Noise Annoys: The Wedding Present's David Gedge on Irish tour and George Best LP documentary
Noise Annoys catches up with The Wedding Present's David Gedge as the veteran indie rockers return to Ireland for concerts, documentary screenings and Insta-friendly dog walking excursions
THIS is a bumper weekend for Irish devotees of indie rock legends The Wedding Present: not only are David Gedge and co back in Ireland for a series of concerts celebrating 30 years of their classic LP Bizarro in Limerick (Dolan's, tonight), Dublin (The Academy, tomorrow) and Belfast (The Empire, Sunday), the Dublin and Belfast shows will be preceded by special afternoon screenings of Something Left Behind, Andrew Jezard's acclaimed documentary about the making, impact and lasting legacy of the band's seminal 1987 debut George Best, at IFI and QFT respectively.
Mr Jezard will be in attendance at the latter events (and, in all probability, the former ones too), which will also find the fan-turned-film-maker taking part in a post-screening Q&A with The Wedding Present founder and bandleader.
They should make excellent appetisers for the shows themselves at which the band will perform their follow-up to George Best, 1989's major label debut Bizarro – which features two of their most enduring songs in Brassneck and Kennedy – in its entirety alongside a selection of complementary favourites plucked from across their extensive back catalogue.
"I think we spoke to every major label in the year before we signed to RCA," recalls Gedge of how The Wedding Present navigated the transition from John Peel-championed DIY indie rock favourites with their own Reception Records imprint to John Peel-championed major label contenders, who would later go on a record-breaking run of chart success with their year-long Hit Parade campaign of monthly chart singles in 1992.
"They were the only ones who agreed to put in writing that the way the band would operate wouldn't change. Most other labels said, 'we like what you're doing but we can make a few changes here and there and it will be even better' –which kind of puts you off when you're so bloody minded as we were and are.
"It was just a chance to sell records round the world, first and foremost. It was great to actually have them pressed in different countries instead of selling them on import via our little label and Red Rhino distribution.
"Suddenly there was a lot more money there for recording, promotion and tours – I mean obviously, it was Annie Lennox's money, not ours – and it definitely raised the profile of the group."
While the late 1980s was an era when the 'indie' part of indie rock was still a hard dividing line for some fans, who would gleefully castigate any DIY band considering a dalliance (pun intended) with corporate music giants, The Wedding Present crossed those barricades relatively unscathed.
"We were quite happy because we managed to sign to a major record label on our own terms – and I think we proved any doubters wrong through our work," comments Gedge, whose group's most recent album is 2016's expansive audio-visual experience Going, Going....
"Our first release on RCA was a collection of Ukranian folk music [1989's Ukranian John Peel Sessions EP], which was probably the most uncommercial thing you can think of, and then you've got Kennedy and Brassneck as singles which were probably more extreme than anything we'd done before.
"Bizarro is not a particularly commercial sounding record – and then we started working with Steve Albini [who recorded the single version of Brassneck and went on to helm 1991's Seamonsters LP].
"I think we proved that it could be done if you were just strong minded enough. It's not just about taking the money, it's about what [the major label] can do for you – and I can genuinely say we had a great time on RCA records."
Gedge views Bizarro as being a refinement of the noisy yet melodic guitar pop the band had explored on George Best, albeit with more considered songwriting from the band and improved production from returning GB knob-twiddler Chris Allison – a surprise choice at the time given that he was effectively thrown off their debut due to creative differences.
"I think he thought his brief was to take our sound and make it more commerical and radio friendly," recalls the Leeds-born singer/guitarist.
"I remember him talking about the Jesus And Mary Chain and saying about how Psychocandy was all very extreme and feedbacky whereas by April Skies they were radio friendly and on Top of The Pops.
"He was like 'you could do that' – and of course we were like, 'we prefer Psychocandy, actually'. But I'm not sure we communicated that to him clearly enough and that's why he ended up not finishing the album.
"When it came to Bizarro, he already knew the way we worked, so to be frank it was a case of 'better the devil you know', really. And it worked out pretty well."
It's long been a rock and roll tradition for a band experiencing their first flush of major success to start incorporating bizarre requests into their tour riders – Van Halen infamously banned brown M&Ms from their dressing room treats, while Marilyn Manson supposedly used to request that a sex worker with certain specific physical features be placed at his disposal at every show.
Being bright northern lads rather than Hollywood sleaze rockers, The Wedding Present managed to put their own esoteric spin on this, as Gedge explains.
"We used to put a dog on the rider," he chuckles. "In the old days, our contract rider said something like 'the presence of a dog between load-in and doors would be appreciated'. In fact, I was chatting to a promoter in Nottingham recently who said that he always remembered the band because that was the weirdest thing he'd ever seen on a rider!"
Now that they're back to being independent operators these days, The Wedding Present supply their own pet in the form of David's dog, Doris, who has recently become a fixture of their life on the road and even has her own Twitter and Instagram accounts @DorisMcGedge.
"Doris tours with us almost everywhere, certainly in Europe and North America," enthuses Gedge of his charismatic Bichon Frisé / Yorkshire Terrier mix.
"I think she actually quite likes being with the 'pack' and all the other band members really love her as well."
:: The Wedding Present play Limerick (May 24), Dublin (May 25) and Belfast (May 26), see Ticketmaster.ie for tickets. Something Left Behind screens at 4.30pm tomorrow at Dublin's IFI and 4.30pm Sunday at QFT Belfast, tickets via ifi.ie and Queensfilmtheatre.com. Visit Scopitones.co.uk for all things Wedding Present.