Evening Times APRIL 9, 2013 - by Jonathan Geddes


When dubstep sensation James Blake was feeling the pressure of making his second album, he needed someone to talk to.

And he found an unlikely figure happy to listen over a cup of tea - legendary producer Brian Eno.

The duo have even teamed up for a track on the record, but more important for James was the confidence boost he got from talking to the man behind classic records by Talking Heads, Roxy Music and U2.

"I was very much needing support when I was making this record," says James, ahead of a gig at the Arches on Thursday.

"I needed to talk to somebody about it, and I wanted someone who had seen a lot of albums come by, and Brian was one of those people.

"I got in touch with him; it just happened that he knew my music and agreed to meet up and talk about it.

"We had some tea, got on well and listened to music. It was therapeutic."

The chat helped set James's mind at ease about Overgrown, which is the follow-up to his 2011 debut album, titled James Blake, which was nominated for the Mercury Music Prize.

If the original was soulful but minimalist, offering thoughtful, tender piano-heavy songs mixed with dubstep drops, then Overgrown is a more striking and warmer record.

That's a reflection of James feeling more confident in himself, and happier with his lot in life.

"It's more of a positive look and a less inward record," he explains.

"Things have got a lot better for me, I've had a lot more fun and what I've been doing in life has been more fun. I've had a really good time over the past couple of years.

"Also, the lifestyle leads you to write different music, and you can only write about what's in front of you."

That upbeat nature means that the twenty-four-year-old Londoner has coped well with suddenly being a name in demand, as well as with the extra pressure that goes with following up a successful debut record.

He believes that attitude is partly down to still being surrounded by the same people as in his younger, less famous days.

"If you can focus on the job at hand then it's alright," he adds.

"It's nice to have the attention and know that people like my music, and although there are bad forms of that attention I can try to avoid that.

"I've still got the same mates as when I started, I'm still playing shows with the two friends that I did when I started, the monitor guy is someone I've known since I was six years old and that all helps."

However, while he might seem a mild-mannered individual, there are some subjects that raise his ire.

James still regularly DJs in clubs, but he is unimpressed by the celebrity DJ culture that has sprung up in recent years, and believes it results in taking the easy option every time.

"DJing has changed for the worse," he argues.

"There's a lot of great talent out there, people who can really practise the art. But all of those people are just straight DJs and not producers. There's been a shift towards taking the easy way out.

"Generally I just want to be in the corner in a booth not having that much attention or being hero-worshipped for playing records, that's a bit stupid."

Yet Glasgow's own legendary Sub Club on Jamaica Street brings back fond memories for the singer, who's appeared there many times, and James recalls one highlight when he and other punters ended up on the street outside the famous venue.

"The Sub Club is somewhere where it's good for hearing some really good music," he enthuses.

"I remember being there one time and the fire alarm went off, and the Glasgow spirit meant that everybody stayed in the venue and thought it was part of the music.

"When we did eventually evacuate with the fire alarm ringing, everyone just stayed outside chatting and the party went outside. It was a cool moment. I met people outside and there was just a nice vibe."