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spacemen spacemen2

Spacemen-Free

Two years ago, Croydon noise-makers LOOP couldn't move for critical plaudits. Then came their 'difficult' second LP 'Fade Out' and with it accusations of gross Spacemen 3 plagiarism. With a new LP on Beggars Banquet, 'A Gilded Eternity', Loop have re-established themselves as ultraviolent leaders of the pack. ANDREW COLLINS asks - where will it all end? Loop-y pics: AJ BARRATT

How to ruin an interview with Loop in one easy move: ask them about Spacemen 3. Now this might sound terribly trite - petty band rivalry, digging up old corpses, wooden spoon journalism and all that - but before confronting Loop I was warned by three separate parties on three separate occasions, DON'T MENTION SPACEMAN 3! So, foolishly, fancifully, spoiling for a fight, I met Loop and I asked them about Spacemen 3.
spacer "We find the whole scenario quite hilarious actually," hissed Robert, Loop's 'head' honcho. But he wasn't laughing.
spacer Back in March '89, in the glorious wake of Spacemen 3's 'Playing With Fire' LP- rave reviews inclusive - Sonic Boom of The Unmentionable Band made a shocking claim. Loop had stolen their sound.
spacer Meanwhile, Loop had just released 'Fade Out', their second LP. It was criticised for sounding too much like their first LP (1987's 'Heaven's End') rather than Spacemen 3's. Which might have been encouraging, had Sonic Boom's story not been so irresistable.
spacer In retrospect, the whole sordid little affair looks somewhat confusing. The points at which Loop and The Other Band touch are many and various. They both peddle post-hippy, pharmaceutical guitar music; both share an affection for MC5, and they all refuse to get proper jobs. But while the Spacemen have now charted more ambient waters, Loop have got themselves strung out on some kind of ultra-violence kick. Loop and Spacemen 3 are completely different; it's just that the latter are considerably more famous, and therein sticks the almighty thorn.
spacer "It's something so trivial it doesn't even register," snarls Robert, gazing intently out of the office window. I don't know what he'd spotted outside but, whatever it was, it held his interest for the entire interview.
spacer Do Loop listen to Spacemen 3 records then?
spacer "No," sighs Robert, the thing outside the window still the most interesting one in the world.
spacer "There are similarities," confesses bassist Neil, who will probably be sacked from Loop before the year is out..
spacer "I don't really think about anybody else or anything else," adds Robert, helpfully. And the scene ends.

LET ME take you on a mystical journey through space. Let us travel back in time, you and I back...back.... to 30 minutes ago. I have just shaken hands with Robert and Neil in their management office, and we have adjourned to The Subbuteo Room with hot drinks, Countdown to the Spacemen 3 question begins.
spacer Loop's noise, on the face of it, appears to have been cunningly designed to repel, to estrange, to upset. In their world, songtitles are all that the listener has to hang onto- 'Black Sun', 'Fix To Fall', 'Afterglow', 'Breathe Into Me' the rest is down to guesswork. What we can surmise is that Loop infringe the basic civil rights of the guitar in such a way as to bring tears to the eyes of that guy who played 'Cavatma'. The result is 'lihilistic, darkly sensual, and bloody noisy. That's Loop.
spacer Their new aibum, presented as a double 12" package deal (for better pressing quality. What Hi-Fi buffs) is entitled 'A Gilded Eternity'. It's a veritable Pandora's Box of regressive rumbling, sharp edges, sticky moments and hit-and-run scaremongery. It's wonderful, if frightening stuff, Not different enough to be called a departure, but proof at least that previous Loop excursions into the Strobelight Zone were not accidents, It actually sounds as if they've been building, learning, sculpting their sound,
spacer Robert: "I think we're definitely beginning to explore now. You can't peddle the same thing forever. 'Gilded Eternity' isn't as nihilistic as the last album. We made a conscious effort to strip a lot of things away, as regards guitar overdubs. We wanted it to be as raw as possible."
spacer Does this mean that Loop are moving out of the 70s and into the early '80s?
spacer Neil laughs, This is encouraging.
spacer "Our sound isn't as regressive as people say," defends Robert, We've got a very modern approach"
spacer What's the music of Loop for "It's whatever you want it to be for. We prefer individuals to take It away. use it and abuse it in their own context. There's no point in discussing it because that creates a blanket around it. a tunnelled vision, I think people should enter the world of Loop with a very open mmd and use it as a tool for their own means."
spacer But you can't hear the words. "The words are no more or less important than anything else that's going on around them. We don't have any political leanings, we don't sing protest songs, The words are in there, but it's healthy for people to make up their own minds,"
spacer You dedicated 'Heaven's End' to modern cinema's Mr Big, Stanley Kubrick, Does this crosscultural allegiance still stand?
spacer "I dedicate any piece of music! ever make to Stanley Kubrick. He's one of my all-time favourites."
spacer Despite the disappointment of the glaringly flawed Full Metal Jacket?
spacer "It's not as bad as people make out. With repeated viewing you see more of the intricacies.
spacer It certainly wasn't the best 'Nam film." It was certainly the only 'Nam film to be shot in London's Docklands!
spacer "He did alright' We filmed some of our last video there. Some of it still exists. He did try! Lots of the buildings have Vietnamese writing on. There were imported palm trees. But the guy refuses to leave the country! He doesn't like getting on aeroplanes." Staying with Kubrick do you think, in retrospect, that you expressed your Kubrophilia too literally with the samples of 2001 computer HAL on 'Heaven's End'?
spacer "It could've been very tongue in cheek," Robert suggests, with a playful lilt.
spacer But there are no cinematic samples on 'Gilded Eternity', "We've used Marlon Brando samples from Apocalypse Now on 'Shot With A Diamond' (free 7" with initial quantities of the Lp) and there's a tiny bit of sampling from an Ennio Morricone song. There's a couple of instances where we sample our own guitars as well"
spacer But these little hooks really help, I suggest. After all, a blasphemous type might say that Loop all sounds the same "That's just their blmkered vision, We don't even think about those people, They haven't got the vision."

OK, WE'VE guessed the MC5, Stooges, Vietnam film influences; we think we know where Loop are coming from, What I want next is for Loop to surprise me. Hit me with some names that will knock me off my stool.
spacer "Madonna?" suggests Neil, rather timidly for a man who has adopted the look of Charles Manson. "Ambient?"
spacer "Mary Margaret O'Hara. Sun Ra," continues Robert. "We listen to anything at least once! Big Black, Sonic Youth, jazz. A bit of New Age but I'm a bit sceptical of some of it. F-ing rubbish, totally non-interesting. "
spacer Books?
spacer "Martin Amis, Louise Brooks, Burroughs. I've just started High Time, about Howard Marx, who was a drug baron in the '60s. He got away with a hell of a lot. Very clever guy. I've just fmished a book about the Hell's Angels which painted them to be total murdering thugs."
spacer Ever tempted to put your words onto the printed page, Robert? "Maybe in later life. I'd like to write something that's not overly self-indulgent.
spacer "A comedy perhaps?
spacer "Oh no! I wouldn't go that far." An image of listening to Loop on a Walkman hits me like a diamond mallet. It's like being strapped into a 1984-style torture cage with a rat poised on either side of your head, eating its way into your brain via the ears.
spacer Where's the comic relief, that's what I want to know,
spacer "I think we've all got a pretty reasonable sense of humour. We're not monsters.
spacer "What make you laugh?
spacer "Russ Meyer," offers Robert. "Tommy Cooper. The more idiotic the better. I'm bored with Viz though."
spacer But you insist on adopting this dead serious pose "It's not a pose at all! There's nothing posey about It! It's a good way for us to vent all our phobias and aggressions. Were taking it out all ourselves. People should embrace the more negative things instead of pushing them away into a little back room, There's definitely beauty in violence. Sheer beauty,"
spacer You're on dodgy ground here,
spacer "OK, there's not much beauty in someone kicking the shit out of someone else for no real apparent reason, just because they don't like their face. That's not constructive,"
spacer Is there a constructive form of violence?
spacer "I think we're very constructively violent. We hurt ourselves. I come offstage a lot of times bleeding! A Clockwork Orange foresaw the future. There's designer violence on the terraces now. It's all around, It's virtually impossible to cheer up in this day and age."
spacer What gets you out of bed in the morning, then?
spacer "Feeding the cat. A phone call. Certainly not the political state of the country."
spacer And what do these four surly individuals do about the state of the nation? Nothing. They're more interested in the inner self, or, to put it more precisely, their own inner selves. They wear black because "there's a lot of depth to blackness", And there's a lot of depth to Loop. Unfortunately (for me) it's all in their music. Fine, fine music. A beautiful noise indeed.
spacer "I think we'd rather remain faceless," concludes Robert. "We're not interested in being on the front of Smash Hits, One of the human race's biggest enemies is trivia. I've got no time for trivia. I'd rather go to sleep."
spacer And then I asked them about Spacemen 3.

Originally appeared in NME 27 January 1990
Copyright © NME magazine