Tim Booth

"Bone", an album which for many people has sprung up out of nowhere and hit them round the face. For Designer Magazine it's seemed like an eternity since we witnessed Tim Booth's first post James solo show last September at In The City 2003. The album itself came as a total surprise for Tim himself who was in the process of acting and screen writing at the time. An organic approach which saw the album recorded in a bedroom in Brighton led to Tim doing the unexpected and heading out on the road earlier in the year on a short tour. Designer Magazine caught up with Tim Booth to find out how he feels about playing in front of 20,000 people again at Move Festival.

Q: We saw you when you did your very first solo show at In The City 2003 after leaving James and still you've literally done a handful of shows with the new material. How does it feel to know that you'll be playing to 20,000 people at Move Festival next month?
A: I'm not thinking about it. If I did, i'd get worried. We've done six gigs and the 8th gig is going to be Glastonbury where we're sort of second headlining the biggest side stage. That's the thing that's on my radar at the moment, but the fact is my band is just really coming on. We're rehearsing quite a lot and i've got amazing musicians.

I knew that after James, live we had to be good because I think that James were better live than any other format. I think now we've got there and were going to be able to hold our own. I mean people will have to consider it's our 8th gig or whatever, but its going to look really fantastic and we'll be able to compete with anyone.

Q: After 20 years with James, on stage does it feel strange not to have the other guys from the band around you?
A: It doesn't. These songs, we've been working with them for two or three years in a way from scratch. These feel like my songs very strongly and the people on stage i've got friends i've known for quite a while and get on with really well. We've got such a different relationship than I had in James. Like we take the piss out of each other on stage and have a joke. And that takes it out of being what James were like. James were quite solemn and a bit more introverted...this band is much more extrovert and happy to be up on stage taking the piss out of each other.

Q: It was quite interesting the way "Bone" the album came together. You were in the middle of acting and you very much had an actors head on your shoulders, but suddenly the music just drew you back in.
A: Yeah, my head was in acting and script writing. But all the time I was making music, you know as a hobby, and hoping I could sell the songs for some other young person to go out and interface with the music industry, which was not something I really wanted to do again. Then what happened in the last couple of years was that working with Lee "Muddy" Baker became such fun, I got so involved in the songs and that the songs were sounding so good from where we were sitting that just I knew I had no choice but to go out and take them out again.

Q: Was that really an option - selling the songs to someone else?
A: Totally. I had no intention of going out live. I didn't mind singing them in the studio, but I didn't want to go and do the machinery and compete. Competing with music is such a weird anachronism. Music is not an Olympic sport, you shouldn't be in competition, but the reality is when your record is out there you've got to get it heard. And you've got to get it heard on radio up against other peoples music. You can see where the industry is now. It's all very manufactured. So trying to get something out there that is quite heartfelt can be quite heart destroying and I didn't really want to go through that.

Q: Did you really feel the need to compete after over 20 years of making music?
A: I'm totally confident about what we've done. But it's competing to get it heard or to actually get the information out that the records out there. That's surprisingly hard unless you're on a major with a massive advertising budget. The reality is when we first released "Sit Down" on Rough Trade it got to 96 in charts, a year later when we released it with Mercury it did what it did. And that taught me a big lesson. The same with "Come Home", we released it on Rough Trade and it did nothing and the next year it got in the charts. That told me a lot - you can release great music but unless you can get it out to people and get people to know that it's there, you're going to be working very hard to get people to hear it.

Q: So what are your ambitions for this record?
A: I know we've made a great record and I know we've made a great single. I wrote this song a few years ago and was really like "Wow, this is great". I think it will be a sleeper. It think it will take the summer and I think it will take people seeing us at the festivals to really get "OMG this is really something" and that this is not a side project that will now eventually be dropped. It is actually something that will go on for a while.

Q: I did get the sense listening to the album that it is a grower. James songs were instant and almost hit you in the face. These songs take a good few listens to truly get
A: Great. I think there are some instant songs in there, but its different. I'm really not the guy to ask about how the public is going to take it because I don't have any idea. What I do is try and focus on putting out the best music I can. I've got a fantastic band and i've even made a decent video for once, James never made good videos. This time we had no budget and we made probably the best video i've ever made. So i'm just working on the bits I can control and getting them out there....then it's up to fate and to people championing us and all those lucky things that happen that I have no control over.

Q: In the way it's all came together, this album is probably your most experimental since Wah Wah with Eno. Would you agree?
A: Yeah. I'd say that. The last record I felt this happy about was "Laid". I'm just really proud of it. That's why i'm out there fronting it, otherwise I wouldn't be here.

Q: Some artists totally break free from their back catalogue and others embrace it. Can we expect any James songs when you play Move?
A: I'm not sure. I'm going to leave it open. We've rehearsed a couple of James songs, but I'm really wanting to make sure we can establish what we've got first. It depends somewhat on how long of a set we've got a Move. If we get longer than half an hour there could well be some James songs.

Q: What do you think of the rest of the line-up for your day at Move?
A: Great. We took the Stereophonics on tour many years ago and they broke on that tour really big. And the Pixies are one of my favourite bands full stop. I saw them a number of times and I saw them last week at the Academy in London. They're personal heroes of mine.

Q: How does it feel with you back, the Pixies back and Morrissey very much enjoying a comeback of sorts?
A: I really don't think of it in those terms. This is a very new project. The Pixies are playing all back catalogue. Morrissey's had about 6 solo records out. For me you just try to keep your edge and keep hungry and if you can maintain that you can still make music that's vital on new spirit that people can respond to.

Q: So what's happening for the rest of 2004 in the world of Tim Booth?
A: We'll come back and do a big tour in September or October. The summer is getting us out to people at a certain level and then later in the year we'll come back and hit a little bit harder. And were writing new material as well.

I'm doing some acting at the moment as well and i'm halfway through another screenplay. I'm shooting a movie right now. I'm in the next Batman film and it's a great little role. I'm a villain and that's all i'm allowed to say about it unfortunately cos I've signed this big confidentiality clause.

The album "Bone" is out now on Sanctuary Records
A single "Down To The Sea" is also available
Tim Booth plays Move Festival on 10th July with The Stereophonics and The Pixies
For more info
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Move Festival 2004

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