Best known as a co-founder of My Bloody Valentine — whose brutally beautiful walls-of-drone launched the so-called shoegazing genre back in the early '90s — Colm Ó Cíosóig has gone through a lot of changes.
He moved from Ireland to America more than a decade ago, toured as bassist and keyboardist with Mazzy Star, co-wrote and recorded two albums with Hope Sandoval, and went back behind his drum kit for this year's reunion albums by Mazzy Star and My Bloody Valentine.
We spoke to the artist last Friday — the morning after his return from a European tour promoting MBV's first album in 22 years — about the band's reunion, squatting in abandoned buildings, and an upcoming deejay appearance here on the TIE Film Festival's closing night.
Indy: What brings you to Colorado Springs? Do you know someone involved with the festival?
Colm Ó Cíosóig: Well, what happened was, I was over in Croatia doing some gigs with My Bloody Valentine. And after a show, I was talking to a girl backstage who was involved in a film lab in Zagreb. We started talking about the visuals for the gigs, because I'd shot about 50 percent of them, and about how much I'm into experimenting with film.
She said if I was in America in late November, I should definitely go and check out this festival that's all about experimental film. So I got in touch with the festival to see if I could do an old-fashioned barter, where I'd offer my deejaying services in return for getting a pass to see the films.
Indy: What's the most rare, obscure vinyl you'll be playing?
CO'C: It's a bootleg of a really rare Joy Division song called "Berlin" that nobody seems to know about. It may be from when they were still called Warsaw, somewhere in that time period. I'll also be bringing some old '60s records, some modern electronic stuff, and some psychedelic rock by this really good African guy named Chrissie Zebby [Tembo]. So it'll be a mixture of electronic and experimental and psychedelic music.
Indy: How much of an influence was early psychedelia on My Bloody Valentine when you were first starting out?
CO'C: Well, it was definitely inspired by '60s music. But for me initially, the late '70s was my wakeup. Being a kid at 13, and suddenly punk rock arrives, it was like the best thing ever. There was so much energy in it, instead of those really long expansive guitar solos that had gotten really boring. And then I found experimental music, and then I started rediscovering '60s music after that.
Indy: You mention those long guitar solos — but weren't you guys playing 15-minute finales on this tour?
CO'C: Well, that's more of a white noise solo.
Indy: Which doesn't count.
CO'C: Yeah, that doesn't count.
Indy: Because it's not wanking.
CO'C: It's a different kind of wanking, I guess. [Laughs.]
Indy: In terms of the band's reunion, was there something that caused the breakup that's no longer a problem?
CO'C: I think that, because of all the pressure on us, we kind of imploded. If we had given ourselves a year off, we would have been fine.
Indy: Where was the pressure coming from?
CO'C: Well, it was from ourselves, basically. We had built a studio, which was kind of exhausting, and we hadn't really achieved anything else. We'd go in the next day, and the next day, and the next day, and that would turn into years in that strange little bubble we were in, that just didn't seem to be going anywhere.
Indy: You went through a rough time between My Bloody Valentine's first two albums. Yet the band became so influential that most people would assume you were successful not only artistically, but also financially. Was that not the case?
CO'C: No, definitely not.
Indy: What was it really like?
CO'C: We were quite poor, really. Every penny would go into studios or equipment. And my living situation wasn't the best. I was squatting at the time, and the record label wasn't very forthcoming with the money I needed to just be able to get a place to live. So I was going to the studio during the day, and then at night time, I'd go round up my friends and try to get another squat together.
The places we'd break into were the council houses — which are kind of like government houses — and a lot of times you'd get in there and there was no plumbing. They'd break the toilets and everything else to make it very difficult for you to move in there.
Indy: So if you'd had some kind of time machine and could be transported to another era, do you think the band would have fit in better somewhere else?
CO'C: I don't know, that's a good question. If we had transported, say, back to 1967, who knows if we would have gone down as well as we did? It may have been just as good. Or maybe we'd have been one of those bands that nobody really cared about and would just disappear.