“Where are you calling from?” Jason Pierce asks me over a fuzzy phone connection in late March, 2013. When I say San Francisco, his responds “Oh, lucky you. We’ve played a lot of good shows in San Francisco. That part of the world is good. There’s something in the water.”

It’s been over 22 years since Pierce departed from Spacemen 3, the minimalist band that was “taking drugs to make music to take drugs to”, and created the legendary English space rock band Spiritualized. Since then Pierce, aka J. Spaceman, has injected his music with more than a fair dose of mainstream-defying creativity. Not only is the music itself abstract, emotive, and suggestive of the higher feelings sound can reveal and inspire; the name Spiritualized has been branded as its own sort of counter culture. Specially-made album packaging – like the pill-box CD case for 1997’s Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space, in which the CD was in-cased in a pharmaceutic-ally made push-through foil wrapper – has added to the vision within Spiritualized. Their music isn’t just influenced by medicine, it is medicine.

By combining psychedelic space rock with ‘90s era drug culture and the unabashedness of an artistic mastermind, Pierce demonstrated that his music was not just “music to take drugs to”, it was literally a drug. “I’ve said that records are like time machines,” Pierce explains, “you pack all this stuff really carefully and all this detail and you push it off into time and you can never retrieve it, you can never pull it back and make changes.” And because his art is all about embracing the temporal moments in life, it’s no surprise that Pierce is still creating boundary-pushing psychedelic music and touring regularly.

This particular tour, however, is only 3 weeks long. “We picked a lot of places that we don’t normally play on this tour,” Pierce says. “It’s small and I’m losing money on it but I still think it’s important. Even if the business model doesn’t work it’s still fucking important to go out there and play and to continue making records. Because you can’t do it unless you feel like what you’re doing now is the most fucking important thing in the world, but it’s gotta be certain. It’s not comfortable and it’s always a challenge.”

It was especially uncomfortable for Pierce during the mixing of Spiritualized’s most recent album, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light,when he was undergoing treatment for liver disease. “I chose to mix the record during it, and in doing that I sort of lost the connection with the record. I felt like it was being mixed by somebody who didn’t have

[the record] in my head rather than me. It’s kind of good now to play my songs live and make a connection with what that record was all about.”

In terms of an upcoming album, the whole thing isn’t visualized yet, but Pierce does have about 20 new songs written, and says he’d like the next album to revolve more around the “immediacy and electricity of improvised music.”

“I don’t want to go into the studio and make an improvised record,” Pierce says, “but I do want to tie that in with the songs that I write. The last album was a pop album where the melodies were really locked in and I certainly don’t want to do that again.”

If you’re seeing Spiritualized in Santa Cruz tomorrow, April 11th (their only Bay Area show of this tour) or at Coachella the following two weekends, Pierce says you’ll be hearing both old and newer music. The additional personnel added to the band, like a touring drummer and two gospel singers, “is different so that immediately affects a kind of change.”

Speaking of festivals, Pierce says that, like any show, sometimes they’re good and sometimes they’re bad, but mostly they’re just different. “It’s not always about playing for more people, sometimes its about playing the best you can and if only a few people see you in that state that’s better than a lot of people seeing you compromised. Festivals compromise on everybody’s part. Its not really about the music. Glastonbury now sells out before they even announce the lineup.”

The listener’s connection to music is a big part of what Spiritualized is all about, anyway. When asked what the word Spiritualized means in music, Pierce gets around to saying, “It’s not about talent or ability, sometimes it’s more important to hit a single chord as loud and as long as you can. That’s rock n’ roll. It’s about the feeling.”

“You carry records that are important to you like they’re part of who you are,” he continues, “They’re not just these outside pieces of plastic that you put on and enjoy for a moment, they really are part of you.”

Listen to “Hey Jane” by Spiritualized on Soundcloud.

Cocoanut Grove Ballroom
April 11, 2013