Bobby Gillespie: “I sing about pain, suffering”

by James Hendicott

Primal Scream frontman and iconic rock vocalist Bobby Gillespie has taken a long-building aside with his latest release, a collaboration with the frontwoman of French band Savages, Jehnny Beth.

Gillespie’s typical style is set aside on the record, which is more slow-paced yet lyrically cutting, play off emotional heartbreak and making use of a dynamic that essential fuses the two vocalist’s bands, but creates a hybrid with a mellower tone and poetic lyricism that falls slightly outside of either of their norms. The result, new album ‘Utopian Ashes’, is something Gillespie is exceptionally proud of.

“I think I wrote the majority of the lyrics. I know the concept came from me,” he says. “When you write songs, it’s a mixture of autobiography, fiction, observation and life experience all mixed up to tell a story. Jehnny Beth’s background is in theatre, so she sees it as characters, I think. My aesthetic comes from somewhere else, I like to sing about things that I’ve experienced, I sing about pain, suffering… I think I have poetic license, to use an old cliche. I can take incidents from real life and dramatise them.”

“There are many literary techniques that can be used to cover your tracks. I want people to hear it and know that I mean it when I sing, that there’s a meaning, a lived experience and a pain behind it. I hope that other people can relate their own experiences to the songs.”

Read more in this weeks Dublin Gazette out in stores now

“I’m not nervous about releasing records anymore. I hope I don’t sound egocentric, right, but I really believe it’s a very strong piece of work. It’s good art, I’m very proud of it, and I’m just glad that it will finally be released, out in the world, where I hope people enjoy it, and it means something to people. It’s the music that I should be making at this point in my life. It’s a serious, grown up record and I’m very proud to be involved in it, and of everyone else involved in it. It’s stellar work. I can’t wait for it to be out. I was able to express a lot of the stuff that I really wanted to say.”

In recent years, Gillespie has become every more politically vocal on social media, and he’s keen to emphasize his regard for Ireland, and his dislike of the current UK elite.

“I sometimes wonder, don’t they know our history? It’s all political, you know?,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s effective, but I try to spread knowledge about certain situations, political corruption and so on. At the moment, in England, the Tories are in the ascendancy, and we’re stricken by the curse of English nationalism. There doesn’t seem to be any way out of it any time soon. The Labour party offers zero opposition. Keir Starmer is a disaster. I was a big supporter of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, you know, those guys represent my political views, and I did everything I could to help.”

“I have an affinity with Ireland, maybe because of the Celtic connection to begin with,” he says, referencing his love of Celtic football club. “I went to a lot of games in the 1970s and early 80s, that was really my main attendance home and away at Celtic matches. Obviously I’ve been interested in the history and politics. I’ve been watching programs about partition recently, and I have a real interest in Irish history.”

“Gillespie is a Scottish and Irish name. The very first band I ever saw was an Irish band, Thin Lizzy. He [Phil Lynott] was a very glamorous Dublin rock and roll poet. I’ve got a real affinity with the Irish for sure, there’s even a Seamus Heaney reference in this album, but I’m not going to tell you what it is.”

‘Utopian Ashes’ by Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth is out now.

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