James Dean Bradfield

I did this interview for an Austrian music magazine I write and as we won't be able to print the whole interview I thought I could as well put it online. It has some nice bits about Life Blood, about writing, recording, guitar influences and the last two questions feature James' opinion of the Welsh football side (they play Austria in the World Cup qualification...).
Off the record he also mentioned Empty Souls as future single.



Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans


I’ve only heard two songs of the album so far: The Love of Richard Nixon and Lost Souls…
JDB: Oh good, the rest is crap anyway (laughs).

Imagine a person in a record store who is holding Life Blood in his hands. How would you describe the record to him?
JDB: Oh, gosh, not an easy question…I would say kind of melancholic, northern European rock.

What songs should he listen to first?
JDB: I’d say Empty Souls, To Repel Ghosts and Solitude Sometimes Is, because they represent the album best.

The album was partly produced in New York…
JDB: Yeah, Emily, Solitude Sometimes Is and Cardiff Afterlife.

How was working with Tony Visconti? What kind of producer is he?
JDB: He kind of dig us out of the hole we got ourselves into. I think we realised the process of making music, that we’d over-thought it, we over-intellectualised the process of what we do in the studio. And he kind of retraced our steps to the simplicity of the best things of what you do. I think he just made it clear that, he said ‘Look, you’ve done this before, you’ve done this before, you’ve communicated to so many people with the song ‘If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next’ and what you’ve to try to is trust your instincts, you got to trust your first idea. If the first idea fails then try the second, but trust your instincts.
And as an engineer he was strange, I haven’t really worked with an engineer that is so…interested in the purity of capturing sounds. We worked with so many young engineers and they put the microphone through a dustbin and then the sound of the dustbin through another microphone and then, you know, the sound of that microphone through a storage cupboard and then you have your drumsound. And they would use twenty microphones to make a drumkit. Whereas he would just use four microphones for a drumkit and he would be so simple, the sound would be up in five minutes. And the purity of his engineering I was really interested in. His philosophy was ‘In my judgement these three songs are realised when they’re perfect, and now what you gonna do is trust your first ideas and not look for perfection or performance but just believe in the perfection of all the parts in the songs that you created and recorded in the most puriest sense possible and don’t overthink everything.
And it was strange because we came back and he retaught us the basics and the principles of what being in this band is about, he taught us those principles so well that we felt as if we could stay and continue with another engineer because he almost restored us, he did that so well.

So it was planned from the beginning to just record three songs with him?
JDB: Yeah, the initial plan was ‘Let’s just go and do four songs’ and just see what happens and when we realised that, like I said, he made us realise so many things, he restored us in such a simple way, but in the right way, so we realised that we really have to go back to a different person to actually carry on with the same things.

Was it an inspiration to be in New York as well? Because in the past you’ve also been quite critical about the US.
JDB: People always think we’re such an anti-American band and yes, if you look at some of our lyrics I think there is some pretty fierce judgement, but it’s a love/hate-relationship, you know, so many of my favourite things have come out of America, some of my favourite musicians, my favourite writing ...whether it be Walt Whitman or Allen Ginsberg, some of my favourite films.
So even if you are a critic of America inevitably it’s a love/hate-relationship and to be honest it was great to be in New York for us, it was great to be in a place where noone knew you and you have a completely different backdrop, it was all about creativity, about nothing else. You know, we weren’t near anyone of our families, we weren’t near our manager, we weren’t near any of our fans and it was almost a pleasure to be there.

What was the studio like, was it like some place of museum, as Tony Visconti obviously worked with a lot of famous people.
JDB: No, it’s not the studio where did the old stuff with Bowie and Marc Bolan, the place he’s working is not a place he is historically connected with, he’s only been working there for the last four years. It was Philip Glass’s studio, so you saw Philip Glass walking round, saw all of Philip Glass’s assistant musicians walking round. It was kind of strange. But it was a very small studio and you had a view of New York – I just loved it, I loved the experience.
The only thing I found really hard was that New York is one of the most anti-smoking cities in the world and I couldn’t find any restaurants or any bars that I could smoke in and it was just a tiny little smoking room in the studio which I was the only person I used, so that was the most awkward thing.

As it’s quite some time since the last studio album: over what period of time have the new songs been written?
JDB: The oldest song on the album is a song called Fragments which was probably written two years ago but the bulk of the album was written the last 14 months.
I think the reason why we took such a long break was…myself and Nick, the band just started as myself and Nick, we started writing songs when we were about 15 and then of course Sean and Richey joined very soon after, and we just felt, I’m 35 now, as we’ve been writing songs for twenty years and we needed to make a break from that. Because I think that’s just a natural point where…you don’t fall out of love with what you’re doing, you don’t lose enthusiasm for it, but your judgement becomes impaired and we just felt as if we needed almost to not write songs for a while and then just feel so badly the need to write, that it’s almost bursting out of us. And that’s what we did really: get to the point that we were frustrated that we weren’t working and then we started again.

Was it difficult then to start writing again?
JDB: No, because – like I said – we almost starved ourselves, so it was not difficult to start again, it was like ‘Thank God’. It was a self-imposed exile from song-writing, just a couple of months, and when we started again it was very very easy. We did the right thing.

Where there any main guitar influences for Life Blood like John Frusciante for Know Yor Enemy?
JDB: Definitely. When we started recording the album I realised that, say a song like Empty Souls which has the piano riff...first of all this was the guitar part, the part was written in my head and I realised that it sounded better on a piano, so I gave lot of the guitar part to the keyboarder. And I just realised that I just didn’t wanna play rhythm guitar. If you listen to our past records I've just be playing a lot of loud chords over the music and it just didn’t feel right for these songs and I just didn’t want to be a guitarist that pops in and out of the songs and I wanted to be a guitarist who is helping the song, that is playing the right things for songs and I kind of went back to John McGeoch, he has been the guitarist in Magazine and he used to be the guitarist with PIL, with John Lydon for a while, and he became one of my main influences because he was a guitarist that didn’t seem to have much ego, he would just play in the right places, he would play what was right for the song rather than saying ‘I wanna play, I wanna people to hear my guitar solo’ and also there was a kind of coldness to his playing I like.

What’s the story behind the cover artwork?
JDB: We like hiding behind the anonimity of an image, I think we like standing behind the music more. Once Richey went missing we became less confident in a visual sense or the visual aspects of ourselves as people and it’s just easier to let a concept or an artist do the talking for you rather than pose for a picture and try and look your best, at our age which is quite difficult (laughs).
We just wanted to make the interconnection between the songs and the lyrics with a visual image I think.

Why did you choose Life Blood as title?
JDB: We chose Life Blood because the lyrics are much more introspective, a lot of the songs are about loss, dealing with tragedy of loss. And a lot of the songs are about how indefinable it is that there is a human spirit that goes on, that death is still so important and the way that we comprehend it and continue after tragedy hits us or death, the way we comprehend it is incomprehensible.
Or a song like Emily, which is a song about Emily Pankhurst, who was one of the Suffragettes, who campaigned for the women’s right to vote. She sacrificed her body and mind for her belief.
And we just wanted to make a connection between the humanity in the lyrics and the visual image and the title.

The last question is for the football expert James Dean Bradfield. Austria is playing Wales in the World Cup qualification [March 26, 2005 in Wales & March 30, 2005 in Austria] – any guess how the match will end?
JDB: Our manager Mark Hughes is gonna manage Blackburn Rovers and he only has two games left for us, and that leaves us in an awkward position. I think when he leaves it’s gonna be hard for our players to believe in themselves, to think that they can actually qualify for the World Cup, because the results so far haven’t been good for us and of course we’re playing England. Austria is quite a good side at the moment and to be honest, it’s gonna be hard for us. It’s a bit of a grim outlook for us...I wish I could be more optimistic.

So will you come over to Austria and watch it? You could link it with a European Tour?
JDB: I went to Italy once for an Euro qualifier but I think we were beaten 5-1 and the last time I went to see Wales abroad was Holland and we lost 6-1, so I have some bad experience.
I think the one good thing about the Austrian team is that you’ve changed your kit…the kit looks much more Austrian I think, so I think you have much more of an identity at the moment.

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looking forward to it. (Laughs). It's difficult to say because the last few months have felt strange, it's felt like going down a plughole. I've got a real sense of vertigo at the moment. So I can't tell you that I'm looking forward to it. I will get through it and find where I land after that. That's what will happen.

Lucy: 'Taxidermy' and 'Drink Me' are quite drastically different in their musical styles, so what kind of sound can we expect from the 3rd album?
KJG: We don't know yet. We're playing a lot of new material tonight so you'll be able to judge that for yourself. When I'm this close up to it, it's really difficult to tell. I'm on a bit of a negative slant today, but usually with our music I can only hear the bits that have gone wrong rather
than anything that went right. When you reflect back on something it's very difficult to give an objective opinion, and I don't believe in objectivity anyway, I think everything's subjective. I just throw a deck of cards and
wherever they land, that's where she finds herself. I'm not really the one to explain my part in it, you must do that as the observer really, and of course that will reflect your part in the grand scheme of things.

Lucy: Do you enjoy playing live more than the creative process in the studio?
KJG: (Laughs) I don't enjoy any of it. It comes and it goes, ok? There's nothing like when you're writing and you manage to catch something by its
tail; when you're looking for those things underground that are skittering out of sight just when you're about to catch them. And when you catch them it is worth it, but it's a momentary pleasure. I've got so much noise upstairs, and I can hear things in my head that to me are absolutely devastatingly beautiful. I'm always trying to download them and get them
here, but they never get here in the right state, they're always very disabled and they don't even begin to imitate what I can hear in my head.
It's a frustrating process in the main.

Lucy: Your lyrics are simultaneously emotionally expressive and cryptic. Are you looking to be understood by your audience?
KJG: I'm always trying to understand myself, but it's like there's a point in the centre of the room, and there's a hundred windows to look at the same point from. All I can do is give you different angles on the same thing. God, you know, if I could find one conclusive thing in anything I would probably have something to put an anchor down on. But I cant, and I haven't met anyone that can. You can pick out anything you like in my lyrics, I don't seek to be cryptic. I love words for the sake of words, for me they're kind of free standing, and they don't really need to be explained. I think every word has its own character and colour and picture and the result you get with lyrics just depends how you put them together. You could just do it in a William Burroughs esque way, or throw the deck of cards, and you'd probably still find something that our tiny little minds would latch on to in order to gain some kind of emotional understanding. I don't think there's a constant, the only constant that there is for me is that there is no constant. I use myself as my canvas, I gut myself and fillet myself the whole fucking time, I'm always hooking myself out of the water, I'm always cutting my own head off and disembowelling myself, and as you can probably tell I'm quite angry about it at the moment. I'm very tired of it all, of my
process and how I find life, because it always seems to be about living and dying all in one breath. I'm getting pretty fucking tired of that.

Lucy: Do you think drugs stimulate or hinder creativity?
KJG: Well that depends on the drug, because I think most things arrive in the form of a drug really. I know in myself that if anything I am, much to my greater expense, an adrenalin junkie. My synapses don't work well enough to put pills in my mouth, I can't do that, despite popular opinion. I don't need any help breaking down, put it that way. There's not much holding it
together. If there was a drug that could put aline between two polar opposites and make them in to one thing I'm sure I would have it
intravenous, but I haven't found it. I think drugscan be a bit of a lazy way for creativity anyway, you're better off in the cold light of day in the mirror.

Lucy: As a band, you are distinguished by the extreme physicality of your live performances. Do you consciously make an effort to put on a show or do your performances just naturally come to you, and whatever happens, happens?
KJG: It's a bit of both, because you see, I think taking the stage is one of the most unnatural things anyone can do. In a way, just walking on stage actually creates an altered state - its not right, no one's meant to do that, unless you're a priest or a magician, or something like that. To put somebody who's very incapable in many ways in to that position creates a combustion reaction inside me. I know that, and I take the stage knowing that. Obviously there's all the usual things that affect my performance; if I'm on my 45th day of a tour I'm probably gonna be pretty fucking tired, so I'll be dictated by that. If I'm doing new material like tonight I don't
know what's going to happen, because we haven't built the train tracks yet. The beauty of playing live is when my drummer goes in to 5th gear or in to 10th gear, and for some reason there's something that hits me in the base of the spine and I'm gone, and that's Halleluiah for me. During the last few months a lot of strange things have been happening onstage, I think the process is changing. I don't know what's going to happen tonight, I've been having quite a tough time on stage, I feel like something's pulling me under, as if something's got me.

Lucy: So does the crowd influence your performances on stage?
KJG: Yes they do. I'm unkind enough to be pretty impersonal about how I do it, so I use them for me to kick against in effect, or to surf on, (I don't
mean physically surf). If you're in an empty roomand there's a couple of people at the back, it doesn't necessarily mean you'll have a bad show -
they might get the show of their lives. And then again when something's really heaving and going off, I get quite a distorted view of it, because I
can feel quite overwhelmed lose my sense of place in the situation. I lose control of myself. I don't know, I probably wasn't meant to do this, I
wasn't built for this. It wasn't a career option, I didn't start there and go there, I didn't pick up the things on the way. I've sort of gone round
and round.

Lucy: As the lead singer of the band, most media interest is focused on you. Do you feel pressurised by your position or do you enjoy being the centre of attention?
KJG: I've been here on this wheel long enough,(and I say this with a little bit of trepidation because I think you have to be really careful with this kind of thing, because the motivation to do it in itself I think is usually pretty corrupt) I'm not doing it for anyone else, I need a cheque through the door like anybody else does, you have to keep eating, you have to keep living. I'm looking for some sense of going home on my own terms, and people's critique of me is not relevant, whether it's positive of negative.
I do need a cheque through the door though, otherwise I'll have to go and be a butcher or something.

Lucy: What is the religious meaning behind the song "For I am the way"?
KJG: If you use the word religion in its truest sense, all it means is communion, it hasn't got any of the attachments to any written word. My
understanding of the word communion is loss of the sense. Another way of looking at it is you've got to get in to get out, and the only thing that I
know to be true is me, is this tiny little dot in the centre of the universe. It's the only thing that I know feels pain; I can see other people's pain and I can feel it in an emotional way, but not in a physical way. I find myself in the unfortunate position of feeling like I am the
centre of the universe and that everything is a projection, made by me - i.e. you two don't exist, you're something that I created. I don't wish that
sense upon anybody because it's not a good one. Through 'For I am the way' I'm saying that you've got to get in, because the only thing one knows to be true is oneself. And on a good day, if you stand on top of a mountain or go to the desert or stand in the ocean, and become completely inconsequential, linear time stops and you become everything and nothing. That for me is
communion, that's how I define religion. I thinkthere's a line in there which goes "Today the only bridge I have I burn" which sums it up really, because it is about cutting all lines of communication in order to really truly commune.

Lucy: Do you think that in the future your creativity will move from the sphere of music in to literature for example?
KJG: It's real hard to say. In a way, that sounds like a much easier life. But for all I know I'm deluding myself. I'm looking for someone to help me frame something at the moment, and someone is actually, someone's being really good to me. I would love to write, but I don't know if I'm good
enough to do it.