Jason Pierce Fucked Up Inside: From Spacemen 3 To Spiritualized

Jason Pierce Fucked Up Inside: From Spacemen 3 To Spiritualized
Jason Pierce is as much a survivor as he is a visionary. From his time in the influential yet self-destructive Spacemen 3 with his one-time friend and toxic twin Pete "Sonic Boom” Kember, to the last 18 years as the driving force and only permanent member of the gospel-leaning space rock force that is Spiritualized, the man they call Spaceman — whose lyrics time and again consist of love, death, redemption, drugs, rock’n’roll, and of course, spirituality — has experienced everything he sings about first hand. And that includes death. Twice. After being stricken with near-fatal double pneumonia in 2005, which was so severe his girlfriend received grief counselling, Pierce made what can only be described as a miraculous comeback. While it was enough trauma to force any artist into retirement, Jason used his brush with death as inspiration for the sixth Spiritualized album, the self-explanatory Songs in A & E. His best work in 11 years, the album is not only the document of his survival but also the digest of all his musical styles to date, encapsulated with the interstellar flourishes J Spaceman has built his songbook around. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s float into space…

1965 to 1981
Jason Pierce is born on November 19, 1965 in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, the same day and place as future band-mate Peter Kember. Jason grows up with an absentee father and is raised with two brothers by his mother. He shows little interest in both school and his hometown’s popular sport, and at the age of seven picks up an acoustic guitar instead, though never takes lessons. "When I was 14, I bought the Stooges’ Raw Power and I listened to nothing but that for a year,” he tells Magnet in 1997. Pierce meets Kember at Rugby Art College and the two hit it off, trading Stooges and Cramps records. Jason forms a "Bauhaus-like” band called Indian Scalp with Kember as manager, but it doesn’t last and the pair begin collaborating together.

1982 to 1985
With Pete Bain on bass and Tim Morris on drums, Pierce and Kember begin announcing, "We’re spacemen!” to anyone listening, thus christening themselves. However, to avoid confusion with the ’50s R&B group, they add the number three after a poster that reads "Are your dreams at night 3 sizes too big?” Their first gig is around Christmas 1982 at a house party. Sounding like the Cramps, they play a bunch of Stooges covers before the police arrive and break it up. The band split when Jason leaves town to attend an art college in Maidstone. Bain and Morris start a band called the Push. When Pierce comes back to Rugby in 1984, he reconnects with Kember, and with new drummer Nicholas "Natty” Brooker, they reform Spacemen 3. Kember begins dabbling with heroin, "trying out any drugs,” he’ll tell Sounds in 1991. The next year they begin recording demos, and find their sound: one-chord blues played through heaving feedback, producing a hypnotic drone. Bain rejoins the band.

The band curiously choose the boss of All Bright, a local industrial cleaning business, as their manager; legend has it that at one point Pierce and Kember sell their future songwriting royalties to All Bright for cash to buy heroin, though it is never confirmed. The band record new demos in January at a studio in Northampton (eventually released under the amusing title Taking Drugs To Make Music To Take Drugs To), and give a copy to Pat Fish of the Jazz Butcher. Soon it lands in the hands of Glass Records’ David Barker, who offers them a two-album contract. They practice non-stop and retreat to a Birmingham studio to record their debut album, Sound of Confusion, in five days for less than £800. Pierce later tells Melody Maker: "We were all playing in the room, until something came through the roof, the sound we were hearing was like from some other planet or something. And that’s what Spacemen 3 was. We just found ourselves making this unearthly kind of sound that elevated us.” The album’s reverence for their heroes produces a mix of covers (Glen Campbell, the Stooges, 13th Floor Elevators) and originals; despite failing to make much of an impact, it holds up as a solid first effort and a proud homage that establishes them as a mesmerising, fuzz-drenched garage band. The constant references to the Lord and narcotics begin with "Hey Man,” which uses "Amen” as its chorus, and "O.D. Catastrophe,” a blatant copy of the Stooges’ "TV Eye” that depicts the downfall of a junkie. Unhappy with some of the mixes, just a few months later they enter the studio again to record the Walkin’ With Jesus EP, cutting a ridiculous but better 17-minute take on album cut "Rollercoaster,” a 13th Floor Elevators cover. A limited number of copies come with a lyrics sheet and a mini essay explaining the band’s philosophy (sample: "Spacemen 3 were born of boredom. Their music uses boredom to overcome itself.”), while in the credits Kember changes his name from "Peter Gunn” to "Sonic Boom,” the name he will continue to use beyond the next two decades. Pierce assumes the nickname of Spaceman. In an interview he says, "I don’t think I’ve ever used ‘Jason Pierce.’ I think people just write that in magazines. My closest friends call me Spaceman. Well, some of them.” On stage the band earn a reputation for unorthodox gigs, or the "anti-show,” by sitting on stools with their backs to the audience and playing at ear-rupturing volumes while strobe lights flash incessantly.

Stewart "Rosco” Roswell replaces Brooker. The band begin recording the first of many sessions at VHF Studios in Rugby; they contribute £3000 to upgrade from eight-track to a 16-track, receiving free studio time in return. They put it to good use, basically moving into the studio to spend time honing songs, recording many different versions, while smoking copious amounts of dope. S3 knock out an EP, Transparent Radiation, which contains two versions of the titular Red Krayola cover, and standout "Ecstasy Symphony,” where they begin experimenting with electronics and building single-note symphonies through phasing and multi-tracking. The song also becomes Pierce’s blueprint to construct the Spiritualized sound. S3 follow this up immediately with their masterwork, The Perfect Prescription. The second album works as a concept chronicling the drug-taking experience of highs, plateaus and crashing; the lyrical content touches on the euphoria in "Feel So Good,” the delusion of "Come Down Easy” and frightening brush with death in "Call the Doctor.” Pierce later tells Magnet it was the "the first time I wasn’t writing songs that were based on anybody else’s songs. So ‘Walkin’ With Jesus’ was purely about what I was doing — I was kind of shocked to see the lyric written down, and, ‘Hey, that’s exactly what I was feeling! Yeah, I really want to do this, to write songs.’” But it’s the radical shift from Sound of Confusion’s weighty guitar noise to The Perfect Prescription’s optimistic, blissful melodies and sublime, varied arrangements, emphasised best in the soft reworking of "Walkin’ With Jesus,” that demonstrate the band’s growth into an exceptional sonic force. Sonic Boom would lay out the band’s M.O. to Melody Maker, saying: "…it’s very minimal, very simple, very primal — we actually went out of our way to show that four people who couldn’t play instruments could make a sound which could be really uplifting, could turn you on, and that anyone can do that.”

1988 to 1989
The band begin touring Europe, gaining more and more attention, but a gig in Amsterdam at the Melkweg club shows cracks are beginning to form in the band. Rosco leaves the band afterwards, followed by Bain. With more attention directed towards them, Pierce and Kember look to end their contract with Glass and shop for a new label. They offer up Performance, a live recording of the Melkweg gig to fulfil their deal. Will Caruthers is brought in to play bass, with Steve Evans also recruited temporarily as a third guitarist; they test out the new line-up with a unique performance consisting of a single guitar drone held for 90 minutes — the audience is not enthused. S3 release a couple of singles on various labels, and then settle with the Fire label, though a courtship by Creation is rumoured. Their first release on the new label is the single "Revolution,” a dynamic blast of mighty riffing that becomes an unlikely, modest chart success. With the media getting more and more interested, Kember begins discussing the band’s drug use, which quickly overshadows the music in their press. They head to Cornwall to begin recording their third album, Playing With Fire, which arrives in early 1989. With the press now on their side, the band seem destined to break through, but a divide between Pierce and Kember becomes clear in the songwriting credits, which for the first time show the duo acknowledging their own songs. Playing also captures this on tape, clarifying the difference between the two: Pierce’s songs focus more on the spiritual and gospel, while Kember’s use transparent repetition for entrancement. Drummer Jon Mattock and guitarist Mark Refoy are recruited as permanent members and the band are scheduled to embark on a full North American tour, after signing a deal with Bomp! to distribute the new album; Bomp! owner Greg Shaw takes out a $10,000 loan from his mother to pay for it. On the eve of the tour, S3 pull out after reported spats between Pierce and Kember, who will later tell Magnet: "We had some drug convictions on our records. And then we had to supply our albums and press and stuff to prove our case ‘worthy.’ It was very hard to find enough press that didn’t have drug references.” They play their last-ever show in August at the Reading Festival. Sonic Boom releases his first solo single, "Angel” on Silvertone Records in December.

1990 to 1991
The band’s decade begins with the release of Dreamweapon: An Evening of Contemporary Sitar Music, a challenging but rewarding live album centred around the 44-minute title track, an experiment based on repetitive, pulsating drones. Rumour has it Kember leaks the album to Fierce, which releases it as an official bootleg (a pissed off Pierce leaks a live album himself called Revolution or Heroin to Fierce five years later). Also released are their 1986 demos, aptly named Taking Music To Make Music To Take Drugs To, which becomes a fan favourite. Pierce and Kember continue working separately on both S3 and their own solo material, while hardly speaking to each other. Kember releases his debut solo album Spectrum, (which ironically features Pierce) in February, while Jason forms the much more laidback Spiritualized (named after the description of a Pernod — "Spiritueux Anise”) with Refoy, Mattock, Caruthers and Steve Evans — much to Kember’s surprise. The goal is to begin playing live again, and in June they release their first single, a cover of the Troggs’ "Anyway That You Want Me” through new label Dedicated, which oddly packages the release with a Spacemen 3 sticker. Pierce later explains the birth of Spiritualized to Vox saying, "Half the reason why Spiritualized started was because Spacemen 3 was becoming a very safe live act — safe for myself, anyway. We were just playing the heavy, hardcore stuff like ‘Revolution’… there was no highest of highs, lowest of lows. I was fighting to get some quiet stuff into the set.” Kember sees this as an act of betrayal and confirmation of the S3’s end, despite the fact that they have an unreleased final album sitting around. Kember tells The Catalogue: "Originally, we all knew we were going to split up after the album was recorded, pursue different projects and then reconvene in a year’s time… Then [Spiritualized] recorded ‘Anyway That You Want Me,’ which I’d suggested Spacemen 3 should cover. There didn’t seem to me any great need for them to show they could do it… I basically said, ‘OK, if you have all these ideas, then fuck off and do it.’” Pierce later responds in Magnet, saying, "Spacemen hadn't been on tour for a year and didn't look likely to, so Spiritualized needed some product to be able to go out on tour. What the press picked up on was that I left Spacemen 3 and took the band with me. What actually happened was those guys [Carruthers, Mattock and Refoy] left individually over a period of about seven months. But it seemed crazy to let them go because they were obviously attuned to what we were doing and creating those kinds of sounds, so I kind of followed them.” Final studio LP Recurring is released in early 1991, more as a sign of what is to come then as a proper S3 album. Unofficially divided into two solo parts, the first half belongs to Sonic Boom’s quest for the perfect trance, while Pierce develops his fondness for meditative spaced-out blues — he takes over the record at "Feel So Sad,” which Spiritualized boldly re-release as their second single a few months later. Despite the clear divide that found them each only working on their own songs, the album arguably stands with The Perfect Prescription as the best work of both Kember and Pierce. Recurring contains a cover of Mudhoney’s "When Tomorrow Hits,” which is originally intended as a split single with the Seattle band, who covered "Revolution.” Kember cancels the release when he learns Mudhoney have substituted cheeky lyrics about methadone suppositories (the song ends up as a b-side to their "This Gift” single). An unofficial and unnecessary comp titled Losing Touch With Your Mind is released containing mixes and demos. Kate Radley, Pierce’s girlfriend, replaces Evans on keyboards, and Spiritualized release two more EPs, Run/I Want You and Smile/Sway before the end of 1991.

1992 to 1994
Carruthers leaves the band after a money dispute and is replaced by Sean Cook. Recorded at VHF, Spiritualized’s debut album, Lazer Guided Melodies, is released in March; though it contains 12 tracks, the CD version is arranged to show its importance as a whole and divided into four blocks — "the kind of blocks you’d get if you bought it on vinyl,” Pierce tells Drop-D. The album fulfils Pierce’s vision begun on Recurring; slow, tranquil melodies, tucked into a bed of warm symphonic sounds generated by pedal notes and tremolo, modulating synths, delayed guitars and the tender murmurs of Pierce and Radley, culminating in the majestic gospel number "Shine A Light,” which is arguably the finest Spiritualized song. The band embark on their first North American tour opening up Rollercoaster, which is headlined by the Jesus & Mary Chain and also features Curve. The response is strong, though it’s based more on efforts of the audience than the band. "The band is not about success commercially,” he later tells Magnet. "The goal is to be the best we can, and to keep going forward. A lot of bands have this weird cabaret mentality of playing the hits at the same time each night. We just do it naturally... That's the only way you can make good music, to be very selfish about it and satisfy yourself.” They release the Medication EP only months after their album; the title track will feature on their next album, which won’t drop until another three years. Pierce begins to trickle out more from his forthcoming album, Pure Phase, with the Electric Mainline EP, "Good Dope, Good Fun,” an early version of "Lay Back in the Sun” released as a split with Mercury Rev for Greenpeace and the mail order live album Fucked Up Inside, which was recorded in the Hollywood Palladium. The difficulty maintaining a sturdy line-up begins when Mark Refoy leaves to focus on Slipstream, and takes with him drummer Jon Mattock. Kevin Cowen of fellow Rugby band the Darkside (a band formed by ex-S3 bassist Pete Bain) replaces Refoy on guitar, but after a brief stint is replaced by John Coxon of experimental drum & bass outfit Spring Heel Jack.

1995 to 1996
The Let It Flow EP precedes the second album, Pure Phase, which is credited to "Spiritualized Electric Mainline” in a bid to try and demonstrate the sounds they were making (he also admits that the first and third albums were credited to "Spiritualized Lazer Guided Melodies” and "Spiritualized Rocket Shaped Songs,” respectively). Recorded at Moles Studio in Bath, the album builds on Pierce’s grandiose vision (the album is recorded using two distinct mixes in each stereo channel), throwing ambient swells in amongst excited jams, tranquil fade-outs, harmonious repetition and dazzling strings courtesy of the Balanescu Quartet. The biggest distinction, however, comes in the wave of tremolo that crescendos throughout the album’s entirety, and bassist Sean Cook’s introduction of the harmonica, which will become a staple of the Spiritualized sound from this point forward. The album, which gets a limited release in a glow-in-the-dark hard case, isn’t received well by the press (Q awards it three stars and NME gives it five out of ten, but then lists it as number 23 in its "Top 50 Albums of the Year”), though it’s clearly a remarkable statement that continues to be the band’s most underappreciated work. Speaking with Resonance magazine, Pierce says: "We said what we wanted and recorded the songs exactly the way we wanted. I don't think of our albums as a collection of good takes — like how ‘Medication’ sounded a year ago. We want people to lose themselves in the music, and hear things they didn't hear on first listen.” Sixteen versions of the title track are released as a limited edition promo titled Pure Phase Tones For DJs, each track playable at both 33 and 45 rpm and recorded in the keys of C/F; D/G; E/A; F/Bflat; G/C; A/D; B/E; C/F at varying frequencies; the tracks are to be used simultaneously together to make chords. A number of posthumous Spacemen 3 compilations are emptied from the vaults on various labels: Translucent Flashback – The Singles (Fire), For All the Fucked-Up Children of the World We Give You Spacemen 3 (Sympathy For the Record Industry), Spacemen Are Go! (Bomp!) and Revolution or Heroin (Fierce). About the barrage of S3 releases, Pierce tells Magnet: "I can go back and look at stuff I was doing then, and I guess I don't mind it’s out there. But it seems weird to get involved with something that is six or seven years old now. And I think Pete’s quite content to do it how he’s been doing it all along. He puts them out and he takes the money. But I haven’t seen a cent from any of it.” Spiritualized support the Verve at the Phoenix Festival on July 15, 1995 — four days after Radley secretly marries the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft. The couple don’t publicly announce their marriage until two years later; she remains in Spiritualized. "Then I realised Jason was racked with problems,” Sean Cook later tells Rock’s Backpages. "I don't know what came first, his relationship with Kate going down the pan or slipping into a mild drug abuse phase.” He continues that Pierce began a period of smoking heroin. Spiritualized begin recording their third album, and recruit drummer Damon Reece and guitarist Mike Mooney as full-time members, and invite Dr. John, the London Community Gospel Choir and, once again, the Balanescu Quartet to take part.

Named after a passage from Jostein Gaardner’s philosophical novel, Sophie’s World, Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space is released in March. Though not as immediate as its predecessors, the album is by far Pierce’s eminent achievement; gone are pretty much all traces of Spacemen 3’s hypnotic drone, and in its place is a mélange of various styles — gospel, blues, free jazz, garage rock, psychedelia, ambient and orchestral pop — with a deeper sense of introspection through themes of religion, love and drugs. For the first time since S3, Pierce’s lyrics are put under the microscope, with the press jumping to conclusions about the drug references ("There's a hole in my arm where all the money goes”) and songs like "Broken Heart,” which suggest it’s a break-up album about Radley. During promotion, Pierce gives a statement about his relationship with his former girlfriend and keyboardist saying, "I love her dearly and she loves me dearly. Simple fact.” Confronting the constant reports that Ladies and Gentlemen is autobiographical, Pierce tells Mojo: "I don't think anyone genuinely listens to lyrics in that way, but it's a way that comes with the marketing of records. With the Righteous Brothers’
‘You've Lost That Lovin’ Feeling’ or Ray Charles’ ‘I Can't Stop Loving You,’ you don't listen to them and think, ‘This is about a moment in the author's life that he's set to music. You relate it to your life — it doesn’t have anything to do with the author anymore. But often today the music isn't strong enough, so they have to market a story instead. And 
I'm involved in it, obviously: if I hadn't been doing interviews I 
wouldn't even have come to that conclusion.” Again, Pierce takes pride in designing special packaging, collaborating with designer Mark Farrow. They hire a pharmaceutical company to manufacture a three-inch disc encased in a foil blister pack mimicking an enormous pill; the sleeve notes read like the accompanying patient-info slip for a medication named Spiritualized® with choice instructions like "play twice daily” and "may cause dizziness.” "Ours were never meant as special editions,” he explains. "They were meant as ‘this is the edition.’ There were 70,000 of those pill boxes, because that’s all I could afford. But at least I could afford them. They were meant as, music’s really fucking important and shouldn’t be sold as this unit of sale that is as cheap as you can make it to get the most profit from it. And they felt like, if you put your music in a box like that it would have a true value, and it would retain that value.” The album is an immediate hit with critics and fans, reaching at number four in the UK charts; at the end of the year it beats out popular favourites Radiohead’s OK Computer and the Verve’s Urban Hymns for NME’s Album of the Year honour. The band travel 113 stories up the CN Tower to play what is recorded as the "highest show ever,” leaving the door open for entendres. He tells Rolling Stone: "The CN Tower was probably the best show we've ever done… The building was moving 12 feet in either direction. We were literally floating in space… I'd been trying to get it for nearly two years. I guess now, the one benefit of having more people know about our record is that more people in the record company start listening to our ideas. Most of our ideas over the last seven years have fallen on deaf ears.” They also play a triumphant gig with the London Community Gospel Choir at the Royal Albert Hall in London, which is later released as a double live album. John Coxon leaves the band and is replaced on guitar by Gregg Hale; Ray "Moonshake” Dickaty joins on saxophone, and Julian Cope collaborator thighpaulsandra (aka Tim Lewis) replaces Radley on keyboards. The band tour with Neil Young, with whom they share a manager (Elliott Roberts), and after a show in San Francisco, Pierce and his band-mates spend the night at Young’s ranch. "When we were 
touring with them, ‘Like a Hurricane’ became a more screaming, psychedelic thing, and I think that affected the way we were playing,” he tells Mojo.

1998 to 2000
Volkswagen uses Ladies and Gentlemen’s title track in an ad campaign for the new Beetle. A string of singles are released, including the Abbey Road EP, and "I Think I’m In Love,” a call and response gospel number that is remixed by the Chemical Brothers. Spiritualized is chosen as the opening act for Radiohead’s North American tour. A Tribute to Spacemen 3 is released on indie label Rocket Girl, featuring the likes of Mogwai, Low, Arab Strap and Bardo Pond putting their spin on a selection of S3 tracks. One year after the concert, the band release a double live album, Royal Albert Hall October 10, 1997, the result of a magical night that features a rendition of gospel standard "Oh Happy Day” as the closer, and marked the final recording with Sean Cook, Damon Reece and Mike Mooney. "I refer to the agreement between us dated May 10, 1999. Pursuant to which you provided your service to me as a member of Spiritualized. Pursuant to sub clause 1D of the agreement, kindly treat this letter as constituting my one month's notice to you to terminate the term of the agreement.” The simple reason is a payment dispute, but Pierce is accused of "slave labour.” Years later Cook explains to e-zine Terapija.net: "The basic story is that the singer was behaving like a total cock, we called it like we saw it, he didn't like that, so he sacked us. This kind of thing happens quite a lot in bands. Certain members, usually singers, disappear up their own asshole and get a bit carried away in terms of their perception of their own importance. When this happens the other members of the group either put up with it (in which case the group trundles on for a while and then fades) or they don't, which leads to the whole thing rapidly going tits — often in quite a dramatic fashion. Spiritualized is an example of the latter.” Pierce explains his side to the Guardian saying, "It was almost like they wanted to find cobwebs, they wanted to find some way that it wasn't working. It became ludicrous.” The trio immediately unite to form a brooding psych rock band called Lupine Howl. With thighpaulsandra and Dickaty still in the line-up, Pierce invites Coxon back into the band as well as classical percussionist Tom Edwards and Julian Cope collaborator Doggen, all of whom remain in the band to this day. Kev Bales and Martin Schelland are also brought on for the next album. Pierce’s girlfriend, filmmaker Juliette Larthe, gives birth to a daughter, which they name Poppy. The band release a one-off DVD single titled Electricity/Come Together, with videos and behind the scenes footage.

2001 to 2002
Fourth album Let it Come Down is released in September marking a significant shift. Pierce’s previous array of frenzied styles on Ladies and Gentlemen gives way to lush orchestrations (featuring over 120 musicians), heaving, Brian Wilson-inspired melodies, significant gospel influences and wall of sound production, recalling the signature of Phil Spector. He explains to Exclaim!: "The idea was to write an album where the orchestration and the choir parts were integral to the album, not as a kind of addition. The choir sounds like they’re there to add this illusion of grandeur to something that isn’t particularly grand. I wanted to start from the other perspective where the orchestrations would dictate the way the songs went.” As grand and uplifting as the album sounds, Pierce’s lyrical themes read like a man who’s gone to hell and back, as he narrates tales of addiction, the hard road to recovery and escaping rock bottom. Titles such as "The 12 Steps,” "Won’t Get To Heaven (The State I’m In)” and "The Straight and the Narrow” suggest drugs were part of the equation, but again, he rejects the idea, explaining to the Guardian: "It’s basically a statement of satisfaction. There's no frustration in this album, there’s no moaning or wallowing. It’s a satisfaction with how life is — that's why it's called Let It Come Down. People think I’m not, but I'm really happy to be here.” The most extraordinary facet of the album, however, is how he pieces the arrangements together despite the fact that he’s musically illiterate. He tells Exclaim!: "I don’t write music, so the important thing for me was to put this record in an area of music where I really didn’t know how to operate. I sang all the melody lines to a Dictaphone and then transposed those to a piano so that somebody else could write the music.” Pierce ends the album with a gospel take on S3’s "Lord Can You Hear Me,” which was inspired by the cover version recorded by Low, whose Mimi Parker contributes backing vocals to the album. Continuing his trend of fancy packaging, Pierce and Farrow hire sculptor Don Brown to design the case; he uses his girlfriend Yoko as his muse to produce an embossed soft plastic package. "I’d been reading some psychology about the workings of the brain and I got interested in the idea that when you see an image of a face that is concave your brain is so used to seeing eyes and noses that stick out that it finds it impossible to read,” Pierce tells Creative Review. Pierce contributes guitar to Spring Heel Jack’s eighth album, Amassed, and joins them on tour. Larthe gives birth to a boy they name Hank.

2003 to 2004
Pierce indulges fans and compiles all of Spiritualized’s non-album material to date for Complete Works Vol. 1, which contains everything from debut single "Anyway That You Want Me” on. For the fifth Spiritualized album, Amazing Grace, Pierce shakes things up again, stripping away the layered production he’d built a reputation on, channelling his current loves — garage, free jazz and gospel — and forcing his band to improvise. He tells Thrasher: "This record is more informed by free jazz, by spontaneous music. Generally in that music you listen to other sounds in the room and then you respond to them. I kind of wanted to try and apply that to the recording of this record. Because that’s something we've always done live: that’s not new to us. Our live shows have always been about taking it in all directions. The only way I could think of doing that in the studio was giving the songs to the band on the day we were recording them. So what you’re hearing on this record is a drummer playing to a bass line that he’s never heard before in his life and responding to guitars and lyrics they’ve never heard. You get this kind of immediacy, this kind of spontaneous moment that is actually quite rare in rock’n’roll music.” Despite it’s avoidance of the melodies that carried Let It Come Down, the record is a successful experiment that allows Pierce to try a less methodical approach and fully embrace the garage rock that first inspired him to start a band. That said, it’s arguably the least popular album in the band’s canon. Album track "The Ballad of Richie Lee” finds Pierce paying tribute to his late friend Richie Lee, singer/bassist for Spiritualized tour-mates Acetone, who commits suicide in 2001. Dickaty and Shellard depart after the album’s completion. Jason appears on Spring Heel Jack’s Live album credited as "J Spaceman.” Another Spacemen 3 bootleg, and the final one for some time, Forged Prescriptions, is released through Space Age Recordings, featuring alternate and demo versions of The Perfect Prescription. Regarding the glut of S3 "reissues,” Pierce tells Exclaim!: "I didn’t lose control, more like what I was saying wasn’t being listened to. When they were reissued with different sleeves, I was like, they are what they are, like little time capsules that travel through time that have this sound within them. And that’s what’s special about the music. And nobody was interested in preserving that, they were only interested in how much more money they can make out of it, so I kind of left them to it. I like the records for what they were, with the sleeves for all the kind of oddness to them. The cover of Perfect Prescription is an odd photograph, and odd the way it’s put together, and I don’t think it needed to be dressed any other way. The industry behind the Spacemen 3 is, ‘Here’s Playing with Fire again with seven unreleased tracks, here it is again with the singles attached, here it is with a different mix on the second track.’ And there was just an awful lot of it, and it wasn’t great for the music.”

2004 to 2007
Complete Works Vol. 2 is released containing everything up to the end of the Amazing Grace period. In June 2005, Pierce joins Kevin Shields and Patti Smith at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London for a performance of their collaboration titled The Coral Sea, a tribute to Smith’s late friend, artist Robert Mapplethorpe. Two days later, Pierce falls ill and calls band mate John Coxon, describing a breathing difficulty. Coxon rushes Pierce to the hospital and he’s hooked up to a drip and ventilator in the intensive care unit at the Royal London Hospital, where he’s diagnosed with periorbital cellulitis with bilateral pneumonia, a condition that causes the lungs to fill with fluid, preventing oxygen from reaching the blood stream. On their son’s third birthday, Pierce’s girlfriend is offered grief counselling, and his children are brought in to see him one last time. Coxon tells the Guardian: "It was terrifying, really touch and go. He could just about communicate with us by scrawling words on a piece of paper. At one point I just thought that this was it. I was pretty sure he was going to die. The problem was that the bug wasn’t responding to antibiotics — it was getting worse and worse. We thought he was a goner.” As it turns out, Pierce is a goner, as he is technically considered dead not once but twice in this period. On top of that, his weight plunges to under 100 pounds. When he does recover, Larthe posts a message on the official Spiritualized message board reading: "After nearly dying twice in the last two and half weeks, Jason has made an alarming and brilliant recovery. He is still weak, weighing in at maybe eight stone, but love and happiness are on his side.” Primal Scream front-man Bobby Gillespie visits him and assures him of his recovery saying, "I knew you’d fuckin’ make it, your handshake was too strong.” Pierce joins Smith and Shields again for another performance of The Coral Sea. He provides his first classical composition as the score for Silent Sound, a performance/art installation portraying an 1865 Victorian séance by artists Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard. The music is hummed over the phone and transcribed over the course of three hours, because he still can’t read or write music. Along with Norman Blake (Teenage Fanclub), Vic Chesnutt, James Yorkston and Howe Gelb, Jason performs with Daniel Johnston at a special gig and screening of the documentary, The Devil & Daniel Johnston. Pierce helps his friend actress Samantha Morton recover from a stroke brought on from being hit on the head from her collapsed ceiling. She tells the Observer: "Jason and I have been mirroring each other. He was really sick and then I had a stroke at the beginning of [that] year. He was the only person I knew who understood what that was like, being near to death.” While sitting with Morton, Pierce discovers the script to a Harmony Korine film titled Mister Lonely, set to star Morton as a Marilyn Monroe impersonator. Korine, who first meets Pierce at the Daniel Johnston tribute show, asks Pierce to co-write the film’s score with the Sun City Girls. Says Pierce, "I had no idea how to finish my record. I said, ‘I can’t find my way back into this.’ Harmony came when I really needed some help, and this crazy, beautiful man who has ideas coming in from everywhere said, ‘make me some music.’ And it was liberating just to be doing that and not having to front it and say, ‘This is my new album, this is the concept, this is what we’re trying to achieve.’ I just sat in the studio making sounds. And he didn’t even say he wanted this kind of music, he said he just wanted my music. It was somebody coming into my world when I was suffering bad — I couldn’t make my record — and saying, ‘I want your music.’” Jason launches the Acoustic Mainline Tour with band-mate Doggen on organ, a string quartet and a choir, which features a selection of songs by Spiritualized, Spacemen 3 and a few covers arranged acoustically. "It taught me a lot about those songs,” he admits. "There’s nowhere to hide on a stage like that. You can’t lose yourself in the noise, you can’t get lost in the music, so every bit of that is a performance. From the moment I got on stage to the moment we ended I was singing, there was no rest from it. But I kind of got into these simple songs, that you can tap into it. I’ve said this before, but I don’t think any of my songs are showcases for talent. None of them are like, ‘Hey look what I can do with my fingers on the guitar!’ I’m hitting the same chords on this songs as I did on the last one, and it’s the same tempo, and in exactly the same order. But you can find something in this, in the magic, elusive thing that’s in music. And it was great for that, and some of it has gone and infected to the electric shows. The electric shows aren’t like a return to the electrics. We’ve been doing that acoustic thing and now we’re plugged back in, and the possibilities are endless.”

Pierce quashes Spacemen 3 reunion possibilities in the Observer, saying: "Why would I do that? I mean, I would have liked to go and watch the battle of Waterloo when it happened but that doesn't mean I'm going to go and sit in a field somewhere and watch people act it out.” Credited to J Spaceman and Sun City Girls, the Mister Lonely soundtrack is released by Drag City in April, followed two months later by Spiritualized’s seventh album, Songs in A&E, which Pierce describes as "the work of the Devil… with a little guidance from me.” Regarding the amusing title, Pierce admits, "I’d like to say before I got ill, because it sounds like one of my titles. A&E in England only ever means ‘accident and emergency’ but it seemed like the pun was too good to pass. And also I thought it aligned to how the whole of my life is lived like that. I have no plans for anything, all of my songs I’ve written and everything I’ve done with [Spiritualized] seems to be a product of accident and emergency. So, yeah, maybe I should stick with that and say I thought of it before I got ill, but I can’t remember.” Written before he fell ill, the album is a haunting opus, among his best alongside Ladies and Gentlemen. Spaced out by six interludes each titled "H,” the album is his most rounded effort to date, encompassing all of his career’s cornerstones. Again, his lyrical focus is on his signature topics, including some frightening foreshadowing on the half-awake gospel cut, "Death Take Your Fiddle,” which features the lines: "Think I'll dream myself into a coma/And I'll take every way out I can find/With morphine, codeine, whisky, they won't alter/The way I feel now death is not around.” "If there was a starting point to this record it was that the songs were going to be written almost like traditional songs, and the shapes of the songs were going to be quite formal, almost like a standard kind of thing,” he explains. "And when I came out [of the hospital], they just sounded like that, like 11 old songs that I couldn’t make contemporary to my life. I tried a number of things. At one point I tried mixing them like Pure Phase, like something I knew had worked in the past. So I put a lot of layers into them, but this didn’t work. I kind of knew any way that you just can’t apply an idea or technique to something and it’s gonna work. The best thing about music is that it’s not an exact science. You don’t just play 15 notes in order and have people feel elated or emotional, there’s just a magic between the notes, and it was like that trying to find that with these songs, trying to put them in a space where they demanded that you listen to them.”