Tim Burgess from The Charlatans talks to us about The Charlatans new album and his upcoming gig as part of The JD Set which will see him teaming up with Mike Joyce, John Cooper Clarke and other Mancunian bands as they rework the Buzzcocks' seminal 'Spiral Scratch'.
How did you come to be involved with this year's JD Set and Sessions?
Tim Burgess: They asked me, and I've worked with them before -- but because I love the Buzzcocks really. When I was a kid my mam bought me Buzzcocks 'Love Bites' as a Christmas present. I think I'd let it be known to my mum I think, what I wanted. I'd imagine I was about 9 years old.
That's a pretty cool choice for a young kid...
Well, the first band that I saw on Top of the Pops, that I first fell in love with, was the band The Vibrators, the punk band, doing 'Automatic Lover'. After that it was Blondie, that was the kind of music I was into. The Buzzcocks album 'Love Bites' was the first album I really got. When I was asked to do something celebrating the songs of the Buzzcocks, it was a no-brainer, as they say!
Have you had time yet to decide which Buzzcocks tracks you will be working on, or want to work on?
I actually really want to do a track from 'Love Bites', but I haven't worked it out yet, so it's a bit early to say. There's a later record that I fell in love with, on the first EP 'Spiral Scratch', there's a song called 'Friends of Mine' that I would like to try.
Do you know which artists from the bill you will be working with yet? Have you worked with any of the artists before?
There's a young band from Manchester called the Answering Machine -- they've actually opened up for the Charlatans before -- so I know they're good. They can play Buzzcocks fine I think, they'll be good.
Do you have any preliminary ideas for how you might perform your versions of these songs, re-interpret them?
Hmm. No. Once I'm there... I like to just let things unfold naturally really. I don't like to go in with too many preconceived ideas really.
How's the new album going? You've recently said that you're in the final stages. [The Charlatans 11th studio album, produced by Youth, expected for release in October]
Good. I'm going to New York on Friday to mix it. I do think it is probably the best record we've ever done -- but if it's mixed wrong -- it'll be the worst record we've ever done! But I'm pretty confident.
Is it different going to work in the studio as a solo artist, than when you're with the rest of the band?
It's different everywhere that I work really. Unless it's like bringing a song into a studio, something like that, where obviously you've written it before. I just need to be in there with people, I think the kind of energy between people creates the atmosphere.
The Charlatans are one of the original Madchester scene bands, how do you feel about that? Do you feel part of the city's musical heritage? Mike Joyce spoke about 'passing the baton' on to a new generation of artists, do you feel anything similar?
I think it's important to pass the message on, yeah, and I think I was trying to do that even when I was a young kid. It is a responsibility of the artists, yeah.
Which bands did you look up to then?
Many bands! Manchester-wise, New Order definitely. Ian Curtis was a God for me.
How do you feel when you play gigs in Manchester now?
Well! It feels like quite a long time ago really. I always feel really good. Yeah, really good!
Any specific memories of playing in the city?
Yeah, I've got memories of plenty of them. I always enjoyed playing the Ritz to be honest, and the Apollo. We did play the Hacienda just before it closed down, and the MEN Arena I've always enjoyed, so I've played at a lot of them. Not played Band on the Wall since... the band I was in before the Charlatans, a psychedelic band called the Electric Crayon Set. I don't think it's been open for about 10 years.
You mention the Hacienda, what do you think about the Fac251 re-opening of the club?
I've not been yet, I'm supposed to DJ there soon. I was supposed to go there and do something with Hooky [New Order's Peter Hook] on the night it opened but I was still doing the Charlatans record n London so I couldn't do it. I've contributed to his Freebass project. Hopefully after the Charlatans play Blackpool ['Some Friendly' 20th anniversary gigs in May -- in Glasgow, Blackpool and London] we'll have a party there or something. I've not seen it, but I'd like to see it.
One of the other bands on the bill, the Whip, mentioned they'd DJ'ed there the opening weekend. I don't actually think I've met them yet, but I hear about them a lot.
How does it feel to be playing the retrospective gigs at the same time as creating new music, is looking back getting in the way at all?
It's not getting in the way at all. The new album I start mixing on Friday and then I finish on the 6th, so by 6th April the Charlatans album will be finished. Them I'm gonna go to Coachella and then I'm coming over to do this Jack Daniels thing, and then start rehearsing for the retrospective thing. So I think it's all going to be okay.
How do you feel personally about how you've progressed since 'Some Friendly'?
I think we've just been on our own journey really. Obviously that's quite a cheesy thing to say. There's been times when its been a bit of a bumpy road, you know. To be honest, it's kind of a path that we chose, and a path that we kept on. I think the album is good enough to celebrate. I think it was really important to people at the time. You only get to do this, a 20 year anniversary once!
You've swapped Manchester for Los Angeles, what do you miss most about home?
LA is massive and Manchester, you can walk around -- I miss that! People seem to drive on the wrong side of the road over here. I'm pretty much back...The Charlatans have a studio in Cheshire, which is about 20 miles outside of Manchester. I go up there quite a lot. I DJ in Manchester quite often. I always wanted to be a bit nomad really. Be able to float about from here to there. Live in London a little bit, live in Manchester a little bit, I lived in Glasgow for a little bit. Live in LA. I just like to float about. You know pick up influences here, steal a few people's CDs, then bring them back.
Do you think you've picked up on any different bands over in LA than you would have in the UK? Is there a different scene on the West Coast?
It's weird, as I like what I like. I never go out to see a band just to socialise. I go to see bands that I'm interested in. I'm quite snobby really when it comes to music. A lot of the time bands that I'm interested to see like the Big Pink -- recently I went to see them -- I was too busy in London, so I get to see them out here. The last band I went to see were Sonic Youth, so that doesn't really count! But I really like Sonic Youth, so maybe that does count
You can see Tim Burges, Band on the Wall with Mike Joyce, The Whip, I Am Kloot Answering Machines, Dutch Uncles and John Cooper Clarke performing Buzzcock songs at the Manchester JD Set on May 27th.
The JD Set -
The Charlatans -