Thursday, 17 April 2008

Jamie Lidell - The Jamie Effect

Feature for The Skinny

You may have noticed a new buzzword creeping into the music press recently, though it describes a style that's been around for half a century. At the moment it seems like anyone with a wobbly croon or a horn section is being tagged a "soul" star as PR-pushers swarm to cash in on 'the Amy effect'. Back to Black has sold almost 2.5million copies in the UK, a figure usually reserved for tepid water-treaders like Dido and the Blunt. First to fly in Ms Winehouse's slipstream have been Adele and Duffy, who've both received massive industry pushes with full confidence of success - and indeed, both have obliged with huge sales. But what we're really seeing here, perhaps, is the aftershock of one of 2005's best records, released on famed electronica label Warp: Jamie Lidell's Multiply. "I kinda predicted all this back in 2005 didn't I? I want some of those Grammys Amy!" Jamie quips from his home in Berlin after giving his thoughts on Britsoul's most visible star: "I like Amy, she's got something about her. Unfortunately the celebrity thing has taken over, it just seems like too much too soon. She's got a crazy personality that comes through in her music, but you have to worry for her life now."

OK, so its unlikely that any Warp-released record could have such an effect on the Grammy-giving, multi-platinum buying mainstream market, but the critical love and small-scale commercial success of Multiply has now led to Jim, Jamie Lidell's third solo album and one that could easily spawn some summertime radio hits. Lidell agrees there's a wee chance: "It is radio-friendly, but I've got realistic expectations about how it might do. Warp are always going to be underdogs there [the charts]. A lot of this current soul thing is that they're all ladies so perhaps there's a window there for me." He continues, "It's just 10 songs that I wrote and that I like. I've kept it more bracketed as a bunch of songs, kept it all together, it's more about old-fashioned songwriting. I think it's very focussed, it's short and fat-free but vitamin-enriched! I think I've followed through with what was started on Multiply."

To rewind a bit, its worth noting that Lidell wasn't always a soul man - or at least, not to the outside world. Initially he was one-half of IDM duo Super_Collider, before similar early demos of his own caught illustrious attention. "Muddlin' Gear came about because Squarepusher heard it and thought I should put it out on Warp", he says of his solo debut. "I've always been into soul, but you have to choose what you release. Electronic music can easily be released on a white label. Even while I was making Muddlin' Gear I was still in bands and always singing, but I didn't particularly have an outlet for it. Handing in Multiply was a bit of a shocker for Warp, they weren't sure about it, but once the money started rolling in they were much happier!". As he describes it, he's always had love for rhythm-based music whether it's descended from James Brown's funky drummers or Kraftwerk's electronic beats: "I was a soul man with Super_Collider but it was Sex Machine meets Man Machine, and now it's just Sex Machine! If there's time to go back to that previous stuff then yeah, I'd like to."

In addition to Jim's late-April release, Lidell will also be arriving in Scotland for two live dates as part of the final ever Triptych Festival. His live reputation is quite something, but for this round of touring he's decided to try something new. "For the last 6 years I've been playing solo, building up my songs on my own, being spontaneous, improvising it all. I actually programmed my own software to allow me to do it, to construct and undo and rework the music live, it's really electronic and fresh, beatboxing, and mixing together the Sex Machine and Man Machine elements. But I can't face all that now! It became a comfort zone for me and that's not a good place to be. So now I've got a 4-piece band, including a guy who plays two saxophones at once. So it's gonna be fun, more of what I did before but integrated into the live band set-up."

Finally, why such a modest album title as Jim? "I'm shy of adding big statements to things, and it's also partly a piss-take on how everything gets over-analysed these days. I am just a normal person, and I just think album titles can be pretentious. Jim - it's a part of me isn't it? I'm the real Jim Shady!".

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