James Q&A: "I'm really enjoying having my own studio"

We gave James a call to find out what he's been getting up to. In part one of our chat, he tells about his plans for a new album, his home studio and riding his new motorbike into a "huge puddle"...

Hi James, how are you?
Yeah, not too bad, thanks.

What have you been up to?
Just bobbing about, catching up with my family and my friends. Doing the stuff that I missed out on while I was on tour.

Are you thinking about new music?
Yeah, definitely. It's on my mind quite a lot actually. I've just got a little snowboarding trip coming up, and then after that it's really just getting some nice bits for the studio, just getting it together and then make a start.

You're working on a home studio?
Yeah, I've got a nice little room set up in my house. I've got a drum kit there. It's exciting for me.

Can you play drums?
A little bit. I'm not John Bonham, but I can scrape a beat together then work it into the computer and spit it out the other end. And that's the thing, if you've got it, you can practice. I've never really had the space to do that until now.

Have you got any neighbours nearby?
No, there's not really anyone around that's gonna complain - other than Gill! So it's alright. I don't think I'm gonna do anyone's head in.

Do you write when you're on the road?
No. I jam in my room sometimes, if I'm in a hotel. Or I'll play bits and bobs in soundcheck and just gather little ideas. But generally I just try to enjoy the touring side of it by itself. Recording and touring are separate things for me. My mind is different when I'm writing in the studio. It's more reflective. Whereas when I'm on tour, I'm just trying to get the best out of the work that I've already done.

So would it be a totally blank page at this point? Do you start to think about what you want the album to sound like?
Yeah. I'm not too into the specifics or anything, but I'm thinking generally about what I'm gonna write about and what sort of mood and sound I want it to be. I've got a few ideas, but I like keeping it a surprise to myself in a way. I feel like I can go in any direction at this moment and I don't wanna put barriers up. I like it better when it just happens by itself. My thinking mind isn't going to come up with anything more poignant than my sub-conscious.

Is it a nice feeling to be at the very start of the creative process?
Yeah, it is. But I'm shitting myself as well. I think I've got a market that will hopefully stick by me, and go with whatever I'm doing, but when I listen to the radio it's already really different from when my album was floating about. But I try not to worry about it too much. That's the beauty of being an artist, I suppose. You just do what you do and hope that it works still. But at the same time I'm willing to open up myself up to some new directions or methods. That's why I'm really enjoying having my own studio. I've got the time and the freedom to come up with whatever I wanna come up with.

Do you listen to a lot of music generally?
I didn't do for a while. I just focussed on anything else, really. I've been drawing quite a lot, and painting and taking pictures. Plus I'm off snowboarding and I bought myself a new little motorbike. Just anything that isn't music-related for a bit, to kind of get away from it. I have started listening to stuff, though. I bought Gotye's album, and I like Kimbra's voice as well, so I bought her album. But other than that I've been listening to some philosophers and I've bought some books. Just anything that will open my mind in another way, really.

What's the motorbike?
It's like a little pit bike. But I was riding around the day after I bought it and I rode it into this huge puddle. All these other bikers who really know what they're talking about were like, "Oi, do you know what's up with your carburettor?" I was like, "Uh, what's that?"! All this smoke was coming out. It was pretty embarrassing!

Looking back at the last album and tour, are you pleased with how it all went?
Oh yeah. I'm just so happy with how it went. It was everything that I wanted it to be and more. For me personally as a journey, it was amazing - it helped me deal with losing my dad. And musically I felt like I did something that I was proud of and that was more pointing in the direction that I wanted to go. And the tour was amazing as well. I did some of the best gigs I'd ever done. So, yeah, it was wicked.

And how does it feel coming back from touring? Does it take a while to adjust?
Yeah! I think everyone's used to me not being around, so I've had to try and push myself into people's lives again. Force myself on people! [Laughs] No, I've just got back into being around, I suppose. It's taken a little bit of adjustment me coming home. But it's all good. I can't complain.

And is the idea to work on a new album in the home studio as much as possible?
Yeah, exactly. That's the whole point. So I can make music and be with Elsie.