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Plumbing the Depths

You probably thought SLOWDIVE were sweetness, innocence and light of being - Nothing, it transpires, could be further from the truth. Ten limbs controlled by Satan, kicking up a storm. Stunned beyond belief: Stunned beyond belief: Simon Williams Clicking regardless: Kim Tonelli

Lock up your doormats, for not so long ago dreamy pop protagonists Slowdive found God. Or rather God, thanks to a couple of disciples and one terrible ITV -style sitcom bungle, found Slowdive strangely unguarded.

"It was back when it was snowing and we were expecting some journalist and a photographer to come round and do an interview," recalls singer Neil.

"Because we were supposed to go off on tour that day we were all rushing round trying to pack bags and get ready. So when these two guys appeared at the door 1 just sort of let them in. 1 thought they looked a bit jazzed up for journalists 'cos they were wearing ties and they looked like real geeks, but 1 offered them a cup of tea. Then they sat down and the first question was: 'Can 1 talk to you about Jesus?'!!!"

"Exit Neil, running straight into the kitchen leaving me and Christian (guitarist) with them!" continues vocal partner Rachel. "Christian ended up reading passages out of this Mormon book while these blokes stared at a Christian Death t-shirt I had hanging over the radiator."

"They showed us a picture of this Mormon family," rejoins Neil. "They looked like the Mansons!"

"I didn't think they were gonna go," shivers Christian.

"It took about an hour to get rid of them. We were dropping really unsubtle hints like 'F**K OFF YOU C**TS!'..."

There are several strange factors involved when spending a day out in the Home Counties with Slowdive. The first manifests itself when bassist Nick turns up at Didcot station (somewhere in the middle of oblivion) to meet your trusting hack in a classy-in-a-tatty-sort-of-way Triumph Spitfire. Roaring through the countryside, he infonns me at a very high volume that each member of the band plans to buy such a car so they can fonn a Slowdive Spitfire Appreciation Society.

Heck, one muses, if the Japanese invented a car called the Slowdive, would Spitfire form a Spitfire Slowdive Appreciation Society? Think about it.

The second strange factor is revealed when Nick reaches the village wherein the band's temporary studio home is situated. Sutton Courtney is the kind of idyllic, Olde Worlde hamlet that gives 'Cluedo' mysteries such a good name. The kind of place which lurks in the shadows of enonnous invading power station chimneys, yet seems bizarrely susceptible to power cuts. The kind of place where murders take place.

"Some bloke got killed by another bloke down here last year," natters Neil pleasantly, as we wander down a leafy alleyway towards the local pub. "They both worked as turkey pluckers nearby, and one of them kept winding the other one up so much in the end he decided to retaliate by stabbing him! There was this really rich Saudi Arabian bloke around here, as well - he died of a cocaine overdose. When the police broke into his mansion, they found suitcases and caskets full of the stuff!"

The third oddity pokes its head out in the pub, when Nick and Christian start swapping one-liners like Gerry Sadowitz meeting Andrew Dice Clay and going for seventeen pints on the town. Jokes about cocks, boobs and genitalia in general flow like detritus from a sewage pipe. Or, in Slowdive's case, sewage from what should be a squeaky clean Perrier pipeline.

Frankly, nothing is as it seems. Then again, what should be in a world where Slowdive and their esoteric, outer-worldly soundscapes which should have all the commercial viability of a one-wheeled bicycle can threaten to soothe the BPM-crazed insanity of Chartland? Yet there they were, when summer kept refusing to kickstart itself into action, nudging the Top 50 with their third 'Holding Your Breath' EP.

"Our midweek position was 37!" beams Nick. "So we were running around discussing what we were going to wear on Top Of The Pops."

"It was great! We had bouffant haircuts prepared!" shouts Christian. "If we went on Top Of The Pops I'd wear a stupid hat."

Erm, why?

"Cos I want to. I'd wear an enormous hat and grow a moustache and have those glasses with the eyes that dangle out on the end of springs...and then we'd do this 'ethereal' number!"

Did that chart semi-success catch Slowdive off guard?

"Yeah, it was really surprising," frowns Neil, fringily. "But I think there are quite a few other people with a lot less talent and even worse songs than us getting in the Top Ten, like Jace and that Ice geezer."

"Oh you never know, he might be really talented," argues Nick. "He doesn't sound it, but you never know..."

Inevitably, the conversation swings around to the Shoegazing (aka Murmering, Honeychildren, Post-rave comedown) scene. Having crept from Reading in the summer of 1990 to link up with Creation and polish a sound sublimely (albeit inadvertantly) designed to act as a blissed-out antidote to the Baggy, lads-in-the-charts 'culture' of Rave City, Slowdive have spent far too many hours being foisted in the same social circle as a myriad of supposedly likeminded bands with a predilection for staring at their footwear and gently abusing funny effects pedals in Home Counties hide outs.

Even designer wankmag The Face saw fit to 'expose' these soldiers of soporificy in a glossy 300-page spread. Now Christian says the word 'ethereal' as though it were some particularly unpleasant buttock disease. Now Slowdive are out to smash the pigeonholes. Sort of.

"It's more of an indie kid scene, really," complains Christian. "You see the same kids at various indie gigs, just like when I was 15 everyone was into Echo & The Bunnymen and the Marychain."

"It was really funny at the Chapterhouse gig actually," smirks Rachel. "Neil had on this brown suede jacket and someone pointed at him and said, 'Look! He's got a Chapterhouse jacket on!"

"I've started to notice Chapterhouse wearing desert boots now," notes Christian. "They've disregarded the pointy ones, but I suppose you've got to have a bit of variety if you're shoegazing."

Nick: "That's why I bought those black and white trainers."

Christian: "Yeah, they're quite interesting to look at. I usually untie one of my laces and look at that, imagining it's a snake. That's quite exciting."

Neil: "It's very exciting playing live. Sometimes I look at Christian's shoes!'

Nick: "I wore a pair of gorilla slippers once. That was quite interesting to look at 'cos I thought I was an animal. Which I am."

But seriously. Back to the traumas and tribulations of being in a 'scene'...

"We never go to any of those ligs," gripes Nick, "But it always gets printed that we were there anyway!"

"Yeah, we weren't even at our own lig!" yells Christian.

"We never say in interviews that we wank off to Moose or listen to Chapterhouse all the time," rants Neil, "and Lush can make me cringe."

"Lush are just a myth now, aren't they?" observes Christian. "An alcoholic myth. They're like Spinal Tap. I'm just waiting for that fucking drummer to come in wearing leather keks with a cucumber stuffed down his trousers!"

"All the bands are different for the most part," argues Neil. "If anything, Moose have come along and they've sounded like us and so we've been bracketed together which is really annoying 'cos we were doing it first! Our album will dispel a few myths, though, 'cos the incredibly tenuous link between all these bands is the influence of the Valentines, but on our album there isn't really a Valentines influence. It's a lot more earthy than what we were doing before, it's more passionate.

"Basically," continues the singer, now well into his stride, "We just wanna make something that's big, beautiful and majestic. Chapterhouse are a much more poppy-orientated band 'cos they wanna write things with really good tunes. And we're into tunes, but we've been inspired by the Kitchen's guitar sound or the Valentines' huge wash of noise. Chapterhouse are more into making something that's just beautiful and huge."

Nick: "Like my cock!!!"

The conversation mercifully turns. Rachel talks about the debut album and its European textures, a la arty French movies. Christian reckons their music is more suited to Swedish porno films. All of Slowdive enthuse about their new country & western song about "rolling glasses down saloon bars". Honestly.

Outside in Sutton Courtney, murders are probably being plotted, officially bankrupt people are building mansions and half the local population is heading towards the loony bin. Inside the pub, an astonished Neil tells us a secret.

"You know that Cocteau Twins advert for Aqua Libra? Apparently it's not them! Ivo at 4AD wanted their music to be used, but the band said no, so the music's supposed to be a cover version, which you can do without having to ask permission!"

"That's right," nods Christian, "'Cos we didn't have to ask Syd Barrett if we could do 'Golden Hair'. And even if we did he'd probably go 'Who am I? What's 'Golden Hair'?"

"Ultimately, we wanna be able to make music for adverts," beams Neil.

"I wanna be in an advert with my fucking bare chest saying 'Drink Coca Cola'," leers Christian. "But at the moment I reckon Biactol's about the limit for me!"

Slowdive: heading for The Top Spot.

Originally appeared in Siren magazine Issue 2
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