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The Wedding Present

The Wedding Present

Interviewed by
Matthew Davis
Tuesday 19th February, 2013 12:07PM

After over 25 years the quintessential English indie band, The Wedding Present, are finally bringing their songs of love, lust, heartbreak and revenge to New Zealand. Formed in Leeds in 1985, the band has released nearly 50 singles and over 20 albums including last year's Valentina. While the band's line-up has changed numerous times, singer-songwriter David Gedge has been the one constant member and we caught up with him between rehearsals to talk about the upcoming shows, combining past and present material and tawdry UK hotels.

In the recent years The Wedding Present's sets have consisted of a whole album from your back catalogue along with new material, is this the plan for these shows?

It's a bit of a weird tour, in some places we do two nights, and in those locations we are doing George Best [their 1987 debut album] on one night for the first half, and on the other night we are doing the A-sides to Hit Parade, which was the series of 12 singles we did in 1992. Then in places we are only playing one night (ie. the two NZ shows) we are doing a set that combines elements of both those plus some new songs and some other old songs.

That is a couple of big set lists to remember - rehearsal must be a bit of a test?

It is a bit tricky to be honest with you - the brain only holds a certain amount of information at one time. We have all been working hard - you have just caught me in the middle of rehearsals. It is weird actually….we first started doing this a few years ago with

Are you enjoying playing the older material still?

I was quite surprised, I found it really interesting because obviously it is quite a different band now. I am the only one who is in the band from then, so it was interesting to see a whole new set of people re-analyse and re-interpret what I was involved in all those years ago. It is quite an interesting process to look at yourself and what you thought at that time, and I came to this philosophical decision in a way that maybe the past is as important to an artist as the future so there is no reason why the two can't go hand in hand really."

How has the recent album Valentina gone, does it sit well with the rest of the set?

I'm very happy with it…the new album is always the closest to what you want to do at that moment….my only criticism of it was it was too long between the previous one. El Rey came out in 2008, so it was a four year gap which was a little long for me.

Any particular reason for this?

Partly, it was more a case of the line-up at the time has changed again. I think they were a bit nervous being compared to previous Wedding Present line-ups and eras. We have been through so many different line-ups now, there have been different styles, and different albums and they were desperate to make it feel like the new album was going to be as highly rated as the previous ones…..which I didn't care about to be honest, I thought it was going to do well.

It is a little bit rockier than other Wedding Present albums...

I think it probably is…it is kind of funny, preceding El Rey I thought that one was going to be rockier and we used Steve Albini again as we work with him every couple of albums but it actually came out sounding quite poppy….I have noticed a trend in The Wedding Present where we do a poppier record, a bit lighter, and then we go back the other way and do a darker album….you want to move on each time and not make the same one each time and the people in the band bring different ideas, aspirations and influences….so it is always a bit unpredictable as to how it is going to appear.

Speaking of the line up changes, you have remained the only original member and main songwriter - sometimes bands don't cope that well when there are so many changes but you seem to be able to hold it all together.

It is not easy to be honest…I think with bands it can be quite a tense relationship, quite intimate. You are friends, you work together, you live together, you go and tour the world together….so on the one hand it would be a lot easier and pleasant if you didn't have to do it all the time…but I think it has aided the group, each time we have had a line up change, someone comes in with new inspiration and a new kind of fire in the belly. They want to prove themselves and the band often goes through a kind of re-build.

They all enjoy playing the back catalogue as well?

Yeah, they seem too. It is funny because the longer we go obviously the bigger the catalogue is - it gets quite hard really, as we are not a band that has had massive hits that we have to play every concert, so we draw from a couple of hundred and when you do set of twenty or something some don't get a look in and then obviously people are why didn't you play such and such….it is a problem that increases every year really.

In the past you have mentioned that going through the songs on George Best are a bit like reading a diary, and looking back - do you find yourself back in that place/time or are you more aloof from it when it comes to performing them?

I think I am a little more aloof from it really….It is more like I am acting a role - it is weird as George Best is a very personal album for me. I think the two albums that are most pertinent to me in terms of the lyrics are George Best and Take Fountain (2005) but there is a distance now in some respects. It doesn't mean as kind of as much to me in that respect but when people say; are all the songs autobiographical, and obviously some of them are, but a lot of them is me imagining the situation. What I would be like in the situation, and what I would say - it is almost like George Best has become one of those. It is like a person whose mind I am getting in to.

So a lot of lovelorn situations then, which are on the new album as well, is it still the same approach of imagining such a situation?

Yeah, kind of, I am really interested in that really. I think it is my form now, something that I am very happy with. When I have tried to displace that mode of writing lyrics I am never quite happy with it. I am interested in the way people speak to each other.

For a long time The Wedding Present released everything independently, then had a deal with a major label (RCA) for a while and now you are back to releasing independently - is that the approach you feel most comfortable with?

Not particularly to be honest. I think we have been signed to a couple of labels over the years, but we did make sure on those occasions that we maintained artistic control which to be honest I don't think would be allowed these days but then there was more money to be made from record sales. We did quite well in that both those labels just gave us the freedom to do what we wanted really. It wasn't that much different from having our own label apart from the fact that they gave us a ton of money, so we were financially more secure and we could buy equipment and use nice recording studios. We also had worldwide distribution for our records which was a bit of a struggle in the early days…..It was a big thing at the time - The Wedding Present the archetypal indie band has signed to RCA, how shocking! But it actually served us quite well in the way we developed, now it is more or less the same really. We have worked the same way from day one just with different ways of distributing it really.

Though there must be huge differences in doing it yourself independently 25 years ago to now?

Absolutely, the main one is it's a lot harder to make money these days. If a record breaks even then I am happy enough really, whereas it was the main source of my income 20-25 years ago but that obviously affects everybody, there are hardly any record labels left. Unless you are absolutely massive I don't think anyone makes any money anymore. The record actually promotes the tour these days which is a complete reversal. Obviously, the internet has changed a lot for the means of distribution and press…I am quite interested in that to be honest, I can really embrace that to a certain extent so I am quite pleased to be in an industry that changes so much, even though it is financially harder these days it is fascinating to see ways it has evolved.

It can be good for singles, though again completely different to when you released Hit Parade [a series of twelve 7" singles for each month in 1992].

I love singles, I always thought it was the ideal format for pop music. I like albums, don't get me wrong I wouldn't make them if I didn't….then again with technology having the iPod on shuffle I think that is a remarkable invention to have access to your own back catalogue. All this stuff you have acquired over the years and you can hear a track from a band you haven't even thought about for ten years.

For a while you did Cinerama, a more orchestral soundtrack project, in between Wedding Present breaks – you still doing much with this?

I would love to do Cinerama, but it is just time. All my life is taken up by The Wedding Present really, and if I wanted to do more Cinerama I would have to take some time off The Wedding Present, so it is a tricky one really…. I am thinking about releasing a Cinerama single this year…but as I say it is pure and simply time. It is quite a time intensive project as well, with The Wedding Present it is more a classic rock and roll kind of band, guitars, drum and bass really but with Cinerama it's orchestration and using different people and different instruments. I was thinking about it today actually, I have got withdrawal symptoms from it - I would love to do more of it.

Has The Wedding Present always worked in that classic rock and roll way - four people in a room making music - or has that changed with the different line-ups?

Yeah, that is how we write songs really. Usually come up with an idea and then we will all work on it and arrange it as a band in the room, argue about it, then I go away and transform it into some kind of song really. That is why doing Cinerama was so refreshing in a way because even though I do the job it was interesting to lock myself in a room, on my own with a computer and work it out on my own…you can get a lot from working both ways.

The part where you go away and form it into a song, is that where the lyrics come from - they often sound like they are from a secluded place.

Nowadays yeah, when I started I used to do them at the same time as we were working on the song. Sometimes if the songs didn't make the grade, or we changed bits, the lyrics didn't fit anymore I did waste time there, so nowadays I wait till it is completely finished. I usually go off to some tawdry hotel somewhere. The thing is I do find lyric writing very, very difficult and can be quite hard work so if there are any distractions I will think of ways to get out of it. I think last time [with Valentina] I just went to a hotel, where there wasn't any internet, there was no telephone, the only thing was a TV and I just didn't turn it on. I just take all the stuff I need to write lyrics and lock myself away for a week and I find that the most productive.

Is it a small isolated town thing or doesn't matter whereabouts the hotel is?

I have done it once in London…then I did it in Eastbourne, which is a little seaside town along the coast. The last time I did it was at Gatwick Airport actually. There was a deal on for this hotel in Gatwick, I think they had just opened, so there were really cheap rooms. It is only half an hour up the road, but it is just having that distance away from home, to get out of that ritual of all the stuff you can find to do at home which stops you working.

Sounds bliss, no telephone no internet… is quite lonely to be honest, it sounds better than it is.


The Wedding Present

Thursday 21st February, Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland
Saturday 23rd February, SFBH, Wellington

Click here for tickets to both shows.

Here's a clip from their new album...