Maybe the years of dangerously excessive volumes have finally gone to his head, but Kevin Shields has got an interesting theory on the glory days of British music in the 90s.
Following on from the The My Bloody Valentine frontman claiming his influential shoegaze band were banned from the UK’s coveted Mercury Prize for being ‘too indie’, the 50-year-old guitarist/producer now believes that Britpop was part of a government conspiracy, primarily noting that its most successful figureheads were in the hands of the British establishment.
Speaking in an interview with The Guardian, Shields “reacted angrily to a mention of the Cool Britannia phenomenon,” according to the paper.
“Britpop was massively pushed by the government,” says the My Bloody Valentine ringleader. “Someday it would be interesting to read all the MI5 files on Britpop. The wool was pulled right over everyone’s eyes there.”
Like the best musical conspiracy theories (eg. musical mind control, the plot to foil the Rolling Stones, 90s record execs using gangsta rap to fill prisons), there’s not exactly hard evidence to Shields’ claims, nor does he really offer a reason for why the Government would be pushing the foppish charms of Pulp, Suede, Elastica, or The Charlatans onto the greater populace, but the frontman suggests that it was for the purpose of promoting patriotism. Shields “reacted angrily to a mention of the Cool Britannia phenomenon,” according to the paper.
Shields claims that two of Britpop’s biggest bands – Blur and Oasis – were in the pockets of the then-Tony Blair premiership, noting that Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn were vocal supporters of the Labour government, while regularly making visits to 10 Downing Street, both signs that they were helping blind the youth with the Union Jack’s inherent zeitgeist appeal (…or something). Whereas Shields would only have popped into the PM’s place “on [the] condition we could play a song.”
Further adding fuel to Shields’ conspiracy theory is how chummy both Gallagher and Albarn have gotten lately; despite the pair’s seemingly endless blood feud through the mid-90s, the two frontmen have now supposedly not only kiss and made up, but are looking at working on music together. Could their entire rivalry have been fabricated by Tony Blair in order to sell records and promote the ‘cool’ Labour-led Britannia?
There may be a less sinister reason behind Shields’ theory, maybe his mind’s a little scrambled – by his own admission; telling The Guardian of his heady days touring with Primal Scream (from 1999 to 2006) was a bit fuzzy.
“I was terrible in my 30s,” he said. “I did some silly, crazy things. That’s when I really went for it in every respect. Taking drugs recreationally – lots of them. So it’s all very hazy and jumbled up. I can remember the beginning and the last few gigs with Primal Scream but everything else is interchangeable.”
The Britpop conspiracy theory follows shortly after Shields claimed that My Bloody Valentine were “banned’ from consideration for this year’s Mercury Prize Album of the Year award because their album m b v – their long awaited follow-up to 1991′s Loveless – was independently distributed.
“We’re banned by them, and do you know why? Because we’re not on Amazon or iTunes. That’s one of the qualifying criteria. You have to have major distribution or be on iTunes or Amazon,” said Shields of the snub. “We released our record, m b v, independently… It’s interesting to learn that to be as independent as we are is… virtually illegal,” he said. “It’s not a real record. Our album’s not a real album because it’s independent. The corporate-ness has got to such a point where we’ve essentially been told that we don’t exist. So, technically, that album doesn’t exist. OK? It’s not allowed to exist according to the Mercury prize.”