My Bloody Valentine – classic interview from 1992

'Sound is like a picture in my head. I’m thinking of writing them down some day' … Kevin Shields of My Bloody Valentine

From The Guardian:

“My Bloody Valentine are not rock’n’roll, they are God!”


Backstage at Reading University on the first night of the band’s UK tour, My Bloody Valentine mainman Kevin Shields cowers in bashful bemusement under a barrage of hysterical praise from 20-year-old superfan Jason Kelpie.

“If the world ended tomorrow and there was nothing left but My Bloody Valentine, I’d be happy. They are the coolest fucking sonic visual experience we’ve got. You can’t beat My Bloody Valentine with a big stick! Only having your brains blown out with a massive shotgun while on acid comes close to My Bloody Valentine! Worship at the altar of My Bloody Valentine! Religion sucks, but the closest thing to religion we’ve got is My Bloody Valentine …”

Strange that four outwardly calm individuals should consistently attract such extreme reactions. A band whose languorous work-rate makes three-toed sloths seem hyperactive, who never commit themselves to even the vaguest statement of intent, who dress like woolly mammoths and spurn the glittering limelight of cult success. A band whose lyrics rarely refer to anything remotely recognisable and whose alien music screams down from a candy-floss Valhalla, rubbing its sleepy eyes as it plummets earthwards.

Yes indeed, there’s plenty more where that came from – MBV have inspired more fanciful flights of purple journalistic prose than any other group of the past decade, for one simple reason: the sheer face of swirling noise that is the Valentines in full flight presents a blank canvas eight miles high for whatever open-ended interpretation the beholder wants to project there. Drugs is an obvious favourite. Sex and dreams and extreme violence are up there, too. Very few critics mention aquariums or kitchen utensils, but they might just as well do.

Such vanities are not on Kevin’s mind after the Reading show. Characteristically modest in his critical post-mortem, he complains: “It was really mediocre, the sound was awful onstage, we played badly.”

Not strictly true. There are slack moments of routine grunge-rock in tonight’s set, but everything else is a fiercely controlled fireworks display of overheating psychedelic noise. Strafed by strobes and bathed in eerie purple light, the Valentines surgically extract immaculate sound-symphonies from their awesome new album Loveless, and methodically mutilate them almost beyond recognition. Bone-crunching dance beats and ethnic twiddles from their two recent EPs, Glider and Tremolo, also make a strong showing. But it is the fragments of 1988’s seminal Isn’t Anything LP that really rock Reading, particularly a mutant cousin of Feed Me With Your Kiss which emerges from an ear-splitting 10-minute encore of apocalyptic thunder. World War III contained on a single stage – call MBV an art band if you want, but this brain-bending display is the closest thing to the catharsis called rock’n’roll anyone here has ever witnessed.

It amounts to a triumphant piece of self-justifying theatre from a band many thought could never match the slamming brilliance of Isn’t Anything, a band shrouded for three years in rumours concerning scrapped recordings and suicidally spiralling studio costs. Fixing a price tag upwards of £250,000 on the long-overdue Loveless, the music press predicted bankruptcy for MBV’s label, Creation, and hot water for Kevin if he didn’t deliver something with platinum potential. Judging by the album’s critical reception, the future of both band and label seems assured.

When the buzzing hordes of acolytes from post-Valentines bands Ride, Lush, Chapterhouse and Slowdive dissipate from the dressing room in Reading, Kevin is finally willing to nail those rumours.

“Creation are no closer than any other label to going bankrupt,” he offers ambivalently, confirming the astronomical figure quoted above but stressing this also covered two expensive EPs, three videos and the band’s living costs over three years. “They paid for everything bit by bit so they’d eaten up the cost as they went along. They felt strained, but nothing special: they would spend easily as much on two or three smaller bands.”

Creation themselves are understandably cagey about discussing their financial dealings with MBV, or how the strain has affected their relationship with the group. However, one source contradicts Kevin by hinting that the quarter-million figure belongs to Loveless only. Enigmatic label boss Alan McGee will only reveal “It cost a lot of money, but we all love the album”.

In their pre-Creation days, MBV discovered a sonic frequency which causes physical pain and purposely used it to make their live sets very uncomfortable for audiences: “We did it for a few years when we thought we were massively misunderstood, when we were just perceived as a twee pop band.” So with tonight’s sturm und drang finale, is Kevin still trying to hurt people with sound? “No, it’s just pure noise for the hell of it. The fun is in watching people’s faces. That’s why we light the audience up, to see their discomfort.”

Continue reading the rest of the story on The Guardian