Back to ‘Joy': An Interview With Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain
The word "legend" is thrown around with as much abandon as terms like "amazing" and "epic" nowadays — do one thing cool years ago and suddenly, according to the internet, you are a god amongst (wo)men. Yet, there are some truly bona fide legends still in our midst who wrote legendary songs, broke up their bands in legendary fashion and, in the process, changed the course of music as we know it. One of those is Jim Reid of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Ask Sofia Coppola, whose film Lost in Translation was anchored on their timeless classic "Just Like Honey," or Scarlett Johansson, who released an entire record after performing with them at Coachella 2007, or any one of the hundreds upon hundreds of modern bands paying homage to shoegaze and noise-pop — the Jesus and Mary Chain are a pillar of alternative music, and thereby modern music in general.
From their 2007 reunion until today, the live show has been focused on the classics, avoiding new material entirely and reintroducing the band to a new generation of fans. Now, close to two decades from their last release, Munki, we have Damage and Joy, the band's first set of new material since the original break. The personnel on the LP is sparse, keeping the crux of the songwriting to the Reid brothers (Jim and William) and producer Youth (formerly Killing Joke, etc.). For fans of JAMC, the excitement is tempered with nervousness: Will it live up to the classic material? Should they have left it alone?
With the new LP due at the end of March, we talked to Jim Reid about Damage and Joy, their process and more. The notoriously close-to-the-vest Reid lived up to his rep in our exclusive interview, available below.
In a 2015 interview, you were quoted as saying that you had “fuckloads” of songs. How many of these songs are new-new, as opposed to existing, older, incomplete songs and ideas?
Some of these songs are older, but yes, there are a few newer songs on here as well.
In a lot of ways, your first album back could possibly your most pressure-filled because of the incredible legacy thus far. Do you feel any of that, or do you just sort of go in and do what you do?
Not really, to be honest. Whatever happens with this record, we’ll handle it. We’ve done enough and lived enough that if no one gives a fuck about this record, then so be it. I’d rather that they liked it, but we can cope enough.
A lot of Jesus and Mary Chain is dependent on the dynamic between you and your brother. How does your personal dynamic play into the band? Are you able to draw the line between band feelings and personal feelings?
When the band began, we pretty much were very like-minded, and then we argued sometimes, but it was usually quite constructive. Somewhere during the '90s, the relationship changed, and by the time we got to Munki, we just couldn’t see eye-to-eye on much. After that, we didn’t talk to each other for a year, maybe two after the break-up. I didn’t see him, and at that time, I couldn’t imagine ever being in a band with him again. It seemed unthinkable to me. But time passes, wounds heal and we’re brothers, and we ended up running into each other at family gatherings. Bit by bit, we kind of got back to talking to each other. It wasn’t ideal — even when the band reformed in 2007, it wasn’t perfect, but we were able to get on enough, and that was okay.
With all this time away, do you feel like regaining the original spark that was Jesus and Mary Chain was easy to do?
It was mostly just me, William, Youth and Michael, the engineer, in the studio this time. And although it has been almost two decades since Munki, it didn’t feel that way. It’s amazing how quickly it all comes back.
I’ve read that Youth was brought in to play bass and for “diplomacy.” How did he play that latter role? Did he have to step in there and do something positive?
We were quite nervous about how it was going to be in the studio, which is one of the reasons why we decided to get a producer — the other being that we’ve never done that before. And it was nice to have the glue to keep it together if things got silly between me and my brother. I don’t know if we were overly cautious about the whole thing. As it turns out, there were not many stops, and we seemed to get along okay. So, Youth only really had to be brought in for production.
You have a new crop of fans that saw you come back in the 2000s, and there are a lot of bands that have taken notes from what you’ve done in the past. Do you feel like the bands that have taken cues from you truly understand what the band is about?
I don’t really spend time thinking about that, but I have noticed that some bands seem to bring a little of their own identity to the table, and some are happy enough to reproduce what I’ve done. Rock 'n' roll is sort of a bottled art form. If you wanted to be unkind, you could say that the Stones were ripping off Chuck Berry, but they weren’t because they brought so much more to that music anyway. So, what you need to do if you want to be influenced by someone is, it’s okay to take some of their ideas, but you have to bring some of your own.
None of these songs, as far as I can tell, have been road-tested. Do you feel like that’s an essential part of the musical process?
We played “All Things Must Pass” before, but that’s probably it. We always have recorded songs and then taken them out to play, with the exception of Psychocandy.
Are you going to do any significant number of live shows next year?
Yeah, I don’t see why not. We’re looking into larger tours in North America and other places as well.
THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN on TOUR
Mar. 23 — Newcastle upon Tyne, UK @ Northumbria University
Mar. 25 — Manchester, UK @ Academy
Mar. 27 — Leeds, UK @ Church
Mar. 28 — Leicester, UK @ O2 Academy
Mar. 29 — Bristol, UK @ O2 Academy
Mar. 31 — Birmingham, UK @ O2 Institute
Apr. 1 — Bournemouth, UK @ O2 Academy
Apr. 2 — Oxford, UK @ O2 Academy
Apr. 3 — Cambridge, UK @ Junction 1
Apr. 5 — London, UK @ O2 Shepherds Bush Empire
Apr. 6 — Bexhill-on-Sea, UK @ De La Warr Pavilion
Apr. 7 — Dublin, IR @ Academy
May 9 — St. Paul, MN @ The Palace
May 10 — Chicago, IL @ Riviera
May 12 — Toronto, ON @ Massey Hall
May 14 — Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel
May 19 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern
May 20 — Oakland, CA @ The Fox Theater
May 22 — Portland, OR @ Crystal Ballroom
May 23 — Seattle, WA @ Showbox SoDo
May 24 — Vancouver, BC @ Vogue Theatre