“So Jamie, you gloriously return to Belfast and Dublin this weekend following two big shows with Biffy Clyro – how are you feeling about this coming weekend? How were those shows last year?”
The shows with Biffy really paved the way for coming back. I hadn’t been over for more than a decade at that point and I’d forgotten how great it is. I enjoyed the challenge of playing to audiences who didn’t have a clue who I was – Biffy’s audience and mine rarely cross over these days, whereas before they were all the same people! They seemed to enjoy it and were very respectful and I’m very much hoping a few folks who hadn’t heard me before will be coming this weekend. That said, there were a few people there who were very glad to see me, who kept saying how long they’d been waiting for me to come back, so that was great too
“Did you ever make it to Ireland with Reuben? If so, do you remember where you played?”
Yeah, we came over a couple of times, towards the end. We played the Voodoo Lounge I think, and somewhere in Galway where we met the self-proclaimed ‘King Of Galway’, whom I suspect was merely a very drunk old man. They were not glamorous shows. I think my favourite one we did was an acoustic instore in a record shop, there’s some footage of it on youtube. Great vibe.
“This leg of the tour is in support of your new album, Shuffle. The singles are sounding fierce thus far! When is the album going to be released, and can you tell us more about the concepts and themes behind it? In your words, it’s “super intricate mate”.
Thanks for the kind words – the album is released on the 5th of July and it’s sort of a culmination of things that I’ve wanted to do since I was very young. I’m always talking about doing a covers record because I love covers records and someone usually talks me out of it until this time, when everyone failed! I just wanted to strike a balance between the sort of lazy sound-a-likes that Weezer burp out and the crazy technical deconstructions that Biffy and Arcane Roots are famous for and have it sit somewhere in the middle. I think most people think of covers records as a sort of lazy joke, something to do when you’ve run out of your own songs but this couldn’t be further from that – I’ve got plenty of new songs and I put them on hold because I love this material so much!
“We’ve been jamming ‘Killer’ in the office multiple times a day. A very interesting choice of song – what inspired you to take that move? Who did you look to sonically to get it the way you wanted? We are hearing subtle hints of Reznor thrown into the mix”
Killer was quite a late addition to the list of tunes we were going to do…I’d always had this vague idea that it would sound a lot more menacing if you played it at half-time – not slower exactly, just the drums – and that central riff is basically a guitar riff, the kind of thing that Helmet or Silverchair might play, so that excited me. We jammed it out in rehearsal a couple of times and it didn’t work until I realised the trick was for the guitar to play straight through and give the famous rhythm to the drums, and then it all flowed. I’m glad you can finally hear the Reznor influences, I’ve been chucking them in my whole career! That’s down to Space, he’s a big NIN fan so he gets all my references. We don’t say to ourselves ‘let’s do that particular song’ or whatever, but we might say ‘let’s try and get a synth sound like xyz’ or ‘something like the weird noise in abc’ etc. And we understand each other instantly.
“Was the writing and recording process much different for Shuffle to that of Devolver?”
Well yes, in that I didn’t write anything! Well actually that’s not true, I had to write all the instrument parts, exactly the same as I would for any of my other albums, and in some cases I basically wrote whole new songs for the original top-line to go over. So I spent years pondering all these details, as with my originals records, and then when it came to record we did it roughly the same as Devolver cos I was with the same producer and drummer. There was some talk at one point of doing each song in sequence, so drums-bass-guitars-vocals-mix all in one go, then move on to the next, but for various reasons we abandoned that and did all the drums, then all the guitars etc as normal. We had a lot of guest players on this one so we would jump in and out of various tracks depending on when who and what was available. It was the most fun I’ve ever had working on an album.
“Lenmania is also approaching fast – How did Lenmania come about, and who’s on the bill this year?”
Lenmania originally came about cos we wanted to do something big live around the release of an album but we didn’t want to do a whole tour, so the answer was a huge gig, like the all-dayers I used to go to when I was a kid. The idea is that I book all my favourite bands on one bill so I can watch them, but in practice I spend the whole day doing press and interviews and never make it out! The first one went really well and people were always asking when the next one would be, and then 2000 Trees suggested we take over an entire stage at their festival, which seemed like a cool progression, so we did that. This year we’ve got some excellent bands like Show Me The Body, Conjurer, Loathe and Orchards, but then also some bands that folks may not have heard of that I’m keen to introduce them to, like False Advertising, a great band I met by chance at a show in Manchester, and Frauds, my old pals who have actually toured with me before but never done a Lenmania. I’m going on the road with those two and Orchards for a couple of shows leading up to Trees so it’s sort of half a tour and half a festival. It’s nuts!
“Who will be joining you behind the kit this weekend in Belfast and Dublin?”
Aha! I prefer not to say who’ll be coming with me because it I think it puts a bit of pressure on them but I’m working with a few guys who I’ve known for a long time and it’s going very well so far. All of them have worked incredibly hard to get up to speed on such a complicated list of songs in a very short period and they’ve done an amazing job – especially on the singing, which has almost become more important than the actual drumming since it’s just been the two people on stage.
“What can attendees expect from the Irish sets? Plenty of new? Any surprises for the die-hards?”
Well I haven’t been for ages so it’s sort of a big ol’ catch up – they’ll be getting a bit of everything. A couple of choice cuts from the new record, lots of stuff from Devolver, and then of course digging into the old back catalogue with bits from my first album and the band days. I like to do an acoustic bit as well so there will be a more chilled out section, and of course you can’t come over to Ireland and not play Kerbdog’s Mexican Wave!
“Have you checked out the bands supporting you this weekend?”
I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t, which is breaking a personal rule of mine, whereby I like to fully endorse the bands I’m playing with. The sad truth is I’ve been so busy with the record and Lenmania and organizing this trip that I just haven’t had the time, which sounds nuts – it’s more like not having the brain-space. However, I trust that the promoters have found good fits and it does mean that I’ll be able to go in like I prefer to when I attend anyone else’s gig and be totally surprised by what they have to offer, ready for anything – just like those Biffy audiences were for me, back in October!
Saturday 1st June 2019
The Palm House, Belfast
Bankmore Square, Belfast, BT7 1DH
Ticket link: http://www.wegottickets.com/event/468934
Jamie Lenman is best known as the singer, guitarist and songwriter for underground heroes Reuben, who toured and released relentlessly for most of the noughties. Their combination of brutal riffs, heartfelt melodies and frank, intelligent lyrics, together with their explosive live shows and innovative promo videos won them a hard core of dedicated fans and respect amongst peers and critics alike.
After a string of independent singles, regularly voted top of the MTV2 charts, the band released two albums with Xtra Mile (Frank Turner, Future Of The Left, Against Me!) and joined bands like Biffy Clyro, Fightstar and Billy Talent on tours around the UK and Europe. Upon their return, they founded their own label, Hideous Records, through which they released a live DVD documentary and their third, critically acclaimed album, ‘In Nothing We Trust’.
Eventually, the pressure of being in the band as well as running their own label and working full time jobs became too much, and they called it a day in 2008, releasing a posthumous rarities collection through Xtra Mile in 2009.
In 2011, after over a year without playing any music, Lenman began working on an ambitious double solo album of folk/blues and thrash metal, which was released on Xtra Mile in 2013 to critical acclaim. After a dazzling live tour featuring a three-piece brass section, Lenman returned again to his illustration work and began recording new music with Prodigy and Idles producer Space in his Guildford hideout.
He shortly signed with indie giants Big Scary Monsters and released his sophomore record ‘Devolver’ to widespread praise, following a lengthy and innovative pre-order campaign, and heralded by a sold-out mini festival entitled ‘Lenmania’.
During two years of touring the UK and Europe in support of the record, Lenman released a double A side single which went to number one in the UK vinyl chart, as well as the double album ‘Live At St Pancras’, before returning to the studio.
The result, released in the summer of 2019 on Big Scary Monsters, is ‘Shuffle’ – fourteen reinterpretations of famous and not-so-famous music, movies, books games and tv. Lenman will be bringing Lenmania 2 to the outdoor festival 2000 Trees in July, preceded by a mini-tour.