The Enduring Legacy of Slowdive: Insights from Christian Savill and Nick Chaplin

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David Levithan’s quote, “ The older you become, the wiser you get,” chronicles and culminates my 20-minute interview with Slowdive’s guitarist, Christian Savill, and bassist Nick Chaplin. My moment with the revered and seasoned musicians was amicable and fun, but most importantly, it was profound and insightful.

Two days before Slowdive’s “everything is alive” tour in Bangkok, I was informed by the lovely Baitoey of Have You Heard? that to save time, I might only get to interview one random member of the band. Obviously, as expected of every fan and journalist, one would’ve hoped to interview either the band’s primary songwriter Neil Halstead, or his songwriting and vocal counterpart, one of the females in rock music that I truly admire, Rachel Goswell, or perhaps all members of the band.

However, I was more than thankful to have had a chance to interview at least one member, and to my surprise, Nick suddenly joined Christian in the room. My friend Misha, who became my photographer and videographer during the interview was alarmed that I might’ve unconsciously fangirled a bit upon meeting both members, which is truly a no-no for a journalist, but maybe the fangirl in me has been truly excited to have been given the rare opportunity.

Slowdive’s music has always been deep, somehow cathartic, and often meditative in nature. While I wanted to explore the intricacies of each soundscape, I found that it might be a bit repulsive or might induce too much technicality. Hence, I decided to choose more mundane questions about their journey as a band, and how they feel about their music’s resurgence, especially in Generation Z (yes, most of the audience members were probably in their mid-early 20s, and they gravitated more toward Slowdive’s old tracks).

Albeit a bit embarrassing for myself, I went ahead to ask them about fate, ‘coz yeah, I’m part of the Asian collective who somehow believes in destiny and past lives, only to be refuted directly by Christian and Nick. Instead, they gave me a reality-driven answer—related to society and economy—something that I have always embraced in my film reviews on this blog.

In the 90s, shoegaze was a term of abuse almost. It was a word sort of invented by a music journalist that was scornful, like all they do is look at the floor and be boring. Whereas now it’s become like a genre.

Christian Savill

The Pop Blog: How does it feel to experience such a resurgence in popularity after being initially overlooked by critics during the early 1990s?

Christian: Surprising, I guess. When we disbanded in 1994, 30 years ago, we assumed it was the end of our adventure with the band. It’s slightly unbelievable that we’ve become more popular without doing anything.

Nick: Yeah, it feels like a joke really, because when we finished, we were seen as a joke. So now it’s like, is this just some crazy made-up thing that someone’s going to reveal as a joke?

It’s like when we play a small show, which isn’t as common anymore. Osaka was still a decent turnout, but it wasn’t sold out, which surprised us. We think they booked us into a venue that was too big. Now, if a show isn’t sold out, we’re amazed. It’s strange, but it’s better than back in 1995 when nobody showed up because we couldn’t afford to pay for people’s energy. Literally couldn’t pay them.

The Pop Blog: I heard that you also got real jobs, right? After you quit your label?

Nick: We worked in the same office, but neither of us really did any work. Despite that, we’ve managed to stay there for a long time without producing anything at all.

The Pop Blog: What inspired you to come back in 2014 and how does it compare to the current resurgence in 2023? 

Christian: We were aware of the interest in the band over the previous few years. The booking agent had offers for us to play some festivals. At that time, we kind of thought, why not? Sounds like fun.

Nick: The booking agent had been in touch with Neil all the way through, as he was still booking Neil’s shows. Neil, Rachel, Simon, and Christian to some extent carried on with music in various forms. Neil continued doing shows and making records, so he was still in the industry and aware of the offers coming in.

The timing never seemed right, but by the end of 2013, everyone was in the right place. Our kids had grown up a bit, so we had time. We always think that each tour or record might be the last time, as interest could shift to another band. Bands come and go, so we try to make the most of it. This time, it has surpassed all our expectations and reached another level, and we’re very grateful, even though we can’t quite explain why.

slowdive nick chaplin and christian savill
L-R: Christian Savill and Nick Chaplin

The Pop Blog: So what was the difference in your songwriting when you were still younger compared to like 20 years after? 

Christian: I think the songs are a little more reflective now.

The Pop Blog: When you say reflective you mean, like more wisdom, something like that?

Christian: I wouldn’t say wisdom. Overall, you know, when you’re young you’re looking forward, when you’re old you look back.

Nick: The process hasn’t changed much. Older records were played more like a band, with each member contributing. In the last two records, we’ve used more samples, drum machines, and synthesized bass in some songs, rather than real instruments. However, the studio process has remained largely the same.

The Pop Blog: Do you consider yourself a shoegaze band because that’s what I really know you are? But somehow your sound is very meditative, and yes, as Christian said, reflective.

Christian: In the 90s, shoegaze was a term of abuse almost. It was a word sort of invented by a music journalist. But it was sort of scornful like all they do is look at the floor and be boring. Whereas now it’s become like a genre.

The Pop Blog: I also noticed that you’ve been called a dream pop band these days.

Nick: Yeah I suppose so. It’s whatever we’ve been. People can call us whatever. We have no control over it.

The Pop Blog: How does it feel to see your impact in contemporary music? Like there a lot of shoegaze and dream pop bands in Thailand, the Philippines, Japan, and even China, derived their music from you. How does it feel to have musically inspired many bands?

Christian: It’s nice when we’ve had support bands on our tours who are young and enthusiastic, eager to learn about our equipment. Seeing their excitement is really heartening.

Nick: It’s rewarding because when we started, we had our own influences—bands we looked up to and sometimes even opened for at our favorite venues in London. It’s satisfying to know that these young bands feel the same way about us now. That’s why we always make an effort to be welcoming and supportive to them.

I can’t imagine how devastating it would have been if bands like My Bloody Valentine or Jesus and Mary Chain were horrible to us when we were starting out. So, we make it a priority to be as supportive as possible to young bands.

The Pop Blog: So what keeps you motivated to create music after all these years?

Christian: I can’t really do anything else. I mean we’re all music fans and we all love playing live. It’s always exciting putting out a new record.

Nick: Many people dream of doing what we do—so many bands are striving for success. We’re fortunate to have achieved success, to come to places like Bangkok today and Singapore tomorrow, and play for fans who truly love our music. We’re incredibly lucky. That in itself is motivating—knowing there are so many people eager to see us and feed off our energy.

Christian: It’s our job but we love it. We did the office job. We worked in the private sector. What we’re doing now is great.

The Pop Blog: There’s somehow a nostalgic element to your music. So what role do you think nostalgia plays in the renewed interest in Slowdive?

Christian: I think it did, didn’t it? Yeah, I think it had a big role to play. But I’m not sure it has that, it has less of an impact now, I think. 

Nick: Yeah, when we first reunited, we wondered who would come to see us. Would it just be people who remembered us from before? Definitely not. In most places, it’s a much younger audience—some probably weren’t even born when we first started. It’s good because we didn’t want to just play the old songs. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we wanted to keep it fresh and feel like we’re doing new things.

The Pop Blog: Yeah, your new record was awesome. What has been the most challenging aspect of being on tour after such a long hiatus?

Christian: Tiring because we’re not young anymore.

Nick: There’s a constant battle because this is our job, and we have to make enough to pay our bills and look after our kids. We can’t afford to spend money on lavish accommodations or long breaks between shows. We have to keep everything efficient and cost-effective to make it work financially.

As I’m getting older, it’s becoming more tiring, and staying healthy on tour is challenging. Picking up colds and bugs is common, and staying fit becomes increasingly difficult.

We all have families at home, and being away for weeks at a time can be challenging. My eldest is going through exams at school, and he’s quite stressed out about it. Being away while he’s dealing with that adds to the difficulty.

The Pop Blog: Any plans for future albums or projects after this tour? 

Christian: We just don’t have any time to think about that right now. We’re going to be touring for the next months. There’s just no time to think about that. We don’t tend to plan that far ahead either. 

Nick: We’ve got everything mapped out until the summer. We’re heading back to the United States next month, and then we have a few other things planned for the autumn. We’ve started discussing next spring, but it’s still focused on supporting this record, so we haven’t talked about what might come after that. I think we’ll probably take a break, spend time with our families, and then see what everyone wants to do. We don’t tend to look too far ahead.

The type of environment in England allowed bands to exist. Whereas I think probably in some countries, you don’t have that safe. So you have to have a job otherwise you can’t afford to play a guitar or buy an amplifier. When we were growing up through the 80s and the early 90s it was possible to concentrate on being in a band. Which is maybe why so many good bands came out of the United Kingdom during that time.

Nick Chaplin

The Pop Blog: What advice would you give to aspiring musicians who are looking to carve out their own path in the industry? 

Christian: If you love doing it, then there’s no point in not doing it. If something comes on it, great, and if not, well, you’ve had fun doing it anyway. 

Nick: Do what you know. Don’t try to be something you’re not. Just be authentic. That’s what everybody says, and it’s true. Even if you find success, if your heart isn’t in it, it’s hard to sustain. Surround yourself with good, trustworthy people. It’s tricky to discern true intentions but strive to build a team you can rely on. We’ve had the same core crew for 10 years, and we’re fortunate to have picked great people to work with. That’s the key moral.

The Pop Blog: One final question. After your 9-5 jobs and label setbacks, you’re making music and selling out shows again. Do you think that this is somehow your calling? Many musicians, like in the Philippines couldn’t sustain their musicianship and go on to their day jobs again. What do you think? I want to extract some kind of wisdom because some of them realize that maybe they have a different path other than making music.

Nick: I think we came from a generation in the United Kingdom where it was possible to kind of do nothing in terms of a career and still get some money from the government and still make money. Paying rent in your house and buying food nowadays is hard. But When we were growing up, you could be on the doll. You could basically be on unemployment and just be in a band. When we first signed to Creation, the first advice we got from them was, right, go on unemployment benefit and that’s how you pay the rent and pay the bills.

The system allowed you to do it. in 1995, everybody had, you know, we had houses that we had, not everybody owned houses but some of us did and you know, we had to, suddenly it wasn’t an option anymore to just be on unemployment so we had to go and try and find a normal job, which is what we did. 

The Pop Blog: Wow, thank you so much. Yeah, like I thought of a blog, a separate article for that. It all boils down to economy and privilege, too.

Christian: I don’t think there’s a destiny. Our society made it easy for creative people to really concentrate on their art and not worry too much about money.TPB

We’d like to thank Jenilyn of Secret Signals for connecting us with Baitoey of Have You Heard and Huh Bangkok. Thanks, BT! Follow Have You Heard on Facebook and Instagram. Follow HUH BKK on Facebook and Instagram.

Featured photo courtesy of Labyrinth. The photos of Christian and Nick playing are courtesy of Labyrinth and whykknot.

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