Sunday, June 26, 2005

belle & sebastian's stevie jackson talks about his first

In April of 2004 I spoke by phone with guitarist Stevie Jackson of Belle & Sebastian. The group’s current release, the compilation Push Barman To Open Old Wounds, was but a twinkle in the band’s eye. In the spring of ’04 Belle & Sebastian were in front of a short series of West Coast dates, and I’d been assigned a feature by San Diego CityBeat. Unbeknownst to me, CityBeat and their local rival, the San Diego Reader, were a-fussin’ and a-fightin’ and a-feudin’ over some nonsense and, long story short, my piece got scrapped in favor of some kind of Point-Counterpoint rebuttal. So here ‘tis, the world premiere of a previously unpublished Belle & Sebastian feature.

Belle & Sebastian’s Stevie Jackson Talks About His First

On the phone, Stevie Jackson is about what you would expect from the guitarist of an iconic twee pop band from Glasgow. He’s charming, self-deprecating and polite (even going out of his way to say it was “really great” to chat before he has to move on to another waiting interviewer). His Scottish accent is heavy but not indecipherable. To be fair, Jackson probably has equal difficulty with my Deep South inflection, but we find a middle ground. I don’t mention football or grits, and he doesn’t bring up kilts or castles. So when he says, “I was absolutely gobsmacked,” it takes me a second to make sure we’re not talking about sex.

Jackson began playing with Belle & Sebastian band leader Stuart Murdoch just before they entered the studio as a project for a local college music business course. The guitarist had recently called it quits with the Chicago blues-influenced Moondials and was considering a career in occupational therapy. But it wasn’t the radical switch in musical style that led him to turn down Murdoch’s first, and only, invitation to join the band.

“It was purely being tired of being in a group,” Jackson says. “But as it turned out it was a totally different experience to what being in a group normally means, which is like four or five guys living in each other’s pockets in a small van driving about. I wanted to give that a rest.”

“I think he’d asked me to join his band a few months before, but I refused,” Jackson says of Murdoch’s offer. “But he’d written me a letter saying, Will you do this record? This one record? So I’d done that and that kind of went so well, and there was almost immediately the chance to make another one, so I guess I joined the band without even officially joining it. I think it was just kind of unsaid after that, you know.”

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

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