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Timo Tolkki - Interview

  by Olga Sladeckova

published: 23 / 2 / 2002

Timo Tolkki - Interview


Ex Jesus and Mary Chain members Jim Reid and Ben Lurie formed a new band Freeheat at the end of 1999. In an exclusive interview with Olga Sladeckova, they talk about their much delayed debut Ep "Retox' , touring and their first two years.

"I Love Rock n’ Roll", sung Jim Reid on the first track of the Jesus and Mary Chain’s final album 'Munkii' while his brother William claimed that he hated it on the same album's final track. Looking back and reflecting upon the amazing 14 years that the Mary Chain spiced up the music scene, there is no doubt they both in their own way loved rock music, but by the end the controversy and the inner fighting for which they were famed became too much even for them. When the diversity finally became unbearable in early 1999, the Jesus and Mary Chain slowly fell into pieces, covered with the dust of the past. “We didn’t really want to make music for a while.” explains Jim sitting opposite Ben Lurie, the Mary Chain's former bassist, in a busy Camden pub in London and trying to over-shout the other people who have come in tonight. “The Mary Chain’s ending was so unpleasant. The last couple of years were pretty unbearable. So after we broke up, I wasn't very interested in making music for a while. I couldn’t even play a record at that time.” The story, however, has a continuation. William found himself a solo career and since then has released a few experimental records, mostly under the name Lazycome. Jim and Ben, however, remaining more faithful to the roots of the Mary Chain, decided to work together once more.“Time heals things” reflects Jim. “After about a year or so I started getting in to the idea of being in a band again." “The end of Mary Chain was quite ugly really” Ben agrees “But I can’t do anything else” he adds, laughing. “I mean it’s in your blood” Jim continues. “Once you’ve been making music for as long as we have you have to go back. I guess it’s like with sailors having salt and water in their veins. We are like the musical equivalent.” And so it went straight from there. Jim and Ben got together with their friends Romi Mori (vocals, guitars) and Nick Sanderson (drums) and started rehearsing together at the end of 1999. “We needed a name,” says Jim. “And we needed one fast because our first gig was arranged and we still hadn’t got one.. We couldn’t decide and we all just one night got drunk and in the morning for some reason we decided we were going to be called Freeheat.” By the end of 2000 the four musicians had built up a strong repertoire of material and felt it was about the time to release an EP to prove what great music they could make. Things are, however,never quite as easy at they seem. At least not in UK. “Someone was going to put out the record,” explains Ben, “and then they just turned around and said: Oh, I’ve not got any money.” The record should have been out in April of last year but that didn’t happen.” Freeheat, therefore, had to wait some months longer before finding the right label to release their EP. They eventually decided to release the EP on Outafocus, a small independent London label, which is run by Danny Corr, who also works as a projects manager for the Acid Jazz label. “I knew a guy who worked with Danny" says Ben. "And I was saying to him “I need someone to put out a record?” and he said “Oh, I know someone who puts out records.” and so we met through him." 'Retox', as the five track EP is named, was, however, to suffer further delays still. Originally scheduled for a November release, its release date was postponed by a further three months and it only finally came out at the end of February. “That was mainly because our press office just wanted more time to work on it" Ben reflects. "These days everything seems to take so much time in the music business. Everyone wants 6 or 8 weeks of notice on everything.” The artwork on the sleeve of 'Retox' was made in Sweden. Japanese writing also appears under the title ‘Retox’. “Romi did that" laughs Ben. “It says Freeheat. I believe. That's what she says anyway." The EP was also released in a four track version (which excludes 'The Long Goodbye', one of the tracks which 'Retox' features) in 2001 in the United States under the title 'Don’t Worry Be Happy'. Since recording 'Retox', Freeheat have written many new songs, which they have introduced to their fans while touring. “At the moment I write most of the songs,” says Jim.“But that’s just at the moment. In the future it’s going to be more democratic. Ben’s written some songs. And there is a song on the EP we all went and wrote in the studio together. In the future anybody can write a song.” “As long as it’s good enough” adds Ben. “I’ve written some incredibly personal songs for Freeheat" Jim says honestly. " On some of the songs I’ve been singing I sound like an alcoholic or whatever. People say: “Why are you telling everybody that?” But I don’t care. It’s a part of what I am. I’m not singing to be proud of it. I’m not singing to glamourise it. I’m just saying that’s that what I am. Maybe it's what I shouldn’t be but I am.” One of the songs from 'Retox' is ‘Facing Up To The Facts’. “It’s about being incredibly depressed” explains Jim. “When I wrote that song I almost thought I was going to kill myself. Nothing seemed good. Absolutely nothing, you know what I mean.You write a song though that you think is good. I think it’s a good song. At least I got that out of it." Freeheat have been together for just a little over two years, but have already played a long string of gigs and have toured extensively on two occasions in the United States. "We've got an agent in America and an agent here” says Ben. “The agent here is one of the people that stuck with us. He used to be an agent with Mary Chain. It’s amazing when you are kind of down how people disappear.” The group has also appeared at the US Digital Club Festival, in which all the bands that performed were featured on the Internet. “That was with a manager we met in America” reflects Ben. “That’s how we got over to America the first time. It’s strange. The Mary Chain always had more respect and a bit more of a following in America than here. It was always easier to go and play out there then it has been here. I think that's because of the fans. They kind of stick with you more.” Freeheat made their first full tour of the UK at the end of 2001.Having been to a gig on that tour in London, I was amazed by it, but was the band satisfied with it? “Not really” says Jim with disappointment in his voice. “I just don’t think that you get enough press if you don’t have a manager, as we don't. I don’t think it was well publicized and organized.” “We booked those gigs" explains Ben.“And then we had to put the record back, but decided that we better do the gigs anyway Glasgow went pretty well and London was pretty good. I was happy with the way we played but I just would have liked a few more people to have been there." We thought the record would be out” he continues. "And that would have helped. There is more press coming out now. We also have a song on an Uncut magazine CD compilation, which has attracted some interest." As well as playing in Freeheat, Jim and Ben have also made various other musical collaborations with other artists. At the end of 2001 they produced 'A Long Way to Nowhere', a seven track mini album by a Portugese-Scottish punk rock band the Parkinsons, which has just been released on Fierce Panda records. I wondered if there would be any further collaborations between Ben and Jim and other artists in the future. “Yes. It can be difficult to get people together” says Jim. “We are not very sociable. The Mary Chain did some stuff with other people such as Shane MacGowan and Hope Sandoval (both on 'Stoned & Dethroned'– the Jesus and Mary Chain’s fifth album). It can be interesting though when people from different bands get together and try stuff.” It's been seventeen years since Primal Scream frontman Bobby Gillespie last collaborated with Jim, when he was the drummer in one of the early line-ups of the Mary Chain. Wouldn't it be interesting to get Freeheat and Primal Scream together in the studio ? “If they asked. Yeah!” agrees Jim. “They don’t ask" laughs Ben. “I did something with Death In Vegas though about a year and half ago. I wrote and sang a song with them on their album (The Contini Sessions')and played a gig with them.” “I want to do more to help people to make records and produce records” he adds. "That is if I thought that there was something that I could help with. A producer has to be someone,” he adds, reflecting on the Parkinsons mini album, “who is going to add something that the band can’t do themselves.” Tickets for this year's festivals have recently gone on sale.Will we see Freeheat in the line-up on any of them? “It’s in hands of our agent,” says Ben.“But, yeah, hopefully." “It’s difficult to do anything if you don’t have a manager or anything like that,” agrees Jim.“But we really need to.” “Now that the the record’s out, if we can get some kind of profile from that, then I think we will get some offers" carries on Ben. "We want to play European festivals. I’m sick of England. It’s dull. It’s a good place to be if you want to be in a band because things happen here but I still don’t really like it that much.” Although 'Retox' has only just been released in the UK, Freeheat are already planning to record its follow-up. “We have got other good records in us.” reveals Ben. “We just need a little bit of money to help us make them. We want to do an album, but with a real record company behind us. We don’t want to just, kind of, be out there. In a real world you need money to spend on marketing and promotion and those things. Danny is good, but he doesn’t have that much money. That was fair enough. We knew that that was the set up." Freeheat basically seem to be only waiting for the right offer. “I don’t think we really put everything into it in the beginning” Jim says. “I think it’s time to actually start again. To be completely serious about it. We need to have a manager and to get a record deal and to do some travelling again, to do some more tours." .“Most people know me better than the other members of the group" Jim adds. “The curiosity factor is that people only want to know what I’m doing but once the band is a little bit more established it’s not going to be like me and bunch of musicians. It’s going to be a real band.” It must have been hard for Ben and Jim to start completely all over again, especially after all the popularity of the Jesus and Mary Chain. “It's a very different thing” agrees Jim. “It’s not easy for us to do tours. We have to think how to get the money together and stuff like that.” “On the other hand,” says Ben, “the 2 tours in America we did, especially the second one, that was one of the most fun tours that we’ve done. It was just us and friends of ours. It’s great to find that you can do those things. You don’t need to have all those people around you. You wake up in some motel with a crack deal going on next door to you. You play a set of a few songs. People come to see you and that can be more satisfying. I, however, don’t think we want to keep doing that forever. The tours are hard work. You do it because you love it but it also wears you out. We’d like to make living out of music.” “I think the Mary Chain were a fantastic group” recollects Jim. “I’m really proud to have been in that band. I miss travelling the world the way that I could and under those circumstances it was great. I don’t think I really realized that until the very end. I took too much for granted until the the last couple of years." Music has changed a lot in the last two decades since the Jesus and Mary Chain first formed, and, of course, there have been many new bands. The question is whether they have brought something new with them for Jim and Ben to listen to. “I just listen to the old stuff like Velvet Underground” admits Jim. “I know it’s dead predictable. A lot of the new bands I hear right now just sound like not as good versions of the bands that I grew up with in the 70's. There are a lot of bands that exist now that wouldn’t have lasted five minutes in 1977. It seems that’s the way it is now. It’s cool to look like a punk band in the 70’s but it’s not revivalism. You have to update it.” “I really like the Mercury Rev album” says Ben. “I think that’s really good.” “Most music is not good enough” he concludes. "The majority of the songs that are out there are rubbish. I think people are too easily pleased. If the music you hear on the radio isn’t good enough it’s too easy to just complain, so rather than do that that we are doing something about it.” I have no idea what are Freeheat are going to do next, but looking back at the last two years in which they have released a unique EP, toured the UK and US, collaborated on music with other artists and already attracted attention and acclaim in the UK and US press. I’m very curious to see how they will fulfill the challenge they have put in front themselves. Good Luck to them ! More info on Freeheat can be found on www.freeheat.com

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Timo Tolkki - Interview

Timo Tolkki - Interview

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Water Rats, London, 7/3/2002
Timo Tolkki - Water Rats, London, 7/3/2002
After nearly a year of delays, Freeheat finally released their debut EP 'Retox' in Britain in February, and to celebrate the band went out on the road to play a three date British mini tour. Olga Sladeckova writes about the band's London gig

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