One half of the creative force of the band discusses synths and more!
Motivated by a pending eviction notice that saw the band ejected from their North London studio, legendary rock outfit Primal Scream concocted the latest effort Chaosmosis; a record swimming with synth pop sensibilities. Mixdown sat down with guitarist Andrew Innes to lament on the golden age of synthesisers, drum machines and the process of writing the band’s 11th studio album.
“I guess it started when we got the eviction notice to our studio. We’ve had it for a good few years up in North London; they had been threatening eviction for years. It’s the usual story, everything they can find in London they’re turning it into luxury flats and kicking out small businesses and low rent places,” says Andrew, one half – along with lead singer Bobby Gillespie – of the band’s creative driving force. With the eviction at their heels, the pair began writing what was soon to be Chaosmosis. “The eviction inspired us and got us moving because we realised we only had six months left in the place, we thought we better use it as this is the last chance we’re going to get.”
“We’ve been in that complex since 1994, and the studio we were in presently since 1998, so we have done about seven LPs in there, well, various bits of them. It was a real ‘gang hut’ as we use to call it. You know you could just go there and pass the days away,” says Innes.
According to Innes, Chaosmosis was the most free-flowing album the band has written in years. “It only took a couple of months to write the songs. It didn’t seem like it at the time, but I think the impending eviction had a lot to do with it. Instead of just taking our time with it, we got working straight away.”
Drenched in pop-savvy synths and electronica, Chaosmosis demonstrates, even after all this time, the talent that saw the band’s name etched into British folklore as they rode the wave of Acid-House in the mid ‘80s. “Some songs we write, we write using keyboards and synths, and some songs we write using guitars. It is just a different way to approach song writing, because if you approach every song with a guitar, you would end up playing the same chord all the time.”
“I bought a new GForce Imposcar plugin and it’s brilliant. It’s all over the record. Sometimes it happens that way, you buy a new bit of equipment and you write a song because you just start playing around with it, and usually the first thing you get out of it is pretty good.” The album features a number of collaborations including the likes of Sky Ferreira, Haim and Bjorn Yttling of Peter Bjorn and John, with the latter co-writing three tracks for Choasmosis.
“On the ‘More Light’ tour, we played a gig in Stockholm and Bjorn Yttling came to the gig and approached us about writing songs together. We had worked with him on Beautiful Future, he’s got a studio in Stockholm, and so we spent a week there.” “He has quite a selection of cheesy 80s Roland and Casio synths that aren’t the good ones [Laughs], they weren’t the Jupiter-8 or the Juno-106, they were the cheaper ones. But each of these cheaper synths had at least one great preset.”
“We were also using an old Linn Drum as well, you forget how good they sound. The TR-808, the TR- 909 and the LinnDrum — they are all classic drum machines and they haven’t really been beaten. I don’t know why they made them so well then, but there was a period in the early 80s when they made great drum machines, that was the peak of it. I suppose the great guitars were made in the late 50s and the early 60s. And the peak for great drum machines is the late 70s and early 80s.”
Polarising our discussions of all things 70s and 80s electronics, Innes changes focus to the current state of music production equipment. “I have recently moved up to Logic Pro and the amp simulators and effects are great. I’ve got a lot of vintage guitar gear and to be honest it’s getting hard to tell the difference, the amp simulators in today’s computers are getting good and it’s silly to pretend it’s not.”
“Just imagine, what use to take up two whole rooms full of equipment is now in a laptop, it is incredible. For example, in the old days if you used time stretch, you would set it off, go away and make a cup of tea, only to return 20 minutes later with the process incomplete. And when it eventually finished, it would be wrong. These days you can just hit time stretch and it’s done and sounds good, it’s in time and it’s in tune. All these advances are great now for making your life easier,” says Innes.
With plans of touring the album in April, Innes confesses his favourite part of the writing process is preparing the songs for a live context, “that’s the bit I like, sorting it out for the live show, because sometimes you have to change how you deliver it live, and I find that exciting.”