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Travelling To The End Of The World At Last

19 October 2016 | 4:38 pm | Paul Ransom

"Nobody told us were big in Greece or Peru or Chile. The focus was all on the US back then."

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Since forming in Manchester during the heyday of that city's burgeoning indie scene back in 1982 (think New Order, The Smiths, The Fall, Factory Records, etc) James have improvised their way to more than 25 million album sales and enduring, if intermittent, cult status. However, only now, on the back of album number 14, are they set to tour Australia. "At fucking last, hey?" quips lead singer and band talisman Tim Booth from his home outside LA.

The obvious question is, why so long? Why not when Laid was all over triple j back in 93/94? Booth chuckles softly to himself before revealing that their then record label (Fontana) didn't tell them that they had a hit here. "We didn't know we had a following in Mexico either and we booked 2,000-seaters, but by the end of it we were playing to 12,000. Nobody told us were big in Greece or Peru or Chile. The focus was all on the US back then."

"By the end of it we were playing to 12,000. Nobody told us were big in Greece or Peru or Chile."

But of course that was back in the pre-internet era. These days James deal far more directly with fans and play to them more often than ever. Indeed, they recently completed their biggest ever UK tour and watched their new record, Girl At The End Of The World soar to #2, only to be held off top spot by Adele. What's more, as Booth is pleased to report, the predictable cohort of older fans has been joined by a swathe of much younger punters.

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For an act that has always been left of centre, in practise as much as anything else, this represents some kind of vindication. Their organic approach to songwriting and performing is part of the James appeal. As Booth says, "Every single song we've written has been written through improvisation, so when you have that you can't control the song. It has a life of its own and it's always greater than the sum of its parts; rather than if I were a songwriter just writing to the limits of my own capability."

Far from being lazy or merely convenient, it's core business for the band. "We create music from the unconscious, and the unconscious is far more original than the conscious mind," Booth explains. "I often write things where I go 'what the fuck is that?' and I only work out what it is later. A year later sometimes. I also write lyrics that come true."

So, having successfully predicted that the band would one day be involved in car crash; does Booth ever try to reign in the free flow? "There are some songs that are as tight as a kangaroo's anus but a lot of them we know they're open; and we're looking at each other going, 'What the fuck are we gonna do here?'"

Come November, antipodean fans will at last be able to participate in the serendipity. "We've noticed audiences prick up their ears when they see a band having to be present," Booth notes. "Y'know, and fucking up."