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

1 comment:

  1. I feel 'ripped off'. DU sucks. Michael does GLJ like no other. His former backing band are hopeless.