Kevin Shields from the influential band My Bloody Valentine looks out his studio window and reflects on the myth of perfection and creating the group's 1991 masterpiece, Loveless.
I'm in Ireland living in the countryside. We got a place here about six, seven, years ago with the idea that we'd make a record. I thought it'd be temporary but it's become where everything's based. I lived in London for 30 years and was going back for two weeks at a time, but we got dogs and it became less fun to be away. Once you've got dogs it all changes.
The view from my studio window is basically lawn and lots of trees. We're surrounded by trees. There's a bit of garden with some kind of big, giant vase thing, with God knows what growing out of it. We never planted anything in it. It's wild stuff.
We're quite perverse in that we tend to work at night so we close the curtains. We don't get the benefit of the view at all. But because we're surrounded by nature in the countryside we hear it. The weather's windy so it's a roar, a noise. A constant roar of the wind in the trees.
When we have storms, trees fall down. We have really bad stormy weather sometimes and every time I'm very conscious of it. It's violent. We're always wondering what we're gonna see the next day. It means we have constant firewood forever but… it's very different from when you're in a city. Here you're super-conscious of everything. And the way our house is, it's not super insulated so we really feel the weather. If it's hot, we're hot, if it's cold, we're cold.
I have lots of guitars lying around the house. I don't touch them, sometimes for months. I might want to hear them for a few minutes so I'll play, not particularly musically, and usually think, "Oh my God, I can't play guitar anymore."
A month might go by, or two or three, and I'll feel a real urge to play. That always turns into writing songs and I end up getting a bunch of tunes. That creative thing of writing music and going on little journeys, that's always happened. I've never gone a year and thought, "I can't think of anything musically, I can't write anything." But the feeling of wanting to be in the studio recording, having that nice balance of knowing what I want to do but not being too uptight so I get stuck on one idea and to have enough freedom to move in a natural way, that's less common and can be very circumstantial.
For me, making an album is like a puzzle. My perfectionism is me just finishing something in a reasonable fashion. To other people it's inexcusable, they've said, "It was good enough ages ago." To me that's crazy. It'll only take X amount of time and I'll be finished. I don't think I'm being at all perfect, I'm just completing something to a reasonable degree.
Loveless I cannot improve upon - apart from one little thing which always did bug me which I'll never tell anyone. But perfection is a concept, that's all it is. It's only in hindsight that it exists. When you're doing it, it doesn't exist. You're just trying to do it well.
I bet Mozart, Beethoven, all the great composers, as artists some of their work was finished under duress, like, "S***, I've got to get this finished because the Queen wants it." I bet they weren't thinking in terms of perfection, they were thinking of full realisation.
I was 26 when I wrote Loveless and put the foundations of it together. I was at a point in my life where there were no excuses to not do something really well. I never thought I was making a perfect thing. It was just correct and the way it should be. All I was thinking about was not letting myself down and making it good.
Our whole back catalogue had became too obscure. Loveless and Isn't Anything weren't readily available. There was only the vinyl that came out in 91 and 88 and was going for stupid prices on the internet.
I really needed them for these remasters because I needed to know what the originals sounded like. As we only had one copy of Loveless between us we had to buy our own records. At the time you don't think, "I need to keep 50," you just get a box from the record company and give them to all your friends. We ended up buying three or four on eBay and paying crazy money. One in perfect condition was £500. We needed it for work so we had to buy it.
We didn't try to be obscure and have things not available but that's how it panned out. I thought, 'there's no reason for all this, it doesn't have to be this way,' so we got it together.
It'll be nice to have the records out and available. There's generations of people who haven't been able to buy our stuff or even hear it online. It feels good to put a line under all that and say, "Here we are."
We're a bit normal now.
* As told to Karl Puschmann. My Bloody Valentine's catalogue is now available on standard and deluxe vinyl packages and, for the first time, on streaming services.