For the last four years, you have been hearing him in the multi-national pop combo Cinerama. But before that, he was the mastermind of the legendary the Wedding Present. His name? David Gedge. And Pennyblackmusic caught up with him to chat to him about the new Cinerama album "Torino', Ukrainian folk music and of course the good old days…
PB : Let’s begin from the very start… what kind of music did you grow up with? When did you first become interested in music?
DG : I’ve always been a big fan of radio. Even now I’m more likely to switch on the radio than listen to CDs… so, to a certain extent, I’m at the mercy of programmers! I grew up listening to pop radio in the sixties and seventies… The Beatles, The Hollies, glam rock… and eventually punk. But my parents had a big collection of 1950s rock’n’roll singles, too.
PB : How did you learn to play the guitar?
DG : I bought one of those teach-yourself-chords books and played along to Beatles records. And I was at school with Dave Fielding (who went on to be the guitarist in the Manchester rock band the Chameleons) and he taught me a lot. He was a better guitarist at 16 than I’ll ever be!
PB : Did you play in any bands prior to the Wedding Present?
DG : A few, but none were “serious” until the last one… The Lost Pandas. We did a few demos and gigs but just as we were planning to release a single the drummer and guitarist left to go and live in New York!
PB : How was the Wedding Present formed then?
DG : It rose out of the ashes of the Lost Pandas, really. We drafted in a couple of new members and changed our name, and then released our first single, 'Go Out And Get ‘Em, Boy'.
PB : What were your influences at first?
DG : At the beginning we were very much into Velvet Underground type guitar bands… lots of strumming! We used to enjoy playing fast, aggressive music and I think became our trademark, really. I suppose other influences would’ve been people like My Bloody Valentine and the Membranes.
PB : How did those influences change?
DG : After the first album, 'George Best', we decided to try and move on… and maybe become less “one-dimensional”. We started to get into people like Steve Albini, Sonic Youth and the Pixies. It wasn’t until later that those 60s and 70s pop influences of mine came into play!
PB : And now in Cinerama, what influences your music there?
DG : Life, love, sex… and red wine! I’m a fan of film soundtracks… John Barry, Ennio Morricone… those kinds of people, but also guitar music, of course. Cinerama’s influences have changed a bit over the years but I think with the new album, 'Torino', my idea was to set a classic sounding guitar band like the Wedding Present, against the “big” cinematic backdrop that Cinerama provides.
PB : How do you write your songs? Do you have a lyric that you write music to, or vice versa?
DG : In the Wedding Present I became sick of spending half a week writing lyrics that never got used because the final song was aborted. I now wait until the music has passed all possible quality thresholds before I commit myself to the words! It actually makes more sense, anyway, because the music can often inspire certain moods.
PB : Have you changed your way of writing songs since the beginning of the Wedding Present?
DG : Back in thoseeraly days, all four of us used to go into a rehearsal room and work together all day. Or argue, anyway. Now I do much more on my own. Our guitarist, Simon Cleave, has become much more involved with the writing recently, but I still tend to sit here on my own at my desk, arranging strings and thinking up lyrics. How lonely!
PB : As a big radio fan,how did you feel when you first heard the Wedding Present being played on the radio?
DG : Ecstatic! I’d been listening to John Peel’s show religiously since the late 70’s (and still do!), so when he played our single I remember running down the street to tell Keith, our bass player, because we didn’t have phones!
PB : Did you consider the Wedding Present part of the C86 scene?
DG : Yeah. In a way we were the C86 band! At first it was a great help because the scene drew attention to all these exciting new groups… but then it became a bit of a drawback, especially when C86 fell out of fashion.
PB : You also started up your own label, Reception. Why did you do that?
DG : We did it because nobody wanted to release that first single. So we started our own label, pressed up 500 copies, and they sold out in a few days.
PB : Why did Reception fold?
DG : Because we were offered a brilliant deal with RCA Records at exactly the same time that our label’s distribution company went out of business… so it was kind of inevitable, really.
PB : What was the music scene like in the UK when the Wedding Present began? Do you think it got better or worse during the course of the years?
DG : I think it goes up and down, doesn’t it? I think one of the beauties of the British music scene is that it changes at an incredibly rapid pace, even though that’s unfortunate for the bands who fall out of fashion!
PB : I must say your choices of cover versions are fascinating. Who chooses them?
DG : Me, I guess. I just like doing them… they’re a challenge and you often take more chances than you would with your own stuff. I don’t mind ruining one of Elton John’s songs, for example… But then you often learn things which can be applied to your own writing.
PB : How did you get the idea to make the Hit Parade singles (which was one 7” single released every month in 1992)?
DG : It was just during a rehearsal, once, I can’t remember who actually said it, but once we’d thought of it there was no going back! It was one of those “off the cuff” remarks which suddenly became, like, one of the best ideas ever! The hardest part was convincing RCA.
PB : Why did you ask Steve Albini to produce the 'Seamonsters' album?
DG : Because I heard' Surfer Rosa' by the Pixies and loved the sound he’d given them. Then we met him and he told us cool stories!
PB : Then the Wedding Present split up the in the mid-nineties, why?
DG : Well, we haven’t quit, really. I put the band “on hold” for a few months so that I could do a solo record, 'Va Va Voom', which was released under the name Cinerama, which has then kind of became a group in it’s own right. I wasn’t 100% happy with 'Va Va Voom', so I started doing another, 'Disco Volante', and before I knew it, those few months became a few years!
PB : But have you ever thought about a reunion?
DG : Yeah, last year. A label called Camden Deluxe had re-released 'Bizarro' and 'Seamonsters' and they asked us if we’d be interested in doing some Wedding Present shows. But the rest of the band weren’t too enthusiastic about it, and since I’m more than happy with Cinerama, I didn’t want to push it. But then while I was remastering those albums, I became nostalgic, I guess, and so we’ve now started playing Wedding Present songs in the Cinerama set. It works well because obviously me and Simon Cleave (guitarist) are in both bands anyway!
PB : Do you ever listen to the old Wedding Present albums?
DG : Occasionally. I don’t do it for fun, though. But then I suppose I never did!
PB : What are your feelings towards them now?
DG : It’s strange. It doesn’t sound like me anymore! My voice has changed, and my writing’s improved. When I listen back now, especially some of the earlier stuff, I don’t really enjoy it because I suppose I’ve moved on and my tastes have changed. Having said that, those records are obviously a snapshot of my life at that point and so they do have a nostalgic quality for me.
PB : Do you have a favourite Wedding Present song?
DG : It depends what mood I’m in. I was just playing some old albums yesterday, actually, and both 'Corduroy' and 'Dalliance' sound pretty good! On the last couple of Cinerama tours we’ve done stuff like 'Blue Eyes', 'Spangle', 'Bewitched' and 'The Queen of Outer Space', all of which I like.
PB : Which members of the Wedding Present were part of the Ukrainians?
DG : The father of Peter, our first guitarist, was Ukrainian, so Peter’s always been interested in that culture. Funnily enough, it wasn’t too different from the Wedding Present in the late 80’s… enthusiastic, aggressive music with lots of big tunes. So we decided to have a go ourselves. I’m not wildly interested in that type of stuff myself, but I was amazed how “authentic” the Wedding Present “doing” Ukrainian folk sounded!
PB : Were you involved in the Ukrainians fantastic tribute EP to the Smiths?
DG : No, I had no involvement with the Ukrainians after Peter Solowka left the Wedding Present.
PB : So, how did Cinerama come to be?
DG : It formed because when I’d recorded my “solo” album, I didn’t want the artist name to be David Gedge or the David Gedge Experience or something! So, I decided to take a new band name, even though it was just me and Sally Murrell at the time. But then, of course, I had to assemble permanent musicians to play live and stuff, anyway, so Cinerama soon became a “proper” group.
PB : When Cinerama formed, did you already have a record deal or did you start all over again with making demos and so on?
DG : No, I was signed to Cooking Vinyl Records at the time, so 'Va Va Voom' came out with them. But afterwards I decided that I didn’t want to sign any more records deals, so we’ve set up our own label, Scopitones.
PB : Do you have regular jobs on the side, or can you make a living out of the music?
DG : No. My parents would tell you I’ve never had a “regular” job! What they mean is I’m lazy… and somehow have managed to survive either being a student or living off my music!
PB : But are you happy being as known as you are now, or would you want to be the biggest band in the world and play in front of 100.000 at a huge arena?
DG : I think when you’re involved with something artistic or creative, and you’ve put a lot of energy into a project, there’s always an element of wanting it to be as successful as possible, so yes, I’d like Cinerama to be bigger. If nothing else because I think we’re a million times better than a lot of bands who are big!
PB : Tell me a little about the new Cinerama record, 'Torino', which is released July 1st. Is it different from 'Disco Volante'?
DG : I think 'Torino' has moved on from 'Disco Volante' in the same way that 'Disco Volante' moved on from 'Va Va Voom'. It’s darker and harder… and whereas I didn’t use too much guitar on the first two albums, five years has now passed since the last Wedding Present record and I miss that noise! Some people have said that on this new record I’ve managed to combine both groups. I’m very happy with it. I think it’s the best Cinerama album yet, undoubtedly… and maybe my best album ever!
PB : Where was it recorded and who produced it?
DG : We recorded the group (drums, bass, guitars…) with Steve Albini in Chicago and the rest of it here in England with Dave Mason.
PB : You arrange the strings for Cinerama. Are you a trained musician?
DG : No, I’ve been teaching myself to arrange orchestration since 1997, but it’s only now I’m starting to feel confident about it. I did Mathematics at university!
PB : Looking back, what is the single greatest moment in the your career?
DG : People always expect me to say Top Of The Pops or playing to 50.000 people at Reading or something, but if I’m honest it’s probably being invited to play at John Peel’s 50th birthday party with the Fall. Funnily enough, Cinerama recently played at his 60th one, too!
PB : If you could choose one song that you wish you’d written, which one would it be?
DG : I think 'There’s Always Something There To Remind Me' as sung by Sandie Shaw is pretty nearly a perfect song…
PB : Finally, what do you listen to nowadays?
DG : Ooh, I don’t know… depends on what I’m into… John Peel’s show, soundtrack LP’s, Prolapse, the Strokes…
PB : Thank you