Opportunity rocks

Neil Halstead is back in town with his band Mojave 3 and the world is his oyster, writes Charlie Carter

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 21 August, 2013, 10:20pm


When your three-decade-long music career has established you as an influential artist with a remarkable body of work, you can feel free to choose your next project according to whatever takes your fancy.

For Neil Halstead, the main man behind British folk rockers Mojave 3 and 1990s psychedelic pioneers Slowdive, that means playing a gig in Hong Kong. After a couple of concerts in the city during the past few years, the 42- year-old is keen to return for more.

And local fans are obviously keen – tickets to the band’s August 29 show at Backstage Live in Central sold out in days, leading to the announcement of a second show on August 30.

“It was mind-blowing, really,” Halstead recalls of the first show he performed here, in 2010. “I’d played a decent run of shows in China and Hong Kong was the last one. I really enjoyed the cultural aspect of it – the craziness of it all.”

That was a solo gig, but this time around Halstead will be in the city with Mojave 3, the on-off band he formed from the ashes of shoegaze favourites Slowdive in 1995. The show is the latest of Mojave 3’s occasional spurts of activity that have punctuated the band’s career since last releasing an album seven years ago.

With Slowdive bassist Rachel Goswell and drummer Ian McCutcheon, Mojave 3 began as a three-piece playing laid-back indie folk. Over its five albums, the band took on another two members, melding country and psychedelia into its sound.

Since 2006, the band have been on a semi-hiatus, playing shows whenever they felt the urge. “Gigs are something we do when we can get together,” says Halstead.

“We stopped touring a few years ago and do the odd gig here and there.”

The September 29 show at Backstage Live in Central will be one of a handful of concerts for the band, reduced to a fourpiece with the temporary departure of Goswell, before releasing an album sometime early in the new year.

Another record has “never been off the agenda, but we only just got it together to do some recordings,” Halstead says.

“We’re all friends, we live close to each other and see a lot of each other. The only reason we’ve not done more is because we’ve all been busy with other things.

“It just felt like the right time to work on new material.”

Halstead has also put together another band, Black Hearted Brother, which are about to release their debut album.

“That’s something I do with a couple of friends and without any expectations,” he says.

While Halstead insists that in the past he hasn’t been one to push out records “willy-nilly”, he will also release a new solo album this year. And if that isn’t enough, he may soon be adding to his growing list of projects with the reformation of Slowdive.

“There’s been a lot of interest in that and approaches have definitely been made,” he explains. “Whether we will or not I don’t know – we’ve talked about it.”

With hot new bands including British psych rockers Temples, Toy and The Horrors, American pop-punkers Merchandise and French chanteuse Melody’s Echo Chamber incorporating the swirling head music of the ‘90s shoegaze scene into their contemporary sounds, the time seems ripe for a return of the originals.

“It’s interesting how much shoegaze as a genre has become more happening in the past few years – it definitely seems to be something that’s still there,” he says. “I hear a lot of stuff and I think they have a lot of shoegaze in them. Those sounds have seeped their way into music, generally.”

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Mojave 3, Aug 29, 8.30pm, sold out; Aug 30, 10pm, HK$280 (advance), HK$320 (door), Backstage Live, 52-54 Wellington St, Central. Inquiries: 9709 2085