“We play rock and roll, so it’s inherently inept”

Since 1982, Jason Pearce has been exploring experimental noise, numbness, blues, and rock ‘n’ roll as the half of Spaceman 3 and the vocalist at Spiritualized. Perhaps not surprisingly, this simple puzzle aka J Spaceman treated recent challenges as an opportunity rather than a setback.

“It felt like I’d been practicing lockdown my whole life,” says Pearce from his home in east London. “It took all the guilt from being a nerd. When you compose music, you feel like it’s the most important thing in the world. It shouldn’t, because it’s just music, but there was nothing else to do. You had better go mad in other ways. It was solitude. Pretty imposed.”

Pierce does not take anything for granted. In 2005 he contracted double pneumonia. Both of his lungs filled, his weight dropped to seven stones, and he was technically declared dead twice. “If I didn’t survive, I wouldn’t have made all the albums since the songs at A&E [2008]so I have a lot to be grateful for,” he says. “I said at the time that I was the same disappointing person when I was discharged from the hospital as I was when I came in.”

The singer, guitarist, and multi-instrumentalist is now preparing to release Everything Was Beautiful, a follow-up to And Nothing Hurt from 2018. A line from Kurt Vonnegut connects both albums. “Everything Was Beautiful and Nothing Hurt” comes from Slaughterhouse-Five, a classic war novel that influenced and inspired Conor O’Brien of Villagers, Moby, and Factory Records Tony Wilson. The title of Wilson’s Granada TV show “So it Goes” comes from the phrase Vonnegut uses after each death in the book.

Simplicity and a primitive approach create this suspense. It might be hard to chase it but we get so excited when we get it

“I love Vonnegut’s sarcasm and irony,” Pearce adds. “I love his dark wit because he’s also kind and rational in nature. About 10 years ago, I started re-reading some of the books I loved when I was younger. You listen to music over and over and you stick to it completely in memory in a way that you don’t with other art forms.”

In Everything It Was Beautiful, Pierce plays 16 different instruments. “Yes, but I don’t master anything,” he laughs. “We play rock ‘n’ roll so it’s inherently inept. The simplicity and primitive approach create that suspense. It can be hard to chase but we get really excited when we get to it. Whatever you think it’s simple, it’s actually simpler than that.”

studio crawl

Spirituality used 11 studios to record everything that was beautiful. “It was not a never-ending quest to find the perfect environment, but more than a practical case of booking the studio closest to any pedal steel operator available at the time,” says Pierce. “There are a few studios in Notting Hill that we use a lot because most of my bands are centered around this part of the world.”

Outside of the starting lineup I’ve worked with since 1999, which includes long-term assistant Jon Cookson of London’s Spring Hill Jack drummer, Pierce tends to favor a rejuvenated musical team.

“Sometimes I find it hard to attract people because most people want to work on their strengths. But I’m not always interested in that, he says. A lot of people go to engineers and producers and ask them to repeat what they did for someone else. I want to find a unique place where the songs reside. That’s It takes trial and error. People sometimes lose their way or get angry at their inability to undo what they’re doing most comfortable.”

Return to orbit: J Spaceman

Pierce lives in the lovely old Huguenot neighborhood of Spitalfields where his neighbors include Tracy Emin, Gilbert and George. He has a great appreciation for the region’s history and heritage. On his new album, he used the unique sound of bells acquired from the former Whitechapel Foundry.

“The foundry was just around the corner,” he says. “It’s such a tragedy that they shut down, and it was in part because anything that emits smelly chemicals and smells like it’s closed. It’s been there since the 16th century and has been making Liberty Bell, Big Ben, and the Ten Bells of Christ Church by Nicholas Hawksmore. I used to bring my kids there to watch the bells being made. When they were young. They probably cared a lot less about him than I was.”

Speaking of his kids, his daughter, Bobby, stands out, everything was beautiful. “She sings and sings all over the recordings,” says Pierce. She also announced the album, a kind of robbery from the ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space. We re-released all of these records last year, which gave me a very useful overview of how albums should be.”

the audience groaned

Listeners familiar with the 1997 classic will immediately recognize the idea. “I got lost in making that record, which I always do,” he says. “The first track wasn’t really working. So I put in an ad and very little broadcast, which is a signal from Apollo 11. Suddenly, I’m out of another world.”

Re-release while simultaneously working on new material is the way Pierce loves to work. “I feel like most people my age are making new records as a way to get back on the road to running their old records,” he says. “It’s kind of a joke for bands to say they’re going to play a new song while the audience groans. That sets the bar higher. There has to be a reason why you want to keep making records without losing your passion or focus. They have to be worthy of the manufacture. Otherwise. It’s just a useless exercise in the trade. I felt this especially with the last two records. They should have had better songs than the regular and the original. The last time we went live we did a whole new album. It didn’t feel like it was imposed. Absolutely. It’s exactly the same with this. In a strange way, it’s as if my records are out of time. They aren’t fixed in the world they’ve come to.”

When we re-released the first four albums last year, I thought the music still sounded like it had just been recorded

Thirty years ago this spring, Spiritualized released laser-guided tunes, an enthusiastically received debut album that was recorded for £3,800. “Honestly, I wouldn’t have known it’d been 30 years if you hadn’t told me,” Pierce says. “When we re-released the first four albums last year, I thought the music still sounded like it had just been recorded. Music often follows the recent trend of sound like whatever was popular at the time in order to sell more. We’ve always been freaked out that you want to do that. — to force an inappropriate idea into a box that was currently littered with paper. It’s good to hear them again, and it seems they don’t belong to any particular era, whether it was 30, 20, or 10 years ago.”

Industry fluctuations

He intends to continue plowing regardless of the ups and downs of the music industry. “It’s a childhood dream to keep composing music,” he says. “It’s elusive, weird and always exciting. It was a really emotional experience after three years of not seeing other people. Making noise with this group called Spiritualized again made me cry.”

The first record I ever bought with my money was Raw Power by Iggy & The Stooges. I just saw this beautiful man in silver pants on the cover and wanted to know more

He is still deeply influenced and inspired by the music he loved when he was young. “I was listening to [US garage rock band] The seeds yesterday,” he says. “They still make me feel like they did when I was 18. I still wonder how the hell they did it because it looks like it just fell from the sky. The first record I ever bought with my money was Raw Power by Iggy & The Stooges. I didn’t know anything about the contents. I just saw this beautiful guy in silver pants on the cover and wanted to know more. It all started with my love of rock and roll. I am very lucky. It’s a simple art form yet the most exciting and visceral. When the music hits, you feel like you’re inside. I do not understand that. But I don’t want to understand it. I want to feel it.”

Everything Was Beautiful will be released on April 22nd at Bella Union. Spiritual play at Olympia, Dublin in May 7th

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