It’s been 35 years since David Gedge formed indie-rock outfit The Wedding Present, a band which has seen such regular line-up changes over the years that David is the only member who’s been there since the start. David Gedge, in other words, is The Wedding Present.
With two new projects on the way - tomorrow's (4 December) James Bond covers compilation Not From Where I'm Standing and February's Locked Down and Stripped Back - Wedding Present fans have a lot to look forward to. We met with David to talk more about those upcoming releases - as well as a little bit on the past:
Gigwise: An album of James Bond covers is such a cool idea, how did the idea originate?
David Gedge: It was a long time ago actually, back in 2013. I remember it well because we were in New Zealand on tour and whilst we were doing soundcheck, our guitarist at the time began to play the riff from ‘You Only Live Twice’. I remember thinking that we should probably record that and do a cover of it.
I’ve always loved those Bond themes, especially the early John Barry ones. That then led to the idea of doing a full LP, but it would’ve been a big project, so I reached out to some friends such as ex-members of The Wedding Present in other groups and anyone with a connection to the band or Cinerama. They all loved the idea but none of them wanted any money for it, so I thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to make a benefit album. 7 years in the making, it’s finally here.
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GW: Did you oversee the entire project, or did you let everyone involved have their own artistic freedom?
DG: The album is overall a group effort. Despite directing it, I wouldn’t say it’s my baby. The creation of the album was a really a democratic process with everyone. I let them choose the tracks they wanted to cover and whatever way, shape or form they wanted to do them in. The charity CALM also has a relationship with some artists called The Connor Brothers who create pulp-novel style paintings, so they seemed the obvious fit to paint the album artwork.
The only creative stuff I really did was my own tracks: there’s a Wedding Present one, a Cinerama one, I made a guest appearance on Sleeper’s track and then my solo track that finishes off the album. It’s a very varied album with the amount of people involved, which I hope doesn’t put people off. That also made the record a bit of a nightmare to master to be honest. Mastering engineers are usually used to albums recorded in a studio that has on overall theme to it, but this one is bonkers! It goes from indie-rock, to electronic then to acoustic and then to a barber-shop quartet acapella which even came as a surprise to me! Overall, I’m really proud of the record and of everyone involved. It looks and sounds great.
GW: Was it a challenge to get everyone who used to be in the bands back together?
DG: Not really. However, one of the reasons it took so long to release was that everyone was up for doing it, just not at the same time. They said they’d do it after their tours or albums had been finished so I had to keep chasing people up, but it wasn’t a big deal since there was no time limit on the album, it was just ready when it was ready.
GW: How did the collaboration with Sleeper happen? Do you know them well?
DG: I do now since The Wedding Present guitarist Jon Stewart who joined the band around this time last year is also the guitarist for Sleeper. I just asked if he’d like to do a track for the album as a duet and he got the rest of the band involved. I don’t know the rest of the band too well, but we all live in Brighton so our paths do cross sometimes.
GW: What made you want to do the album for the CALM charity?
DG: The main reason it stuck out to me was that the majority of Wedding Present fans are middle-aged men, and the statistics for the leading cause of death for men that age is sadly suicide - so it seemed appropriate. Once the pandemic appeared it then seemed even more appropriate since a lot of people have suffered this year with isolation and loneliness.
GW: Speaking of the pandemic, how have you kept busy being stuck at home?
DG: Funnily enough I’ve had a really busy year. Since the release of our last studio album Going, Going… in 2016 we’ve toured all over the world, so we’d already decided that 2020 would be a quiet year touring-wise. We had various projects planned this year anyway, this Bond album being one of them.
We’ve also been more active on our YouTube channel WeddingPresentTV which was set up in 2014 but we’ve just left it ever since!
The other big thing was that I did Volume 1 of my autobiography which just came out a week ago, and it’s in comic book form. I was a massive fan of comic books when growing up and also the more adult-themed graphic novels as I got older, so I just thought it’d be an interesting thing to do with that format. It’s taken a while because obviously I’m not a comic book writer! That meant it took a time to get it into shape with having to go back and forth with the artist, my co-writer and proof-readers.
I’m not saying the pandemic has been fortunate for us because obviously it’s not been fortunate for anybody! Although, it has given us the creative space to do the book and the Bond LP. We also have a lockdown album coming out in February called Locked Down and Stripped Back.
GW: How did Locked Down and Stripped Back come about?
DG: Usually I hold an annual festival in Brighton which obviously couldn’t happen this year, so I had the idea of doing it all online. I got in contact with other bands who’ve been at the festival during its run for the past 10-12 years and got them to send in videos of them playing live at home for the festival. The Wedding Present played 12 tracks for the festival and everyone seemed to love them! We had fans suggesting it should be released on an LP so we thought we might as well!
GW: The Wedding Present has been around for 35 years, but you’re the only member who’s been there since the start. Would you say members of the band coming and going is a positive or a negative?
DG: It’s a bit of both. It’s always sad when someone has to leave the group because you do form strong bonds with other band members, especially in the studio and on tour since you’re with each other almost 24/7. It’s sad to see that bond broken.
When recruiting new members, we don’t just look for someone who can play the guitar or bass. They’ve got to fit into the whole universe of The Wedding Present in a way. It’s a pain to find them, but once we do it’s always a good thing. A new member always moves the band along because of their new creative input which sends us in different directions. Sometimes at first, I’m a bit uncomfortable with new ideas - but when we give them a go it always works and takes the band to a new area. On the one hand it would’ve been romantic to say it’s still the 4 people who formed the band in 1985, but I was the sole original member by 1993 so it was never going to happen.
GW: Throughout your career, it seems you’ve always kept busy and almost constantly had some sort of project on the go. You released 12 singles in the year 1992 alone. Where does your drive and motivation come from to keep busy?
DG: I think it’s kind of an obsession really! It’s weird because I make it sound like a mental illness, but I’ve always had the drive to just do it. It’s never been an ambition to get famous and make loads of money, it’s an ambition to have this band and be as great as possible within the parameters of what that means. I’ve always been very meticulous and just hardworking really. I’m of the impression if you’ve got to do something, you should do it well.
I’m very happy to devote a lot of time to this project which I’ve now been doing for 35 years. People always say to me ‘Well you’ve never had kids.’ which is true: I’ve never had the diversions that other people have had. I think that’s because I’ve been so focused on doing this really: writing songs, making records, going on tour and now writing books it seems!
GW: From one James Bond fan to another, what’s your favourite Bond film, favourite Bond song and who’s your favourite actor to play the role?
DG: Right…well…that’s tough. I’ve actually watched them all again this year probably because I was inspired by this album we’re doing. It’s interesting because when people ask me who my favourite Bond is, I always say Roger Moore. Having watched them all again, some of those Moore films are really bad! Do you know what I mean? They can be really cheesy! Sometimes they try and be funny and it just falls flat, along with a lot of problematic sexism. I really enjoyed watching the early Sean Connery ones again, I suppose he might be my favourite now – Pierce Brosnan is up there too.
Film wise, I do like the early ones that are close to the books like ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ and ‘Goldfinger’, but also the recent ones. I think Daniel Craig is my least favourite Bond, however his films have been great!
When it comes to the songs I don’t know, there’s so many great ones really. ‘You Only Live Twice’ we picked as The Wedding Present track on the new album which is one of my favourites. I like all of the John Barry era ones, but also some of the recent ones like ‘Skyfall’ which owes a debt to John Barry in a way. It really sounds like he was involved on that even though he’d passed away by then. It’s the sweeping strings and the brass kind of Bond songs that I really like. I must say, I really like Billie Eilish’s new one as well for the next film.
GW: There’s a musical currently in the works based on The Wedding Present’s music, would you like to say a bit about it?
DG: Yeah, someone just approached me about it. He’s been a Wedding Present fan for decades and he’s a theatre producer. He told me he’d like to do it and I told him to go for it! I’ve always been interested in doing things off a tangent, I never wanted to be a band that made a record, goes on tour and just repeats that cycle. Sometimes it’s good to be taken off into different worlds and this is one I’d never really thought of. The producer did a Crowdfunder for it and it got a lot of support. I think’s it’s going to be a long project and he’ll spend the next year working on it and rehearsing it, pandemic depending of course.
I’m not really a massive fan of musicals in general to be honest, but I’m interested to see where this goes! He told me that our music reminds him of a musical in a way in the way stories are told though the lyrics, I’ve always been a storyteller when writing lyrics. I think that’s the aspect of it he wants to develop. It’ll be cool.
GW: Apart from the Bond and lockdown albums, what’s next for you and The Wedding Present?
DG: The main thing we’re looking at doing next year (if we can ever play live again) is a tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of Seamonsters, our third LP we did back in 1991. We have all the dates confirmed, held and ready to go – it’s just working out when it’s feasible to do it really. We’re also planning to play the shows we were supposed to do this year that have been postponed including some festivals, so hopefully those too if they don’t get cancelled! It was nice to have a break from touring after the past few years, but I’m really starting to miss it now!
It’s been difficult writing songs recently with us not being able to meet, but we have been doing it by sending files backwards and forwards, so I guess when we’re ready we’ll get them on another album!
Not From Where I’m Standing arrives 4 December 2020. Locked Down and Stripped Back arrives 19 February.