Incendiary speak to Pete Kember of Spectrum and Spaceman 3

just felt a need to get something new out that reflected what I'd been doing on tour in the last 3 years.

It should come as no surprise to learn that Incendiary are really chuffed to bring you this interview with legendary Peter Kember, founder member of Spaceman 3 and driving force in Spectrum. We spoke to Peter after the gig at Db's In Utrecht earlier this year about the possibility of an interview, and lo! the great man said yes.

 

IN: Your show in the Db's Utrecht was pretty magisterial in parts, despite the sound issues...You really sound like you're having fun at the moment, fair comment?
 
PK: 
Yes. Of course its different to being 17, but I do enjoy it. Myself & my wife Sam do a lot of the ancillary organisation, driving etc. so it's long days. I miss it pretty soon after we finish tours, but I rarely do more than 3 weeks in one go.

IN: And you produced the latest MGMT LP too, that is a HELL of a record and quite a musical leap for that band. In fact I find it difficult to reconcile the new LP with its predecessor. How did you get involved working on that?
 
PK:
Thank you. I agree its very different, but I like OS equally. The 'changes' are all down to them, though I'd play them stuff at dinner each night & when we were hanging & that filtered through where it turned them on. I just got talking with them, after we met. I really liked them - their vibe & intelligence & coyness. They realised I liked their stuff, plus they were surprised I was a big fan of pop and stuff like early Devo as well as the garage rock & psyche exhuberances they knew I'd have info on. We also listened to a lot of '50's doo wop & vocal stuff & the cool English freakbeat from 64-66 -a lot of Joe Meek stuff...

Then they asked if I wanted to mentor the LP. I said no, but if they really wanted I'd produce and agreed to start work with them on trial. After the  first two weeks I went to Spain for some shows, and when I came back to Malibu they said they were into it that I wanted to see it through & offered to let me co-produce with them.  It's been a high point for me. It was a "360" job in some ways. I tried to help them in any way I knew to make the LP they wanted. Sure, I voiced my inputs. I think though that I liked them turning an idea down more than just accepting it blindly . If I raised it, they considered it, but ultimately rejected it I felt I'd done my job just as well.
 
IN: You mentioned after the Db's show that you considered that the Spacemen tracks are sounding better than ever. Can we ask you why you feel this to be the case?

PK: Time, experience, the usual stuff. Plus the band are hopping on a good night. We've got a great band -especially since Guto from Super Furry Animals stepped in on bass. That makes a real difference.

IN: Can you tell us about why you felt you had to get out the War Sucks EP? Were you making a statement or a creating/confirming a sonic template? The title track's a very, very powerful re-working of the original.
 
PK:
Yeah. I think we do it great. I like my arrangement. There's not one song on Parable of Arable Land that I wouldnt try. I asked Mayo (Thompson) if we could back him up doing that as an LP.... I just felt a need to get something new out that reflected what I'd been doing on tour in the last 3 years. The 'war sucks' message wasnt particularly any more relevant than any other time...

IN: I remember you playing yourself on a Radio 4 play about Deliah Derbyshire a number of years ago; (it was quite bizarre to hear your voice on Radio 4 in the afternoon I must say)... Can you tell us about your involvement with her? What was she like?
 
PK: 
Amazing. You must seek out the documentary Delian Mode. She was a very special sound artist & person. She told me that Paul McCartney, Brian Jones & Syd Barrett were all my predecessors in looking her up! She taught me immense stuff. I guess I instinctively looked out the best teachers when I was starting to learn about the physical properties of sound and electronic & concrete techniques. It was a thrill to know her - a real charachter. We spent hours every week hanging out, or more regularly in late night phone calls -all at her insistance at her expense (she'd put down the phone if you called & call you back quicker than you could recall her. Numbers and maths were a massive joy to her, second billing went to languages & vocal sounds. 

IN: Taking of things past, could you shed more light on Experimental Audio Research for those not acquainted with that project's work?

PK: It's on semi-hiatus unless I get particularly interesting projects. It's my more experimental work in many ways and is not songbased like Spectrum or Spacemen 3 are. It's all for the joy of experimenting with sonic components to stimulate the mind & body. It's really the sort of soundtrack more apropriate to opium dens or Amsterdam coffeeshops (rather than the offensively bad reggae usualy played...)  It's not music so relevant to most venues. More for home use I guess.