An Interview With Tim Burgess

This week sees the arrival at St Paul’s Worthing of a musical chameleon and one of the leading forces in the 1980’s acid house movement. Tim Burgess was not only the frontman of acid house/psych masters the Charlatans but has worked with musicians as varied as Johnny Marr, Paul Weller, the Chemical Brothers, Peter Hook and Martin Duffy. His career has spanned over 30 years and this week he brings his band the Anytime Minutes to Worthing’s leading music venue as part of his national 2019 tour. I caught up with Tim in rehearsal for the tour to discuss influences, his many collaborations and his latest band.

We find out about why it took ten years for his latest album to come out, his latest projects musical and otherwise, and what exactly Tim Peaks is, as well who he enjoyed most live and much more.

Get along to St Pauls this Friday, a few tickets still remain. Having seen some of the rehearsals I can promise you a superb night that will set both your heart and your ears ringing.

Thanks for talking to me Tim, I know you must be busy with rehearsals, how are preparations for the tour coming along and have you settled on a set list yet, if so what can we expect at St Paul’s?

Preparations are going really well. We’re rehearsing over the next couple of days in London and we’re all really excited.

The support band go by the name of Average Sex and after they play they go through a process to become The Anytime Minutes, my backing band.

Expect some old favourites, some new beauties, maybe a cover – maybe something from another band I’m in. Expect top level hospitality from us and you will not be disappointed

Do you know much about Worthing or the St Paul’s?

I know a bit about Worthing. We played The Pavilion a few years ago and we loved spending time there. The NME came down for an interview so we spent some time on the pier and the beach. Before the gig I did a book reading and interview at the Connaught Studio so we had a bit of a wander round the town. It was like a mini holiday – I’m looking forward to coming back

As an artist you seem to embrace collaboration, what do you think working with others brings out in you and your process.

It’s kind of like the creative version of a problem shared is a problem halved. A project shared is a project doubled. You get to see someone else’s working process and that can be fascinating – I learnt so much from The Chemical Brothers when I worked with them. I was a long time fan of Lambchop, so to work with Kurt Wagner was something really special.

“As I was Now”, the album that came out last year was possibly my most collaborative outing ever – with Ladyhawke, Debbie from My Bloody Valentine and Josh from The Horrors and Martin Duffy from Primal Scream. It became a whole different animal that the record I would have made just doing it on my own.

Studios are great places to just spend time – having a coffee or talking about the world with Martin Duffy is something that everybody should be able to do. He lifts your spirits and makes everything seem better

There was a huge gap between recording and issuing “As I was now”, 10 years I believe, any particular reason?

I thought it was already out – I was a bit put out that nobody ever said they liked it. Then I realised it was never released. I used to listen to it on my iPod all the time. Now everybody can listen on their iPod, not mine. People don’t have iPods now do they? I sometimes tweet a picture of mine and it’s like people are looking at a relic from a museum. Lots of nostalgic tweets of memories from way back in 2003

Did the album change much over that period? And what is your personal favourite track on the album

At this very moment I’m going to say Nik V as my favourite track – the album didn’t change at all from the first recording. Apart from Nik V got a new name as I didn’t know the real Nik V in 2008, but it was kind of a premonition. What you hear is actually what we finished after 10 days, just over 10 years ago

I love the album and it seems quite diverse with elements of Psych, Kraut rock and I am sure I hear elements of New Order/Electronic in there, was that conscious or as a result of the collaborations on the album, did you have a blueprint before you started or was it more organic

Nothing is really too conscious but my brain is full of those things. No room left for shopping lists. People tend to take the music they love and remix and re-imagine it in their brains, then it takes a few laps round the block and after a bit of time to germinate, a new song arrives.

Are you working on anything new at the moment?

I always have notes and ideas. Nothing set in stone though, but I don’t really stop thinking about music and where to go next

What’s your song writing process, lyrics first? Pattern? Riff? Do you keep an ideas book?

All of the above; with The Charlatans, I often write with Mark while Tony and Martin write together – sometimes it’s all of us

I have a list of phrases, words and ideas for lyrics that I keep in notebooks and voice memos on my phone with ideas for melodies. I used to carry a dictaphone and even phone my answerphone at home with song ideas.

There is no set pattern to it. I’m just writing a book about lyric writing and it the thing that struck me was that it was quite a chaotic process with lots of tangled leads that somehow make the songwriting machine work

There is a great love for the Charlatans, looking back was it a help or a hindrance being wrapped up in that whole “baggy” thing?

We’ve always just been ourselves but by chance we ended up with the baggy thing when we started, some people counted us as Britpop when that came around. Scenes can be a blessing and a curse, but most bands just get on with it. I think in the past it has been more important to fit things into genres but now, things are much more fluid.

The charlatans had “the attitude” and tons of swagger but there seemed to be a bit of a knowing wink and a direct connection with the audience, was that something you where aware of at the time?

The connection with the audience has always been a big thing for us. The swagger and attitude was a bit of a show – I’m quite shy and I saw how rock stars came across so I thought I should be a bit like that. Over time I’ve become myself a bit more. I think our audience got that we weren’t quite as confident as we sometimes made out.

How did it feel touring with the Charlatans last year, did it just fall in to place?  Any stories you can share about that or any other Charlatans tour?

Charlatans tours are not as crazy as they might have been in the past but they are just as enjoyable – my stories are quite tame these days. Most of the crazy stuff went into   biography, “Telling Stories”, since then it’s more about trips out to get coffee or a vinyl haul from a record shop. The ways of the past lead to better stories but they were unsustainable

You have worked with a number of amazing musicians, who really blew you away and why?

I loved working with R. Stevie Moore – he’s not as well known as he should be and he’s a true genius

Who is the best live band you have ever seen and why?

New order – I’ve loved them from being a kid. They tick all the boxes

Tell us a little bit about your current backing band The Anytime Minutes/Average Sex, how did they get on your radar?

I was on tour and I’ve worked with Finn, their drummer for a few years – he used to be in a band called Hatcham Social. He mentioned that he was in a new band and asked if I would like to hear a song. He played me a song they had just recorded and it stopped me in my tracks. I knew I wanted to work with them – it started with me producing some songs and putting them out on O Genesis. Then they became my backing band

For those who don’t know, tell us about Tim Peaks and how that all came about?

Tim Peaks is a coffee shop and stage that we take round to music venues – we get lots of brilliant bands and huge bands playing secret sets.

The first year myself, Edwin Collins and Roddy Frame played together. Since then The Libertines, The Coral, Sleaford Mods, Suzanne Vega, Blossoms and a list of bands as long as your arm have played.

A couple of years ago Nick and Pete from The Verve played together for the first time in a decade and made a bit of a super-group with Martin from The Charlatans and Denise from Primal Scream. It’s also a great place to find your favourite new band. And the coffee is amazing.

If you had to recommend an album, a book and a film to a nephew or niece to set them off on the right track what would they be? 

Power Corruption and Lies – album

In The Land of White Death by Valerian Albanov – book

Brazil – film

Do you think the fact that you grew up in the North/West influenced your musical career?

It definitely did – I think wherever you grow up will play quite a part in where you head musically. The fact that new order were from Macclesfield and Salford was an inspiration. If you grew up listening to Elvis, you might think that having a career in music was out of reach but Johnny Marr was from a similar place and background – it made me think that anything was possible. Manchester has so many music venues, so does Liverpool – I spent my teenage years halfway between each city and music seemed to be all around us

You practice Transcendental Meditation, how did you get into that and do you have any tips? As I struggle to meditate, my brain keeps interrupting.

It was something I was taught. It’s definitely best to learn from someone. Like picking up a guitar, on your own it would be almost impossible to figure it out – but if someone who has experience, offers to show you, you will learn quickly. It comes from a conversation and the idea of seeing it through.

We always like to close with a few quick fire questions so…

Marr or Morrissey? – Marr

Anthony Burgess or William Burroughs? – Burroughs

Deer Hunter or Apocalypse Now? – Apocalypse Now

Bunnymen or Teardrop explodes? – Bunnymen

Vinyl or download? – Vinyl

Tea or Coffee? – Coffee

Joy Division or New Order? – New Order

Studio or Live? – Live

All time favourite Song? – Always changing. Right now going to say Age of Consent by New Order

All time Favourite Film? – Once Upon A Time In America

Cheers Tim, I am sure the tour is gong to be a great one, looking forward to seeing you in Worthing. Before I go do you have any advice for a budding young musician just starting out?

Never give up

You can see Tim Burgess and the Anytime Minutes at St Pauls Worthing on Friday February 1st expect a career spanning set, from Tim and his superb band.

Watch out for more great live music at St Pauls Worthing and check out my blog Womu, a Worthing music blog at worthingmusic.wordpress.com

Rob Kelly

Leave a Reply

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *