AFTER their comeback gig at the M.E.N. Arena at the weekend, James were back on more intimate ground for the rest of the week. And that meant a chance to catch them for a quick chat. My colleague, Sarah Walters from our City Life section, met up with the lads – frontman Tim Booth, bassist Jim Glennie, guitarist Larry Gott, fiddle player Saul Davies, keyboardist Mark Hunter and the band’s poorly drummer David Baynton-Power – before their performance for a select group of fans at the HMV store in the city centre. Here is her interview…
How was it for you?
Tim: “Turbulent. The whole tour, the reaction has been extraordinary, with Manchester there was just a few thousand more people.”
Jim: “We’d anticipated it really, the crowd and the reaction at homecoming shows are always really amazing. The last time we played there, for the final show in 2001, it was good but it was a bit artificial – we knew it was ending so you couldn’t really enjoy yourself. This time, it was just really emotional – that sort of thing either empowers you or makes you cry.”
You looked like you were having a ball…
Tim: “People ask us if we were having a great time and I say, ‘No! It was hard work’! But of course it’s been a wonderful experience. The hard part has been the business of it all – organising the set lists and schedules, making sure it all comes together on stage.”
Larry: “For a very experienced band, we are amazingly disorganised.”
Tim: “Choosing the set was a real challenge because originally we’d decided we were going to come back and play all the obscure album tracks, as a show of our musical integrity: no hits, no singles. A lot of people know us for singles or the brighter side of James, but there was always a darker aspect to us, even in some of our lighter moments. If you listen to the words for How Was It For You, they’re still very self deprecating.”
Jim: “We re-learnt about 40 or 50 songs for the shows. The sets have had their fair share of singles but if you look at the set in Manchester, you can see it was really challenging. There was a big section in the middle that was packed with new songs, some really old songs or album tracks and others we’d messed about. Just as the crowd is getting to a stage where they want to go mad, we slowed the pace down. You give them singles at the end of all that as a reward for sticking with you.”
Tim’s reservations about a James reunion are well documented, but the return was triumphant. Any regrets about leaving it so long?
Tim: “No, the time was never right before. The reason I agreed to meet up with Jim and Larry again was because I’d run into Saul (Davies: guitar/fiddle/vocals) about a month earlier and he’d said, ‘Why don’t we get back together and do the James thing’. I’d started to come to terms to with idea of being part of James again – I had never felt that way before; creatively and emotionally I was in the wrong place.”
People really seem to have missed you?
Jim: “I think because we played the MEN Arena every 12 or 18 months, people took it for granted that we’d always be there – that if they didn’t go to one show they could always go next time. Then suddenly we weren’t there and people thought, ‘Ah, I wish I’d gone to see them’. Now everyone’s wondering whether it’s their last chance. But we want to do a lot more as James – put out more albums and play more shows. I see this is as a long-term thing.”
What’s in store on the next album?
Tim: “At the moment we’re not really sure. We’ve got about 90 seeds of songs to build on, but nothing really concrete except for the ones we’ve been performing at the shows. I think it will reflect all aspects of us as James – there’s a lot of improvisation and exploration and we’re not concentrating on writing singles. We expect to put an album out early next year and to tour in support of it, but what it will sound like and how we will arrive at it are answers we’re still to discover.”