No band has harnessed the three-dimensional magic of volume quite like My Bloody Valentine. Kevin Shields' carefully curated pedalboard has assumed sacred significance among the alt-rock cognoscenti, with MBV's adventures in sound inspiring generations of shoegaze, drone and other noise-rock artists.
But Kevin Shields has never made a secret of savouring negative reactions to the My Bloody Valentine soundscape, and in a recent interview with the Guardian, he has been reminiscing about the times that the cleansing power of noise was challenging the structural integrity of the venues they played, chasing away sound engineers, and attracting the ire of neighbouring businesses.
“At one gig, a butcher was literally chasing my sister with a cleaver – he wanted to chop the cable because it was shaking his shop so much when we were doing You Made Me Realise,“ said Shields.
There was no getting around it: You Made Me Realise pushed people's buttons. If it wasn't the butcher, it was someone else. Another performance ended up with the arrest of their tour manager. The band played on, and on, with the title track from the 1988 EP and debut for Creation Records offering a platform for sustained electric guitar noise.
“The police turned up and arrested our tour manager during You Made Me Realise,“ said Shields. “They arrested him, put him in the car, questioned him and let him go and when he got back we were still playing it.”
Shields says there were “countless, countless situations“. The band feared that they would quite literally bring the house down as masonry would rain from the ceiling. “It was a matter of time before a serious accident happened,” said Shields.
Attempts to capture Shields' and singer/guitarist Bilinda Butcher's guitar tone have surely helped buoy the effects pedal market. A few years back, Keeley Electronics developed a multi-effects unit that looked to do for MBV fans what its Darkside did for Pink Floyd fans, with the Loomer combining fuzz and an innovative suite of reverbs to help create Shields' tone.
Of course, to achieve the full effect you had to provide volume and lots of it. Once the window shakes and the plasterboard cracks, you're there. But, as Shields would tell you, a total-volume approach often invites its own problems.
Read the full interview at the Guardian, where Shields talks about the genesis of the band, and the tantalising possibility of new music. In the meantime, My Bloody Valentine's post-1988 catalogue has been reissued by Domino Recordings. See Domino for more information on the reissues.