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'Loveless' was a strong candidate for Album of the Year in both the MM Critics' Poll and The Readers' Poll and their 'Tremolo EP' spawned a host of imitators overnight. THE STUD BROTHERS meet the band whose genius is only matched by their anonymity.

Though he's been a good deal more than co-operative, Kevin's several swoons short of passionate. His problem is that he talks about music as only a musician can. Kevin talks about zoom effects' processors, about GHS boomers and 10-gauge strings and, more comprehensibly, though no more enthrallingly, about mixing desks, recording studios and record producers.

Who knows, maybe it's our problem. We neither understand, nor care to understand, the mechanics of sound. It's too, well, mechanical. We want Kevin to talk about music's magic, about warped videos made and played in the mind's eye, about exploding eardrums, literal and metaphorical, about girls and boys and letters from lunatic fans. Not the physical, but the metaphysical. Popwise, so help us, we wanna believe in Father Christmas.

But Kevin and the rest of the Valentines find that kind of conversation embarrassing. It means they'll eventually have to talk about themselves. And, since Kevin and the rest judge that they experienced nothing of any import prior to the band, they have, thus far, maintained a deafening silence when asked about anything more personal than their latest wah-wah pedal.

It's disappointing because My Bloody Valentine are so singularly, dreamily great. "Loveless" was unquestionably their greatest moment to date, a sound so other and so out-of-it that we were moved to comment at the time that it seemed not so much recorded as picked up on some spectral satellite-dish. "Loveless" was, is, extraterrestrial pop. It's difficult to imagine human beings were responsible for it at all, let alone these four polite, frustratingly normal young people.

"We're just like the people who buy the records," shrugs Kevin.

Well, maybe.

Kevin Shields moved from Long Island to Dublin at the age of 10. He spent his pre-pubescent years quietly and awkwardly, finally coming out of his shell with a vengeance at the age of 13, joining one of Dublin's many street-gangs.

"Nothing serious," he says. "We used to invade other people's estates. Twenty or us just wandered in. It wasn't exactly Ice-T and his homeboys, but it was exciting."

Around that time Kevin bumped into Colm O'Ciosoig, who was starting a band. Colm, at the time a bassist, now the Valentines' drummer, suggested Kevin learn to play the guitar. Kevin, who wanted to play bass, had, reluctantly, to agree.

After leaving school, Colm took a job as a bus conductor and Kevin as a driver's mate, jobs that they admit brought out the yob in both of them.

"It's incredible," says Kevin, "the moment a man steps into a van he learns how to wolf-whistle."

Later, for the sake of the band, the two of them, along with the Valentines' original singer Dave O'Conway, moved to London where they met Deborah Googe. Deborah was a proud member of the long-term unemployed, only occasionally taking temp-work when the bills needed paying. She joined the band as their bassist.

The Valentines then spent a long time going nowhere fast, except in Germany, where they became very minor celebrities. This was around 1985. By 1987, they were sick and tired of the whole business and ready to split up. It was then that they met their present guitarist and vocalist, Bilinda Butcher, a very young mother who'd just dropped out of dance school due unbelievably, but quite reasonably, to persistent bouts of cystitis.

"I had to keep going to the loo," she says, "and I couldn't get my leotard on and off quick enough. I missed all of the classes."

Bilinda now lives with Kevin and her son in West Norwood.

The rest, as they say, is history. Even the Valentines' most vociferous critics will admit they've been the single most important influence on recent indie rock. Love 'em or hate 'em, where would Lush, Slowdive, Moose, Ride, Chapterhouse or Curve be without them? "Loveless" spent over six weeks at the top of the indie charts and went Top 10 nationally. There's no doubt that My Bloody Valentine have an awful lot to celebrate.

Talking of celebrations, we all agree that Christmas is really a time for the kids. Does Bilinda's son still believe in Father Christmas?

"Well, he did last year. I always go home to Kevin's parents' at Christmas and there everyone's really enthusiastic about the idea of Santa. Especially Kevin's mum, she's always looking out the window waiting for Santa to come. But Toby's going to a new school now and I have a feeling he's not gonna believe in Father Christmas next year. I don't know what I'm gonna tell him if he asks. When I told him that the Tooth Fairy wasn't real he said that he'd read a book where it said that every time you say a fairy doesn't exist then a fairy dies. It's awful, such a responsibility. I wouldn't dare tell him about Father Christmas, but I have a feeling he already knows. It'll never be the same."

What did he find in his stocking?

"Some skateboard stuff."

So he's an Anthrax fan, a skatecore kid.

"Well, he's into rock. He says he doesn't like dance, he's into rock. He really likes the Ramones. You won't believe it but he really liked them when he was in his cradle. He has mixed feelings about us. He liked 'Slow' a lot. He hated 'You Made Me Realize', but he did like 'Slow'. I don't think you can really skate to 'Slow', but I'm sure you can to the Ramones."

"God, it must be great enjoying Christmas as a kid," sighs Deborah. "The best present I ever got was tonsilitis when I was 13. Everyone used to go to my sister's, every year, every single member of my family gathered in the same room. I like them, but I'm the youngest of six and it was difficult, so tonsilitis meant I could stay home and watch telly. It was brilliant, on my own in my own house, in front of the telly with a tin of spaghetti. It was great, tonsilitis."

Kevin, until now we imagine happily pondering he sickeningly extravagant childhood in America where, even back then, Christmas was very commercialised, shivers a little. Kevin has a reputation for being something of a hypochondriac. Apparently, he will, at the least mention of even the mildest infection, break out in a sympathetic phantom rash which he'll then contentedly discuss with anyone willing to listen.

"I'm not a hypochondriac," he says, defensively. "Every time I go to the doctor there's always something major that's wrong. It's just that it's never what I think it is. Last time I went because I thought I was getting cancer in my leg. My whole leg went numb over the space of a few months and then it started to get sore. It was really painful. I went to the doctor and found out it was because of the way I was playing the guitar in the studio. He said, 'Does anything ever press just there?' and I said, yeah. It was my guitar, it'd crushed a nerve. So there was something wrong. I wasn't making it up."

Bilinda pipes in, scolding him gently.

"Kevin, what about the other night when you said you were having a heart attack?"

Kevin looks only half-guilty.

"That was my arm. I keep falling asleep on the settee lying on my arm and my arm went dead. I was sure it was all over. But my arm was dead, I really wasn't making it up."

"Come on, Kevin," says Deborah indignantly. "What about when you said you had skin cancer?"

By now, Kevin looks truly aggrieved. Skin cancer was, he tells us, a fair assumption. Apparently, he suffers from an extremely rare dermatological condition, the symptoms of which exactly mimic those of skin cancer. Basically, he gets a mole, the mole moulders, itches, aches and then flakes away, leaving an angry rash in its wake. It seems he inherited the disease from his father.

"He's going blind as well," says Bilinda, cheerfully.

Blind, too? So Kevin's a blind leper with a heart condition.

Should you really be in a rock and roll band?

"I shouldn't, actually," says Kevin, obviously pleased that, at last, someone's taking him seriously. "The last time I went to the doctor he said I can't listen to loud music anymore."

Deaf, too.

"Yeah, I still have good hearing, but it's a lot less than it used to be. I get too much enjoyment out of blasting my head off and it's taken its toll. Apparently, it's common. In 10 years' time, because of the Walkman generation, 50 percent of people will be walking around with hearing problems."

"We've all got ear problems," says Bilinda.

"Yeah," nods Kevin. "When you have your eardrum burst by feedback it's frightening. It happens quite easily. When you're onstage in front of all the speakers and you get microphone feedback, it's incredible. You literally lose your balance and feel sick. But I understand that and I just like to know exactly what's wrong with me."

"I don't like to even think about what's wrong with me," says Bilinda, "and, often, whatever's wrong with me just goes away. The other night I had a really bad headache, these tender spots on my head. Then last night I got this massive swelling. I thought, 'Oh no, maybe I've got something wrong with my lymph glands or something horrible', but then I thought, 'No, you're just talking a load of crap', and I forgot about it and it went down."

"I always have toothaches go away because I hate the dentist," says Kevin, mysteriously.

"I love going to the dentist," continues Deborah, equally mysteriously. "Every time I got my dentist has a new joke or riddle on the ceiling, and he's got a really good light, really psychedelic, sort of pink in the middle and it goes out into loads of different colours. It's great, though I think what I like about it most is that I never have to have anything done."

Here, Bilinda launches into one of the most bizarre conspiracy theories we've ever heard. According to Bilinda, for years dentists worldwide have been inadvertently poisoning their patients with toxic fillings. Some time age they discovered their mistake but, rather than coming clean as, say, Deborah's dentist would've done, they arranged an international cover-up. Furthermore, under the auspices of the crowning heads of Europe (and with the blessing of such clandestine organisations as the British Dental Association) cavity cowboys and hack hygienists everywhere agreed to carry on poisoning people.

Frankly, it sounds like a load of bollocks to us, but who can tell? It would certainly explain the disappearance of the Tooth Fairy. It's also a good deal more diverting that foot pedals, GHS Boomers and all the other metal-cased, data-based hard truths we, all of us, spend far, far too long worrying about.

Nineteen ninety one was a great year for My Bloody Valentine. Do they feel lucky?

"I suppose anyone who does what they love for a living should feel lucky," says Kevin. "But no, not really. See, it's just been the music. It's never been about us or image or artwork or hype, we've never pushed ourselves as personalities. It's always just been the music. And it's the music, and only the music, that people have taken to."

And that, truly, is the elusive but irreducible truth. Magic. Not the mechanics, but the inexplicable magic.

Originally appeared in Melody Maker January 4, 1992
Copyright © Melody Maker Magazine