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The Charlatans Interview

The Charlatans Interview

Monday 9th August, 2010 12:05PM

Charlatans Interview. Thursday 18th of September

Interviewer: Chris King

Interviewee: Tim Burgess (singer)

CK. The Charlatans formed in 1989; can you talk a bit about how the band started?

TB. I wasn’t actually in the band to start with. There was another guy singing, but they wanted to get rid of him. Rob Collins saw me singing with the band I was in at the time, The Electric Crayon Set, and asked me to join the band. We started rehearsing together in April of 1989 and kept on rehearsing and writing loads of songs until August, when we had pretty much all of the material for the first EP. By the end of 1989 we had convinced our manager to lend us the money to release the EP, which we did in January 1990. That’s pretty much how it all got started.

CK. What was your favorite band when you were at High School?

TB. Well I really started getting into music when I was 7 years old. I had an older brother who was into punk at the time. Bands like The Vibrators, The Clash, and the Pistols. But it was when I was about 15 years old that I heard “Blue Monday” by New Order. That was the record that changed my life.

CK. You had some early success with the single “The only one I know”. Did you start to make a living from the band at that point?

TB. Well yeah. When we released the first EP, I was working in a factory. Rob was working as a grave digger, which was a strange job. We were pretty desperate to leave our jobs. We got signed to Beggars Banquet, who paid us a wage. That was really the first time that I had had any money, coming from a working class family. It was great!

CK. What was it like to be part of the Manchester music scene in the late 80’s and early 90’s with bands like The Happy Monday’s and The Stone Roses?

TB. It was really great to be a part of that scene. I’ve known Bez (Happy Monday’s) and Mani (The Stone Roses, Primal Scream) for 20 years. We’re mates. I think that there was a kind of mutual respect between bands, possibly mixed with jealousy. There certainly was a feeling that Manchester was a small town, so there was a bit of small town rivalry. We were more what was considered to be a second generation Manchester band.

CK. What is the writing process like for the band? How do the songs get written?

TB. It’s changed over the years. We try and split the songwriting between us, otherwise we kind of sit around waiting for someone else to come up with a new song. I write all of the lyrics, and some of the music. When Rob was alive (Rob died in 1996 after crashing his car on the way to a recording session in Wales) I would write a lot of songs with him and Martin (Blunt, bass player). But yeah, we share the writing between the band. There is no single person who writes all of the songs.

CK. Do you have a favorite Charlatans song? One that feels especially good to sing?

TB. Well… “The Only One I Know” is an important song. So is “Telling Stories”. Then there are songs where the lyrics are personal you know? When Tony joined the band we wrote some really personal songs, like “Senses”, and “Forever”. But you know…I’m a singer. I love to sing. I guess that at the moment I am biased towards the songs off the new album. “Oh Vanity” has a great sing along chorus which is fun to sing. That song was actually kind of a sad song until Jon put the drum beat to it. That changed the feel completely into an “up” kind of song. You know? The lyrics might be sad or desperate, but the music can change the sentiment of the lyrics all together. The music can lift it and give it life.

CK. What was the motivation behind the band’s decision to make “You Cross My Path” free as a download?

TB. I spent two and a half weeks on a DJ tour with our manager Alan McGee. We were on a train and we started to talk about our options. We felt unloved by our record company, Sanctuary. We felt unloved by Universal as well (previous label), but yeah, we felt unloved by Sanctuary. They offered us £100 000 to record the album. We just thought, what’s the point? It didn’t really seem like enough money. We had also just been offered a lot of money to open for The Rolling Stones, so we thought why not use that money to record the album, and just go it alone as The Charlatans and Alan McGee, without a record label. As far as releasing it on the internet goes…I was really into how other bands were releasing stuff for free. Like Pete Doherty putting old Libertines demos and live tracks on the net. We wanted as many people as possible to hear our music. We also knew that there was a 60:1 ratio of songs being downloaded illegally, so it seemed like the best thing to do. In the first week there were over one hundred thousand downloads of the album.

CK. 1989 -2008 is a long life for a band. What is the glue that keeps the Charlatans together through the hard times?

TB. Well the hard times seem to last forever, and the good times seem to go by in a flash. I think that the music keeps us inspired. That’s really what keeps us going. Music and culture is our inspiration.

CK. Can you talk a bit about what the band tried to achieve with the latest record “You Cross My Path”?

TB. We wanted to make an album that was well balanced. We wanted it to be a mixture of light and dark, romance and nostalgia. Really, we wanted to make it a definitive Charlatans album.

CK. What records are you listening to at the moment? TB. Mostly I’m into underground bands like Ipso Factor. But as far as bands that you might have heard of… I like The Claxons, The Horrors, Cat Power, and loads of old soul singers.

CK. There is a real push within the New Zealand music industry to get our bands noticed by the rest of the World, especially the UK. Are you aware of any New Zealand bands?

TB. (Slightly uncomfortable pause)… Is Ladyhawk from New Zealand or Australia?

CK. She’s from New Zealand.

TB. Yeah, she is making it big in Britain at the moment.

CK. This will be your first trip to New Zealand. What can your fans here expect from a Charlatans performance?

TB. I’m the singer of the band. Um, everything that we do will come out as big as we can make it. It will feel good. Pretty much we will play the new album, which is about 40 minutes long. We usually play for an hour and a half, but it depends on the night and the crowd. If we are feeling in a good mood we might even do requests (his laughter suggests that he is only joking). Seeing as how we haven’t been to New Zealand before, we will probably play for a bit longer, maybe an hour and three quarters.

CK. What motivates you to keep on playing music?

TB. Just when you think you have done everything with music that you want to do, you hear something else that blows your mind. Then you want to do better. Music is an endless thing. An endless searching and discovering.

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