The Jesus And Mary Chain Are Back…
If you are a fan of the 80s fuzztastic noisemasters, you already know it, of course. Just recently Gibson.com published a really cool interview with them, which we reproduce here. To complement it, we are including a Jesus & Mary Chain gear guide in the end…enjoy!
“I would never consider myself to be a guitar player,” Jim Reid says. “I still don’t know the names of the chords after all these years.” That statement pretty much sums up the fundamental appeal of the Jesus and Mary Chain, the band he formed with his brother William Reid in the early ’80s, an era when rock music was ruled by men in eyeliner and billowy pirate shirts specializing in empty, artificial synthesizer pop. The leather clad Scottish rockers stripped everything back to basics, delivering two-minute anthems simmering with feedback, angst, and exhilarating pop melodies.
As most of the big hit-makers of the day disappeared up their own noses, and Miami Vice cameos, the Mary Chain had a fantastic run that lasted two decades and yielded an incredible run of college radio staples such as “Just Like Honey” (later revived by Sofia Coppola for the climactic scene of Lost In Translation) and “Far Out and Gone.” It all ended when the brothers came to blows onstage during a 1999 concert at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. But the group’s legacy remained undiminished, with acts like Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Interpol picking up on the dour attitude and dark shades.
After being coaxed out of retirement earlier this year by the organizers of the Coachella festival, where they were joined onstage by Scarlett Johansson (you’re welcome), the brothers have seemingly put their differences aside long enough for a quick, testing-the-waters American tour. Last week, they played a pair of sold-out shows at the Fillmore in San Francisco with a lineup that included former Ride drummer Loz Colbert and ex-Lush bassist Phil King.
In the early days, the Mary Chain guys were known for their unpredictable live appearances. Some of their gigs ended abruptly after only 10 minutes. They would often play with their backs to the audience or through an impenetrable cloud of stage fog. There were even a few riots along the way. By comparison, the Fillmore shows were the very definition of civilized. Jim uttered “thank you” on more than one occasion. The band played over an hour and didn’t hesitate throwing out the hits – they played “Head On,” probably their most popular song, second. And when guest singer Miranda Lee Richards stepped up to sing the backing vocals on “Sometimes Always,” even the enigmatic William seemed to break into a warm grin from behind the squall of his ES-330.
But the songs—driven by equal amounts distortion and venom; primal rhythms and classic American iconography—felt just as raw and real as when they were first released. Even now, the Jesus and Mary Chain are not about to play by the rules. “The worst thing you can be is a musician,” Jim told us. “You shouldn’t have too much respect for the thing that gets the job done. You don’t see plumbers hanging around with lead pipes going, ‘Aaah.’ It’s a tool. It’s a piece of equipment. That’s the problem with musicians. They get too hung up on the wrong things.”
The Sound Of Speed
If you have the nerves and ears to withstand the noise, you can very easily achieve the right Jesus And Mary Chain sound.
The Epiphone Casino is the best choice, because it has the same specs of the ES-330, for a fraction of the price. The fact that its a hollowbody guitar will make it feedback a LOT. So be ready for it! But, considering we are talking about a sound that’s brutal and raw, no one needs to be too precious about which guitar they’re using, as long as it’s a semi-acoustic.
It’s a well-known fact that William Reid used many vintage fuzz boxes, most notably a Shin-Ei fuzz/wah (reportedly, broken!) But, again, as long as its a dirty fuzz box, cranked to the max, it should do the job! Try a Big Muff, a Double Muff, a Fuzz Factory, or a Jacques Bat Fuzz if you are daring enough. Alongside a Wah pedal, for extra trebly noise, you’ll be in Psychocandy heaven!
An easy option is to have a Fuzz/Wah pedal instead of two pedals. The Jimi Hendrix Fuzz Wah is a good option.
William used a Fender Twin Reverb. An important part of the J&MC sound is to have lots of reverb on your guitar, so a good Fender amp with that unique fender reverb is essential! Any of the Fender amps listed here will do a great job.
And that’s pretty much it! In a nutshell: semi-acoustic guitar>fuzz>wah>fender amp with lots of reverb.
I hope you enjoyed this guide, go and make noise!
We’ll leave you with an William Reid Interview, for extra info ono his gear. Read it here.