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.
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.
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.
Snap, Cackle And Pop popped round to James frontman Tim Booth’s house for a bit of chat with him and guitarist Saul Davies.
After coming to prominence as part of the Madchester scene in the late eighties, James outlived their baggy contemporaries and have now put 16 years behind them.
Tim : I don’t know how we’ve kept together this long. The first seven years we made no money and it didn’t matter to us. We were doing things that we loved passionately so we’d carry on doing them and then we had success and it’s almost much harder from then to deal with success and balance all those things out.
And with Sit Down the anthem of 1990, their gigs packed out with a sea of those famous flowery t-shirts, the band decided it was time to try and crack America.
Saul : We just think we had a lot of critical success and it was married to sales, big sales in the early nineties and going off to America, which was a wonderful experience for us, you know we went on tour with Neil Young and did all sorts of amazing things, went to places I never thought I would go to, never mind playing.
Abandoning big stadium gigs in Britain for the smaller crowds of the States gave bands like U2 and Oasis the chance to take the megastardom tag that seemed destined for James.
Tim : You see, I don’t see James as having made any mistakes, I see James as having been James which is having their own path and I don’t see any problem in not being as huge and famous as Oasis. I wouldn’t trade places with Noel or Liam for any amount of money. Because that’s not what it’s about for me.
But with Noel reportedly inspired to form a band after seeing a James soundcheck and Morrissey calling them the “greatest band in the world”, the boys are aware of the influence they’ve had on the music of the last decade.
Tim : It’s great when your peers, when Neil Young takes you on tour or when Noel Gallagher says what he says and Morrissey. You know lots of bands have the signed t-shirts from the Dominion concert and you know really sweet things we get and that’s really gratifying as a musician.
And with their recent Best Of album already platinum, there are more fave James tunes than you might expect.
Saul : I think that’s probably a process that people have bought the album, have listened to it and were vaguely familiar with Sit Down or whatever and suddenly kind of thought “Oh my God, I remember what I was doing when this came out” and it would send some shockwaves through people’s lives as well that process, which is a really good one.
And their new single Runaground looks set to follow the fate of the other 17 singles on the album.
Tim : We didn’t get to ride any of the horses. But we got to sit in the beautiful Irish pubs and see the Irish culture.
Official Press Release
Date: February 1991
Formed in 1983, James turbulent career finally came good in 1990. Their ‘Gold Mother’ LP went silver, their dates at Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom, Glastonbury, Maine Road (with Bowie), Crystal Palace (with The Cure) saw them build up a fanatically loyal live following, while James’s t-shirts became an essential fashion item for indie kids up and down the country. The band also had their first top forty hits with ‘How Was It For You?’ and ‘Come Home’.
Originally signed to Factory Records seven years ago, they released two cult hits, ‘What’s The World’ (later covered by The Smiths) and ‘Hymn From A Village’ plus the ‘Village Fire’ EP. Signing to Sire in 1985, the group put out two albums ‘Stutter’ and ‘Strip-Mine’ during an awkward three-year relationship with the label.
Leaving Sire, James pursued an independent path once more, releasing a live album ‘One Man Clapping’ through Rough Trade Records.
Following the departure of original drummer Gavin Whelan, the nucleus of James – vocalist / lyricist Tim Booth, bass player Jim Glennie and guitarist Larry Gott – injected a new harder edge to their sound with the addition of Dave Baynton-Power on drums.
Following two of the biggest indie hits of 89 – ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Come Home’, James had their freshly recorded ‘Gold Mother’ album released by Fontana.
Expanding to a seven-piece with man of many instruments Saul Davies, keyboard player Mark Hunter and Andy Diagram on trumpet, the new look James bounced into the charts with ‘How Was It For You?’ and ‘Come Home’.
The group ended the year with a new single ‘Lose Control’, two triumphant hometown Manchester shows and a short tour of Russia’s major cities.
Coming bang up to date, James release a re-recorded version of their live classic ‘Sit Down’ on 18 March 1991. Out on Fontana, the seven-inch version of ‘Sit Down’ is produced by Gil Norton and mixed by Dave Bascombe. The b-side is backed by a nine minute version of ‘Sit Down’ recorded live at Manchester G-Mex last December.
A full length live video, filmed at the December G-Mex gig is released on 15 April 1991, while an hour long TV version of the gig is to be transmitted by Granada on 27 March 1991.
The group are currently recording their new album which is set for Autumn release – a massive UK tour is being booked to coincide with the release.
Official Press Band Biography – Dated 9th April 1990
James release their first Fontana single – ‘How Was It For You?’ – on April 30th. The b-side of the 45 features ‘Whoops’ recorded live at Manchester Apollo at the end of last year, while the twelve inch contains two more live tracks – the legendary ‘Hymn From A Village’ and ‘How’ – plus ‘Lazy’. The CD line-up reads ‘How Was It For You?’, ‘Undertaker’ and ‘Hymn From A Village’. None of these extra tracks will be available on the group’s new LP, which is set for release at the beginning of June.
James began their recording career in 1983 with Factory Records, producing two acclaimed singles ‘What’s The World’ (later to be covered by The Smiths) and ‘Hymn From A Village’ plus the ‘Village Fire EP’.
Signing to Sire Records in 1985, the group put out two albums ‘Stutter’ and ‘Strip-mine’ during an awkward three year relationship with the label. Leaving Sire, James pursued an independent path, releasing a live album – ‘One Man Clapping’ – through Rough Trade in February 1989.
Following the departure of original drummer Gavan Whelan the nucleus of James – vocalist Tim Booth, bass player Jim Glennie and guitarist Larry Gott – toughened up their sound with the addition of Dave Baynton-Power on drums.
Enjoying two indie hits with ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Come Home’ and a sell-out tour, the group expanded their line-up to a seven piece with multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies, keyboard player Mark Hunter and Andy Diagram on trumpet, joining James ranks.
The group started 1990 taking several coaches from Manchester over to Paris to play the Hacienda’s Temperance Club night out.
James set off on their World Cup tour in June, which includes festival dates at WOMAD and Glastonbury. The group are still waiting to firm up details for a major Manchester summer show.
|Dates connected with James:||1989+|
|Contribution/Role/Speciality:||Percussion, Guitar, Violin|
Birthday : 28th June 1965
Band Nickname : Bob
First gig : Isle of Wight Festival 1970
Football Team : Barcelona
Born in Oldham, Saul moved to Scotland when he was a child before moving to Hull in 1980 where he met Adrian and the two became close friends, Saul replacing Dave Rotheray (of the Beautiful South) on drums in Adrian’s band.
Two years later, Saul was expelled from Manchester University’s law school in 1982 after six months for taking speed in the faculty toilets. Saul then spent several years travelling Europe. He did however manage to complete his degree in 1987.
Saul joined in 1989 just before the first version of Sit Down came out. He was discovered by Larry at the Band on the Wall in Manchester at an improvisation night on the day Dave had finally agreed to join James. Saul walked in with a violin and Larry was immediately intrigued. Saul was leaving Manchester at twelve the next day so Larry called a rehearsal for ten and Saul was offered the job on the spot.
He allegedly had never even heard of James and had to ask his friends who they were. He saw the move into James as purely a stop-gap measure initially. Tim described him as the “last of the international playboys” as “he lives all over the world and knows how to enjoy life. He’s very flamboyant and will go for it onstage. He’ll take risks onstage, visually, and in terms of like, flying. He wants to fly a lot on his violin – his natural style is to play masses and masses. He’s got so much talent and he’s just dying to get it expressed, and then to have to work through – working in a band which is hard at the best of times and patience is the biggest thing you need – I think it’s probably been hardest for him”
Saul is instantly recognisible by his widely varying hairstyles – bald, dyed bleach blonde, floppy bob, long with a dodgy beard – and his (usually drink-fuelled) taunting and provoking the audience in the live arena.
Since Larry’s departure, Saul has become more prominent in the songwriting of the band – he sketched 20 or so base tracks for the Millionaires album at his home in Scotland before presenting them to the rest of the band. With his insecurity hidden by his flamboyant stage persona, Saul was afraid the band would hate the material. His contribution is recognised by Jim in the credits to Millionaires – “Jim Glennie would like to personally thank Saul for his work on this album over and above the call of duty.”
Outside of James, Saul has participated in the Money offshoot project and also worked with Youth on his Celtic Cross project. He has also produced albums by Priya Thomas and Michael Kulas’ debut “Mosquito”.
Find out about Saul on Wikipedia.