TIN THE PARK
Take over 100 bands and 015, add tens of thousands of music-lovers, send them all to Balado for a weekend in July - and the result is T IN THE PARK. As Scotland's biggest music festival gears up for its sixth successive year, The List talks to Mercury Rev and Basement Jaxx, and rounds up the latest hot-off-the-press details.
WHEN YOU WISH upon a star. the wish that you wish for really can come true. Just ask Mercury Rev, for years a band whose name was synonymous with wilful obscurity. violent infighting and indie under- achievement, but who released an album in 1998 that was so good the whole world fell in love with them. ‘When we made Deserter's Songs we were happy with it, but we didn’t know if it would do well.’ drawls guitarist Sean ‘Grasshopper’ Mackiowack. ‘The fact that it has kind of confirms that we’re not completely crazy. It has been kind of shocking though.’
One time alt-rockers of the noisiest kind, Mercury Rev released their debut Yerself ls Steam in 1991. Encouraged by the sizzling reviews, they made Boees. The press weren’t keen on that one because it didn’t have any tunes, but most people agreed that the weird title and rude cover were good fun. Even Mercury Rev weren’t entirely convinced by the no tunes thing. The guitar players Jonathan Donahue and Grasshopper were getting into classic American songwriting like Neil Young and becoming bored by distorted guitars. However, their singer David Baker loved dirty noise. He also loved booze, which made him unwilling to listen to those who preferred melodies. Clearly, things weren’t going to work out; the band split in 1993 following a big punch-up onstage in Glasgow which climaxed with David Baker collapsing into the audience.
‘When we came home from Glasgow. Jonathan and I decided that this couldn’t go on and we had to make a change,’ says Grasshopper. ‘We called David Baker and told him he was out of the band. The day after that we started recording See You On The Other Side. So it was sad but also a relief.’ Mercury Rev’s troubles were not over though. Hardly anyone bought See You On The Other Side, even though it is a work of skewed genius that sounds like the Beach Boys in space. Around the same time, a number of people close to the band died. Mercury Rev responded by taking far too many drugs and going mad. Grasshopper even checked into a monastery to get his head back together.
Somehow, Mercury Rev came back last October with Deserter’s Songs, an album of sonic ambition and emotional resonance that sounds elegiac and triumphant and heartbroken and redemptive all at
the same time. It was most critics’ album of the year and lots of people.
Maximum revs Grassho and Jonathan Donahue
bought it. Mercury Rev even got to go on TFI Friday.
Since releasing Deserter’s Songs. Mercury Rev have played great gigs in Glasgow. Edinburgh and Aberdeen. They are now looking forward to a T in the Park performance which is unlikely to be marred by the singer falling dead drunk into the crowd. There’s a good chance they’ll play some new songs. But all is not entirely well. Jonathan Donahue has begun to sound jaded by their success. ‘The funhouse has no end it would seem.’ he sneers during an interview that he would clearly rather not to be doing. He is deeply suspicious of the lavish praise heaped on Deserter’s Songs, and is mystified by his own creation. ‘I don’t understand what it is I achieved — if anything,’ he says. ‘When I listen to it. I think there’s some very pretty songs on there, but at the same time I’m not really sure about . . . anything anymore.’
Sounds like the fairytale ending isn’t guaranteed just yet.
Mercury Rev headline the Radio One Evening Session Stage, Sun 11 Jul. 8—22 Jul 1999 THE llST 15