Are you sitting comfortably? Then the new look freshly beefed James will begin – at The Apollo on December 4th. The Apollo? James? Beefed? Joff Lillywhite checks the changes to the city’s most spontaneous combo.
From the Mancunian fourpiece, so familiar to gig goers around the city centre comes the all-new James, a seven-piece line-up with extra percussion, brass and strings. The usual trademarks of the band, particularly Tim Booth’s distinctive vocals, remain constant. To top off the innovative guitar work of Larry Gott, James have incorporated a rather unusual, but pleasant combination of violin and trumpet, the result being “general orchestral madness” as Tim describes it.
James spent two months this summer in the studio recording for their next Nick Garside produced album Gold Mother which is out in February. Their new single Come Home, which comes from their LP and took only one hour to write and record, has just been released and like the last Sit Down is on the indie label Rough Trade. James ended up on this label after a spell on Factory, followed by a horrific deal at Sire, part of the giant Warner Bros empire. But the difference between Rough Trade and Sire is basically one of feedback. Tim thinks Rough Trade are more into and are interested in James music, whereas Sire were really only concerned with a concept of James that they had thought up. With so much trouble with record companies, it would not be surprising to find James sick of studio work. But, as Saul explains, “We are creative and very spontaneous in the studio, take Come Home, for example : just one hour from the first note written to the completion of the song.”
They are however, currently on tour around Britain and they play the Apollo on December 4th, much to Tim’s regret. He did say that he would never play there, but now there is no venue in Manchester that is the right size. Next year, according to Tim, there will be a shared gig at G-Mex with Happy Mondays. Does playing all-seated venues have any effect on the band’s performance though? Tim believes that non-seated venues are better for atmosphere but that playing seated venues like the Apollo means that the audience are more prepared to listen and notice what the band are playing.
Listening and understanding is all very well, but what about listening and misinterpreting? Does Tim ever worry that his lyrics might be misunderstood? Take the song Riders for example – what exactly does that mean? He explains…..
“Well, Riders is very specific, a very personal song. You see early James was very Happy Mondays-ish, very chemically induced and the situation was really getting out of hand, like one member of the band got really sick. Anyway, one day I was reading this book about dream analysis and thought I’d try and analyse the dream I had that night and the dream was Riders. The ‘sister in uniform’ was Nurse Ratchett from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and the listeners were people like Jim Morrison and Nick Cave, people from the ‘rock n roll hall of fame’. Anyway, that was the dream I had and it marked the beginning of our reformation, it took about a year for us to get our act together.”
Heavy stuff maybe, but when mixed with the band’s music, Tim’s lyrics blend in resulting in a sound so unique that it can only be called James.