Blog: La Petite Mort

Tim on La Petite Mort

24th February 2014 | Tim

Lyrically most of these songs are infused with death. The death of my Mother and a friend who I adored. My Mother passed at 90 in my arms and it was so clearly a birth of some sort, that it left me in a state of rapture for quite some time; that may have some bearing on why this work is uplifting not mournful. Being present at a birth, for an infants first breath, and at death, for a parents last one, seemed to me to be the same thing. I thought, my God, if this is dying that’s great, Ive got that sussed.

Six months later one of the people who I loved the most in the world passed. She was 70 years young and had kept the remission of her cancer from me and other friends. She had introduced me and my wife to each other eighteen years ago and married us ten years later. Since then we kept trying to meet up, but there was no rush, we had all the time in the world.

We worked out she was dying from information which came to us in our dreams and we flew to New York to say goodbye. On arrival at the airport we received word it was too late to see her.

This inability to say goodbye, to tell her I loved her, has haunted me ever since. It turns out I haven’t got this death thing sussed after all.

Life lifts up her skirt and gives us a flash of her mysteries, it is a shocking and uplifting moment. This record is my attempt to make some sense of it.

Jim on La Petite Mort

13th March 2014 | Jim

Photo © Ralph Dunning of Dunning Designs Creative. Jim interviewed by The Mouth Magazine.

Tim & director Ainslie Henderson on the making of the video for ‘Moving On’

6th May 2014 | Tim

Ainslie begins: “My connection with James is a long and evolving one. The first time I heard their music was sitting at a friend’s house, aged 18, stoned and confused. ‘Sometimes’ was playing, I remember feeling something that until then I didn’t know pop music could make you feel. I thought crying was only for when you feel loss or sadness. Pop music, but woven with something sincere and yearning, passionate and beautiful. It was 1997, Britpop was happening and I’d just started my first band, I was falling in love with music and trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted my life to be. I was emboldened by the Gallagher swagger, excited and inspired by Blur and Pulp, but James’s music spoke to me like no other band of that era. James didn’t seem to really belong to that era, they orbited it, danced around it, but they were their own branch, growing off in their own direction. It’s telling for me that as Britpop died away and my love for those bands faded into nostalgia, I remain as curious for the next James record as I ever was.

“It is 2003, and I find myself with Saul and Mark, the guitarist and keyboards player from the band. We are recording an album in a makeshift studio in the dusty loft of a French Châteaux. A turn on a music reality show named Fame Academy and subsequent recording contract with the same label the band were signed to lead to an introduction. Fate delivered to me a long, wonderful summer with them, recording pop songs, eating cheese, drinking red wine and flirting with the French girls of the local village. Je suis un poisson, je n’ai pas d’eau..

“It is 2014, I’m on the phone to Tim and he is describing how they came to write this song, and what the words mean to him. The story he tells me is deeply moving; one thing that stayed with me is his describing death as a birth. Some days later this conversation echoes around my mind while I’m listening to ‘moving on’ I walk past a typical Scottish woollen knitwear shop. My eyes flit over a ball of wool in the window while the word ‘unwinding’ is sung. Pretty quickly I’m leaving a garbled, over excited message on Tim’s phone about the music video I have in my head.

“It’s now the day after I finished the film and I’m exhausted, bleary eyed and looking forward to joining in with the spring that I hear is happening outside. I’m so grateful Michael Hughes, the other animator who I gave all the difficult shots to. Thank you for your skill and patience in tolerating my terrible perfectionism. Most importantly, I feel delighted with what we’ve achieved, I think we’ve made something kind of special. I feel so honoured to have been able to contribute something, in my own small way to this magical thing that is James.” ~ Ainslie Henderson

Tim: I’ve known Ainslie for years after channel hopping took me to an episode of ‘Fame Academy’. I watched in shock as he worked with Mark and Saul in the Fame Academy mansion. I hate those shows but this boy had something. Luckily for him, what he had was untameable, he wilfully didn’t fit the mould, was too original and spontaneous; he didn’t win.

Over the years we met and then I became aware of his animation work through Saul, who suggested we work with him. Ainslie’s animation is wonderful, heartfelt, truthful, innocent, and reveals a true storyteller. As a band we were determined to work with him even if it meant dipping into our own pockets. Animation takes weeks and is painstaking work, for the animator, compared to that of most videos.

I remember standing in a back garden in Highbury, mobile burning my ear, as I told him in detail of my Mother’s death and that of my friend Gabrielle – the twin inspirations for Moving On.

My Mother’s death was clearly a birth of some kind and that description caught Ainslie’s imagination.

Two days later, with perfect timing, his video script came through on my email, as I was having a meeting with our manager Peter, trying to persuade him that we should pay the extra needed to work with Ainslie.

I tried reading it to Peter but couldn’t complete it due to tears. Peter read it and welled up.

That Ainslie found such a perfect medium to fit our song blows us away. He delivered on the promise of his script and then some. This is the first video we have made that we consider to be a work of art. God bless your perfectionism Ainslie and thank you and Michael for working with such care, artistry and heart.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is with great pleasure we give you our ‘Moving On’ video – if you love it pass it on.

On 2014: It’s been a year of highlights.

17th December 2014 | Tim

It’s been a year of highlights.

I’m loving how we are communicating as a band and working through some particularly intense situations that might once have caused friction and fire.

A particular highlight for me is that I have been able to have some small influence upon the videos we’ve been making. Universal Records in the 90s never let us near the video scripts and we were seldom happy with the results.

A big thanks there to Faye Purcell, Terry Felgate at BMG, Cooking Vinyl and everyone else who allowed us to put quality ahead of deadlines.

If you hadn’t noticed, our element is playing live. We love the shows where even we don’t know what’s going to happen next.

The New York gig in October was coincidentally on the second anniversary of my friend Gabrielle’s death, to the day and hour. She lived less than a mile from the venue and I got to sing the song lyrics inspired by her, to her husband Robert, who wept and danced in the balcony. Regina Spektor and her husband Jack were there for the show. Regina’s a musical heroine of mine.

The Manchester and Athens gigs were also very, very, special.

On 2014: Shot through with moments of great positivity.

20th December 2014 | Saul

The year has been shot through with moments of great positivity and there don’t seem to have been any disasters….yet. One major moment this year was standing onstage at Castlefield in Manchester as the sun went down….a sea of faces upturned in front of us with a real buzz in the air. I started the chords of Interrogation and the hair on my neck went up…and a thought came to me.

I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else on Earth, with anybody else other than the amazing people I had around me on the stage and I wanted the moment to last forever. I was reminded of the moment up at Jim’s place in the Highlands when Interrogation first appeared as a fragile and tentative jam. Even then it had power to move me….and here I was over a year later sharing that experience of intimacy in this massive place with all these strangers.

What a remarkable process – what magic is weaved.

Over and out…Saul Sentimental Davies

On 2014: Thank you Greece – we love you.

21st December 2014 | Andy

After the high of playing to a big home crowd in Castlefield, it was hard to know where to go. But that would be to underestimate the amazing fanbase we have in Greece.

Just a few days later we played at the Theatro Vrachon in Athens. The stage was set against a big rock with a beautiful open air amphitheater. The threat of rain, which may have meant a last minute change to an indoor venue just made us appreciate the sunshine and the amazing venue when we came to soundcheck.

The evening was beautiful. The crowd amazing. Tim climbed into the crowd during Getting Away With It and they passed him over their heads towards the back of the arena. Then there was a stage invasion on “Laid” and Tim crowd-surfed again – all the way to the sound desk at the back then returned to the stage.

The crowd’s mixture of exuberance and support was incredible. Tim’s crowd surfing formed the inspiration for the video made in Portugal a few days later for “Curse Curse”.

Thank you Greece – we love you.

On 2014: You can’t book private jets on Uber!

23rd December 2014 | Mark

A run of three truly memorable shows in Greece, Spain and Portugal left me looking forward to getting home to play to a home crowd at Latitude. Shortly before the flight was due to depart we were told it may be delayed for seven hours …and then we got the bad news. Larry’s vegetarian meal was stuck in Luton! …And we were going to miss our slot at Latitude.

Our management went into overdrive looking at our options; different flights, different airports, helicopters, charter jets, even buying him a sandwich in the airport, but even the ridiculous options wouldn’t get us there in time (you can’t book private jets on Uber!). But within an hour or so the airline found a plane and our seven hour delay became about three, though still too late to get us, our crew and our equipment there on time.

Rather than pull out of the festival we chased every possibility, and were offered the only available slot, Sunday at midday in the big top. Better than nothing, especially for those fans who’d bought weekend tickets just to see us, but we wondered what our audience would consist of. A little sparse maybe, hung-over wet campers and dogs on string?

Our bus finally drove onto site as the sun was setting on a beautiful evening. We caught a few bands before the storms and settled into our bunks for our early show the next day.

We needn’t have worried. The tent was rammed with beaming faces. The atmosphere was fantastic …the strange hour and the unusual setting for us (a dark tent at a festival) made for one of the most bizarrely engaging shows for a long time …and we were finished in time for lunch! It’s often the case that when we’re thrown a curve ball we respond with a special gig, and this funny hour on stage was just that.

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