Jayne Middlemiss : From the baggy brilliance of Sit Down to the subtle sophistication of Destiny Calling, James are celebrating 17 years in the business with a Best Of album that resolutely refuses to leave the Top Ten.
(to Tim) You’ve got the Best Of album out and a lot of times when a Best Of album comes out it’s often when bands are just about to split up.
Tim : You want us to split up do you?
JM : Of course not
Tim : No, this came about almost by chance. Someone in the record company pointed out to us that we’d had something like 15 Top 30 hits and would we like to put them on a record. We said “Yeah, great, that’s fine. Do it”
It’s obviously done very well. We didn’t expect it to go to Number one. That was a great thrill. But the other thing was it allowed us to take stock of the whole kind of career. I think we’ve been taken for granted in this country for four years. And it suddenly made people go “God, wow, they’ve had a lot of records, haven’t they? A lot of good records.”
JM : Your last single Destiny Calling seemed to take a critical look at the way the music industry treats artists. Was this a personal thing that you lot have experienced?
Tim : Destiny Calling was playfully critical. It was also acknowledging that we’re part of it. You become a product to a certain group of people who are making money out of you. And you have to accept that. I mean, that used to be terrifying to me. And the fear of success kind of blanding you out as an artist or a musician. It was always a great fear of mine.
When we first did Sit Down I was quite freaked out by it. We were getting amazing letters from people, people playing it at funerals and weddings and all kinds of things. We were asked to play it at hospitals to children on life support machines. People in comas and things like that. It had a very strong impact and at one point we tried stopping playing it and I wanted to keep it, like if we played it, we would do it acoustic one week and heavy metal the next week. You know change it. I’ve come much more to terms with it now in the past few years that it’s its own thing and it’s not much more to do with me anymore. It’s like a gift, like something you have to let go of.
JM : I want to talk to you now about Laid. I saw one of the best pieces of music television. Unplugged, it was you and the guitarist. Just singing that song. There was so much emotion. What goes through your mind when you’re doing a song like that?
Tim : When I’m doing songs we’ve had for a while, a song like Laid, for me the really important thing to make it fresh and get vulnerable with it. Cos you can just act it or you forget why you wrote it, the initial impulse that sparked you. And so the way to keep present and fresh and not become a stale dinosaur. You have to keep getting vulnerable.
JM : It was so sexy that. I was in the gym and it was on the thing…
Tim : We figured everyone would think we were gay after that. We’d turned it into almost a gay love song.
JM : It was just so…. It really moved me. I was on the step machine and I had to stop.
Tim : Lovely