The Boy Gedge talks to us about the Edsel Records reissues of The Wedding Present’s back catalogue, what he found in the archives, and his acclaimed songwriting: “In what people say, how they say it, why they say it … I don’t know if people feel it’s not interesting enough to be inspiring and to write pop lyrics from but I’ve never had that problem.”
From the purchase of the cassette single of ‘Dalliance’ in 1991 to the present day. It’s coming up to 30 years of The Wedding Present and I’m talking to an invisible David Lewis Gedge on Skype.
It’s a luxury of interviewing in a way, being able to connect from the comfort of your own kitchen with a cup of peppermint tea in hand. But it’s always a regret not to be sat with the person to get an idea of their physical presence: their movements in conversation, their smell, their tics, the look in their eyes. Especially when it’s someone with as firm a brow as Gedge, although looking through photographs of him after the interview I can see that what comes through much more strongly is the humour in the man; his is a mouth that enjoys a grin.
Gedge is a practised interviewee: comfortable and ready to talk. It is after all his band, and he’s the sole ever-present in its long history. He is, by his own admission, the “expert on it really. I’m the only one who can answer all the questions and do all the research.” The Wedding Present has had “loads of different line ups over the years so you could ask certain people about three years between 1987 and 1990 or something but ultimately I’m the one [with] all the scrapbooks and all the master tapes and all the photographs.”
The reason that we’re talking is because Demon Music Group (through Edsel Records) is re-releasing all of The Wedding Present’s studio albums, where even most of the standard CDs come with a quite incredible array of additional material. The expanded versions of the albums typically feature a flurry of non-album tracks, Peel sessions (of course), and videos including live performances and interviews. Nine and a half (‘Mini’ being the half) albums over 30 years may not sound like a lot but don’t forget Gedge’s other musical adventures with The Ukrainians and Cinerama (more on that later…).
As a result of the project, and his position as Weddoes’ archivist, Gedge has been working hard pulling stuff out of the loft over the last year or so.
“I suppose when you start a group and you have a bit of success then you keep everything because a) you don’t know how long it’s gonna last and b) you’re obviously very excited and very proud. For the first few years I’ve got everything: all the reviews… But then I’d say as time goes on it gets less important to you – you don’t have to have that piece from that Greek magazine that you can’t understand.”
Although it hasn’t necessarily been non-stop wonderment (“Was it fun ?” “err…I wouldn’t say fun. No.”) David has enjoyed “looking back and reflecting and seeing it all come to life.” Gedge is the authority but there “were a few little surprises, [although] nothing earth-shattering,” along the way. “I went through all the cassettes I’ve got, unearthed stuff – ‘oh here’s a session we did for Virgin Radio that’s pretty good. I’d forgot about that.’ Things like that.”
One of the most interesting things for him has been the chance to listen to his back catalogue extensively. “Obviously I don’t play Wedding Present records at home – I’ve no desire to ! So it was odd being in the position where I had to go back and do that.”
It has been a gratifying confirmation, in reacquainting himself with it all, that he and his many band-mates have been successful in always bringing something new to their sound with every recording. “I was actually pleasantly surprised that my thinking – that each one was more in less its own personality and sound – was correct. You can hear the adventure in each one as we try and take it somewhere else.”
Since 2007 David and band-mates have been doing a fair amount of looking back. Starting with ‘George Best’ The Wedding Present have already spent some time playing straight through LPs in concert. But the volume of work that had to be done for the reissues has been to “the detriment of writing new songs. There’s loads of ideas that have been thrown at me by the band and they’re all waiting for me to formulate them into songs.”
“I’m kind of hoping that next year will be a quieter year and we can focus on finishing, and recording, the new songs. We’ve got a little tour planned in November [UK, France, Ireland and Belgium]. We’ve been very busy the last two years; not only with the reissues but also a lot of concerts and festivals. Now it’s over, so I can look forward to doing something a bit more new !” The big something new is a fourth Cinerama album probably coming out in the Spring that is a re-recording of The Wedding Present’s last LP, 2012’s ‘Valentina’. If it weren’t for the fact that Gedge is so excited about re-emerging “with a bang” in late 2015, early 2016 with the results of that I might be inclined to worry that the evolution that had been so vital had gradually ground to a halt.
Over the course of this impressive body of work, still growing, this man has already delivered some of the most plain-spoken songs of love, lust, loss and lament in every-day circumstances. You can find a wonderful John Peel quote out there if you don’t look at all hard. I wonder if one of the reasons that Gedge’s songs have struck such a chord is because the music conveys the acuteness, the immense power of the feelings involved, and because the lyrics are a voicing of the things that people say, or would have said if they had the bravery, the desperation, the callousness, the recklessness required. At their simplest the songs describe the crushing places we’ve all been; at their most complex the songs make flesh the alternate realities that people in relationships have had dreams, nightmares and fantasies about.
“If you break it down there’s a lot of stuff there. I don’t know if people feel it’s not interesting enough to be inspiring and to write pop lyrics from but I’ve never had that problem. I’ve always thought in what people say, how they say it, why they say it, to each other, especially in those times of relationships when there’s some issue going on … it’s such a massive universal subject.”
Before the interview ends I let fandom get the better of me. It’s only fair; when you’ve loved something as long as I have ‘Seamonsters’, and especially the ‘Dalliance’ b-side ‘Niagara’, you’ve got to say haven’t you ? My confession was clearly a common one: “I wish I had a pound for everyone who said that track should have been on the LP. It’s a very popular song, it could quite easily have been on [‘Seamonsters’].” I’m glad it’s not – it might have broken the completeness of that wonderful LP, and I might not have come to appreciate and adore it in the same way.
It’s one of those things isn’t it ? To the fan, in a sense, it doesn’t matter what DLG and The Weddoes do next; they’ve already done enough to be valid forever. Yes, we are following someone for whom stopping or recycling cannot be the answer, but that doesn’t change the fact that we were committed years ago: everything else past that point is gravy.