Posted on Jun 3rd 2008 11:44 pm

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Interview: Jamie Lidell

Whether the focus is on his divine set of Motown-esque pipes, his instrumental arrangements evoking classic soul, or his thoroughly modern electronic production prowess, there’s no denying that Jamie Lidell is a man of many talents. Coming off the heels of his frenetic breakthrough Multiply, JIM, Lidell’s latest, is set to catapult him even further into the spotlight. Here, Lidell takes a break from touring to speak to David Abravanel about his new band, medical-utensil swag, how Rick Astley has influenced him, and why Cristian Vogel’s name should never be spelled with an “h”, all with his biting wit and charisma in tow.

First off, how are things right now? Are you pleased with the reception JIM has been receiving?

It’s a top treat. I get free stuff now. From hair to plastic bags. Couldn’t be happier!

Are you excited to tour with a full band? The video that Warp posted of you rehearsing Little Bit Of Feel Good makes it seem like the audience is in for a real treat.

Well thanks. Yeah the band is a bunch of full grade. Pre-school, post-rush, grunge-funk, through-wave allstar, prankster bastards. I think I’m in safe hands. The video was made in LA (city of dreams), it’s actually a NEW band now. More uncut. Rough like a diamond filed with sandpaper. Edgy and WHITE hot. Check it!

To what extent, if any, did your band have a say on how JIM played out?

Well these guys all joined after the record was made see. I was the boss of the play out re JIM. Well that’s not strictly true. It was a collab between me and Mocky (my left foot) and Justin Stanley. I’m open to all ideas. I just don’t let em all in! The band and I have remade the album in a brand new style for the tour. It’s more suited to the road now.

On a related note, are you really going by JIM these days?

Oh yeah. Always was! Not so many call me JIM but god yeah. And Shady… JIM Shady.

On your previous tour, supporting Multiply, you did a number of solo shows, utilizing beat boxing and looping to reconstruct your material. Can we expect anything like that on this go-around?

Yep. There’s a segment of the band show where I forward wind into the future. Now I’m sampling the whole band too. Showing them what it feels like to be in my boots. So far it’s been pretty devastating…ly awesome.

While soul and funk were touchstones for Multiply, I’m hearing a lot of gospel on JIM. How do you feel incorporating a traditionally religious sound into your music?

Righteous as ever! Look, I’m a spiritual man without the trappings of religion. I wake up and do my yoga every day. Then I meditate, then I make pop. It’s a big mess and I love it. And I love you all. Amen.

Your singing voice is reminiscent of Otis Redding. Is there a conscious decision to shed your native accent when you’re behind the mic, or does it just happen naturally?

I have been influenced a lot by Paul Young, Rick Astley, Tom Jones, the Rolling Stones, The Action, David Bowie, Van Morrison… they taught me everything I know. And more…

JIM is full of sunny, optimistic songs. It sounds like things are going pretty well for you right now. Is there any particular reason for this emotional upswing?

The discovery that I have all I need right here sitting on my laptop with a dog on my lap and a cup of tea. Thinking of what’s for lunch. It’s a bloody easy life no? I’m not rich although I smell it. That’s what I’ve learnt.

Listening to Green Light, I couldn’t help but think of Marvin Gaye, but also Michael Jackson, circa-Off The Wall. Are you going to tackle pop music any time soon?

This is it baby. I mean how much more pop can you handle after Off The Wall? This album is already triple platinum and rising (in the “lands”). I am the new pop… etc.

Your songs have already crossed over some, having been featured on popular TV shows and in commercials. Is it odd to have fans who know you primarily from Grey’s Anatomy?

Yeah. And amazing. I get free stuff. Seriously, I got this arm-band from being in Grey’s. The blood pressure one… Those things are expensive!

How do feel releasing JIM on a label primarily know for experimental electronic music? It sounds “cleaner” than Multiply even, unless there are hidden edits I’m not hearing.

Thanks. Most people think I’m dirty. I’ve been bathing the sound and it’s come out lovely. Don’t worry dirt freaks. I’ve still got a shady side.

You previously described your first time working with a larger band (with Matthew Herbert) as an experience that nearly made you shit your pants. Having just made a fully orchestrated album, are you feeling more comfortable working with, and directing, larger pools of musicians?

Pools of shit? Well, that’s the image you’ve painted and let us hold that thought for a while and spread it onto the major labels that destroy all that is fertile, replacing it merely with more poo.

Ah yes. I love the musical mind and I’m learning to converse with it… It’s quite easy…
“Monday sound alright? I’ve got 200 nicker and some grub…”

Ah, sweet cynicism… I am English.

The sound you’ve pursued on JIM and Multiply is a step sideways from the cut-up R&B on your first solo album. Was there a moment between Muddlin Gear and Multiply when you decided to change direction?

I was bored. Sorry cut up heads. Thing is you can go through any old crap in a computer now and they think you’re a maverick. Back in the day you used to have to work for it…

Do you have the desire to release something in the vein of Muddlin Gear again? An album with heavy electronic processing?

Yes. Something like a shit pool so deep all the kids will drown in their lappy worlds.

Pre-Multiply, most of your vocal performances were diced up and processed. Do you feel more comfortable with your raw vocals now?

Yes. They are pure.

Having toured with Beck, do you think any of his ideas have rubbed off on you? Hurricane sounds like something he might do.

Oh. I should ask if he’ll cover it. I had a laugh with beck. He’s a good egg. One of those that’ll keep mailing you back you know? A lot of folks just pretend to like you. It’s so mean. Just so mean mean mean. Horrid tricks and mean tricks…. Not beck though. He’s a golden egg and the song Hurricane is now officially dedicated to all eggs gold.

How about Super_Collider, your project with Christian Vogel? Can we expect anything new from you two in the foreseeable future?

I honestly can’t answer that. According to the press spelling Christian with an h is a serious no-no. I don’t mind but don’t mail his as Christian. Just a word of advice. There’s no h. He gets crazy about the letter h.

On a slightly personal note, did you use SuperCollider in Super_Collider? I’ve always wanted to know.

Yes, of course! More on the first album than the second though. The name Super_Collider was Cris’s and it was around about the same time this software emerged. We though we might get some press off the back of it… fat chance eh!? Funny to think of that now.

Let’s talk about that surreal video for Little Bit Of Feel Good. Not to spoil too much for those who haven’t seen it, but you fall in love with a humanoid unicorn, and then lop off her head. Explain?

Well, the song is about obsessions. The small things that cause obsessions, to be more precise. Just the sound of a voice can haunt you. If it’s the right voice. In the b-movie I landed in, I play an ax maniac that kills deities. It’s a dangerous game, obsession. What can I say?

Speaking of wild videos, you have the Jamie Lidell is JIM series on Youtube, to introduce people to your collaborators and the sound of the new album. The footage takes some pretty odd twists – the cop brutalizing you in episode 3, for example. What’s the grand idea behind all this?

Well it’s hard NOT to fall foul of the LAPD over there. I do love LA though. The Adventures of JIM is merely a daily portrait of the ill-fitting glove that I have become in a world of hairy palms and hairy palm readers.

Your diverse output is almost schizophrenic, and it seems that sometimes you let out a more wild, perverse side. I’m thinking of Daddy’s Car, primarily. Can you see revisiting such raw sexual lyrics with your new, gospel – and soul – influenced sound?

Only when the lights are off and the deity’s all put to bed. I have a spirit guide now that advises me on all these matters. I merely obey. It’s better this way for a wayward like me.

What are you listening to these days? Anything in particular that influenced the sound of JIM?

Madlib, Madball, Madmax… mad stuff really. The comic, MAD. Oh and Bad stuff like Bad Brains, the album Bad. And Bad Company. Oh, and some folk and hippy musics from America and the legend Paul Young. especially No Parlez.

How do you feel about other acts looking to classic soul at the moment, like Sharon Jones or Amy Winehouse?

They are like me only one is black and really amazing, and the other white and pretty amazing. I respect them massively. It’s not easy up there. They are the lights that steer the good ship soul in 2008

Lastly, the desert island discs question: choose eight albums that you absolutely could not live without?

Well, just for today (different 8 tomorrow):
Ace of Clubs – Luke Vibert
Altersample Retag and Die Hoes -Jaylib
Arizona Bay – Bill hicks
Back In Black – AC/DC
Beasts Of No Nation – Fela Kuti
Brud – Andre Vida
The Frog Tape – Quintron
Sketches of Spain – Miles Davis

Email interview May 2008.

Jamie Lidell | Warp Records

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