Simon Says #15: The return of Spiritualized
Jason Pierce is back with a new Spiritualized album on Bella Union, and our columnist is impressed to say the least. Ladies and gentlemen, we are emoting in spades…
The Spaceman himself, Jason Pierce, is back, with not just a new Spiritualized album – but to my humble mind, the best record Jason has made in 21 years. And I love everything this man has done. To compare it to Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space would be foolhardy at this early stage, because of course ‘classic’ status is not attained overnight – but what I can tell you is this…
I first met Jason in 2013, though it’s quite possible we had met before. Much of the 90s were a blur for me, and from things I’ve heard, they were for Jason, too (though I don’t believe much of what I hear about people in this business – I prefer to make up my own mind). When drugs are mentioned in passing, or in the press, in relation to my own band Cocteau Twins, or friends of mine in bands, there’s always some wildly (or at least mildly) exaggerated part to a particular story that no band is ever going to deny. In fact, I’ve never met a band yet that didn’t quietly relish a reputation for overindulgence. I am sure even I have said in the past that Robin from my own band made John Belushi look like a mild weekend pothead.
Our first meeting didn’t start off quite as planned. We’d arranged to meet at Viet Hoa on Kingsland Road in Shoreditch, near the Bella Union offices. I was the first person in the restaurant, and sat quietly in this empty room, sipping calmly from my glass of water. After 20 minutes, I thought I should probably text Jason, in case he was lost. He texted back to say sorry, he was running a little late; he’d be there in the next 15 minutes. I ordered some starters and checked some emails.
Half an hour went by and he still hadn’t showed up, so I called him to ask if all was okay. “Yeah man, where are you?” he said. “I’m sat in the restaurant, but don’t think I can see you. Did you leave?” While I wasn’t alone in the restaurant anymore, it was still empty enough for me to know that Jason Pierce, one of my favourite musicians on the planet, was certainly not floating in this space. “Well, there’s only three other people in here and you’re definitely not one of them. Are you sure you’re at Viet Hoa, Kingsland Road?” He replied quickly: “Oh shit. No, I’m at a different Vietnamese restaurant!”
So eventually, we met up and had a lovely lunch together. We did this again a few weeks later – without the messed-up arrangement part – and again, talked more and more. He made me laugh a lot, and yet I found him to be smart and so very together, and I liked him enormously. I don’t know why I was a little surprised about that part, but I guess we were checking each other out – an important part of the process, especially for me.
Bella Union only works when we sign bands we really love, and I don’t just mean love their music, though of course, that is the prime reason we’re interested in the first place! I can’t sign bands just because I think they’ll do well, if my heart isn’t in it. Plus, I truly have no idea what does well and what doesn’t.
I don’t follow charts, I don’t look at the sales figures and I literally have almost no idea about how things are doing, unless someone tells me. It sounds daft, I realise that, but I just genuinely don’t find that stuff at all interesting. I mean, sure it’s important before you get on a conference call with some hardcore manager who wants to go over fine-detailed stuff to know what the headline stuff is, but seriously, that is not the best use of whatever talent I have.
Numbers, analysis and the vogue for looking at patterns in streaming numbers is not what I was put on the planet for. My place in this whole shebang is to talk to musicians like Jason Pierce and work out if what they’re doing, or want to do, is something I can really relate to; because if it is, then I can really help.
I was enthralled by Jason’s passion for his music, the fierce determination to make an album the equal of Ladies And Gentlemen… for himself. He needed to prove to himself he could do it. I didn’t need any proof. I knew he could: I saw it deep in his emerald eyes and in studying the contours of his sweet face.
And I’ve never wavered in my belief that he would do it. Maybe I could have – after all, he signed to Bella Union in 2013 and well, sure, I guess we could all be forgiven for thinking: “What the hell’s he been doing since then?”.
While I won’t spoil the stories he’ll tell you all in the run-up to the release, what I’ll happily say is, for all those countless label meetings I’ve had over the last five years, where I’ve been asked every other week: “When’s the Spiritualized album coming?”, every second was worth it. I know he would’ve finished it quicker if he could have, but I know these feelings only too well. You need to be sure it’s right. Even if once it’s out, you change your mind, before you hand it over, you need to be sure it’s right. And this, my friends, is so right. It’s a perfect miracle – and nothing hurt.
Simon Raymonde is currently in Lost Horizons and was the bassist and keyboard player in Cocteau Twins. He founded the independent record label Bella Union