Shoegaze king Adam Franklin of Swervedriver speaks to Anaya Latter about nineties revivals, how Broadcast have been a long-time inspiration, and the changing nature of the music industry.
Adam Franklin has an interesting response to the swathe of 90s band reformations. While it might be exciting to see Iggy Pop and the Stooges perform live, he says, “the fear is that bands get back together and they don’t have the spark, power and aggression that they used to. It’s not quite the same thing if they’ve mellowed out completely.
The frontman of Swervedriver believes this is just one example of how the parameters of rock have changed.
Swervedriver released their first album Raise in 1991, and Franklin explains that the name came about because they wanted something “that expressed a bit of movement and seemed kind of exciting…and it looked cool on paper.”
In this early incarnation, Swervedriver consisted of Adam Franklin (vocals and guitar), Jimmy Hartridge (guitar) Adi Vines (bass) and Graham Bonner (drums).
But Bonner jumped ship to start drumming for Brian Jonestown Massacre. When I asked Franklin his take on Anton from BJM, whether he is a crazy nutter or just a misunderstood genius – Franklin laughs and recounts the story of how it all happened.
“Graham left our tour bus in Boston and went to San Fran. He was walking down the street and this VW campervan screeched to a stop. Anton pops his head out the window and calls out something along the lines of ‘Hey you’re Graham Bonner from Swervedriver, right? My name’s Anton. We need a new drummer, get in’ and so Graham jumps in. He literally got off the Swervedriver tour bus and on to the BJM one.”
Losing a drummer didn’t deter Swervedriver, who put out their second album Mezcal Head in 1993 with replacement drummer Jez Hindmarsh and new bassist Steve George who still plays in the Swervedriver of today.
Franklin muses on the changes to making music over the last two decades and whilst in some ways nothing has changed, he agrees the biggest difference is how music is distributed. ”The fact that people don’t buy albums they just download them makes a big impact on what you’re doing, because you have to look at other ways of getting income.”
Franklin finds the experience of revisiting Swervedriver’s back catalogue of songs a rewarding one that allows new interpretations.
“Definitely yeah, especially since getting back together in the last few years, playing obscure b-sides has been really cool, reapproaching some of those songs and reinterpreting songs that we haven’t played for almost 20 years. Certainly the songs come alive and a lot of our songs have really developed into different beasts somewhere down the line, there are always sections where people are improvising.”
Swervedriver have a strong shoegaze legacy, influencing a lot of up and coming Australian bands such as The Laurels, Dark Bells, The Demon Parade and Lowtide and Franklin is modest in his assessment of their impact.
“You don’t really think about it that much. On the whole there are better bands citing our influence now then there were ten years ago. Back then bands would send demos and you’d think oh my god, what is this? But there was a really good psych rock scene in Australia and the States, a lot of those bands express an influence. It’s great to think that we got together in ‘88 and never expected to come this far, we’re just happy to have been here and provided inspiration along the way.”
Swervedriver toured Australia extensively in the 1990s and Franklin says there was some sort of bond with the Australian crowds. “We just got invited over in 1995 – it was still the early first album sort of time, and it just continued on from there. There was one year when we came over three times.”
The music that Franklin returns to and finds inspiring includes “Sonic Youth, I’ll always pop back to them. The Clientele – their albums have been a companion over the years. And Broadcast – I’m still really shocked that Trish Keenan died so tragically and suddenly. The visual aesthetic and the words have always been an inspiration. I used to go and see them when they first played in London. I just hope that James Cargill can get back on his feet and keep playing. Their music is something I’ve listened to since they first came out.”
Given his opinions on the 90s revival, how does Franklin view his own reconnection with Swervedriver’s back catalogue? Franklin reveals that his solo work has been influenced by Swervedriver’s reunion by “turning up the amps”. He also indicates that there might be a new Swervedriver album:
“It might happen, but it’d be a natural kind of thing where somebody’s playing and something cool happens”
Just for the record, if Franklin could meet anyone living or dead, his choice is “Jesus – it would be interesting to see if he’s all he’s cracked up to be.”
Swervedriver are touring nationally in February.
· Brisbane The Zoo
Wednesday 16 February 2011
Supported by Giants Of Science & Loomer
Oztix Outlets | 1300 762 545
· Melbourne The Espy
Thursday 17 February 2011
Supported by Love of Diagrams and Demon Parade
Oztix Outlets, Espy bottleshop, Greville Records, Missing Link & Polyester
1300 762 545
· Sydney The Metro
Friday 18 February 2011
Supported by Tumbleweed and The Laurels
Ticketek & Oztix Outlets | (02) 9550 3666
· Melbourne The Corner Hotel
Saturday 19 February 2011
Oztix Outlets & The Corner Box Office | 03 9427 9198
· Perth International Arts Festival Becks Music Box
Sunday 20 February 2011
(08) 9484 1133