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Fan Interview with Larry Gott (March 2008)
By wearejames.com forum member Kirsty Pheasant
It's all a bit surreal. I'm in Manchester, in a taxi, headed off to interview Larry. I'm greeted like an old friend rather than a stalker caught scavenging in the bins, which is a good start. He fetches me tea and leaves me to listen to the new album while he catches up with a few things, he is a very busy man it seems. So, as instructed, I sit back and listen. The new album was always going to sound great, having heard the tracks previewed at Hoxton I knew the foundations were there for something special. I was prepared to hear something I didn't like, or to find something to criticise but as I listened I was submerged in this breathless soundscape that sucked me in and didn't let me back up for air till the closing notes of I Wanna Go Home. It sounded truly astonishing; mature, accomplished, an absolute work of art. I was blown away by its sheer beauty and power.
So below, for your delectation and delight, I bring you, at long last, Larry Gott, guitar hero, James legend and excellent tea maker, in conversation.
K: Let's start with the new album, Hey Ma. How did you choose the title - mothers and babies seem to be a prominent theme in James be it song titles, album names or artwork?
L: Mothers and babies always do in James stuff. I suppose an album feels like you're giving birth, it's about creation. I don't know why we're drawn to that. With the Hey Ma artwork, the graphics company came up with a shortlist of four ideas. Some suggested Whiteboy visually, another suggested I Wanna Go Home, some said Hey Ma. There was one, it was a really low resolution photo of a baby lying on its back, with a gun in its feet, pointing the gun at it's own mouth, like it's about to shoot itself. It was an utterly stunning image that suited hey ma, we couldn't trace the originator and get clearance for it so we had to let it go, it would've been quite controversial.
K: The artwork that you've got is fairly provocative anyway...
L: It's provocative yes and that does pose problems. You see as artists we have artistic license to do whatever we want; we can produce provocative imagery, we can swear, you can't constrain an artist expressing themselves. The problem comes when its advertised in Q etc or the picture appears on itunes or for HMV to rack it in a store. Then its in the commercial realm and the Advertising Standards Authority would come down on them like a ton of bricks for displaying an image that could be considered objectionable by some people.
K: Yeah and all of a sudden you're in headline in the Daily Mail territory...
L: Yeah quite possibly, but its more likely the album would just disappear. If you can't advertise your album and the review isn't going to get a big spot in any magazine because they can't show a photo, you know it's gonna have a negative effect. To avoid this we have used a different slip case image.
K: Is that annoying having to compromise a really interesting image?
L: It's not annoying no, it presents you with a new challenge; we thought what if the slipcase becomes the set up and the reveal of the sleeve the punch line? So the slipcase has the baby (oliver is his name) looking straight at you, with quite a malevolent look on his face surrounded by building blocks and a toy gun. In the reveal the child's got a real gun and this time he's reaching for it. It has power; you've already set up the image of a malevolent child who looks like he could use it.
You could say we approached it from a point of compromise, but what we ended up with was better than the original idea, so it's always good to address these things.
K: The song, Hey Ma, seems quite anti war in sentiment; the ëboys coming home in body bags' lyric is quite strong. There's not a lot of protest or debate about big issues in music at the moment. Is that going to pick up a lot of attention?
L: Anti war?... it's more, 'be aware of your actions' in sentiment, and be even more aware of your RE-actions. You only have to look at forums to see how someone says something and then one person flies off the handle and has an extreme reaction, just be aware of that. I'm not saying 9/11 was an innocent act, far from it, but the rapid reaction from America, whether justified or not, is open to a lot of discussion. And that's all I'm going to say on that.
K: Moving away from such tricky subjects and back to the album and its evolution. What made you decide to preview the songs at Hoxton in September? It seemed quite an ambitious move
L: Historically, and I can only speak about when I was in the band, certain songs would pop themselves forward and we would say ëlets get that one together and play it live tonight'. Then that would happen with the next song and the next and the next, we were touring a lot then and we'd always put in some of the new songs and try them out. It was all part of the distilling process. It also freshened us up doing a new unknown song.
K: But it wasn't just a case of putting in a few new songs, it was a whole gig?
L: Well yeah, that's what used to happen historically. With this album we didn't have that luxury because by the time we were on tour with Fresh As A Daisy we'd only just begun writing the songs. There were a few that we tried in a band situation, we then tried them on the tour, but that was it.
Once the tour and the festivals were over, and we knew that we were going into the studio to record with Lee, there were two things we needed to know. 1) That the idea of going to Warsy and building our own studio would work and 2) whether working with Lee was the right thing for all of us. When we worked on the songs in pre production it seemed like it was all going to work and Tim (or Jim) said it used to help when we played new songs live, so we put in a Hoxton gig. We had a week I think, 6 or 7 days to rehearse them and get them all ready for those shows.
K: So it was that short a time scale?
L: Yeah, obviously some of them like Upside and Not So Strong, we already had. I think there were about 24 on the shortlist and as after those 2 nights about 5 or 6 of them got dropped.
K: What straightaway?
L: We had to focus, we only had a limited amount of time at Warsy, we couldn't do all of the songs and we needed to focus on about 18 of them. So some of them fell by the wayside and Traffic was one of them funnily enough, it was a really strong early contender
K: So we all had these setlists given out to us, and we were invited to fill in our comments, how much influence did that have, did you read them and the reviews people posted online?
L: I did yeah, I read all the reviews. They were very enlightening, some people were looking for hits/singles others were more lyrical.
K: And did it have an influence at all?
L: I don't know, I really don't, it's difficult, cos I wasn't sure about doing the gig, but it turned out to be an absolute blast, especially that first night, what a wonderful experience
K: Yeah I was only at the first night, but it was quite amazing
L: It was, it was stunning, the second one wasn't quite as good, the only problem was the first one didn't record, the CD's were just full of white noise, so it's gone forever, it's just one of those things, its in the ether.
K: So which songs from the album are you happiest with, which ones made you sit back and go wow?
L: The one that's really surprised me is Waterfall, I wasn't that keen on it, I didn't think it was that strong, and it was a headache. We knew there was something good in it, we spent ages and ages trying it this way and that, in the end I got fed up of the bloody thing. It became a pain in the arse and I thought, it's not worth it, it was causing too many problems.
K: Then of course you end up overworking it and it gets worse.
L: Yeah, I would have happily dropped it, it was always at the bottom of my list, but other people kept flying its flag, thank god. We recorded it, edited it and then when it came back from the mixing stage, we put it on and it was like woah! Where did that come from? All of the other songs sounded better at the mixing stage, but that one just leapt forward, it suddenly made sense. It went from being my least favourite to almost my favourite overnight and that's where I'm at with it at the minute, but I know that that will change.
K: And you've still got to tour them of course, which will change them again.
L: Jimmy and me rehearsed it the other day; we put the CD on in a rehearsal room, cranked it up through the PA and played along, Waterfall felt really, really good. I think its gonna become a stormer live, a real cracker The songs are completely different to how they started out and we need to learn them now.
K: So recording with Lee, how did that work, you've recorded with people like Eno, how was working with Lee different? How did the whole process of recording the album differ?
L: The amount of time we spent actually recording was about seven days, which isn't a lot really. In the laid/wah sessions we didn't think we had enough time either, so Eno suggested doing two albums instead of one and using 4 or 5 different studios all at the same time. In Warsy, we had this huge chateau, so we set up six recording studios. Lee produced a master backing track for us all to work off. Chunny was over in the midi suite putting keyboards on it, Andy was up in his bedroom putting trumpets and cornets on it, Saul was in his room putting violins & guitars down and also some drums. Dave was also trying other ideas on top. I was doing guitars in the oak panelled study, and Tim was in the billiard room with KK doing the vocals. So we were all beavering away separately. At the end of the day Lee would come round and harvest all of the parts for a particular song.
K: Which is very different to trying to recreate a live performance on record?
L: It was, it was all of us throwing ideas in the pot and Lee would go away and listen. He'd say ëthat guitars not working... or the trumpets are working but? lets have a listen to what you did live ...' We were literally giving him a library of James samples that he could then pull together. Because we didn't have the benefit of living with the songs for years or even months it was really condensed. Lee would just go through and sift things out, get the track working. Probably 70 or 80% of the stuff produced ended up on the floor, never used. I'd give him 6 guitar parts and he'd use a bit of one maybe because that's all the song needed or he might use all 6 and throw everything else out, you never knew.
K: It sounds a very different process and one which Lee was integral too
L: Yeah it was different, there were some songs that stumped him, he would say ëI just can't see this working'. Jimmy or me would then say ëwell let us have a look at it.' We'd bring it back from Brighton, stick it on my computer, listen to it and say what if we try this, that and the other? We would cut it up, change the arrangement around and go down to Lee and say we think this might work, he'd listen and hopefully say ëthat's it! I get it! give it to me'. He'd take over and do his stuff, he was much better at it than us, and suddenly it was all sounding a lot better. It was very homemade.
K; You said earlier that you've all worked with other people since the split, has it changed the way you work together, for the better?
L: Oh completely I think, Tim's been away and worked with Angelo, Lee and KK on his projects, Andy's worked with David Thomas( Pere Ubu) and Frank Black. Producing albums by both of them as part of ëTwo Pale Boys' production team. Saul has worked with Unkle Bob and produced their album, Chunny was involved in that and he was also part of producing Ainslie from Fame Academy with saul. Dave's always been producing stuff on the computer, he was the first one to do it really and I've been recording and writing for a project with Edward Barton. We've all produced and we've all found different ways of working as well. That's been good for us, as has setting up our own studios and doing it that way rather than seven people who all think they know best in the same room.
K: Well that's it, it must be hard to sit you all down in a room together just to make decisions?
L: The best thing, for us, is to not talk, to just play. When there are seven of us playing together it works, when we talk we differ.
K: So Whiteboy's going to be the single? We've already heard it on the radio.
L: Yeah, the wrong edit, but...
K: The wrong edit?
L: It doesn't start with Tim singing, it starts with a guitar arpeggio and then kicks straight in. There's some guy who had a rant about us not announcing it on the website, why weren't you told that Whiteboy was on the radio? COS WE DIDN'T FUCKING KNOW! IDIOT!
K: Really, you didn't know? How come?
L: As soon as we'd got 6 tracks ready to listen to, including the original Whiteboy with the ëall mashed up' intro, we sent it to various key people in the music industry and its having a massive effect. Two of the people we sent it to, Maconie and Radcliffe, took it upon themselves to play Whiteboy off the CD we sent them. It's not the radio edit, it wasn't even mastered, it had only been mixed, it should sound a hell of a lot better than it did cos it hadn't been mastered for radio play. That's why the intros really loud and then goes quiet
K: The sound didn't seem right at all on the radio.
L: It wasn't, but the thing is, it's a good problem to have isn't it? We're getting radio plays that are not scheduled, they're off their own bat, the viral thing is working.
K: In the past James have rarely had an easy relationship with the press, has that made you wary of too much promotion or too much press involvement?
L: I think the press is going to be different now. Rather than being wary I have been hounding our press guy Lewis to get as many press interviews as he can as I think that after release we will be in a good position given the strength of the music on this album. If you want an overview, just go to amazon and read the user reviews for GAWI or the Best of, two albums which I think reflect the panacea of James' career up till now and read the comments on there. There are people from all over the world; it gives a good insight as to how we are viewed in various territories.
K: Yeah, it's astonishing how much support you've got in places like Greece and Portugal, and all the Mexicans that came over to the Dublin show last year.
L: Yeah its growing, even though we haven't been touring, we haven't been on the radio, we haven't been in the newspapers every week. We just disappeared, except, where music fans are concerned, there are people posting videos on you tube and giving people their i-pod play lists and word is getting around. People are discovering james albums like the best of and raving about it, they've given it to their sister and their brother.
K: It's incredibly broad the age range of James fans, from teenagers to people who've been around since the beginning in the early 80's.
L: You see we've always done what we wanted to do; we've always ploughed our own musical furrow and never followed fashion. Sure we've occasionally been influenced by what's around at the moment, that's just a natural thing but we've always had our own unique style. For example in America when Laid came out, Nirvana were hitting, grunge was the thing. Laid wasn't a grunge record! We'd just come off the Neil Young tour of America, Neil Young (the godfather of grunge) was doing an acoustic tour!!? That's where the acoustic sound of Laid came from, doing our own thing but being unintentionally anti fashion as a result.
We always knew we'd have longevity; every album we make serves to increase the legacy of James music and not to satisfy the music press of the day. I find it short sighted of them and hypocritical of them to continually validate and champion bands by saying, this band are as real as it gets, you should listen to them because they're valid and they're original and. . . I'm like, hang on a minute, all of those things can be applied to James and yet you don't see it, why do you not see it? We've just used the wrong colour ink at times for people to see. Tim puts it very well in his lyric on boom boom.
K: Does that frustrate you, do you feel that at times James should've had more chart success, more recognition, then they've actually had?
L: At one time I would've said yes, but since the advent of the internet, I'd say no, the evidence is out there that the recognition is there, and when you get away from this small island of England we're viewed completely differently. We're viewed as this weird cult outsider group. In America we're known especially for Laid, and then when people hear our other music they go this is amazing, cos we don't always sound like Laid.
K: Do you think though, that James being the worlds best kept secret, has helped your longevity, the fact that you're still going now, is partly because you've never been tied into ëthis years thing' or a particular scene. You've always been outside, you were really only part of the Madchester thing because you were from Manchester, and you were making Laid and touring America while Britpop was happening. Has it helped you still be here?
L: For every boat that was leaving, we would be offered a trip on a cool little yacht. We'd say, ëthat sounds cool, lets do that', and then the big boat leaves with everybody on it and we go ëwell, we've had a really, really nice trip' but the press had focused on the big boat, not the nice little yacht that we were sailing in. What is it, serendipity? It's just one of those things; we've never been the zeitgeist. Our timing's been wrong, we were born in the right town fortunately and I think historically we'll be viewed quite differently than we have been portrayed in the past. Having never fitted into any of the genres has been a problem at times, the thing about writers is that, as they always love to write about genres (its easier for them, like a job lot) we never end up getting mentioned.
K: Very much so, whenever you have a top 50 programme on TV or in a magazine James never get mentioned.
L: No no! Number 75 most annoying song ever for Sit Down wasn't it?!!
K: So how much does the bands future depend, if at all, on the success commercially or critically of Hey Ma?
L: At the minute it doesn't rely very heavily on it, you've heard it, I think there's no way it will be ignored. I think it's gonna be a very, very successful album and I think that's the feeling generally, so we're working towards a second album now.
K: Excellent. That's fantastic to hear, you're really looking toward the future then?
L: We've already started writing it. All of us have every intention of doing another album and then another and so on until something stops us. Right now nothing's stopping us; it feels really good, really positive and strong. It seems like a worthwhile thing to spend all your time doing. So we're going to carry on doing it. But if this album bombs entirely there's no telling what damage that could do to us psychologically.
K: You said to me earlier that it would be difficult as a musician to take?
L: It would be difficult for me to know what to do next, if this doesn't hit. For me, it's an absolutely stunning record, and if people ignore it, if it's not what people call good music, then I don't know what good music is! To me this is brilliant music and I'm at odds with everybody else. But even so, we can still play live wherever we want and we've got a great bunch of fans out there that keep us going.
K: Talking about that great bunch of fans, something that Tim often talks about is connection, especially regarding when you play live, does something special happen between you and the fans, when you're on stage? And also from the fans perspective you see the interaction between band members as well, when you're watching in the audience and you see some songs taking off, there seems to be something going on there that's special. Do you get a sense of that?
L: Well yes it does happen, you never know where its gonna happen, you never know when it's going to appear. Call it what you will, some people call it the muse, I know in flamenco they have the phrase ëel duende' which means ëthe spirit' and you only experience great flamenco when el duende is present. When there is a synergy between the musician - usually the guitar player - and the dancer and between the two of them they create an energy that makes the dancer dance like never before and the player play like never before. It's not something that will appear by clicking your fingers (no castanet pun intended). However, when everybody is focused and the situation is right, it does appear and at that moment you can't do anything wrong. When the feelings right, one or two members of the band will be inspired and confident enough to take it in a different direction and everybody will just follow, they know where its going.
Mind you, there are other gigs where it's a struggle, because of the sound or the energy onstage, whatever it may be. Then you just get down and focus, you concentrate be professional and play the best gig you possibly can even though it's a struggle. There were a couple of times on the last tour, during the festivals I think, where that happened and Tim played a blinder. He ignored it and went off on his own little trip and got this thing going with the audience, he had a brilliant gig. There are other times when we can propel Tim so you never know, it's completely unpredictable.
K: And also do you find it slightly weird that fans will travel across the country across the world just to see you guys play. Do you sometimes look out and see the same faces again and think good god get a life!
L: (Laughs) I don't find it weird, I find it enviable. The people who came over from America and Australia, Mexico and Spain, Portugal, all kinds of places during last year's tour, especially the Dublin gig. For those people music, good music is so, so important to them in their life. The fact that they get such a fantastic buzz out of it that, for them, it overshadows everything else I think is amazing. It shows that they're vital and alive and that their heart beats just a little bit stronger than somebody who doesn't have that passion in their life.
I think you yourself Kirsty expressed a feeling of being released, almost set free last year, you spoke of waking up and things like that. To have that kind of effect, that humbles me, but the fact is I'm envious of them/you. I don't think I'd do it, well maybe I would, lets say if Jimi Hendrix - I know its extreme - if he came back from heaven for one gig in Mexico, then yeah I would travel.
K: Lets go back a year. How did you and Jim jamming in a room together become James again, because you were just playing together, you didn't have an intention that it was going to become this James behemoth again did you?
L: No, we just enjoyed playing together again; I think Jimmy rediscovered something about himself that he'd lost sight of, his creativity and his love of jamming.
I was lucky in that at college, there were a lot of musicians on the course, they had a band called Soup. It was a great name cos it was literally like a soup, every week you didn't know what the ingredients were gonna be. Whoever turned up turned up and we'd just jam.
K: Yeah I was going to ask you, you left James and went off to design your ëarmchairs'
L: (laughs) I don't design armchairs, I've never designed anything with an arm on it, thank you very much!
K: You knew what I meant, is being onstage and playing guitar something that's inescapable for you, that you always return too?
L: I hardly touched the guitar when I was first at college, I had a problem with my left arm and I couldn't play guitar for about 18 months, so I just got on with my college work and became pretty much a student. Music had very little place in my life because I'd become oversaturated during the James years. However soup were having these jam sessions and I got invited down to one of them. They were just parties really; everyone would turn up at someone's house for a party. There'd be a drum kit and PA set up in the kitchen or basement. By 1 o clock in the morning everyone would've had a bit to drink and be nice n loose and they'd start to jam, the next time I took my guitar and just became part of it. I learnt so much and started to get the vibe back. So when Jimmy asked me in 2001 ëdo you want to do some jamming'? I was like yeah cool, so we just jammed for the next few years. We tried working with other singers and things like that but nothing seemed to click. We weren't driven we were doing it for fun.
K: So really, this incarnation of James has evolved more from fun and freedom and not having those restrictions on you?
L: Yeah, it did. We were able to rediscover the unique relationship that we had, and the love of jamming. With Soup I had some really good jams, but there's something special between Jimmy and me...
K: Like an old married couple?
L: (Laughs) Well no, like two best friends.
K: Finishing each other's sentences when you're playing together?
L: Well, yeah, we just know, it's weird, socially we're not like that. Me and Jimmy'll go out and have a drink and everything like that, but when I see him with say Saul, now there's two mates! within 30 seconds of being together they're on the floor fucking laughing - they're just so funny together! They're just so in tune with each other. Jimmy and me, that's different, we're only like that when we play and then we relate (clicks fingers) like that. And, then Tim, I asked Tim to come down and join us, he said no at first, then he said yes in the November of 2006.
K: So we've got to the point where there are you, Tim and Jim back, what was the reaction of the other band members?
L: They didn't know, we weren't going to tell ëem. It was our intention for it not to be called James, we were just gonna write material together and record it.
K: So at what stage did they get involved - because Who Are You and Chameleon were recorded without them?
L: Well you see, we got hijacked. I think Tim mentioned something to our manager Peter that the three of us were getting together that weekend. On the Friday we went out for a meal together and talked about, y'know the old historical problems and stuff, then went to the studio and had a really good jam, Pure Beauty was one of them.
K: Wow that was quite a start.
L: We cleared the air between the three of us and got a lot of things out of the way. Then the next day Tim comes in and he's had a phone call from Peter our manager. It turns out that he'd been keeping things on the back burner all the time. As soon as he found out we were together he made some phone calls, to the record company and to Simon Moran our promoter. He told Tim that the record company had a thing in the pipeline about remastering some of our back catalogue and that Simon would jump at the chance of putting a tour together. So Tim was literally presenting us with a tour in support of a record that would include new material (if we had any new material which we didn't at that point), and we'd only been together a day!
K: It was a lot to pull off from coming together just once?
L: Well yeah, we were just doing it to see how the land lay between us and the business side came in and just kind of bullied us. Jimmy really, really, really didn't want to do at first. Tim was open to the idea and I was very much on the fence, I was like ëhang on, I'm not sure here.' Tim and Jim's position was very much influenced by what they had experienced after I'd left and I hadn't been part of that, which was very difficult for me. But it was interesting; all three of us were in different headspaces.
K: So do you think that helped because you hadn't been part of the later period?
L: Well it meant I could be objective in terms of the two of them: I could listen to both arguments. So the upshot was that we decided yes, we would tour in support of the album, mainly because in that Friday night jam, and the subsequent Saturday and Sunday, we wrote some amazing stuff. That weekend I think we came up with Who Are You, Chameleon, AB, Pure Beauty and a song called Fear.
K: You knew that it was working and viable?
L: Yeah. We thought we could come up with two new songs and it was at that point then that we had to get in touch with the lads; we didn't want to do a tour if it was the three of us plus some session musicians, that's not in keeping with James. So we had to have a chat with all of them.
K: Did they take much persuading?
L: Er (long pause) yes and no. They wanted to do it but it would be different; the situation would be different to the one they left and some of that was difficult but everything's fine now, everything's been worked out, everything was amicable. (Stressed) Everybody wanted to do it.
K: And what about Andy?
L: As soon as we asked Andy if he fancied coming back he jumped at the chance.
K: And for the fans that was something that got them quite excited. I remember being at the front of the stage at Hoxton before you came out and suddenly someone spotted this trumpet and it just went out through the audience and everyone was like *mouth open* - because it was kept quiet and it was an amazing surprise.
L: Andy, for me, was a seal of approval and validity; Andy wouldn't have come back into it if it wasn't valid - he wouldn't come back just to recreate the glory years. He wanted to do it and he could see there was something going on. I think he was torn when he left, but he had his calling in other areas than James. He was around for the most successful part of James, so it was all Top of the Pops and photo shoots for him, and less about music.
K: And from what I can gather that's not what he's about, he's quite ëout there' as a musician?
L: He likes to play, he doesn't like to do photo shoots and video shoots, he wants to play.
K: So, the reunion gets announced and suddenly everything goes ballistic, the tour tickets go on sale - they sell out in seconds virtually.
L: Yeah, I got a phone call from Simon Moran, the promoter. We'd been having a lot of conversations with Simon over the re-launch, y'know with the new daisy and all of that kind of stuff. We wanted to make sure this wasn't seen as a 'lets go back to the 80s and have a good time like we used to with James' kind of tour - we said no, this is the first stage in a new beginning. That wonderful quote in the Guardian or Independent that said "this doesn't feel like a reformation, more a second coming" put a smile on my face, that was our intention. So Simon phoned me when we were in the studio in Brighton recording Who Are You, when he said we'd sold the whole tour out. We were all on the fucking floor.
K: Were you not expecting that sort of reaction at all?
L: Not with the size of the venues, no. Simon consciously wanted a really good support act to possibly help sell tickets. He got The Twang but he was also talking about other support acts for Manchester and for London. Triple bills to help sell tickets but he cannily had second nights at Glasgow and Brixton on hold in case we'd sell out, but we'd sold out not only the tour in those few hours but those other nights as well.
K: So how did that derail the process of you jamming and wanting to write stuff for the new album, because all of a sudden you've got this massive tour and you're doing festivals in the summer - did it slow things down?
L: It didn't slow things down, no, it helped to focus things. Suddenly we didn't have all the time in the world to produce the album that we were starting to work on.
It did derail the writing process however, originally we wanted to get together and just write hundreds of new songs, make the best album that we could possibly make. We wrote every opportunity we had; it was very difficult and physically draining. Instead of having days off, we rehearsed.
This is one reason why the website ended up being just four pages long - those four pages were put together during the time of recording Who Are You and the tour selling out, the new artwork and everything. We suddenly went 'shit, we've got to get a website' the tour ad's got wearejames.com at the bottom of it!' So we stuck those four pages up. And then the avalanche hit, the tickets went on sale; the tour got extended....
K: so the website was a victim of the tour success as well?
L: Yeah, everything was.
K: I think that the gripe that some of the fans have is that you guys are busy touring, busy creating, you know what you're up to, but for the fans there's just silence.
L: Don't forget that we had no structure in place; all we had was a band and a manager in America. That's all we had. When Chainmail was together, we had an office in Manchester, our management, four assistants and a t-shirt company. We had an entire structure that had grown up over years and now we had nothing; we had one girl based in an office in London at the time. As it became a ongoing project Peter, our manager, sorted it out and we've now got a manager here in London with an assistant. In the new deal we've struck with Mercury, they fund the website and stuff like that so they've got a team involved to update it - that kinda stuff don't happen overnight!
K: In the meantime the most reliable source of information has tended to be the oneofthethree and My Federation websites, which seems a bit back to front?
L: OK, let's deal with the My Federation thing. The James website is the official website, news goes on there and we are responsible for the validity of that news. We publish it and we are then responsible for it. My Federation were offered the tour, and sure enough they were excited about it and they put it on their website, I don't blame them but those dates had not been confirmed. Until it's certain, we can't print it.
K: Ok, so moving forward from that, you've got stuff in place now so can we expect to get more news?
L: Embryonically; all I know is that people are assigned to do what needs to be done. As I said, designing the website has been a uphill struggle. Only when the website looks and works how we want it to, will it go live.
K: So the UK tour is in place, what about festival appearances?
L: Festivals will be announced as and when. They're coming in all the time. So yeah, there's going to be lots of festivals this year, at home and abroad.
K: Is there any possibility of you going to America?
L: There's always a possibility of us going to America and there's always the possibility of the album being released in America. There is no deal signed at the minute that guarantees the release of this album in America, however the music is already doing the talking -
K: So it's a case of interest coming back from that?
L: As far as I know four record companies in America have expressed interested at the moment.
Mind you with downloads cant you just go on itunes and buy it? We'd like everything that we've ever done to be released in America, but that's not our choice. Regarding gigs in America, always a possibility and this year, a much, MUCH higher percentage possibility than any previous year.
L: And we do want to go to America! WE DO NOT HATE AMERICA! We spent two and a half years touring America solidly.
K: We don't want it splitting you up again though!
L: It didn't split us up! It really didn't. It was very, very hard and Lollapalooza was awful I believe, I wasn't part of it thank god.
For the record I DONT HATE AMERICA EITHER! I hate LA or rather downtown LA, I've had some wonderful times at Laguna Beach and I love San Francisco, so north or south of LA and even inland of LA is wonderful but downtown LA? No thanks. It may be because I had a gun pointed at me or it may just possibly be because it's a shithole as well.
K: I can't really argue with you there. On the subject of live performances, would you consider recording any gigs using Concertlive?
L: We will be doing something but we won't be using Concertlive.
K: You will be doing something? So does that mean there'll be some kind of live 'thing' available?
L: We've done Come Home, Seven and Getting Away With It and our legacy of live recording has always been of lasting depth and quality. People will always turn up at gigs and record it on their MP3 players or their phone or whatever, then go home and listen to it
K: You don't have a problem with that?
L: If that's what they do then you can't really stop them can you; look at the size of the bloody things! I'm not about to stop and search everybody going in, so if they want to do that and record their own experience then that's fine. There have been other things that we've done like the BBC recordings - Alton Towers and Radio1 'in concert' we did a lot of preparation for them, selecting the right engineer and paying for him to do two or three gigs before we went live so we could check out his mixes. With Concertlive, we're concerned that we wouldn't have any control over it. They're contractually obliged to provide people with a recording at the end of the live show no matter what the quality.
K: So you want to keep some control basically? You don't want something going out there that you consider substandard?
L: The idea at the moment is in keeping with the way that we've approached every jam and every rehearsal so far, and that is to record onto multi-track. A lot of that stuff by the way ended up on the album - some of those songs have bits from Warsy, bits of the original jam and bits of the pre-production sessions. If say Saul did some brilliant bits of violin in rehearsal, we might use it as a beginning of a song played in Warsy with bits of the guitar from the original jam. This meant we could use stuff that was never recaptured.
Lee has suggested we get a massive hard drive, and record every gig on multi-track so we can subsequently mix it and put together a live album if we feel that it's justified, if we feel that it's worthy of it.
Also, every single item of the mercury back catalogue will be remixed, remodelled or re-launched in some form.
K: Well yeah, One Man Clapping is something else that comes up, will that get reissued?
L: Well, let's just let that lie shall we? isn't it wonderful that this thing that we put together and financed existed and that's it? It's gone, never to return. It's just a lovely little thing that I wouldn't want to tamper with that
K: You like it as an artefact, a historical document?
L: Yeah that's right an artefact, the companies that own the rights to the other albums can extract as much revenue as they want, but I like the fact that we've generated this thing and anyone who's got it can sell it on eBay and cash it in if they need to buy a puppy
K: (laughs) a puppy? Where did that one come from?
L: Well whatever comes into their life that they have to have, its one of those things innit that people say ahhhh and they have to have it!
(Degenerates into laughter)
K: Leaving your puppy fantasies aside, we need to talk about venues, and how you came to choose the venues. In particular, why aren't you playing Manchester, that's got people vexed, you're a Manchester band goddammit!
L: Well it doesn't mean we have to play there. We're playing in Bradford which I think is 15 -20 miles away. You could travel further to Brixton from Acton or somewhere. So we're playing in Bradford, we're playing in Sheffield, that's a lovely drive over the snake pass. And Blackpool, a trip just north of here, you can be there in æ of an hour driving from Manchester. I've done it loads of times. Go to Blackpool, have a night out after we've finished there's loads of bars and clubs -
K: B and B's are cheap apparently...
L: Yeah, B and B's are dirt cheap. Make a few days of it, whatever you want to, and then Liverpool, a train to Liverpool; they leave every half an hour, its 25 minutes or whatever. It could take longer for you to get from Bury to Manchester than to get to Liverpool! and Derby's not that far away either. But, getting serious now, this tour is to promote this new album. The celebration was Fresh as a Daisy and the last tour. We all got together and we played to our old friends in our old centres of fandom, Manchester, Birmingham London and Glasgow. Our old favourite haunts where we're always well received and people travel from miles and miles and miles to see that. The people that do travel miles and miles are usually the converted. Our thinking behind this is that we don't necessarily want to preach to the converted so we're playing smaller venues in more outlying places. Why else would we go to Norwich for god's sake! Or Aberdeen! If we could we'd make the tickets 10 quid and play a load of student venues.
Manchester, we're not ignoring you; there are special things in the pipeline for you.
K: (Laughing) So it wasn't deliberate to play everywhere in the East Midlands apart from Nottingham?
L: (laughs) No, I don't know when Simon put this tour together but I know we were in the studio recording and our main focus was the album. I think we might have had a meeting one day when we were a bit bleary eyed after spending too long in the studio and something was said about this tour and there was a load of gigs put in front of us and I said 'we're doing a tour, great, yeah' and that was it, I didn't consider where we were playing or anything because we were 110% focused on getting the job at hand done. We knew without a great album the game is off anyway so forgive us but the website, the tour, etc etc took second fiddle to that.
K: So are there any TV appearances planned?
L: Obviously the relevant stuff has been approached, I'd be very surprised if you ever see me playing on the top of the fire exit on the Friday Night rejects, or whatever the fuck that abysmal thing is called,.
K: (laughs) Thank god for that! It is a truly abysmal programme!
L: It is, and it's so derogatory to stick a band up there above the entrance playing a bit of incidental music as they go to the adverts. Who came up with the concept of reducing the role of live music to that of a lowly second fiddle to inane twats sat on a fucking sofa dribbling on about nothing! I wanna see the bands play! I don't want to see Justin twatface massaging an ego that's bigger than his belly!
K: (Laughing and thinking that a good TV appearance for Larry would be Grumpy Old Men)
L: Obviously we would like to do Jools, and we'd like to do Jonathan Ross, what else could we do?
K: It's limited isn't it really?
L; Yeah so within the limited scope
K: Finally, Kylie or Danni?
L: Ooohhh! Kylie! But only in the 'I Can't Get You Out Of My Head' video wearing (?) that dress by Fiona Doran, it's an amazing bit of fabric that, amazing. But she's not the same woman anymore is she? She was different then, that was her peak, she was in her own space.... (Trails off looking rather wistful...) So Kylie. In that dress. Or the hotpants...