Extracts from interview with Saul Davies:
The tour in the Autumn is with Happy Mondays, are you all friends with each other?
No, not really – there is not a great connection between our bands. We are very different kinds of people culturally and all the rest of it. I joined James in 1989 and the year before that James took the Mondays on the road with them as a support band and I think there were great differences then and I think there still are now. We represent different musical traditions and different lifestyles. I think there is huge respect from both camps to each other, I hope there is – there certainly is from James to the Mondays. I think they are an amazing band who have had some incredible moments but we would not live our life like they have lived theirs.
Has the song Sit Down been a blessing or a curse to the band?
Totally a blessing. Globally, Laid is our biggest song by far, so for example in the States it is Laid, not Sit Down. You learn where you are and where you are going to that people and they have their favourites. You are known for different things in different places, I have no problem at all that Sit Down proceeds us. It is only difficult if you do not know what to do with it and I think we worked out many years ago what to do with it – which is not to play it all the time and never ever, don’t ever, give it for synchronisation into a film.
Do you listen to any new artists?
There has never been so much new music as there is now, the trick is getting through it all to find the stuff that connects with you. I have done a bit of work with a Manchester band called Rosellas, they have some fantastic songs. They have only been going a couple of years but they have a lot of potential. They have that Manchester swagger about them – just a real confidence and a cheekiness but underlying it all [and] the songs are fantastic. I discovered them through a friend of mine and I’m involved in a charity called Everybody Belongs Here and at the end of January this year we did an on-line concert with some of the biggest artists in the world and we called it Music Feeds. We raised a million pounds for food charities. Sam Smith was there, Liam Gallagher, Newton Faulkner and it was also an opportunity to showcase some new artists and Rosellas were involved in that. I was fortunate to be able to go to The Met in Bury and record Rosellas there for the event. It was remarkable really and an amazing day for me.
There is another band too called Sound of the Sirens, two girls from Exeter who have a very English sound – they have been going for a little while now but I have been working with them too. Yes there is a lot of new music around you just have to be brave about trying to find it.
From the rawness of Nina Simone’s narrative, a choirmaster’s transformative punk therapy and seeing Iggy Pop blood-strewn and naked, James’ frontman talks Maddy Smith through the songs that encapsulate his love and life of live music.
“James has always felt that the test of the authenticity of a band is how they are live. Originally, we were forced into making records because promoters wouldn’t put us on unless we had a single out. So live performance to me has always been the litmus test of a great band.” Tim Booth.
Booth’s peaceful demeanour ripples through his attitude towards creating, and as we dive deeper into the stories that shaped his adoration for music and the art of live performance, he concludes our conversation with ideas on how he believes one can continue to shift and constantly evolve as a musician, avoiding the status quo and unveiling new perspectives.
How do you feel that you have already sold 60,000 + tickets for your upcoming tour later this year?
It all sounds a bit unbelievable, it’s like I can’t emotionally connect with any of this yet. Because it all feels like it might be taken away from me, so even though I know on paper that I am busy, it all feels so fragile at the moment. It’s hard to emotionally connect and invest myself, so it’s just an idea at the moment. Yes, it’s far enough away that it would take something pretty disastrous to happen to change it, but we’ve had pretty disastrous happen, haven’t we? So, I can’t’ because it still just feels so detached. I know on paper it sounds amazing, ridiculous; the tickets sold like nobody’s business. I think again because people are thinking: ‘Oh by then we’ll be back to normal, and we can go and celebrate and have a proper gig and it’ll be amazing’ and all the rest of it. So, the tickets just flew out the door. I think people genuinely are looking for that, even though it’s a long way away, that thing to head towards and sort of move towards, that positivity you know? God willing, we get there and it’s amazing, and it will be. I mean 60,000 is ridiculous. I have a sneaky feeling that if everything’s cool, we’ll add more shows on and just be busier.
Which song did you enjoy working on the most for your new album?
I [Jim Glennie] think ‘All The Colours Of You’ was a big one for me, because I worked on that with my brother Peter when we were working on the demos remotely. I’ve never worked with him musically before. So, me and him were kind of doing stuff remotely on that, and that came in quite late in the day. No one had looked at it, it had kind of been missed in the grand scheme of things. So, we pieced together a demo and it was just great. It got lots of favour and was instantly voted onto the leader board. So, a lot of personal satisfaction comes from that! I mean it’s easy to miss things, not everything we do gets worked on and stuff can go under the radar and it’s just a matter of the individual’s personal opinion whether something needs to be worked on or not. So, people pick up on what they’re attracted to from the jam, and stuff just doesn’t get worked on or missed. That’s the way it is. And with ‘All The Colours Of You’, it was very last minute. It was: ‘Oh, well I’ve got this one!’ and ‘Oh, okay great!’ We knocked something up and it was great. It changed a lot as Jacknife worked on it, but no that was quite exciting.
Interview with Jim Glennie:
“It’s very dancy, very uplifting, very poetic, though there are dark lyrics about Covid and American politics, but we were aware of the need for lightness, and Jacknife has added some fun and humour within the songs. The last thing you want at this time is something that’s depressing and heavy.”
Though Booth is at pains to avoid painting All the Colours… as a political record, it’s nonetheless an unflinching reflection of the world in 2021. State-of-the-States lament “Miss America” attacks the USA’s inherent historic racism and “love of guns”. The brutal and cinematic “Wherever it Takes Us”, inspired by the Portland protests, follows an injured, tear-gassed protester transcending into a digital multiverse afterlife of pure data. And if their previous album was something of a lament for truth, democracy and humanity in an era with “white fascists in the White House”, the new album’s title track reads today like the door hitting the former president’s backside on the way out, likening Covid quarantine with being trapped in Trump’s “dis-United States” and declaring “he’s the Ku Klux Klan, coup-coup, coup-coup”.
Podcast interview with Saul Davies, where he and host Mark Millar talk about All The Colours Of You, touring, and musical favourites such Pink Floyd, Tom Waits and Dire Straits.
See link below to listen to podcast.
Positive change is something very much on the band’s mind; Jim mentioned that he’d spent the day sorting out potential festival dates. Touring has always been a key part of the band’s ethos: he tells me that the Stone Roses, Nirvana, and Coldplay have all opened for them in the past. “We’re renowned for having support bands that then go on to be much bigger than us!” he says. Jim tells me about the unique challenges they faced while on Neil Young’s Harvest Moon tour. “He was playing an acoustic tour”, he says. “So he said, ‘if you can play acoustically, you can come and do this tour.’ So we said, ‘Oh yeah! Great!’ And then of course we didn’t really know how to do it.” The massive crowds didn’t help the band’s nerves. “The first gig was at Red Rocks in Colorado, to 30,000 people – we were terrified! We had no gear! Normally we’ve got these huge, big amps, and you can hide behind the volume.” Despite their struggle with the acoustic setup, he describes the tour as ‘amazing’. “[The crowds] loved us. They absolutely loved us. And he [Young] treated us so well.”
“We think we’ve made one of the best records we’ve ever made – easily, actually,” Tim said. “And we’re thrilled. We’ve been releasing it drip by drip to tease and to excite and to show a new sound. It’s wonderful.”
Click the link below to watch the session.
When asked what it was like to work with esteemed producer Jacknife Lee (U2, The Killers, Snow Patrol), Tim said it was “wonderful” and revealed that he unknowingly saved Jacknife’s family from a rattlesnake.
“[Jacknife (Lee] lived two miles from me in Topanga Canyon in Los Angeles, which is this wild canyon with no streetlights and windy hills. I went to visit him, and we got on instantly brilliantly. He’s really sharp, playful, creative and funny.”
Tim continued: “I left his house at 8.30 driving back to the winding canyon, pitch black roads and two women flagged me down. I pulled over and they said ‘there’s rattlesnake on the road and we can’t get past it, and we have a dog with us and we’re scared for the dog. And I said, ‘jump in’ and I drove a mile back up the canyon and they Jacknife’s wife and daughter. I think we looked at each other and went, ‘Okay!’ It was a joy working with him.”
Danielle asked Tim if he had missed being on the road over the past 15 months.
“No, it’s been about right,” Tim said. “We needed time out, I think. The only thing I’m still a bit scared of is, I didn’t maintain my voice. You know you can’t sing like you sing when you sing live, so I’m reclaiming my voice at the moment. I have a wide range for octaves but that doesn’t mean they’re very good octaves, but I have four octaves.”
“My voice is naturally dropping as I passed my teenage years so I should have worked a little harder at maintaining my voice and now I’m having to catch up.”
“We’re really looking forward to these first shows back because I think they’re going to be quite explosive for people, and also negotiating the fear of like, ‘oh, people – people without masks.’ You can feel that everywhere (but) we’re really looking forward to it now.”
Click the link below to watch the interview.
“James have always been mavericks,” said Plant. “They’ve always insisted on beating to their own drum and their refusal to play the game has probably cost them greater commercial success at certain points in their career. But that’s also been key to their appeal and longevity.”
“This record has obviously been recorded in an incredibly strange and unexpected time. And I hope from that they’ve developed not only a positive association with Jackknife Lee, but also a completely different way of working – a virtual collaboration. They’ve found it incredibly invigorating actually, and are hugely surprised and proud of the result.”
There is a song on the new James album that is unbearably sad. Recover is a track about singer Tim Booth’s father-in-law dying in the first wave of Covid-19. One verse documents his rapid deterioration: in a few lines 84 year-old Saville goes from having a sore throat to being on a ventilator. Despite the peppering of hope throughout the song, he never recovers. It’s a harrowing listen…. (subscription)
“When james are at their best hardly anyone can rival their mixture of ecstasy, passion, groove, and spirit. In this discussion with frontman Tim Booth you’ll learn that isn’t an accident. ”
Click the link below for the podcast.