Addicted To Noise Senior Writer Gil Kaufman reports: Spiritualized leader Jason Pierce wrote the equivalent of two records on his way toward completing Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space, which was released in the U. S. today.
But that's not how he planned it.
"I lost the tapes I'd made of song ideas when we were on tour in America," said the former Spacemen 3 member, of the recordings he misplaced on Spiritualized's last U.S. tour (in support of 1995's Pure Phase).
As if that wasn't traumatic enough, following several months of recording and mixing, Pierce was recently forced to re-enter the studio once more to excise a homage to Elvis' "Can't Help Falling In Love" on the title track, when the song's author wouldn't give consent for the sample, setting back the album's release several weeks.
In the course of all that, however, Pierce learned a new way to write songs. "I used to wait for song ideas to come to me," the notoriously finicky studio hound said. "Then I read this book about Tom Waits and I realized that I'm not some sort of conduit for a higher power to put songs through. I was kidding myself by waiting for some kind of divine inspiration. Losing that tape was the best thing that could have happened to me because I sat down for 11 days straight and wrote the new album rather than waiting for two years for the songs to come to me."
The results are 12 tracks worth of electronic psychedelia for the headphone set that include unlikely cameos from boogie-woogie pianist Dr. John and several assists from the London Gospel Community Choir. Building on the space age sound of previous Spiritualized albums, Pierce and collaborator Kate Radley construct intricate webs of sound that are shoegazer symphonic one minute ("I Think I'm In Love") and jazz freak-out the next, ("All of My Thoughts" and the epic album-closer "Cop Shoot Cop").
Once he'd written the new songs again, Pierce entered the studio and spent a month recording, then seven weeks starting in January mixing, desperate to find the right combination of multi-layered tracks. "You only get one chance to get it right, right?" Pierce said. "And while we were doing it we ran out of money, so, if I wanted a vocal to be louder, or if I wanted to put more reverb on the bass, I couldn't go back in and re-do it, I had to put it in over the tracks."
Not surprisingly then, it is on the subject of music and commerce that Pierce has the strongest words. Especially for his British contemporaries in the Brit-pop scene.
"Lots of bands just make music that's been done before," he said . "There's no historical basis for music through the media. It's divided between new and old, that's it. I just think that if you sound like something else, you can go out and buy that. Those records already exist. ... I try to make music that's more spinal, which is what all good soul music is. I try to capture some of that in my music because it's not as much about commerce as a lot of bands are today."
Although he said he'd like to sell records to make some money to make more records, Pierce has a typically off-beat take on what success in today's record business really means. "Success reflects how fast the record company sells records, which is success for the record company, not success in music. That you get by making the music the way you want to. That's success to me. ... But it's never my aim to make top of the charts music."
Pierce said he's sure he could make vapid pop ditties all day long if so inclined, songs that are similar to what's going on in England right now. But what's the point? he said. So, instead, Pierce has put together an album that doesn't fit exactly into the record store racks as the music business would have it.
As for where Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space fits into the current pop spectrum, Pierce described it as an album of soul music to be filed "between Sibelius, Stravinsky and Sly Stone."