Have you been involved in any previous projects before this one?
I’ve played in lots of different things. Ancient Free Gardeners was an indie band with two records out. The Giant Squid was a party thing that played a festival or two. We wore costumes and our set didn’t go for long enough, so we sometimes just played a beat and danced around and painted on each other. It was amazing. I released one solo electronic-ish record under Jamesy Ohhh, and i’ve collaborated with a bunch of different people for different projects. My new one is called Best Mans, and it’s pretty exciting – fun music along the lines of The Avalanches or DJ Shadow. Oh – and it’s a secret.
All artists go through periods where they seem to lack creativity, when you’re experiencing one of these phases, what do you do to get yourself out of it?
When I’m struggling for creative ideas, I just MAKE STUFF. I set a rule for myself that I have to make, say, 20 song ideas, or write a page of lyrics. And the key is I have to finish each idea. So a lot of the time the idea is absolute shit right from the start, but I have to finish making it to a demo standard, then move on. Without fail, something comes out of doing this. It might not even be something that I can use until months or years later. But something comes.
What is your favourite track to perform live?
My single ‘Clockface’ gives me such an amazing feeling every time I play it live. It’s a band song, and I tried playing it solo with a bunch of loops and samples for a while, which was weird. It’s got this huge drum part on the kick and the floor tom. It’s got massive synths that need to be live. And it’s the one time in my set I start stomping on guitar pedals. So much fun.
Care to give us a gear rundown?
I play a Fender Jazzmaster through either my Goldentone amp (it was made in 1965, so I take it in for repairs all… the… time). Live I play through a little Vox tube amp or just through my computer. I trigger loops and use effects with Ableton Live and a let’s-face-it-they-don’t-need-promo brand laptop. And I control all of that with an Ableton Push 2. I’ve got a pedal line up that includes delay, reverb, tremolo, overdrive, octave and some secret stuff. And frankly that feels like plenty.
What is the first song you ever wrote and did it make it onto a release?
I’m going to claim this, and whether I ‘wrote’ it or not will be debatable. In maybe year 9 I got some audio editing software that could make beats and chop samples. No memory of what it was exactly. I loved the main theme from the Beverly Hills Cop movie – it’s called Axel F. So I cut it up a bit and made a kind of Propellerheads derivative beat, mashed them all together and had my first ever song – or remix. I sent it around to my friends under the handle DJ Milsovitch. No judging – I was like 14.
If you HAD to choose, would it be; The Baby Sitters Club or Sweet Valley High? Please answer in as much detail as possible.
Baby Sitters Club all the way… baby. My older sister and I read the Baby Sitters Club books hard when we were little. We even got a VHS tape that had a few episodes of the TV show on it, and I don’t think we knew there were others available so we just watched it on loop. My sisters and I still quote from it randomly. Anyway – why BSC (that’s the first time I’ve ever acronymised that title) over SVH (same again)? Frankly I think that’s a really intrusive question.
How was your high school experience? Were you in a band?
High school for me was weird and awkward and fun and horrible in the same way I think it was for everyone else. It was in a band called Scunge, which I think might have been a portmanteau of the words ‘scum’ and ‘grunge’. I didn’t play guitar or anything (I was dorking out on the saxophone at the time) so I played bass. We covered Nirvana, Green Day and stuff, and I think there were a couple of original tunes in there. One summer my sisters dyed my hair with ‘Sun-in’ and shortly after I was teased for it at school the lead singer from Scunge did his hair too. And then everyone thought it was cool. One time we played Nirvana’s ‘Drain You’ at a school music evening (retrospective sorry parents).
Lots of songs start out with a working title and are eventually renamed, what were some of the original names of your songs before they were complete?
My song ‘Up and up and up and up’, which comes out on the upcoming album, started off as a kind of solemn piano thing called ‘Isolation’. We recorded it under that name and as originall written, and when I sat down to do vocals and some other parts, I was kind of appalled at the song I had written, so I started rewriting it. In the end the only thing left was the drum part, which I stacked synths onto for a happy sort of pop song.
Are you playing any shows anytime soon?
Yes! The launch for my new single ‘Clockface’ is Saturday 17 March at Tamale Studios. It’s going to be a really special, intimate show and the first official outing with my new band. Super limited numbers in this warehouse studio in Northcote that is waaayyyy too cool for me. I’m also playing a solo show at Littlefoot on 5 April and some more album shows in the coming months too.
How would you describe ‘success‘ for your band?
Success for me is having people hear my music, and then wanting to hear it more. Secondary to that is having them pay to listen, whether live or recorded. I make music for myself, but if I was JUST making it for myself, I wouldn’t be putting it out there for people to hear, so I can be transparent and say it’s very important for me to think that some people out there like what I make. Not all people. But some people.
Are you Pro or against streaming services and why?
Pro. I think being against streaming services kind of assumes that the punters will just start buying physical CDs or records again. And that seems deluded. If there’s a way we can deliver music RIGHT NOW to people who want to hear it, and we have to compete with places like Youtube (ewww) and, I guess, piracy in general – let’s give them what they want. I love using streaming services and I think the only qualification on that is that people should pay for them. Ads are shit. Music shouldn’t be interrupted with a message from our sponsor (where we can help it). Streaming is great, as long as we pay for it, then the big guys pay the people paying off their gigantic Marshall stacks.
Tell us 3 bands that we should be listening to/be keeping an eye out for?
Raja Rani – Tim is my former bandmate from The Giant Squid and Zoe was on vocals in the Eighty 88s, another band he was in. They’re dropping singles and they’re beautiful.
Merpire – she’s opening at my ‘Clockface’ single launch, and she’s got some ripping singles out there.
Xani – she played some strings on my record and has a bunch of releases out. She’s gathering speed quickly and is doing amazing things solo and in collaboration with some other great artists too.
James launches his new single ‘Clockface’ on March 17th @ Tamale Studios, Melbourne.