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Crash of the Titans

Bigger, wilder, louder and hairier than most of their Britrock contemporaries, Swervedriver tell STEVE SUTHERLAND how anger is an energy. Pies: TOM SHEEHAN

THREE QUARTERS OF SWERVEDRIVER Jimmy's at home with his newborn baby - are slaking their thirst in the sun and getting mighty frustrated. Asked why their sound is the ghost of in~licable skidmarks on a remote desert road, they shrug. If they could talk it out, if they could say why they make people like me want to talk about metallic scars under enormous azure skies and Jimmy Dean joyrides, they'd have no reason to cram themselves into clubs and rehearsal roams and lose themselves phy:sically and psychologically in this fuck awful bliss of . . . uh. . . yeah. . . awesome noise. But they can't. They pick it over like a vulture picks a carcass, searching for the heart.
A lot of people who are new to Swervedriver think they're American. There's a huge, romantic sweep to the two EPs they've released up till now which makes people assume familiarity with the kind of open roads and empty landscapes which Britain, the stomach cramp of Europe, can't afford. But Swervedriver are kinda Oxford-based and the high-octane, guitar-suggested geographic freedom of their records is wishful thinking made flesh and chrome, a fantasy coming real.
The title of last year's "Rave Down" EP was about annihilating smalltown claustrophobia, about breaking away. There's a track called "Out" on the new "Sandblasted" EP which is about just what it says - getting out. Swervedriver are a means of escape. Swervedriver are angry.
"We've got as much anger and hate as The Manic Street Preachers but we'll just take it out on our instruments rather than making twats of ourselves," says Adi, the bass player.
Ask them how much the band has to do with burying the past in the dust of spinning wheels and guitarist Adam, who sometimes gets mistaken for Lenny Kravitz, says, "For me, personally, everything."

SWERVEDRIVER formed when Adi left a small Yorkshire town called Goole because he didn't want to become a docker or a miner and because all the friends who used wear Machine Gun Etiquette logos on their leathers and go to see The Damned with him, started "going out with dodgy girls and having kids at 19". Adi grew his hair down to his bum and then styled it into dreadlocks. His friends started trying to beat him up so he fucked off out of it and went to Oxford where he knew a few people. There he met Adam, who was getting hassle for his locks from dreads and skins alike, and his mate Jimmy. The two budding guitarists and the bass player formed Shake Appeol- "A three chord rock band who were trying to sound like Detroit 1968, inRuenced by The Stooges and MC5 but not to the extent that Thee Hypnotics or (Gaye Bykers were, y'know, not a straight rip-off of that sound. We twisted it a little bit, fucked things up by doing them in strange tunings and strange time sequences."
Shake Appeal got stuck in a rut in the Oxford scene so Adi, Adam and Jimmy toak the motorway to London where they met Graham, an ex-punk, ex-goth who'd been drumming since he was 12. Graham had run out on his family, suffocated by the way nothing ever changed in the tiny Scottish village where he was born. Suddenly they were Swervedriver, Alan McGee freaked over a tape they'd given Ride, Graham made his debut in front of 2,000 people supporting The House Of Love and "Rave Down" came out on Creation to ecstatic reviews which surprised them because they really didn't fit.
They weren't crusty enough to fall in with the Camden lurch scene, they weren't part of the Manchester set-up and the Thames Valley movement was a lime too polite for them. Still, A&M liked them enough to sign them in America and flt them over for a tour supporting Ned's Atomic Dustbin - a bill described by one American executive as akin to Jimi Hendrix supporting The Monkees. Judging by the crowd reactions, he wasn't far wrong. As the guy said who phoned in to an LA radio show Swervedriver were doing: ''You guys are fuckin' awesome!"
FOR those who know "Rave Down", "Sandblasted" is more of the same, "treading water" as Adam puts it. For those who don't know Swervedriver from The Senseless Things, it's a head-on collision between guitars raging for chaos and a song that encompasses both the world-weary and the wonderstruck in time-honoured romantic tradition. It's great but Adam promises the album, called "Raise" and released in September, will be even stronger.
"I think 'Sandblasted' sounds like an outtake from 'Exile On Main Street' to be honest," says Adi. "I don't know why."
Nor do I. "Sandblasted" is a perfect description of itself, just as "Son Of Mustang Ford" was on the debut EP. "I don't know why we called it 'Sandblasted'," says Adam. "I think it might have been a bit subliminal because someane wrote something about us once and mentioned sandblasted images and maybe the words stuck in my head or something. The song's all about being out of it and being by the sea, walking along the beach being blasted. They've been sandblasting my Rat recently as well."
"No big theory behind that one then?" says Adi, who goes on to bemoan the fact that the records never end up sounding the way they think they should. 'When you get into the studio, suddenly it's just a song. It's cleaned up with a little bit of noise underneath it. It's difficult to capture the moment. If the guitars ain't up there, we don't work . . . "
Why is the noise so important?
"Because the power of music can be a lot more effective than the power of words," says Adam. "I mean, I'd rather be in a band that has its power in the music than be in a singer/songwriter band like The Mock T urt/es who go on about craftsmanship and all that kinda shit. That just doesn't move me at all."
Adi would like Swevedriver records to be more like their live performances, although he admits that the spontaneity they thrive on means they're notoriously erratic. "Still I'd rather be in a band like that than just be slick all the time. I was a guitar rech on a UB4O tour once and I saw them five or six nights on the trot. Every night was the same. The between-song banter was the same. The set was the same. And I thought, 'This isn't what I thought being in a band, doing music and going out gigging was about at all. Where's the spontaneity?'. It was really horrible, almost heartbreaking. It was just cabaret.
"When we do a bad gig now and I get depressed, I remember that and I think, 'At least we're not like UB40' and it cheers me up." Swervedriver reckon their best gig was probably supporting Lush at ULU because Adi had just gotten over chickenpox and, although they didn't expect the crowd to take to them, they got their first ever stage-diver which freaked Graham out so much he lost the beat.
Their worst gig was at The Powerhouse in Islingtan. They got too many beers down before they went on and were pissed rotten. "I tried to sell the gear off," laughs Adam. "I was trying to pawn it off in the middle of the set. 'This gear's shit. Does anybody wanna buy this gear? What'll you give me for this Orange amp?'lt was awful but the guy who reviewed it for Melody Maker thought it was great rock'n roll. He said it was awesome!"
So the myth that the more out of it you are the better the gig is . . .
"Bollocks! People are paying money to come and see you so you might as well play as well as you can," says Graham, who once did a gig tripping and couldn't work out what the drums were. "Two pints of lager halves your co-ordination - that's a medical fact."
Adam says he played at Brighton coming down once and "that was really cool because that's when you're feeling really nice and everyone's really mellow."
Adi says he remembers that gig because they sang the theme to "The Generation Game" all the way to Brighton. Awesome or what?
ASK Swervedriver for the highlights of their brief career so far and they'll say one of them was definitely when they played on The Wonder Stuff's bill at Walsall and met Slade. They reckon Slade were one of the first noise bands and Adam asked Dave Hill how he got his guitar sound. Dave Hill said he just turned his amp up to 10.
Ask Swervedriver ta assemble their own festival bill and Adi says: "Blur; Headcleaner- they're all right; a Camden lurch band. They sound like Mudhoney on 33 - Milk; Chapterhouse; Slunk; Lavender Faction; Gobstopper; Spiritualized; The La's; Rideas long as they don't headline over us. Who else? Soundgarden; Lime Spiders; Neil Young - we're well into Neil Young. He can play as long as he plays the whole of 'Ragged Glory' from beginning to end in order; Kraftwerk; Slayer; Megadeth; Metallica; Sepultura . . . "
"Yeah? Give us a break!" says Adam. "Adi has this fantasy that he's in a death metal band. In fact, he used to play in a spoof one called Sotan Knew My Father. Ride's first ever gig was supporting them." How abaut Dinosaur Jr?
They groon. They're always being compared to Dinosaur. Graham is prepored ta admit that maybe they share the same audiences and Adi is delighted that J Mascis has been drumming with the death metal band Upside Down Cross.
"I hope they spray the audience with Virgin's blood," he says. So what's the message when you play Swervedriver records backwards?
"Oh," says Adam, "kill Adi Vynes."

SWERVEDRIVER are stili trying to grapple their sound into words. The beers have set in and later Adi and Adam will have a hght. Adam will get Adi by the throat and hold him there until he calms down because the last time fists flew, Adam lost a couple of teeth .
Right now, thougb, they're saying stuff like: "One song's on the verge of collapse and we'll just about get through it. Then the next song just explodes into life again." "It's teetering on the edge," says Graham. "From nightto nightwe can go from being pretty all right to being totally ficking AWESOME," says Adi.
"Awesome. That word again. What does it mean?" asks Adam. "Is it to be in awe of something?"
"Yeah. It's about as big a word as you can get really, isn't it?" says Adi. "Awesome. What's bigger than awesome? Godlike?" I look it up in the dictionary when I get home. Awesome means to inspire with reverential fear or wonder. Close and closing fast.

Originally Appeared in Melody Maker, August 10, 1991 Copyright © Melody Maker.


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