INTERVIEW

“ I could have sworn that the deceased Hunter S Thompson had his remains attached to a ridiculously large firework, which was then fired a hundred odd feet into the sky. And yet, here he is, not far from London Bridge, watching our photos man, Willy Borrell, shoot a grinning Jamie T. “This is for […]

I could have sworn that the deceased Hunter S Thompson had his remains attached to a ridiculously large firework, which was then fired a hundred odd feet into the sky. And yet, here he is, not far from London Bridge, watching our photos man, Willy Borrell, shoot a grinning Jamie T. “This is for Vogue,” smiles Jamie at Thompson’s spit as our, for the time being, eccentric passes the twenty year old poems that he’s written about The World Cup. Most rising musicians may well have given the cold shoulder in such a situation or, more likely, simply bolted for the hills, but when meeting Jamie T for the first time it soon becomes clear that that’s not his way. The time of day costs nothing and it’s something that this solo artist seems to live by.

Later on the Wimbledon resident will tell us of how he plans to set up a label to support young new acts, how he’s already offered to fund records for those who have impressed him and how his current good form has allowed him to create jobs for his mates (especially an old friend called Ben who is currently co producing Jamie’s debut album). Barely out of his teens, hyped by all that have heard his name and on the cusp of releasing his unique sounding indie poetry onto the world, surely this lad should not be a pleasure to talk to.

“Yeah, it’s bollocks,” says Jamie of the hype, putting us straight from the off. “Everyone’s like, ‘WOW! ITS YOUR FIRST ALBUM’. And I’m like, ‘for fucks sake. It’s eleven or twelve songs that I’ve written over fucking ages and I’m putting them out. It’s not going to be that fucking great’, you know what I mean?” he continues, gradually getting more animated the more passionate he grows about our subject matter. “It’ll be alright but trust me, in the future I’m going to write some good fucking music. But it’s alright, not fucking brilliant.”

Brutally honest or overtly modest, either way, his yet to be titled debut album will be out “when it’s done” and not before – “At the end of the day, it’s got to be quality controlled,” he confirms, before elaborating on just why he got one of his best mates in to co-produce instead of a big name. “I started off producing it by myself but my views got clouded and I was over thinking things,” explains Jamie, between sips of Kronenberg. “The good thing about me and Ben, with no offence to him, is that neither of us are qualified to do what we do. He can’t find his way around a whole studio and neither can I, but between us we manage it. With him I can argue all I like and be an absolute wanker because we both understand that it’s passion and we do It because we care about what we do. Alright‚” sometimes we’re just being fucking girls.”

By and large the album is down. So far it’s seemed like he’s been in the studio for seven years but in real time Jamie has visited the same four walls every day for the last five months or so. Add a couple of months on to allow for time that he recorded tracks in his bedroom – “Sleeping in the same room I was working in all day weirded me out,” he says – and you can start to see why Jamie is keen to get back on the road with his new tour and back into a world where there are real people. “I’m well looking forward to [the tour],” he enthuses. “But I always say the same, I’m nervous about it. In some ways I don’t want to do it because it’s easier not to. But I’m up for it.”

If you saw Jamie at any of his last live outings though, don’t expect to see more of the same. Until now a Jamie T live show has consisted of one man and an acoustic bass. Kept to a bare minimum, such gigs ultimately proved that Jamie could pull it together live, showcasing the more stripped down offerings from his catalogue (‘Living With Betty’, ‘Back In The Game’). Being a lone performer though has meant that his beat driven songs, full of over dubs, have had to either be heavily dissected for single consumption or missed off of the set list all together. That, and the fact that Jamie realised just how much he wanted to make people dance, is precisely why this time around he’s heading out with a full backing band.

So Jamie will be playing his customary bass within the band we presume? Well, no. “I play guitar in the band but with only four strings on,” (Jamie admits to only learning bass and not guitar because he found playing six strings too difficult). “There’s another guitarist in the band as well,” he assures us. “On the album I never actually played a guitar with all six strings on at one time. I’d lay down the bottom four strings and then the top two, which is fucking weird innit?”

Yes, it is fucking weird but it does show that by any means necessary, Jamie T will produce music, which sounds exactly how he wants it to sound. So what is that sound? It’s the million-dollar question, not least because nobody knows the answer to it, perhaps not even Jamie himself. Many have tried to summarise Jamie’s sound, few have got close to doing a good job of sticking it in any one, two or an infinite amount of pigeon holes. Hip hop, rap, pop, ska, punk, reggae or rudeboy skank – most apply to Jamie in certain varying degrees but when listening to the man in question’s influences, it’s apparent just why his music draws on so many eclectic genres. It is also with this discussion that we see Jamie his most enthusiastic. “People ask me this and I try to name check as many people as I can,” he says, widely grinning. “Okay, Tom Vek for starters. Beck, Squeeze, Specials, The Clash, Rancid, Desmond Decker, Roni Size a little bit, Beastie Boys, Guns’n’Roses when I was very young. I’ve only just become properly aware of Bob Dylan, he’s great. Regina Spektor, Joanna Newsome. I’m really into a lot of acoustic artists as well. Have you heard of Turncoat? He’s like Rancid but acoustic. It’s really grimy but intellectual without being patronising. I like a bit of everything really,” he concludes, not even out of breath.

The man at the top of the list (Tom Vek) is worth an extra mention not just in our eyes but in Jamie’s too. Good friends, Vek and T shared a tour bill once, confirming what Jamie thought of the fellow one-man music maker when he first heard Vek’s ‘We Have Sound’ record. – “He’s sick,” say Jamie. “No-one does shit like he does. He’s totally underrated and what I really respect is that he wont be compromised. He does everything his way.” And perhaps that’s the route to their friendship. Like Vek, Jamie makes no secret of doing what he wants to do, making his own decisions and ultimately creating music primarily for himself; music which can take on two very different forms – 1) the stripped down one-man-and-his-acoustic-bass melodies, or 2) the sometime ska beat jaunts, overflowing with keyboards and guitar licks. Completely different in their sound, both of Jamie’s styles share one underlining trait – the quality of their lyrics.

Stories of fellas and lasses going out, getting drunk and splitting up in and around London town make for an interesting listen where Jamie T’s songs are concerned. But if you’re wondering what the acoustic to electric ratio will be on Jamie’s debut, we can tell you that electric has won out this time around, 90% to 10% as its creator feels that any more of a split would be “too pretentious and showing off.” The good news for all acoustic fans is that Jamie is also toying with the idea of releasing the whole record acoustically for free on the web.

Before nailing the door of his studio back shut, Jamie has just enough time to discuss new music. Of the current industry he speaks of nothing but high praise. Only cynics would refuse to take on board his views of how the music world has changed and how we’ve currently got a lot to be thankful for. “Trust me, music at the moment is better than it’s ever been,” he says in all seriousness. “You might not have your David Bowies but people come and go and there are some of the most talented people coming around at the moment and I’m inspired by it. Everybody says that music was better back then‚” my fucking arse it was. You’ve got more good musicians now than ever before. All the big stars, at some point, have fucked up. Every old artist has written three albums that are fucking shit. You don’t have the time to do that anymore, one shit album and goodbye mate. Things move faster and that’s because there’s more talent around. When I’m done, I’ll still write music. I’ll just be an estate agent as well, and drive a Foxton’s mini.”

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