Thursday, 9 April 2009

Vice Blog Post: They Said They'd Take Me Anywhere


So The Vaselines played at The Forum the other day and for some reason they agreed to let me go talk to them for a while before the show. I don't remember ever feeling nervous before doing an interview before but the thought of meeting Francis and Eugene actually had butterflies going in my stomach for the first time since I sat at the bottom of the stairs waiting for my parents to come home after I'd fallen asleep while filling the bath and flooding the house when I was 9. I even had to duck into The Assembly House for a swift one beforehand. Which is kind of ridiculous considering they only ever managed to write less than twenty songs.

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Vice: So how did you guys end up on stage together again after so long?
Eugene Kelly (guitar, vocals):
Francis phoned me about a year ago, because her sister was putting on a charity concert and wanted to know whether we wanted to play it separately but I said that I really wanted to play the Vaselines songs as a full band. It’s been 20 years now and I think it’s taken us that long to actually learn the songs. It was more just teenage primitive ramshackle stuff before. Now the songs are all set in our head and we know how to play them properly.
Francis McKee (guitar, vocals):
Yeah, it’s taken us twenty years to get them right. Plus we’d been asked to do the Sub Pop 20th anniversary show which initially we weren’t sure about but we made it work in the end and after we’d done a few shows in New York we felt good about playing in the UK again.

Why were you not so into the whole Sub Pop show initially?
Frances: It just seemed like a big hassle. We’re old and have families and things now.
It’s still fun to play the songs though. It’s not like I’m playing and thinking “oh my God, we’ve got to play that one again”. Maybe "Ride Me Rory" but that's 'cos I have to start it on me own and I always forget how but it's almost like because of the time gap there’s a new sentiment. We never actually got to play a lot of the songs back then because we recorded them (for the LP) and then split up. We only used play 20 minute sets. We never even headlined all that often. We just played a tiny wee set and then got off.

Is it strange headlining somewhere like ‘the HMV Forum’?
Eugene: It kind of freaks you out. Looking at the ticket and realizing that you’re the headline act. It was like when we played at the ABC in Glasgow, which is a place where you go see bands as a kid, then all of a sudden you are up there playing on that stage. I don’t buy records from HMV though by the way. DVD’s sometimes but no records.

On a scale of 1 to ‘91 how pissed off are you about having to talk about Nirvana in interviews?
Eugene: Well we can’t avoid it. I think if we were in a full time band touring all the time and being asked about it every day, then maybe we’d get pissed off but we don’t mind getting asked every so often. The reason we’re here tonight is because Nirvana introduced us to another audience.
Also, a lot of time has gone by, I think that if it hadn’t been for that it might be more difficult but we were a very small band and if it hadn’t been for Calvin Johnson getting hold of our record over in Olympia, and playing it on his college radio show then Kurt wouldn’t have heard it so it’s weird how things work out.
There were probably no more than a 1000 copies of the first two singles and probably no more than a 1000 copies of the album pressed so you’re talking about 3000 records out there and one of them manages to get to Calvin and one of them manages to get to Kurt. It's strange how things work out.

How was it playing New York for the first time twenty years after the fact?
Francis: I thought it would be a wee bit of a freak show with people coming to see what had become of us but there was such a warmth in the air.
Eugene: We had a bit of live therapy by having a few problems out onstage.

Like with the audience?
Francis: Oh yeah. It was great.

Are you planning on doing any more stuff with Evan Dando? I always though you guys and The Lemonheads were kind of trans-Atlantically connected.
Eugene: I wrote one song with Evan a few years ago and we’re friends. In the early 90’s I met the band backstage at a Mudhoney concert and we just got talking and hung out and became friends. We tried to write songs together but we just enjoy partying too much. And I don’t just mean that as a euphemism for taking cocaine. Like, actually dancing and listening to records and stuff.
Dancing the okey cokey?

Did Marvel really sue you for originally calling your (post-Vaselines) band ‘Captain Marvel’?
Eugene: It was all pretty stupid. We signed a deal with Atlantic Records and we had no idea how big it would all get so quickly, and then someone at Atlantic phoned up his friend at Marvel and was like: “hey we just signed this band called Captain America”. Next thing you know we get a cease and desist letter from their lawyers. We had to sign this form and say that we’d never ever use the name again. I remember I was pretty pissed about the whole thing and signed it ‘Eugenius Kelly The King of Rock and Roll’.

Maybe that voids the contract and you could steal the name back?
Eugene: Maybe you’re on to something there.

You cover a Divine track, are you both big John Water fans?
Francis: Huge John Waters fans. We used to wrap up in a load of warm jumpers in our cold house in Glasgow, take a load of various of drugs and watch them endlessly.
When we played “You Think You’re A Man” for the first time on acoustic guitar it just kind of fitted. It’s quite a butch song but we do it in a camp way.

Will there be another Vaselines record?
Eugene: Well we’re playing 2 new songs tonight. They’re pretty interesting songs and we’ve got maybe 5 songs that we are working on so a good plan might be to record it this year.

I heard the one thing you hate being asked is why you are called The Vaselines?
Eugene: There is a long story involving a masseuse but the main reason we usually give, and that is true, is that we wanted to be next to the Velvet Underground in the rack at the record shop.
Francis: And there aren’t many V’s.
I remember there was some band who called themselves Aatanasio or something just so that they would be the first band in the shop.
The other big reason for the name is that I used to get dry lips and always put Vaseline on them. It’s good stuff.

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