James – who recently returned with a new single ‘I Know What I’m Here For’ on Mercury – are set to release their eighth studio album, ‘Millionaires’, on October 11.
Their next single ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ is released on September 27 and the band play a massive arena tour in December.
In the meantime, James are headlining the Lizard Eclipse Festival at Goonhilly Downs in Cornwall next week. Frontman Tim Booth got on the phone to talk about his busy schedule.
Are you looking forward to your appearance at Lizard?
“Very much. We haven’t got anything planned that is special for that. We are flying in by helicopter, which is our treat, so we can avoid the crush and make sure we get there on time. We’re looking forward to that. But apart from that, it’ll just be a big celebration.
“We’re really enjoying playing at the moment. It’s weird, cos last year, although we had a Number One (album) and had an amazing year externally, we were having a really bad time internally in the band. But this year, we’re just flying and getting on really well with each other. We’re just getting such a buzz when we go on stage with each other. We just want to play more gigs.”
Is the Eclipse important to you?
“It’s a moment of light and shade. The greatest darkness and greatest light. The sun is the energy source of the whole Solar system, so if that energy source is paused to the Earth, even for just a couple of minutes, I suspect something quite profound takes place. Without the sun, we are dead.”
There’s been a bit of a gap between studio albums.
“There has been a gap, because we had the ‘Greatest Hits’ last year and we were in quite a lot of disarray.
“A lot of work went into the ‘Greatest Hits’ album. There was a lot of promotion, compiling and we did a tour with it as well. So we haven’t been completely sitting on our arses.
“We’ve found a new way of writing on this album. Saul (Davies, guitarist) and I wrote over half the songs with Mark (Hunter, keyboard player) and usually it’s all improvised. But this time we did it in smaller clusters and the rest we improvised. It’s turned out groovy.”
How do you feel ‘Millionaires’ has progressed from 1997’s ‘Whiplash’?
‘Whiplash’ wasn’t a record that we were totally satisfied with by the end, and it was made under a lot of difficult conditions. This one is really focused, you can hear it in every song. It’s a different thing, really, we’ve hit one of our purple patches. This new one is more us going out into the world and taking something we know people will like. It’s a very bold and varied record. Everything is very heartfelt, all the tensions we had in the band are in the songs. When you have a lot of friction in your life, it quite often makes interesting music.”
The next single is called ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’. Is he a hero of yours?
“I think he was a wonderful dancer, but I preferred Gene Kelly. But it’s just that effortless lightness he had when he danced, that kind of pure joy you sometimes get. That, for me, is like the feeling of being totally in love and off your head, and that was what I was trying to capture.
“It’s about a man going to a doctor with all these different symptoms. He’s saying ‘I’m sick, I’m losing my hair and my mind and when I hold her in my arms I feel like Fred Astaire.’ That is the punchline he keeps coming back to. The doctor actually tells him that love is just a disease and a plague for the naïve. I don’t have a high opinion of doctors.
“Fred Astaire’s estate didn’t want us to use his name as the title. So we had to add ‘Just Like’ which is the lyric of the song, so it wasn’t a big problem.”
Are you happy playing in arenas?
“I love them. I used to have an attitude to those places that they weren’t right, but we’ve had some amazing big-venue celebrations. You can make it work and there are a lot of people there to amplify it all. Wembley is supposed to be a faceless cavern and we made it into a small nightclub. It was really intimate and felt fantastic. I don’t think many bands can play really big venues, but we have the ability.”