Posts Tagged ‘Jason Pierce’

Spiritualized "Everything Was Beautiful"

During lockdown last year, J Spaceman would walk through an empty “Roman London” where the world was “full of birdsong and strangeness”, trying to make sense of all the music playing in his head at the time. The mixers and mixes of his new record weren’t working out yet. Spaceman plays 16 different instruments on Everything Was Beautiful which was put down at 11 different studios, as well as at his home. He also employed more than 30 musicians and singers including his daughter Poppy, long-time collaborator and friend John Coxon, string and brass sections, choirs and finger bells and chimes from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry. Eventually the mixes got there and “Everything Was Beautiful” was achieved. The result is some of the most “live” sounding recordings that Spiritualized have released since the Live At The Albert Hall record of 1998, around the time of Ladies & Gentlemen, We Are Floating In Space.

Following this year’s acclaimed reissue of their classic first four albums, Spiritualized today announce news of their new studio album, Everything Was Beautiful, released 25th February 2022 via Bella Union Records . 

One of the many eye-opening aspects of the pandemic, which we’re still in, has been understanding our relationships with solitude. Some people were comfortable staying inside for months, while others truly lost their shit. I mean, we all kind of lost our shit, and are still losing our shit, but what I’m trying to say is that some people lost their shit less, because they can adapt to isolation well. One of those people who seemed to cope alright was Spiritualized‘s J Spaceman. “I felt like I’d been in training for this my whole life,” Spaceman said in regard to this insane past year and a half years. Today the project has announced its latest album Everything Was Beautiful—seemingly the prequel to 2018’s Slaughterhouse-Five referencing And Nothing Hurt—which was finalized with Spaceman’s “solemn birdsong walks” at the pandemic’s beginning.

To mark the occasion the band have shared a visually striking and timely video for lead track and album opener, “Always Together With You”, directed by J Spaceman – and announced news of an extensive international tour running from March – May 2022 which includes a headline performance at London’s Roundhouse. 

Spiritualized (aka Jason Pierce and backing band) released a new album, “Everything Was Beautiful”, via Fat Possum . Now that the album is out, we can share one of its album tracks that we love and wasn’t previously released as a single. We were torn between the album’s last two songs, both epic and long, but went with seven-minute penultimate track “The A Song (Laid In Your Arms)” over 10-minute album closer “I’m Coming Home Again” .

When the new album was announced in November, Spiritualized shared the song “Always Together With You,” . Then they shared its second single, “Crazy,” via a video for it. The album’s third single, “The Mainline Song,” was shared via a self-directed video.

Everything Was Beautiful” has Pierce playing 16 different instruments, with more than 30 musicians and singers backing him up. His daughter, Poppy, is one of those musicians.

Pierce had this to say about the album in a previous press release: “There was so much information on it that the slightest move would unbalance it, but going around in circles is important to me. Not like you’re spiralling out of control but you’re going around and around and on each revolution you hold onto the good each time. Sure, you get mistakes as well, but you hold on to some of those too and that’s how you kind of…achieve. Well, you get there.”

Spiritualized are an English space rock band formed in 1990 in Rugby, Warwickshire by Jason Pierce (who often goes by the alias J. Spaceman) after the demise of his previous outfit, space-rockers Spacemen 3. The membership of Spiritualized has changed from album to album, with Pierce — who writes, composes and sings all of the band’s material — being the only constant member

Spacemen 3 threebie 3 orbit020lp 5023693102016

Spacemen 3 were an English alternative rock band, formed in Rugby, Warwickshire by Peter Kember and Jason Pierce, known respectively under their pseudonyms Sonic Boom and J Spaceman.Their music is known for its brand of “minimalistic psychedelia”.Spacemen 3 had their first independent chart hits in 1987, gaining a cult following, and going on to have greater success towards the end of the decade.However, they disbanded shortly afterwards, releasing their final studio album post-split in 1991 after an acrimonious parting of ways.

They gained a reputation as a ‘drug band’ due to the members’ drug-taking habits and Kember’s candid interviews and outspoken opinions on recreational drug use. Kember and Pierce were the only members common to all line-ups of the band. Both founding members have enjoyed considerable success with their respective subsequent projects: Sonic Boom/Spectrum and Spiritualized.’

Threebie 3′ is a live Spacemen 3 recording featuring performances from a 1988 gig at Melkweg in Amsterdam which were excluded from the live ‘Performance’ album. It was originally released in a strictly limited edition of 1,000 numbered copies which were only available via a mail order offer that came with the seminal and critically acclaimed Spacemen 3 ‘Playing with Fire’ studio album released in 1989 which went to number 1 on the indie charts.

Out of print for more than 30 years and now re-mastered by John Rivers at Woodbine Street Studio especially for vinyl release for Record Store Day 2020.

Yellow coloured heavyweight 180 gram audiophile vinyl LPPreviously only released on limited edition black vinyl in 1989

recordstore day

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From their beginnings, Spiritualized and The Verve were celestial brethren. Both bands formed in 1990, undoubtedly with a mutual love for Pink Floyd’s The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn and an appetite for drug-taking: Jason “J Spaceman” Pierce founded Spiritualized from the ashes of his previous band, heroin-championing trance rockers Spacemen 3, while Verve (then without a “The”), led by the charismatic Richard Ashcroft, was a gang of teenagers that enjoyed trippin’ balls on LSD. They each jammed eternal, though with distinct styles: Pierce favoured extended, pedal-heavy drones, while Verve conceived loose, reverb-soaked grooves. Following the release of Spiritualized’s debut album, Lazer Guided Melodies, and Verve’s debut single, “All In The Mind,” in 1992, the two bands toured the UK together. For the next couple of years, the bands seemed to follow a similar path, on course for cult worship.
Spiritualized has always been and forever will be Jason Pierce. The gaunt, straggly-haired Spaceman as he was called, formed the band in 1990 as Spacemen 3 was crumbling from the result of his acrimonious relationship with paper-thin bandmate Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember, a 24/7 shades wearer with a bowl cut. A lot of it had to do with two songwriters going in different directions and likely drugs, but the presence of Pierce’s then-girlfriend, the Calvin Klein-modelesque Kate Radley, was also to blame. According to Kember, Radley put a strain on band relations by following the band around wherever they played, be it the studio, rehearsal, or gigs. Once the band imploded, Pierce recruited the remaining S3 members, sans Kember, for his new band, Spiritualized. After the release of their debut single, “Anyway That You Want Me,” Radley joined the band on keyboards, adding a face to Pierce’s muse for songs like “I Want You” and “If I Were With Her Now.” After joining in 1991, Radley became as synonymous with Spiritualized as Pierce, appearing in all press photos, sometimes just the two of them. They appeared as a match made in the heaven he so often referred to in his music.

In 1995, Spiritualized added “Electric Mainline” to their name for some reason and released the magnificent Pure Phase, an album of transcendental, cosmic R&B designed to “play loud ‘n’ drive fast.” Verve, meanwhile, was forced to add “The” to their name, thanks to a lawsuit by the record label of the same name. Unlike Spiritualized Electric Mainline, The Verve would stick. They too released an album, A Northern Soul, which followed up their 1993 debut, A Storm In Heaven. Moving on from their early cavernous psych-rock, A Northern Soul was a game-changer. Led by Ashcroft’s emotive voice, Nick McCabe’s virtuosic guitar work, and Oasis producer Owen Morris’ larger-than-life production, The Verve moved into a whole new stratosphere: the mainstream. Although the album is carried by a spirit that is equal parts Floyd and Zeppelin (see the rumbling low-end vibes of “Life’s An Ocean” or the ecstatic rave-up “This Is Music”), it was the ballads, “On Your Own” and “History,” that helped them crack the Top 30 and reveal Ashcroft, now referred to by Noel Gallagher as “Captain Rock,” as one of the UK’s most compelling songwriters.

The Verve had surpassed Spiritualized and entered the big time, but their success was not what caused a rift between the two bands. Instead, it was due to a personal matter. That same month, The Verve released A Northern Soul, Richard Ashcroft married Kate Radley in secret. Yeah, you read that right: Ashcroft, not Pierce, married Radley. This bombshell was kept under wraps until 1997, but for two more years, Radley was still an active member of Spiritualized. In fact, just days after the wedding, Spiritualized headlined above The Verve at the Phoenix Festival in Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Neither camp has ever been forthcoming about whether Ashcroft was the cause of Pierce and Radley’s romance ending. Maybe that’s for the best, to let this dog lie and just enjoy all of the music that seemed to be a result of such an ordeal. But in these pre-social media times, this incredible love triangle story managed to transpire without details leaking to the press. Fifteen years after it happened, Ashcroft offered up a rare candid moment to Sirius XM, even accepting blame for her leaving Spiritualized. “I was supporting her band,” he said. “I saw this girl jump off the stage with these boots on, this beautiful little skirt. I’m like, ‘Wow! Who’s that? She’s gorgeous.’ And I’m just so lucky that she was intelligent as well. Such a bloody bonus, guys out there! You really should go for that. But I was very fortunate. People should check out her band, she doesn’t play with them anymore. I probably ruined that!”

The loss of Radley romantically seemed both devastating and inspirational for Pierce. Normally, he would let the songs just come to him, but when he sat down to begin writing Ladies and Gentleman in the summer of 1995, he amassed 14 songs in 11 days. According to then-bandmate Sean Cook, Pierce had been doing heroin, which he seems to corroborate on “Home Of The Brave”: “Sometimes I have my breakfast right off of a mirror.” Other lyrics like “There’s a hole in my arm where all the money goes” (“Cop Shoot Cop”) and “Just me, my spike in my arm, and my spoon” (“Think I’m In Love”) insinuate that he was consuming the brown stuff intravenously. Even for a guy who named an album, Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To , this seemed like a pretty shocking admission.

Of course, in hindsight, it’s Pierce’s romantic anguish and this supposed inability to carry on that makes the album such a gut-punch to hear. The first voice you hear on Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space isn’t his, but hers: Radley mutters the album’s titular words completely devoid of emotion. Rumour has it the line was left as a “kiss-off voicemail” for Pierce, though that has never been verified, and seems more like a thing of gossip. Lines like “I’m wasted all the time, I’ve got to drink you right out of my mind” (“Broken Heart”) and “All I want in life’s a little bit of love to take the pain away” (title track) painted a seemingly obvious picture of despair. But Pierce frequently denied that these songs were about his ex. He told MOJO, “If I hadn’t been doing interviews I wouldn’t even have come to that conclusion.” He also downplayed any kind of resentment over Radley leaving him for Ashcroft, telling NME, “I love her dearly and she loves me dearly. Simple fact.

Astonishingly, Radley was still in the band, and is credited with contributing organ, synths, and piano, as well as vocals to the album. However, when it came to gigs, Spiritualized’s PR team claimed she was suffering from a “mystery illness.”

Pierce has said that a lot of the album was recorded spontaneously, and most of what we hear are first takes. So the majority of his time was spent mixing the album, a total of 18 months all ce has said that a lot of the album was recorded spontaneously, and most of what we hear are first takes. So the majority of his time was spent mixing the album, a total of 18 months all together. Originally, he asked Brian Eno to take a crack at it, but he was too busy. And so Pierce began a quest on par with Kevin Shields‘ epic stab at refining My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless, to achieve perfection. Some might say he achieved it. Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space might not receive the same godlike praise as Loveless, but it’s every bit warranted. This was one man’s singular vision: an orchestral space rock odyssey complete with blessed gospel choirs, bursts of free jazz noise, swampy blues, and garage rock freak-outs, divulging the pain he’s suffered.
When Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space was released, the press was still unaware of Radley’s marriage to Ashcroft. Pierce was subjected to questioning about their relationship, considering the lyrical content, but no one caught on. And why would they? He was admittedly still living with Radley’s parents at the time. Months later, when the press found out, Radley and Ashcroft became tabloid fodder and their lives became a soap opera.

Pierce did everything he could to deflect any such attention in order to push his masterpiece. Despite no real hit single to boost it, the album was a commercial success, charting at number four in the UK and achieving a considerable breakthrough in the US. The novelty of packaging the CD in prescription pill form complete with a foil blister pack and dosage advice also helped shift a few copies. So did a performance 114 stories high at the top of Toronto’s CN Tower, which was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest gig ever played.

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The Verve, meanwhile, was on the verge of Oasis-level fame. After breaking up (for the first time) in 1995, Ashcroft began working on music he felt would be for his solo album. Instead, The Verve reformed and released the mammoth hit “Bitter Sweet Symphony” in June 1997. (To Pierce’s probable liking, the band was forced to pay 100 percent of the song’s royalties to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for sampling an orchestral version of the Rolling Stones’ “The Last Time.”) These new, uplifting anthems – perhaps a sign of his domestic bliss with Radley – formed their third album, Urban Hymns.

The Verve may not have survived (they would reform again in 2007 to make a spectacularly shit fourth album, then break up for a third time), but Ashcroft ended up with both the girl and the glory. The drugs may not have worked for him, but selling out sure did. By appealing to the common denominator – which at this time was deemed Noelrock – rather than continue with their cathartic space rock, Urban Hymns became a number one album, selling over ten million copies worldwide and making Ashcroft a rock star in the process.
For the most part, Urban Hymns is still lauded as a modern day classic, but in retrospect, it likely should have been credited to “Richard Ashcroft & The Verve.” That’s certainly how the press treated it. Maybe in 1997, when Britpop was still being touted and Oasis was – in their words: the biggest band in the world – songs like “The Drugs Don’t Work” and “Lucky Man” were candidates for Single of the Week, but two decades later they sure don’t sound much different from this. Maybe finding true love wasn’t the best thing for Ashcroft’s songwriting after all, because things only got worse when The Verve returned in 2008 with Forth.

The same cannot be said about Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space. What Pierce created was timeless; an engrossing, uncompromising, and outright masterpiece that critics have never needed to reassess. That might have something to do with the fact that Pierce, unlike Ashcroft, has never strayed far from his original template.
OK Computer that year may have won over the critics, and Urban Hymns may have sold a zillion copies, but Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is 1997’s true magnum opus. It’s the sound of a man detailing how he lost his heart, body, and soul over the span of 69 spellbinding minutes.

Words thanks To Noisey

“Thirty years? Fuck! Thirty years!” Jason Pierce, one half of the creative duo at the heart of Spacemen 3, is struggling to take in the fact that “Playing With Fire” is celebrating over thirty years since it’s release. And, it seems, he’s also struggling to remember events from 1989.

Pierce chuckles in response, “Playing With Fire” is that kind of an album.  But that’s to damn the record with faint and superficial praise for in truth, it’s so much more than that: Playing With Fire is an extraordinary album and its ramifications and reverberations are still being felt to this very day. Not only was it the moment that Spacemen 3 found themselves reaching a wider audience after years of indifference, but it was also one that saw them create a contemporary form of psychedelia that was ripe for the time and beyond. And in fairness to Pierce, three decades is a considerable period of time, so a re-acquaintance with Spacemen 3’s third album and the times in which it was made is called for.

Looking back after three decades is to be reminded of a time characterised by huge social, political and cultural upheavals. The year leading up to the album’s release had been marred by shocking levels of violence in and around Northern Ireland. Margaret Thatcher became the 20th century’s longest-serving Prime Minister at the turn of the year. The Local Government Act – featuring the notorious Section 28 preventing local authorities from “promoting homosexuality” – became law. And in a grotesque full stop to the year, Pan Am Flight 103 exploded over the Scottish town of Lockerbie when a terrorist bomb went off on board, killing a total of 270 people.

Cultural changes were afoot. The first rumblings from the Pacific Northwest were beginning to make themselves felt, hip hop had taken bold steps forward thanks to ground breaking records by Public Enemy, Eric B & Rakim and EPMD among others, while the likes of Sonic Youth, Pixies and R.E.M. were reaching far and wide. If you want to track the seed of the best of the 90s and what followed, this is when it was planted.

And it was against this backdrop that Spacemen 3 unshackled psychedelic rock from its origins in the 60s to give it an updated and modern vernacular.

Driven by the partnership of Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember and Jason Pierce, Spacemen 3 had been ploughing their own unique and unfashionable furrow since their formation in 1982. From the fuzzed-up ramalama of their Stooges-indebted 1986 debut album, Sound Of Confusion, through to its follow-up a year later with the laid-back and medicated washes of The Perfect Prescription, Spacemen 3’s gradual reduction and minimalising of their sound would result in Playing With Fire. Opening a fresh chapter in the band’s evolution in the shape of new bassist Will Carruthers, the circumstances around the album’s creation helped precipitate the increasingly fractious relationship between Pete Kember and Jason Pierce.

From his Berlin home, Carruthers muses: “People always ask, ‘Why did the band split up?’ The more interesting question is, ‘Why did they stay together?’”

Carruthers has a point and the answer lies in the grooves contained within Playing With Fire. This is an album that’s defined as much by what’s not there as is there. The monolithic and overdriven onslaught of their debut is largely gone, and when it does re-appear on the hypno-monotony of the repetitive call-to-arms that is ‘Revolution’, the sound is more streamlined, focussed and attacking. Boiled down to a single E chord, its audacity is matched by its mesmeric qualities as it layers one guitar on top of another, before reducing the sound down again to the bare minimum of guitars and single, open strings.

Similarly, ‘Suicide’ strips away structures to just an isolated chord, and instead applies washes of tremolo, delay, echo and wah-wah on a circular guitar riff for dynamic effect. Its tempo is anchored by the beat of a single, programmed bass drum and a bass guitar that locks in on the groove. The end result is a relentless wall of sound that simultaneously disorientates yet welcomes the listener to an experience where time, space and structure become meaningless concepts.

Yet for all that, Spacemen 3 were creating even more space on the album. Opening with the beatific ‘Honey’, the band’s intentions become manifestly clear. This is to be a trip fuelled less by power and more by stealth, pace and room to roam. The sparseness at the heart of ‘How Does It Feel?’ – an eight-minute exercise in minimalism – is matched by the haunting yet oddly lachrymose ‘Let Me Down Gently’.

And among these stark excursions are songs of stunning beauty. ‘Come Down Softly To My Soul’ dances and shimmers, while ‘So Hot (Wash Away All Of My Tears)’ is a tender search for redemption and inner peace that’s underlined by the neo-gospel yearn of ‘Lord Can You Hear Me?’.

In short, Spacemen 3 were making the best music of their career. And in doing so, they were also laying down the groundwork for what was to come next as they gradually fell apart first into factions, and then two separate groups in the shape of Spectrum and Spiritualized. But how much of it was evolution or revolution?

“I don’t think there was ever a wilful decision that said we’re going to do something different than we had before, but there was always an assumption that it was going to be like that,” states Jason Pierce. “But what seems to be a giant leap for the listener isn’t such a big step for the musician. To my ears it doesn’t seem like a huge step. We were moving relatively fast anyway, and we had a huge amount of influences already involved ahead, even, of the first album.”

It’s a viewpoint shared by Pete Kember: “I would venture that Sound Of Confusion through to The Perfect Prescription was a night and day switch as well. My thing has always been that I’m not that interested in making the same record twice. I think most musicians feel like that and it’s an unfulfilling thing to repeat yourself. Most of the bands that I like, they like to keep themselves walking.”

He continues: “Speaking for myself, I’d call myself an untrained musician and we were very much experimenting with what we could do and how we could encapsulate what we were trying to present in sound, really. The Perfect Prescription was definitely an awakening for us. Initially we thought that there would be severe limitations to having these one and two-chord, very minimal song structures that would burn themselves out quickly, but they never did. I think we kept finding other ways that we could have these other avenues and branches where we could take music that were still part of the same tree. Playing With Fire was a slightly different direction.”

“There was also a certain musical inability that helped our sound,” elaborates Pierce. “We couldn’t do certain chord changes so we minimalised the whole thing through necessity. With Spacemen 3, it’s almost like you’re listening to people learning their instruments as they go along; there might be guitar bends here and there, but they’re not learned guitar bends. And you’ve also got the inherent stupidity of rock & roll, but that’s not to undermine anyone’s talent. The simplicity of language and notes makes things so exciting.”

“Well, the greatest effects came from the least effort. That’s one of my driving motivations!” laughs Kember. “I’ve always been in awe of people like Kraftwerk, who wouldn’t have more than three or four elements in their tracks; they would all own and occupy their own space, sonically. They’d keep clear of each other but would be awesome around each other. I think there was some influence from that.”

Work began on Playing With Fire in June 1988 when Kember and Pierce were persuaded to record at ARK Studios in Cornwall instead of VHF Studios near Rugby where they’d previously recorded.

“We got offered a cheap deal at a studio that didn’t turn out what it was meant to be,” recalls Kember. “We did, in fact, complete about half of the album back in Rugby at VHF. We had to re-record parts as stuff got wiped in Cornwall.”

Will Carruthers, who had never actually played with Spacemen 3 until he arrived for the sessions, is less flattering in his recollections of the Cornish studios. “We’re not talking about fucking Abbey Road,” he chuckles at the memory. “It was the corner of the living room in a hippy house. It was a really crusty, anarchist punk household.” “We liked the idea of not being on an industrial estate in Rugby in a closed box for another summer,” adds Kember. “The best summers of my youth were spent in a box with no windows! In Cornwall, we could actually set up outside and play there.” Indeed. While the inside of the studio may not have lived up to the band’s expectations, its surrounding areas had a more positive effect.

“It was very exciting making a record and being in a studio and playing those songs and working with Pete and Jason,” says Carruthers. “I remember sitting in the garden, playing music and smoking hash and being pretty much focussed on making that record. That was all that really mattered.” Carruthers had arrived in Cornwall to find the recording sessions in their infancy.

“There wasn’t very much down at that point,” he says. “Maybe the backing track for [the cover of Suicide’s] ‘Che’, a few little drones for ‘Let Me Down Gently’, and a lot of it was written as it went. But what there was sounded great.” An oddly compelling aspect to Playing With Fire is that for a largely beatless album, it’s driven by a palpable groove. Was this by accident or design?

“The drums went down in some kind of form in Cornwall, but not particularly well executed,” says Jason Pierce. “This French guy was drafted in to have a go but didn’t really nail it,” explains Carruthers. “They had to programme the drums but no one was really labouring over that for weeks to get it done.”

He continues: “But it was hard to play those Spacemen 3 songs with a drummer. They’re deceptively simple, but if you weren’t bang on when you played them, they sounded gash.”

“Well, the thing with Spacemen 3 were the very minimal or underplayed drums,” adds Kember. “I love rhythm and groove but I’m not particularly great at creating it. I tend towards the minimal and simplistic. I’m bound by limitations and Spacemen 3 were band whose limitations helped us become the band we were. We were trying to make something out of nothing and sometimes, when you do that, you get really good things out of it.”

The distance between Cornwall and Rugby gave the principal players time to soak up further influences. For Kember and Carruthers, who’d drive back to their hometown at the weekends, it was bootleg cassettes of The Beach Boys’ Smile sessions as well as illicit recordings of New York’s electronic pioneers Suicide, while Pierce, remaining in Cornwall, would immerse himself in live bootlegs of The MC5 in action. But inspiration was coming from other areas, too.

Jason got into gospel around the time of Playing With Fire,” says Will Carruthers. “‘Lord Can You Hear Me?’ is a classic gospel soul tune. We listened to a lot of that stuff.” “I think gospel has always been there, even in the early days,” says Pierce. “And American soul. It’s there on ‘Lord Can You Hear Me’ but it’s evident on some of the others tracks, if you listen carefully enough.”

“That song is so good that it should be a gospel standard,” opines Kember.

“But I don’t think those influences are that disparate,” continues Pierce. “I didn’t think it was that odd to be listening to The MC5 and Kraftwerk and Otis Redding. Now, it’s not such a big deal because it’s all easily available and has some kind of reference point. It all seems to make more sense now because the world is a little smaller.” He adds: “It was very natural. As soon as we put those sounds together on the earliest recordings, it didn’t sound like anyone else. Of course, it was coming from our small world of music and it became bigger as we heard more music. But it wasn’t trying to copy those sounds. It was this thing that worked.”

“We were certainly a magpie band,” admits Kember. “We would delve into the past but we ended up with this weird mix. But all of those songs are from the same place, in a weird way. It’s just people meaning what they say and owning it when they say it. We were definitely listening to Kraftwerk and Laurie Anderson, plus there were the records that we found in the studio in Cornwall that we didn’t have. Penguin Café Orchestra were an influence around that time and elements of all of them found their way into “Playing With Fire.”

While Jason Pierce and Will Carruthers deny that the emerging popularity in MDMA had any direct impact on the music Spacemen 3 were making, Pete Kember remembers things a little differently. “‘Ecstasy Symphony’ from The Perfect Prescription from ’87 is entirely referencing the ecstasy scene. We were lucky to play some of the pre-rave ecstasy shows in Hackney. They were called ‘The X Parties’ and we played two of those that I remember. There were large amounts of people there taking ecstasy and other psychedelic drugs. The days of The Grateful Dead and all that nonsense were long gone.”

Pondering the cultural impact of ecstasy, Kember continues: “Ecstasy really changed British culture. If you were a kid then and into Spacemen 3 and you went out into your town or city on a Friday or Saturday night, then you’d better watch your back. “It was one of the more interesting cultural steps; maybe even the last truly interesting cultural movement to have happened.”

Less harmonious was what was to come. A perfect storm of Jason Pierce’s romance with future Spiritualized keyboard player Kate Radley, a new management contract with local businessman Gerald Palmer and Kember’s perception of an imbalance in songwriting duties was beginning to take its toll on the band’s two song writers.

“We were badly advised and badly managed,” sighs Kember. “We were kids learning and trying to figure shit out.” A tone of remorse enters his voice.

“If I had the chance to change things, there are many things that I would’ve done differently,” he admits. “You know, at that point we separated our song writing and there was a period when Jason stopped writing songs and we’d always split the credit. I was like, ‘Dude, you can’t just leave me floating here. Come on – you come up with totally different stuff and our stuff works really well together. I’m not going to split the credit with you, dude, if you’re not going to write anything’ and I regret that.”

He continues: “It was only a small and temporary period that Jason wasn’t writing, and I think I reacted badly to it. I wish we had worked closer together and many of the tracks on the record were done in isolation: ‘Lord Can You Hear Me’, that’s Jason and I don’t play on that track. ‘Honey’, that’s me but Jason doesn’t play on that track. It wasn’t a critically destructive thing but it wasn’t good vibes.

“I just wish that maybe we could have done it differently. But on the other hand, I feel that, as with the bands whose music I really love, that dysfunction can produce great music. Sometimes, that’s the way it goes.”

In some respects, Playing With Fire is an album that’s curated as much as it’s composed. This far down the line it’s easy to spot the ingredients that went into its making but this is to miss the point. The analogue world of 1988 – 89 didn’t offer the same off-the-peg musical choices that it does now. Influences, records, and their histories and significance had to be physically hunted down. Time, effort and money were spent to seek these materials, to make sense of them and to refine and streamline them into something new. Consequently, Playing With Fire not only comes at the listener from different directions, it also sends the curious on a journey that joins a lot of dots. But crucially, it holds it all together to create a satisfying journey from beginning to end – and one that has continued to do so over the last 30 years as it inspires subsequent generations of space cadets.

Says Will Carruthers: “It’s a peculiar album, especially when you think about the diversity – from ‘Suicide’ to ‘Let Me Down Gently’, ‘Lord Can You Hear Me’ to ‘How Does It Feel?’ and I don’t know how it works as an album. On paper, it shouldn’t fucking work. You’ve got Jason’s classic, poppy and gospel tunes. It’s interesting how it hangs together, given the peculiarity of the elements within it.”

As one of the album’s two chief architects, Pete Kember has a clearer idea of how those different elements coalesce into a coherent statement.

“It’s one of those weird things where sometimes you have a collection of songs that don’t appear to go together and then you find that actually, you find a way to thread them together, and so make them all stronger,” he explains. “You know, ‘Suicide’ next to ‘Revolution’? That’s not such a great mix, but when you put ‘Suicide’ next to ‘Honey’, then it makes both of the tracks more extreme. I really like that kind of journey.”

“It’s funny, there are a lot of people now who sound like Spacemen 3 but when we were kids, we didn’t want to make psychedelic music that sounded like psychedelic music,” adds Jason Pierce. “I don’t think we’d have been able even if we wanted to. There were bands at the time wearing paisley and playing music that was copied from West Coast psychedelia, but the music we played didn’t come from that. We weren’t constrained by style or form; we went for what sounded right.” Pete Kember agrees and it’s with no little pride that he states: “I’ve never wanted to make a lot of records, but I’ve always wanted to feel happy about the ones I have made.

“I could go a decade without listening to Spacemen 3, but when I hear that stuff I’m always psyched and I think to myself, Yeah, we fucking nailed it.”

Playing with Fire is the third studio album by, released in February 1989. The original CD version included two live bonus tracks recorded in the Netherlands, and an ensuing release included two more b-sides from the “Revolution” single. A reissued version from 2001 has an entire extra disc of demos and rarities. The album was featured in Robert Dimery’s 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die”.

In a similar musical borrowing to those on the band’s prior albums, the song “Revolution” bears more than a passing resemblance to “Black to Comm” by the “MC5”.

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Spacemen 3 were an English alternative rock band, formed in 1982 in Rugby, Warwickshire, by Peter Kember and Jason Pierce, known respectively later under their pseudonyms Sonic Boom and J Spaceman. Their music is known for its brand of “minimalistic psychedelia”. The creative and song-writing force throughout Spacemen 3’s history were Peter Kember and Jason Pierce. They met at the (now defunct) Rugby Art College on Clifton Road, Rugby,  in Autumn 1982, both aged 16, and became close friends. Pierce was in a band called Indian Scalp, but he left them near the end of 1982 in order to collaborate with Kember. The two guitarists recruited drummer Tim Morris, who played with a couple of other bands and had a rehearsal space at his parental home which they used. Shortly afterwards they were joined by an acquaintance, Pete Bain, on bass. Morris and Bain had previously played together in a band called Noise on Independent Street. Pierce handled lead vocal duties. Now a 4-piece, the band originally adopted the name The Spacemen. Sonically, Spacemen 3’s music was characterised by fuzzy and distorted electric guitars, stuttering tremolo effects and wah-wah, the employment of ‘power chords’ and simple riffs, harmonic overtones and drones, softly sung/spoken vocals, and sparse or monolithic drumming.

Their earlier record releases were guitar ‘heavy’, sounding Stooges-esque and “a bit like a punked-up garage rock band” whilst their later work was mostly sparser and softer with more textural techniques and augmented by organs, resulting in “their signature trance-like neo-psychedelia”. Kember was a keen record collector from the early age of 11 or 12; some of the first records he purchased included albums by The Velvet Underground. Pierce: “When I was 14, I bought The Stooges’ Raw Power and I listened to nothing but that for a year”. Spacemen 3’s early gig posters would often make explicit references to their sound being inspired by The Stooges, The Velvet Underground and The Rolling Stones.In 1988, Kember said, “Groups like Suicide or the MC5 are like my favourite stuff in the world” Pierce said, “Early on, we were listening to The Stooges, then came Suicide,

Their first live performances occurred around winter 1982/83, playing at a party and then at a couple of gigs they managed to get at a local bar; at the latter their set included a 20-minute version of the one-chord song “O.D. Catastrophe”

This prompted Bain and Morris to leave and join a new local band, The Push, being formed by Gavin Wissen. Kember and Pierce recruited a replacement drummer, Nicholas “Natty” Brooker. They continued without a bassist and Pierce would regularly return to Rugby for rehearsals. In early 1984, they only performed at a few local, low key venues. Still a trio, they changed their name to Spacemen 3.

Kember explained:The “3” came about completely by mistake. We did a poster which was just for The Spacemen, which we were for a while. But it was “The” Spacemen and I hated that, it sounded like a 50s rock ‘n’ roll group – that’s all very well, but we didn’t want to be imagined as…one of those surf bands. So we stuck the 3 on afterwards – that came about from a poster we did which had “Are Your Dreams At Night 3 Sizes Too Big?” with a very big 3 on it and it really worked as a logo, it just fell into place. It’s really for the third eye.

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Despite having played fewer than ten gigs, Spacemen 3 decided to produce a demo tape. In 1984 they made their first studio recordings at the home studio of Dave Sheriff in Rugby. This material – which included early iterations of the songs “Walkin’ with Jesus”, “Come Down Easy” and “Thing’ll Never be the Same” – was used for a short demo tape entitled “For All The Fucked Up Children Of The World We Give You Spacemen 3”. They got a few hundred cassette copies made and produced their own artwork and booklet to accompany it, selling the tapes for £1 at a local record shop. Spacemen 3’s music at this stage had a loose, swampy Blues feel; some songs included harmonica and slide guitar, and their style sounded akin to The Cramps These early demo recordings, which Kember later recalled as being “really dreadful”, would later be released unofficially in 1995 on the Sympathy for the Record Industry label, thus providing an insight into the band’s embryonic sound.

Around 1984 and 1985, Spacemen 3 were doing gigs every two or three months on the local Rugby/Northampton/Coventry circuit, and had a regular spot at The Black Lion public house in Northampton. Their gigs had an ‘anti performance’ element: Kember and Pierce would play their guitars sitting down and would barely acknowledge the audience. They would illuminate the stage with some cheap, old optokinetic disco light-show equipment which they had acquired, providing a psychedelic backdrop. At one of their gigs at The Black Lion in 1985, they came to the attention of Pat Fish, the leader of the recording band The Jazz Butcher; he felt Spacemen 3 were “extraordinary” and “like nothing else”. By this time they had reconfigured and honed their musical style, and their repertoire consisted of newer songs and re-worked older ones. “The band’s sound had crystallised into the intense, hypnotic, overloaded psychedelia which characterised their early [record] output, and which would serve as a template for their live act throughout their existence” . Spacemen 3 signed a three-year, two-album recording contract with Glass Records in early 1986.

Kember and Pierce opted to upgrade their guitar equipment ahead of recording the new demos. Kember purchased a Burns Jazz electric guitar and 1960s Vox Conqueror amplifier; whilst Pierce bought a Fender Telecaster and a 1970s HH amplifier. Both of their new amplifiers included distortion/fuzz and tremolo; these two effects were key components of Spacemen 3’s signature sound.
Spacemen 3 had their first independent chart hits in 1987, gaining a cult following, and going on to have greater success towards the end of the decade. However, they disbanded shortly afterwards, releasing their final studio album post-split in 1991 after an acrimonious parting of ways.

They gained a reputation as a ‘drug band’ due to the members’ drug-taking habits and Kember’s candid interviews and outspoken opinions on recreational drug use.Kember and Pierce were the only members common to all line-ups of the band. Both founding members have enjoyed considerable success with their respective later other subsequent projects: Sonic Boom/Spectrum and Spiritualized.

Spacemen 3 sound of confusion

Sound of Confusion (1986)

Spacemen 3’s debut album “Sound Of Confusion” released in 1986, was a blistering affair – establishing their love of the two-chord song and also expressing their admiration for the likes of MC5, The 13th Floor Elevators and The Stooges. Spacemen 3 were sent to record their first album, Sound of Confusion, at the studios of Bob Lamb in the King’s Heath area of Birmingham. By this time, they had already started to write some ‘softer’ songs, but they decided that the album should consist entirely of ‘heavier’, older material. With a recording budget of less than £1,000, they completed the album in five days, with the last two days dedicated to mixing. Attempts at recording the title song “Walkin’ with Jesus (Sound of Confusion)” were unsuccessful and abandoned. Both Kember and Pierce were unhappy with the final production on the album, feeling it suffered from Lamb’s unsympathetic production;Sound of Confusion was 7 tracks of overdriven assault, with a strange bleakness and despair creeping through the hypnotic sprawl. R Hunter Gibson would later say: “It boosts the value of unlit rooms, unpaid debts and unfeigned terror and it would rather tackle the gradients than settle for level best.

The seven-track Sound of Confusion album had a heavy psychedelic style with a strong Stooges influence. It was “a full on, fuzzed up drone of relentless guitar pounding” with a “rough garage energy ” and “minimal, bluntly entrancing riffs” (Ned Raggett, AllMusic/NME review of the 1990 re-release recalled of the album: “It’s a lo-fi, mostly low-key affair, the sound of the band finding their feet… It doesn’t quite attain the critical mass to transcend its basis in the most rudimentary garage punk of the Sixties… Side Two is pretty much one long tribute to The Stooges..Sound of Confusion probably felt like a revelation, to the few who heard it at the time.

To follow up their album, Spacemen 3 made their first single: “Walkin’ with Jesus”. This was recorded at Carlo Marocco’s studio outside Northampton. For the title track they re-mixed the version they had previously recorded for their demo tape. For the B-side, they recorded “Feel So Good”, a newer composition, and re-recorded a 17-minute “Rollercoaster” (a cover of the 13th Floor Elevators). This single was the first Spacemen 3 record that Peter Kember and Jason Pierce produced; the duo handled all future production. The “Walkin’ with Jesus” single was released in November 1986. It received decent reviews from NME and Sounds.

Guitarist Peter Kember started to use his long-term alias ‘Sonic Boom’. He had earlier employed the aliases ‘Mainliner’ and ‘Peter Gunn’. Bassist Pete Bain also adopted his alias: ‘Bassman’ or ‘Pete Bassman’

Spacemen 3 perfect prescription

The Perfect Prescription (1987)

Spacemen 3’s second album is a remarkable departure from the band’s 1986 debut, Sound of Confusion Reduced to a trio (guitarists / keyboardists Pete ‘Sonic Boom’ Kember, Jason ‘Spaceman’ Pierce, and bassist Pete Bassman) following the departure of the first album’s drummer, Spacemen 3 makes an asset out of the newfound lack of percussion, giving the album a considerably less rock-oriented sound with much more open space in its varied, subtle arrangements.

Spacemen 3 commenced work on their second album, The Perfect Prescription. This was recorded at Paul Atkins’ VHF Studios, near Rugby. VHF had been recommended to the band by in-house sound engineer Graham Walker with whom they had worked previously when recording their first demo tape. The first set of demo recordings they made at VHF Studios relating to the new album were dubbed the ‘Out Of It Sessions’. Procurable only as bootleg, this work shows the transition in Spacemen 3’s musical style that was occurring around winter 1986/87

Spacemen 3 would spend over eight months at VHF Studios. Importantly, this allowed them generous time to experiment, and develop and refine their sound and material in a studio setting, assisted by Graham Walker. In the album liner notes of Forged Prescriptions, a re-release of The Perfect Prescription, Kember recalled: this is Spacemen 3 in bloom, midsummer before the seeds were scattered, right at the point where we worked together well and in compliment to each other. I still have strong memories of days where we would crash out listening to nothing but one song over and over… Mattresses were installed into the studio’s lounging space and our kaleidoscopic light show stayed on throughout the session… We spent several months…recording and re-working these pieces until we felt they were ready, slowly learning more about the studio and its techniques as we went.

Whilst working on the album, “Transparent Radiation” — a cover of a song by the Red Crayola — was recorded, and released as a single in July 1987. “Transparent Radiation” was awarded ‘Single of the Week’ by Sounds, and matched the previous single in reaching no. 29 on the independent chart. The B-side included “Ecstasy Symphony”, a new experimental piece using an organ drone multi-tracked and fed through various effects (this would presage some of Peter Kember’s later work and his interest in analogue synthesisers).

The Perfect Prescription “marked a serious artistic development, drawing deeper from gospel, ambient, and spiritual music, granting a serenity and depth to their spaced-out garage psychedelia” (Stephen Erlewine, AllMusic). Although retaining the same minimalist approach, Spacemen 3’s sound was now sparser and mellower. Extra textures and complexity were evident, provided by overdubs and additional instrumentation, with the organ sound of the VHF Studio’s Farfisa being a significant introduction. The instrumental palette was also extended with acoustic guitar, violin (from local musician Owen John), saxophone and trumpet (from members of The Jazz Butcher) being used on some songs. Much of the album did not feature drums. This was the first album on which Kember contributed lead vocals.

Relations between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce were beginning to suffer as a result of Pierce’s romantic relationship with Kate Radley, whom he had been dating since Summer 1987. Kember resented the amount of time his song-writing partner was spending with her at his expense and the fruition of the band.

In July 1988, Spacemen 3’s third single, “Take Me to the Other Side”, was released, from The Perfect Prescription album

Spacemen 3 were keen to be freed from their recording contract with Glass Records who were in financial difficulty and owed them royalties. Although they had produced the requisite two albums, there was still a year remaining on their contract. A deal was reached whereby, in return for providing a live album, their contractual obligations would be deemed to have been met and they would be allowed to leave. Accordingly, Performance was released in July 1988. This seven-track live album was a recording of their gig at the Melkweg venue Amsterdam, on 6th February 1988.

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Playing with Fire (1988–89)

Peter Kember had purchased an unusual electric guitar near the end of 1987: a Vox Starstream made in the late 1960s. This guitar incorporated several in-built effects, including fuzz and Repeat Percussion (or Repeater) The latter was a unique tremolo type, almost delay-like effect, and Kember would use it heavily on Spacemen 3’s future output. One of his first compositions featuring this effect was the eponymous “Repeater” (a.k.a. “How Does It Feel?”). “Repeater” and two other new songs also composed by Kember – “Revolution” and “Suicide”. 

Recording for Spacemen 3’s third studio album, Playing With Fire, started in June 1988.

New bassist Will Carruthers made his first live appearance with Spacemen 3 at London Dingwalls on 20th June, where they were supported by My Bloody Valentine. It was after this gig that a confrontation occurred between Kember and Pierce and his girlfriend, Kate Radley. Tired of Radley’s persistent presence around the band of late – at recording sessions, touring and backstage at gigs – Kember enforced an agreed ‘no girls on the bands bus policy and barred Radley from boarding the tour van, leaving Pierce and Radley to make their own way home.

Peter Kember and Jason Pierce were formulating new song ideas entirely separate from one another. Both their personal and working relationships were beginning to disintegrate. Pierce’s romance with Kate Radley was impacting on his time with the band and his contributions. Of the eventual tracks on Playing With Fire, six were Kember’s compositions, whilst only three were Pierce’s. The recording process for this album was different: individual parts were recorded separately, which meant band members did not have to be present at the same time, After initial plans to use drummers from The Weather Prophets and Thee Hypnotics for the recording of Playing With Fire, a permanent drummer was recruited in late August: Jonny Mattock. Despite this he does not appear on Playing With Fire – a drum machine was used on all of the songs and no drummer is credited on the album.

Mattock had been playing in a Northampton band called ‘The Apple Creation’. He was recommended by future Spacemen 3 guitarist Mark Refoy. Mattock made his live debut on 24th August at a gig at the Riverside in Hammersmith, London, and contributed to the new album. The new rhythm section of Carruthers and Mattock would remain constant for the rest of Spacemen 3’s existence

Spacemen 3 managed to obtain a two-album deal with independent label, Fire Records. Kember and Pierce argued over the choice of song for their first single with Fire. Agreement was eventually reached on “Revolution”. At a gig 15th November 1988, advertised as ‘Sonic Boom and Jason of Spacemen 3’, only Kember and Carruthers performed; Pierce spent the whole time at the bar with Kate Radley, whom he was now living with. The single “Revolution” was released in November 1988. The title track was a powerful, anthemic “mind-melting crunch”.

Spacemen 3’s eagerly awaited Playing With Fire album was finally released in late February 1989. The album’s front cover sleeve bore the slogan, “Purity, Love, Suicide, Accuracy, Revolution”. Playing With Fire was Spacemen 3’s first record to chart and one of the breakthrough indie albums of the year. Within weeks of its release, it was No. 1 in both the NME and Melody Maker.


Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To (1990)

Spacemen 3 “became the indie phenomenon of late 1988”. They were receiving more media attention and got their first cover story, in Melody Maker‘s November 1988 issue. Peter Kember effectively become the sole spokesperson for Spacemen 3, giving numerous interviews. These provided for controversy and journalistic focus due to Kember’s candid openness about his drug taking habits and his forthright views on recreational drug use.

Spacemen 3 at their most raw and powerful, the album being almost exclusively demos from the mid-80s and other alternative versions of songs produced along the way. The lack of glossy production which eventually met some of Spacemen 3’s later material really brings out the in your face garage style of play they were pushing for here. Both Jason Pierce and Sonic Boom reckon they are better then the ‘proper’ versions!!.

The album was re-issued  as a (2LP – Berry) coloured heavyweight 180 gram vinyl double LP in a gatefold sleeve with new artwork layout. Remastered by John Rivers at Woodbine Studios especially for vinyl release.

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Performance (1990)

Recorded in Amsterdam in 1988, the live ‘Performance’ documents a set from the Perfect Prescription tour; the emphasis here is on the group’s loud, noisy origins – only the closing ‘Feel So Good’ hints at the more subdued atmospheres and textures which emerged as Spacemen 3’s primary focus as they approached ‘Playing With Fire’. Among the highlights: ‘Take Me to the Other Side,’ ‘Walkin’ With Jesus’ and ‘Come Together.’

At the beginning of 1989 Spacemen 3 had been one of the “hottest indie bands in England. The personal and working relationship between Peter Kember and Jason Pierce, still the principal members of the band, would completely disintegrate, leading Spacemen 3 to eventually disband. Spacemen 3 used the short break between the UK and European tours in Spring 1989 as an opportunity to record a new single. Two songs were recorded, at VHF Studios: “Hypnotized”, a new song by Pierce, who had recently acquired his own 4-track recorder; and “Just To See You Smile”, by Kember. The songwriters spent a day’s session on each other’s song, although Kember’s contribution to “Hypnotized” was not ultimately used on the released version.

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Dreamweapon (1990)

On the August 19th, 1988, Spacemen 3 traveled down from their homes in Rugby—a manufacturing town 80 miles northwest of London—to play a show at the Watermans Arts Centre in the West London suburb of Brentford. It wasn’t even a show, really: The group was to play in the venue’s lobby, while patrons lined up to get into that evening’s screening of art-house auteur Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire. Only 15 or so fans actually watched them play.

At that time, Spacemen 3 were so peripheral to British independent music that they were barely a curio. Without the support of the weekly music papers, the band was purely the preserve of psychedelic heads. No one had it in mind that they might one day rival the Smiths as one of the most profoundly influential British bands of their era.

The performance at Watermans Arts Centre was billed as “An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music,” despite the complete absence of sitars. It consisted of Peter Kember (aka Sonic Boom) playing a single E chord, while guitarists Jason Pierce and Steve Evans picked notes around him, and Will Carruthers anchored everything on bass. That was the plan, at least; in practice, Carruthers forgot to turn on his amp. As he put it in his terrific memoir, Playing the Bass With Three Left Hands: “A monkey could have done what I had just done. A non-existent monkey could have done it.”

The 45-minute performance was recorded and served as the main attraction of Spacemen 3’s 1990 album, Dreamweapon. Superior Viaduct’s new edition, augmented by three more drone pieces, is testimony to the live document’s continued allure, despite its oddly comical nature (around the 16-minute mark, you hear a voice in the background over a PA: “Ladies and gentlemen, the cinema is now open and you can take your seats for this evening’s showing of Wings of Desire.

“An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music” is one of the most extreme pieces of music to find a fairly large audience. It’s not that it is confrontational, or difficult. It is just so completely unyielding. It offers no concessions to listeners, demanding they embrace the drone, or leave. Despite the lo-fidelity and the background noise— along with the PA announcements, there is clattering tableware, chatter, and a crying baby—it is beautiful, in the same way, that watching clouds rolling across the sky is beautiful. It offers no navigation points, no waystations. It is absolutely captivating because it refuses to expand. “An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music” would have the same impact at 10 minutes, or 20, or 30. It lasts 45 minutes only because that’s how long Spacemen 3 had been hired to play.

The three other pieces on this new Dreamweapon reissue are variations on a theme: “Ecstasy Live Intro Theme” takes a single synth bass note, with a high, piercing, dentist’s drill tone sliding around the scale at the top end of the keyboard. Does it build and subside in volume? It’s genuinely hard to tell, yet there are places when, for no apparent reason, it suddenly feels startlingly more intense, anxious, and claustrophobic. It is, at times, verging on terrifying in its physicality. “Ecstasy in Slow Motion” is more of the same, but less intense. (Both are close cousins of “Ecstasy Symphony” from the band’s 1987 album The Perfect Prescription. The concluding “Spacemen Jam” is the filler here: 15 minutes of guitar doodles that are precisely as interesting as you would expect from a couple of young men messing about on their guitars with a tape recorder running.

Had the voiceless drone been the sole interest of Spacemen 3, then it’s likely that Dreamweapon would never have seen the light of day. But in November 1988, Spacemen 3 released the more traditional psych-rock explosion of “Revolution” the song that changed everything for them. “Revolution” became UK indie’s ubiquitous theme of autumn 1988, hailed by the critics, and featured on television. The album “Playing With Fire”, released in February 1989, confirmed their new status. Suddenly all the mythology Spacemen 3 had built up for themselves—typified by their slogan, “Taking drugs to make music to take drugs to”—stopped being the self-aggrandizement of unknown provincials and became mission statements of a major band. They spent most of 1989 slowly unravelling, finally officially disbanding in 1991 after the release of Recurring, their fourth and final studio album. Their whirlwind trajectory only contributed to the mystique, prompting an array of live albums and unofficial and semi-official releases that started in 1990.

More than any of their contemporaries, Spacemen 3’s legacy depends on that elusiveness, the sense of them as voyagers through a psychedelic netherworld. They were a band who promised to open doors, and who did so for scores of bands who followed John Dwyer’s Thee Oh Sees and the whole of the San Francisco psych scene, The-warlocks, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, the Black Angels, through to the War on Drugs and pretty much anyone else with a taste for hallucinogens and the drone. What Dreamweapon reveals is how quotidian the origins of that mythology were: four blokes earning a few quid playing for people who weren’t even listening. As the silent bassist Carruthers wrote of the performance: “To this day, I’m not sure if it was art or not.”

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Recurring (1991)

Recording for Spacemen 3’s fourth studio album, Recurring, had commenced at the beginning of August 1989, again at VHF Studios. According to Mark Refoy, Kember and Pierce rarely appeared at the studio at the same time and there was “quite a tense atmosphere” between them. When work recommenced after the Reading Festival, Kember and Pierce were recording separately from one another. Pierce contributed guitar parts to Kember’s songs, but Kember did not play on any of Pierce’s songs. When Kember heard Pierce’s demos, he again renewed his claim that he was copying his sounds and effects, and accused Pierce’s “Billy Whizz” of being a composition he had written several years prior. The two were now estranged and working completely separately. They agreed to have separate sides of the album for their own songs, all of which they had written and composed individually. Pierce’s side of the album is effectively his next project ‘Spiritualized’, and Kember’s side of effectively his next project ‘Spectrum’ with Richard Formby Kember’s partner in Spectrum playing guitar on his side. The other three band members – Carruthers, Mattock and Refoy – who all went onto join Spiritualized, were called in to contribute sessions when required.

The recording of “When Tomorrow Hits” was the last occasion Kember and Pierce would work together. A disconsolate Will Carruthers left the band at this point, fed up with the discord and lack of remuneration

In January 1991, the Spacemen 3 single “Big City”/”Drive” was released. Both songs from the double A-side single were from the soon-to-released Recurring. Kember and Pierce had been due to be at the studio for the mastering of the single, however Pierce did not attend. At that point the two had hardly spoken face to face in over six months. Kember decided to fade out several minutes of Pierce’s song from the single, “Drive”.

The last Spacemen 3 album, Recurring, was finally released in February 1991. Although the band had not officially disbanded, for all intents and purposes it was a posthumous release. The two sides of the album – one by Kember (A-side), the other by Pierce (B-side) – reflected the split between the band’s two main personnel.

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Spacemen 3 recorded and performed numerous covers and re-workings of other bands’ songs, particularly earlier on in their history, and this was indicative of their influences. Examples include songs by the following bands and artists: The Stooges, MC5, The Thirteenth Floor Elevators, Roky Erikson, The Red Krayola, Glenn Campbell (of The Misunderstood), The Velvet Underground, Lou Reed, Suicide, Bo Diddley, The Rolling Stones, The Troggs, The Yardbirds, and The Sonics. The song “Hey Man” (a.k.a. “Amen”) is based on a Gospel traditional. The song “Come Down Easy” is derivative of a Blues traditional. Spacemen 3 performed an instrumental song live with a pronounced Bo Diddley style rhythm, dubbed “Bo Diddley Jam”.The Spacemen 3 song “Suicide” was a clear acknowledgement of one of their influences: when performed live it was usually introduced as “this song is dedicated to Martin Rev and Alan Vega – Suicide”.

“Spacemen 3” were one of the most revolutionary UK guitar bands” , They produced “some of the most visceral and psychedelic music of all time…and set a sonic template that influenced a generation, inspiring countless bands”

I’m sure I’m not the only person subscribing to this page who yearns for a contemporary band with a similiar Spacemen 3 sound. Personally, I have to admit I’ve gone through phases of obsessively searching for an adequate Spacemen 3 listening replacement. Plenty of artists attempt it, very few succeed. Sure to appeal to fans of Spacemen 3. If it’s genuinely good music with a sound that I think Sonic and Jason would be proud of.

From Swansea in Wales, the mighty White Noise Sound. Released in 2010, the self titled debut album is a ripper, with Pete Kember contributing to production during the recording process. I highly recommend the whole album, with this being the standout track: ‘Sunset’.
May I suggest you dim the lights, set this to full screen mode, get your device playing through either your best speakers or headphones, crank the volume, and enjoy.

check out some of the following for further listening pleasure:

Forged Prescriptions

To say that this is my favourite Spacemen 3  other album would be stretching it a bit, but this gets a spin just as frequently as any of their major releases. The demo version of ‘Come Down Easy’ really is sublime, and everything I could ever want it to be. By far the best version of this song in my opinion.
I see that Gerald ‘Cunt-guts’ Palmer re-released this in 2018 in a digipack with nice new artwork. Thanks, Uncle Gerald!. So plenty of copies knocking around for anyone who is yet to invest! If you are a fan of this band, and this compilation is absent from your collection, then your collection is incomplete. Trust me. buy it. It’s fantastic listen. Spacemen 3 – ‘Forged Prescriptions’.


It feels like a statement of purpose, but then again, so do almost all of Jason Pierce’s transcendent musical compositions that employ overpowering bombast in service of the purest emotions—love, hope, sadness, and, um, drugs. But what sets And Nothing Hurt apart is how it distills his previous stylings down to their essence, a polished diamond of the musician’s sometimes excessive past reaching. There are no hundred-person choirs or symphony orchestras accompanying him; it’s just Pierce and his muse—which isn’t to say these songs are any less packed with booming layers of synth swells and soaring vocals. It’s merely that he’s harnessed his ambition in service of tightly structured beauty, from the sweetly plucked ukulele start of “A Perfect Miracle” to the organ-laced and Pink Floyd-ified anthem “Sail On Through.” These are songs of love and devotion, yes, but they’re also elegant expressions of an artist who knows exactly what he wants to say, and has mastered the art of saying it in the grandest way possible.

‘And Nothing Hurt’ the new album from Spiritualized is out 7th September via Bella Union Records.
‘And Nothing Hurt’ rivalled some of Jason Pierce’s most emotive and touching writing of his career to date. Full of wearied upset and despair at the world around him, Pierce’s voice captured human emotion at its most vulnerable and downtrodden: “You gotta take the pain / You gotta give it all away,” he sings on ‘The Morning After’, one of the album’s standout tracks. Despite the pain Pierce sings of, ‘And Nothing Hurt’ is also an album that finds hope in the very darkest of places, capturing the resilience of humans and how they can embrace the fear to work through it, despite the uncertainly of the times we face.

“Magnificent… Bursting with symphonic goodness, musical adventure and dizzying levels of intensity.” Uncut – 8/10

SpiritualizedAnd Nothing Hurt’ will be released on 7th September 2018 on Bella Union + Fat Possum Records.

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Jason Pierce has spent most of his career damaged. Through Spiritualized’s nearly-bulletproof catalog, he’s been lovelorn, strung-out, recovering from freak medical catastrophes. So to fight back against his music’s more ragged, defeated passages, against the free-jazz nervous breakdowns, he’s often sought salvation. He’s looked for transcendence via pristinely overblown widescreen psychedelia or healing via the eternal promises of gospel.

The new Spiritualized album is called And Nothing Hurt, and the songs we’ve heard so far even while being very much of a piece with the rest of his career may rank as his most consistently gentle. His most consistently peaceful. There might still be demons lingering in “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go,” but the notes are pure beauty. They are pure possibility, taking the proclamation of the track’s title/chorus and rendering them literally: not imagining a space-age escape but locating wonder in the scenes and forms right here on Earth, the ones you’ve always known.

Who knows how Pierce’s inner life is different these days, but in the past a Spiritualized album called And Nothing Hurt would’ve registered as some bleak sarcasm. But when you put on a song like “Here It Comes (The Road) Let’s Go,” those words ring true. The pain washes away.

Spiritualized ‘And Nothing Hurt’ will be released on 7th September 2018 on Bella Union + Fat Possum Records.

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Spiritualized have announced their first new album in six years, And Nothing Hurt, also sharing the first two singles, “A Perfect Miracle” and “I’m Your Man.”

Created and recorded entirely by the band’s leading force, Jason Pierce, the band’s eighth album could likely be their last. “It was such hard work. I found myself going crazy for so long,” said Pierce in a statement. “It’s not like there’s no coming back, I’m fine now … it’s just such a hard thing to do, to make a record like this on your own.”

Usually, nothing good comes of aging British rock stars playing around with mythic Americana. But when Jason Pierce straps on that spacesuit, magical things happen.

Along with streaming the two tracks, Spiritualized have also released a video for “I’m Your Man,” which sees Pierce, A.K.A J.Spaceman, as a lonely astronaut roaming the desert.

And Nothing Hurt is due out September. 7th. Check out the video for “I’m Your Man,”

Space Age Recordings are pleased to announce the first official limited edition vinyl release of the album “For All The Fucked Children Of This World We Give You Spacemen 3” (Sonic Boom a.ka. Peter Kember (Spectrum / E.A.R.) and Jason Pierce (Spiritualized).“For All the Fucked Up Children” from the neo-psychedelic trio Spacemen 3 was first released as a bootleg record in 1995. The record consists of Spacemen 3’s first ever recording session from 1984.

The music itself sounds like a primitive version of what the group were to become; the dominating sound of the record is a slow, droning psychedelic blues performed with sparse instrumentation. A drum set is matched with a pair of distorted electric guitars, all of which provide a swirling foundation for Jason Pierce’s vocals. The album’s liner notes replicated here are actually an early review of the band by Gary Boldie, where he contemplates the city of Rugby and finds it an odd source for this new sound, and he declares Spacemen 3 as the “all singing, all dancing answer to the problems of a grey 1985.”

Presented in a shrinkwrapped limited edition (1,000 copies only) on heavyweight (180 gram) transparent milky white coloured vinyl with printed card inner sleeve exclusively released for Record Store Day 2017. TRACKLISTING: Side 1: 1. Things’ll Never Be The Same (4:53) 2. 2:35 (2.57) 3. Walkin’ With Jesus (4:03) 4. Fixin’To Die (8.06) Side 2: 5. T.V. Catastrophe (7.18) 6. Things’ll Never Be The Same (alternate mix)(4:40) 7. Walkin’ With Jesus (alternate mix) (4.00)

Jason Pierce has urged his fans NOT to buy Spacemen 3 albums on Saturday’s (22nd) Record Store Day event. The band, formed by Pierce and Pete Kember, earned a cult following during the 80’s with iconic records like “For All the Fucked Up Children of This World We Give You Spacemen 3″, “Sound of Confusion” and “Taking Drugs to Make Music to Take Drugs To”

A falling out between Kember and Pierce resulted in the band splitting in 1991 and, as Record Store Day prepares to release three Spaceman 3 vinyls on Saturday, Pierce posted on his Spiritualized Facebook page to explain how a legal battle with former manager Gerald Palmer is resulting in a conflict of interests.

“We would seriously like to ask fans not to buy the Spacemen 3 releases and any merchandise that are being offered for sale on Record Store Day or any of the other Spacemen 3 releases and merchandise offered by Gerald Palmer on Space Age Recordings or any other subsidiary of that label, the statement read. 

“We are currently in legal dispute with Gerald Palmer due to him depriving us of our rights in our music and other intellectual property rights relating to Spacemen 3. Any monies from those sales will go directly to him and help fund his side of the dispute.


“J Spaceman and Sonic Boom together t/a Spacemen 3″

Record Store Day currently have three listings of Spacemen 3 records due to be released for the event, they are:

Spacemen 3 – Playing With Fire
“Originally released in February 1989 and after having been out of print on vinyl for nearly 20 years Space Age Recordings are pleased to announce an official limited edition vinyl release of the third and penultimate studio album Playing with Fire by Spacemen 3.”

Spacemen 3 – For All The Fucked Up Children
Space Age Recordings are pleased to announce the first official limited edition vinyl release of the album For All The Fucked Children Of This World We Give You Spacemen 3.”

Spacemen 3 – Recurring
Space Age Recordings are pleased to announce an official limited edition vinyl release of the fourth and final Spacemen 3 studio album Recurring; the follow up to their seminal Playing with Fire album. ”

thanks to Far Out