David Gedge talks ‘24 Songs’ and more

❉ The Wedding Present frontman chats about the new album & tour and other projects.

“I never wanted to be one of those bands who have a certain style or sound and keep making the same record over and over again. I can’t see the point of that really… And I think the Wedding Present have always been a bit like that. We’ve had the jangly pop of Bizarro and George Best and then the darker kind of Seamonsters stuff, so 24 Songs has been an interesting project.”

“The boy Gedge has written some of the best love songs of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Era. You may dispute this, but I’m right and you’re wrong!”

These were the words of John Peel in 1999 about the frontman of the Wedding Present and Cinerama. David Gedge has rarely disappointed before or since. Last year, the Wedding Present mirrored their 1992 Hit Parade concept by once again releasing a single every month, and those recordings are now curated into the 24 Songs album released in May. I spoke to David over zoom about the new Weddoes album and other past and future projects.

Hi David. How did the idea of releasing one single a month throughout 2022 come up? You originally did it 30 years ago [equalling Elvis’s for having the most hits in a calendar year?] Was it mirroring that idea?

Yeah that was it. We first did it in 1992. So 2022 was the 30th anniversary. In 2021 I was thinking, “We should do some kind of celebratory thing” and I couldn’t think what to do. In the end I thought “Why don’t we just do it again?” I’d always loved 7-inch singles anyway and I’m a bit of a collector so I liked the idea of releasing one single every month. Like a magazine almost.

The releases were double A sides weren’t they?

Yeah, only because none of the songs were obviously an A side or a B side. It’s just the way they came out really. It’s just a different way of releasing music.

When you’ve collected the tracks and packaged them for the 24 Songs album you’ve kind of sequenced it more as an album in its own right? It’s not chronological?

Yeah, it’s because when we did the recordings of each single, we did it over four or five different sessions. We’d then have half a dozen songs or whatever. They went off to be the next two or three singles and then we did it again and again. It was kind of random really, and when I was putting the album together I was thinking “Well, it’s a triple album really”.

There’re more than 24 songs on there?

Yeah. When we did it 30 years ago they all went on a double LP, which was fine. This time some of the tracks were longer so we were looking at over two and a half vinyl discs. We had a single a few years ago and we did a benefit thing for the Ukraine so I was thinking, “Let’s get everything we’ve done recently and make it a progressive rock style triple album.” Once that was decided, we were thinking that on each side you’ve got to have a beginning and an end, haven’t you? Some tracks work better as an end and some work better as a beginning. Once you’ve started it, you think “All the fast ones are on one side here – so let’s put a couple on another side.”

‘24 Songs’ The Album

Releasing singles over a whole year is interesting? Did the idea of what you wanted to do change throughout the twelve months? Especially after a weird two years for the planet?

Yeah, through the year it did change. It’s been different. We found this last time as well through Hit Parade. When you go in to do an album you end up with 12 to 15 or maybe 16 songs. They’ve all been written together, arranged together and you go and record them together. It’s all the same kind of sound. When you do it over a different session it changes. You learn something you did last time that maybe you want to avoid this time. So it kind of progresses naturally. It’s kind of interesting. We didn’t plan it. It just happened through the year. The singles changed and then obviously on the album they’ll all be re-ordered anyway. It gives you more to play with. It’s like a set list for a concert. You’ve got faster ones, darker ones, lighter ones, poppier ones, rockier ones. It gives you much more variety and you can put things in a certain place really.

You’re co-writing with Jon Stewart of Sleeper. Have you co written before and is it a different experience?

It’s different with every song to be honest. I’ve always kind of co-written to a certain extent apart from the very early days. In the very early George Best days I wrote all the guitar parts and all the vocals but over the years it’s kind of developed. Jon was especially interesting to work with because being in Sleeper he’s also very experienced. He’s a multi-platinum selling artist. He’s got the skills there and it’s also like having another producer in the studio because he has loads of ideas. Yes, it’s very interesting writing with him.

Is Peter [Solowka, original Wedding present guitarist] on one of the tracks?

That was one of the extra tracks actually, because you know Peter’s in a band called the Ukrainians? So basically they’re doing this album and it’s a benefit for Ukrainian refugees in the United Kingdom. So we said we’d do a track. Basically it’s the Wedding Present covering a Ukrainians song which we recorded when we were doing the 24 Singles album. I’m not sure if that album is out yet. We said we’d put it on this as well. It’s a nice thing and it’s an interesting end to this album. With Peter being the first Wedding Present guitarist, it’s nice and it’s kind of a weird circle.

And you do the duet with Louise Wener from Sleeper. Was that the first 24 Songs single that went out?

Well actually, we originally did that over lockdown for what we called the Locked Down and Stripped Back Sessions. All of us recording separately. Kind of acoustic. We did it all on our laptops, really. Sent files to each other and then got a professional mix. And at that time Jon played me that song which was a Sleeper song which had never been released. So I decided, “Well, we can do that” (laughs). I just sort of mentioned it to him. I asked him if Louise would be up for doing it as a duet. He said “I’ll ask her”… She said yes. So we did an acoustic version for that and then we re-recorded it for the single. We’re really grateful that she did it… It’s a great song. It worked really well as a duet as well.

Some of the tracks sound very experimental. Monochrome, Telemark, Science Fiction…

Yeah we always do (experiment), to be honest. Sometimes people hear a Wedding Present track and say it doesn’t sound like the Wedding Present. We’ve actually done that through the years. I never wanted to be one of those bands who have a certain style or sound and keep making the same record over and over again. I can’t see the point of that really. So I’ve always tried weird stuff. With Jon coming in he had a lot of ideas really. Also Melanie [Howard] the bass player is great. I suppose Jon is from this kind of Britpop kind of world and she’s from a darker kind of rockier world, so it’s an interesting mesh sometimes. And I think the Wedding Present have always been a bit like that. We’ve had the jangly pop of Bizarro and George Best and then the darker kind of Seamonsters stuff, so yeah it’s been an interesting project.

What’s Melanie’s background? has she been in bands before?

She’s been in lots of little bands, like all of us, and she’s a solo artist in her own right. She’s got a project called Such Small Hands and she released an album a couple of years ago.

So are you going to be touring the new album?

We’re going to be doing it next month actually. The LP is out on the 19th of May and that week we’re starting the tour and we’re playing from the 16th onwards. It’s all on the website. We’re in London the day the album comes out. We’re not doing Leeds actually this time. We tend to play Manchester or Leeds and we’re doing Manchester Ritz on Saturday the 20th. I mean I call it a 24 Songs tour. It’s not just 24 songs; it’s like a normal tour but we’ll be playing a lot of them and other songs as well.

You’ve toured before with whole albums including the recent tour of the brilliant Seamonsters for the anniversary?

Yeah. Seamonsters was meant to be 2021 but with the lockdown it went into 2022, so that was interesting. That’s a good one to do as an album because like I was talking before about going to record a set of songs in one go. You can really hear it on that one (laughs). It’s like it’s one piece of music.

Did I hear somewhere that Seamonsters was originally recorded in a week or something like that?

Yeah 12 days or something. Because we did the album before which was Bizarro and that took 6 weeks and then we met Steve Albini and we asked him to record Seamonsters. We asked, “how long do we need to do it in?” and I was thinking it was 6 weeks last time and he said well I can do it in a weekend. We said … “wait a minute.” And he said “well the Beatles used to record albums in a week.” We were like “I’m not sure we’re the Beatles”. So in the end we compromised and said, “Okay, we’ll do two weeks” and he finished it in 12 days. It was very quick. It’s more of a live kind of thing with him really. No overdubs or half a day on a snare sound or whatever. It’s just getting it set up playing live and then carrying on.

You’ve worked with him on a lot of things since as well?

Off and on, yes. We did an LP called El Rey with him as the Wedding Present. Then with my other band Cinerama. We’ve done a lot of the band stuff with him and then I brought the tapes. He’s very analogue, Albini! So we brought the tapes back to Britain and then we added orchestration and strings. So yeah, off and on. It’s probably about time I worked with him again to be honest. It’s been a few years now.

Were you a fan of his work with Pixies and things like that?

Yeah. I saw Big Black in Leeds actually and it was one of the best gigs I’d ever been to. I see Shellac all the time. It’s his sound as an engineer that he gets that is just amazing. Just really good at… I mean it’s all boring stuff… Nothing magical about it. He’s just really good at recording a drumkit in a room with great microphones. It’s very much of the Abbey Road and Maida Vale Peel sessions school of production where you’ll get it all set up really nicely and then play it live, and you get that kind of ambience that you don’t get normally. It’s people playing together as a band not doing it all separately that makes it sound great.

I suppose you get the room noise as part of the ambience as well?

Exactly. It sounds more live. It sounds bigger and more exciting.

So just to talk a bit about your background.  You were born in Manchester and moved to Leeds and that’s where you met the original band?

I was actually born in Leeds. I was born in Bramley. Then my parents moved. My dad’s from Leeds and my mum’s from Manchester and they moved back to Manchester when I was about 3 so I grew up in Manchester and I came back to Leeds partly because I had to pick a University and I went to Leeds University. But I kind of liked the idea of coming back home. Also there was a good scene there as well. I came in the late 70’s and there were the Gang of Four the Mekons etc. I loved all that stuff and then yeah I kind of…. I’ve always been in bands Back in Manchester and then in Leeds I was in various groups and then when I left University that’s when the Wedding Present kind of started properly I suppose.

I’ve written my autobiography in comic book form by the way. Volume one is me kind of growing up in Manchester and then moving back to Leeds and then volume 2 is the birth of the Wedding Present onwards really.

Is it a graphic book?

Yeah it’s a graphic novel. We did it as comics initially which I now see as kind of the demos for it. They were random stories we did of the history of the Wedding Present really and then we compiled them in chronological order. So I’m actually working on volume 3 now.

If you were brought up in Manchester and then moved to Leeds the number of bands and everything that were in those two scenes at the time must have been incredible. What were your favourite bands in Manchester? Joy Division? The Fall?

Well actually, funnily enough, I saw Joy Division a couple of times and people say, “Oh my god…you saw Joy Division!” Weirdly I thought they were quite boring. I went to see them in Manchester at the Factory club as well and I thought they were a bit dull really. I didn’t get it. Then I liked New Order loads. I thought they were great and then in retrospect now I kind of look back at Joy Division and think yeah they were great. I missed it as a 17-year-old. So yeah the Fall, Buzzcocks all those bands were kind of knocking about. I feel quite lucky because I was 17 in 1977. The perfect age for going out and seeing all these new bands. So I saw loads of bands in Manchester and then went to Leeds and saw loads more in Leeds.

I saw a John Robb interview and you said you went to school with some of the Chameleons as well did you?

The last place I lived in Manchester before I moved back to Leeds was Middleton a suburb of North Manchester and I actually went to school with three of the Chameleons. The guitarist Dave was actually one of my best friends at school. So, yeah, we knew them. They were actually a kind of catalyst for me in a way because I went off to university and they were in the Chameleons and the next thing I knew they were doing a John Peel session and they were signed to Epic. I was like, “Wait a minute!” I just felt like if they could do it I could do it as well So it gave me that drive to take it a bit more seriously.

How did you get started with Peel yourselves? Did you send him a demo? Was it originally Andy Kershaw that kind of picked up on you because he was in Leeds wasn’t he?

Yeah, he was at Radio Aire in Leeds. The same thing for both of them really. My band before the Wedding Present was called the Lost Pandas and we did demos with them as well and we sent them to Peel and to Andy Kershaw. So they both knew me really. And I was a massive fan of both their programmes. Especially Peel.

He never quite liked the demos though. None of them did but then we did the first single [Go Out and Get Em Boy] in 1985 and Peel played it 10 times on the radio in the first few weeks and we never looked back after that, really. We went from me trying to get gigs at local pubs and stuff to people coming to us. People saying, “Oh we hear your record on John Peel can you come and play in Carlisle” or whatever. So it completely changed everything.

He gave a lot of people their starts.

Well, he was very powerful, wasn’t he. For a band, until you got into the national music papers he was the only way that anyone was ever going to hear you really. I think he had too much power. I’ve said this before and it sounds a bit weird because obviously I’ve benefitted from his power but he was a bit like Emperor Caligula in the arena. If he put his thumb up your band went on. If he put his thumb down you might as well give up, because if Peel isn’t going to play you no one else was going to play you.

When I used to listen to him you wouldn’t think every track is brilliant – you’d hear odd tracks that were great.

I loved that though, because it was always surprising and challenging. Thinking, “What the hell is that …some Egyptian nose flute music or something!”

There’s a Wedding Present fan anthology coming up with stuff from well-known fans such as Stella Creasey and Keir Starmer in it?

Yeah. It’s basically a sequel to one that this friend of mine called Richard Houghton did. He did one a couple of years ago called Sometimes These Words Just Don’t Have To be Said. This new one is called All the Songs Sound the Same. He’s done it for a few bands. Basically he just approaches fans of a group and says have you got any stories about a particular song or a concert and so he invites people to send in contributions. The first one was more like a history of the group and he did that chronologically. This one is a bit more random and a bit more song-based. It kind of writes itself because people send in contributions and send in photographs.

So the tour starts on the 19th of May. Do all the band live in different part of the country?

No, we all live literally 5 minutes’ walk from each other. It’s strange because when the band started in Leeds all the band members used to live in Leeds 6 in the kind of studenty area. Then over the years people used to moved out. I lived in America for a while. With my other band, Cinerama, there were l literally people in London, Leeds, Seattle and Los Angeles. It was crazy. Now all living in Brighton. Literally down the road and up the road. It’ more convenient because it’s obviously easier to arrange rehearsals.

Do you ever come back North?

Yeah I do. My parents still live in Manchester. I do miss the North. I do miss Yorkshire. It’s a beautiful place to live. It sounds really boring, but I go to London quite a lot for meetings and things. From Leeds it was like a day trip. I suppose nowadays you would have Zoom and stuff but in those days it was like that. Now I just hop on the train and can be in London in an hour. It’s also near to the continent for European tours.

The Wedding Present: 24 Songs Tour

May 2023

Tuesday 16 – Edinburgh Liquid Room

Wednesday 17 – Hull Welly

Thursday 18 – Colchester Arts Centre

Friday 19 – London O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire

Saturday 20 – Manchester O2 Ritz

Sunday 21 – Birmingham O2 Institute

Saturday 27 – Norwich Arts Centre

Sunday 28 – Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms

’24 Songs’ Tour – On Sale Now

❉ The Wedding Present: ‘24 Songs’ (Triple LP on coloured vinyl/Deluxe CD/Standard CD) released 19 May 2023. All versions can be pre-ordered from www.24songs.scopitones.co.uk/. Links: www.theweddingpresent.co.uk | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

❉  The Wedding Present Fanthology ‘All The Songs Sound The Same’ will be published on 28 April 2023, it is available for pre-order now, priced at £35, directly from Spenwood Books by clicking here.

 James Collingwood is based in West Yorkshire and has been writing for a number of years. He currently also writes for the Bradford Review magazine for which he has conducted more than 30 interviews and has covered music, film and theatre.  His Twitter is @JamesCollingwo1

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