All the way up to 11
If only they’d split up, Britpop originators The Charlatans could be doing the business with a big comeback. Eleven albums, side projects, solo records, autobiographies . . . We’ve never stopped doing the business, Tim Burgess tells LAUREN MURPHY
IF THERE IS one thing that Tim Burgess is good at, it’s being prepared. He’s at home in London, a Judy Collins record spinning on his turntable and a mug of coffee in his hand, when the phone rings. Despite being pre-arranged by his manager, my call comes as a surprise. “She’s a bit forgetful sometimes,” he sheepishly explains. Nevertheless, the amiable Charlatans frontman is quite happy to shoot the breeze for a while: there is, after all, a lot to discuss.
“Be Prepared” is an adage that has served Burgess well over the past two decades. He has navigated a lengthy career through some strange and interesting turns. Apart from fronting one of Britpop’s biggest bands, he has worked with people such as Joaquin Phoenix on his hip-hop album, formed a short-lived supergroup with Carl Barat and others, and invented a sham cereal for Kellogg’s called “Totes Amazeballs”.
Now 45, Burgess has officially been a member of The Charlatans for more than half his life, although there was a period of time when the singer’s relocation to Los Angeles led many to believe that the end was drawing nearer for the band.
Now he’s back living in London full-time, but that doesn’t mean that his love affair with the US is completely over. His fondness for Americana and artists such as Gram Parsons has been well documented, but his forthcoming solo album Oh No I Love You (due out in September) takes that affection to third base, collaborating with Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner for the follow-up to 2005’s I Believe.
You wouldn’t think there’s any link at all between The Charlatans and Lambchop,” he admits, “but from the very first time I heard Lambchop, I started to incorporate their influence on me into The Charlatans stuff. I think the very first one for me was a song from Us and Us Only called The Blonde Waltz, so I’ve been a fan since we were making that album. I first met Kurt in London around 1999 or 2000, and when I met him again, he was in Manchester doing a solo tour. I went backstage to say hello and he was just on his own in a van, so I carried out some of his equipment with him and we were just chatting away. I said: ‘We should write a song together!’ and he said: ‘Okay – you write the music and I’ll do the words’. We would meet throughout the years and keep talking about it, and I’d mention it again and he’d say ‘Yep, it’s on my to-do list’.”