James have just released their 13th album Le Petite Mort (the little death). Over their thirty year plus career, the group has had a bagful of hit singles, sold out huge stadium shows and achieved worldwide success selling in the region of 12 million albums. This current phase of the band sees them reinvigorated and energised, once again proving they are a force to be reckoned with.
Manchester in the 1980’s was a city in transition. The music scene was centred on a few clubs until the Hacienda opened its doors in 1982. The club became the catalyst in the development of the music scene. Heading the local pact were The Smiths, The Fall, Joy Division and James.
They would all become a significant influence on British music.
Jim Glennie and Paul Gilbertson were school friends hanging around Whalley Range in Manchester when the idea of forming a band was muted. Glennie showed little interest but Paul convinced Jim to purchase a bass guitar and start a band. Opting for a life in music they signed on the dole. In 1980 Venereal and the Diseases, an early incarnation of James, played their first ever show in Eccles, Greater Manchester. By December of that year they were known as Volume Distortion and supported The Fall at Manchester Poly’s Cavendish Hall.
Meanwhile an awkward teenager by the name of Tim Booth was toughing it out in Shrewsbury.
After witnessing a gig by Iggy Pop at the Apollo Theatre, he decided that Manchester was the place for him. He set about getting himself on a drama course at the University.
By 1981 the band were going under the name Model Team International around the same time Booth began to settle down to student life in the city where he would regularly visit the Hacienda.
The manic moves of freshman Tim attracted a bunch of would be musicians on a night out in student land. This chance meeting would change their lives forever.
They spotted Tim dancing at a Manchester University disco and asked him if he would like to dance for them. Tim, too drunk to answer, awoke the next day with a phone number written on the back of his hand. He rang it, and the call changed all of their lives. What ensued was a huge loyal audience, big selling hit singles, a career that did and still does take them all around the world and here they are, remarkably, with their 13th long player.
They remain current and relevant and cannot be described as a ‘heritage act’. “The music industry would like to classify us as that and that is not where we are coming from. We make music that connects with people that means something,” explains Booth. I totally agree. The new album is as good as any of their previous work, it is a wonderful, cohesive piece.
Bassist Jim Glennie explains, “We are in a good place collectively. Songwriting wise that has shifted. On the last record it was Tim, Jim and myself, on this it’s five of us writing this time and this has been a massive boost for us. It all feels rather exciting but we remain ever cynical. That is just the way we are. We do not get carried away. Le Petite Mort feels like a record that will open doors for us. Where that is and what it is, remains to be seen.”
Tim adds, “If you want to know where we are at the moment then watch the film of Moving On, you will see where we are at.” It is one amazing heart wrenching piece of work and I implore you to watch it. James are back and it feels good, they are decent people with an ever faithful audience. Sit back and enjoy them.
Pete talks to the band and they play live in session this Saturday at 10pm on Absolute Radio. The Life and Death of Le Petite Mort, a one hour documentary, can be heard this Sunday at 10pm on Absolute Radio 90’s. Listen here