Pete Mitchell : With me, Tim and Jim, welcome to the show
Tim : He’s put on his proper radio voice now
Jim : He was swearing before.
Tim : I tell you, if you talk to this guy, he’s got a high-pitched voice. The moment he gets in front of a radio mic.
PM : (In high voice) Hi there, it’s Pete Mitchell. No you’ve done nothing but complain about the table and the room you’re recording in
Tim : We’re used to better nowadays you know
PM : Well, I know. Exactly, you’re preempting my first question. Things have gone very well since we last spoke. I remember asking you about success last time and I think you both said it doesn’t feel like success. It must do now with the success you’ve had since we last spoke – Sit Down.
Tim : Every so often, you catch yourself and you think “Cor, blooming heck, how did we get here?” and it’s kind of like when you’re doing a video shoot in the Los Angeles desert and you look around and you see a huge crew and all the trucks and you think they’re all here to make a four-minute video for one of our songs and you think “Oh my God, what’s happened to us?”
PM : So obviously the past twelve months have been amazing, the best year of your career. Do you think you’ve coped with it well?
Jim : I think we’re doing alright. We’re still together as a band and still relatively sane.
Tim : That time you cracked up, took all your clothes off and ran down Manchester streets naked. I thought you’d lost it then.
PM : Do you think a lot hangs on this new album, Seven?
Tim : Yes
PM : In a nutshell
Tim : Well obviously, we haven’t released an LP for like two years.
PM : Well you have and you haven’t. Gold Mother came back out.
Tim : It kind of returned
PM : Gold Mother 2. The sequel
Tim : She had another baby. So yes, I think people are waiting to see what we’ve done next. And the press have already decided what we’ve done next. I don’t think, it doesn’t feel like it hinges as in it’s going to be bad. It feels like it is good to get something out for people to hear. We know what we’ve done. But it hasn’t necessarily been the best year of our careers. What it’s been is the busiest.
PM : And the most successful
Tim : Externally successful, yeah sure. But we never judged it in that way. We aren’t able to rehearse as much as we used to and we love rehearsing. And we don’t like being shipped around the world talking about records when we haven’t even been and played in the country we’re talking about, so we’re starting to refuse quite a few things nowadays.
Jim : We always thought our strength was in our songwriting. Getting in and having a good batch of songs behind us. And now we’re finding it harder to find time to actually get in and rehearse and write songs. At the moment, we’re feeling a little bit naked.
PM : So when do you find the time to write new material then? In between tours?
Jim : We’re just grabbing days. We insist on having a few days. Because as far as the record company is concerned, it’s like “you want to write some songs now, but you won’t be recording the album for absolutely ages yet. What do you want to go and write now for?”. They allot you a certain gap, a three week period or something, where you go and write the album.
PM : Just like that
Jim : Yeah. For us it’s not like packing biscuits. You can’t just put the hours in and you end up with the songs at the end of it. Well, you can, but they might be a bit dodgy. We write over a long period of time, we’re constantly writing songs when we’re on tour, in the soundchecks, we’re jamming them in the studio. That feeds us. That keeps us going. It keeps us sane because at the end of the day, there’s business and there’s creativity and I think, for us, we need more creativity than business normally wants you to put in
PM : I think it’s a lot of fun packing biscuits.
Jim : Well it has its points
PM : Custard creams, hob nobs
Jim : Jaffa cakes
PM : Let’s talk about the album then. Seven. Ring The Bells, which is a song I heard about three years ago live, am I right? Of course, I am
Tim : Of course you are. Probably about two and a bit
PM : I remember hearing it for the first time at Blackpool. Am I right on that one? Yes, I’m right again
Jim : We’ve got terrible memories
Tim : Yes, it’s an old song. First released at Blackpool. It’s the only one we have a great video idea for. And we aren’t going to get to make it as we wanted it. We had this idea of going to Mexico and during….
Jim : Another holiday
Tim : Another holiday. During one of their religious festivals, one of their kind of Christian religious festivals where Christ is covered in blood.
PM : Oh dear
Tim : And it’s really paga and heavy and filming it there and the bells, ring the bells would be one of these old Mexican churches, whitewashed churches and it’d be some nutter coming in off the desert.
PM : Clint Eastwood perhaps?
Tim : We’re into deserts. No, no, you’ve got it all wrong. Harry Dean Stanton. Like he’s had too much sun in the desert and he’s raging and he’s either got some kind of divine inspiration. He’s seen God in his forty days in the desert or he’s completely off his head and you can’t tell which. Like “Ring The Bells, wake the town. I’ve got something to tell you.” This kind of and you can’t tell whether he’s a complete nutter or divinely inspired.
Jim : But, fortunately, we’re not going, are we?
Tim : Fortunately, we’re doing it in Scunthorpe instead. On a beach.
(plays Ring The Bells)
PM : Ring The Bells from the album Seven. My guests today James.
Tim : Collectively, you should know us better by now, Pete
Jim : I think our names are James 1, James 2
PM : Shall we do that again?
Tim : I think that’s good. You can use these interruptions can’t you? You just don’t want to be interrupted.
PM : I just can’t be bothered editing the thing. That’s what it is. You’ve been described in most of the music papers as the next stadium band. Stadium rock. Is it going that way? Do you want it to go that way?
Tim : The next stadium band
PM : In the same breath as U2 and Simple Minds
Tim : In the same breath
PM : I think so
Tim : You mean kind of U2SimpleMindsJames
Jim : U2SimpleMindsJames
Tim : It’s a mouthful
PM : Do you see things going that way now? To big stadiums?
TB : More in the same breath as The Cure, New Order, REM, James
Jim : Pixies
Tim : James
PM : That was in the same breath
Tim : Or Metallica
PM ; When we say stadiums we mean America, cracking America and making it big there. Is that on the cards now?
Tim : Depends on whose cards. If you go to Avril, the tarot reader in the Corn Exchange.
PM : What’s she said about your future then?
Tim : She said America, yes, by the end of the year, but it’s not, you know, really on the cards. It depends on whose cards you’re reading. We aren’t going out there like some sort of Christopher Columbus divine mission you know. We’ve been out there a few times and we enjoy it.
PM : It’s the right time to go at the moment though as there’s a British invasion at the moment. Jesus Jones and EMF.
Tim : I think that was last year. I think it’s the right time simply because the charts have loosened up a lot rather like in this country. And so Metallica can get to number one and Nirvana can get to number one . And REM are no longer left of field. And in a world where REM are mainstream, we have chance definitely.
PM : Let’s talk about the the single’s success now. Sound. What can you tell us about that song. Another song from, of course, your album Seven. Says Tim looking at Jim. Jim? Tim?
Jim : Don’t know
Tim : It was jammed in the studio. It was, we were kind of, we had this weird studio set up with candles and strobes and we worked in candlelight for about two months and became moles with like no vision at all. We kept tripping up over leads and unplugging things. You’d do a whole take and find someone had unplugged something because they couldn’t see, but
Jim : Someone had fallen asleep
Tim : Yeah, someone had fallen asleep
Jim : The sound engineer
Tim : The trumpet break would come
Jim : Great sound on trumpet, Andy. (Makes snoring noise)
Tim : And Sound, we kind of had half of it set and the rest of it was left open to improvise on and so all the bits where I’m shouting down the megaphone “Do something out of character” or “Somebody break away for God’s sake”, that’s me shouting at everyone to improvise, to shoot off in another direction. I thought it was getting boring so I started yelling at people and you know we left it all in and we really enjoyed it. We love that songs and we felt when we did it it was quite a far out song, a kind of LP song and the record company suggested it as a single and we were like “Oh, yeah, great, fine”
Jim : Off their heads
Tim : We thought it would be a really good antidote to Sit Down.
Tim : The song Don’t Wait That Long was written about 2 1/2 years ago. Again it was a jam and we thought we’d written this wonderful song and we kept playing it to people and nobody was interested in it at all. Everyone thought it was crap and we tried messing around with different rhythms and messing around with it and we kind of realised that there was something wrong with it and it took about 2 1/2 years to work out what it was. We’re slow workers on some songs. We just kept it in our back pocket and we kept bringing it our every six months and tried it again.
PM : You played it here at that session you did here, don’t you remember?
Tim : Did we?
PM : Yeah, we’ll have to unearth that and pirate it
Jim : A different version
PM : Definitely
Tim : We just kept trying because we knew the seed of it was wonderful and we couldn’t find some piece of the jigsaw was missing and we found it in the summer and it was just basically slowing down the beat and making it more moody.
(plays Don’t Wait That Long)
PM : You’re listening to IQ on Piccadilly Key 103. My guests today are Tim and Jim from James reviewing the new album Seven. Live A Love Of Life – another interesting song from the album. Can you remember writing it? Was it recent or was it an old one again?
Tim : We’re not the Happy Mondays, you know. We do remember these things. Live A Love Of Life. Again, it was, it’s always, through improvisation. The lyrics are just about incomprehensible to anybody really.
PM : It’s obviously very difficult picking out the songs and talking about them. What about the album as a whole then?
Tim : It doesn’t work like that. I mean you produce the music what’s right at the time, that reflects where you’re at at the time. And I think it’s better to see LPs almost as states of mind rather than meaning.
PM : So how do you view songs like Sit Down and Come Home now? Your anthems.
Jim : We’re very proud of them, but
PM : Obviously sick of playing them
Tim : I think more, it wasn’t sick of playing them. Not Come Home. You get sick of the feeling that you have to play Sit Down. Like there’s nights when we don’t play Come Home so we don’t feel trapped but we did feel last year now and again that we shouldn’t have to play Sit Down. It’s more like, when the new LP comes out, I don’t think we’ll have to play Sit Down. We’ll play it when we want to and then we’ll get back to enjoying it again. But you do feel resentful when you’re put in a position where you actually feel forced to. We nearly didn’t play it once in London and people started booing and shouting.
PM : So that was the encore then
Tim : It was like we had a big row about it actually and that was bad at the time. It was a mess.
PM : Let’s play a track from the album now – Live A Love Of Life
Tim : With Live A Love Of Life, it’s partly a continuation of the song God Only Knows. It’s another piece of rejection of my Christian conditioning. I had to go to church every day of the week for about four years of my life and I kind of resented that. It seems to be coming out now for some reason or other that I can’t understand. It’s also when I sing “I don’t believe Jesus was a human being”, it’s more to do with like when you read those bible stories, he’s not presented as a human being with human desires, human passions, human problems and I don’t believe those gospels are reflective of that person as they lived. There’s also references to the, we wrote it at the time of the Gulf War, and it’s the idea that in the Christian cosmology God sent his son to earth to die. It seems a really weird thing for a father to do to his child and rather similar to the way countries send their children off to war to die for their country which I’ve never been able to understand. And that’s what the song is about. The other thing I’ve decided too to sing in different countries or on different days “I don’t believe Buddha was a human being” or “I don’t believe Mohammed was a human being” so when we go to India, it’ll be Buddha and when we go to Japan, it’ll be Confuscious.
PM : Remember what country you’re in though. Watch the jetlag.
Tim : Yeah, see if we can stir up things.
(plays Live A Love Of Life)
PM : You’re listening to an IQ special. James, my guests today. Do you mind coughing Jim?
Jim : No
Tim : You belched earlier mate. And you’ll edit that out
PM : Leave Jim’s cough in and get my belch out. The final song from the album Seven. A song called Heavens.
Tim : Heavens, yeah, a song about . The verses are about somebody sitting with their hands, with their head in their hands thinking, full of self-pity, thinking of despondency
PM : Like myself
Tim : Like yourself
PM : On a Monday
Tim : And then the chorus is like “Get up off your arse, are you waiting for the heavens to descend”. You know. Move it. It’s meant to be a kind of self-jolting song.
PM : Before you go, just briefly tell us what you’ve got lined up for this year. Are you spending a lot of time in America, trying to crack America?
Tim : No, no. We’re going there a few times, not there much. We’re more in Europe and that side of things this year and Britain. The good thing in Britain, after the two G-Mex concerts we did in Manchester a year ago, we didn’t know how to play in Manchester again and it was like how do you top that. We were quite scared of playing Manchester again. We tried to organise lots of strange things, sort of six nights at the Ritz., but we couldn’t book it because of bingo night
PM : That’s a shame. Fifty fifty
Jim : Grab a granny
Tim : Goth night. And then we tried getting a tent in Salford but the council, we couldn’t get permission. We tried Barton Aerodrome so Manchester, we haven’t neglected playing here. It’s just that we couldn’t find the right venue to go one further than G-Mex.
PM : What about up on the roof again?
Jim : Oh lovely
Tim : What we’ve done now, I think it’s July 4th
Jim : Yes
PM : Alton Towers
Tim : We’ve booked Alton Towers and we’re going to have a big day out there.
PM : A festival? Is it a one-day festival?
Tim : It’ll only be three bands. But if you pay a little extra, you can get a free day out in Alton Towers. And it’s really well organised. It’s not going to be like an outdoor festival with awful toilets. It’s going to be quite well organised and quite smart.
PM : That’s July 4th then?
Jim : All the shops are going to be open so there’s going to be food
PM : James merchandise in every shop
Tim : Hey up, you’re ruining this. And we’ve got, oh we don’t know who the support bands are yet
PM : Any ideas, any little hints? They’ve not signed on the dotted line yet?
Tim : MFI, it’s like MFI. You know?
PM : Alright, yeah
Tim : But we’re not sure yet so that’ll be nice. We want it to be a good occasion and we felt it was the only way we could go a bit beyond G-Mex.
PM : What about further singles from the album? Possibles?
Tim : Probably Ring The Bells.
PM : Will that be it then – finished for singles after that?
Tim : There might be one more but we’d make it an EP. Well, we’re trying to make it an EP.
PM : With a couple of new songs on as well
Tim : Yep, I mean we’re fighting off the record company. They want quite a lot more
Jim : Six, seven
PM : The old Michael Jackson syndrome. Ten singles off the album.
Tim : The only thing I can say is if we don’t, if the single after Ring The Bells or even Ring The Bells, you’ve got the LP, don’t buy it. You know. And the one after that, if it’s not an EP with new songs on then don’t buy it because we won’t be into it.
PM : Let’s hope Phonogram aren’t listening to this interview then.
Tim : I mean we never understand the singles thing. I guess we knew Born of Frustration, Born of Frustration comes out a few weeks before the LP. The fans, some of them are going to buy it but a lot of them they won’t buy it and that’s as it is really and we’re quite happy with that.
PM : It’s been a pleasure talking to you once again and it’s nice to see the success that you’re having. And don’t forget the gold disc. OK Tim and Jim from James, thanks again for joining us
Tim : You’ll have to pay for it
PM : How much