TOKYO (TR) – The Wedding Present will arrive in Tokyo next week for the first time in 16 years to play a series of five shows featuring selections from their eighth album, last year’s “El Rey.”
David Gedge, guitarist and singer/songwriter for the band which first carved a niche for itself in the mid ’80s with its distinctive guitar pop sound and witty, lost-love lyrics, has fond memories of that first visit to Japan.
“The audiences were extremely friendly and very enthusiastic and we had a great time,” says Gedge in an email interview with The Tokyo Reporter. “We felt like popstars. Fans were waiting for us in the lobbies of hotels as we checked out. They followed us around to give us presents and get autographs and photographs. As I understand it, this is quite common in Japan, but it was quite alien to us.”
The band, founded in Leeds, England in 1985, toured through Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka over four nights in March 1993, entertaining crowds with songs culled from singles and their first three albums, the most recent of which (“Seamonsters”) had been recorded by Steve Albini, who was also at the controls for their latest release “El Rey.”
In spite of the time lapse, Gedge saw few differences in Albini’s technique. “Even with the advent of technology which other recording engineers utilize, the way he works has not changed since I met him nearly twenty years ago,” the 48-year-old guitarist explains. “The biggest change was actually within the group. I am the only surviving member of the version of The Wedding Present that recorded ‘Seamonsters’ so he was kind of recording a completely different band.”
The eleven songs on “El Rey” have many themes centered on Los Angeles, where bassist Terry de Castro lives. “I was living in West Hollywood when I wrote the songs,” says Gedge of his one-and-a-half-year stay. “I wouldn’t say it’s my ‘L.A.’ album, as such, but I have a personal style which is always bound to be influenced by my environment.”
The album kicks off with the fast-paced “Santa Ana Winds” and rolls along through to the jangling guitars on “Spiderman in Hollywood,” which has Gedge singing about perhaps seeing Winona Ryder. “Don’t Take Me Home Until I’m Drunk” has Gedge venturing to his usual topic of heartbreak — this time it’s about a girl returning to her fiancee.
Indeed, many might regard “El Rey” as the band reverting to its finest form, characterized by the aforementioned “Seamonters,” their second album “Bizarro” (1989), and the singles released on the first Monday of each month in 1992, many of which found their way onto BBC Radio 1 disc jockey John Peel’s “Festive 50” year-end countdown.
Between 1998 and 2004, Gedge focused most of his efforts on Cinerama, a band that performs orchestral-type pop songs arranged with string and woodwind sections. The project was subsequently folded into what is now the present incarnation of The Wedding Present, with the current live set including songs from both bands.
Upon returning to England, Gedge will work on a project with the BBC Big Band, which is a group of musicians playing contemporary jazz and swing-era music with string, brass, and percussion instruments. The group is in the process of arranging roughly 10 of Gedge’s songs for the fuseleeds09 experimental music festival in Leeds in April and May. Gedge says that Cinerama songs will be included.
“I suppose in some ways you could say that the two bands have merged together now,” he says. “But, having said that, I wouldn’t rule out Cinerama recordings in the future because, well, I don’t have to!”
Note: The Wedding Present play March 10 w/ The Monorals at Osaka Sunsui; March 11 at Nagoya Tokuzo; March 12 and 13 with w/ Qomolangma Tomato at Shibuya O-Nest, Tokyo; and March 14 w/ Shonen Knife at SuperDeluxe, Tokyo.