 PM on March 12, 2004

I enjoyed the Smashing Pumpkins until i heard MBV and The Swans... Corgan is a fucking hack.
posted by Satapher at 10:00 PM on March 12, 2004

Dear God, he's looking like the 40-year-old reincarnation of Richard Harris (RIP). And I don't know whether to be happy about his supposed new lease of musical life or sad about the end to all those stories about his non-stop dope-smoking in Brixton.
posted by riviera at 11:04 PM on March 12, 2004

I suppose the story that he was making a living as a taxi driver is a myth as well...
posted by prolific at 2:53 AM on March 13, 2004

Rumor is Kevin Shields made a pretty awful drum n bass album right when the genre begin to die out, '98 or so. It was of course never released.

"In Britain there was a big drum-n-bass movement and that was the last thing I got really into. I got really really into it at one point"
posted by the fire you left me at 6:52 AM on March 13, 2004

Loveless has been in my Top 5 Desert Island collection consistently since it came out 13 years ago. There's just something about it that makes it sound as fresh today as it did in 1991. All due credit to Kevin Shields's songwriting, a lot of what made the record so special was Alan Moulder's production. MBV's previous LP, Isn't Anything, is a decent enough indie record, but it's nowhere near as transcendent as Loveless. Or, maybe it was just an alignment of the stars. At any rate, maybe if Shields can deliver a decent enough follow up, it'll be enough to convince Andy Bell and Marc Gardener to put their differences away, and get back together for another tour.
posted by psmealey at 7:23 AM on March 13, 2004

This shoegazing thing seems to be a genre that I completely missed, but judging by the description "it drew heavily upon synth pop and New Wave artists, as well as electronica," I probably wouldn't have liked it.
posted by jonmc at 7:57 AM on March 13, 2004

jon, it's one man's opinion, but I think that description of shoegazing is wayyyyy off base. Most of the shoegazing bands (MBV, Swervedriver, Ride, Moose) were characterized by heavy pulsating rhythms, and heavy, multilayered guitars. And despite the lack of stage presence that characterized some of these bands (hence: shoegazers), some of them put on a great, though skull crushingly loud live show.

I do think it's some of the best (and still relatively undiscovered) rock 'n' roll from the 90s. Mezcal Head, Nowhere, Souvlaki and Loveless still rate as some of my favorite records of all time... right up there with In Utero, Pretenders' first record, Marquee Moon, This Year's Model, etc.
posted by psmealey at 8:15 AM on March 13, 2004

Oh, I'm sure it's good for those who are into that sort of thing, psmealey, but you're talking to somebody who listens to Canned Heat and The Long Ryders. I kinda figure that's a twain that'll never meet.
posted by jonmc at 8:20 AM on March 13, 2004

this post reminded me to listen to Loveless on the way to work today.
posted by mcsweetie at 10:14 AM on March 13, 2004

I can't believe I'm 12 years older than Hildago.

I'm listening to Loveless right now for the first time in a couple of years. Thanks! (And next up: Ride, Going Blank Again. Ah, glorious waves of shoegazing sound!)
posted by scody at 10:20 AM on March 13, 2004

Don't forget Lush!
posted by metrocake at 10:35 AM on March 13, 2004

Loveless is a great album, but I agree that it's the production as much as the songwriting. It's kind of a one-trick pony. Any followup probably would have been a disappointment. The first album, Isn't Anything, is mediocre.

The writer of this article is an obvious fanboy. He compares Shields to Brian Wilson and Syd Barrett (none of the songwriting on Loveless approaches the "genius" of either). Later, the author calls Yo La Tengo a "far less talented group". I don't even own a Yo La Tengo album and I know that statement is laughable.

Still, I listen to Loveless a few times a year and consider it to be one of the best albums of the 90s.
posted by D.C. at 2:33 PM on March 13, 2004

psmealey: Raise is much better than Mezcal :)
posted by ed\26h at 2:16 AM on March 14, 2004

ed: no way. Mezcal is a lot better in my book. I'd say listen again. The guitars sound so crisp... aside from Loveless, I think that Mezcal's guitars *sound* about the best.

DC: Isn't Aything is not the first record.... and I wouldn't recommend buying the first one either. Isn't Anything is a much different record, but I think that it (along with the Feed with Your Kiss and especially the You Made me Realize EPs) are every bit as innovative and great... just in a different way. A lot happened in music between 1989 and 1991.

johmc: Since shoegazing is my most fave era in music you'll prolly wicked hate it. BUT, it is not given a fair shake by your description. Some of the records classified as shoegazer might in fact be a bit twee for your taste, but I'll bet you'd like Loveless and Swervedriver's Mezcal Head.

Production and songwriting-wise, Loveless is totally brilliant. They spent years writing the songs and spent more money producing the record than had EVER been spent, ever, at that time (about 300 hours of mixing time.) A who's who of music critics have lauded the effort as super-great. The guy was/is a total genuis. Their live show was the loudest, greatest sound I've ever heard.

Brain Eno and David Byrne (among others) poured superlatives on Loveless... so it isn't just a fanboy thing. I'm a fanboy and I still think that it was the greatest record since Abbey Road.

As for shoegazing in general here is a list I posted on em411 a while back:

shoegazer 101:

lilys - in presence of nothing+++ (!!!<<<goodness!!!)
swirlies - They Spent Their Wild Youthful Days in the Glittering World of the Salons• (most creative award)
Slowdive - Blue Day (comp of early eps)
ride - nowhere, going blank again(best pop songs in genre award)
boo radleys - everything is alright forever+, giant steps+ (just great stuff)
lush - gala+ (sweetness and light and gala are astonishingly wonderful songs)
spacemen 3 - perfect prescription (narcotics award)
spiritualized - lazer guided melodies+
catherine wheel - chrome, ferment
cocteau twins - heaven or las vegas+ (best female vox, ever), milk and kisses, arguably everything they ever did
swervedriver - mezcal head (the most well-recorded guitars, maybe ever.)
seefeel - polyfusia (or the first two eps, time to find me and more like space.)
my bloody valentine - feed me with your kiss, you made me realize, glider, loveless• , tremolo (gotta have 'em)
pale saints - either lp, mrs. dolphin (ep comp) (also really great songs, really sad songs)
medicine - shot forth self living (loudest sounding record, ever)
telescopes - telescopes+ (perfect dream rock lp)
electric company - a pert cyclic omen (most insane award)

+ means essential, imo

A lot of this is out of print, but boy. Good records.
posted by n9 at 12:00 AM on March 15, 2004

and, also, btw. I'd like to think that my own musical offerings are in the mix there a well: (free music behind the link!)
posted by n9 at 12:12 AM on March 15, 2004

Excellent stuff, n9. Good calls on Swirlies and Lilys. I might have suggested A Brief History of Amazing Letdowns or Eccsame the Photon Band as all around better records, but in the Presence of Nothing probably more closely typfies Kurt Heasley's Shoegazer phase.

And as much as I do like Raise, ed, I still hear it in the context of Swerdriver still trying to sound a bit too much like Dinosaur Jr's take on the Stooges. Mezcal Head just flat out rocks. So much texture with absolutely HUGE sounding guitars. Ejector Seat Reservation, while a bit of a departure, definitely deserves mention as well for great songwriting, and Adam Franklin continuing to find his voice.

The Spacemen 3 album you mentioned is pretty great, but Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To has to go down as one of the all time greatest album titles.

Also noteworthy are Curve's Come Clean and Moose's High Ball Me.
posted by psmealey at 6:54 AM on March 15, 2004

BTW, not to dis' Presence of Nothing, at all, as "Claire Hates Me" is one of the very best songs in the genre, and as Kevin Shields himself might have been proud to write "Collider".
posted by psmealey at 7:09 AM on March 15, 2004

johmc: Since shoegazing is my most fave era in music you'll prolly wicked hate it. BUT, it is not given a fair shake by your description. Some of the records classified as shoegazer might in fact be a bit twee for your taste, but I'll bet you'd like Loveless and Swervedriver's Mezcal Head.

It's nothin' personal, just my odd taste. Maybe I'll acquire a few of those tracks through completely legal means. If they're any good I'll have to give you introductory primers in 60's Garage, Sunshine Pop (the twee-est genre imaginable), deep soul, and NWOBHM.

cocteau twins -

I generally avoid (non-cajun) bands who use french words in their names. I don't know why.
posted by jonmc at 7:14 AM on March 15, 2004

rumor has it that kurt (of the lilys) has called Kevin up on the phone multiple times trying to convince him to record the next MBV LP with him, in Philly.

We can only hope. (Although I think that the last lilys record is a real stinker. ug.)

I'll tell you what, jonmc (and others:) I'll put a comp together this week and make it available for limited release. email me at rmonn[at] if you are interested. Maybe it can be released under the deal that if you hear anything you really like you ought to put some $$ down on the commercial releases.

If there is any interest I'll do it up. I feel that more people ought to hear this stuff.
posted by n9 at 8:51 AM on March 15, 2004

There will be an interview with Kevin in the next issue of Hot Press magazine. Will probably be their site as well, eventually. He talks to journalist Peter Murphy about the embarrassment of getting a Bafta nomination, reminisces about the early Dublin scene, his touring experiences with MBV and he praises The Virgin Prunes and Gavin Friday to high heaven. Bless him.
posted by prolific at 3:06 PM on March 23, 2004

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