“We’re happy to be called shoegazers now”: Slowdive’s Neil Halstead meets bdrmm

Neil Halstead photographed by Rachel Goswell; bdrmm photographed by Sam Joyce

After previously talking about their love of shoegaze, Ryan and Jordan Smith from bdrmm put together a series of challenging questions for Slowdive’s Neil Halstead. Like a shoegaze Frost/Nixon, here is their exchange in full:

bdrmm: Is it difficult to pick and choose what tracks you’re going to put on an album and have there been any major differences of opinion?
Neil Halstead: “Generally we’re pretty good as a band at figuring out which is the best stuff and being in agreement with it. But there is always a track or two where we have to put it to a vote and luckily there are five of us, so we always get a result!”

Despite probably hearing it a thousand times, what is your favourite Slowdive track and why?
“Hard to say, but I think ‘Avalyn’ will always be up there. It’s really fun to play live and I think it was one of the first tracks we ever recorded where we were super happy with the results.”

What three albums that have influenced you would you recommend?
“A.R. Kane 69; The Beatles Rubber Soul; Elliott Smith Either/Or.”

When you first started out and were on a budget what were the guitar pedals that helped you create your sound?
“The first pedal was a Boss OverDrive pedal and a Boss DM-3 Delay pedal… need to get another one! That was it. The Delay really helped.”

How do you think your relationship with the shoegaze ‘scene’ has developed or changed over time?
“I don’t know… maybe we are happy to be shoegazers now. I think when we first got called that we thought it was insulting, but I love that the kids who have embraced ‘shoegaze’ music since that time have really ‘claimed’ it. I think that’s lovely, and we’re very proud to be included in the scene.”

With a 22-year gap between Pygmalion and Slowdive, how did you work towards honing new sounds in an already familiar environment?
“It was a lot of work, but mostly the work was done post-recording, on a laptop trying to find out which way a record might go. It’s always a process of discovering and sometimes that happens when you play together, which it does for us as well, but as with Pygmalion this last record needed to find itself after the playing as it were.”

Aside from Souvlaki, what is your favourite food-related album and why?
“‘Brown Sugar’ by The Rolling Stones springs to mind, but I think the album is Sticky Fingers. Does that count? It’s the Stones at their very filthy best.”