INTERVIEWS, REVIEWS & RELATED ARTICLES
"Craft is what enables you to be successful
when you're not inspired." - Brian Eno
Uncut APRIL 2015 - by John Lewis
JAMES: LAID/WAH WAH DELUXE EDITION
James' first outings with Eno, reunited as a double-album
After spending most of 1992 touring - including a headline show at Glastonbury and an unplugged US tour opening for Neil Young - Tim Booth and co had a backlog of around three-hundred-and-fifty songs by the time they entered Peter Gabriel's Real World studios in February 1993. With Brian Eno as producer, they ended up with what was initially intended as a double album - one "song-based" disc (Laid) and a looser, more improvisational companion (eventually held over for release until late 1994 as Wah Wah). Eno's presence is more subtle on Laid, where you can hear him assisting an Edge-like "hands-free guitar" line on the slow-burning opener Out To Get You, or a stadium-rock expansiveness to their folk whimsy on Sometimes, but Booth's wry lyrics ("I'm a member of an ape-like race / At the asshole end of the Twentieth Century") still have room to breathe. Eno is much more evident on Wah Wah. Indeed, many tracks resemble U2's Zooropa, recorded a few weeks later but released earlier. You can almost hear the Oblique Strategy cards being deployed on the glitchy Jam J ("Honour thy error as a hidden intention") and on the metallic pulse of Honest Joe, while the howls of Arabic Agony are rich with Eno's "direct-inject antijazz ray gun".
REVELATIONS: "WOBBLE!" JAMES' JIM GLENNIE ON WORKING WITH BRIAN ENO
James were collectively shocked when Brian Eno rang them in response to a 1992 demo tape, and was keen to produce them. Until then, James sessions had been tormented rituals. "We needed Eno's playful approach," says bassist Jim Glennie. "While we rehearsed he'd hold up a card for a single bandmember: 'STOP', 'WOBBLE', 'CHANGE KEY', 'TURN UP'. It completely changed how you worked." The relationship between Laid and Wah Wah, says Glennie, was similar to that between U2's Achtung Baby and Zooropa - the second being a by-product of the first. "Our songwriting process was to laboriously whittle down our jam sessions. Brian, however, loved our jamming. With Wah Wah he'd record our jams, join in, and then get engineer Markus Dravs to experiment with the tapes. It was his way of taking our mind off the 'big songs'. He would say: "Always aim to do two albums and you'll end up with at least one!"