There are some things in life one simply can’t fathom, Paul Weller’s somewhat outré barnet, Gary Barlow’s deification and The Wedding Present’s enduring appeal…Woah! “Back A Bit…Stop!!” Scrub that last bit because it’s patently obvious to all but the simple minded the reasons why David Gedge and The Wedding Present have achieved the sort of longevity most bands can only dream of . Put simply it’s down to the quality of the songs and Mr Gedge’s uncanny ability to directly connect with the listener via his tales of love, lust, heartbreak, revenge, heartbreak, regret, and more heartbreak. In fact when you listen to The Wedding Present you could perceive David to be the unluckiest man in love ever to walk the four corners of the earth, a man whose heart bears the innumerable scars and lacerations from Cupid’s poisonous darts. You may also detect he’s quite possibly a hopeless, incurable romantic too ;).
As you might expect these themes are revisited on their latest studio album “Valentina” in which our narrator guides us through beautifully observed vignettes of lust, acrimonious breakups, self doubt and a no small amount of schadenfreude. One of Gedge’s great song writing strengths has always been his self depreciating wit and an innate ability to dissect his own emotions to conjure up scenarios within the midfield of human relationships, to which we can all relate. Songs such as “You Jane” “Girl From The DDR” “End Credits” “Back A Bit…Stop”and “Mystery Date” whilst never straying from traditional Wedding Present territory, replete with jangling buzz saw guitars, thunderous percussion and sardonic lyrics, are full of vim and vigour, manage to sound completely fresh and original and are up there with the finest songs Gedge has written. He may come across as a little more sanguine these days, perhaps a little less vengeful than in his youth, but he can still slice through the bullshit and deceit with some elegantly barbed couplets, although such wisdom does not always bring joy and as has been the way with many of his songs, there are rarely happy endings !
“Valentina” is without doubt a great album and confirms that Gedge’s transition from indie hero to national treasure is almost complete.
We spoke to David ahead of his appearances at SXSW and subsequent world tour.
Album rating : 8.5/10
VP: Back in the early days when The Wedding Present really took off, did you ever have any idea that some 25 years later you’d still be performing?
DAVID GEDGE: On one hand, no… because we didn’t really plan to do more than one LP at the time. It’s not the kind of enterprise where you tend to have a 25-year strategy. That wouldn’t’ve been very rock ‘n’ roll, for a start! But, on the other hand, I’ve always felt absolutely driven to do this… possibly to the point of obsession… and so in that respect, it doesn’t surprise me at all that I’m still doing it a quarter of a century later!
VP: Your 8th Studio album “VALENTINA” is set to drop very soon. Having just got a promo copy I can certainly vouch that it’s fantastic and has that distinctive Wedding Present guitar sound and yet sounds very much of the here & now. I guess the question is… how do you manage to keep the sound so fresh?
DAVID : Thanks! I think it partly comes down to us being a ‘live’ band in a sense that most of the recordings we’ve ever made have just been the sound of the band playing together in the studio. I’ve never seen any reason to change that formula really because I do think it helps to keep things sounding fresh in the way you’ve described. But then another reason is the fact that we have had a series of line-up changes over the years. Whenever someone new comes into the group they bring with them a different set of inspirations and enthusiasm and a little re-birth takes place.
VP: You’ve a busy year ahead, launching the album at SXSW and then touring Europe, North America and Japan, and then, hopefully, dates in the UK. Are you still as energetic and driven as you always were?
DAVID : I don’t think I could do this if I wasn’t… because you have to make a lot of sacrifices. Having said that, it doesn’t particularly feel like a chore, even though it can be quite difficult and stressful. I just think that walking on to a stage and playing your songs to people, wherever it might be, is such an incredible experience.
VP: As well as the new album you’re touring “Seamonsters”. Were you initially reluctant to go down the “classic album” live route ?
DAVID : Indeed I was. Back in 2007, when a record label suggested that we celebrate the 21st anniversary of George Best by playing it live, I was one of the people who was most against it! My feeling then was that, as an artist, you tend to want to look forward and concentrate on new songs rather than dwell on the past. But when we started doing it, I found to my surprise that I actually quite enjoyed doing it. I loved the process of re-interpreting those old songs. Also I think the difference between us doing a classic album and someone else ‘coming back’ and playing a classic album, is that we’ve never been away. So now I feel it’s just one of the things we do, rather than a nostalgia trip, and that looking back isn’t quite as disheartening as I thought it would be.
VP: You’ve also just released a comic strip, TALES FROM THE WEDDING PRESENT and there’s also the Snapshots graphic novel style vignettes based on your own song-titles. You’ve also written one of the stories. How did both ideas come about?
DAVID : Well, the two projects are completely separate really, although the same artist, my friend Lee Thacker, illustrated them both. Snapshots came about when Lee re-told some stories based on Wedding Present song titles that had been written and presented by a group of short story writers at my annual mini-festival in Brighton.
Tales From The Wedding Present, on the other hand, is the result of Lee’s and my collaboration with Terry de Castro, our former bass player. Terry was initially going to write some kind of memoir based on her dozen years of being in Cinerama and The Wedding Present. I suggested that Lee could turn some of her tales into comic strips… because I’m a huge comic-book fan… but it looked so great that in the end we decided the whole book should be like that!
VP: How did you get involved in the “At The Edge Of The Sea” and “ Edge Of The Peaks” festivals?
DAVID : When we were on tour once, we were just chatting over breakfast about the fact that between us… the band and it’s entourage, I mean… we knew loads of other musicians, and how it would be amazing to just gather them together and put on a little concert. It was literally one of those ideas that sounded so great that it all came together in about fifteen minutes. So At The Edge Of The Sea kind of started out as just a Wedding Present concert with a self indulgent line-up of artists I wanted to see live supporting… but over the years we’ve done them… they’ve really grown to be something bigger than that. We get a great response from fans about them.
VP: You may have asked this a thousand times before, but what’s the story behind your “Brassneck” appearance on top of the pops?
DAVID : Ha, ha… well… it was partly based on the video that we’d made for the single, where the mimed, relatively motionlessly, while a group of dancers performed frantically around us. I decided to carry on the idea onto Top Of The Pops, even though we didn’t have the dancers for that, but it just kind of got more and more extreme! During each run through, I was becoming more and more static… to the point where I was expecting the director to come up to me and say “Come on mate, you can’t do this,” but no one did… so I just thought… why not? Pretty silly really.
VP: Recently Ash released their A-Z series of songs which was a bit similar to your “The Hit Parade” series. You also earned yourself a place in the Guinness books of records to boot ! Do you have any regrets over that whole experience? Was it tough trying to meet deadlines etc., or was it all carefully planned before hand?
DAVID : It wasn’t pre-planned, no… nothing ever is in The Wedding Present! And so it was pretty difficult, trying to make the deadlines, yes. But, actually, my biggest frustration, even though it’s not really a regret, is that the project became ‘bigger’ than the music, in that there was all this media coverage of the band having 12 hits and equalling Elvis Presley’s record, etc., but you felt like saying… actually, we’ve recorded some quite good songs too! But no, overall, it was a brilliant project to be involved in and I’m very proud that we did it.
VP: Obviously it’s getting increasingly difficult for bands to survive beyond a few years these days, any advice to them when starting out?
DAVID : My advice to bands that are starting out is always the same really. Obviously, first and foremost, you need good songs. But I also think that the first time that people become aware of you; you’ve got to make some kind of statement. I think our first single was quite an extreme record… it wasn’t our best song at the time, but I think it really leapt out of the radio. It had the ‘who the hell is this?’ factor. I think other bands do it with visuals, or controversy… or sex! You’ve just got to do whatever it takes really… to get people to notice the band. Once you’ve done that… and you hopefully have a stack of great songs to back it up with… I think you’re on your way.
VP: Finally I‘ve read your views on shows like the X factor which are pretty much same as mine; Cowell seems to think he’s saving music, whereby people who care about it would argue that his cynical shows actually do more harm to music than file sharing . Are you still of that sort of view?
DAVID : I am… until they ask me to be a judge… and then I’ll completely change my mind, of course!