Wednesday, 13 March 2013

James Stevenson Interview

Any year is a busy year for James and with his solo album, The International Swingers album and tour, not to mention The Alarm, 2013 is going to be no different. We find out what his plans are...

How long have you been planning a solo album?

To be honest it's something I've wanted to do my whole life.

Over what period of time were the songs for "Everything's Getting Closer To Being Over" written?

They go back a long time. "Been A Long Time Now" is actually about 20 years old and was written about my girlfriend in the 80's, actress Cindy Day. All of the songs are honed from my own experience of life, some are about relationships. One of the tracks, "Go Mister!", is about being sick of getting filmed every time you do something wrong when driving or biking just so revenue can be raised. I covered all kinds of stuff! 

There are some very high profile performers on the album, did you have specific people in mind for each track?

Yes. Obviously I have a lot of musician mates. I just got the people down who I felt would benefit the track.
Doghouse dinner!

Was there anyone you wanted to feature on the album that you couldn't?

I would have liked to have got Clem on a couple of tracks, but he was on the road with Blondie, and a trumpet player called Colin Graham.

Are you constantly writing or do you tend to write only when you are working on a specific project?

Stuff springs into your mind all the time. Especially lyrics and lyrical ideas and riffs. You have to record them on your phone straight away or you'll forget them.

You seem genuinely relieved at the reception to the "Shapes Of Things To Come" EP, how different is it putting out something under your own name rather than as a band?

Very different - very personal. I was very nervous about my voice - but I think it came out ok. Peter Walsh did a fantastic job with the vocals - suggesting high octaves in some songs, double tracks in certain places - Mark Taylor's been talking to me about doing a solo gig. I've never fronted a band, I always wanted to be a good sideman - but I will probably do it - problem is I've realised I need a nine piece band to do it properly! (LOL)

The Sexpistilettos-Tracie Hunter, Maggi Ronson, Liz Westwood
Who is likely to feature in the touring band?

Well it would have to be 9 people including me, The Sexpistilettos (Maggi, Liz and Tracie), I'd need their great bv's. Rhythm section would probably be the GLJ duo of Pete Rizzo and Chris Bell. Mark Taylor of course on keyboards. Steve Norman - and another guitar player - I couldn't play all those guitar parts and sing at the same time!

What's the latest on the International Swingers album?

We've done a bunch of demos and gigs in Australia and California. An album will be the next step and hopefully some gigs in the UK in July after Clem finishes with Blondie in the UK around July 14. There's a free download of one of our new songs "Gun Control" at

How were the three dates the band played in America in February?

We did those to fund the new recordings. The gigs were great - it's a really great band to play in!

 What does the live set list look like currently, how much is International Swingers originals?

Well, we've just recorded seven new songs so the set will probably start to include a lot more original songs, although it's always great fun to do covers - especially when they're covers of your own bands!

You are planning to tour with Willie Nile again this April what is it you like about working with him?

Actually Willie's bringing his American guitarist Matt for the shows. I was a bit disappointed because I love playing with Willie - it was a real privilege - but I was always just the dep at the end of the day. Anyway his tour clashes with gigs in The Philippines with The Alarm - so it all kind of worked out for the best.

James, Pete & Mark - On the way to the pub!
How much time do you get for a tour like that?

I've never, ever rehearsed with Willie, I just learnt the songs on my own at home - which isn't the same as a proper rehearsal - the first gig I ever did with him was pretty nerve racking!

What are the plans for Gene Loves Jezebel this year, currently there is one live date on the horizon in Portugal but nothing else announced?

We've got a show in Italy in April too. It's been kind of hard to motivate Jay (Aston). I wanted to record a new album but Jay feels his brother reaps the benefits whenever we do something - you know there's two versions of the band, right? Michael, Jay's twin, owns the US trademark. His guitarist, Switch, actually handed Pete Rizzo a writ to stop us playing when we played L.A. a few years ago - unbelievable - we were actually on stage! That guy plays my riffs every time he walks on stage and serves us a writ  to prevent us playing! There's a song on my album about that called "Twilight Riders". 

What are the plans for The Alarm this year after the "Vinyl" tour?

Hopefully the US after the Philippines.

What does the rest of 2013 have in store for you?

The usual mish-mash of stuff. Have guitar, will travel, you know me....

James & Chris Bell

All photos courtesy of James Stevenson - many thanks James! 

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