James Stevenson isn't a man who likes to sit still so as he prepares to embark on tour with the highly successful Bowie themed Holy Holy I caught up with him to find out what makes the whole project tick!
For those that still haven't had the chance to pick up James' fantastic debut album "Everything's Getting Closer To Being Over" it has recently had a physical release via Plastic Head ,which means it will be easier for you to get hold off via Amazon and the like (see links at the bottom of this interview).
With the live Holy Holy Album "The Man Who Sold The World - Live In London" due to be released tomorrow and their tour ready to kick off on the 12th it's time for James and I to talk all things Holy Holy!
Holy Holy started as a one off celebration of the classic early 70s Bowie period, how did it evolve into a much more ambitious touring project?
Well really because we all enjoyed doing it so much. The Latitude Festival in 2013 where I got Clem in was great but then Woody Woodmansey himself got in touch and said he'd be interested in getting involved - and then Tony Visconti - it just snowballed.
Why was "The Man Who Sold The World" chosen to play in full when the more obvious albums would surely have been "Ziggy" or "Aladdin Sane"?
Well because of Tony Visconti's involvement. He produced and played bass on TMWSTW. After that album he moved on to T.Rex etc...
The venues on last years tour ranged from pub to club to much bigger venues like the Shepherds Bush Empire; was it liberating to have that different connection with the audience?
Well as I've said many times my favourite thing to do is to walk on stage and play my guitar - whether it's to 100 people or 1000. Every dynamic is different. Liberating probably isn't the word. I usually enjoy any gig I do no matter how large or how small.
Surely that is something you experience when touring with Chelsea or The Alarm and then playing festivals like Coachella with The Cult?
Well yeah. But Chelsea just did this gig at a pub in Gateshead called The Three Tuns and it was electrifying, Coachella was so full of young rich kids it was a drag. It sells out every year before they announce the line-up of bands- that says it all IMO about how much the music matters!
Do you approach them differently?
No. It feels a bit different but you approach them the same. You walk on and do what you do. I remember feeling a bit intimidated at Milton Keynes when GLJ supported Bowie in front of 60,000. But you always give it your best shot whether you're playing to 100 or 100,000 people.
Did you have any input into what tracks made it into the second set?
With Holy Holy? Yes, of course. For me it's a dream come true to play with legends like Woody and Tony. I spent my entire adolescence listening to their records. So now to walk on stage and play with them is an absolute honour. I was really keen to get "Suffragette City" and "Rock And Roll Suicide" in there - which were debated at first by the band.
The band throughout the tour was fairly stable with the addition of the odd surprise guest like Marc Almond at Shepherds Bush but then changed for the Xmas shows presumably due to availability. Did this give the shows a different feel or is it one of the strengths of a project like Holy Holy?
Very different. The thing is we like to get out and do the show but quite often Tony, Glenn or Steve Norman isn't available. The we have to go out with a different line up - like a second version of the group - and play smaller venues because we haven't got all the big names in tow.
What differences are there to the band for the new tour?
Well Steve Norman has taken off again with Spandau. I'm so pleased for him - no-one deserves it more. I was just in Australia visiting my brother and took him to their show in Melbourne. They were absolutely fuckin brilliant! So we've got Terry Edwards doing Steve's gig. But he's very different to Steve. They're both incredible musicians but Terry brings his own stuff to the party. It's all good.
The tour kicks off with the Isle of Wight Festival, what have you got planned for the festival crowd?
Well Suzanne Vega is getting up for The Man Who Sold The World - so I'm definitely looking forward to that.
How will the rest of the tour differ from last year? Will it be a similar set giving those who missed it last year a chance to experience the show?
Kind of. Marc Almond is doing a lot of the gigs. He was electrifying at Shepherd's Bush last year - so that's fantastic. There will be The Man Who Sold The World in it's entirety of course - but the second set will have a few surprises.
This year you also get to break out from the UK and head over to Tokyo, will there be more international dates to come?
I hope so. I love playing in this band so as far as I'm concerned the more we do the better.
June 1st sees the release of the double live "Live at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire" CD, were multiple shows recorded or was this always intended to be the one that would be released?
It was always just going to be that gig. My friend Richard Den Berg shot it - six cameras. We didn't have that anywhere else.
You played your first solo set at The Gathering this year with the "From The Alarm" set showcasing the solo work of Craig, Smiley and yourself which was amazing. Did you enjoy it?
Well thanks for saying you enjoyed it. For me it was FANTASTIC. I'd love to do more but I have the seven piece band to do my record justice - and that's kinda cost prohibitive. My mate Martin Kelly who used to own Heavenly Records said if I made my album, even in the mid 90s, I'd have had every label chasing me with their cheque books out! LOL. Times have changed. I'd love to make a second album but I'm not sure if I can afford to do it. The whole industry is so fucked up.
That evening you expressed that you definitely wanted to play more solo live dates, is that any closer to being realised?
Hmmmm - well that depends... I wish there weren't economic considerations....but sadly there are.
The new Chelsea album "Saturday Night Sunday Morning" seems to be getting a buzz about it already, what are your thoughts on it?
Well I love the record. Nic Austin replaced me when I left in 1980 so it was great to work with him. He's a fantastic songwriter. He wrote "Fuck All" and Something Wrong In Yer Head" surely future punk classics. It's a great record - if I say so myself.
How much of the Chelsea tour will you make before you have to switch over to Holy Holy?
After the 100 Club 5th June I have to bail. Sad but true.
The Cult are working on a new album currently, will you be involved in the live dates again or is that a conversation that hasn't happened yet?
They're taking a keyboard player out for the new shows in June and to promote their new album in the autumn - their call of course - I love playing in the band but I have so much going on, one less to juggle is a relief in some ways. I'm actually in L.A. right now and went riding (motorbike not horse! LOL) with Billy today. I think something fresh might be good for The Cult - but who knows what the future holds?
Finally, we've been promised a new Alarm album for next year...is there anything you can tell us about it yet?
No idea! Sorry, ask Mike! But I think the actual band will tour the UK in Spring 2016!
James Stevenson, as always, thank you!
To Order "Saturday Night Sunday Morning" by Chelsea click HERE!
To Order "The Man Who Sold The World - Live In London" by Holy Holy click HERE!
To Order "Everything's Getting Closer To Being Over" by James Stevenson click HERE!