I got to sit down to talk to James guitarist, Saul Davies, to discuss the past present and future of the music industry and of rock n roll. We talked about the next chapter following the Covid-19 Pandemic and what made the band who they are today.
So, I’ve listened to the record, and I really enjoyed it. I wanted to know how did Covid and the pandemic affect the writing and recording process?
It didn’t affect the writing process because we did the writing before Covid appearing, which was pretty cool- we were lucky. It affected the recording process, and the final production was very much a product of the restrictions that we had, so we couldn’t get together as a band. But four of us has written the songs together and generated a lot of parts in the process of writing and then making the demos after that. So it was good that we had so much in the bag as such.
That’s definitely very lucky. What do you think made Manchester such a catalyst for music in the 80s and 90s, and what do you think is the future for the scene today?
I don’t know if Manchester’s any different to anywhere else. I mean it’s palpably different in terms of the amount and maybe even some the quality of the music that’s come out of it. I think the impetus for that music is the same in any place in the UK- in fact, I don’t think it’s limited to the UK either. I think you can say that about any Western country where you’ve got a few people that have a lot and a lot of people who have not very much. There’s a load of people who want to kick the doors down and make a better life for themselves or just do something, and music is a way of doing something. Playing football is a way of doing something. Making music is a way of doing something. Robbing somebody’s house is a way of doing something.
Manchester was battered by Thatcherism and the decline of the industrial world. So, it’s no surprise that cities like Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield, and Glasgow [produced so much music]. I think, for me, Manchester and Glasgow are the two greatest cities for music in terms of rock n roll.
What do you think has been the secret to your longevity as a band?
We’ve never really been that successful. We have a hunger really; an innate belief that more people should hear our music. You’ve only got two choices: you either give up and go away, or you continue making records, hoping more people get pulled in. Creatively, I don’t think the well has dried up. I don’t the record sounds like the record of a band that’s been going 40 years.
No, absolutely not, and that’s one of the things that really struck me.. Which bands would you consider your mates? Who would you say you get along with best in the music industry?
Nobody really. There are lots of people I would like to get on within the music industry, but we don’t know each other. I would like to know Adam (Granduciel), the guy from War on Drugs, I’d like to meet him. I don’t really trust musicians very much, they are people, who, by and large, think they are the messiah, and I just don’t trust them really… (He laughs) Nevertheless, you come across great people along the way, of course, you do. I think we’re all quite private really in many ways…
What has been your best memory on tour?
I don’t know- there’s very many. Currently, my favourite memory, which is also tinged with a bit of regret and sadness, is literally the last time we played. We had no idea it would be the last time we played. It was 11th or 12th September 2019. We did a huge show in Porto, in northern Portugal, in a park to 10 000 people and walked off. So actually that’s my fondest memory. It was at the end of quite a lot of touring that year and we played Madrid the night before and it all seemed so hopeful and cool.
As a block of shows we’ve done, my favourite tour was probably when we opened up for Neil Young and played with Neil Young in the early 90s which was quite remarkable really. It was ’93, ‘94 I think it was? That was remarkable because he is one of the greatest musicians, I think, one of the greatest songwriters who’s ever lived, and we had the chance to play 24 or 25 shows with him.
On a similar note, what do you think is coming next for touring musicians in the wake of the pandemic? Do you have any predictions? Do you have any idea of how things should be different?
We’ve lost a lot of people from the live music industry. A lot of people from the industry have gone into other industries because there’s no place for them, and I think they’ve also realised that it’s very precario
us. So, why would you work somewhere precarious when you could work somewhere less challenging? There’s not really any unions- there’s people joining together now; joining forces a little bit, helping each other out a little bit, and that’s cool. But there are no working practices, there are no hour restrictions- there’s nothing and it’s hardcore. And, as you get older, it starts to take its toll on your body and your mental health. So live touring has changed.
It’s gonna have to change anyway: we’re gonna have to be more ecologically responsible. We can’t
just continue travelling around destroying all the shit that’s in front of us. There are simple things that need to change like single-use plastic needs to change, and I think people generally need to be more respectful to each other. We need to wise up a bit.
In terms of Covid, we need to get people back into live venues. You need people to support local venues as well. Often, big shows, like we do, are great because lots of people go and have a great time- it’s fantastic. But at the ground level, we need people to be going into smaller venues and supporting new artists. There are some real challenges ahead you know?
What do you think is the best decision you’ve made as a band?
The best decision that was ever made for this band was Tim sent a very scratchy early demo that became Sometimes on the Laid record. It was almost unlistenable- just like bashing around in a room, and he sent it to Brian Eno, and he came back to us and said, “I wanna make the record.” That’s the best decision we’ve ever made, putting that tape in the post-box.
Last question: what is the next chapter for James going to look like?
I really don’t know. Short term, I would like to think our record gets some respect, and people like it and say nice things about it- that would be really helpful. I would hope that the shows we are going to play go ahead and people feel really cool about coming to them and really secure- that would be great.
Slightly longer term, we’ve got to confront the fact that now we are 40 years a band and we’re already talking about doing some writing for the next record, even though people haven’t heard this one yet. We’re very determined to maintain working and writing and putting records out until quite literally our teeth fall out. But try to do it in a way that is respectful and responsible and appropriate. So I think as you become older you might need to change the way you work a little bit. I would like our career to continue with some grace. We can be a little bit of a beacon our band to other artists who might think, “we if they can do it, then we can fucking do it,” and have the bravery to make new music. Rock n roll is an art form, in my opinion, so your art should reflect change.
The All the Colours of You LP will be released on the 4th of June.