As I traipsed along the leafy streets of London's Primrose Hill, eye-spying an endless stream of high-end restaurants and million-pound houses, I began thinking I'd been given the wrong address. Could this really be the locale where the legendary Primal Scream boys had been hanging out for the last 20 years, shaking the streets with cranked-to-11 all-night jams and cutting crazed, raucous rock 'n' roll records like XTRMNTR and Evil Heat? When guitar man and engineer extroadinaire Andrew Innes opened an unassuming door and ushered me inside, I realised I couldn't have been more wrong. I was now entering The Bunker, Primal Scream's vibrant studio. Spending a few hours chatting to Andrew and front-man Bobby Gillespie couldn't have been more of a pleasure, and I even scored a privileged listen to a couple of killer mixes from the band's upcoming long player, More Light. Sadly, it looks like it'll be the final album ever recorded there.
It's always so gutting to hear that yet another historic studio is biting the dust. What's happening to The Bunker?
Andrew: We think this whole complex of little businesses is going to be reduced to a block of flats, which seems to be the way of the whole world. Every space in London seems to be turning into two bed flats, and it's really depressing. We noticed they had some guys out measuring stuff with theodolites. We thought, "Oh, there's something going on." A couple of months later the people who own the property said we'd be getting thrown out in about a year's time...
Bobby: Yeah, it's fucking awful. I can't get my head 'round it to be honest. I was getting really sentimental last week because all the music's in the walls. There are so many great memories and I'm really sad about it. I keep telling myself that we're not going to have to move and the guy hasn't got planning permission yet. It's such an incredible place; loads of other musicians have recorded with us and played in here too. Bernard Sumner [New Order], Kevin Shields [My Bloody Vanentine], Will Sergeant [Echo & the Bunnymen], Mark Stewart [The Pop Group], Paul Weller, and Linda Thompson have all been through. We've had half The Clash here [Mick Jones and Paul Simonon]. Robert Plant's recorded here with us a couple of times.
A: And Joey Ramone came 'round...
B: Oh, that was the best. Joey Ramone came down one night when we were mixing a track called "When The Kingdom Comes." He really dug it and he complimented us on the track. I think he said something like, "It's really great to hear people playing real rock'n'roll!" Or in my mind, that's what he said! We were fucking humbled because he's a real fucking hero for us guys.
Andrew, I understand that you got interested in recording almost as soon as you first started playing music...
A: Yeah, when I was a kid I got an old Grundig tape recorder from the jumble sale for £1.50 with a "magic eye" and a microphone, and I started to record on that. Then I got a 2-track Tensai cassette recorder. You recorded onto the left-hand side of the cassette, then the right-hand side, and then you could mix — it also has a built-in drum machine. I've still got it here. I got that in about 1980. Then I graduated from there to reel-to-reels with sound on sound and, again, I've still got them. I'm a collector of junk. I never throw anything out!
Do you still use them?
A: [The Tensai two-track] is on Vanishing Point. It's on the track "Star," which has got that sort of Sly Stone thing going on. That's why it's good keeping everything, because you never know. We've used it on this new record for something too. It's great with the beats because it's all the old-fashioned cha chas and mambos. It's got its own sound, really.
So when did you start recording Primal Scream material yourselves?
A: Well, I used to do my own music, as well as later Primal Scream demos. I was experimenting. After the sound on sound reel-to-reel, I went to 4-track TEAC, or Tascam, and then we got an 8-track Tascam in the mid- '80s. That was still in my bedroom, in a block of flats on the Isle of Dogs. I was annoying the neighbours with drum kits and horn sections in the bedroom.
Was that where you made the demos for Screamadelica?
B: No. Then we got a studio space in Hackney on Tudor Road. It was in this tiny set of industrial units, and it sat beside this big council estate...
A: Nobody bothered you there! Nobody came to visit you because it was in such a bad place.
B: That was Hackney, before Hackney became trendy — if you can call it trendy — but it was a single room, which we soundproofed. It had a tiny vocal booth. But at first it was just for writing, wasn't it?
A: But then we got to the sampler stage, which was great. To me, everything changed...