TIM BOOTH INTERVIEW WITH ONEOFTHETHREE - 25TH APRIL 2008
Tim very kindly took time out on the last date of the recent UK tour to talk to Oneofthethree and answer a few questions. The first part of the interview can be found below. Part two will follow later in the week.
OOTT : So how are you enjoying the tour?
TB : Itís great, itís wonderful. Weíve been having mad technical problems, my in-ear headphones werenít working the whole tour until yesterday and we didnít realize because there was so much vocal spill coming off stage. So Iíve been shooting in the dark which is why Iíve been signaling to the sound guy all night on every gig, thinking our sound guy wasnít up to it and heís been brilliant in the past. And we found last night that my in-ear pieces were broken.
So thatís kind of weird. It means each night I havenít known if Iíve sung in tune or in time because I havenít been able to hear what Iíve been doing, but the gigs have been fantastic despite that.
OOTT : How do you think the reaction has been to the new songs?
TB : Brilliant. We couldnít have expected better. Weíre getting in nine new songs and I think generally people have really listened to them. You know what these things are normally like, everyone waiting for the hits. Obviously the reaction to the hits is stronger because people know the songs. As the tourís gone on, you see people sing the new ones and they know the new ones really well.
OOTT : Youíve kept the songs in as well. Previously, tours have started with lots of new material and then itís drifted. This time has been different.
TB : Thereís a balance you have to get between communicating and people having a great night. If youíve got a lot of new ones and they donít work as well live, itís a risk. Playing Of Monsters And Heroes And Men is a risk because we want to play it and itís not necessarily a live song. The Laid album wasnít really for live and itís one of our best albums. Semaphore, I love, but we havenít played it live, because itís almost not empty enough to work live. Itís a balance Ė weíre not going to be totally bloody-minded, but nine songs, is a lot.
OOTT : Has how well the record has done surprised you?
TB : No. Not surprised me. Getting to number 10 when you werenít stocked in supermarkets is good. What is it, 60% or so is through supermarkets, so getting to number 10 is good, it means you have to sell a lot through other channels.
OOTT : And they didnít even put you in once you got to number 10
TB : I think it was something to do with the cover still hanging over us. It hadnít surprised me because I knew how good the record was, and I expect the record to do a lot more, I donít think itís finished yet. Later will see it move forward and if we get Jonathon Ross, thatíll see it move forward again.
OOTT : How did you pick the songs that ended up on the album? Thereís a few fan favourites, Not So Strong and Traffic for example, that didnít make it. And Motherís A Clown was one that you said at Hoxton would definitely get on there. How did they drift by the wayside?
TB : Motherís A Clown, the more we lived with it, the more it just didnít have the depth that we want from songs.
Thereís another one that really lost it, that we didnít record. Out Of Our Heads. That was an interesting one, it was thrown together. To me, it was a facsimile of a James pop song and really interestingly, and tellingly, the guy from the record company, it was the one song he remembered from the whole gig. We didnít even try and record it, because we didnít think it had it. It was a fake James song. But that was the one the record company wanted, isnít that fascinating?
Not So Strong, we know how good that song is. Weíve recorded a version, a really good one, but weíre not sure if itís good enough so we held it back and it didnít quite sit with the other songs so we held it back.
OOTT : You mentioned on the Myspace video that youíd written some new songs. Is there a plan to record those at some point soon?
TB : All the time weíre writing songs, accumulating and accumulating. What we think worked so well last year was writing so many and thatís why the album has got such a high standard. So the idea again is to write over a hundred pieces of music before we get to record. Weíve started writing, and I think, before we play in Athens, weíll go in earlier and do some writing out there.
OOTT : The tour in December talked about ďpast, present and futureĒ, so does that mean weíre likely to hear some of that material by then?
TB : Donít know. We canít guarantee it because it depends whether the band has got it together or not. There are some songs that come out virtually fully formed like Upside and Bubbles where it doesnít need a lot of work, everyone instantly finds a part and youíre off, but other songs can take months. It will just depend on that.
OOTT : Whatís happening with the solo material? Are you planning on putting something else out soon?
TB : Yeah, Iíve got six or seven really good songs and more that might become better as we work on them and weíll write new songs. Iíve got an amazing guitar player lined up and others. Thatís chugging along.
OOTT : Are you hoping to go out on the road with that?
TB : Hoping, but I donít want to mess James up. Larry and Jim always knew I was doing this and after the first James album, I would get a chance to do this. At the moment, we havenít had the time to breathe, itís been amazingly intense. James is 24/7. On tour, you always think you can do other things, you canít do damn all. You just end up sleeping a lot.
OOTT : How do you separate lyric ideas for solo and James material?
TB : I donít. Lyric ideas come with the jam. I donít ever write down an idea to write a song about beforehand. So itís in response to the people in the room and whatís going on in the world at the time, in my world at that time or my friendsí worlds. That will incite the lyric in that moment. I have no clue what Iím going to write about until Iím writing about it.
OOTT : Do you think that without the last solo album you would ever have come back to James, without having gone out there playing live because you seemed to catch the buzz again.
TB : I did catch the buzz again. I think it was because weíd been so dysfunctional and touring with James hadnít been a pleasure for a while and suddenly it was. That was lovely. I have no idea, itís too much conjecture to hazard a guess. I think the main reason I came back because I saw relationships were in the process of healing and hoped and believed they could heal with James. Thatís been the case so far.
OOTT : Have the relationships been OK? James is a different beast now to what it was. From the moment Larry left, the decision makers, the people driving it changed.
TB : Itís back to the decision-making that went on around Gold Mother and Seven. The hard thing has been for Saul and Mark, who really wrote a lot of the songs for James and for four years did such a brilliant job. Theyíve been asked to take a different role and have done it very gracefully. Itís four years from twenty-seven, thatís the difficulty there. I donít know what is the perfect structure for James, we have musicians of ability to each have their own band and harnessing that and holding it together is a tricky job and we havenít found the perfect structure where everyone feels part of it and contributing the best they can.
OOTT : Are you still planning on going out to the States and the rest of the Europe later in the year?
TB : August and September for the States, no dates yet, but that looks like itís going to happen. Thereís already a buzz and Nic Harcourt, whoís a big tastemaker in the States, has really picked up on the album.
OOTT : Are you worried about the reaction to Hey Ma over there given the lyrical content?
TB : Not at all. I donít why Iíve been asked this by members of the band. Thereís been some concern there. Basically, isnít it 60% of Americans want the troops back and are not happy with whatís going on there. George Bush is being seen as a totally discredited figure and thatís what the song is about. Bad decision making leading to deaths of young men. I can argue that anywhere, Iím not worried about it. I can argue that in court.
OOTT : Larry talked about Concert Live and recordings of shows. Are you planning to put something out there Ė it does look like itís set up to record the shows?
TB : I donít know. We just found it was really easy for us to record these shows so we recorded them. God knows when, or if, theyíll turn up. Thereís no plan. Weíre a bit planless.
OOTT : How have you found being back in a much bigger band, all the organizations and schedules that it puts on you.
TB : Itís a full on job, thereís no rest, itís a business. That gets tiring and takes some of the fun out of it sometimes, but itís a fucking awesome band. What are you going to do? Weíve got to, for everyone concerned, push it as far as we can and see where it goes, because we havenít done that in the past.
OOTT : But itís a long term thing or at least thereís a look past this album and the December tour?
TB : Yes, thereís a look past this album to another album. You can never tell, you can see the state the industry is in. When we do gigs, we have twenty crew and the band. People complain about the ticket prices, but you look at a comedian who turns up with a microphone, just walks on and he charges the prices we charge and walks away with most of the profit.
That keeps us alive, but if the records donít sell, with the situation with downloading, you donít know how long you can last. Itís just an economic fact of where the industry is. I think weíll be fine because you can see what weíre putting into our live shows. We want them to move forward visually which is great. Weíre looking to do more.
OOTT : Was it a conscious decision to change the lighting set-up?
TB : Yeah, there was meant to be more visual play. There will be more in the arenas. Some of things we planned didnít work and the people organizing them didnít get them together. Weíre pushing that, we want the shows to be more and more unexpected and more playful. We want to break down that barrier between a band on stage and an audience in whatever ways we can.
OOTT : How has that been on this tour, the reaction between band and the crowd?
TB : Youíve seen it. I donít think itís been better. Iíd say this has been the most enjoyable band Iíve been in with James. Itís just a pleasure, amazing musicians and itís lovely to hang out with each other. There arenít the same problems that there were before.
OOTT : The festivals youíre doing in the summer seem to be dotted around Europe and not very much in the UK. Is that not a risk to the album, that it may drop off because youíre not putting it in peopleís faces?
TB : Yeah. We couldnít do V again. I donít think Eavis likes us, I donít know, but thatís my impression and it sounds like heís messed up his line-up a bit anyway. Weíre not built for Reading, so what are you going to do? We did a lot last year. Weíre doing a lot in Europe, and hopefully weíll be able to do a lot more in Britain. It tends to work that if you do one, you canít do the next.
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