Saul : There’s a band called James. They’re amazing. I bought one of their t-shirts. Look. It’s amazing, look.
A few years ago, James t-shirts were selling faster than their records. It seemed everyone in England’s North West was walking around with Come Home emblazoned across their chest.
But they survived the Madchester backlash and went on to establish themselves as one of Britain’s premier guitar bands with their million-selling last album Seven. Now they have a new LP Laid produced by Brian Eno, a new single Sometimes and have recently completed a tour of the States with Neil Young playing acoustic sets.
Tim : There’s kind of a confidence you get when people like Neil Young invite you to tour with them and when Brian Eno rings you up and says he wants to make your next LP with you. We had that confidence in ourselves but when it kind of becomes publically recognised, that was a big boost to us.
Something that we learnt quite a lot from the acoustic shows in our ability was our strength. When you go on stage and you’re really naked and you’re just presenting something very simply to people, the power of that and that was Neil’s big lesson to us. Those shows. And you can’t get that with electric.
Saul : I suppose it taught us we could play less and still be very effective. Live at least, and we took that into the studio and Eno took hold of that and that was a really wonderful marriage there as we were all going in the same direction, we were all wanting the same thing in a way.
Despite spending only six weeks in the studio with Eno, the band managed to come up with plenty of material.
Tim : We ended up with a double LP and a single LP in six weeks, which normally it would take twelve weeks to come up with one LP. We were very happy with that.
With Brian, it was like, he’s not into perfectionism at all which nearly every producer you ever meet is into it – metronomic perfectionism. He just kind of wants to capture some kind of atmosphere, almost some kind of hesitancy so we often chose takes where people were hesitant, where they didn’t know what they were playing.
Now James are off to the States again to play on the North American WOMAD tour. The invitation to join Peter Gabriel’s World Music project came when they were recording Laid.
Larry : We did a concert whilst we were recording as well at a local club and he came to that and he liked what he saw so that was why we got invited to the WOMAD tour really. I think he just picked up on an energy or something about us he liked.
Tim : We’ve actually always had quite a lot of communication with WOMAD because basically we like going to the festival ourselves so we tend to want free tickets and they say we have to play if we want free tickets.
But even if Laid flops and they end up subsidising their income with t-shirt sales again, the band have enough confidence in their own ability not to quit.
Larry : You’ve just got to do what you feel like at the time. It’s either going to hit with people or it isn’t. If it doesn’t then you’ve got another chance.