Interview – Jim Reid of The Jesus and Mary Chain

The ’80s era was full of interesting artists doing their own thing. From Punk Rock to Synthpop, there was a lot going on, but Scotland’s The Jesus and Mary Chain filled the gap of something new no one else was doing. Possessing a sound all their own, some might call it Noise Pop, others might call it Alternative Rock, but whatever it might be, it was simply The Jesus and Mary Chain. Earning critical acclaim with their 1985 debut Psychocandy, the band would continue on successful through the late ’90s before they decided to call it quits.

A break-up which appeared to be for good, to the surprise of fans they would reform in 2007, release their seventh studio album Damage and Joy in 2017, and continue to tour regularly. Proof that time can mend and new bounds can be formed, The Jesus and Mary Chain are riding the wave of new life. Taking the time to reflect, Co-Founder Jim Reid sat down to talk the early years of the band, their reformation, plans for more new music, plus a lot more. 

Cryptic Rock – The Jesus and Mary Chain made a major impact during the ’80s era with a series of highly-charted records. The band would continue on until the end of the ’90s era and then reunite come 2007. First tell us, how would you describe the journey of the band?

Jim Reid – Complicated and difficult, paradoxically the greatest thing that you could imagine. It’s like life: there’s good bits, bad bits; there are bits you’d rather hadn’t happened, but there is nothing you can do about it, so you just get on. Generally the whole picture is pretty good, so that is all you can ask for.

Cryptic Rock – Right, there will be ups and downs with anything in life. What has always stood out about The Jesus and Mary Chain is the unique sound of the band. Quite honestly, no other bands sound like you. How did the path the band chose musically transpire?

Jim Reid – Well, we came and tried to fill what we thought was a gap in the music scene in the 1980s. We didn’t understand why nobody was making music like the music we went on to make. We were into Pop music and we were into Noise music, but it seemed like in the 1980s those two never met. In the ’60s you had bands that were in the charts that were make quite raw Rock-n-Roll/Pop music. By the ’80s that seemed to have gone, so we wanted to bring that excitement back to what we considered to be mainstream music at the time. It seems ludicrously naive that The Mary Chain might have been playing in football stadiums or whatever, but that was the idea we had at the time. We wanted to change the way people made Rock music in the 1980s.

Blanco y Negro
Blanco y Negro

Cryptic Rock – Many would argue you did. You influenced a lot of artists that followed.

Jim Reid – That was also what it was all about. We wanted to make music as entertainment but not just entertainment; we saw it as kind of like an instruction manual for anyone interested. Just in the same way we learned from the likes of The Beatles and the Stones. We wanted to show other people that you don’t need to go get guitar lessons for five years.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, creativity is beyond notes on a page.

Jim Reid – Absolutely. Also sometimes when you can’t actually make the conventional sounds that come out of musical instruments, you tend to kind of do something that no musician would have ever thought of; that was all that going on. We really didn’t know how to play Rock-n-Roll guitar conventionally, so we did it the best way we could. That is part to do with what you are saying that we didn’t sound like anybody else.

Cryptic Rock – Yes, that uniqueness stood out. As mentioned, the band continued on until the start of the new millennium, and you would do other projects in that gap between reuniting. You did one project including Free Heat. What was that project like for you?

Jim Reid – At that time I was drinking an awful lot; I don’t remember a lot about that period. I’m not sure how serious we all took that band. It was more a kind of project that we could do – it was something where we can drink and go to combine the two. We would do tours that were based around getting fucked up; it wasn’t healthy and it wasn’t a good career move. We enjoyed it, we were all great friends and we had a bit of a blast. It was never going to get on mainstream TV or radio, but that was never the point.

Blanco y Negro
Blanco y Negro

Cryptic Rock – Understandable. Well you did put out some quality music during the period. Then came the reunion of The Jesus and Mary Chain, and it seemed to all start when you performed at Coachella in 2007. What really inspired the reunion?

Jim Reid – Various people had tried to get the band together for several years before we played the Coachella show. Coachella had offered to get the band on the bill several years before it actually happened. I suppose the time just had to be right. There were a couple of things really. I always assumed William wouldn’t want to do it and he had always assumed that I wouldn’t want to do. The break-up was so fucking messy; at that time I could never have imagined playing with The Mary Chain again, but time really does heal as they say.

One night we were just talking on the phone and he was surprised to hear I would do it if he would. We just thought fuck it, let’s get on trying it. At the time it was a one-off, so I thought we will do it, if it works, then we’ll see what’s what; we play, we may hate each other, it just might not work. It was kind of dip our toe in the water and see what happens kind of deal. We didn’t try and kill each other, so we thought let’s do some more.

Cryptic Rock – It worked out well and you have done a list of touring since. You also released your first album in 20 years back in 2017, Damage and Joy. What was it like putting that record together?

Jim Reid – It was very strange to be back in the studio again. Particularly me, I was nervous about the whole idea of making a record. Not because I didn’t want a record, I really did. The idea of the process of being stuck in a studio with William for months on end. We were getting on okay live, but it’s a completely different vibe in the studio, it’s more claustrophobic. I just thought is this going to end up like going back to Munki (1998) again?

I was worried so I kept putting the recording sessions off until it just got to a point where I thought, “We’re in a band, bands make records. We should either do this or just give up the whole fucking thing.” I didn’t want to give it up, so we tried it. We got Youth to produce the band; the first time we had ever worked with a producer. We felt it would keep the peace and keep it sane. As it turns out we didn’t need anyone to keep the lid on it in that sense, we got on pretty well. We actually kind of made up, bonded in a way we hadn’t for a long time.  A lot of old wounds were healed over during the recording of that record.

Cryptic Rock – Very interesting and good to hear. Now out two years, you also supported Nine Inch Nails in the USA back in 2018. What was it like being a supporting act here in the USA on such a big tour?

Jim Reid – We actually really enjoyed it. We  weren’t sure about it because we had never done a tour as a support band before; that was the first time we had ever done that. We just were not sure how we would go down in front of a Nine Inch Nails crowd. We thought fuck it, why not, it sounds like it could be a lot of fun. The pressure was all theirs, no mistake; we knew it was their tour and we were just along for the ride, really. After a couple of days we realized, this is going to be okay. The crowd was okay, they seemed quite receptive and responsive to The Mary Chain. It was pretty easy going and relaxed.

Cryptic Rock – That is great to hear. If you look at the history of the band, it is broken into two periods and there was a near decade gap. Coming back after nearly 10 years away, do you find a new generation of fans are coming to the shows and showing interest in the music?

Jim Reid – There definitely seems to be. There are a lot of kids out there that weren’t born when we split up. It seems amazing to me that can happen. You are kind of worried when you go out there and people are getting on a bit, we are getting on a bit ourselves. I just find it a little bit more encouraging that there is a whole cross section of different kinds of people age wise.

Artificial Plastic

Cryptic Rock – It is good to have a variety of fans, age and background wise. You mentioned how the time in the studio for Damage and Joy was a healing process for yourself and William. Is it challenging working with a sibling?

Jim Reid – It’s back to that roller coaster thing we were talking about earlier. At the beginning of the band we completely saw eye to eye; it was great that we completely were on the same page as they say. Through the years that started to change, but by the time we got to Munki it was like we inhabited different universes, never mind the same page. It was difficult by then, it was impossible, and that’s why the band broke up. What’s it like now? It’s probably closer to like at the beginning of the band than during the Munki period.

Cryptic Rock – So things are going well. Do you anticipate more The Jesus and Mary Chain music in the future?

Jim Reid – We actually have started recording. We recorded a few tracks a couple of months ago and then we took a break. The plan is to try and have a new record out next year. Will it come out? Hopefully, if not it will be 2021, but I think it will be 2020.

Cryptic Rock – That is fantastic news! You did some shows in 2019, including two shows in Oakland, CA. Will there be more shows in 2020 or are you just going to concentrate on the new music?

Jim Reid – We took a bit of a time out to do the album. There are no shows for the rest of 2019, we are trying to get the record together. If we get the record out in 2020, I don’t see why we won’t tour more then.

Cryptic Rock – All things to look out for. Last question. If you are a fan of Sci-Fi or Horror movies, do you have any favorites?

Jim Reid – One of my favorite books is Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man. The movie from 1969 with Rod Steiger is great.

Doubleday & Company
Warner Bros.

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