Glennie spoke through the decision-making process that James goes through when creating albums.
“It’s primarily the four song-writers: myself, Tim, Mark and Saul. The songs are our babies so we keep the decision-making between ourselves up until the producers come in.
“There’s quite a lot of what we do like getting the songs, demoing them, getting the character and identity but we all know each other really well so musically we’re all on the same page. We know what works within the unit of the band”, he added.
Glennie revealed his potential favourites in the new album. “I think Wherever It Takes Us is going to be a big live tune… Zero is going to be a good song live”.
He also added how Wherever It Takes Us will be a fun challenge as they each still have to work out the verses, patterns, chorus, harmonies and essentially recreate the whole track to develop it into a live performance.
The album opener, ZERO, is a really uplifting song tailor-made for an audience sing/whoop-along – even if the first line is “We’re all going to die”. Are you looking forward to playing that one live?
I think that’s my probably my favourite song. And I love that being the first line of the album. I think it’s so funny, because it’s such a dark thing to say but it actually makes people laugh when they hear it.
I can’t wait to play it live, we’re definitely going to get the audience breathing on that one.
[Tim] Booth’s lyrics may be a little close to the bone for some. As founding member of the band, does [Jim] Glennie ever feel the need interject on some of the lyrics? The short answer is no, but he is considerate enough to elaborate on their relationship:
“Our politics are very similar. His life experiences are very different to mine. A lot of the time he sings about things that I can’t really relate to or don’t reference my experiences because of where he is and what he’s doing. But he’s a good man and he sings about good things. He reflects on what he does.”
“Some of the things he sings about don’t connect with me on a personal level, but not in a bad way. He has got clearer with his messages over time, and he’s wanted to do that. He’s wanted better clarity on what he’s trying to say.”
“Sometimes you need to continue to shine a light on things, again and again and again. People listen to what he has to say. I’m not saying he’s going to change the world, but if somebody stops to think about something that they wouldn’t ordinarily because it’s a lyric or in an interview, then brilliant.”
The English performer has been a longtime Topanga Canyon resident, but he’s moving his family out. For most of a decade, Tim Booth of the English rock band James loved the quiet, peaceful life he and his family had found in a rustic hillside neighborhood of Topanga Canyon.
It was the perfect place to relax and recharge after weeks in hotels and buses on tour with the band he’d been part of for nearly 40 years, and it offered all of that sunny optimism that drew him from his homeland in the first place.
But about two years ago, not long before the Woolsey Fire burned its way from Ventura County into Malibu and the Santa Monica Mountains near Topanga, Booth says he attended a ceremony held by a Peruvian shaman.
“And this very strange thing happened where I saw an earthquake in California,” he says. “I saw fires. I saw myself driving our family out, and we got away. But I saw all hell breaking loose in California, and I was going, ‘OK, is this a warning?’.”
Coming back to himself, Booth says he decided it was his own subconscious fears, nothing more.
“Then I woke up in the morning and California was on fire, the house was full of smoke, and we had to evacuate,” he says. “And I went, ‘I’ve got to take this more seriously.’”
That episode, and the subsequent exit from Topanga Canyon after 11 years, inspired the song “Beautiful Beaches” on James’ new album, “All The Colours Of You.” The band’s 16th studio record, it arrives on June 4.
On their 16th album, James face down the challenges of longevity assuredly. Bands don’t often produce their most engaged work four decades in, but All The Colours … looks to James’ past only to channel their founding exploratory impetus into exultant, reflective and wide-ranging new shapes.
Begun before the pandemic and completed during lockdown with producer Jacknife Lee, the album grapples with Covid-19, climate change, American injustice and more. And yet it foregrounds themes of unity and release with care, urgency and soft psychedelic colours: without downplaying its themes, All The Colours … unifies James’ fringe credentials and capacity for festival-sized catharsis.
James’ arsenal of unifying song is rousingly expanded for the occasion here. Both an album for today and a testimony to their formative drive, it silences any fear that James might be losing altitude. They have earned the right to bask in past glories, but James still have things to say and the momentum needed to put them across. ‘:Jump the fence,” sings Booth, recalling 1992’s (“Break down the … “) Government Walls as XYST closes the album with another stinging attack on divisiveness. As James know, this is no time for sitting down on the job.4/5 (80%)
All The Colours Of You was partly recorded before the pandemic, but by the time James went looking for a producer, lockdowns had begun and options for tracking together in a studio were nonexistent. That’s how Booth and co. ended up partnering with Jacknife Lee (U2, R.E.M., Snow Patrol), his neighbor.
Booth has said that in the before times, he wouldn’t have thought to work together because of Lee’s high-profile status. Lee left his fingerprints all over James’ demos. Much of that work was done in his “cave,” full of keyboards and guitars. Lee contributed to the album as a musician.
“I was looking for grooves and a kind of a contemporary psychedelia. I wanted some level of not quite knowing where your footing is, not quite knowing if you’re in this world or another,” Booth said. “He went looking for it, and he’s fucking genius.”
In the process, Lee made the band more accessible to listeners’ ears. That turned an originally bleaker song like “Recover” into something uplifting.
“I didn’t know we weren’t accessible before!” he said.
QRO: It seemed darker than your last two records, the one about the apocalypse (Girl At the End of the World) and the one about death (La Petite Mort)…
TB: [laughs] You’re saying this one is darker than those?
I would agree with you on that. There were some really uplifting love songs on the last one, but on the last one, Girl At the End of the World, even the love songs always had a little threat of something. [laughs] People in love with somebody, your odds are you’re gonna get your heartbroken.
I’ve always felt a bit like that. It’s like, even when wonderful things are happening in my life, it’s hard for me not to gravitate towards, “But it’s shit sometimes…”
To me, that’s being realistic. I think that’s why we’ve lasted so many years – is because we write songs that people can relate to. And not many of us are living in paradise.
James singer Tim Booth has told BBC Radio 5 live that new song Coming Home (Pt 2) is about “being in denial” over how much he missed his young son while being away on tour. Booth teared up as he recalled seeing his son after an extended period away.
Tim Booth: We change our set-list every night, usually about an hour before we get on stage, but I don’t like the idea of being tied down to a record. We aren’t about nostalgia; we’re not a heritage band. We play a lot of new songs when we play live and the stuff we’re writing now is as good as anything we’ve ever written – if not better.
“This album is one of the best we’ve ever made,” said Booth. “We didn’t know which songs to leave off and we had a big fight over it because we made too many. We had about 15 songs and we didn’t want to put them all on, that’s why we released an EP, but those songs on the EP were some people’s favourite songs in the band. We’ve made something very fresh and exciting.”
Saul Davies: “What I think you’re alluding to there is that we’re in our 37th year and what you and I are discussing here is about songs we’ve just made. It’s really refreshing and really heartening to me that I’m in a position whereby we’re not having to talk about ‘Sit Down’ and all that. I think that’s testament to the fact that we have pushed it, and we are moving forward.”
Tim Booth: “For me, I write a lot of my best lyrics at like 4 am. I wake up and I can’t sleep because I have a song lyric going in my head and I get up and write it down, which leads me to another and another. It’s all done fairly without thinking. The thinking, conscious, analytical brain is less than five percent of the brain. Ninety-five percent is unconscious to us. So it figures that the rich stuff is in the unconscious. The creative and dream aspects are in the unconscious part of us. I really spend a lot of my life trying to get to those parts of myself because I think that’s the role of the artist.”