James has been together for an unbelievable 16 years, and as a band and with Tim’s solo outings you have a reputation for working with diverse artists and producers such as Angelo Badalementi and Brian Eno. Do you think this attitude has contributed to your long career?
In some ways I don’t think we’ve had that long a career because we don’t think about it we just keep playing and we wont go away. We’ve now made four records with Eno and we’ve become very close to him and feel very comfortable so I think we’re probably stuck with each other.
In the 16 years James have been together or in the 12 years you have been in the band, what have been the highlights?
Well we played at Woodstock and that was amazing just because the size of the crowd was amazing. And the first Glastonbury that we played was a really memorable event, We were on in the middle of the afternoon, and this was before ‘Sit Down’ had come out, and I remember being ignored for the first 3 or 4 songs by loads of hippies and by the end of it having the whole of Glastonbury on its feet. I think at that moment we know that something good was going to happen!
How do you think James have changed over the years?
Well some people have got fat, I got thinner. It hasn’t really changed that much. We’ve still got pretty much the same attitude to everything we do, i.e. we’re probably quite rude! It’s difficult when you’re involved to notice any change. A lot of what we do, we aren’t conscious of, we just do it. It’s in no way contrived or particularly planned. So I don’t know if we’ve changed at all, or we may have changed massively! One thing that has changed is that for the last record “Millionaires” we came together through a very dysfunctional time for us as a band, there were lots of fighting and stuff going on, but we’re now all on the same pace as each other, so changes have taken place over the last couple of years so that we all get on with each other again.
It’s widely believed that Millionaires is your best album to date, do the problems that you overcame have any bearing on this?
I don’t know. I certainly thought it was our best record and I was very closely involved in the making of it. At the time I loved it, but I listen to any of our music very infrequently, all I can hear now are massive flaws in it. At the time I really enjoyed it and I was really proud of it, and I am still, but now I think we’ve moved on a lot. It’s the same with this record, no doubt two years from now I’ll say I thought “Pleased to Meet You” was the best thing we’d done, but now I think it’s bollocks! I think that’s a natural process because you become less attached to it. Everybody thinks that their newborn baby is gorgeous even though everyone knows it’s the ugliest thing on the planet!
Are we going to hear any of your new music previewed at City in the Park?
Yeah. Probably half of the songs we’ll play will be from the new record. We did a tour in October last year playing smaller venues, we played what was the beginning of this record at that point, and then went into the studio and recorded the album. The songs grew and grew through being played live and then in the studio, now I can’t wait to play some of these songs live, they’re perfect to be played with loads of people listening.
What is the difference playing to a large crowd at an outside event, rather than playing at a venue like Rock City?
To go back to playing smaller venues like Rock City is actually quite strange, and wonderful! You’re penned in, there’s nowhere for the music to go and it’s a great atmosphere. Rock City is a great little venue, it’s such a dive it’s wonderful! When you’re up onstage and you’re having a good one, and you know you’re doing a good show, it doesn’t really matter where you are. Each venue has a different thing about it, you tend to play differently, if you’re playing in front of 40000 people and you’re outside you have to perform in a different way so that people at the back appreciate it, you have to get the audience more involved. A lot is reflected in what you actually play, in small venues people are right on top of you, they can’t go anywhere, they have to listen to you so you can play loads of new songs; when you are in a big field there are lots of other distractions, at City in the Park we will have to play some of the older songs so that people recognise them and know they’re watching James. It’s not ideal in a way, I’d like to go and play 10 songs of the new album and let people listen to them and say “Oh that was Great, they’ve got some balls!”, but if we did that half the crowd would leave because they didn’t know what it was. In that way big festivals can be like a compromise, but if we play for an hour that’s long enough to put a mixture in, maybe some dodgy old B sides nobody’s heard of!
What are your experiences of being at a festival?
I live in Portugal and to be honest the festivals over here are much more exciting than the ones you have in England. There’s one festival here, it has a 60000 capacity, and they’ve got Neil Young and Beck playing, with a massively eclectic bill; and it’s next to a river and surrounded by mountains. In England T in the Park is great, it’s slightly less corporate than some of the others, and it’s in Scotland so people are slightly more pissed and they know the weather is going to be bad, so they don’t care they just go and have a great time! In Britain there’s this arrogance that what we do is better, because it’s Britain, but it’s not true! We (James) are good at festivals, I think it’s because we just get really pissed and when we get up there something just clicks and we get really intense.
What do you think of Nottingham?
I actually know Nottingham quite well because I’ve got two great friends who live just outside Nottingham, so I’ve been going there for many years, it’s a nice city.