It’s taken James nine years, four record companies and the rerelease last year of Sit Down to achieve success but now nominated for Best British Band category at next month’s Brit Awards along with Dire Straits and Queen. The backlash has begun.
Tim : I think in England there’s a particular thing with a band having success which is hard for a lot of people to take especially when you see it come up from something small. You’ve been their property, their private band, the band that they always loved and nobody else knew about. When you become public property, something else happens. It’s quite scary for us too because we’ve always liked bands that never made it.
Singer Tim Booth, in particular, has been accused of being pompous and taking himself too seriously. He allegedly threatened to commit suicide if he didn’t find the meaning of life.
Tim : I’d got everything I wanted and I found I still wasn’t enjoying it. I wasn’t enjoying life. You kind of think that’s a bit ridiculous and just try and like enjoy it really. I was giving myself too bad a time as well really, I was taking it too seriously. I was taking the responsibility of the band too much on my shoulders . It’s part of my upbringing as well, it’s just that if you do this thing really well, it’s serious and well it’s the whole of the upbringing, it’s the whole thing with religion. Well I don’t trust any religion now without a sense of humour so that kind of knocks them all out really.
Whether you think James have a sense of humour or not, one thing nobody disagrees over is what James are like when they play live. Their fanatical following and the intensity of Tim Booth’s performance means the band’s concerts can resemble religious celebrations.
Tim : There’s a certain range of feelings and emotions that a mass of people can get at a concert that I think they should almost be getting from religions that they don’t and I don’t see anything wrong in that as long as there’s a sense of humour there as well and people aren’t taking us too seriously in that way.
Even if the band do come from Manchester and the James rise came at a time when Manchester bands were constantly in the media spotlight, the only thing James have in common with the Happy Mondays is the town they live in.
Tim : We felt we were before all that anyway. Well, obviously for a start, we’ve been going eight or nine years and we feel as much connected to Joy Division and The Smiths than we did to the Happy Mondays and the Stone Roses and so we didn’t want to get caught up in that wave because we felt once it had passed there would be a backlash and we didn’t want part of it. We were offered press that was linked with it and we’d turn it down.
But there are some things James have not managed to avoid. Sit Down, the single that turned James into stadium stars, became their unofficial anthem is probably one track they’ll have to play live for the rest of their lives.
Tim : We tried not playing it, we tried doing acoustic versions, we’d open all the sets with it and then we kind of realised to an audience coming along, it was fresh, it was something they hadn’t experienced before and it was us that had experienced it a few nights running and we ended up feeling like killjoys at a party, so we kind of accepted in the end that the song had gone public.