Interview: Siren Magazine 1991
Siren magazine in late 1991
John Fat Beast of Carter USM fame talked to James...
JFB : Ok James, lets have a go at getting something down on tape- I know you hate doing interviews but...
J.A. : I really don't do them I, Cant....
JFB : Well if I keep the questions non prying to start with, to put you at ease and try to delve a little deeper later on. I want to try to get as much out of you as possible because nobody else has. What to begin with, do you feel are the reasons you don't do interviews?
J.A. : I'm not sure Jon, I'm not sure, I think the rest of the band have a great deal to say and I can't really see why anybody would be the least bit interested in me.
JFB : People are always interested in a successful band's lead singer, you're the front man. I've got to know you as a friend and realised theres many interesting sides to you that few other people get to see.
J.A. : Er I still don't think I'll ever do interviews, I cant do this Jon, I really can't...
JFB : Give it a try, I'm as bloody nervous as you are. What are some of your favourite lyrics you've written?
J.A. : Well new songs really, I'm much more pleased with them. I spent a lot more time writing those, the first album was a little naive really, and it was a bit rushed, they were the first songs we ever wrote as EMF. This time I've sort of thought them through a bit more. I'm really embarrassed about some of the lyrics on the first album.
JFB : Why?
J.A. : They were all lovey-dovey love songs, that's about it.
JFB : How then are the new songs different?
J.A. : I think they're a bit more wary....
JFB: Wary of what?
J.A. : Er I don't really know . I cant do this Jon, I really can't....
JFB: What are you scared of James?
J.A. : Shit, er, people's reactions to me. I think sometimes when I walk on stage that everybody's going to hate me.
JFB : The number of times I've been with you at the side of the stage, just before you're due to go on, and you really haven't been confident. I've obviously noticed that, but once you get up there all your nerves disappear and it goes really well. Do you suffer from an awful lack of confidence in every thing you do?
J.A. : It depends on what I'm doing really.
JFB : Well as soon as I put a tape recorder in front of you, you seem to bottle up, you go all shy, quiet and your confidence disappears completely, yet ten minutes beforehand I couldn't stop you talking If I'd wanted to...
J.A. : I think you're right, Cant we do it without a tape recorder?
JFB : No, I don't think the tape recorder's the whole problem you just don't seem happy having you're view aired publicly, but you know me well enough to know I'm not going to stitch you up... come on then what else scares you?
J.A. Well to be honest I get very scared of the future and what it's all about and I get all confused, I'm really scared I'm going to go mad.
JFB : We're all scared of going mad, I've been there a couple of times but it's only part of you as a human
J.A. : maybe you're right, but it still really scares me.
JFB : what do you think is going to send you mad?
J.A. : I don't know but I'm scared of losing control.
JFB : Every time I've been too rock n' roll in my life, got into taking too many drugs or drinking too heavily then my reality gets a little blurred, is that the sort of thing that's scaring you? your reality is obviously different already, so what are you doing to hold onto your sanity?
J.A. : What precautions am I taking Jon? well Jo my girlfriend seems to keep me together a lot, I mean she never talks about the band or the music which is really cool. It's just theres a totally different side to me that's all.
JFB : What about your parents were you close?
J.A. : Yeah I'm sort of close; I mean I communicate with them but I don't tell them half of what really goes on, Mark will tell his mum everything, who he's shagged, what drugs hes done...
JFB: I know I couldn't tell my mother most of what goes on. She'd have a heart attack and disown me. It just doesn't seem right to tell her some things, she doesn't need to know. do you have many prized possessions?
J.A. : Not really, I've made a bit of money and I can't think of anything I couldn't really replace, maybe my photos. When I was growing up with Zac and friends, old bands, that sort of thing....
JFB: What were you like growing up? Were you an embarrassing teenager?
J.A. : No I don't think so, I was a lot more confident than I am now. I seem to have lost so much of my confidence somewhere along the way. We used to have a riot....
JFB : Where and how do you think you lost this confidence James ?
J.A. : I don't know, I just bottle it when all the attentions on me, I sort of completely clam up.
JFB : You're an extrovert on stage, you seem to be getting livelier as the tour goes on....
J.A. : Yeah I really enjoy it sometimes, I like to keep it natural though, I'd hate to go out there and just act.
JFB : Have you ever seen something you can't explain.
J.A. : Well I've seen lots of things I really can't explain, but they might have been my imagination, or my brain playing tricks on me. I often wake up in the middle of the night and see things in my room, I have very strange often very scary dreams.
JFB : And you're sure they're dreams, or might you actually be waking up and seeing things that are there?
J.A. : To be honest Jon, it scares me a lot to think about it, I'm not quite sure, I wake up and see things maybe I'm making myself hallucinate. I can seem to do that easily when I'm awake, I suppose a lot of people can...
JFB : Well you never really know just what other people can do, the human mind is a very complex thing.
J.A. : I agree, it's just that I don't think my views on this sort of thing are relevant.
JFB : Well James it's all part of you.... tell me about your management - do you get on with them?
J.A. : Yeah I really like Linda...
JFB : You seem to have a much closer relationship with Linda and Abbo than I ever thought you did. It's very easy to think that because you're a young band people might see you open to manipulation, but to be honest you don't seem at all manipulated...
J.A. : We're not, we've all grown up together, I think at times our management are just as naive as we are, I think they're still learning as well. It's not like they've got all the answers or anything.
JFB: Tell us about your life in the forest James.
J.A. : Well all the parties and stuff were never really planned , they just happened, we'd all just go out raving, dancing and making our own entertainment, sort of partying in the woods because there was nowhere else. We'd have a group of people around us, real characters, oddballs.
JFB :You were actually born in Birmingham weren't you?
J.A. : Yeah, but I moved down to the forest quite early on, Mark was one of the first people I knew, he's the same age as me, and Derry and Zac are a couple of years younger. I used to get Derry to skive off school to come and rehearse in Gloucester with us, I used to ring up the school and pretend to be his old man, and say Derry had to meet me, then we'd skive off.
JFB : Were you well educated then?
J.A. : Nah, I don't think so, I sort of lost the plot somewhere along the line.
JFB : Who are you closest to in the band?
J.A. : Zac I think.
JFB : Both the MM and the NME did an on the road feature and to be honest I think they must have played down the mayhem they saw - you do go for it don't you...
J.A. : Yeah sometimes, I didn't realise we partied so much but I suppose we do...
JFB : You nearly killed PWEI; they're old men they can't take the excess....
J.A. : Nah, the Poppies stood up, they were good. They taught us a lot as well, they just went for it and really enjoyed themselves. It made everything clearer. I was getting far too wound up about things.
JFB: You do get wound up very easily it seems. You come across as very insecure, I know for a fact that I'm really insecure, I just try to hide it with an act ...you don't.
J.A. : But it's your crowd, it's people who have paid to see you and most of them obviously love the band.. but I still fell I've got to prove myself.
JFB: Of course in a way, but I'm sure you could go onstage and shit into a bucket and most people would woop and clap.
J.A. : It's just because I'm the frontman and not a very confident person anyway. I find it really daunting ...
JFB : Do you have any role models, or other performers you really admire?
J.A. : Well I think Ian McCulloch was really cool on stage and I still think New Order are one of the best groups around, I know it's not hip to say but I really like them live.
JFB : What's the next move for EMF, is there a big plan?
J.A. : well the main thing to do, and I know it's going to sound boring but we want to record all these new songs properly, we'll leave all the press and the radio, get on with writing new stuff and just see what everybody thinks.
JFB : We've touched a bit on your musical side, you can play guitar well, what else can you play?
J.A. : I've been playing guitar for years, I'm playing on some of the new songs on the next album. It's difficult to play guitar live at the moment because we're mostly still doing old songs.
JFB: You have quite a hand in writing the songs then?
J.A. : most of the lyrics are mine, Ian comes up with some good one liners, good hooks, and I often write around that. He's also really good at writing vocal melodies.
JFB: Are you wary about the obsessivness of some of the fans who come and see you ...?
J.A. : Yeah I really can't come to terms with it at all, I don't understand it. I detach myself from all that, I don't play on it, it's not me at all. Sometimes when I'm really low, really down it's an ego trip to cheer me up, but to be honest I could do without all the attention.