January 26, 2012

January 26th, 2012 : Cause & Effect : My Bloody Valentine : Part One

A ridiculous amount has been written about this band and admittedly I have put off doing a Cause & Effect on them because I felt one part overwhelmed at the prospect of where to start and one part burnt out on the group that gets name checked as often as the Beatles. Clearly a band this influential to music today deserves attention but I didn't want to dare tackle them until I had an angle that I felt really inspired by. Some twenty hours of research later, here I am.

The story line of the next two shows about MBV is based off of one simple concept. Not all bands are born over night and in some cases it takes years for a group to really find their sound, their voices, and their production style. Some artist spend their entire creative careers fine tuning and experimenting. My Bloody Valentine is a poster child for this exact notion. They have a nearly perfect path to follow from start to finish and part one of my show will investigate the early building blocks to the band's sonic layers and playing style. I have really enjoyed placing their early records under a microscope and dissecting their sound verse the information found in  the endless interviews given by the band who have been very honest and open about where their influences each step of their band's journey.

A sub plot line tonight will be debunking a few MBV myths and misconceptions about their sound. Bands that are tagged as shoegaze or C86 do not all sound the same and what sets My Bloody Valentine apart from these bands (especially in the recorded form) is the combination of how they arrived at their very specific "fluff on the needle" sound. People assume it is all about their gear, their pedals, a billion overdubs, but in actuality it is more about their technique and philosophy of how they approach their guitars that sets them apart from the masses.

Here is a great quote from singer / guitar player Kevin Shields on the subject. " Fundamentally, the huge irony with the bands called "shoegazing" was that a lot of those bands really were into the Cocteau Twins. And they all used choruses, flangers and other effects pedals to create a certain kind of sound. Three pedals I refused to use in that era were chorus, flanger and delay. Everything we did was everything but that."

And here is another interesting quote about Kevin's guitar playing: "I actually consciously didn’t want to learn how to play anything other than the two basic bar chords, so I just learned the two positions Johnny Ramone used and that was it. I absolutely didn’t want to become a guitarist in the traditional sense. In ‘81 this bass player came on the scene and he was basically playing funky, strange bass-lines…melodically it was impossible to play a chord with it. So suddenly I couldn’t play. So I would find a note and then another note and I played a very fractured style. And then I did these percussive things and I suppose that’s when I left that attitude of generating a noise, and I only really came back to it around the time of the Isn’t Anything period because the way I played the tremolo arm…it only sounds good if you have quite a clear track. If you have a lot of overdubs it actually doesn’t sound good, so you can only do it with one main, good sound, and it has to be really loud to hear properly. So I came back to that stage of cranking sound like this. [Pretends to strum while gripping the tremolo arm]. As opposed to playing guitar I was just cranking the sound. And that’s what happened—that’s the Ramones connection. What I did that was any good in the end came from the mentality that Johnny wasn’t playing guitar. Even though now I’ve learned that he was playing a lot more than I thought."

Tonight I will try my hardest to further explain Kevin's unique guitar playing technique, his love of tremolo, open tunings, and how their use of samples (reversed) makes them closer to Public Enemy than Chapterhouse. I can finally hear the difference between all of the bands that are endlessly compared to MBV and hopefully after tonight's show, you will too.

Locals tune in to 97.3 FM on your dial from 7PM to 9PM or for those streaming can hear us live via the website. I will also be posting a download to the show after each one. And don't forget, part two of this show will be happening same day and time but next week!


  • Download tonight's show here
  • The set list can be found here.
  • And the damn Green on Red song that refused to play tonight is called Apartment 6. I can't find it on YouTube but you can hear at least a bit of it here

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