For a rock band hailing from a small remote Scottish town, Primal Scream have been through their fair share of ups and downs.
Brilliant reviews and chart success were soon followed by bad break-ups, run-ins with the media, drug overdoses and, ultimately, rebirths.
Three decades on from forming, the guys are still in fine shape, now touring where their jolly hearts take them.
Here, on the eve of their Australian tour, guitarist Andrew Innis, chats with Cream about heavy drug days and hard party nights, his love of glam rock and Ethiopian blues, and why Donald Trump is a perfect match for Kim Jong-un.
Interview by Antonino Tati
Primal Scream have been around since 1982, and you’ve been with the band since ’86. That’s well over three decades. Did you think you’d still be making tunes and performing live this far into it?
I knew Bobby [Gillespie] and the original members from when I was a kid, and I went down to help them make the first album, and that was 1986. We just thought we’d maybe make it through the next six months, if we’re lucky. And here we go, thirty years later, still at it.
What about your peers? Are you surprised many of them have fallen by the wayside? The Soup Dragons, the Charlatans, even the Happy Mondays have a been quiet of late…
Oh the Mondays are still goin’! You’ve got to love the Mondays. Shaun [Ryder] is like the poet of our generation. He’s the guy who really let it rip.
Shaun Ryder went quite hard with the drink and the drugs. What about yourself? Did you party hard?
Personally, yes. You get presented with all the treats. You know, you get to that certain level where you basically can do what you want. And because you come from where we came from – the west of Scotland – you tend to go a bit overboard with the good times. It’s just whether you can pull yourself back from the precipice which I suppose we’ve managed to do. We’ve managed to pull ourselves back for when it really mattered.
So, what you’re saying is you did partake in illicit substances, but you always knew how to curb that and tow the line when you needed to?
If you want to find that out, you just need to Google it. My daughter, when she was questioning me about my [history], she said, ‘And don’t even bother lying about it, Dad, because it’s all over the fucking internet.’
The 1990s, the halcyon days for Primal Scream, were a huge period for rave culture. It seemed like everybody was off their nut in the clubs. Did you find punters coming to your gigs were more out of it than, say, punters going to see Take That, for example?
Sure, I believe that’s what you did when you went to enjoy a Primal Scream show, especially around the Screamadelica period. We had one show in London that always springs to mind for us because a large part of the crowd thought they were buying ‘E’ [Ecstasy] but instead they’d bought Ketamine. We went on stage and it looked like a scene from World War I. There were just bodies lying everywhere, and medical staff were just carrying people out in droves. We thought, ‘What’s going on here then?’ and apparently that was the first time Ketamine had arrived big-time in London. People thought they were taking Ecstasy and were going to have a great night dancing and instead they were all falling about on this horse tranquiliser. So, yes, there’s been a few gigs where the audience has probably been a bit too out of it.
Times have changed somewhat. When it was good ‘E’, or even good Ketamine, and people were sensible about it, people were having a good time, but today it seems everyone is on crystal meth and things are getting really messy now on the club scene, don’t you think?
I’m too old now and I don’t to go out to nightclubs. Is that what they’re doing in Perth now, crystal meth?
Well, it’s quite the epidemic in Western Australia. I think it’s the worst state for meth abuse due in part to the fly-in, fly-out lifestyle of many of our resource industry workers.
Well, your dentists will be busy.
You’d think they would be. Do you think you’re ever too old to be taking recreational drugs?
[Laughs]. I don’t know, really. In the words of Kris Kristofferson, who’s a great songwriter, ‘I don’t what’s the going ups; what’s the coming down?’. [I think Andrew is referring to Kristofferson’s song Sunday Morning, Coming Down here]. It’s when the coming down takes eight days and you feel like crap. When you were a kid and you did a little something, a day later you’re fine. And you’re ready for another round. But as you get older, it just takes longer and longer to feel better. So you just go, ‘I don’t know if the going up is worth the coming down’.
Basically, the pills and thrills aren’t worth the bellyaches to reference a Happy Mondays album…
How do you think old-school veterans like The Rolling Stones managed to have kept it together after all their recreational habits and hard-partying?
Well, I think Mick [Jagger] is one of the fittest guys on the planet. Anybody at his age who can run about for two hours without a break… You’ve got to be fit if you’re Mick Jagger.
Either that, or very high-class drugs?
I think he’s probably fit. I don’t know if you could do what he does… You could probably do it for a couple of nights but then you’d be… well, I don’t know how you’d be able to sustain it. We supported [the Stones] a few years ago, and we’ve always been in the Keith Richards fan club. If you’re in a rock’n’roll band, you want [to be] like Keith.
Primal Scream was often compared to the Rolling Stones, especially around the time of the release of ‘Rocks’. Were you flattered by those comparisons?
Yeah, but I always thought Rocks was more like Suede, myself. I thought Rocks was more of a glam, Suede-like song.
Come to think of it, it does have a bit of a Suede sound.
I loved that band. The first music I got into when I was young, was glam rock. Growing up in the ’70s, I loved Bowie, Bolan, Slade and Sweet. And then much later, in the ’90s, Suede. Glam’s always been a big thing for me. But then I also like listening to this piano-playing nun from Ethiopia from the ’70s. [Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou]. She plays blues but with an Ethiopian twist.
You couldn’t get more refreshing than that! Now, what can we expect from Primal Scream’s Australian gigs?
Well, we’re playing Perth first, which is great. Normally we go the other way around Australia. Normally starting in Brisbane and making our way down to Perth. So it’d be nice to get to Perth all fresh for once. In fact, it will have been six months since we’d played so we’ll really be looking forward to it.
Nice one. And we look forward to it. Away from music for a moment; what do you think of the state of world politics? Are we up the shit?
[Laughs]. Well, he’s not killed anybody yet, Trump, so every day that he just shouts and does his stupid Tweets is like we’ve survived another day, really. They kind of deserve each other, him and Kim Jong-un. They’re kind of two peas in a pod, really. They’re both guys who got everything, who were spoilt by their fathers… I mean I’m no psychologist but they just seem to deserve each other.
Primal Scream Australian Tour Dates are as follows:
Thursday 15 February: Metropolis, Fremantle – 18+
Friday 16 February: HQ, Adelaide – 18+
Sunday 18 February: Forum Theatre, Melbourne – 18+
Tuesday 20 February: Enmore Theatre, Sydney – 18+
Wednesday 21 February: The Tivoli, Brisbane – 18+
Tickets are available through www.tickets.destroyalllines.com.