ON 4th JUNE ICONIC INDIE BAND JAMES RELEASE THEIR 16TH STUDIO ALBUM ” ALL THE COLOURS OF YOU “. DESH KAPUR WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO HAVE A GOOD OLD ZOOM CHAT WITH LEGENDARY BASS PLAYER JIM GLENNIE TO DISCUSS, MAKING MUSIC, LONGEVITY, THE NEW ALBUM AND THE INFLUENCE THE PANDEMIC HAD ON ‘ ALL THE COLOURS OF YOU “
James are British music’s enduring gem. Their breakthrough single in 1991, Sit Down, may forever link them with the ‘Madchester’ scene, but they’ve sold in excess of 25 million albums over their 39-year career. Not bad for a band who grew up in the heyday of NME when success was something to be avoided like the plague. They’re mavericks, they’re alchemists, they’re survivors. Not many bands have toured with Neil Young and also released one of the all-time great rave-era anthems
James’s last tour saw them play 86 shows in 14 countries, including a sell-out concert at the legendary Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. The reason is simple: James live are a force to be reckoned with. Their recent homespun live album – Live in Extraordinary Times – debuted at number one in the UK midweek charts. The momentum continues: the band have sold 60,000 tickets for a UK arena tour scheduled for this November and December, a tour which has sold faster than any previous James tour.
DESH KAPUR: Hi Jim. Thanks for taking the time to speak to myself and All Music Magazine UK/Europe today. How’s your day going?
JIM GLENNIE: It’s going alright, actually not doing a huge amount yet after having a year like we’ve all had. With that said we have been busy; we’ve been doing work, we’ve been doing music, but nothing out there in the big wide world. Suddenly there’s loads of things that we have to go and do and it’s kind of like, woah!!
DESH: It’s a bit scary, isn’t it?
JIM: A little bit I mean we’ve got some gigs; we’ve got some festivals coming up and we’ve got some radio sessions and all the rest of it. Yeah, it’s all been mad.
DESH: So, you’ll have to bear with me. I don’t normally do the interviews myself, so this is all brand new for me. And I’m sure you’re very practised being one of the oldest surviving members of the band.
JIM: Yes, we all started very young!
DESH: I was living in Australia and I remember you releasing, ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Laid’ back in the day. I remember them getting so much airplay on Triple J, but they were such moments in time, both those songs. They were distinctly different, but they were very distinct moments in time musically as in, where music was at that time. You have managed to keep evolving throughout the years, you are very chameleon-like as a band, would you say that’s true?
JIM: Yeah, I suppose that’s kind of why we are still here, to some degree. We’ve never wanted to have the kind of James sound, and be pigeonholed into one sound, you know ‘they’re Brit pop or they’re indie’, we never really wanted that. We kind of thought that the parameters that could describe James needed to be a lot broader than that. And I think that’s one of the reasons why we’re still here, after all this time, because we’ve allowed ourselves to move from record to record. I think it’s not always necessarily made things easy for us because I think the music industry likes to kind of compartmentalise things. ‘Oh, yeah, you do that’… ‘Oh yeah, you sound like that’… So, I think if you do change around, the industry struggles with that. They just wanted to go, ‘Oh, this is the type of band James are’. But just for our own sanity, we had to keep changing, or we would have just imploded, if we had tried to sit in one small area of music. I mean, after all this time it would just drive you round the bend!!
DESH: I think the thing that strikes me the most, is that there are some bands who get to their second or third record and it’s almost like they sit down and say we can’t do this anymore we need to sound like this now. And then that record comes out and it’s all a little bit forced. Whereas your changes always seem more organic, natural, more like that’s just the road you’re traveling, that’s where you are musically in life. Would that be fair to say?
JIM: I think so. I think there’s probably a few reasons for that. We’ve got a lot of musical scope within the band. Saul plays guitar but plays violin really well as well. Adrian plays guitar but also plays the cello, Andy plays trumpet. So, we’ve got a lot of different styles to draw from, that could almost be folk music, right up to something that could be post-industrial or very dancey. So, we’ve got all these toys available to us, naturally within the band. So as long as you utilise those, you end up with different styles of music with different kind of sounds and different mixtures of people playing. That’s just something that we’ve embraced. We’ve gone ‘That’s great; that’s really exciting!’ And we always respond to the album we did previously. We don’t consciously think that we need to move away from it, but we always respond to it in some way. Sometimes it’s pushing the sound that we had on an album further the next time, and sometimes it’s consciously, or even subconsciously, moving away from it. That’s just the way we’ve always done it. We look for something new and interesting that motivates and inspires us… and that encourages change.
DESH: So, do you think the changes in the music of the band sit side by side to the changes in the music that you listen to as you’ve gone on? So, you’ve discovered a band or a sound and thought, ‘Oh, I quite like that!’ and then that’s brought to the song writing table.
JIM: Not that consciously. It must do. It absolutely must do, I’m not sitting here saying I’m not the sum of the things I like and the things I don’t like, I must be.
DESH: Yeah, we all are!
JIM: Yeah, we are. But I certainly don’t do it consciously. And the way we write is weird! There’s four of us that do the writing and we all just get in a room and jam. We don’t come in with anything prepared; we don’t do that. We just get into a room, switch the drum machine on and we just start playing, and we record everything! We then work that into demos and then that eventually leads into the songs. Those improvisations could be anything from ten minutes up to well over an hour and you just listen, and you play, and there’s things that go wrong, maybe horribly wrong, or brilliantly wrong. And there’s a bit where it comes together and there are drop downs and peaks and it’s just an amazing experience. And if you’re lucky you get a song out of it at the end, but it’s not a conscious thing; no one is steering it. No one stops as says ‘Hang on a minute let’s do X!’ You just listen and you play. So, it wouldn’t be easy to consciously impose a style on it, because we are not really saying anything, we’re just playing. It’s much more about what naturally happens in the room. And yes, that must be a reflection of what we like, what we don’t like. I think you’re absolutely right in that respect. But I don’t hear it really. I wouldn’t be conscious of being really into The Flaming Lips and then I can hear The Flaming Lips on the record. But we must be influenced in some way; we can’t help but be attracted to things that we like the sound of and conversely move away from things we don’t like. So, it must be reflected to some degree.
DESH: So, have you always recorded your rehearsals, has that always been a thing with James or is it something you have learnt along the way?
JIM: Sometimes we jam and we don’t record it, usually by accident or like the other day, we were rehearsing for the first time in nearly two years, and we just jammed something and no one recorded it because we had nothing set up, and we just go, ‘Oh well, that’s kind of a gift from the Gods!’ It just existed in its own right and was gone, but we do usually try to record everything. Sometimes you are having writing sessions and the days are long and tiring and you can’t find anything new or different and its very draining…. great fun, but it can be draining, and you’re thinking this is not very good, it’s totally uninspired. But when you listen back, there’ll be something special in there, but your tiredness completely coloured your experience at the time. But when you listen to it later, you’ll notice something brilliant and beautiful. When you’re actually jamming something, you can’t really tell whether it’s good or not because it is very objective. So, we’re very, very wary of jumping to conclusions about things. We listen back to everything, and we end up with some great surprises.
DESH: Because the rules are made to be broken, and that’s the golden nugget!
JIM: Yeah, well, originality is what you’re looking for, isn’t it? So, as you said, break the rules to get it “wrong”. That’s kind of where you need to be!
DESH: So, I’ve listened to the album a few times. It’s great. Well done. I really like it. It’s intense in parts and, and raw… I really enjoyed that. With the album, was your idea of the record before lockdown the same as what the record has become? If it did how did lockdown affect the album? Did the lockdown have a massive effect on the record or just around the edges? Because to me, it seemed like it really came into the album a lot.
JIM: I think it has. I think you’re right. I don’t think we had a clear idea of what the record was going to sound like before we started the recording. We were never like ‘The album has to sound like this!’ The main issue really was, just technically how we were going to finish it, how we were going to get it across the finish line. That was the main concern. Fortunately, we did all the writing and we had done all the jamming, because that’s the bit that we couldn’t have done remotely. We have to be in the same room for that; it’s essential for us to be together. The next bits were us getting demos together, which we were in the process of doing when Covid kicked in. We can do that individually. We do a lot of that on our own or in pairs anyway, obviously this time everything had to be in ones!! And that was OK. That was a little bit different than normal, but still fine. But then the last part of the process is always getting together with the producer, in a studio somewhere. So we usually hire an AirBnB, somewhere so we can keep going in and out and just be available if anything’s needed or the producer needs any input, then we’re there. And that was the bit that was going to be difficult because obviously we couldn’t do that. Initially we thought, do the whole thing remotely because there’s no way we’re going to find anybody that we can actually have any contact with, but madly Jacknife was suggested, and he only lives 15 minutes from Tim (Booth), and he wasn’t busy. He wanted to stay at home because of Covid and his family, but more importantly he loved the demos, and it was just kind of like… Bang! It fell into our laps just wonderfully.
It meant Tim could be the point of contact in the band; he could go in, and he could represent us. We would communicate between ourselves and he would go back and relay that to Jacknife. We were sending things to Jacknife from wherever we were, as he needed them or asked for them. Incredibly, it worked really well. We liked what he was doing. If there had been issues, it could have been a very, very different experience, but we loved it. So, it was very easy just to let him run with it. And I’m really glad we did. I think he has added a positivity to it. Some of the lyrics are hard and sad, like Tim’s father-in-law dying and all the stuff about Trump going on in the States. But the music is very uplifting. And that’s the thing that’s important now, because I think the last people need now is a depressing record!!
DESH: Very true! Lloyd the reviewer at All Music Magazine said exactly that when he reviewed …. “lyrically it is sad in places and lyrically it’s hard in places, but there’s a joy in the music that keeps you smiling and keeps your foot tapping”.
JIM: I think Jacknife described it as songs to cry and dance too. There’s not many of them out there; that’s a very important category!!
DESH: So, you said that you had bits in place before lockdown, but lyrically, there’s some very, very locked down, poignant lyrics – does mean that the music was there, but the lyrics changed?
JIM: Tim starts to get lyrics as soon as we have jammed but it takes him a long time sometimes; sometimes it’s and quick and instant, sometimes he is writing while we’re actually jamming, scribbling away on bits of paper, banging things down, so sometimes you can get lyrics or at least the concept very, very early on. Sometimes it doesn’t work like that, sometimes it is much further down the line. But as you said, on some of these, you can tell they were written within the last 12 months just because he’s reflecting on things that have happened during this period. But I think there’s a mixture on this record of things that probably span from the first writing session back in the summer of 2018, right through till relatively last minute, where he was kind of still fine tuning and tweaking little bits.
DESH:. So, as you said, the album was there before lockdown, you wrote bits separately and you recorded the demos separately. But how did you manage to finish it without going to studio?
JIM: Basically, we sent him our demos, which were primarily pieced together from the initial jams that we did, because we had recorded and multi-tracked everything. So, we constructed the demos from the jams. You can replace bits if you want to, so on one song I replaced the bass but everything else that Jacknife used was from the jam. He added a few things and got people to send things in when he needed them.
DESH: That’s where that rawness and intenseness comes from then! That really comes over on the record. I really feel that when I’m listening to it, I love it! So, what now?
JIM: The record comes out at the beginning of June. So, we’ve got some got some gigs, if it all goes according to plan. Lots of promo, radio sessions, but actually going and playing is so exciting, a little bit freaky, but exciting! We’ve not played live since September 12, 2019. So, it’s nearly two years, which is an age ago. To get back out there to play for people will be wonderful, especially with the new record. We are so looking forward to that. It feels now that we’re actually going to get to play some shows. And then obviously, a tour of our own later on in the year, and then just keep going after that. I think we’re going to be busy. I think as much as people will have us, we will go out there and play. To be honest, I think we need to! We want to, we have missed it!
DESH: Myself and All Music Magazine would like to thank you for taking the time to talk to me. It’s been amazing. I’ll you at see one of the gigs. I’ll be down the front.
JIM: My pleasure thank you and I’ll look out for you lol….
ALL THE COLOURS OF YOU track listing:
· All the Colours of You
· Beautiful Beaches
· Wherever It Takes Us
· Miss America
· Getting Myself Into
· Magic Bus
UK TOUR with Special Guests HAPPY MONDAYS:
Thu 25 LEEDS First Direct Arena
Fri 26 BIRMINGHAM Utilita Arena
Sun 28 CARDIFF Motorpoint Arena
Tue 30 GLASGOW SSE Hydro
Wed 01 DUBLIN 3 Arena
Fri 03 MANCHESTER Arena (Sold Out)
Sat 04 LONDON Wembley Arena
Fri 30 GLASGOW Playground Weekender
Sun 01 DERBYSHIRE Y Not Festival
Thu 02 LANCASTER Highest Point Festival
Sat 04 WARRINGTON Neighbourhood Weekender
Thu 09 SCARBOROUGH Open Theatre
Fri 17 ISLE OF WIGHT Isle of Wight Festival
FOLLOW ALL MUSIC MAGAZINE