James – yes, James of 1990 indie hit ‘Sit Down’ fame – are on course to topple Adele from her perch at the top of the Official UK Albums Chart with their fourteenth album, ‘Girl At The End Of The World’. We spoke to frontman Tim Booth about their chances of their first Number One album since 1998’s ‘Best Of James’ and their first studio album Number One – as well as their recently revealed slot on the Other Stage at this year’s Glastonbury.
You’re heading for your first studio album Number One with ‘Girl At The End Of The World’, is that a huge achievement?
Tim: “We’re very happy with how things are going. We think the force of nature that is Adele will push us out of the way at the last moment. James is like a little cottage industry compared to a corporation and I can’t see us holding onto that Number One spot by the end of the week. We’re going to do our best obviously and we’ll be very happy with Number Two or Three or whatever we end up with. It’s just really nice that it’s surprised a lot of people. It’s our fourteenth or fifteenth album and, ‘Oh, look, they seem to be popular still!’. Lots of the media hasn’t really wanted to look in our direction for quite some time, yourselves included, and it’s kinda nice to go, ‘Oh yes, they still exist and they seem to have quite a following’. We know we’ve made a pretty magical record and we believe the record will stand up to the scrutiny so it feels great. There aren’t many people who can break through the glass ceiling of age and it looks like we’re gonna be one of them.”
What did you do right this time?
“I don’t know. I think it could’ve been the last one [2014’s ‘La Petite Mort’] too, but I guess having a record that’s mainly about death might have put a few people off. ‘The deathly record’ doesn’t sell very easily, does it? But it reached a lot of people, especially the videos. We were noticing a younger audience coming to our gigs, so I think the last one set up this one. This one, ‘Nothing But Love’, the Daily Mail said something like ‘better than ‘Sit Down’.’ We thought when we wrote that song ‘this is a big song’. We improvise songs, we can’t write hits, we have not a clue how to do that and we aren’t interested in that, but every so often a big song just turns up. It’s like you’re fishing for trout and you suddenly catch a massive great pike by complete error. We knew we’d caught something quite big with ‘Nothing But Love’. We’ve got another one called ‘Dear John’ which is gonna make people be quite surprised too, because it doesn’t sound like a James song in some ways. I’m looking forward to that one coming out.”
If you do topple Adele, will it be a landmark?
“I like some of her songs, I think she’s got a fantastic voice. Being a musician you don’t have to think in terms of ending someone’s run. I like ‘Set Fire To The Rain’ and ‘Rolling In The Deep’ and good on her, she’s done brilliantly. We’re not in competition with Adele, that’s a really weird concept. It’d be very nice to be Number One but we aren’t expecting it. We’re quite realistic about these things!”
What do you have planned for your Other Stage opening slot at Glastonbury?
“It’s gonna be fun. We haven’t been there in years. We thought they didn’t like us anymore, and maybe they don’t! We’re gonna make a big deal out of it and do something special for it. A bottle of champagne on a ship’s hull might be the appropriate response. ‘I name this festival…’.”
It’s become a prestige slot.
“So we’ve been told. Glastonbury’s clearly the festival to play, we’ve played there many times. We were second to the headliner one year. We love playing Glastonbury and it’s great to be back.”
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What can you remember about replacing Morrissey on the bill back in ’92?
“I think he got one of his ailments and they asked us to step in. We opened with ‘We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful’, which is a song he wrote about us, so that was a high piece of narcissism on our part. We had a good gig and I don’t think they were too upset by the fact that it wasn’t Morrissey.”
Will you be sticking around this year?
“Yes, we probably will. Most of us are always curious about Glastonbury, there’s so much to see and so many different fields. Before it gets too chaotic over the Saturday and Sunday we’d quite like to stick around, certainly Friday, maybe a lot longer.”
Will you be heading for the Green Fields for all the alternative therapies and ideologies?
“I think you’ve got the wrong band. We’re more likely to head towards the orgy field.”
That’s where it is.
“Oh fine, yes, then we’ll be in the Green Fields.”
What makes Glastonbury special?
“It’s the variety of experience. You don’t have to be at the main stage the whole time you’re there, there’s so much going on, so many different events. It’s become such a tradition it should almost be a public holiday. The variety of styles going on, too, makes it special. Most festivals get genre-fied, stuck in one genre. At Glastonbury you can find whatever you want.”