Bobby Gillespie: What I've Learned

The Primal Scream front man shares some wisdom

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I don’t celebrate my birthday. Never have, never will. It’s for children, isn’t it? Girls seem to like it, but I think it’s a bit odd for guys.


Primal Scream was never a big groupie band. It was more about the drugs and the music. We always did the best drugs. Pharmaceutical stuff. We did amphetamine sulphate (speed) a lot, but even then it was the crème de la crème.

There’s a side to me that’s quite up and enthusiastic. I’ve got a lot of fight in me, but I’ve got a bit of sadness in me as well, so there’s a kind of duality there. I don’t want to give too much away about myself, but I’m not a negative person.

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When did I last go up a waist size? I don’t. It’s been 29in all my life.

There are no thieves in my family. No cheats. Just honest, working-class people. My dad was a trade unionist. My mum worked as a secretary during the day and then sometimes, at night, she would work in a bar. She always had two jobs. I don’t know if that was a financial necessity, or her way of having some kind of social life.

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You’re in this perpetual adolescence until you have children, but then you’ve got to really become a man. It changes your relationship with your partner and it changes your relationship with the world. You can’t be as disconnected as you maybe once had been. I’ve got two boys. It’s all good. I’m glad I’ve lived to experience that.


I think that I photograph well for some reason. It just depends what my hair’s doing. If the hair’s alright then I’m alright.


Everything that lives is a part of creation so maybe that’s what God is. I haven’t really thought it through. Maybe we’re all connected. I do believe there is something greater than us, but I don’t think that thing is a patriarchal figure. It’s the energy – the life force – that’s in us all. It’s in the stars. It’s everywhere. I believe in a respect for every living thing. A world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower. I think that was William Blake. That kind of sums it up.


My backstage demands were never that bad because I used to sort myself out. I was quite professional about these matters. I’d just want one bottle of vodka – or two – and I’d be happy with that. How long have I been sober? Almost five years. I don’t touch anything now.


More than being Scottish, I’m Glaswegian. Growing up in Glasgow shaped me. It’s a hard city but it’s a good city. The people are friendly, and they’ve got a lot of love and passion. I’m proud to come from there.


I only learned to drive in 2010. My licence is clean. I obey the rules of the road. You should respect other drivers and, hopefully, they’ll respect you.


The first band I ever saw was Thin Lizzy. I was 14. 'The Boys are Back in Town' had been a hit that summer and I was obsessed by it. They could really play. There was no twiddling. It was concise, high-energy rock and roll. Phil Lynott had a mirror on his bass that reflected this spotlight out into the crowd like a laser. He definitely hit me a couple of times. I know he did.


My son Lux is a good drummer. Scott Asheton [the drummer] from The Stooges gave him a set of sticks. That’s not bad, is it?


We did a gig for the National Union of Mineworkers in 1992. That was with The Orb at the big arena in Sheffield. After the gig I just did so much ecstasy, cocaine and heroin. I’d never been so high in my life. I felt as if I was floating away backwards, like going out to sea or into space. I thought, "Well, maybe I’m going to die here but it’s alright. I quite like it."


I was very sporty as a kid. I was good at football and long-distance running. I was actually in the Boys’ Brigade for a while and I did trampolining, gymnastics, volleyball and badminton. I love table tennis. We took a table tennis table on tour once in the mid-Nineties. I’m not as good at normal tennis. That’s a bit too physical for me.


Music transformed my life. It connected me with people.


This could be a fantastic country, but I think the current administration is dragging us back to the 19th century. The cuts are a class war. They might not be sending troops in with guns and bayonets, but they’re doing it as economic warfare. They know they’re hurting people. I’ve worked all my life and paid a lot of tax. I want to see that tax go back into the community. Everybody should share in the wealth.


Ecstasy wasn’t good for performing. We tried that a couple of times. I don’t know if amorphous is the word, but you’re a bit squishy. You need to be sharper, more direct. For me, speed worked the best


I got married in 2006. I knew I’d made the right decision so I felt pretty confident. I was more nervous about not looking good walking down the aisle.


Being exposed to a woman like Raquel Welch at a very young age definitely touches something in you. My mum used to take me to the Princes cinema [in Glasgow] on a Saturday morning. I saw One Million Years B.C. there.


We had a van crash on the way to a gig in Manchester in the Eighties. That was bad. We were sat in the back of a Transit with our amps, drum kit and a couch. The van went over onto its roof, and it was skidding down the motorway at 70mph. When it came to a halt there was silence – just people moaning and groaning. All the stuff was on top of us. Luckily, there wasn’t a pile-up and everybody was alright. We borrowed some equipment, made the gig and we’re still here.


I’d rather be reading a book or listening to music than watching TV. It’s just too trashy for me. The kids watch it. I like Adventure Time in the morning. That’s a good programme.


Somebody like me really should have gone to art school. Instead I was in a print factory at 16, which was really tough for a sensitive kid. Everybody was nice to me, but suddenly you’re in the adult world. It was quite good for the first couple of years; I spent all my money on concert tickets, football matches and clothes. After that I had to do two weeks of dayshifts and two weeks of nightshift. I found that hard. That’s when I started to think, you know, “I’m not sure if I can handle this for the rest of my life.”


I’m really happy when I’m on the road. I love that forward motion.


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MORE WHAT I'VE LEARNED:

Willem Dafoe 
Karl Pilkington 
Jack Nicholson 
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