Last month, Kevin Shields announced what many had spent the past twenty years hoping and praying for; that a new My Bloody Valentine album will finally be with us in 2013. While not advising anyone to hold their breath in anticipation, his statement along with the band's confirmation of several live shows next year suggests that long awaited follow-up to Loveless might just be around the corner after all.
Earlier this year, DiS caught up with My Bloody Valentine bass player Debbie Googe. Having spent the summer moonlighting with Primal Scream, this evening's performance at September's Jersey Live Festival would be one of her last with Bobby Gillespie and co.
Her charismatic bass playing has been a focal element of My Bloody Valentine's sound, having been a member of the band since 1985. Here, she discusses the future plans for My Bloody Valentine, what it's like to have been part of arguably the most influential guitar band on the planet for over a quarter of a century, and how she came to be involved with Primal Scream throughout the summer. Just don't mention the term "shoegaze"...
(Since this interview took place, My Bloody Valentine have announced three UK shows for March 2013)
DiS: You've spent the summer playing a few shows with Primal Scream. How did that come about?
Debbie Googe: Bobby (Gillespie) just rang me. I don't know him that well but we've been friends right from the Creation days. He's never rung me before. It was a Wednesday, a very bizarre Wednesday. When I'm not making music I do a lot of website stuff, and that morning I'd had a call from somebody called Lionel. He'd asked me to make a website for Quivers, which I thought was bizarre and then an hour later I got a call from Bobby asking if I fancied playing bass for the Scream. My first reaction was "I don't know!" I was incredibly flattered but I was a bit unsure whether I could. It's not really my style. Me and Mani are very, very different bass players, and then at the time I didn't know what was happening with My Bloody Valentine. So I spoke to Kevin (Shields) and the others, and they all said I'd be stupid not to as we wouldn't be doing anything over the summer, so I thought why not, I'll give it a go.
DiS: Did you have to go and learn Primal Scream's entire back catalogue or does the set you've been playing most of the summer incorporate everything you were asked to learn?
Debbie Googe: Pretty much. There are other songs as well which I've learned to play, but I guess the main reason was that it was only three weeks between Bobby phoning me and the first gig they wanted me to play with them, which was a festival in Japan. After the initial phonecall on the Wednesday they asked me to learn three songs, which were 'Rocks', 'Country Girl' and 'Jailbird' by Friday and then I went back in the next week and learned a couple more and carried on like that every week so by the time I got to Japan I knew a full set's worth of songs.
DiS: Would you consider joining Primal Scream on a full time basis if the opportunity arose, or do you see this as more of an ongoing experience until My Bloody Valentine return?
Debbie Googe: It's definitely more of an ongoing thing. Kevin's just finishing off the album and we're already booking shows for next year. Japan and Australia have been confirmed for February. When I took the role on with Primal Scream it was only meant to be for their summer gigs. I guess in a perfect world it would be lovely to do both but it's never a perfect world so... My Bloody Valentine has always been my priority and I said that to Kevin before I agreed to help Bobby and the Scream out.
DiS: Were you involved in any of the recordings for the next Primal Scream album?
Debbie Googe: No, it was pretty much already recorded before I joined. It's pretty much all mixed as well. David Holmes is producing the record. It's actually very good too!
DiS: The new song you've been opening the sets with this summer, '2012', has a very Spacemen 3/Can feel about it. Would you say that's representative of the album as a whole?
Debbie Googe: It's kind of a mixed bag really I guess. Some of it is really classic Primals, you know, quite similar to the Screamadelica era in many ways. There's nothing as extreme as XTRMNTR or traditional straight ahead rock'n'roll as 'Rocks', but from what I've heard so far it has all the makings of being a great record.
DiS: Is there any one era of Primal Scream which you personally favour or most identify with?
Debbie Googe: I'd probably have to say Screamadelica. Not just because of the music, but also the time and everything else that went with it. I always have fond memories of that record, but at the same time I'm a fan of most records Primal Scream have made. What I like about them is that they've always tended to do the opposite from what people expect. Like when Screamadelica got big they'd play raves rather than traditional gigs.
DiS: It was great to hear songs like 'Slip Inside This House', 'Damaged' and 'Shoot Speed/Kill Light' played with such energy and vigour.
Debbie Googe: That's how it's been all summer. Bobby's assembled a great band that's been on top of their game for a while now, which is why it's such an honour to be a part of it. We've been playing songs from every era which seems to go down well with the audience, and also fun for us to play too.
DiS: The first time I ever saw both Primal Scream and My Bloody Valentine was on the same bill at the Garage in Nottingham twenty-five years ago. Obviously the material both sets were comprised of is very different to what either band would play now. Do you ever foresee Primal Scream or My Bloody Valentine playing some of those early songs again such as 'All Fall Down' and 'Velocity Girl' (Primal Scream) or 'Sunny Sundae Smile', 'Strawberry Wine' and that whole Lazy Records pre-Creation era (My Bloody Valentine) again?
Debbie Googe: I very much doubt it. It's kind of a process you have to go through to get somewhere else. As a band develops and makes more records it enables you a wider scope of material to cull from really. Some songs will get left behind, especially when you've only got half an hour to play or whatever. Unless you're The Cure of course who just keep on playing for four hours! My Bloody Valentine did a festival with them a few years ago and The Cure played for over three hours, which was amazing, but then we were given an hour and a half so it meant we had to streamline what we wanted to play. At the same time, we've all been doing this a very long time so you kind of get the feeling now for what works live.
DiS: You've already mentioned My Bloody Valentine booking shows for next year. Does this mean there will be a full world tour and possibly UK dates as well?
Debbie Googe: The only definites so far are Japan and Australia. We're doing about half-a-dozen club shows in each and an ATP show in Melbourne. There's nothing confirmed after that but I'd say it's very, very likely. The way we work we will carry on playing other shows and that will almost certainly involve the UK at some point. America too, I just don't know when.
DiS: How does it make you feel now to hear My Bloody Valentine referenced by so many artists as an inspiration on their careers and held in such high esteem?
Debbie Googe: I guess it would be very easy for me to take some of the credit, but nearly all of it is down to Kevin. He's very single-minded, and undoubtedly the reason My Bloody Valentine receive that kind of attention, so whenever I hear people talking about us I just say to myself, "No, actually they mean Kevin!" And I feel very lucky to have been a part of it and still part of it and the same can be said with Primal Scream too.
DiS: Was there ever a point where you thought My Bloody Valentine would never re-appear?
Debbie Googe: Yeah, loads of points. I mean, I left in 1997 and that was after five years of us not doing an album or anything else really for that matter. We were essentially all mental. We lived in a house together and had become incredibly unproductive. We'd built our own little world around us that wasn't very healthy for any of us and one day I just thought to myself this isn't going to happen any more and that's when I left. I had to get out for my own sake and for years after that I never thought anything would happen so when we did get back together in 2008 - I knew what was happening about a year before - I still had doubts whether or not everyone would go through with it. Obviously it did and even then I was quite surprised! I mean, we had also been offered lots of things along the way. But that first time we all got back in a room together was almost like being stuck in a toilet for a very long time! We all grew up together - Kevin and Colm have been and there's something very comfortable about that. We all know which buttons to push. Sometimes we can get really irritated by each other yet there's also a great understanding of one another too.
DiS: I remember the clamour for tickets when those first two ICA shows were announced, and then the rest of the tour sold out almost immediately. Same with the ATP weekend too. That must have seemed quite surreal compared to the early days of the band?
Debbie Googe: It was just absolutely incredible. It's brilliant, yet also quite weird in a way that we became seminal for doing nothing. We never got that much press at the time. We never got many front covers. Loveless had the misfortune of coming out the same week as Nevermind which meant we didn't really get a lot of first-hand press, but we got loads afterwards as more and more bands cited us so we became seminal. Which in a way, probably gives you a longer lifespan than actually being popular.
DiS: Loveless, Isn't Anything and a disc of tracks taken from your most well-known EPs were all reissued earlier this year along with some previously unreleased material. Is there any specific reason why some of those songs, which date back as far as 1988, have only just been issued now?
Debbie Googe: I haven't really spoken to Kevin that much about it but I think the reason is he didn't believe those tracks were good enough at the time. Looking back and going over them again I think he then realised that they were much better than he originally thought. He certainly knows what he wants. I'm not sure if it's perfection in the normal sense of what's perfect but it's very much his idea of what he wants, and it's quite hard for him to express it sometimes.
DiS: We've already touched briefly on the new My Bloody Valentine record. Is there a definitive timescale as to when it might be released and bearing in mind the past twenty years of inactivity, do you believe it will see the light of day, even now?
Debbie Googe: It will definitely come out as it's pretty much finished. I mean, it's impossible to talk about time with Kevin, but in terms of percentage wise, he's got one more track he wants to do then that's it. Everything else is recorded.
DiS: Could you give us a brief description or insight into what the record sounds like?
Debbie Googe: I really couldn't at all. I've heard more of the new Primal Scream record than I have the new My Bloody Valentine one!
DiS: So have you not laid down your parts on the record or even played on it?
Debbie Googe: No, most of it is stuff Kevin has done, certainly guitar wise. It's been a long process you know. The drums have been added then taken off at least once. His brother did them at one point, then Colm (O'Ciosoig) came in and redid them. There's some things Kevin can't do like the drums of Bilinda's (Butcher) vocals but everything else he can, and I'm certainly happy for him to do that.
DiS: Will any of the new songs be in the live set next year?
Debbie Googe: At this moment in time I couldn't really tell you. We haven't played together since ATP in 2009. We see each other socially. In fact I probably see Kevin the most because Colm lives in the States and Bilinda's got children and actually me and Kevin live relatively close to each other and go to gigs together. I'd like to think there'll be new material in the live set. I know he doesn't want to play the whole of the new album. One of the reasons we booked Japan and Australia first was because they're territories we never got to play first time around bar the one festival, so I'd expect those sets to be very similar to the ones we've been playing over here and in America. But then by the time we get back here, I'd expect there to be newer songs incorporated into the set that we haven't played live before.
DiS: Of all the bands that My Bloody Valentine have influenced, are there any which you're quite proud to have that association with?
Debbie Googe: I've got the utmost respect for any artist that puts their records out there. It's very easy to sit around and slag it off but it's actually a really hard thing to do. You've put yourselves out there to be shot down. You've opened yourselves up, so for that reason I'm incredibly proud of anyone we've influenced whether I think it's a bit of a copy or otherwise. It's like for me, The Ramones were a major influence. I think they're one of the greatest pop bands that ever existed even though I wouldn't say they'd be massive fans of My Bloody Valentine, or hear their influence in anything we do. But their main influence for me was how it changed my perception of pop.
DiS: Having been making music for nearly thirty years, what is the song or record that you're most proud of having worked on?
Debbie Googe: Again it's hard, because when it comes to recording Kevin very much takes the lead. For me personally, the 'You Made Me Realise' EP changed everything for us as a band. It was the point where My Bloody Valentine became My Bloody Valentine, so it's always going to be very dear to my heart. There's something about that time and the making of that record where we suddenly evolved from being one thing into another. And I do love the songs as well.
DiS: How did that change come about? Listening back to the earlier EPs prior to 'You Made Me Realise' no one could have predicted what came next.
Debbie Googe: It was largely down to Creation Records. Lazy were a bit more - I wouldn't say controlling but they had their own style if you like. I think it was easier to read the influences in much of our earlier recordings and then suddenly with 'You Made Me Realise' it goes "Fuck that!" I'm always very loathe to talk about the band's sound because that really is Kevin's domain, but I think the fact we were given almost a free reign to do what we like gave us the impetus to try something different, and it just worked. I guess that's the most defining moment for me anyway. It's really weird looking back because at first Kevin never really wanted to be the singer. We got a guy in called Joe (Byfield) to sing backing vocals with Bilinda but it didn't feel right, so he left and Kevin took over, but even now I think it's the one thing Kevin dislikes the most; singing. He doesn't feel that comfortable singing live.
DiS: The harmonies between Kevin and Bilinda are quite definitive of the band's sound for me.
Debbie Googe: Definitely. It isn't like they're harmonising in the truest sense of their word. It's as if their voices simply just glide into one another. You know there are two different people, yet at the same time it's quite genderless. I think that's why the original singer Dave (Conway) didn't work either. He wanted to be the main frontman and image-wise was very gothic. He was really into the Birthday Party and I guess you could tell by the way he sang.
DiS: It must have been a great time to be on Creation Records back then, with so many amazing bands on the roster.
Debbie Googe: It was. Alan (McGee) was great to work with simply because he just encouraged us to get on with whatever we wanted to do. Even with Loveless - for the first half of the record anyway - he was always telling us to do what we wanted but then about halfway through he started to get a bit worried. You know, it's been a year-and-a-half and the record isn't ready yet! The main difference between Alan and the Valentines was drugs. We were on very different planes. Kevin's a stoner whereas Alan's a cokehead, so you had two very different worlds colliding.
DiS: Obviously the press at the time labelled the band "shoegaze" in a derogatory sense, although that seems to have taken an about turn and become a genre with the passing of time. What do you make of the term "shoegaze"?
Debbie Googe: We were staring at our pedals not at our shoes!
For more information on My Bloody Valentine visit their official Facebook page for regular updates.
Since this interview took place, My Bloody Valentine have announced three UK shows for March 2013:
9th March - Glasgow, Barrowlands
10th March - Manchester, Apollo
12th March - London, Hammersmith Apollo