Bobby Gillespie: ‘I wanted to change music culture’

The Primal Scream frontman, 56, on growing up Glaswegian, loving the spotlight and the threat of Brexit

Working-class Glasgow was a very violent place to grow up. I saw violence on the streets. I saw it at football matches and I saw it at school. I had to be careful as the minute I stepped out on to the street anything could happen. If you walked through certain areas and people didn’t know your face you could be in trouble. It was tribalism. You just stuck to your part of the jungle.

I’m a Glaswegian before I’m a Scot. I’ve always been proud of the city and think the city is proud of us and it’s a city with a long tradition. It’s a radical city. It’s an artistic city. It’s got a lot of soul.

Making music was a form of expression . Going to the local comprehensive, we were just factory fodder at best, unemployed at worst. Nobody thought we could be artists. There was a class bias against us.

The success of Screamadelica in 1991 was what I’d always dreamed of. Suddenly we were earning a living as working musicians and I loved the attention it brought. I wanted to be on the cover of the music papers. I wanted to change the culture for the better and I wanted to be centre of the culture.

Things got dark pretty quickly. We started off with speed, which was my drug of choice, then it was ecstasy then coke and pretty quickly we moved on to heroin. But by the end of 1992 we had to make a decision whether to be artists or drug addicts. I gave up drugs 11 years ago.

Nigel Farage is selling a delusional dream, which is that if we leave the EU everything’s going to be fine. It’s not going to be fine except for his cronies who will run the pound, invest and destroy companies then completely deregulate the whole United Kingdom. Environmental and worker’s rights will be thrown out the window. That’s what hard Brexit is all about. It’s about finishing the Thatcher revolution.

I went to Elton John’s wedding and it was fun. He’s a Primal Scream fan. Every time I’ve met him he’s been amazing. He’s always very friendly and happy to see me. There were probably 2,000 people there including Elvis Costello and Paul Simonon from the Clash. I went with my wife [stylist Katy England], but I don’t remember that much about it.

I’ve got two teenage sons, but I’m not worried about them reading about what I got up to. They’re kids that have grown up in 21st-century London and they can see and read way more shocking things on their phones than reading the paper. They could be watching an Isis execution video in seconds. Rock’n’roll doesn’t really compare.

Primal Scream’s new album Maximum Rock ’n’ Roll: The Singles is out on 24 May. They play on 19 July


Nick McGrath

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Creativity: Bobby Gillespie, singer and songwriter

40, lead singer and songwriter with Primal Scream.

Kate Mikhail

21, Sep, 2002 @11:30 PM

Soundtrack of my life: Bobby Gillespie

The Primal Scream star tells Will Hodgkinson about the respect he has for Johnny Rotten and why he mobbed Link Wray

Will Hodgkinson

18, May, 2008 @10:20 AM

Article image
Me and the muse: Bobby Gillespie on his inspirations
In the week that Primal Scream release their new album, Chaosmosis, their frontman looks back at the tracks and times that shaped him

Sean O'Hagan

13, Mar, 2016 @11:00 AM

Article image
Tenement Kid by Bobby Gillespie – piquantly preposterous
Primal Scream’s frontman indulges himself wildly in this overblown memoir. But underneath all the cobblers lurks a fascinating story

Alexis Petridis

15, Oct, 2021 @8:00 AM

Article image
Bobby Gillespie remembers Andrew Weatherall: ‘He was a true bohemian’
Primal Scream’s frontman pays tribute to his friend, the producer who helped make Screamadelica into a pivotal album

Interview by Sean O’Hagan

23, Feb, 2020 @9:30 AM

Primal Scream singer Bobby Gillespie slammed by Steven Van Zandt
Bruce Springsteen's right-hand man brands the Primal Scream singer a 'drug addict' and 'waste of space' for missing his chance of success in America

Sean Michaels

25, Mar, 2009 @10:43 AM

Article image
Bobby Gillespie and Jehnny Beth: Utopian Ashes review – a welcome surprise
The Primal Scream frontman trades brashness for contemplation in this rewarding collaboration with the former Savages singer

Phil Mongredien

27, Jun, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Graham Coxon: ‘Music has always been there for me’
The Blur guitarist, 53, on his addictive personality, making music as you age and being a Britpop brat

James McMahon

03, Dec, 2022 @2:00 PM

Article image
John Grant: ‘Music has been a healing balm for me’
The musician, 50, on his anger problem, coming out, and why he’s glad he contracted HIV

James McMahon

17, Feb, 2019 @1:59 PM

Article image
Jamie Cullum: ‘I channel a lot of emotional intensity into my music'
The musician, 41, on what he owes Michael Parkinson, the joys of cultural freedom and why he’ll feel nervous when he’s finally able to perform again

Nick McGrath

19, Dec, 2020 @2:00 PM