The Wedding Present are a band that define the term 'independent'. The project of Leeds born musician, David Gedge, they started in 1985. They were catapulted from obscurity when none other than radio legend, John Peel, named them as one of his favourite bands.
Alongside other post-punk stalwarts like The Fall and Buzzcocks, The Wedding Present gained a reputation for turning their back on industry convention and doing things on their own terms.
Fast forward to 2012 and nothing has changed. New album 'Valentina' has been accompanied by a book that gives fans a rare and intimate insight into the making of the album- through the eyes of those who made it.
Gigwise spoke to David Gedge about the poor state of the current guitar scene, the warped minds of major labels and, er, Ukrainian folk music...
The book that accompanies the album offers fans exclusive tracks, interviews, and of course the record itself. In an age when record sales are dwindling because of streaming and illegal downloading, do you feel it's important to offer fans that 'little bit extra'?
That wasn't really part of the decision to do this, I think in some ways we're quite lucky being what you might call 'an older group', it's the older people who are more up for buying all the vinyl and the CDs. But then again we're starting to find that people are bringing their kids along to gigs now!
The book wasn't my idea. I've always been interested in doing something (different). I want to avoid being one of those bands that just does album, tour, album, tour, album, tour. We did a thing with Ukrainian folk music, we did a thing where we released 12 singles in a year, I've got a comic, I've got my own festival now in Brighton.
You're playing some smaller, alternative venues on this tour. Is it important to play to fans even in more remote parts of the UK on tour?
There's an element of that, because I'm the one who get's it on Twitter or whatever, you know 'Why are you not playing in Cardiff?' for example. It always seems to start quite small and then grow. It happened a couple of years ago when we did the Bizarro tour- I was getting emails saying 'I can't believe you're not playing Sheffield Leadmill!', so we had to say 'yeah alright we'll come and play there'.
Do you ever worry about maintaining the stamina for such rigorous touring?
Well I haven't started to feel like that so far. If anything it keeps me fit really, I'm carrying all the gear about every gig so it saves me paying 80 quid a month to join the gym!
When you started out in the mid 80s, how helpful was it to have the support of someone with the status of John Peel?
Well obviously it was phenomenal, it was at a time when we really were unknown. In some ways it was unfair because other people didn't have that. It was a wonderful thing that came at a great time.
You released 'Valentina' independently on your own Scopitones label, does it feel more comfortable having the freedom to be in total control of your music?
Not particularly no, because when we were signed to major labels, we always made sure that we had that control really- so we've never really had a problem.
Listen to The Wedding Present's new single 'You Jane' below.
Were there many disputes with your record labels when you were with majors like RCA and Island?
We've always made sure that we're not prepared to have anyone (from a label) tell us what to do. In our view we think if that's how it's going to be- you can keep your money and you're not signing us. We're kind of working in a position of power, the labels come and chase us if they want us.
We've had a couple of approaches that have been very patronising, 'you should try and sound like this because we're trying to help you'. RCA just said 'OK, we'll just leave you to get on with it- go off and make a record'. When it's like that you can retain control. When you've got a major label behind you obviously you've got more money. You're not looking at the clock thinking 'oh god we've got to stop recording at this time'.
The Wedding Present are a band that have very much stayed true to the spirit of independent music, are there many other artists you admire for taking a similar approach?
I've always had a lot of respect for bands that exist outside of fashion, because you get some bands that are just kind of there briefly- playing guitar because it's the 'flavour of the month'. Then you get bands like The Fall or New Order or The Pixies, they're different from everything. They exist outside of the 'flavour of the month'- they make that feel irrelevant. I have absolute respect for them, I've always tried to follow the path bands like that have taken.
Is there much new guitar music that's interesting or exciting you at the moment?
Not really. People say 'oh you have to check out this new band'- every new band just reminds me of someone else from the past. You get all these new bands and it's like 'they've got that really cool 80s sound' or 'they've got that punk sound'. I just think there's no innovation anymore, we've reached the end of the road. I've already mentioned The Pixies but I remember when I heard them I just thought 'Wow, this is a new sound'- or same with Sonic Youth and people like this.
Technology that's where the innovation is, from the way things are distributed to how they are recorded, that's where the new ideas are. That's where the interest is. I can't remember the last time I heard a band that sounded original.
Is it disappointing to see the present day charts dominated by manufactured talent show acts and over-produced guitar music?
Well yes but obviously there's no escape from that in a way. There's no money to be made from it anymore. All the labels say 'you know what, we've got to sell records'. In their minds they're trying to get their acts to have the best sound possible so people go out there and buy it- but that doesn't always work.
Do you think you would find it a lot more difficult if you were starting out now?
Yeah definitely, I've said it before - I still go out and I buy records, but most people don't. Obviously The Arctic Monkeys came along and managed to get really big through their MySpace and everything and that gave a lot of new acts confidence, but it just isn't possible for everyone.
You set up your own one day festival 'At the Edge of the Sea' in 2009, how have you found the events thus far?
Yeah it will be the fourth one next year. The Wedding Present do a headline set every year, and then all the other bands are just bands I like or bands that former Wedding Present members are in. Sometimes current members of the band will have other projects and they might play.
It runs from 3 'til 10, and next year we're thinking of making it two days actually. It's getting more popular every year.
Despite the release of Valentina this year, you've also been touring Seamonsters in its entirity, What was the thinking behind this? Is it a particular favourite?
Well I don't really have favourites to be honest, it was just kind of a working idea that we had. We brought the new album out this year and rather than put the Seamonsters thing off I thought 'Why don't we combine them?' It's fits really well in to the set, it kind of works just like a segment of the set.
At first some people did think 'they've got a new album out but they're doing a Seamonsters tour, oh that must mean they're not confident in the new stuff'. It was just a convenient way of being able to bring out the new album and play Seamonsters live this year. I think it's gone really well.
Any ideas what you've got in store for the next record?
Nothing concrete as of yet, but we've just had another line-up change. Our guitarist left and we've brought someone new in, and they've arrived absolutely brimming with new ideas! I'm very enthusiastic about starting to work with another new person a the next record. It's sad when people leave because you've built up a relationship with that person. Obviously it makes me quite upset in a way, but then when someone new comes in you do have a kind of a re-birth. It's great for people to come in with new inspirations and a new set of ideas. It kind of takes thing off in a new direction, which is ideal for me.
'Valentina' is out now on Scoptiones. The album's accompanying book 'Valentina: The Story of a Wedding Present Album' was released on 25 October.
The Wedding Present continue their 'Seamonsters 21st Anniversary Tour' tonight at The Gate in Cardiff. Details of the full tour are below. For more information visit Gigwise Gig Tickets.
30th October- The Gate, Cardiff
31st October- O2 Academy, Bristol
6th November- The Brickyard, Carlisle
7th November- The Liquid Room, Edinburgh
8th November- O2 Academy 2, Liverpool
9th November- HMV Ritz, Manchester
10th November- O2 Academy, Newcastle
12th November- The Duchess, York
13th November- The Leadmill, Sheffield
14th November- Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
15th November- O2 Academy 2, Brimingham
16th November- The Waterfront, Norwich
17th November- O2 Academy, Oxford
18th November- The Tivoli, Buckley
20th November- The Assembly, Leamington Spa
21st November- Junction, Cambridge
22nd November- Sub 89, Reading
23rd November- Koko, London