Stirring up emotion from years gone by Mercury Rev release their greatest hits. A must have for lovers of beautiful music exploration that tugs at heart strings, induces day dreams and rekindles thoughts of the all the good and bad times of our lives. A truly alluring musical experience.
Contactmusic spoke to Grasshopper about the release.
Contactmusic.com: So you're releasing your 2 disc greatest hits on the 2nd of October, but why now?
Grasshopper: That's a good question. In our earlier days we made a record called 'Lego my Ego' which was a bunch of Peel sessions and B sides and we wanted to do another one of those and that's disc 2. Then while we were on the roll of that we thought lets do a summation - a sampler of what we've done; a few tracks from each album especially for those who haven't heard us before.
CM: So what was the process for choosing the tracks for CD1?
G: Myself and Jonathon both made a list of different tracks and we went through and surprisingly most of them that we picked were the same. There were a few we squabbled over and we did some horse trading.
CM: Because the sound has varied and changed over the years did that effect the ordering of the tracks on CD1 at all?
G: Somewhat yes. I'm really bad with that kind of stuff, I mean I had some input but Jonathon ordered it a lot more. I put it in random on the Ipod, but you know.
CM: So moving onto CD2 you mentioned about the John Peel sessions and covers in relation to doing another 'Lego my Ego', but how did it evolve?
G: There could have been 2 discs of that kind of stuff, but we just picked a bunch of b-sides and tracks which were our favourite ones and ones we liked to listen to. But many of them are pretty rare and you can't find them anywhere so that was another thing giving the fans access to them.
CM: So what keeps you motivated nowadays? Has it changed over the years?
G: Not too much. Motivation is the music, trying to create different things and trying to reinvent yourself all the time. Some of mine and Jon's favourite performers are Miles Davies and Bob Dylan as they are always changing. They might put out records that maybe not everyone likes once in a while but when they really hit it, they hit it hard. So we try and aspire to that.
CM: So looking back over the years and your back catalogue, or even the time period of the last 15 years - how does that make you feel? Because I've just had my birthday and I've been looking at loads of old photos and it's made me feel really reminiscent of old times. Is that something you can relate to with the release of the record?
G: Definitely. It's hearing all those old songs that brings you back to that time and you remember everything that went on, playing songs at certain shows and stuff like that. We had a lot of fuck ups along the way, but we're pretty proud of what we've done.
CM: You've worked through the late 80's, 90's and up until now, how has external trends in music effected what you were doing? As it doesn't sound like it has. Because you get bands who work through a certain period of time and you can see where music for the masses has directly effected what they're doing. Is that something you were conscious of?
G: Obviously it kind of affects us. When we were doing 'Boces', we were listening to a lot of Rap and stuff, but that doesn't come through to the music and it's not rap. But just the way the music was produced and sampling things. A lot of those ideas are us trying to do that and maybe failing at it and it made something else and a lot of that is in our music.
The music we do in some part remains the same but it's the way of approaching it or recording it that changes.
CM: That's interesting. I mean obviously your fans will take a more detailed look at you music. But for casual listeners and people who don't know your music it's really hard to distinguish between certain tracks on a chronological time line when they were actually made. So say if you take songs from the early 90's
or from more recently - the music isn't a zeitgeist of that period of music, which I think is hard for a lot of musicians to do with external trends and just their influences etc.
G: Yeah there is song on the second disc called 'Clamour' and it was on a demo before 'Yerself is steam' and it's weird because the guy at the record company had never heard it. He said "That song sounds contemporary." So that's one of the things we tried to constantly do - make music which isn't tied to the time.
CM: I've heard you're a fellow fan of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment and I'm a big fan of 19th/20th century Russian Literature - Have you read anything else of his or people like Nabokov?
G: I haven't read too many other Russian authors but I've read Notes from the underground, The idiot, The Brothers.. But Crime and Punishment is my favourite.
CM: You should read some Nabokov. Well 'Speak, Memory' is his autobiographical account of his emigration from Russia to the states. He's was a synesthesiac and the way he wrote was so evocative of travelling and I'm sure you'd appreciate it, all the travelling you do.
G: Wow, I'll check it out.
CM: So you've got some European dates coming up and obviously the album is coming out but what's next for Mercury Rev?
G: Yeah we just did some dates. We have been recording; we started that last spring, which is stuff for the new album. But after this we're gonna go back home and start writing and recording.
Interview by Adam Adshead
The Essential Mercury Rev: Stillness Breathes 1991-2006 is out on 2nd of October.