The year was 1990. The Jesus and Mary Chain was set to tour in support of its third album, 1989’s Automatic.
The Scottish noise-pop pioneers – brothers Jim and William Reid – weren’t the only ones on the heels of a new album, though. Then a fledgling synth-pop act, Nine Inch Nails was still hot off its debut album, Pretty Hate Machine, also released in 1989. The Trent Reznor-fronted project was in turn selected as The Jesus and Mary Chain’s opening act.
Now 28 years later, the two groups are reuniting for Nine Inch Nails’ Cold and Black and Infinite tour.
“There was already a kind of a buzz about the Nine Inch Nails even at that time,” Jim Reid reflects on the Automatic tour by phone from the U.K. “So, we were kind of aware then that they were a band that weren’t going to be at that level they were at then for very long. I mean they seemed to be going places quick and we spotted that then and we thought it would be good to have them along on that tour with us at that time.”
Nine Inch Nails will kick off the Cold and Black and Infinite tour with The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco with a pair of shows at Comerica Theatre on Thursday, September 13, and Friday, September 14. The Jesus and Mary Chain will then head south for a headlining show at Tucson’s Rialto Theatre Saturday, September 15.
“It feels pretty good. I mean, what can I say?” Reid ponders of the two bands reuniting for a new tour. “I mean there aren’t that many bands around that have lasted that long. And certainly to go on tour with a band like the Nine Inch Nails is, yeah, it’s great, to be honest. We are very, very happy to do it.”
When asked if he has remained in touch with Reznor over the years, Reid gives an admitted “No.”
“I’m terrible at staying in touch with anyone,” he adds honestly. “I’m just the most socially sort of backward character you could imagine. I don’t keep in touch with people. I’m not very good at maintaining relationships or making friends generally.” He lets out a laugh. “So, it’s not really what I do and I think most people realize that of me and I guess William, too.”
In a recent interview with BBC Radio 6 Music’s Lauren Laverne, Reznor discussed Nine Inch Nails’ new live shows moving away from “immersive, technological-based production,” inspired in part by memories of seeing The Cure in the ’80s and touring with The Jesus and Mary Chain.
“Touring has always been about the basics for the Mary Chain,” Reid offers on the subject. “I mean we don’t really do show business. That’s not what the Mary Chain have ever been about.
“There have been light shows, occasionally we’ve had movies projected up behind us on stage, but it’s never been over the top. It’s never taken away from the performance of the band on stage. I mean, that’s what it’s all about, about a band to try and make a connection with an audience, and everything else just gets in the way really. But it should be about band on stage plays music to hopefully appreciative audience. I think that that’s probably the blueprint for this tour, and that is great.”
Formed in 1983 in East Kilbride, Scotland, The Jesus and Mary Chain debuted with 1985’s Psychocandy. By 1999, the Reid brothers’ relationship – which had notoriously had its ups and downs – had fractured.
Nearly a decade after the breakup came a reunion at 2007’s Coachella, and another decade later came the band’s seventh album, 2017’s Damage and Joy. Produced by Killing Joke bassist Youth, Reid admits the album’s recording went better than they had expected, even going as far as to say the support of an outside producer may not have been necessary after all.
Despite recording being like the old days, Reid admits performing has its differences.
“Personally, I mean I have never felt that comfortable as a frontman on stage and it took many years for me to find, you know, a way for that to work for me,” he admits. “It was simpler than I ever realized in as much as that you just go there, you stand in front of a mic and you sing the songs as best you can. And that’s all I can really do.
“When I was back in 1985, I thought that to be a frontman in a band you had to be Iggy Pop or there was no point in doing it. And for many years I got kind of caught up in that,” he continues. “And I would go on stage never feeling good enough and I would drink, I would take drugs to try and be this larger-than-life frontman character that I could never be because it was never me. It was always a lie. I could never live up to that. I love Iggy Pop, but I’m not Iggy Pop. I’m Jim Reid and I’m shy and I feel awkward. And there’s nothing wrong with those things, and it took me a long time to figure that out.”
Though only a year has elapsed since the release of Damage and Joy, Reid is quick to admit the brothers are already pondering their future – and fans may not have to wait another two decades.
“William came up with an idea to do a four-track EP, which we keep looking for time to get together and record,” he reveals, “and then that’s going to lead on to the recording of a new album, which we hope to have out at the end of next year.”
Nine Inch Nails w/The Jesus and Mary Chain and Tobacco, Comerica Theatre, 400 W. Washington Street, Phoenix, 602.379.2800, comericatheatre.com, 7 p.m. Thursday, September 13, and Friday, September 14, $55-$125.
The Jesus and Mary Chain, Rialto Theatre, 318 E. Congress Street, Tucson, 520.740.1000, rialtotheatre.com, 8 p.m. Saturday, September 15, $32-$35.