My Bloody Valentine talked ‘Loveless’ & more on Tim’s Twitter Listening Party
My Bloody Valentine's landmark 1991 album Loveless turned 30 on Thursday (11/4) and the band celebrated by sharing stories and artifacts from its making on an especially meaty edition of Tim's Twitter Listening Party. Series creator and Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess called this one a "masterclass" and he was not wrong, with Kevin Shields, Bilinda Butcher, Deb Googe and Colm Ó Cíosóig bringing their A Game, with tons of anecdotes, stories for gearheads, tons ofphotos from the studio, and more. You can replay the whole Listening Party in real time with the album playing over at Tim's website, and highlights are below.
"I do really love Loveless and cherish those songs," Bilinda Butcher said. "I always enjoy singing them and if they mean a lot to other people it’s probably because they were done with love and honesty." She added, "There were battles to get things done but Kevin took the brunt of all that and still remained positive about the album." She also said "We were a bit like ships in the night because I had my son to look after and didn’t go into the studio until I did the vocals" but that she " enjoyed writing the lyrics despite a sadness to some of them but the album is bigger than any of its parts and is timeless."
Kevin Shields said, "One of the main overriding memorises from the recording of Loveless was this kind of overwhelming love and sense of protection for all the songs, like they were a bunch of living things. There was also an incredibly strong sense of how everything needed to be done , everything else was just a distraction."
Read lots more below.
Speaking on the album's opening blast, "Only Shallow," Kevin Shields said, "The last verse has the original guide guitar in the final mix, virtually all parts were always 2nd take for some reason, although we rarely did more that 3 takes of anything." Shields also notes that MBV " never comped anything or fixed things." For those wondering how the band got those otherworldly sounds on the song, Kevin said, "The main guitar part (where there is no singing) was 2 valve amplifiers with tremolo facing each other, played a few times then sampled and played backwards and an octave higher along with the original part," before adding the caveat of "possibly."
For "Loomer," Shields said he was "trying to make a sound like fire sounds, also train noises," and that "This was originally made as a link between tracks but it was really its own thing so I got Colm to give it a title."
Drummer Colm Ó Cíosóig says that the minute-long interlude, "Touched," is a "story of a sexual encounter...the first part is anxiety followed by the release then the sadness and the title has another soft meaning." While MBV were notorious for taking a long time in the studio, Colm says this one was "Written in two hours with string and timpani samples."
Colm also wore silver pants while making the record, as documented in a few photos shared during this Listening Party. "Colm’s silver trousers were great," Blinda said. "He sprayed them himself and I was inspired to spray my boots silver too!"
Some songs did take a long time, though, like "To Here Knows When." Kevin admitted, "This song was the one where everything went off the rails for awhile, 2 weeks trying to program a tambourine track which was then played by hand in 10 m." Kevin also said they spent three weeks sampling guitar feedback and two weeks on drum sample experiments.
One of Loveless' many standout moments is "When You Sleep." Kevin said, " The main keyboard part of this song is made using samples of Bilinda’s voice among other things, we did this a lot, usually a mixture of guitar feedback, Bilinda’s voice, a flute sample and a oboe sample." As for the fuzzed-out guitars, Kevin noted, "the main guitar on this was processed by hand using the parametric eq on the recording console as a wah wah kind of effect."
Another story of spending a long time in the studio involves "I Only Said." Kevin said, "The instrumental bit in the middle of this one took about 20 hrs to record and because we kept going over the same part of tape so much it kind of wore that part of the tape out a bit," adding, "After getting over the shock we realised it was the perfect amount of sound change to allow the sampled part to come out properly."
As for "Come in Alone," Kevin said, "This one was remarkably easy to record, also the only song we could play at first attempt when we reformed in 2008. The vocals are varispeed, like quite a few others , we usually recorded the vocals where it felt comfortable pitch wise , then played back at the pitch that felt correct, mostly quite subtle but occasionally extreme like this."
On the dark, heavy "Sometimes," Kevin said it was written and recorded near the end of the album's sessions. "I had wanted to write a certain type of song and just had to wait until it arrived ( it finally did after about a year)." As to its dense sound, "The acoustic guitar is actually 7 tracks each with a different sound panned like a fan left to right so it sounds like one track if that makes any sense," Kevin said, adding, "the distorted guitar is the reamped acoustic thru our trusty vox fuzz, this pedal was pretty much the only fuzz or distortion used on loveless I think." If you're wondering what that pedal looks like, Kevin provided a pic:
Things got a little Brian Wilson during the making of Loveless, with Shields infamously setting up "tents" in the recording studio. Deb Goodge recalled him, "constructing little dens out of blankets, curtains and foam….it was baffling! Kevin said that "Blown a Wish" was the only time he used a tent in the live room for vocals. "It did sound better this way." More weirdness: "The recording for this was mostly done in a studio where Alan Moulder sometimes had to spray me with a light mist of water while I was recording to get rid of my extreme static, it was ruining the recordings so I had to be damp to play...I often wound up in a puddle of water by the time we finished recording."
For more on Kevin's supercharged nature, Colm notes: "Kevin is so electrically charged that during a guitar take he had to ground himself by having his feet in a bucket of water," adding, "One of the engineers broke down after a frequency disagreement and said all he wanted to do was open a pizza place."
Kevin said Loveless' penultimate track, "What You Want," was "nearly scrapped because I couldn’t get usable guitar sound for it , something to do with the tuning, it was saved by a vintage ampeg amp that used to belong to black sabbath."
The closing track on Loveless is their classic "Soon," which first appeared on the Glider EP. "This was one of the first songs written for Loveless," Kevin said. "There actually 4 different mixes of it out there , the original on the ep , the first Loveless from 1991, the 1/2, inch reissue from 2012, and the vinyl version from 2018." "Probably another on the way sometime," he added.
Deb also chimed in with some touring memories: "In 1990 we took a break from recording to go out and tour to promote the Glider EP. The tour started in Ireland and was kind of disastrous. The first gig I seem to remember was at some student union place where they had no idea we were supposed to be there! The second place was booked in a pub, where the stage was so small we could barely fit the drum kit let alone the rest of our gear, so we couldn’t play there either. Eventually we got to this place, I think it was in Tralee, where we just holed up in this hotel ballroom for a couple days, I don’t even think we played a gig, I think we just hung there and Kevin spent most of the time painting a guitar and I spent a couple days trying to find a surge suppressor unit, which frankly in Tralee, in 1990 was about as successful as tracking down a dodo."
Check out a few more photos shared during the Listening Party, and listen to Loveless below.