The guitarist who wrote the UK’s first punk rock single isn’t showing any signs of stopping. “Nah. Why? There’s always songs buzzing round your head. You just wanna get them out and then more songs come along. It’s like breathing.”
Back in 1976, Brian James got together with drummer Rat Scabies to form The Damned with Captain Sensible and Dave Vanian. Later came a variety of projects, including a world tour with Iggy Pop and the creation of supergroup The Lords of the New Church as well as recording with Stuart Copeland and Clem Burke.
I asked whether all this change had been a deliberate choice. “It just works out that way. Like with the punk thing, each band had their own style. But when anything starts becoming popular, business starts taking it over. You have other bands coming along, just copying the first bands. Once the clothes become a uniform, I wanna do something different.”
“I can’t be stuck with the same four people because there comes a time when you’ve used things up. I’m not opposed to having a regular line-up but I’ll always drift off to play with players who I think are going to inspire me.”
Brian’s current band is simply called The Brian James Gang. Does this mean he’s now the boss?
“I write the songs. I call the shots. I take the blame. I’ve got to the age now where I’m not willing to give into other people’s demands too much. For instance, I’m recording an album at the moment and there are three drummers on it. I like to use the right musician for the job, really.”
A few years ago Brian moved to the south coast, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of former bandmate and Brighton resident Captain Sensible. Is he a fan of any local bands?
“There are some interesting players about. There’s no particular bands I’d say ‘That band is fantastic’ except for the Prinzhorn Dance School, who are playing with us in Lewes. I found myself being a kind-of mentor to singer Tobin Prinz. He met Suzi Horn and they’ve gone from strength to strength. You can’t really describe any music — it’s in the ear of the beholder — but they’re something different. That’s the reason they’re playing with us.”
So what should we expect in Lewes?
“A bit of fun, a bit of rock ‘n’ roll. I’m going to do a few acoustic numbers with pianist Mark Taylor. After that, the Prinzhorn Dance School are going to come on and play some songs. Then I’m going to come on with The Brian James Gang and make one hell of a row.”
Definitely no sign of stopping.
The Brian James Gang and Prinzhorn Dance School play Lewes Con Club at 8pm on November 22, 2013. Promoted by Lewes Musical Express.
First published in Viva Lewes magazine issue 86 November 2013.