Forty years after their debut, the Reid brothers’ cult band are on their eighth album. Light-years away from his reputation as a temperamental singer, Jim Reid logged on to Zoom from his home in Glasgow, humble and warm, for a chat about “Glasgow Eyes”, but also about punk, past, present and future.

What guides your creation most?

Jim Reid: Well, I suppose it’s not hearing other people do the kind of music that we want to hear. And so, if nobody else is doing it, then we’ll make it. Back in the 80s, we recorded Psychocandy because that’s the kind of music that we wanted to hear, but nobody seemed to be making it. So we made it. And that’s what we do now, you know? We’re bringing out Glasgow Eyes, because that’s the kind of music we love to hear, but nobody seems to want to make it.

But now many bands sound like you.

And we don’t like that. And it’s weird because I’m a music lover, but I don’t like most music that I hear. But then if you don’t hear the music you like, make it.

Back in the 80s, you said that you make music to educate people. Do you still think that?

Um, I probably meant that you don’t need to learn how to play a guitar for 25 years—or any instrument—before you can make interesting sounds. A lot of people get too confused by technical ability when they make music and get bogged down. It’s not important to us. Sometimes, it’s actually more important that you can’t play than you can. Because if you’re not a technician, then you kind of use your imagination much more than if you just rely on guitar lessons or piano lessons or what have you. If you can’t play a musical instrument but you still want to make music, it’s still possible. I remember in the 80s, we used to be quite into German bands like Einstürzende Neubauten and they were making music with road drills, angle grinders, smashing glass and all of that. And to me it sounded like punk rock music. You do whatever you can in whatever is the easiest way to do it.

What do you think punk music is about?

Attitude and what you’ve got inside. That’s what punk rock was all about. You’ve got people like Eric Clapton and then you’ve got the Ramones, you know. I know which of the two I prefer. You can learn to play a Ramones song in one day. I couldn’t play an instrument and I learned how to play a Ramones song in a day. That’s the way it ought to be.

Has punk changed?

My daughter, she’s like 20 years old and she listens to drum and bass music. It’s not really the kind of music that I can get into but she plays it a lot in the car when I’m driving her around and there’s a punk attitude to a lot of that kind of music. People do it. They do it themselves. They do it on a computer. It sounds kind of fresh and untampered with by big record companies. There is a punk attitude still out there. It just doesn’t sound like punk music used to sound. But essentially it is punk music. Punk still exists. It’s just not called punk anymore. People are making it for the same reasons that people made punk records.

Punk still exists. It’s just not called punk anymore.

What would young Jim think of the band now?

Oh, God. Um, the younger versions of us would be quite happy with what we’re doing now. Certainly the music. But the idea that we’d still be doing this in our 60s would have horrified me. When I was in my 20s, the idea of being in your 60s doing anything sounded horrible. I would’ve found it very hard to believe. But fuck it, here we are. I remember when I was in my 20s, everybody was going on about how the Stones are still touring and they were only in their 40s then! We’re all old men and we’re still making music. I will do this until it stops feeling good and until it stops feeling like I ought to be doing it—oh, one second, sorry, there’s a package at my door. So I’ll keep doing this until it stops making sense, until it doesn’t feel right. I thought that doing this in your 60s might be kind of undignified, to be honest with you. I don’t think it is. People come. It feels right. The new record is as good as any record we’ve ever made.

I read that you thought it was your best.

No, I don’t think it’s the best record. It’s as good as the others. It’s crazy. It’s almost 40 years since Psychocandy, and it still makes sense to me now. 40 years from now, I think people will still be listening to this new record of ours. It will last, for sure.

What stops certain music from aging?

I think it does. Rock and roll music is finished. It’s becoming like the way jazz music used to be. It’s in a ghetto and is going to become like a niche music that only certain people will listen to. But if you make music that’s an extension of fashion, like a lot of people do, then it will age. If you make music just for the sake of the music, it’s got nothing to do with the time it was made. And the record that we’ve made has got nothing to do with popular culture. We’re not trying to slot it into somewhere in 2023 or 2024. We’re just making a record that sounds right to us. As far as I’m concerned, we could have made this record 20 years ago, and if we’re still alive, we could have made it 20 years from now. It’s nothing to do with the time it was made. It’s a piece of art that just exists outside of everything else.

What do you ask yourself when you’re creating music in the studio?

Is there a point to doing this?

What do you think all musicians should ask themselves?

Will I be able to stand by this music in ten years time? Will it embarrass me or will I be able to stand by it and say, “Yeah, it’s great?” Everyone should think of the future when they make a record.

What have you stopped asking yourself?

Is it good enough?

Everyone should think of the future when they make a record.
William & Jim Reid (The Jesus and Mary Chain), 1985
William & Jim Reid (The Jesus and Mary Chain), 1985 © Mark and Colleen Hayward/Redferns

On the record, tracks like “The Eagles and the Beatles” and “Hey Lou Reid” honour your heroes. Where do you place The Jesus and Mary Chain in this musical cosmogony?

We have now become to some people a classic band. If you’re around long enough, that’s inevitable. We’ve been doing this now since 1984. I’m not comparing us to the greats like The Beatles or whatever, but if we’re still here after all this time, it means that we have become classic to some extent.

Do you feel proud?

Yeah, I mean looking back, I feel satisfaction but at the same time, when you look back on your records, you always want to change records that you’ve made. But, generally speaking, me and William [Reid] feel very proud of what we’ve achieved through the years. And, you know, it wasn’t easy. When you’re in a band, unfortunately, you have to deal with people at record companies and stuff like that. When we started making music, we thought it was going to be much simpler than it is. We thought we would make records and we would take them to a record company and everybody would go, “Very well done. Yay! Great. This is a great record.”

Then we made Psychocandy and we took it to Warner Brothers. They said: “What the fuck is this? This is a piece of shit. Is this a demo?” And we were like: “No, this is what we’ve been spending the last several months recording”. And they said: “So why don’t you go away now and record a real record?” And we were like: “What? What have we got ourselves into here?” And that was our relationship with Warner from day one, right up to the very end. They were constantly trying to change the band. They didn’t want to release every single record that they released. They wanted us to go and re-record it and come back with what they called “the real record.” So it was never easy. But, you know, we got those records out and yeah, we’re damn proud of them!

Your concerts back then were pure madness. It seems unthinkable today. Do you find the music world more sanitized today?

I don’t recognize the music business anymore. I never really understood it but I kind of more or less understood the structure of it. I didn’t agree with it all the time but I suppose I did understand it. I don’t understand how record companies work anymore. I don’t understand how new bands can come up the way we did. They can’t do it the way we did. Is it good? Probably not. I think that you had to try harder back then. To be honest, I’m not really that clued in with how the music business works anymore, so I’m not really qualified to say so.

What’s the worst thing a band could go through?

Maybe doing a tour with Coldplay or something like that...