Sunday, June 26, 2005

belle & sebastian's stevie jackson talks about his first - part three

Though B&S’s most recent album, October 2003’s Dear Catastrophe Waitress, has returned the group to both commercial and critical acclaim (the top ten in British sales and numerous year’s best lists across the world), Jackson’s heart still belongs to the band’s initial release.

“It’s kind of hard to see past Tigermilk,” he says. “I just think it’s a great sounding record. Maybe I’m just nostalgic towards it. I mean, if I had to pick a favorite record I’d pick Tigermilk.

“It’s like first love or something. In a sense I don’t think it’s the best album in many ways. I mean, the playing’s not great on it, but there’s something naively brilliant about it. I like the sound of it and I like the songs on it, even though I don’t think it’s the best collection of songs. Just the overall feeling of it just does it for me.”

For Dear Catastrophe Waitress, the band sought the production services of British music veteran Trevor Horn. A former member of The Buggles (“Video Killed The Radio Star”) and Yes, Horn carries an extensive list of studio credits, including The Art of Noise, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Grace Jones, Malcolm McLaren, Mike Oldfield, Pet Shop Boys, Seal, Spandau Ballet, Simple Minds, and Rod Stewart.

“It’s just so refreshing to have a boss or a gaffer,” Jackson says of Horn’s hiring. “It’s hard for me and Stuart to actually boss folk around or tell them what to do. It’s actually kind of difficult, so it was great just having a kind of father figure guy or, you know, a guy that everyone liked and respected to just be in charge, just to hold the reins. It made it much more enjoyable for everybody.

“I think the best sounding record we ever made probably was Dear Catastrophe Waitress, especially for a band’s that been around eight years. There’s a lot going against you. You don’t have the surprise of being new or the freshness of being new, or have the buzz of being a new band. And that’s the trouble with us. That’s what every band has to face, you know.”

To be sure, growing pains are not uncommon for a group of Belle & Sebastian’s stature, but the situation was complicated by the fact that most members were brought in by Murdoch who, though universally regarded as the band’s leader and primary songwriter, decided at some point that he’d rather be a part of a band than lead one.

“We were just thrown together,” Jackson says of his bandmates. “It was like Stuart was Yul Brynner and we were the Magnificent Seven, you know what I mean? It’s a good analogy and it’s quite an honest one because, like, we didn’t know each other as individuals. Stuart was just handpicking these men and women to back him up, so there was just this period where nothing seemed to work, you know. But thankfully we’ve been on an upswing for the last couple of years and I think we’ve actually learned to play a lot better.

“We’re a band now. It took years to get there but there’s no question about it. The last album especially, it really is a band effort. It’s kind of ironic in that I think a lot of the reviews said that we’d gotten rid of democracy and Stuart has reasserted control, but ironically it’s the absolute opposite. It’s probably the most democratic album we ever made.”

belle & sebastian's stevie jackson - part one
belle & sebastian's stevie jackson - part two

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