4 Real Drive
Are you being Swerved? Raving on about cars and travelling, scraping off the 'Crusties' label,
SWERVEDRIVER prove to DELE FADELE they'll be on the barricades when the war against M1V stooges
begins. 'Raise' of light: STEFAN DE BATSELIER
The days of success being measured by the profile of
an artist's cheekbones or the geography of his/her face are surely numbered.
All the vibrant musical movements of the last decade have had humble beginnings in the margins and, sooner rather
than later, the conventionally goodlooking, lavishly decorated MTV puppets will have to make way
for more natural-looking musicians who don't sell themselves through image and who are currently
battling away left-of-centre. Groups like Swervedriver, in fact.
That's Swervedriver, the
Crusties with car fixations, the runt in the Creation Records litter, the worst band at this
year's Bescot Stadium gig.
"I've always thought of Crusties as being anti-government and
antisocial and yet, at the same time, scrounging off the Government 'cos they're all on the dole
and get pissed all day long. Maybe it's something to do with our dreadlocks, but we're not like
that," claims Adam, singer and guitarist, frothing into his pint in a Camden Town hostelry. He's
never wanted Swervedriver to be seen as anarcho-punk dregs of society and it shows. Graham, the
Scots drummer, comes to his rescue.
"We don't really like Crusties," he says. "To us, Crusty means
someone at the tube station begging fo~ money, someone who doesn't do anything with his life
except get pissed all the time. Just wasters, problems on the street. It's an insulting term that
is somehow being used now as a term driving
AND THAT'S not the half of it.
Swervedriver are also seen as Camden Town Lurchers who hang out on the scene, Dinosaur jr
doppelgangers and worshippers of a whole bunch of Ameri-indie acts who like nothing better than to
cruise down inter-state freeways and revel in grungy noise. In truth, their origins lie in a
village near Oxford where they met. Camden offers many possibilities other areas of London don't
offer, they've outgrown an initial fascination with Americana and, yes, they do know a thing or
two about motor vehicles.
Adam is softly spoken for a frontperson and quite lucid when not put on
the defensive. Graham is earnest, believes in himself and what he's trying to do, and has a calm
demeanour. Jim, the main guitarist, doesn't sufferfools gladly and admits to being quite
ambitious. Bassman Adi can be brutally frank, as befits a Y orkshireman, or mirth-inducing when an
opposite mood takes him. Together, they make one helluva cool racket. Soon enough word will spread
about the debut LP, 'Raise', which drops the listener in a labyrinth of stormy guitars and varied
rhythms and sifts through enough feelings and emotions to make you worry about their state of
mind. There's defiantly no trace of a My Bloody Valentine influence, and 'dreaminess' is only one
colour of their musical rainbow. The dog-eared copy of JG Ballard's Crash - the last word in
auto-eroticism - peeking out of jim's pocket prompts me to ask if they're really as obsessed with
cars as it seems from the outside evidence of scraping tunes like 'Son Of Mustang Ford' and
'Sandblasted'. "Nearly all the song mention driving in them". Adam reveals. "It's just like classic Chuck
Berry songs or something, Marc Bolan later took up that sort of thing wid 'Jeepster', we've only
got one song about driving - cars just make guest appearances in the others. Being in transit. . .
moving about. . . these are inspiring things."
"The classic thing about driving is that the
scenery changes all the time and the best songs suggest that change, like Kraftwerk's 'Trans
Europe Express', which actually sounds like it's taking you somewhere. We want our music tc take
you somewhere and raise your spirits."
At this point it seems churlish to point out that Swervedriver are 'not quite there'lyrically, with the rush of words always competing against revved-up
guitars and sometimes swooping too close to the current school of'murmuring'.
Adam: "I think words are better creeping up on you, really. Maybe with so much going on in the sound, the words never
really hit you until the fourth or fifth listen. But I do think there has to be some kind of logic
there, even if it's askew."
Graham: "I used to listen to The Chameleons, who had quite deep
lyrics, but I also had a friend who listened to them intensely and he went insane because he took
it all too literally, took it all to heart. It just blew his mind, basically."
AS MUCH as they won't be pinned down, each individual Swervedriver member subscribes to a highly evolved code of
personal politics. This much is certain from their sometimes caustic conversation and the refusal
to just namecheck causes for the sake of it. Jim certainly doesn't espouse hand-me-down opinions.
"When things get too organised - with people being forced into politics or having organisation thrust upon them that's
when there's strife. It's just lack of personal freedom, which is what you get for living in the
Western World. . ."
Adam takes up the baton: "The Western World is so consumerfriendly, there's no
kind of spiritualism, maybe. . . if people could look more into themselves perhaps these problems
Adi: "You're confronted a lot of the time with what you haven't got. Through
the media and TV you see people who have a better standard of living than you. You get this
hammered into you all the time, not 'this is what you can have' but 'this is what you haven't
got'. It frustrates people. Some poor guy who lives in Broadwater Farm or some parts of Leeds then
ends up using violence, albeit against inanimate objects, I can understand. "
The great rain will come and wash our city free, not of the dregs, the down-and-outs, those at the bottom, but of the
smug and satisfied people who created such conditions. Swervedriver will be manning the
barricades, as surely as they will when the self-same rain purges the world forever of those
preening, pouting, prancing stooges of MTV.
Originally Appeared in NME, 19 October 1991
Copyright © NME.