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David Gedge, founder of Cinerama and erstwhile The Wedding Present front-man didn’t lean back on the sofa and put his hands behind his head. Nor did he stroll into the café, order a coffee – black – and say ‘let’s get started.’ And I don’t have the faintest idea how he was dressed, or whether or not his hair was a mess. Blame it on modern technology – with Gedge in England preparing for Cinerama’s upcoming tour of the United Kingdom, and myself in the US the only way we could connect was via email. Which worried me not a little. Half the story in any interview lies not in what is said, but in the gestures, the accents, the attitudes between the lines.
I should have saved my fretting for something else though, because Gedge is as thoughtful, mischievous, engaging, and affable in his email as one might expect from listening to his music. Belying his claim that when it comes to communicating, “I'm quite shy. And a man. And English. So the odds are stacked against me, really,” Gedge writes a bit like he sings – with lots of wry inflection and a calculated emp athy for the quirky side of life. What began as a straight-forward music interview went on a lot of delightful, often amusing tangents… so here, in his own words, is David Gedge –
PB: So, to start off…after making Va Va Voom you would be perfectly justified in sitting back and thinking 'i've made a fantastic record, i've had a bit of fun with it, now i can go back to the band that's been my bread and butter for a decade'... why did you decide to make another Cinerama record instead of another Wedding Present record?
DG: I think the answer is that I don't think Va Va Voom is fantastic! It's not terrible, or anything... it has a certain naivety... and "Hard, Fast And Beautiful" is probably one of the best songs I've ever written... but at the time I was recording it, I didn't really know how to put together an overall 'sound' for Cinerama. It's taken me a couple of years to learn how to use technology like samplers and sequencers... and, given that I've had no formal musical training, how to arrange music for string sections and the like.
Also... I think I was so determined that the 'side project' shouldn't sound like the 'other' band that I didn't really any use elements of the Wedding Present sound... with the result that it sounds a bit too 'light' to me, now. With Disco Volante I didn't feel I had to work under that restriction any more.
PB: Is that simply because this is the second album and you are more comfortable with 'being Cinerama' now than you were, or is it because something has changed in your attitude towards The Wedding Present since you put out Va Va Voom?
DG: No, it was just because I was adamant that Cinerama should have it's ownidentity and not just sound like a 'weaker' version of The Wedding Present. But I think Cinerama has acquired it's personality now, and I've realisedm that adding a bit of electric guitar has actually enhanced that, rather than dragging it back towards Wedding Present territory.
PB: Do you find that Cinerama fans are generally long-time The Wedding Present fans, and vice versa?
DG: There's an element of crossover, certainly... but a large proportion of The Wedding Present fans don't like Cinerama! I guess I can't really expect people who like fast and loud guitars to enjoy flutes and mellotrons! Interestingly, there's a growing number of new people though, who like Cinerama but have never heard anything by The Wedding Present, so their frame of reference is completely different. That's very odd for me.
PB: At least it'll spare you the fans at Cinerama gigs shouting for 'Go Man Go' or something like that…
DG: Don't count on it, babe...
PB: Well, it's nice to be appreciated, even if it does get boring explaining that Cinerama is not just another name for The Wedding Present.
DG: I think I've made them different enough that people don't ask that... that’s just why on earth I did it!
PB: Speaking of that, musically, Disco Volante sounds a lot more The Wedding Present-ish than Va Va Voom did... what led you in that direction for the second album? Also,why did you go to America to record Disco Volante? [The album was recorded in Chicago.]
DG: As I mentioned earlier, I wanted Disco Volante to have more of an 'edge' to it and I thought that Steve Albini, who recorded The Wedding Present's Seamonsters album, could be just the man to provide it. Unfortunately, when I started talking about Albini and Cinerama in the same context I became something of a laughing stock! People enjoyed trying to convince me that it wouldn't work. And, well, I don't want to sound all superior, but I think time has proved that I was right!
PB: So do you have a favourite song off Disco Volante? If so which one and why?
DG: The song that I like best is the one everybody else seems to hate! It's 'Let's Pretend' and I had a real job persuading people that it should go on the album. I just think it's as near perfect a pop song as I've written. Of course, one of the advantages of Cinerama being my band is that I always get my way! But I won't be forcing the rest of the band to play it live... I'm not a complete dictator.
PB: Do you often have to deal with differing opinions about songs within your band?
DG: In The Wedding Present, it's often soul destroying when you come up with what you think is a brilliant idea, which is then never used because the others don't agree. Actually, that's probably the other reason I started Cinerama!
PB: Drawing, as you have, on other bands [such as The Church, and Animals that Swim] to form Cinerama do you find the different musical backgrounds of your band members a distinct help, a hindrance, or just a fact of life?
DG: It doesn't really affect the writing... but it's certainly relevant to the way they play. Simon Pearson, for instance, the drummer on Disco Volante, also plays in jazz groups and although his style in Cinerama is inevitably more straight forward, you can definitely hear that he's coming from somewhere else! Terry [de Castro], our bass player describes him as a 'very tasteful' drummer... it's not your run of the mill indie rock stuff!
PB: You aren’t really known for being very ‘run of the mill,’ but do you feel that your effort to alter your musical style with Cinerama compromised your overall ambitions?
DG: With Va Va Voom, possibly... but with Disco Volante I just wanted to make thebest record I could with the means at my disposal. And that includes the knowledge I've acquired through working with The Wedding Present as well as all the other kinds of music that I like, from the theme from The Man From Uncle onwards!
PB: So what are your overall ambitions -- who, or what occasion, do you make music for?
DG: It's obviously gratifying when people say they enjoy what you do... but, ultimately, I'm quite self driven, really. That's why I started Cinerama. It certainly wasn't for the money! But even with The Wedding Present, we'd've definitely been more [commercially] successful had we stuck to one winning formula rather than always trying to experiment and transform the sound of the band for every album.
PB: Even as you alter your musical approach similar themes run through your records -- frustrated longing, burnt-out love, defiance, temptation. A friend of mine once remarked that your lyrics make it sound like you've never been anything but miserable, messed around, and obsessed! Why are you drawn to stories of loss and fixation? What are your lyrical inspirations?
DG: I admit that my lyrics tend to be about relationships. I've tried to write about other things but I've never been as pleased with the result. I think I am a bit obsessed, actually! I'm fascinated with the way people speak to each other... what they say, why they say it... how they say it. Especially during the, erm, more stressful times of their lives. I'm probably writing the same story over and over... but what a story!
PB: How about your own taste in music? What are a few of your favourite records? Pretend this is Q and you're showing me around your essential CD collection...
DG: Oh, blimey. I wouldn't know where to start. And my tastes change by the hour. I'd tell Q to get lost.
PB: Alright then… what prompted you to become a musician? Was there a moment in your life, or a record you heard that made you say 'that's what i'm going to do...'?
DG: This might sound a bit, err, weird... but I really didn't have to make a decision about what I wanted to do. It was almost as if my destiny was preordained from the minute I popped out of my Mummy's tummy. I hope that doesn't sound spiritual, or anything! But it's as if my first quarter century was spent putting up with various distractions... like doing a mathematics degree, for instance... until I was able to become a musician exclusively.
PB: Of all the distractions! Why a math degree? Surely an unusual choice for a born musician.
DG: Not necessarily... people say there's a link between mathematics and music. I guess I can see that, but it's not the reason I did it! I was just really good at it at school. I used to really work hard at other subjects and scrape through, whereas with maths I got A's without trying. So, thinking I had some sort of natural talent I toddled off to Leeds University in the hope of an easy life. Unfortunately, the course was extremely difficult and extremely boring. I wish I'd done... I dunno... Italian, or something, so that I could've gone and hung out in Milan for a year, sitting in the sunshine and giving rides to beautiful girls on my motor scooter.
PB: Hmmm, so life’s gotten a little more glamorous since university days? I heard you were at the Leeds festival -- who did you go to see? And who, if anyone, did you hang out with backstage?
DG: To be honest, I don't really have any pop star chums because I don't live in London or hang out in the right places... but I did meet up with Badly Drawn Boy at Leeds because I've known Damon Gough for years.
PB: Really? I thought pop stars were only ever supposed to hang out with each other, and not ordinary mortals. Is that a deliberate thing, or do you just not fancy the Met Bar?
DG: I do 'know' quite a few celebrities, I suppose... but, well... we're not on visiting terms or anything. I think this a weird job really. You meet lots and lots of people, get on well with them, but then you maybe don't ever see them again... because you're on tour... or they're away recording. Or maybe it's just that I'm not fond of bars because I hate cigarette smoke.
PB: Shifting gears a bit, when I saw Cinerama in Philadelphia I remember you dancing about the stage as though you were having the best night of your life... you looked so happy it was positively contagious. What is it you love about performing? And how do you keep that enthusiasm and bounce after years and years of touring?
DG: I think it was probably more nervousness than enjoyment! That was an odd night... our first concert in America... only our second ever, in fact.... But, I dunno... there's something so exhilarating about walking onto a stage in front of people that you can be, I don't know... exhausted, worried, bored... anything... then, suddenly, the adrenaline will kick in and you're elevated to this new level. Maybe I'm just a show off.
PB: Well, if you don’t mind showing off a bit… now that we’ve talked about your music for a while, here’s a few quick questions about the rest of your life… For starters, what CD (aside from your own, obviously) are you most looking forward to the release of?
DG: The next CD that My Bloody Valentine make... if Kevin Shields ever stops wasting his time with the abysmal Primal Scream and gets round to making one.
PB: What's your favourite book (or books)?
DG: I don't read 'em. Who's got time to read books in the year 2000? This is the future! It was OK in Jane Austen's time when there was no electricity and nobody had anything else to do.
PB: When did you take up DJ-ing? [Gedge played a set at London Scala last month.]
DG: Err... about three months ago, actually... but I've always been a DJ in my head!
PB: What is the one band (defunct or otherwise) that you'd most like to see in concert?
PB: What irritates you about the music media?
DG: I guess it's obvious, really... attention to music is usually doled out or withheld for all the wrong reasons.
PB: Pro Euro or No Euro?
DG: Pro. Without a doubt.
PB: What's your favourite Bond movie and why?
DG: Oh God. I've no idea. Roger Moore's my favourite Bond but I suppose the Connery films had more style. I'd happily watch them all again, to be honest!
PB: Do you have a motto?
DG: Always try and watch as much TV as you can.
PB: What programmes do you make it a point to never miss?
DG: Seinfeld, Top Of The Pops.
PB: Why, Top Of The Pops? Do musicians watch that for the same reason people watch chat shows -- because when you see how low other people can sink it makes you feel really good about yourself?
DG: Top Of The Pops is an institution... all human life is there.
PB: Guess I’ll have to trust your judgement on that…. Final question though: what is the one thing the world should definitely know about Cinerama?
DG: That their singer is a hunk of burning love.
(signed) dlg xx
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