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INTERVIEW: James' Guitarist Saul Davies Talks 2019 Plans, Albums and the Decline of Pop

Updated: Apr 9, 2019


"I think it would be really difficult for us to just go play our greatest hits. I mean, we always argue, the main source of argument between us is what we’re gonna play, cause we’ve got so many fu***** songs!"

Indie-pop pioneers, James are heading to Newcastle’s City Hall on Sunday 17th March. The ‘Sit Down’ stars have a busy year of touring ahead, so Kyrie caught up with guitarist Saul Davies for a chat about their upcoming shows, recent albums and the decline of pop

.

Here in the North East, we know how to party! What’re your past experiences of playing to Northern Crowds?


People are always up for it! I mean you pay the kinda money people pay to come and see us these days then you’re gonna get your money’s worth.


People keep coming back to see us which is pretty amazing really, so they must be having a pretty good time. You always get one or two people who have had a bit too much to drink, but that’s expected!


What can your fans expect from your Newcastle City Hall set?


In general, I would say people come to our gigs and they know they aren’t necessarily gonna get a whole load of hits from us, I think less and less people come along expecting that. They know if we have a new record to play, by enlarge we will play it.


I think it would be really difficult for us to just go play our greatest hits. I mean, we always argue, the main source of argument between us is what we’re gonna play, cause we’ve got so many fucking songs!


Have you got any special support acts lined up for the tour?


This tours gonna be a bit different cause we’re gonna support ourselves, which is pretty cool. We’re gonna come out for about 40 minutes before the main gig and play a kind of stripped back semi-acoustic set which will be great cause a lot of our fans really enjoy seeing us play like that.


Saying that there’s nothing worse than a band saying ‘now we’re gonna play some new ones’ or ‘we’re gonna do an acoustic version of’; my heart always sinks. But here I am, in a band that’s made a career out of playing new songs.


Your tour dates already show a busy festival schedule this summer, has Emily Eavis been in touch to invite you to Somerset or is that naughty of me to ask?


I think you’re allowed to ask, but the answer is no, sadly we won’t be playing Glastonbury this year!

James have been making music for over 35 years now, how much has the music industry changed throughout that time?


There’s two things here which always get confused I think, there’s the creative side and the business side. I think the business side has changed completely, but I’m not sure that the creative side has changed all that much, although we have more technology at our disposal from the creative perspective.


Essentially, at the end of the day, someone writes a song and you find a way to record it and then share it with people. The sharing part has obviously changed, we used to get all our info from the NME and other outlets, and now we don’t, we get our info from all over the place.


We actually miss a lot of important cultural information because there’s so much flying around, yanno what I mean?

I suddenly discovered The Cure have released an album last year and they’re one of my favourite bands and I didn’t even know the fuckers had done it, it’s like huh, how?


And the business side?


There’s just so many different platforms and places to get news from now, it’s obviously just the evolution of our society. How the business reacts to all of that is about business, but I’m not so much bothered about the business side of things, what I recognise is the business comes and goes.


But in terms of making music and being creative, I don’t think that much has changed really, if you’ve got a good idea and a way of expressing it then I think you end up with something we call a song and one way or another you will find a way of getting out there.


I think if you go into music thinking you’re gonna have a career it’s quite likely that you won’t, but if you make music cause you think it’s fucking great fun, then things will naturally fall into place.


Preach! What do you think about chart music nowadays?


I’m here making an observation between what I call ‘music’ and what I call ‘shit’. For me, anything that’s got a dancer on stage is automatically shit, I don’t care how culturally relevant someone may tell me it is, if there’s a dancer it’s bollocks.


Although I don’t mind if Tim dances a bit on our stage… [laughs]


Real pop music used to be so adventurous, interesting, strange and weird, you know? I think the showy element kinda creates distance between the performer and the consumer.

What we want is to create a connection, and you don’t create a connection with bells and whistle performances, you get a connection by showing the power of music and making yourself available to people.


2018 saw you add another two albums to your admirable catalogue of work – ‘Better Than That’ and ‘Living In Extraordinary Times’. Can you share a little about the creative process behind the records?


Yeah sure, usually four of us will get in a room and jam about with various instruments. We record everything and just start making a noise essentially, record it all for days on end and then those recordings we dial up and we start listening to them.


We have access to all the individual tracks that we’ve recorded so we can start editing them together and start looking for things that really sound like music, you know?

Meanwhile, Tim is doing the lyrics, he’s very much part of that process. We’re there making a horrible noise whilst he’s there looking for phrases and melodic lines, using phonetics more often than not.


Really, I guess the majority of stuff will be written by people sitting around and playing the guitar, piano or whatever, definitely in terms of guitar music. But what we do, I guess that would probably be the common way of doing it. We do it all through improvisation and jamming, it’s a bit of a mad process really, not the most efficient but it gives us this particular product we end up with which is our music!


James are heading to Newcastle City Hall on Sunday 17th March.

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