Lifelong Wedding Present fan, Louder Than War writer Iain Key sat down with singer David Lewis Gedge for his Louder Than War Radio Show. The interview covered the bands upcoming 24 Songs Project, their prolific output over the last 12 months, the recent tour and various other topics. Here’s the transcript for our Louder Than War readers.
LTW : Hello David, I guess to start with we should talk about the 24 Songs project that you’ve just announced?
DLG : Hello Iain. Well basically it’s our way of releasing music next year for because it dawned on me earlier this year that 2022 will be the 30th anniversary of The Hit Parade when we released 12 7” singles. I was thinking we should do something to commemorate that. We’ve been knocking the idea back and forth and then we said, ‘let’s do singles again’. It’s quite cool. I’ve always loved the 7” inch single format and it’s an interesting way of making records rather just going and doing an album. Also we really enjoyed it last time. Although, you know, it’s 30 years ago, you have a lot of and people still talking about it about, when I do interviews now people will say, ‘Oh and back in 1992…’ So we just thought we’d do it again, and so we’ve embarked on it.
It’s a little bit different from last time because last time all the records were just available in record shops, but as there’s less record shops to buy them from nowadays in general, and also, with the older fans we have now, no one wants to be queueing up outside Our Price at 5 o’clock to get the record. So we’re doing this subscription where you can get ’em by mail order. So you’ll get them through the post, one a month. That’s one of the differences. Another difference is that the vinyl production time is crazy now. When we did it in 1992, we literally recorded them in the studio and they were out a few weeks later. Now there’s a seven month-lead time in between finishing the recording, getting the master and everything coming out on vinyl.
How far ahead are you with recording them?
I’ve lost track of it to be honest, because we not doing it in one go. We are writing songs and then when we get the chance we’ve been going into the studio to record them, but not always finishing ’em. We’re then going back later and mixing them or whatever. I think we’re about halfway through in terms of actual finished recordings. It’s November now, we’re just looking at the June one at the moment.
Will these all be original songs or will you be putting covers on the B sides again?
No, we’re not gonna do the covers on all the B sides this time because there’s a lot of tracks, a lot of songs written. I’ve been doing a lot writing with John (Stewart), our new guitarist so we thought we’d rather not restrict ourselves to doing covers. There are a couple of covers, the first one’s actually a Sleeper song which you will probably know (We Should Be Together) and also on the last European Tour, I can’t remember if we did it in Britain as well, but certainly continental Europe, we were doing a Magazine song.
Song From Under The Floorboards?
Yes. Song From Under The Floorboards. We decided that that was sounding pretty cool, so we decided to record that as well. So there’s two covers basically, but as I say we haven’t decided on the rest yet because we’re only halfway through the actual recordings. There could be more, more covers, but it’s not the kind of the plan this time to have an original one cover on each, on each release. It’s just, you know, see what happens basically.
I’ve signed up for them. I like the idea that you get the box with the first one then you build the collection as you go through.
A lot of people didn’t get a box last time. I think RCA pressed up 15,000 of each 7” but they only made 3000 boxes so a lot of people missed that. This time you can get the box from the off.
Do you have a favorite track from the original Hit Parade? Blue Eyes was n the set for the most recent tour?
I don’t do the set list. Melanie (Howard) does the set list so she put that in. No, not really though, people ask me, my favorite song, favorite albums, it’s hard to choose really because I like the all, otherwise I wouldn’t have released them. So it’s hard to pick favourites. There’s ones that are kind of less favourite because I think we could have done better or something, but you know, by and large, if we’ve recorded it and released it it’s because I’m happy with it.
You’ve been very prolific with output over the last year. You’ve done the Stripped Back album, the Live 2012 CD and DVD and then the James Bond-themed compilation for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). How did all those come about?
Well, obviously with the pandemic, we haven’t been playing concerts. The Bond album, the idea for that was literally seven years ago, eight years ago now. We were on tour in New Zealand and we were playing You Only Live Twice. I think we were just saying what a great track it was, I’ve always loved Bond themes and Charlie (Layton), the drummer at the time said, ‘why don’t we just do an album of Bond themes?’ So that planted the seed and then over the years, I felt like I’d like to do that, but it’d be quite a big project. I had this idea that we’d just get other people who have been involved in The Wedding Present, if they wanted, to contribute a track; and loads of people said yes, and nobody wanted any money for it.
Then I felt, well, I can’t just make a profit out of all these artists, so we decided to do it as a, as a charity record for CALM.. So literally it’s been like a seven year project but finally, because of the pandemic, we finally got there. There’s loads of things that we finally had time to do, I published the first volume of my biography, which again, we were planning for a while, we just had the time and space to, to put it all together. The lockdown stuff was just because we couldn’t go into rehearsal rooms at the time because of the virus and that. We were doing lots of stuff at home with computers these days, it’s a lot easier to do stuff at home and then send it to somebody else and they record there and so we did these Lockdown videos. We did an LP of that (Locked Down and Stripped Back). There’s another LP on the way too as there’s, another 12 of them as well. I do a festival in Brighton every year (At The Edge Of The Sea) but obviously that didn’t happen. We did an online version and we did the acoustic songs in that, but everybody said, oh, these are great. You know, you should release ’em so did. I’ve had a really busy time lockdown, to be honest, I’ve not been sat on my bottom.
You’ve certainly kept people going with content! I don’t know whether you’ll be able to answer this one, but if you were to do the CALM album now, who would you get to do the Billy Eilish cover (No Time To Die)?
It’s hard to say because you know. The criteria for artists was you had to have recorded on either a Wedding Present or Cinerama release. It could be anybody who’s been in the band over the years, so I’d throw that open. I really like the Billy Eilish track, it’s a classic Bond Theme isn’t it?
On the point of how many band members you’ve had – why do you think you don’t get as much stick as Mark E. Smith did about the number of members of The Fall? Do you have a better or more amicable policy when you have people leaving?
I think the main difference is I’m not like a dictator. I’ve said this many times, I’ve always thought that The Wedding Present, it’s not me. It’s a combination of four or five people, whoever who band at that time. I’ve always felt it’s been quite democratic in terms of the working practice. Obviously I’m the singer and the main songwriter and the only constant member, but I don’t tell everyone what to do. It’s always been more of a cooperative. in So I think that’s probably, it really. I’ve given people their due, you know, when they’ve been in the group. I think he was a bit more dictatorial.
When he passed away, you tweeted that you’d seen The Fall more than any other band – do you have a favourite Fall track?
I did. Remember they did a a Peel Session when they had like four tracks on Eat Yrself Fitter, Garden, I can’t remember the other two sorry (Smile and Helen Definitive – Strife Knot). I thought that was their peak to me, that was probably around Hex Enduction Hour.
The double drumming?
You’ve just finished the first leg of the Seamonsters 30 Tour. How did it feel to finally be able to get out and play in front of an audience again?
It was kind of a relief on the one hand because we’ve not been able to do it for so long, but then, you know, there was still that trepidation, obviously nobody wants to get the virus. We got that from the audience as well. There were quite a few concerts where people bought tickets but they weren’t coming and they were uncomfortable about being, understandably in a room with other people. The promoters were saying that too, they were getting a lot of people asking for refunds and things. So it didn’t feel exactly the same as it used to, but it was nice to be back and to be able to do it. With a new variant on the horizon who knows whether we we’ll stop there for a while again. But yeah, I mean, at the end of the day, we’re a live band, we make records, we write songs, write books, whatever, but this is what I started doing this for, and what I think were best at is being in a room with people playing music. With that comes all the communication with people and it’s an experience, isn’t it?, It’s not just a piece of plastic or a video or something as such, it’s a tangible kind of relationship. And so obviously it was good to be able to do that again.
What was the idea behind the boilersuits?
It was Jessica’s idea. I dunno if you’ve seen the imagery that’s surrounding the 24 Song series, but that that’s all her photography and she had this kind of vision of using it, imagery of ruthless buildings etc. She felt that the boiler suits fit in with that kind of look really, it was that industrial
I wasn’t sure if it was a practical thing?
Not really, they get really hot, to be honest with you
I was thinking more about how many, how much luggage you have, how many bags you had to carry around with you?
Ah, no. I just think it’s I think it looks cool actually.
Are there any countries that you’ve not played yet or not visited that are still on your spreadsheet of places to go?
I think the only place that we seem to get a lot of requests to visit, and we’ve never been to is South America. Apparently there’s quite a big scene for bands like us in Brazil and places like that. Every now and again somebody approaches us about the idea of playing a festival or doing a little tour but it’s never worked yet. It’s happened basically everywhere else, even Asia, you know, we’ve played over Asia the last few years, Vietnam and Thailand. There’s usually been somebody there who’s able to organise a concert and take the risk. I mean, a lot of it is the risk. I mean, it took us years and years to get to Australia for the first time because promoters are wary, understandably. To bring a band all the way over from United Kingdom is gonna cost a fortune. If you’re not getting the ticket sales, people could lose a lot of money. The first time we went a lot of people came, I’ve got to be honest, a lot of them were British people who had emigrated there, but we’ve been three times since then because it’s not an economic disaster. I think it just takes somebody in Brazil one day to have the courage and the money to to make it happen I suppose.
One of my most memorable moments at a Wedding Present gig was at the (Manchester) Ritz in 1990. I think it was an Ambulance Drivers or Nurses Benefit gig. There was a guy climbing up the speaker stack and managed to hold on for about three or four songs. Do you remember individual moments from gigs or do things tend to blur into one?
I don’t remember that one!
I think it was in the first Richard Houghton book (Sometimes These Words Just Don’t Have To Be Said)
Oh, right. Yeah. He’s doing a follow up on that book. I dunno if you know?
I’ve written a piece for it. I was gonna mention that in a minute as well.
Ah OK, sometimes I remember stuff sometimes I don’t. I mean, there’s been so many concerts over the years now. It just kind of blurs a little bit. It’s funny, I remember quite clearly the first ever European Tour we did, because it was the first time that we’d gone there, I remember the cities and the venues that we played, but then if you ask me since then we have literally been about 15 times or something, it’s kinda less memorable. The first time we went to America, first time we went to Japan or whatever, you know, it’s always, it’s always a big moment.
On the subject of Richard’s new book, All Songs Sounds The Same which he’s pulling together at the moment – are you looking forward to sitting down and reading the fans’ memories of songs you’ve written?
Yeah, very much so. I really enjoyed the first one he did. When he first approached me about the first book, because it wasn’t songs, it was more just stories about when people had seen the band, or bought a bought record or whatever, I felt it was a bit dull. I thought we’d probably sell a few on merchandise stand. When I started getting the stories in, it came to life to me really. I find it quite fascinating because it was almost like the Wedding Present wasn’t the subject. Sometimes it was almost like we will come, you know, the background, the staging, and then people telling these stories you know, some very funny ones and some quite sad ones actually. So it wasn’t about us in a way. It was interesting to read how things had changed, people traveling to gigs in the ’80s compared to now, before mobile phones and stuff. So it was a lot more interesting than I thought it was gonna be. And so yeah, I’m really looking forward to the second one.
Was that the point when you realised that The Wedding Present and yourself meant more to people than just another band or another singer?
Well, it sounds a bit immodest, but I’ve felt that really right from the very beginning in the way we’ve worked . We’ve always been a bit different from other groups. We’ve always had this relationship with people in those days you would write letters and things. Now it’s more social media and stuff, but I think, yeah, it sounds weird, but I do think we’re a bit special. I do think we have this community, which a lot of bands don’t. People are telling me all the time that they find us special, which obviously is very flattening and heartwarming really. At the end of the day what I do, is quite a selfish thing in a way. I just write songs in the way I want to write songs. I make records that, that I like to hear but then it means so much to people as a by product. As I say, it’s quite moving really.
Yeah. Many of the songs you’ve written have been the soundtrack my life over last 30 or so. A lot of friends I’ve got I wouldn’t have, if it wasn’t for the music of the Wedding Present, so they really do resonate.
You’ve got a few celebrity fans; such as Tony Gardner, the actor and Stella Creasy the MP; also Shaun Keavney has talked about your influence on him. Is there anybody that’s come out as a Wedding Present fan or a David Gedge fan that’s taken you by surprise?
Yeah. Happens quite frequently actually. On Twitter the other day somebody reviewed our concert in London. It was a good review actually, but there was one line where he said that the Wedding Present had essentially made this same record over and over again for 35 years and I responded, cos I thought there’s no way – of all the bands, we’re probably the band who’ve not done that. Then Mark Lanagan retweeted me and went, ‘exactly’. I didn’t have any idea that he even knew who The Wedding Present were. The biggest one though is Keanu Reeves actually. When we played in Los Angeles once and he turned up. I dunno if he was a fan before or whether he just come to a concert, but he was there for all gig, had a chat with him. He bought some merchandise…
While we’re talking about social media, you are very active on Twitter and there is the David Gedge’s Barmy Army group on Facebook which is made up of fans. Has social media helped you to carry on as an ongoing concern?
No, really not really. I think what’s allowed me to keep going is my kind of work ethic really
I was thinking knowing the fans are out there wanting the product?
Well, I think they’re there anyway. It’s just a different way of talking to them now. It used to be people would write us letters and we’d reply and send a postcard or whatever. Now it’s social media. I mean, it is very handy for marketing. I think that’s completely changed in the 30 years since we started, because in those days it was us trying to get people to play the record on the radio or get getting little features in the NME or something. Whereas now you just put it online and then if you’ve got a following they’ll share it with each other. So it’s great in that respect. We are we doing a launch concert for 24 Songs in Brighton in January. It sold out in 24 hours and it’s because people went on Twitter and Facebook, so it is great for that kinda thing. It makes up for the fact that nobody buys records anymore.
Over the years, are there any albums that have fallen in or out of favour with you? Watusi and Saturnalia feel overlooked?
Yeah, they do, it’s just the way it goes. One thing about The Wedding Present – I mean, it’s funny to talk about what that that fella on Twitter who said all the albums sounded the same – one of the reasons things fall away is because if you listen to an album like Watusi it’s completely different from Seamonsters or George Best. It’s like a, it is a different band in a way, and I think that puts people off. The way to commercial success is to make a series of albums, which kind of sound the same. So people know what they’re getting. Even when we did Seamonsters, people love that album and they see as one of the, the most important Wedding Present records, when at the time it wasn’t very well received. I can see why, because we’d just done Bizzaro, which was this kind of jangly, indie pop with a hard edge and suddenly it all went dark, darker and rockier but it was the same four people. I think that put people off but we’ve done that a few times over the years but that’s just the way we work. I think, I think the only album that’s lost favour with me really is George Best because I think it’s the weakest album purely because it was the first one and I didn’t really know how to do it. My songwriting has improved and also as a song arrangers I’ve improved. Everything’s got better, I’m a the better singer which is why we re-recorded it. We did the George Best 30 because we just felt we could do it better now, same with Tommy 30.
Are there any other albums that you’d like to revisit and re rerecord?
No, it’s just because those two, I felt in particular at the time, we were really limited with budget and studio time, stuff like that. So it was nice to redo them in a nice studio in Wales, in Monmouth with the proper producer and engineer and stuff. So yeah, but I think the others, you don’t really need that kind of treatment really.
You’ve regularly covered other people’s songs. Are there any particular covers of Wedding Present songs that you particularly fond of?
I do like Amelia Coburn‘s version of My Favourite Dress. I dunno if you’ve heard that one? She just sings it with a ukulele. She played at my festival, At The Edge of the Sea a couple years ago, more than a couple years ago now, cause it’s not been going two years. I was in tears, you know, I admit it. I found it quite emotional cause it was a really poignant version of it. That’s probably my favourite.
What’s your favourite gig you’ve performed?
There’s been so many. I mean, there’s quite a few that have, stood out over the time. There’s one in New York a few years ago, I can’t remember the year now. It just all came together. I think we might have just done Bizarro. I think my most memorable ones were when John Peel was there because I held him in such high regard and he kind of almost created the Wedding Present in a way, by the fact that we all listened to that program. We’re all influenced by the bands that he used to play and stuff. And so, you know, The Wedding Present, played at his 50th birthday party in London and then Cinerama played his 60th party at the BBC Studios at Maida Vale. I felt very privileged to play those really.
What’s the favourite gig that you’ve been to as a punter?
There’s been a few. I liked Big Black, Steve Albini’s band at Leeds Polytechnic. That was great. That was their final tour. My Bloody Valentine – every time I’ve seen them, it’s always been absolutely amazing. I saw them a few years ago in an all seated auditorium and it was just like a work of art, it wasn’t like a rock concert.
Do you have a particularly favourite ‘go to’ album?
Surfer Rosa by Pixies is probably my favourite album. It’s such a weird sounding record but its a pop record. It’s full of pop rocks songs. It just takes you to a different place. The whole atmosphere to it is a bit disconcerting and a bit strange. It’s a really it’s a great, great record.
What about a favourite single or song?
I’ve often said Sandie Shaw, There’s Always Something There To Remind Me. I’ve always loved that record, that song
All time favourite band artist?
Maybe My Bloody Valentine, I dunno, The Beatles? Elvis was good.
On the point of My Bloody Valentine, Deer Caught In The Headlights at Manchester a couple of weeks ago was very Valentine-esque, it was quite visceral.
Yeah. We’ve got a new sound engineer. He’s very happy push those guitars up, especially in that song. Actually there’s a few that he likes. He does it on Bewitched as well from Bizarro. He gets into trouble sometimes with the venue, they will come over and say ‘we’re not allowed to have it this loud’. I know My Bloody Valentine had to give earplugs out to their audiences sometimes. I don’t think we’re quite at that stage yet, but but he does like it loud.
Final question is Doris (The Wedding Present dog) secretly the key to the whole operation?
No, she’s the new kid on the block. Having said that she’s 7! Yeah, I should say she’s an integral part of it really.
David Gedge is on Twitter.