Tim Burgess talks politics, The Charlatans’ new album and Manchester’s musical history

Charlatans frontman claims today’s “abyss might just be the effects pedal that guitar music needs”

Manchester’s Oldham Street is home to beloved venues, record shops and some bloody great pubs. And next Friday (May 26), The Charlatans are taking it over for a day of celebrations.

Rising early, at 7.30am frontman Tim Burgess will be serving his own cherry pie at a pop-up Tim Peaks Diner. Special guest-packed new album ‘Different Days’ will then be played at United Footwear at 11am, and the band will be signing LPs at Piccadilly Records from midday.

Ahead of the Oldham Street takeover, Burgess spoke to NME about his childhood memories of the Northern Quarter, working with Johnny Marr for ‘Different Days’, and his predicted outcome for the 2017 general election.

Can you recall your first musical experience with the Northern Quarter and Oldham Street? Where did you go?
“I don’t want to sound like an old timer, but it wan’t called The Northern Quarter when we’d go and hang around there in the school holidays. But Affleck’s Palace was there and we would spend time in the café, looking at clothes we couldn’t afford. Piccadilly Records was still over by Chinatown and didn’t arrive on Oldham Street for a few years. It wasn’t quite ‘all fields round here when I was a lad’ but on Tibb Street it was mostly pet shops and porno mags. I’d say my first musical experience was buying bootleg cassettes in Affleck’s. I’d just stare at the rows and rows of C90s wishing I could afford to see more bands.”

‘Different Days’ features guest spots from Johnny Marr plus New Order’s Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert – were you attempting to put as much of Manchester’s soul into the record as possible?
“It wasn’t intentional – some of the other guests are from the US (Anton Newcombe & Kurt Wagner) but Johnny and Stephen and Gillian have been our friends for a while and have played live with us. Me and Mark are from Manchester and Salford, so there’s some Manchester soul. Martin brings the Midlands Motown – it’s quite a mix.”

How did you go about choosing the spoken word parts on ‘Different Days’?
“I’d worked with Ian Rankin on [2016 memoir] Tim Book Two and we’d always talk about music when we meet up. We asked him to write the outro to a song and it his was the perfect voice. There was a kind of Western cowboy feel to ‘Not Forgotten’ and it made me think of Kurt Wagner’s speaking voice.”

Did any of the collaborations surprise you or take a different path to what you expected?
“The Paul Weller one (‘Spinning Out’). It was great to work to his method and pace. I never had set expectations, but it was a surprise to end up with Weller on backing vocals. It was a real honour to work with him.”

Paul Weller

Paul Weller: “It was great to work to his method and pace,” says Burgess.

What’s the best album you’ve ever discovered by trawling through Piccadilly Records?
“Anything by Tim Maia. He made about 50 albums and at least dozen of them were called Tim Maia. He was Brazilian and made some mind-blowing music. I’d definitely recommend looking him up.”

What’s your preferred order from Norther Quarter stalwart the Koffee Pot?
“Veggie breakfast with extra halloumi. Coffee and a glass of water.”

The Charlatans new album

It’s just over three weeks until the general election. Which way do you plan to vote, and how do you think the country’s going to vote?

“I’ll be voting Labour. I think most will vote Conservative.”

What do you think the most important issue is in the upcoming election?
“The truth, but it gets lost in an avalanche of egos.”

Do you feel as if the divisive culture of the moment might inspire more politicised music?
“Thatcher inspired bands like The Clash and Crass. May might too, maybe not. Some decent songs while the world falls apart seems a high price to pay, but I’m hoping kids are inspired to make music and stand up to what’s happening.”

Do you agree with the sentiment that guitar music needs ‘saving from the abyss‘?
“The abyss might just be the effects pedal that guitar music needs.”

Which new bands are you into at the moment?
“Tear, Pinegrove, King and Chastity Belt.”

The Charlatans’ new album ‘Different Days’ is released Friday May 26.