Interviews:: Ben Lurie – The Jesus And Mary Chain, Freeheat, and Sister Vanilla

With The Jesus And Mary Chain’s first live appearance in nine years set for The Glasshouse in Pomona, CA on April 26th – along with the recent releases of Sister Vanilla’s “Little Pop Rock” and Freeheat’s “Back On The Water” – longtime Mary Chain guitarist Ben Lurie sat with Parasites & Sycophants for a cool discussion about his musical past, meeting Jim & William Reid, and why he isn’t taking part in the JAMC this time out.

Parasites & Sycophants: As a general introduction to our audience let’s get to know Ben Lurie the musician a bit. How long have you been playing music?

Ben Lurie: I’ve been playing guitar since I was about 10 years old. I had a little flirtation with the recorder previous to that but it just never came together for me, that funny little pipe just didn’t cut it.

P&S: While beginning your musical career, what were some of the artists/bands that influenced you the most?

BL: I loved The Police when I was a youngster. I loved the idea of a three-piece band, somehow that made it more accessible to me.
P&S: What was the name of the first band you were in?
BL: Silver Ghost – early high school band. It mutated into Sons of Sorrow post high school and we released an album in Australia in 1988 that sold about 92 copies, quite an achievement considering friends and family all got free copies and I moved to the UK a week after the record was released.
P&S: How did you come to work with Jim and William Reid? Were you a fan of The Jesus And Mary Chain before you joined in 1989 on “The Automatic” Tour?
BL: I liked the JAMC but I’d be lying if I said I was a huge fan. I had moved to London and was working at Rough Trade Records whose owner Geoff Travis also ran the Blanco y Negro label to who the Mary Chain were signed. Geoff’s assistant Jeannette knew that I was wanting to join a band and told me that the JAMC were auditioning. I went along, behaved in a completely uncool manner, told them I thought Nick Cave was funny (come on, he is), and that my favourite bands were The Police and The Smiths. Somehow I got the job, one tour led to another, and they eventually asked me to make records with them.
P&S: You appeared on the band’s last two studio LP’s “Stoned And Dethroned” and “Munki” – Also at this time, some of your songs started surfacing on the b-sides of the Mary Chain’s singles – “Taking It Away” and “Rocket” – how did the inclusion your songs come about?
BL: Simple, I asked. I knew we needed some extra songs for B-sides and I had a bunch of tunes that I’d recorded demos for, some that I thought would totally suit the band so I offered up Taking It Away and then later Rocket and there it was.
P&S: Around ’97 or ’98 it appeared you and Jim Reid were involved in a side project called TV69 – hinting that the sound of the band would be in a more cosmic/space rock style ala The Byrds, The Buffalo Springfield and Gram Parsons — did that idea quickly fade into a more continuation of the JAMC style when you got the group together with Nick Sanderson and Romi Mori as Freeheat?
BL: I guess when we were intellectualising the idea of a new band we had all these albeit vague, but grand schemes. When we finally got it together to actually assemble a band it turned out to be a natural continuation of what we had been doing previously. Jim had a set of songs he’d been writing post-Marychain and everything just kind of fell into place.
P&S: How did the Freeheat tours differ from the last JAMC Munki tour?
BL: The last JAMC tour was pretty fucked up. The band really split up at the start of the tour at the House of Blues in LA and William left but for a variety of reasons we carried on. Basically it was a mess. The Freeheat tours were fun. It was just us in a van, very stripped down, and immensely satisfying when we pulled it off.
P&S: Freeheat’s only full length has received some good press from fans and critcs around the world – How did the release of “Back On The Water” come about – four years after the UK only “Retox” EP?
BL: Neil DelParto from Planting Seeds kept bugging me for something he could release. In the end his perseverance overrode my laziness.
P&S: In the last several months The Jesus And Mary Chain have been back in the news with their appearance at several upcoming festivals, most notably Coachella – with you in Australia, did that have a major impact on your participation this time out or was it more convenient time wise for them to employ Jim’s current solo backing band?
BL: Yeah my being in Australia had a major impact on my participation – it made it pretty much out of the question. As well as that, although William and I get along pretty well these days, I don’t know if we would be able to be in the same band again. I like to think that I did more than just play guitar in the JAMC, but the bottom line is that the JAMC is Jim & William’s band. Right now it works for them using Jim’s group.
P&S: What’s in store for Ben Lurie in the near future?
BL: I’m a designer these days, I’m going to be the next Milton Glaser. And somewhere down the line there’s an album waiting to fall on deaf ears…..
P&S: And last, A question we like to ask from fellow artists: What would you call your desert island discs – Your TOP 5?
1. Gram Parsons has to be number one, always – GP and Return of the Grievous Angel conveniently available these days on the one CD
2. I Feel Alright by Steve Earle (I could probably fill up my other top 5 slots with Steve Earle records but that would be dull so…..
3. The Stooges first album (self titled, eponymously titled, it’s called The Stooges in other words) – you had me at Alright
4. Twentieth Century by Cold Chisel (once you get past Jimmy Barnes’ squawk there are fantastic songs here. Step aside Nick Cave, Don Walker is your genuine great Australian songwriter)
5. Number 5 is up for grabs, I’m being indecisive, wishy-washy if you would. Right now I’m choosing Mercury Rev’s All Is Dream. It’s got texture. It’s got soul.

P&S: Thanks for all Ben, cheers!

(See Also)Interview:: Linda Reid/Sister Vanilla (P&S)
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