An interview with David Gedge of The Wedding Present
Leeds’ The Wedding Present have long been a staple of the British indie circuit, releasing eight studio albums since their inception in the mid 1980s. Louder Than War’s Melz Durston caught up with singer and only constant member, David Gedge.
Back in 2011, American Laundromat Records released a tribute compilation to The Smiths, featuring artists including Elk City, The Wedding Present, Tanya Donelly and Dylan in the Movies. The Wedding Present covered Hand in Glove, with numerous other artists choosing their own favourite Smiths memories to represent.
The Wedding Present have since kept themselves busy (as to be expected from the prolific David Gedge) with the release of Valentina in 2012, a full tour showcasing their full Seamonsters work, and have released a book documenting the making of Valentina and their 4-track download release. Melz caught up with David Gedge (frontman of both The Wedding Present and Cinerama) in the lead-up to the release of the record. Hopefully still relevant today, here is that interview, in anticipation of The Wedding Present’s forthcoming UK tour…
What was it that struck a chord with you in getting involved with American Laundromat Records?
David: They seem like decent, honest people who have started a record label for the right reasons. And they’re efficient at accounting and paying royalties, which always helps!
Why did you decide to cover Hand In Glove and London? Did they seem like the obvious choices?
David: Cinerama actually recorded London a few years ago and I can’t really remember the reason I chose that song in particular. I quite like the lyrics, I suppose. They’re a bit less pompous than much of Morrissey’s writing… Hand In Glove, on the other hand, being the first single by The Smiths, struck a chord with me at the time it came out because I felt it was something genuinely different to everything else around at that time, both musically and lyrically.
You covered High on the American Laundromat Records tribute album – Just Like Heaven. Would you say that the recording process and initially, the creative process, was a similar scenario when you covered a track by The Cure as when you covered The Smiths?
David: Pretty much, yes. You just break down the song into its constituent parts: the melody, the rhythm, the tempo. And then rebuild it in a way that appeals to you. It’s often quite an instructive process, because you’re analysing how other people write and arrange music.
What are your thoughts on the Beauty Contest attitude that still seems to dominate the music business? Is it the image or the music that is being sold? Where do you see this going in the future, and for younger generations of music consumers?
David: Well, it’s certainly not a new phenomenon. I think musicians have always been conscious of their style… or studied ‘lack of style’. Ultimately, music isn’t just about what you hear on the artist’s recordings. It’s about how they look, what they say, what they do, the sleeve design, the videos… all these things contribute to the overall appeal of an ‘artist’. Coincidentally, Morrissey is actually a good example of that. He’s not really made any truly inspiring music for decades, now, but has amassed this hugely dedicated following who seem to worship him. I think that’s probably something to do with the fact that he’s a brilliant and controversial interviewee. All the provocative pronouncements about vegetarianism and East End gangsters and China and stuff… I think that’s possibly all part of a strategy to maintain his status as an icon, no matter how objectionable some people may find some of his comments.
“The people who are successful at this are usually incredibly driven and I think they put their work before everything else… socialising, leisure time… even their families and relationships. So it can end up being a very lonely career choice…”
Steve Albini worked with you on the 1990 Brassneck EP – and later, on your full-length album Seamonsters as well as your 2008 LP El Rey. What did this relationship teach you about your writing and recording processes and thresholds, capabilities and flexibilities?
David: The main thing I learnt from Albini was that The Wedding Present sounded at its best when we went back to basics and just recorded the band with great equipment playing live in a great sounding room with great sounding instruments. That kind of sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But you can get a bit lost in the recording process, sometimes. Steve said to me once: “Why do some bands take as much time on perfecting a snare drum sound as it did The Beatles to record an entire LP?”
It has been suggested that in the demise of The Smiths in 1987, The Wedding Present came along at just the right time, to fill the void that had been left behind. Do you have any perspectives on this?
David: I think it’s fair to say that we perhaps scooped a few Smiths fan, yes. I actually referred to that myself when I half-jokingly described The Wedding Present as The Smiths fans’ second favourite group! But it didn’t affect what we did as a band in any way… we always had our own vision and we were always determined to pursue it regardless of who our audience were. That’s still true today.
That aside, in what ways have you been influenced by the Smiths in your pre-The Wedding Present/Lost Pandas days – and throughout your career?
David: I think the main way in which I found The Smiths inspiring was in the manner in which they stood out from the crowd and had that unique style and sound. So they weren’t really musically influential, as such… I mean Morrissey and myself have totally different styles of lyric writing, for instance. I was always slightly suspicious of Johnny Marr’s supposed hatred of punk rock (which I loved!)
John Peel was a huge supporter and advocate of The Wedding Present. How do you view the current radio broadcasting/presenter and artist relationships, situation?
David: Well, it’s changed quite dramatically, clearly. I think, on the one hand, it’s very enlightening and democratising to be able to listen to radio from all over the world and for listeners to be able to email the presenters… but at the same time I think John Peel was, is and will always be, irreplaceable. That being said, it’s interesting to note that Peel actually welcomed the new technology and often corresponded with his listeners by email.
Who would you like to cover a song by The Wedding Present or Cinerama?
David: The Pixies? Or maybe Jamie Cullen could do an interesting version of something…
On 27th October, Edsel Records will be releasing special deluxe versions of eight Wedding Present albums. Find out more news here: http://www.scopitones.co.uk/
November Tour Dates:
- 4th – Portsmouth: Wedgewood Rooms
- 5th – Exeter: The Cavern
- 6th – Bristol: The Fleece
- 8th – Dublin: The Button Factory
- 10th – Newcastle: Cluny
- 11th – Edinburgh: Liquid Room
- 12th – Blackburn: King George’s Hall
- 13th – Oxford: O2 Academy
- 14th – London: Clapham Grand
All words by Melz Durston. More from Melz can be found at her author archive.