Wednesday, 7 February 2018

"A Divide Of Two Halves - Racing the Tour Divide for Love Hope Strength Foundation" by Lydia Franklin

Lydia Franklin releases her third fundraising book for LHS this week full of nods to Mike Peters, The Alarm and LHS as well as having a foreword from a certain Mr. James Stevenson, as someone who had read her previous books covering her cycling ventures I was eager to read the third.....I wasn't disappointed!

“If it all went to plan it wouldn’t be an adventure. If it was easy it wouldn’t be an adventure. Woo hoo, this is an adventure!”

For those of you that don’t know Lydia there’s probably a couple of things you should know. She’s  very driven and regularly undertakes challenges that most would consider insane while all the time fundraising and promoting the music centric cancer charity Love Hope Strength Foundation. The other thing you need to know is that she doesn’t do failure! So having previously cycled the fabled Route 66 & the length of New Zealand (both trips documented in the books “Putting the metal to the pedal” & “Racing the Phoenix” respectively) her latest adventure was to take on the Tour Divide, a solo time challenge, starting in Canada then crossing the border into America.

Now I won’t get into the whole route and mechanics of the tour divide as to be honest it confused me a bit but essentially, big climbs, very hard roads and you’d need to be insane to really contemplate doing it in normal situations let alone on a pretty tight schedule as you have limited time booked as holiday before you have to return to the UK back to the day job! It would have been a massive feat even if everything had gone to plan and needless to say it didn’t! So *spoiler alert* Lydia is forced to abandon the challenge as she would run out of time …. This to me is a more interesting premise as it allowed some freedom to explore places she wouldn’t have been able to see whilst also rationalising the decision to end her race early. As someone once sung “Failure isn’t about falling down, failure is staying down” and that’s something that Lydia was most definitely not going to do!

Throughout her whole trip Lydia wrote blogs each day in order for those at home to be able to follow her progress, make sure she hadn’t been eaten by bears (they feature in the story and provide many a moment that made me smile!) and also to help promote her fundraising goal. These blogs for a large part of the book, are very easy to read and because they were written in the moment you really do feel what she was going through on any given day, her state of mind, levels of exhaustion and any mechanical challenges from the bike. Nothing has been clouded by memory or blurred in any way so it is the closest chance of being in the moment you will get. Each chapter has an update at the end where Lydia reviews that day and her memories of it, sometimes expanding of something or just reflecting on the trials she faced.

One thing that struck me was the random kindness of strangers that litter the book, from those that give help, advice, mental support, encouragement, water, even a place to stay without wanting anything in return. It’s all too easy to be cynical in this day and age and we forget there are many people out there willing to help a total stranger.

As the trip concludes you really empathise with Lydia as she battles getting back to the routine of everyday life far from the adventure, rattlesnakes and bears! No doubt her next adventure is already being planned…..go with the Crazy & good luck Lydia!

As a kind of footnote at the end of the book there’s 26 pages from a Facebook Q & A session that answer many questions that you may well find yourself pondering while reading “A Divide Of Two Halves”. This made for interesting reading as well as giving you something extra after the book had concluded. For the avid cyclist there is also a full breakdown of the bike Lydia used, what equipment, kit and yes even clothing….or lack of!

Monday, 5 February 2018

Become a Pledge....Punk!

Just got back from the Gathering or maybe you didn't go....either way it seems the perfect time to think about getting your Pledge in to support Steve Grantley in releasing the new RT-Zed album "FUNKPUNK".

Pledges start at just £6.99 which will get you the download but there are also CD's, Vinyl, T-Shirts, Drum sticks, signed Drum heads, exclusive listening party and one lucky person will get a signed snare drum that was played on both SLF & The Alarm shows!

Head over to the Pledge page before you forget, it takes 2 seconds!

Sunday, 28 January 2018

RT-Zed album news....

Keep an eye out on Wednesday as Steve Grantley will be making an announcement regarding the new RT-Zed album.... for those of you on Facebook make sure you have liked the RT-Zed page which for your convenience you can find by clicking HERE!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

James Stevenson "40 Years" A selective Interview!

For 40 years James Stevenson has lent his unique talent to a massively diverse selection of bands & solo artists with the release of "40 Years in the Rock 'n' Roll Wilderness (a Selective Retrospective)" you can now marvel at the diversity while enjoying some truly great music....and guitar solos!

What made you decide to release a retrospective?

It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a few years. The logistics were quite complicated, getting all the right permissions etc. but I kind of wanted to do it for myself – me being the only common thread. I think it’s an interesting collection – and also I wanted to introduce people to some of the lesser known artists whose work I really admire and to introduce fans of one band to others I play in.

Why now?

The time just felt right. It’s actually taken about two years to sort it all out.

With such a long and broad career how did you go about choosing which tracks to include?

Tons of different factors. It was hard. I would have loved a Scott Walker track on there, but sometimes the logistics were too complicated or permission was impossible to obtain. I had to like the track myself. I know that sounds weird but I have played on stuff I didn’t like just to pay the bills.

What was it like revisiting some of the more off the beaten track songs during your selection process?

That for me was a really enjoyable part. I hadn’t heard the Charlie Harper song for years. The Gary Holton track was something I suddenly remembered at the last minute and knew I had to include it.

The album kicks off, quite rightly, with “Urban Kids” by Chelsea, recording that must have been pretty special considering how young you were at the time?

Yeah I was nineteen I think. Kit Lambert produced it. Working with him was really great. I think that was the first time I played proper lead guitar on a record.

I’m guessing from some of the absences of material reflecting parts of your career you may not have been able to secure the rights for some songs?

Well everyone was really helpful. Billy Idol’s manager refused me permission for the Gen X track – so I went to Tony James who got them to change their minds – so I owe him for that. When I went to Beggars for Desire by Gene Loves Jezebel they just said I could have it “gratis” which was really sweet of them – usually you have to pay an advance. Obviously it’s easier if a mate, or you yourself, own a recording.

There's nothing representing your time in The Cult?

Well I’m not on any Cult recordings. I’m sure no guitarist except Billy Duffy ever will be. I was just a hired gun. There might be the odd live recording with me on it but I was never a member of the band – I was just a hired gun, so it never entered my mind to try to include a Cult track.

What made you choose “Andy Warhol” by Gen X ? Does it have fond memories or is it a nod to your present Bowie connection with Holy Holy?

I just thought it was a great version – very different to Bowie’s. The band really gave it our own slant. And I suspect many people have never heard it. Dancing With Myself would have been a bit too obvious.

You’ve said on social media before that one of the favourite things you ever did was the Henry Badowski album “Life Is A Grand…” I’m guessing it’s not an album that most people are familiar with, what makes it so special to you?

Well I was in bands at school with Henry so I’ve known him virtually my whole life. He’s a very talented and unique songwriter and instrumentalist. Yeah, he just made that one album for A&M in 1981, but he still has a cult following. I’ve often tried to talk him into recording new material commercially, but he hates the music industry.

Your start with Chelsea & Gen X doesn’t seem a natural fit to bring you to Kim Wilde & Annabel Lamb what was it they wanted you to bring to their sound?

Well things just happen along the way don’t they? Mickie Most got me in with Kim because he wanted there to be a band in the Kids In America video. I only play on a few tracks on her first two albums. Annabel was really just a session. Wally Brill who produced the first Chelsea album was producing it – so he knew what I sounded like and wanted a bit of that on the song. She went on to have a hit with a cover of The Doors’ Riders On The Storm of course.

I thought I knew most of the acts you’d been involved with, baring some of the sessions maybe, but The Hot Club and The Smart are new ones to me! What can we expect and what made them essential tracks to include on “40 Years…”?

Well Hot Club was the first band I had with Glen Matlock. We only made two singles, both with different singers. Steve Allen from Deaf School and The Original Mirrors is on the track I chose, which was a B side. When he left we got Clark Datchler in. He and Calvin went on to form Johnny Hates Jazz. It was kind of an unfocused band – but still important to me because it got me out on the road again which I hadn’t done for a while because I’d been a professional mimer with Kim for over a year. As for The Smart let me make it clear at the outset the name The Smart was nothing to do with me LOL. Dave Martin the singer was the rhythm guitarist in Chelsea and he and Geoff the bass player left to form The Smart in 1980. They asked me to join a couple of years later. We made an album that never got released at the time. Epic kept saying they were going to sign the band but never did – typical of the industry at that time. I actually really like the album – you can get it now – so I had to include a track.

Many will know Gary Holton from his acting career in Auf Wiedersehen, Pet or musically for his time in Heavy Metal Kids so where does The Gang Show fit in?

Well just after Hot Club, Glen and I formed a band with him. As well as an actor he was a rock and roll legend of course. I don’t think Big Tears has ever been released before. I just realised I had to include it right and the end of compiling 40 Years. I remembered it in the nick of time. I saw The Heavy Metal Kids at The Biba Rainbow Room when I was about fourteen and they were brilliant – especially Gary. I think I went to that gig with Henry Badowski actually……

For those that haven’t heard it before it may surprise some people that you feature on “Brand New You’re Retro” by former Massive Attack member Tricky which is very different to the genres that you usually favour.

Yeah – you end up on all sorts of records along the way LOL. I actually loved playing on Maxinquaye – I’m pretty sure I’m on a lot of it – but only got credited on this one track.

Was it difficult trying to mix different genres into a working running order?

No – it’s more or less chronological except here and there where I’ve kept tracks by the same bands next to each other in the running order. For example Desire and Break The Chain by GLJ are about seven years apart time-wise but I kept them next to each other on the CD.

When you approached this project did you have certain essential cornerstones that you had from day one or was the selection process fairly fluid?

The track-listing changed all the time. I was mortified when I first got refused Gen X – although I wasn’t in the band for long it was an important part of my career I felt I had to include. The cornerstones were the bands I feel are most important in my career – Chelsea, Gen X, GLJ, The Alarm, The International Swingers and Holy Holy.

Did you have any trusted friends that would suggest songs to you or give you a deciding vote if you were stuck?

Yes a few people. There are friends you respect whose help you engage when you can’t make a decision. Jules Peters vetoed the original cover LOL – which I’m glad about because Karl Parsons came up with a brilliant one after that.

What tracks were on the short list but didn’t make the final album?

It was especially tough deciding which tracks to include from the first Chelsea album and also The Smart. I nearly went with Something’s Got To Give from Under Attack too because I love the song. Also from Chelsea’s Faster, Cheaper And Better Looking – Cosy Family Way almost didn’t make it but then I decided I really liked the guitar solo LOL.

You’ve chosen just 3 songs to represent your work within The Alarm, “45 RPM”, “Superchannel” & “My Town” what is it about them that stands out for you above others?

Well Superchannel and 45 were both hits, that’s why I went with them. Then it was a toss up between My Town and Something’s Got To Give. Tough choices.

You’ve not chosen anything from your latest albums with either Chelsea or Gene Loves Jezebel is there any reason for this?

I just felt they were too recent – I’m really proud of both Mission Impossible and Dance Underwater - they need to be listened to in their entirety – for now anyway.

Your collaborations with Glen Matlock see you choose 2 tracks from the Philistines & 3 from The International Swingers. Now that Glen has left the Swingers do you have any plans to work together again?

Well John Carlucci’s been playing bass with The Swingers and he’s worked out great. But with Glen never say never, I guess. He told us the reason he didn’t want to do TIS anymore was that he wanted to stop playing bass and concentrate on being a singer songwriter. But recently he’s been playing bass with Clem and Walter Lure in The Heartbreakers so who knows.

The retrospective closes with 2 tracks from your excellent solo album “Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over”, I remember you saying you were writing a follow up album so what’s the latest and how long will we have to wait to hear it considering how busy you are?

Well I’ve written the title track – it’s called The Other Side Of The World. It’s about my younger brother Dave and his battle with early onset Alzheimers. It’s been absolutely fucking heartbreaking

Are there any plans for a Vol. 2 if the album is successful?

Hadn’t thought of that. Maybe, although getting this one together has been a monster job.

Lastly……what can we expect from James Stevenson in 2018?

Well there’s a lot of Alarm in the diary. I want to get out and promote Dance Underwater with GLJ because I think it’s such a great album. Holy Holy too of course and also there may be some stuff with Daphne Guinness whose album I played on courtesy of Mr. Visconti. Sometimes I don’t know what to expect to come round the corner myself……

James, as always it's been amazing! Thank you & see you at the Gathering!

"40 Years in the Rock 'n' Roll Wilderness (a Selective Retrospective)" is available to order now for just £15 plus £3 p&p! Just CLICK HERE for details!

Thursday, 11 January 2018

James Stevenson Retrospective

James has released a double disc selective retrospective covering a broad spectrum of his career, of course there are some gaps but what do you expect when your cv is as long as James'!

 "40 Years In The Rock 'n' Roll Wilderness" will be available from early February for £15 plus £3 p&p (or grab it in person if you are fortunate to be attending The Gathering in a few weeks) and can be ordered direct from James by clicking HERE!

The 32 tracks James has selected are....

1. Chelsea - Urban Kids
2. Chelsea - Trouble Is The Day
3. Charlie Harper - Barmy London Army
4. Gen X - Andy Warhol (live)
5. Henry Badowski - Baby Sign Here With Me
6. Kim Wilde - Water On Glass
7. Annabel Lamb - Tell Him
8. Hot Club - Heat
9. The Smart - Don't Worry
10.Gary Holton and The Gang Show - Big Tears
11. Gene Loves Jezebel - Desire (Come And Get It)
12. Gene Loves Jezebel - Break The Chain
13. Tricky - Brand New You're Retro
14. Gene Loves Jezebel - Come Naturally
15. Jay Aston - Who Wants To Go To Heaven?
16. Gene Loves Jezebel - Jealous (Acoustic Version)
17. The Alarm - 45 RPM
18. The Alarm - Superchannel
19. The Alarm - My Town
20. Beki Bondage - Move Over
21. Chelsea - Sod The War
22. Chelsea - Living In The Urban UK
23. Chelsea - Cosy Family Way
24. Chelsea - Home
25. Glen Matlock And The Philistines - Open Mind
26. Glen Matlock And The Philistines - Hey Mister
27. The International Swingers - FBI
28. The International Swingers - Fool's Holiday
29. The International Swingers - Whatever Works Now
30. Holy Holy - The Width Of A Circle (live)
31. James Stevenson - Suzi's Problem
32. James Stevenson - Come On People

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Smiley's Friends In The Afterglow Interview

As we all eagerly await the release of the brand new release from Smiley and his many friends he took time out of his birthday (bless him) to answer a few burning questions about his new masterpiece....

So let's get straight into the new album "Smiley's Friends In The Afterglow" - What can we expect?

Well, it's album number 5 in the feels more mature and cohesive..Maybe I'm just getting better at it! I used some new co writers, some new friends, some old friends. Those who have heard it say it's the best one yet, there's only one way to find out See for yourselves folks!

What made you go to social media for suggestions for the albums name?

I didn't have a title.... and I was in North Wales and was due to go and have an artwork meeting with Karl Parsons, I told him I didn't have a title and he suggested putting it out there for fun. I was staggered at how many made the effort to make suggestions (hence why they are all name checked on the sleeve)...Anyway I whittled them down to 10 and sent them to Karl the following morning. When I got to his that afternoon he had already finished the artwork! He picked "Afterglow" and the artwork is incredible! Again!....and it was tied in to Alan Thompson which made it even more meaningful.

How do you go about recording the myriad of guests that feature on the album, do you manage to get them all down to Sunshine Corner Studio when time allows or do you give specific instructions and get the part digitally transferred for you to mix?

Some come in, some send their parts, whatever suits really. I was in the studio with the Alarm and when Mikey went to get a curry I got James to play guitar on "25 Words Or Less"... you have to strike like a ninja sometimes!

Do the songs choose who you ask to guest or do you write with certain people in mind?

Some things are written with people in mind but it's mostly after they are written that I approach people. Like "25 Words Or Less" is about Iggy Pop and when I saw him at a festival in the summer Steve Norman was playing with him so that was written in the stars! Craig Adams played on "Prophecy" from his house in America, James Stevenson had to play on "25 Words Or Less" or I wouldn't share my sweets on the tour bus! And Mikey added some words to finish a couple of them. If you don't ask you don't get. I don't always have the nerve to ask...we were in the studio with Billy Duffy and I was dying to ask him but I bottled it! Next time, maybe! 

I notice Mark Warden is listed, what is his contribution and did you have any conversations with him about how to mix the album as you both have production credits to your names?

Mark is a great guitarist. I often send him tracks for his opinion and when he heard "Uprising" he asked to put some guitar on it. What he sent back was incredible! I really value Marks opinion, as a producer and as a friend.

Did James Stevenson suggest his Holy Holy band mate Jessica Lee Morgan or did you approach her after seeing her?

I met her at The Alarm show in Cardiff. I had been to see Holy Holy that week so we had a nice chat, I asked if she fancied being on a track and she played some sax on "Real Love". She's lovely, she's supporting at the Ascot show on Feb 10.

Alan Thompson features on the album, he sadly passed unexpectedly at the end of last year, I know you had a pretty special camaraderie...what can you tell us about his contribution?

Alan was my muse for the last 3 albums. Every idea, lyric, demo, string arrangement I ran past him. We were about 8 songs into "Afterglow" when he suddenly died, broke my heart, I adored him. It left a massive hole in my soul. I wrote the track "Afterglow" about him with John James Newman and then when I was mixing remembered he had played bass on "Real Love". Mixing those tracks was emotional. I played "Afterglow" to Kez and my mate Tony, when it had finished I turned around and they were in tears.

I miss him man....he was one in a million.

I have to ask this. Were there any "Friends" that you couldn't persuade to appear on this album or any that couldn't fit into the schedule?

Not on this album...there were quite a few on the last one, mostly singers. They are a funny breed, singers, I won't name them or shame them! We are still friends but they are not friends! (See what I did there?!)

The "Friends" albums are now becoming an annual thing, personally I love them and they are always amongst my hot picks for the year. Are they a labour of love or do you wish they could find a larger audience?

I love doing them! They seem to be a yearly thing now so I better pull my finger out and start writing the next one! I have noticed that people seem to be more aware of the "Friends" albums and a lot of fantastic musicians have asked to be on them now....who am I to say no, eh?

You've already started promotion of the album with an appearance on Radio 4, does this mean if time allows we will be hearing more from you when the album launches?

I will do anything to spread the word about "Afterglow", I want everyone to hear it! Everyone can share that love simply by making people aware of it...Spread the "Afterglow" love people x

I found the YouTube series of interviews released alongside "Smiley's Friend Eclectic" really interesting, will you be doing any more around "Friends In The Afterglow"?

Here you go......everything you need to know about "Afterglow" in exactly 10 minutes!

Can you reveal who the band & guests will be at the album launch show in Ascot on February this a closely kept secret or is it still fluctuating?

It's not totally in stone yet.There are some special guests coming, there's at least one Alarm member confirmed. Jessica Lee Morgan is confirmed as support and James Walsh plus others so watch this space!

The album is available to pre-order now direct from Sunshine Corner, for those attending The Gathering are you planning on having it available there prior to the official launch date?

Yes, I will have some with me. There will be a little acoustic showcase on the Thursday night, so once again watch this space! TBC

Are there any plans to maybe do a few more live dates or is this just not practical currently?

 I would love to. I will see how it goes, see if Stevenson wants to do some double headers as he has a new album out too. Especially in America, buy one Alarm member and get one free!

What are your hopes for "Friends In The Afterglow"?

For it to be heard by as many people as possible...and hopefully enjoyed!

You appeared alongside your writing partner Graham Turner on the Mike Read TV series "Tin Pan Alley" which searched for the best unsung songwriters that are out there currently. What did you get from the series and did it open any doors for you?

Not really, cheap TV.

The song featured on the series was "End Of The World" which has featured on 2 of the Friends albums ("Far Out Places" & "On Sunshine Corner") was recently covered, without your knowledge, by former Hawkwind sax player & vocalist Nik Turner who released his own "space rock" version both as a single and on his album "Life In Space". Is this still a touchy subject or does it speak to the quality of your writing that others wish to cover your songs?

At first I was quite annoyed that he hadn't asked, but then it felt complimentary. We contacted his record company and they sent us a little gift so all good on that front. Oh, and a review of his album said it was the best song on the album, can't argue with that!

Last year was a pretty hectic year for you, two Alarm albums, a huge amount of Alarm live dates as well as Archive shows (hopping back and forth from the USA to accommodate both at one stage) ....what were the highlights for you?

I LOVED touring America! Can't wait to go back. Alarm shows are ace because you look out and pretty much know everyone looking back at you! It's a family, like the Brady Bunch but cooler or The Cosby Show, without the court case!

You feature on the new Ian McNabb album "Our Future In Space" who was one of the "Friends" on both "Eclectic" and "Afterglow", what can we expect from it and are you likely to be doing any live dates in support of the release in light of the cancellation of The Icicle Works touring commitments for the year?

I love McNabb. He's ace so I would love to do some live stuff with him. His new album will be awesome.

What does this year have in store for you currently?

Well The Alarm dominate with a new album, shows in the UK, Europe & USA and finally doing some LHS stuff like Snowdon and The Grand Canyon. Plus McNabbs album & hopefully some live shows, also working with Hard Fi which will be fun. Producing some acts at Sunshine Corner and sharing the "Afterglow" love whilst writing the next one! Plus a new pup and a wife and kids....that should keep me going!

Many thanks! See you in Llandudno!

Always a pleasure Rob, looking forward to seeing everyone in a few weeks, love to you all!



Saturday, 16 December 2017

Smiley's Friends In The Afterglow preview

As you may know Smiley releases his 5th solo/friends album "Smiley's Friends In The Afterglow" on February 1st next year but if you really can't wait (to be honest I'm really looking forward to this!) there is a 2 minute "teaser" available on YouTube. 

The album is available to preorder direct from "Smiles" with the added incentive of a free badge with your order by clicking HERE!

Saturday, 3 June 2017

James Stevenson Interview - June 2017

Photo courtesy of Lis Garrett Photography
Ever since it was announced that Gene Loves Jezebel were heading back into the studio to record new material via last years Pledge Music campaign I've been really excited and the resulting album "Dance Underwater" is simply amazing. Now with the album about to get released to the general public I thought it would be good to have a chat with the guitar legend that is James Stevenson.....but with James being Mr 72% you just know there will be a lot more to cover!

It’s been a long time coming “Dance Underwater” was definitely worth waiting for, you must be pretty happy with the finished album?

Yes, we’re all very excited about it. It’s our first real studio album in nearly twenty years. We’re over the moon at how it turned out -

You’ve said previously that one of the reasons that Jay has been reluctant to release new music is that his brother Michael would capitalise on it. Do you have any comment on the fact that as soon as the album was released to the Pledge backers Michael announced his a UK tour of his version of GLJ?

Let’s not talk about Michael. We all think he’s an asshole – and his behaviour proves it over and over again.

I see that tour has been postponed now till later in the year, will it have any impact on any legitimate UK live dates from yourself, Jay & the rest of GLJ?

We have a reciprocal agreement with him that he can play in the UK as long as he uses Michael Aston’s GLJ – that way everyone knows what they’re getting.

What are the plans for “Dance Underwater” , it gets a physical release in June I believe, what are your hopes for it?

June 30. Well that as many people hear it as possible and that it gets us some profile back and we can go out and play for as many people as possible. We’ve been too quiet for too long.
Summertime, the first single, sounds like a hit to me. We’re cautiously optimistic as they say.

Are you happy with the reaction so far from those fans that have had the album since the Pledge?

Yes – everyone seems to love it. I think it’s the strongest album we’ve ever made.

“How Do You Say Goodbye (To Someone You Love)” seems to have a distinct Bowie vibe to it, has being in Holy Holy influenced any of your writing recently?

Well Pete And Jay wrote that. I thought it was more classic 60s a la Barry Ryan but with dark lyrics. I asked Tony Visconti if he’d consider doing the strings for it and told him we had no budget and so not to feel obligated just because we’re friends. When he heard the song he said I love it, I’m doing it! He did a fantastic job. The pizzicato in the second verse is genius. Maybe that’s what gives it a Bowie vibe for some people.

Will there be a single released to promote the album or in this day and age of streaming sites is this an outdated concept?

The song Summertime will be the first single – released June 23.

Photo courtesy of Nigel Adams
You’re invited to talk about the album on the radio & they ask you to play 3 songs from it, which 3 would you pick to best promote it?

How Do You Say Goodbye? (To Someone You Love), Izitme and Flying (The Beautiful Blue) probably.

You’re currently playing a guest slot on the European Mission dates, how have the new tracks come to life live & which have made it into the set?

We want to do a lot of the new album when we go out live and The Mish tour has been the perfect opportunity to start working them in. So far we’ve done How Do You Say Goodbye?, Cry For You and Flying. And we’re using loops live on the new songs – something we’ve never done before.

Your solo album “Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over” is getting a second lease of life with the release of it on gorgeous blue vinyl …. Are there any plans for a follow up?

Yes. It’s going to be called The Other Side Of The World and I’ve written the title track. It’s about my brother who was recently diagnosed with a horrible terminal illness called Pick’s Disease. It’s had a massive impact on my life.

You recently did another informal show with Smiley, was this as fun (& chaotic) as the Thursday night pre-Gathering show?

Even more so I’d say! I think we’re going to start making them a regular feature – we have such a laugh doing them, they’re easy – just pick a town the night before The Alarm are playing.

2 blokes walk into a bar....
It’s already proving to be a massively busy year for you, two new Alarm albums, 2 UK tours , the first American Gatherings, the prestigious Vans tour, more festivals than you could throw a camp fire at, Holy Holy tour, Gene Loves Jezebel album and live dates…..and I see there is also demos in preparation for a new Chelsea album! What can you tell us about that and are there other projects that I haven’t mentioned?

Well there might be some International Swingers shows too! LOL. Yeah it’s a crazy juggling act. I’m flying back from The Alarm US tour for one day on July 24 to film a Sky Art’s TV show with Holy Holy. And now GLJ is going to start to get busy again – crazy – but I love it.

“Blood Red” seems to have been a slow burner with most now fully embracing the album and some heralding it as one of The Alarms best what is your opinion of it?

I think Mike’s written some great songs for it. I didn’t play guitar on Blood Red at all, only Viral Black. I thought Tomorrow should have been the single – love playing that live. As you know I’ve been playing mostly bass with The Alarm recently because Craig’s been out with The Mish – and Jules has been playing keys. It’s been great having her on board.

This is the album most have taken to be the more personal release of the pair of albums being released this year what can you tell us about “Viral Black”?

Well as you’d expect it’s darker, very black. It has the song Two Rivers on it which is already becoming a live monster.

Were the sessions recorded for both albums simultaneously & if this is the case does “Viral Black” see you again on bass?

I think I played a bit of bass – but George Williams the producer did most. I played guitar on Viral Black. Though MP played a lot of guitar too. No they were recorded separately, Blood Red first. Viral Black we recorded in Liverpool.

For many it’s been strange seeing you playing bass on the recent tour & festival run, how have you been finding it?

Well I love playing bass. I played bass in bands at school and on tons of records, I did a lot on The Alarm “Bond”. I’ve always had a couple of basses at home so it’s like riding a bike really…..

How hard did you look for the rare Gibson bass that matches your beloved Les Paul?

I knew I had to have one. They made 209 white ones in the 70s. Managed to track on down in London thankfully.

When rehearsing for the Gathering what advice, if any, did Craig give you?

Craig plays bass his way, me my way. I have massive respect for Craig as a bassist but we approach the instrument quite differently. I will always definitely, primarily be a guitar player.

The 2 American Gatherings & World Record Store Day events seem to have been a massive success, what are your thoughts about them?

They were just fantastic fun to do. Everyone was positive about the new line-up with me playing bass and it was just a great time. And when I pick up my Les Paul for the solo at the end of Two Rivers – the final song in the set – it feels like I’m releasing a whole set worth of lead into that one solo – because it’s the only solo I play in the set! LOL

Mike said that they would be happening again, can you confirm whether they will become an annual event and if so will it be held in the same cities each year?

I can’t confirm that – that would be Mike’s call.

The band are just about to embark on one of its biggest American tours being part of the Vans tour…. Do you know yet if you will be returning to the guitar for these dates and if so who will be playing bass?

Photo courtesy Cathi Simpson
I will be playing bass. Jules will be on board and I’ll play guitar on about four songs – that’s the way the band is right now. I think of The Alarm as MP as the nucleus of the band, with a floating line-up around him.

With such a full year already planned do you know what’s happening next with Holy Holy….are there plans to take the Ziggy Stardust show to America or Europe?

I’m sure there will be more Holy Holy in the UK and Europe this year. I think the USA will be next year.

If Woody asked you to pick another classic Bowie release to feature for the next tour what would your choice be?

Would have to be Aladdin Sane wouldn’t it?

With being out and about so much this year what has been keeping you entertained musically, do you get much of a chance to hear new music?

Not really. Woody loves that band Rival Sons – they’re good and I’ve been listening to them a bit.

What do you choose to do when you have those rare moments of down time?

I’m trying to finish my book. But finding the time is so difficult. But I’m getting there. I think it will be an interesting read. There was so much I’d forgotten, but I kept a diary so all these stories are written down and now I’m remembering and re-discovering them. Many are pretty hilarious, and some are sad. It a no holds bard, warts and all, honest story, I hope.

Catch Gene Loves Jezebel at the Black Heart, Camden, London on June 26th, buy the new single "Summertime" digitally from June 23rd and the awesome new album "Dance Underwater" from June 30th.

James, thank you once again for your time and for being a gent!

Photo  courtesy of Nigel Adams

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Smiley on Soho Radio

Yesterday Smiley was the special guest of Andy Lewis his Soho Radio show. As you can guess The Alarm came up as did Archive and the show is packed with a whole host of other quality tunes!

You can hear it online for a limited time by clicking.....HERE!

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

New video from The International Swingers!

The International Swingers have just released a video for the track "Fool's Holiday" can watch it by clicking on the picture!