interview by Mark Evans
Almost 30 years from formation and now 3 years re-formed, JAMES are back on tour. Delighting their ‘loony following’ with early e.p tracks, sating the classics thirsty ‘Sit Downers’ and promoting their new mini-album release ‘The Night Before’.
Day 4 of the ‘Mirrorball tour’ and straight from sound check Music-News.com spoke with Jim Glennie , the bands longest serving member and bassist, finding out about how the tours going , forthcoming plans, the Greek resurrection and about losing an important route into the business for new music.
MN: How was sound check Jim?
Jim: We’ve just finished in Preston. There’s a bunch of seats as well as standing so quite a mixed crowd tonight in that respect. We’ve played here before, it’s a nice place, should be good I’m looking forward to it.
MN: So, three of four nights into the tour now Jim. How’s it going so far?
Jim – Yeah, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Sheffield so far. It’s going well, there’s a mixture of songs in there. We’re doing the new record, most of which we haven’t played apart from one song Porcupine, so that’s totally scary. It’s (the new stuff) working really well. You reach the point of the set, people don’t know the songs , the records not out yet, you’re asking something from people, we’ve streamed the songs but even so you reach the point where you’re asking people to stop going bananas and listen. So that demands something from us and the audience. It’s always challenging putting in songs that people don’t really know yet , but we like the fact we have to make them 100% because they’re fighting against songs that people have known and loved for years. We like that challenge, it keeps you on your toes.
MN: You’ve put some of the old stuff in there as well, from the early ep’s?
Jim: Really old stuff, we have indeed yeah. So we’re not just going out playing the same songs. We had a silly list of songs to run through when we were in rehearsals, trying things we’ve not done for thousands of years. A bunch of them kind of fell into place really, simple and easy. We thought this isn’t gonna be as difficult as we thought, let’s have some fun. Let’s stick ’em in there. It’s always a surprise getting great reactions from fans who’ve not heard something for ten or fifteen years.
MN: How is it having the seven of you back on tour together from the Laid period?
Jim: Exactly yeah the Laid seven as it’s come to be known. Good yeah, it is, everyone’s getting on well, there’s a lot of variety in what we can do musically, Andy playing Trumpet, Saul on Violin, there’s a lot of different tones and colours we can get into songs which we’re having lots of fun with that. Changing songs around a little bit that people didn’t perhaps play on originally. There’s a lot of flexibility with this line up.
MN: I’ve read there have been some interesting openings to the gigs, which have reduced fans to tears apparently, Tim and Larry being dropped from a balcony for one. Have you worked one out for tonight?
Jim: I hope in a good way. We’ve done something every show basically. Not always with the same song, where and how you do it depends on the shape of the venue so we might not be able to it every night, we need to get Tim and Larry onto to the stage sharpish you know, we can’t isolate in them a middle of bloody nowhere for ten or fifteen minutes. They’re working tonight’s out now to be honest so I won’t spoil the surprise for you because I don’t know.
MN: With the venues for this tour you’ve gone back haven’t you, to a lot of places you haven’t been to for a long time?
Jim: Yeah , I think I’m allowed to say we’re doing a big tour in December , places like the M.E.N the S.E.C.C ,so on this tour we thought we’d keep it to smaller places , academy sized , and play some places we hadn’t played in for a long while. If you’re not careful you end up in the same places all the time, so we thought lets break that up. Playing to 2000 people in a venue where everybody’s that close to you like that, it’s a different type of performance that we don’t want to leave behind.
MN: So that’s helped with the set you’ve gone for on this tour
Jim: Exactly, that’s it, you’re dead right. When you feel you’ve got a very keen enthusiastic loony James following in front of you can take more liberties, be a bit odder, throw a curve-ball in there, you know if you’re playing the M.E.N and you’re not careful someone in row 834 might drift off slightly if you get too eclectic on them. With the places on this tour everyone is in front of you, there’s a real directness about that and it’s been great so far, the crowds have been pretty mad and probably tonight will be too.
MN: You have some festivals in summer too?
Jim – We’re playing the Isle of Wight which we did a couple of years ago and was good fun, it’s a lovely festival to do. Beautiful Days in Cornwall (Devon), Solfest in Cumbria, Latitude quite a few yeah. A bunch abroad , some in Greece which’ll be nice , bit of sunshine .
MN: They got into you late over there didn’t they?
Jim: We got really big in Greece, it’s really odd, we did one gig in 2001 at a small festival, that triggered something off, then we split up and a following developed with us actually doing nothing to encourage it and when we came back we stepped into being some kind of big superstars over there, we were suddenly massive, the album went to number five, the people there are great, the sun shines, the food’s lovely, it’s wonderful it really really is. We can play to big arenas there now, we’re playing the Tae Kwon Do Arena in Athens would you believe, Patra, then later in the summer we’re doing Rhodes and Crete where were playing a castle so god knows what that’ll be like. It’s one of those places, Portugal too, for some reason they’ve really took off and really connected with us
It’s the joys of the internet (that allowed the fan base to develop whilst not together) where stuff can happen without you physically having to go there like you did in the old days. People anywhere in the world can get you’re music and I think that’s great, it’s absolutely wonderful for us. The people in Greece presumed they’d probably never get the chance to see because just as they were getting into we split up. When we did come back it was kind of like this big resurrection in a way.
MN: You have the new stuff coming out after tour then. Tell us about that and how it was recorded.
Jim: It was a weird how do you do, we did an ftp site which is basically a website where the songs were put down in skeletal form, simple an basic, everyone downloaded them at home where we’ve all got the equivalent of a home studio so we all did parts, messed about with arrangements and collected it all and decided on what was going to be used. A chunk of song writing initially was done with myself, Tim and Larry in a room with a drum machine. Once that was done it was all from a distance pretty much. For lots of reasons really ,one being everybody living in various parts of the world which makes it not that easy and secondly that part of working through songs can get quite difficult and laborious , seven people all with ideas and wanting to do different things it can take ages.
MN: Anything different with the next one?
Jim: We’ve got another mini-album coming out in the beginning of August, we finish this tour and go straight to the studio to record that, and we’re doing that all together, a completely different approach. It’s going to be very old school, setting up in big room in a studio with 5 days to record. It’s like one extreme to the other. Another seven or eight songs, the idea initially was that there were two types of songs that we’d written. The more traditional uppy ones we do which is the first record , then there’s a batch of stuff which is quite low-key and gentle which normally we don’t get to use. It’s difficult to find a way to get them released, we might usually just put one on the end of the record. So we thought lets do two, an uppy one and one that’s a bit more chilled with a very different character. That’s what the second record is supposed to sound like at the end of it all, whether it does or not I haven’t a clue, cos we’re usually not very good at keeping together with concepts. That’s the plan.
MN: How’s the media attention going, radio play etc?
Jim: I think because there’s two albums coming out that’s attracted a bit off attention which is great. Crazy is the focus, track that’s getting played, We’ve got breakfast TV soon so we’ve got to get up at the crack of dawn to be in the studio at half past six in the morning, radio sessions with Lauren Laverne on 6 music and Dermot O’Leary on Radio 2, feature in the Independent , it’s going well.
MN: You’re a fan of 6music?
Jim: I love 6music, Marc Riley’s a big friend of mine from the early days when he was in The Fall, I love his show, it’s like John Peel in a way. It’s the route that bands can use to start a career and (on the possibility on losing the station) I think taking that out of the system is awful. You need those avenues to get into the business. Boiling everything down to statistics and only playing successful music. How do you get music successful? Every successful artist started as a nobody, you need those steps. I think the BBC has a moral obligation do that, bringing new music out to people should be part of their remit and binning it because statistics aren’t as high as if they played top 40 tunes is awful.
MN: Are there any new bands that you’ve picked up on recently yourself?
Jim: There’s a band from Manchester called Frazer King, they’re brilliant, I absolutely love them I tried to get them supporting us on this tour but it didn’t come off in the end. I love their weird, odd mixture of influences, they’re good fun.
MN: You’re a big Football lover. Are you going to be busy during the World Cup?
Jim: Yeah, we’re doing Soccer AM soon actually, which’ll be a bit of a laugh. Tim’s a Leeds a fan I’m City. Looks like we’ll be busy through the World Cup, but we’ll do our best to catch bits and pieces where we can really, we usually prioritise football, as it should be.
The Night Before, the first of 2 mini-albums, is released on April 19th