Jo Whiley : This is the dedication that we received when we went out to see James. I was telling the story to Tim on how we were sat on the 747. God, it was just dreadful, you know we got struck by lightning and he went “Hey, how fantastic was that”
Tim : (from live show) This is dedicated to those who have been hit by lightning.
JW : And I guess in retrospect it was a fantastic experience and one I’m never going to forget. So James playing Las Vegas. The plane finally got there. A bit of a rocky ride. As we arrived we were cruising the streets of Las Vegas as you do and seeing who else was in town that evening like Moody Blues, Englebert Humperdinck and UB40. What a good gig for the weekend that was. And then James playing too. The gig was actually excellent. And the anthem being for them in the States – Laid. I had to go and get the reaction of the crowd outside as they left the gig and find out what they thought of the whole thing.
Fan 1 : It was the best. I mean these guys, it gave the feeling, they give such feeling and you could feel what they were saying you know. And everything was great.
Fan 2 : Killer, very psychadelic, just very entertaining
Fan 3 : That was great and everything. We were down in the out and great.
Fan 4 : I didn’t associate the songs I liked on the radio with the name of the band but when he called me up and went “Those guys who are really cool on the radio, these are the guys.” so it was great and I’ll be going to more.
Fan 5 : The album’s pretty good. It’s a little more upbeat. It’s really good and this town, Las Vegas, is really slow
Fan 6 : I’m from America and I love the English sound and these guys are great and they’re going to be big in my heart.
JW : And do you know, he meant that, he meant that so much. So what about Tim, what did he think about the gig?
Tim : The gig was pretty good. You come to Las Vegas and you don’t know what to expect really. It’s such a crazy cartoon type of town in the middle of a desert. Everything is larger than life and kitsch and you don’t know who you’re gonna get. You don’t know where the real people are and where everyone lives here. Last time we played here wiht Neil Young, he was wonderful and they didn’t listen to him and he got very angry and walked off after an hour. And his manager said to us “Whatever you do, don’t ever tell anyone Neil’s played Las Vegas” So now I’m thinking I shouldn’t have said that, should I? Opening my big mouth again. But it’s that kind of place, you know, it doesn’t have the great credibility of many other cities. The rest of the band really love it. They go out and gamble. Larry puts his stets on and dark glasses.
JW : Larry went Vegas didn’t he?
Tim : Yeah, we call him Vegas. A nickname. He goes out and gambles. He’s won every time here. Come away with quite a lot of money.
JW : He was the Vegas kid on stage that night Larry. He was quite brilliant. So the image before was of meditating vegetarians, it seems that James have changed quite a lot and become party animals. I had to ask Larry. Party animals then, Larry?
Larry : Well I think we always have been, we’ve just never had that image in England. Our image was set in the early years when we were kind of a lot younger. We were scared of everything we came up against in the industry and in the media and things like that. It seemed, it seemed bigger than we were and it would swallow us up if we weren’t careful so we seemed very reserved and very shy as a result of it. There have been some more parties on this tour, yeah.
JW : Ah, but the thing is, is Tim indulging as well?
Tim : There’s a front of the bus and a back of the bus and the back of the bus is the party area.
JW : You sit at the front?
Tim : And the front of the bus is my area. I make forays into the back of the bus when I feel like it on a full moon, but a lot of the time I spend in the front of the bus. It’s mainly because it’s smoky at the back of the bus and as a singer I have to watch my instrument. I mean I want to go out every night and give my best and I hate letting people down. Hate it. Passionate about that. So I look after myself.
JW : There’s a lot of controversy at the moment about James and their desperation, no, passion to break America. And that’s what I wanted to find out from Tim. How important is it for James to break America?
Tim : I don’t like this thing, breaking America. We would like to be successful in America. Breaking America often comes across as some sort of colonial invasion from Britain and it sounds very pompous and usually the bands that cite it, you know, they usually end up being defeated at Agincourt. Like they end up flat on their backs in the end, feeling rather stupid. What we want to do is come and play here. We get excited by playing here. It’s a very alien country yet they speak our language. That’s exciting. You can communicate on one level but this is very alien, very strange as you are finding out. I mean, Las Vegas, you can’t get much stranger than this.
JW : So you’re feeling more at home in America now? I mean, on a personal basis.
Tim : Yes, at first I was quite scared. I came with all the usual English, I think, preconceptions. Either you think it’s going to be really trashy or really superficial and everyone says “Have a nice day” and smiles at you really politely.
English, I think, are really snobby about America. And so we came with those kinds of preconceptions and then you arrive at New York and it just isn’t like that. And you know there are some places like that. LA, it’d be hard to deny LA can be like that. But some of the other places are great, you know. And they really vary and so then you get your preconceptions smashed and you go “Wow, this is alright after all” And another thing that I think is really good about America for English people. The national psychology, if I dare be so bold, you know we live on an island, a cramp overpopulated island and it rains a lot, the weather’s not too good and you know we’re quite famous for coming second and success can be a dirty word in England.
And you come to America and there’s vast landscapes, there’s vast landscapes where there’s no people, it’s very very beautiful and open expanse and people are very optimistic and they go for their dreams and they’re not embarrassed to be successful. And so for an English person coming from that kind of English background, it’s quite a release. I think it’s quite healthy for an English person to come here for a few years and then you probably have to get back pretty quickly after a couple of years.
JW : Has it affected you personally?
Tim : Yeah, I’m much freer, much more optimistic. I feel, I believe I can be happy whereas when I was in England, I never believed I could be happy. There’s a lot of social conditioning that I’ve received at public school and the English, the whole English way of life you know. I was brought up in a very Christian background. Between 13 and 18 I was at church five days a week. It was fairly rammed down my throat. I hated it and I really lost touch with how I felt and who I was and my twenties have been kind of rediscovering that.
JW : So that’s the one that’s doing it for James in America at the moment. You’re listening to Radio 1 FM talking to Steve (sic) and Larry from James in Las Vegas. The overriding feeling that I got from being at the gig and being with the band was that they were kind of starting over again, there was great enthusiasm. And I wanted to find out what the feeling from the band was at the moment.
Tim : It’s very strong at the moment. It’s been very strong for a while. It’s been growing and growing. I mean we had that wonderful piece of luck when Neil Young invited us on the acoustic tour of America and that’s some introduction to America because we were playing in the deserts and on mountains away from the cities and 10,000 people would trek out there and sit on the mountainside and the view behind Neil Young would be 40 miles and you’d see lightning going off in the background 20 miles away. What an introduction. That was definitely a turning point.
Playing acoustically and then Brian Eno coming and saying he wanted to work with us. That was wonderful and gave us a lot of confidence. You know because we all respect him so much and then saying, encouraging us to improvise more. The band’s come on a lot since then, we get on in a really good way. You know we’re not closest buddies who can fall out and fight like people who’ve been together eleven years. It’s pretty solid.
JW : A lot of directions James go in tend to be the result of things happening to them. So I wanted to know whether James have a gameplan that they follow
Tim : We’re open for magic to happen. You have to believe these things are going to happen I think then if you really believe it and stick out all the really bad times, then they will happen. So it’s kind of like having a faith that the thing will turn round. You know for ages it can feel like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill and noone’s listening and nobody’s getting what you’re doing and you know you can push that for years without, with very little feedback and that takes a faith and a courage then suddenly everything’s downhill and it’s wonderful. But if you haven’t pushed it up for those 3 years, you wouldn’t get the other side. And I think that’s the thing where James stuck it out for own lean years.
JW : A couple of weeks ago there was a piece in the Melody Maker in the news page. The headline was “Booth bashes Britain”. That kind of provoked a lot of reaction in England and I wanted to find out the effect that had on the band and whether they realised what effect that had on their fans in England.
Tim : Well, it’s a tabloid headline. I didn’t. When you actually read it, it isn’t about the headline. The headline is unfortunately what gets remembered. You know, I don’t believe those papers and I’d be surprised, I’d be really upset if people took that as being my attitude. What happens in that situation, in that piece itself, is a discussion. This guy rings me up in the hotel. We have a conversation that lasts quite a while. He then takes all his side out of it, all his provocation and whatever he’s had a go at and threads all my answers to him together making it look like a statement. And there’s also misquotes in it. I said, if James had our way, we wouldn’t release another single off Laid, the LP Laid, in England because we feel we’ve released two and that’s enough and it gets printed as James wouldn’t release another single in England and that sounds highly dramatic. So it’s like, you know, I can’t be responsible for how the press presents, you can’t be. You can’t control it, that’s the trouble.
JW : Do you feel angry with the press?
Tim : I feel angry. That particular piece is me whining at quite a lot of critics, music critics. It’s not at Britain, that’s not it at all. It’s, you know, our support’s in Britain, we’ve been supported in Britain for years. Our fans are brilliant there you know. We’ve had great support there. What I feel upset about is that I feel Laid is the best work we’ve ever done. It got some good reviews. Some journalists stuck their necks out. Radio 1 supported it like anything. Radio 1 has ended up being our main support actually and the only people who have really helped us in that way. But like, kind of the whole music scene, the whole fashion scene, music paper side, they really didn’t take too much notice of Laid and we felt like “Damn, this is really our best work.” and it’s like they’re all looking the other way.
JW : Because they’re looking for new things to come along, you mean? Young and trendy.
Tim : I think we’ve ended up being taken for granted because we’ve been around so long. I mean all these magazines now. There’s so much more competition, a lot more need for circulation, to sell copies, to find the next big thing. It’s become desperate. It’s become really desperate. And that desperation is strangling things. Strangling bands. I mean the pressure on a band like Suede is ridiculous and it’s unhealthy for them. They aren’t going to get a chance to breathe, to create their own music, to find their own voice because they’ve been leapt on and you know it’s not healthy.
JW : So the overriding feeling is huge disappointment over Laid and while they were so sought after in America, that’s where they were going to concentrate. So I wanted to know if they still care about Britain and were concentrating their efforts on America
Tim : We don’t see it in terms of countries like that. We see it in terms of making a record that communicates with people and we want to take it to people who want to hear it. And it’s like, you know, we love what we do and we’re really passionate about what we do. You know, we live in Britain and I love where I live. I’m very happy. I miss football when I’m out here. I miss lots of things from England. I don’t want to get into a nationalistic debate. I think it’s really trite. It’s like getting into a political debate. Are you left wing or right wing? I don’t accept nationalism in those terms. I think it’s really divisive and we make a record that communicates and we go and play where people buy that record. It’s kind of a law of economics, we don’t have a choice. We can’t go and play where noone wants to come and hear us play. And so we’ve ended up coming out to America quite a lot because they want to hear it at the moment and we don’t feel we’ve been very well represented by the music press in Britain and we feel that that has cut us off from some of our audience. But the ones that are still with us, we toured, we brought Laid to England and we’ve done that, we’ll be back again and we’ll play Glastonbury, I hope.
JW : With this constant touring of America, all the hard work, Tim misses football. Apart from friends and family, what does Larry miss?
Larry : Ridiculous things like beans on toast. The Americans haven’t discovered the joys of beans on toast. The greenery. The heart and soul. You know, of Britain. In such a small place, there are such diversities. Here’s there’s great diversity in America, but they’re all a thousand miles apart. From the flatlands of the Mid West and the Great Plains through to the Rocky Mountains and the West Coast, the hedonism of San Francisco, the obesity of Los Angeles, you know, right through to the vulgarity of New York.
JW : I tell you, it’s surreal in Las Vegas. Talking of football, James have just done a version of one of the tracks off Laid for the World Cup. How does that go?
Tim : We’ve just done Low Low Low as the soccer anthem. It;s going to go on the compilation record. I think with Tina Turner and Frank Sinatra and Daryl Hall. And Daryl Hall’s singing the main anthem and it’s “Glory Glory Hallelujah” And we do this gritty little English football song.
JW : What have you done? Have you changed the words?
Tim : Oh yes, I’ve written the song from a fan’s, from my, point of view which is a fan’s point of view and it’s Goal Goal Goal – “Oh, we’re so powerful, watch these giants collide, so individual, he was never ever ever offside. Goal, goal, goal, goal” Sort of like that you know.
JW : Big music. I mean football fans. Anyway let’s hear some of the track Low Low Low, see how it sounds
(plays Low Low Low)
JW : So you can hear it in your head now. “Goal, goal, goal, goal”. 1 FM’s Evening Session talking to Tim Booth and Larry Gott from James. I asked Tim how the band maintains their enthusiasm after all these years.
Tim : James maintain enthusiasm by their music. It’s always been as simple as that. We had seven years where we made no money. It was like dole money, basically. We did it because we love what we do and we love the new songs we’re writing. We write all the time. In a soundcheck two days ago, we wrote four new songs. It was like, you know, it’s fun. And that stimulates us. It’s like “Yeah, I’m looking forward to playing this to people.” When we come to Britain, we can show them Basic Brian which was one of the new ones we played tonight and another song called Honest Joe which we played tonight and it’s like we’re looking forward to showing that to our English audiences because they haven’t heard those two I don’t think.
JW : And Honest Joe really did go down so well with the American audience. It kind of bodes well. Hopefully, they’ll be playing it at Glastonbury when they come over in the summer. This is Honest Joe. Thanks very much to Tim and Larry for taking the time out to talk to us.
(plays Honest Joe)