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Slowdive - Interview

  by Anthony Strutt

published: 22 / 6 / 2005

Slowdive - Interview


It has now been a decade since shoe gazing act and Creation signing Slowdive split.Anthony Strutt talks to guitarist Christian Saville and bassist Nick Chaplin in their first interview since the band broke up about the band's abiding impact and legacy

Slowdive were, with My Bloody Valentine, the most influential act of the early 90’s shoe gazing scene. Formed in Reading in 1989, the group, which consisted of Neil Halstead (vocals, guitar), Rachel Goswell (vocals, guitar), Christian Saville (guitar), Nick Chaplin (bass) and Adrian Sell (drums, replaced by Simon Scott 1990), became renowned for both their ambient sound and Halstead and Goswell’s dreamy male-female vocal harmonies. They signed quickly to Alan McGee’s Creation label a few months after getting together, and after releasing their self-titled debut single in 1990, then went on to release three albums, ‘Just For a Day’ (1991), ‘Souvlaki’ (1993) and ‘Pygmalion’ (1995) before finally splitting up in 1995. Halstead and Goswell have gone on to play in Americana act Mojave 3, and both also have solo careers. Simon Scott meanwhile has gone on to front Televise, whose debut EP came out earlier this year. All three have been the subject of interviews both about their past and present careers at Pennyblackmusic, and also in other magazines, but in the ten years up until now since Slowdive’s break-up Christian Saville, who now plays in studio act Monster Movie, and Nick Chaplin, who has largely dropped out of music, have never spoken publicly about their former band I recently spoke to them both at a recent anniversary gig for club AC30. I would like to thank Simon Scott for DJing that night because that is what Christian and Nick should have been doing before I whisked them off to interview them about their past lives in Slowdive. PB : How did you both get to know Rachel Goswell and Neil Halstead ? They both met through school. Did you meet them through school or was it by other ways ? NC : It is the story of legend really. Christian knew Rachel and Neil vaguely through the Reading scene, didn’t you ? CS : Vaguely, yeah. NC : I was nothing to do with that. I ended up going on holiday with a guy that used to play drums with a band that Neil and Rachel were in. PB : The pre Slowdive band, The Pumpkin Fairies ? NC : Yeah, that’s right. I played bass. They were looking to offshoot their bass player, so we got together then. We wanted to get a fifth member in to play guitar. We advertised in the local press for a girl, and Christian was the person to reply. PB : I believe you were doing a My Bloody Valentine fanzine at the time, and you told them that you were prepared to wear a dress. CS : . That is true. I did say I was prepared to wear a dress. I wasn’t doing a My Bloody Valentine fanzine. I had just interviewed them for something else. I had just learnt to play the guitar and I felt like joining a band that had similar influences. PB : Had you both been in bands before? NC : I had been in a band of one, which was me playing in my bedroom along to Queen. PB : Neil used to play along to Dylan and The Beatles. You were meanwhile listening to Queen? NC : Yeah, that’s right. CS : Nick !When I first met you, you were a Goth. NC : SShh!!! SShh!! (Laughs) PB : Well, Rachel, was a Goth too!!!! NC : That’s why Rachel and I hit it off. We were both into that scene at the time. When I first got a bass, I was very young, I am not ashamed to say it now but part of the mutual attraction between the two of us was The Fields of the Nephilim. The rest of the group tried to dissuade us from pursuing that which was probably a good thing. PB : But at least you were there when it was at its peak. NC : Yeah, exactly. PB : Was there a big music scene in Reading at the time ? NC. Not really. CS : What was really good in Reading at the time was there used to be a place where reasonable sized bands like My Bloody Valentine and the House of Love would come and play. I don’t think that happens in Reading now, but that inspired us to get our own band up and running and we ended up supporting some of those bands. It was really good. Good bands were coming through and it helped us to get better as a band. PB : What were the working relationships like in Slowdive ? How did things work in the band ? Did Neil write the songs and did you play along to them? CS : I personally think at the start it was a bit different from that. Neil would come in with some rough chords and we would work on it as a band. We did one demo where it all suddenly came together. It was a very exciting because overnight we went from being not very good to being quite good. As the band went on Neil, however, did more and more of the songwriting. What do you think, Nick? NC |: I would go along with that. I don’t think anyone of us expected to be picked up by a label like Creation, especially so very, very quickly. PB : How long had you been going before you were picked up by Creation ? NC| : It was just a few months really. We played a few gigs in the usual places in Reading, and also had a few disastrous gigs in London. I remember a dreadful gig in London at the After Dark. A friend Of Alan McGee’s from another label saw us at there. I don’t think we were that good that night, but he thought Alan would like us. CS : And that’s how that happened. We also had two good looking singers. NC : I think that had a lot to do with it. Rachel was very striking and still is. Neil was also pretty cool looking. A lot of the other bands around had a sound but they looked a bit boring and I think that’s what Alan saw in us. PB : You also had great male/female harmonies? NC : It was the classic male and female thing. A good looking guy, a good looking girl and three ugly looking blokes behind them. (Laughs) PB : But it worked. CS : I think it was the demo though. There was that combination of Rachel and Neil, but with that demo we went from being a local band that showed some promise to gelling overnight. We had something with that that put us up another level. It ended up being our first single NC : We tried to re-record it, didn’t we? We did our best, but we felt under a lot of pressure. Creation to us was the biggest label in the world. We ended up putting out the demo, because it had a better feel to it. CS : This is going to sound mental, but I think that was the best thing we ever did, I really do. We were all pulling together in the same direction. After that it was never the same. PB : Did you find it enjoyable working at Creation and with McGee in those early days ? NC : Yeah, it was just weird. CS : We where completely blown away that McGee knew who we were and liked our music and had signed us. It was incredible. NC : The people at Creation were really nice, I have to say. They ran a tight ship then. CS : I have to say that apart from Dick Green(The second in command at Creation-Ed) and Alan McGee I thought they were all a bunch of wankers at Creation. I personally thought they were all just hangers on. I didn’t like them, but that’s just my own feelings. PB: When you did those first recordings did you think that you would still be making waves now ? A lot of new bands have Slowdive sounds in their music ? CS : Do you mean did we think we would be influential on other bands ? No, not at all. NC : No, it’s like now. I hear a band or play a CD or hear the radio, and I think that sounds familiar, not perhaps that it sounds like Slowdive ,but in that it is what we were involved with. We didn’t make great waves, but you can still hear it now. This may sound stupid but even in a massive band like Coldplay you can hear certain things in there, I can hear the same reverb, the same melodies. You can hear that they were influenced by the music of that time. PB : One of the biggest bands to be influenced by Slowdive is Mogwai. CS. Do they like Slowdive, then? Well, I am surprised because I really like Mogwai.I just felt they were influenced by the same stuff as us NC: .I think that’s more than likely. We were part of it. I wouldn’t like to say it was just us. Within that scene I think everyone would say that the Valentines were the biggest influence. PB : The thing that attracted me to Slowdive was the fact it wasn’t just My Bloody Valentine noise. It was quite ambient. You were the first band also in the shoegazing scene to use trance like vocals. Were you aware of that at the time, or was that just the way it evolved ? CS : I am not sure. I don’t think any of it was a conscious effort. We were all going in the same direction. We wanted to do something that was good but there were times when we made a conscious effort to go in other directions and maybe that wasn’t so successful. NC|: I agree with that. The first demo and the early stuff we did was good. The ambient thing was conscious in a way, spurred on by the first demo. When we sat down and listened to it afterwards, it was like “Bloody Hell ! That’s all right. We quite like this.” CS : I played on it. I was totally blown away by it. That was the first time I felt “Wow, this band could really do something !” It was quite an amazing feeling. NC : We took the ambient thing because we had found something we were really good at. Rather then become Ride or the Valentines, Loop, or whoever else was around at that time, we had found something of our own which we could get off on, and with which we could try and push things a bit, Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t. PB :The second album, ‘Souvlaki’, was recorded with Eno. How did you all get on with him? CS : We never met him. NC : Only Neil met him. He did some stuff with Neil for a few days, and they did some tracks and we worked on them afterwards. PB : The last album was ‘Pygmalion’, which had a different sound. Were you happy with it? CS :To be honest, We were both totally out of the picture by then. NC : Did we even play on it ? CS : I spoke to Rachel recently and she said we played on it, but we weren’t into it. There had been a kind of process of disappointments and a lot of bullshit. I see it really as a Neil solo album. PB : At the time did you think it was the end of the band ? CS : I thought it was the end of the band before then. I remember playing a gig in Coventry. NC : Oh, yeah ! (Laughs) CS : And seeing a woman mopping the floor when we were playing. I remember looking up and thinking that it was time to end then , but then Neil organised a US tour, and that was fantastic, and a nice way to go out really. PB : Were you pissed off when Rachel and Neil formed Mojave 3? CS : Not at all. NC : Christian and I had pretty much left by that stage. When they formed a new band we didn’t expect to be invited. I had my own reasons. You had yours. CS : We were getting no money. We had to get jobs. That was the bottom line. NC : And we had to grow up. We were getting to the age when we had responsibilities. I was getting married. I didn’t feel I could spoon off my wife forever. I wasn’t into music at all by that time. The whole thing did nothing for me. There were no hard feelings. Mojave 3was created because 2 members left, and didn’t want to carry on as Slowdive. PB : I know Christian has Monster Movie, but did you do anything musically after Slowdive, Nick ? CS :. After Slowdive, I was so disenchanted with the whole thing, that I didn’t want to be involved at all. It was only when a good friend of mine said to me “Let’s do some music together with nothing as a goal” that I started to enjoy it again. I wouldn’t want to do a band thing again. I don’t know about Nick. I tried to get Nick to join our band. NC| : But no I fell in with Slowdive and fell out of it. PB : It’ s something you did when you were young. NC|: Yeah. Of course, I miss it. It was a great time. I think Christian will always do it, but now I am happy to listen to other people do it. I have always said though that if Monstermovie ever do a gig then I will play bass for them. but you have never done a gig. CS : We might do a gig. It was quite a bad time after Slowdive, ended. There was a lot of bollocks. It was only my good friend that got me into a lot of good music. He played me some stuff and that made me want to play again. PB : So how did Monster movie evolve then? CS : Like I said, we tried to get Nick involved but he was having none of it. NC|:(Laughs) CS : It was just me and my good friend of the last twenty years Sean Hewson (ex-Sarah Records band-Ed)). He just loves music. He is not influenced by NME, and he sees the bigger picture, which I never saw at the time. We just started to play together and then we recorded together and it has been like that ever since. We do whatever we want to do without any pressure. We are not any illusions, are we? NC : He is very negative about Monster Movie, I really think they are good, Christian is always very negative about everything he does. CS : That’s not true. I am just honest. PB : Thanks for your time, guys. NC and CS : .Thanks Monster Movie record for Clairecords. The photo at the top is of Nick Chaplin, while the one beneath is of Christian Saville

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