James: 'No song is brought into the world 20 years old and huge, they're brought into the world as a nonentity'
- David Pollock
- 13 August 2019
Ahead of their Summer Sessions gig in Edinburgh, Saul Davies and Jim Glennie talk about being fifteen albums in and still creating extraordinary alternative pop-rock
It's March 2019 and James are playing Edinburgh's Usher Hall, with one difference from their usual set – a local choir are going to be performing alongside them in the venue's organ gallery, and extra rehearsal and soundcheck is necessary. As a result, our interview will have to be shorter than intended, because the choir are starting to set up downstairs.
'It's Brian Eno's daughter who's in it, she lives here,' says the band's multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies in pretend indignation. 'He suggested, "since you're in Edinburgh why don't you get them along?" Sixteen hours later, here we are!' Alongside him in the nondescript and disused room chosen for our interview is bass guitarist Jim Glennie. 'It's been chaos, but it'll be amazing,' he says cheerfully. Fifteen albums and the best part of four decades into their career, James are the level of band who get Brian Eno calling them up asking for favours.
Both members of James since the 1980s (Glennie and singer Tim Booth are the only remaining founder members, having been in the band since 1982), the pair share the same intuitive sense of humour, but they couldn't be a greater contrast; Glennie softly spoken and polite, like a mindful English teacher, and Davies animated and full of opinions. When we spoke, Brexit was meant to be only days from happening, and the latter's fury at the whole situation – his son is European – is approaching incandescence.
James are unusual in that they aren't just a band from their era who are still together and heading out on the road, but they're one which continues to prolifically write and record material which searches for new sounds and new things to say. 'It's because we don't have any good early material,' says Davies, in what might be called the James deadpan. 'We're still looking for a decent tune!'
Last year's 15th album was named Living in Extraordinary Times, and the title told the story of what it was about. 'Tim lives in the States, so he's well-versed in all the Trump stuff,' says Glennie. 'He didn't want the album to be about Trump, there are two songs that are specifically, but the rest he consciously tried to stop himself – he said, "the man doesn't deserve to have an album dedicated to him!"'