Interview: Swervedriver

We stopped because we weren’t enjoying it and then in the time we were away people started to miss us I guess, which was cute.

To mark the re-issue of Swervedriver‘s fantastic 99th Dream album, Elizabeth Klisiewicz caught up with Adam from the band to talk about their influences, origins, side projects and more.

E&D: Early in your life, what were your biggest musical influences? This can include family members, friends, as well as musical groups.

Adam: T.Rex, pop music, my mate Mark Braby and my brother Graham and some records my dad bought. I think Clive the kid next door had some records also. Gregory Freestone’s brother Duncan had Telegram Sam and Billericay was alive with glam!

Adam: 1972 or thereabouts. Me and Mark both had these little catgut string guitars called Kayaks or something and the riff to Get It On sounded great on it but I never got past that for a number of years. Mark played more than I did and I only got back into it around 1978 after leaving Essex.

E&D: Do you play instruments besides the guitar?

Adam: Nope. Had a crappy Farfisa organ for a while in Wheatley. I mean everyone had a green recorder. I think I did have a couple of piano lessons now you mention it, with a nice old lady on Kiln Lane but ‘Three Blind Mice’ just wasn’t my jam at the time, y’know? Oh you mean now? Yeah a bit of piano but no bassoon or anything like that.

E&D: Can you tell us about the early days in Oxford, coming up with other young bands like Ride? 

Adam: Well, what would you like to know? I remember walking under the underpass round the side of the Westgate centre and seeing graffiti for ‘The Fictitious Four’ and that was really exciting. A month later I was sitting in an art history course at Oxford CFE next to a guy with purple hair called Jon Burton and it turned out he was the guitar player in the Fictitious Four! Jon has done live sound for The Prodigy for the last thirty years or so and that’s the amazing thing about the Oxford scene from back then, almost everyone is still doing something in music.

E&D: You started as Shake Appeal and pivoted to Swervedriver? What drove that name change?

Adam: There was a pause in time between the two bands although it may only have been a month or two. I wrote three songs in that time: Son of Mustang Ford, Volcano Trash and Afterglow and I borrowed a drum kit off this guy Sam and recorded four-track demos and Shake Appeal’s bass player Adi Vines was living in the room upstairs and came downstairs, bashed on my door and said “is this you?” I said yeah and in classic bullish Adi style he said, “right, we’re getting the band back together and you’re switching to vocals!”

E&D: I know it’s well known that Ride’s Mark Gardner gave your demo tape to Alan McGee. I mean, how cool was that at the time? My head would have been swimming. You released a lot of music on Creation, so what happened after that?

Adam: What happened after we left Creation? Well, we recorded 99th Dream for starters!

E&D: Can you walk us through some of your major releases? What are your favorites?

Adam: I Wasn’t Born To Lose You

E&D: What made the band decide to stop, and then come back with a roar so much later? We fans are extremely grateful!

Adam: We stopped because we weren’t enjoying it and then in the time we were away people started to miss us I guess, which was cute.

E&D: How do you think of your songs when you create them? Do you write on your own, or collaboratively with the other guys? Do they help with arrangements?

Adam: Some days you catch them, some you don’t. Most Swervedriver songs have been initially written by me, some written by Jim and others created purely with all of our fantastic bass and drum collaborators from jams, even if we mostly intended to kick those out initially! Rave Down, for example, was originally really fast like Mustang Ford until one time in rehearsal when me and Graham Bonnar started playing it in half time and suddenly it made more sense. But Bonnar & Vines, George & Hindmarsh, Jones & Quinn.. I’d wear t-shirts with all of those names on, especially if they were purple.

E&D: Is there literature, film, art, and other music that informs your creative process? This is my roundabout way of asking what books, film, great art, and music you keep returning to.

Adam: Love & Rockets and Lloyd Lllewellyn were two Fantagraphics comic books that fuelled many of the words early on. I love Buddy Bradley in Hate too. It’s weird actually, I would have sworn that the Cronenberg movie ‘Crash’ was an influence but then you google it and that was 1996, so what do I know?

E&D: Random equipment related question: favorite or most used guitars, effects, speakers/PA systems, strings, and even picks you like?  Inquiring minds want to know, including my friend Jason! 

Adam: My favourite PA systems? Now we’re talking! Ernie Ball .60mm picks, Ernie Ball strings, the dayglo ones. I just bought a fantastic acoustic guitar recently – a Tanglewood, looks like something Robert Johnson might have played because there’s no varnish on it and it looks almost black – it’s actually very dark brown with a sliver of mother of pearl inlay around the soundbox. A real beauty for a hundred quid!

E&D: What happens when you have an equipment meltdown? Do you have spares for all your foot pedals? I seem to recall such a failure at the Sinclair in 2016 and you seemed a bit frustrated! 

Adam: I’m sure I fucking did!

E&D: I am curious about your work in Bolts of Melody (great new album), Magnetic Morning, and Toshack Highway. How were/are you inspired in writing for different musical collaborations, and are you working on future collaborations you can talk about?

Adam: Well, it’s different personnel and different ideas innit? I’m often just the singer or the bass player. No exclusives today.

E&D: Have you produced or engineered other works?

Adam: Well, apart from this! I just did a remix of ‘Into the Light’ by Sukie Smith which is great and coming out very soon and you should check it out.

E&D: Now let’s get around to the Swervedriver reissues, which are most welcome! How did that happen, and can we expect more reissues to follow? I think the triple 99th Dream is a desert island disk! 

Adam: Good! Well we had the tapes sitting in the corner of the room staring at us and we got the rights back and had to go ahead and work on a comprehensive reissue. We knew there were some great outtakes that were left in the can but then we discovered a whole two reels of tape that had these fantastic, vibrant demos for the album on them and that suddenly meant we were looking at an extended, more interesting release. Apparently our b-sides were always better than everyone else’s a-sides so here’s a ‘lost’ album that’s better than most bands’ actual albums – you’re welcome!

E&D: What is your personal favorite release of all of them?

Adam: My Zephyr.

E&D: Is the band working on any new music?

Adam: Yes.

E&D: You tour a lot, will we see you again in the States in 2024?

Adam: We haven’t toured since 2019 actually. You never know, eh?

E&D: Tell us about projects you or the other band members have coming up.

Adam: Jimmy’s gardening has been coming along nicely. Honestly I have no idea, no-one tells me anything! Thanks for the questions, Echoes and Dust and have a great day.

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