A: When did you first see James?
M: Well the first time I went to see them was on The Smiths tour and I stayed in the bar so long that I missed them. The first time I saw them was February 13th 1985 at the Hacienda.
A : What did you like about them?
M : I liked the rawness. I hadn’t seen a band like James before and they were just really exciting. I liked the songs, I thought they had really good songs, and I liked them all as people too. At that time I was doing radio promotion and they excited me. Most of the stuff I was working with was pretty normal sort of indie stuff and then James came along and they just seemed to have that extra something.
A : So what happened in between seeing James and becoming their manager?
M : After I saw them at the Hacienda I got really into them and I travelled with them a bit on the tour. We all got on really well and they asked me if I wanted to be their manager.
A : What other jobs did you have, except for the radio promotion?
M : I worked on a trade magazine, I did passenger surveys on the buses, sold health foods on the market, I worked for Our Price and after that I went to work for Rough Trade.
A : And that got you into the music business?
M : Yes. At Rough Trade I saw the side of a record distribution company. While I was there I met Brenda Kelly (who did Snub TV), and she wanted to start up an independent promotions company. She wanted it to be all women and she asked me and Liz Naylor to join her.
A: Are there many women managing in the music business?
M : There are more and more, but I haven’t actually met any of them. There’s probably only a handful. I was talking about this with someone the other day and we started to name them and we didn’t get on to two hands! Compared to the number of men there’s none really.
A : Do you find that people in the business are surprised to fmd that it’s a woman running James?
M : I get lots of letters and phone calls for Mr. McDonagh or Martin McDonagh and so on.
A : How do you deal with that?
M: It depends what mood I’m in. Sometimes I just say “There’s no-one here by that name”, sometimes I just ignore it and other times I’ll send a letter back and change the person’ s name to the feminine gender. It just depends. I find it a bit offensive – but that’s just the way things are.
A: When you became manager of James, was it a major sort of set-up?
M : When I first started I carried on doing the promotions for a bit, just to keep some money coming in. Eventually I decided to move up to Manchester. I was earning £35 a week on James.
A : So you had faith that one day. ..?
M : Yes, well I was at a point in my life where I just wanted to do something new. I wanted a big change, to move out of London. When I got to that point I really didn’t mind just giving everything up really -so that’s what I did.
A : And did you imagine that it would come to this?
M: Ummm, well I never thought I’d manage a band. I’d worked with a lot of managers when I was doing promotions and I always thought “what a shit job – I’m never doing that”. But James just seemed a bit different to me – they seemed to have something special and we clicked – so I was prepared to put up with a lot.
A : How did you get into T-shirt production?
M : Out of complete necessity really, to make some money for the band. A lot of them derived from the first one really – just having things split around the shirt. The flower came about when we decided to get some posters promoting Come Home and it looked awful – just “James Come Home” and a black and white picture, so I put a flower over the J just to make it more interesting and that sort of stuck really. But I’ve carried on with the T-shirts because it’s something different – I can think along different lines.
A: Is it something that bands are finding more and more now that the music that doesn’t really make any money?
M: Yeah, I think it’s important for any business to diversify and actually set up an off-shoot business that is related as little as possible to the parent business. That’s really why I set up the merchandising company to build as a company in its own right, which is what is happening now. Just so if James ever went under financially, there’s the support there, something else to look to for income.
A: Would James T-shirts still sell without James?
M : They did in the beginning to an extent. The whole idea behind it was to sell shirts that people would buy whether they knew who the band were or not, and I think that did happen, so maybe they would. I mean, the Princes Trust approached me to design a shirt for them, which I’ve just done and that’s along similar lines to a James T-shirt. I think a shirt should be able to sell itself. There’s nothing I hate more than a band T-shirt that’s just got the album sleeve in a square on the front, really badly printed – it’s just a waste of time. I feel sick when I go to a gig by massive artists like David Bowie or Michael Jackson and they obviously don’t give a damn about what they’re selling – they just want to make some money. I think it’s really unfair -because if people are expected to pay fifteen or twenty quid for something they should be able to want to wear it.
A: Are you going to diversify on to other things?
M : There’s a couple of things that I want to do personally. But for James at the moment, what with the recession and all we just need to keep working on the merchandising company and expanding that. We’ve also got the building where our offices are and that needs money spending on it. But I’m always looking for new things to do – that’s just the way I am really -I get bored easily.
A: Do you believe in re-incarnation?
M: yes I do, but I don’t know how or what the process is or anything like that, but I just think that if you look at everything else in nature it’s all cyclical.
A : Are you religious?
M : Not in the church sense. I’m quite a religious person in that I give myself strict rules by which I live and I have to watch that because I can get really rigid and inflexible. I can get narrow-sighted, I just go for something and don’t think too much about anything else. I suppose that’s religious in a way. I was into meditation and led a very fastidious lifestyle. I’m not like that now, I’m all over the place.
A : How do you think meditation helped you? Has it made a difference?
M : Yes, definitely. It made me much more objective about myself and about my life. It made me more aware of myself. I mean, if you sit in a room for six hours and you’re not supposed to move, you just have to confront everything – you can’t just get up and walk away if something comes into your head. If it’s something that is difficult to deal with you can’t change the subject. It’s taught me that you have to stay put and sort things out. I’d say that’s the best thing I got from it. I wouldn’t still be managing James if I hadn’t had to deal with that.
A : Do you see a clairvoyant?
M: Yes I do.
A : Does that affect the decisions you make?
M : No, I always fmd that they don’t tell you anything that you don’t already know. What they do is like meditation, they give you an objective viewpoint. It shows you a situation from a third person’s point of view. So you get outside of yourself and get an angle on something. It helps me make decisions but it’s never made a decision for me.
A: Do you believe in “Past Life”?
M : I’ve been regressed, but you can’t just say’ ‘this was my past life.’ Again I see it as showing you a situation that’s relevant to your present life in completely different circumstances, perhaps in a different culture or a different time, and it can help you find a way of dealing with something that is difficult. The “last lifetime” I saw was in France and I was a carpenter or something and I just decided at the age of fifty that I was ready to die so I went to the river to drown myself and I couldn’t do it. Anyway this French dandy was going by in his carriage so I stopped him. I got him to throw me in and I died. The good thing that came out of that was that I’m not scared of death anymore, because somewhere in my subconscious I went through the whole death process. I’m afraid of pain still, but I’m not frightened of death.
A : If you weren’t manager of James, what would you have done?
M: There’s lots of things that I still think I’d like to do. I always liked to dance and I’ve done dance courses. I’d also like to pursue drama a bit further – I think I’d make a better actor than a dancer. At the moment I’m quite into studying Entertainment Law because I’ve hit a certain level with management where I need something to push me on a bit more – to motivate me a bit more.
A : What’s the next step for James?
M: It’s usually planned jointly between me, Tim, Jim and Larry . The current plan is to get the next album recorded. Once this year is over and all the touring is out of the way, the band will go into the studio with Eno and hopefully get the album out for autumn.
A : Is it going to be another big budget album?
M : I hope not. I think maybe we spent too much money and time on the last one. I think the next one should be back to basics, back to James roots -but James as it exists now – not trying to emulate what was created all those years ago.