The cathartic outcome of using music to chronicle his thoughts and feelings, James Lushey‘s debut album features select cuts from a lifetime of musical expression. ‘Fundamental Crises of Existence’ is Lushey’s first anthology of his music that he’s releasing in a physical format as a result of new found international interest, AMBY sat down with him to discuss his debut record, the experiences that went into creating it, and what to expect in the future.
Good morning! It’s 9:35am in Austin, TX, and this is James Lushey. So:
AMBY: How are you feeling today?
James Lushey: Well – truth be know I’ve just woken up, its early/late/early. So I’m feeling alright, feeling pretty good. I’ve got various things in motion… which I think I will go into later, but for the time being; yea I’m not feeling bad. Life is pretty good for the most part – um… yea – so overall I’m feeling pretty good.
AMBY: What was the last music related thing you did before answering these questions?
James Lushey: That’s a very easy one. This is early morning for me, being the weekend. I woke up to some absolute shite if I’m honest….listening… I think my – whatever playlist I was listening to last night ran out, and this morning I woke up to something not in my genre. I will not name the band, but they’re a fairly well-known band – just not my kind of thing…. And I woke up feeling like I was in somebody else’s house, wondering like… Ok – “Why in the fuck is this music playing?” And so the most recent music-related thing that I did was to turn something off that I absolutely couldn’t stand.
AMBY: What’s the most exciting musical thing you’ve done in 2016?
James Lushey: Well this – it kind of feeds in to other stuff as well. But I haven’t been – I hadn’t been back to the UK in 20 odd years, and I finally got to go back in April. So in terms of music related – on a physical level it would have to have been going and finally taking the pilgrimage to Abbey Road, in the UK, when I was in London. I happened to be on the first night I was in London anyway, I happened to be staying in Maida Vale which is for people who live in London or the UK will know it’s just a stones throw from Abbey Road Studios, and the morning after I woke up from my hotel I’m like, “Ok… I’ve just got to go. And so – got up, and wandered down. There happened to be a couple of American guys there who were doing the old photo shot which I did, and I believe Charlie may be using for this interview. And I just – well, being the person I am, I offered to, you know if they wanted, cause they were like, kinda, trying to take selfies of themselves, and meanwhile there’s traffic coming and going, early morning traffic. And I’m like, “Hey, would you like me to take a picture of you both?” And they were very wary, ‘cause they didn’t know me, and they had a bloody expensive camera. But ultimately they were like, “OK”, and I then did the same thing, and gave them my phone to take a picture of me. So that was kind of music related.
So, what else is exciting? Well, a guy… I hate to use the word randomly, but randomly (to extents) just decided to send me an art shot of my initials similar to the web-site I have, which is actually gonna be the album cover for album I’m working on right now, and uh yea, so that’s pretty exciting as well. Talking to him about, you know, the kind of text, and this and that, revisiting some old stuff, etcetera. Um…I think that’s probably the most exciting thing for the time being…
AMBY: Being both an instrumentalist and a vocalist what are some other ways, aside from vox, that you get your essence into your music?
James Lushey: Hmm, that’s a very, very good question. I have been playing guitar since I was a little kid… I genuinely, genuinely – yes I hate to admit how old I am, but it’s true – I grew up in the 70’s. So my Dad who brought me up is not… none of my family are musical – let’s just say that without being rude. Love you – Mum and Dad, but they’re not. So one day when I was extremely young my Dad brought home (I don’t know why) but one of these old school like reel-to-reel tape recorders. And I’m talking like old school. Anybody around my age will just about remember them. Huge things, pre-cassette things, these spools, I can still kind of smell them, if you weren’t careful like the tape would kind of fall of, it was like a… if you imagine like a massive cassette. Like I mean huge type deal, but without a casing. Um…anyway, like he did bring one of these home from work, and thank the gods, it had one of those early… ah actually not early but late…. Beatles Greatest Hits, there was like a red album and a blue album. They’re looking over a balcony – I think it was Abbey Road from what I can recall, and they’re looking down, and one of them they’re like young, and clean shaven, and blah blah blah and I’m pretty sure on the second one they’re like bearded and this and that– well certainly Lennon is.
Anyway, I became absolutely obsessed with it as a tiny little kid, and I mean I can remember I had like a school book with writing…um…you know stories and things, and I remember writing stories about The Beatles and um… goodness… So long story short this is what ultimately got me into playing music and I think by the time I was about 6 or 7 I told Mum – cause they were like my absolute heroes even though I was so young – and I think I asked my parents if I could have a guitar. And even though I’m left handed I remember distinctly them saying, “Well you can”, and I’m like well can I get a left-handed guitar, and they ultimately were kinda like “No, because we don’t really know if you’re going to keep up with it” – and the kinda deal was that I had to practice for 30 minutes every day if I got this guitar and that was like the deal, and I always hated practicing ‘cause I learned like classical music so… hmm, so other than vocals I (bloody long way around answering this question) but other than vocals um that kinda classical training and this and that I like to hope feeds into my music as well… so for example – oh what’s the song? Like The Last Flight for example, has a little Spanish guitar riff, type deal, that is straight out of be being a kid… So I hope that answers that…
AMBY: What three words best describe your music?
James Lushey: Hmm… Oh – lyrical would have to be one. I would like to hope varied – lyrical, varied, and let’s go with authentic (I hope).
AMBY: You’ve had more demos coming soon for a while now on your site – when will we get to hear something?
James Lushey: So… I’ve got some stuff absolutely finished. With regular life (regular life? I dunno) ok – let’s just say reality – just the things I’ve had to deal with… I don’t have a record deal, I release things independently, I release things for free, so at this point in time I do have to do sort of regular life so – yea things take a little bit longer. Also I’m the kinda human being that’s concerned with – it’s not the only focus in my world even though it’s absolutely what I love to do, so yes so sometimes it takes a little bit longer. For example there’s a completely finished demo, a suite of songs I think I mentioned bloody ages ago that’s pretty finished. But then I’m kind of like… there’s something slightly controversial about the lyrics… I’ve got a friend who came in and did the vocals on and I’m even already in my head like rethinking the whole bloody point of the song, for example. And I obsessed over this suite of songs for ages. Still am. I mean I’m still like, you know in the back of my mind, can I really release this? I don’t know. So long story short I’ve got that, I’ve got a song that I think I mentioned on there [www.jameslushey.com] as well called My Gunslinger that I wrote bloody ages ago that I love that I haven’t put out yet. But, so. again long story short what I’m doing right now is kind of collecting and retrospecting various things that are on there and a few other little finished loose ends, and then I’m going to draw a complete line under that and work on this entirely new album so I’m not kind of hung up in the past about material, and just kind of move on with new stuff with may or may not include those songs.
AMBY: Can you tell us a line from something upcoming that you’re excited about?
James Lushey: “It’s all thanks to you / It’s all thanks to you” – god it doesn’t sound very interesting, but it’s a line from My Gunslinger. “My Gunslinger, you’re looking much thinner.”
Another one would be… If I could find my notepad. This one extremely recent –
“I can’t believe I’m here again / I’m penetrated by Big Ben.”
There. Not literally penetrated but there you go. I suppose I will go into the details… I was… Like I said I hadn’t been back to London for going on 20 years and I think it was the same day I was at Abbey Road, but I went into Central London and completely randomly and completely unexpectedly – I actually was going cause I’m like ohh… “Must see the London Eye”, because it didn’t exist the last time I was there. And so I found myself right around Westminster, etcetera. And I look up and there’s Big Ben and I absolutely promise that I just started bloody tearing up. And this is the middle of the afternoon at this point – by myself – and obviously it’s a very touristy part of London and so there are all these people. And I’m like, “Oh my god I’m gonna start crying.” So I kind of put my skates on and just started moving just like really fast away from the crowds because I didn’t really want to be like bursting into tears in front of these complete strangers… So yea –
“I can’t believe I’m here again / I’m penetrated by Big Ben.”
That’s what that actually means. It’s also a slightly rude joke, but penetrated actually emotionally. So… there you go…
AMBY: Where do you draw your greatest inspiration from?
James Lushey: Um well I think I’ve somewhat answered this – Beatles would be absolute number one…, um… Morrissey I adore – I absolutely love the guy and the world would be a much much sadder place for me if anything does happen to him. My other influences – Lou Reed – again a superb lyricist who wrote about “real” things and his own life – certain things come to mind – like he wasn’t afraid – he wrote about anything. Um – what’s the song? Waves Of Fear, for example was written about his like alcoholism, for example. And Tom Waits who probably has inspired me the most to kind of branch out on a slightly more experimental musical level than those two – like for example Blackoutland I think I have a demo up on my site of, I use kind of beatbox percussion – uh that’s straight out of Tom Waits. And one of the new demos I go “One two three one to three one” – Not Even A Smile – I’m sort of nodding to Tom Waits at the beginning of that. So yea those would be my three genius people – Morrissey, Lou Reed, Tom Waits and Beatles, but of course they feed through, like for example Morrissey was heavily influenced by Bowie so all their influences are encapsulated in who they enjoy and enjoyed and so I’m kind of third generation of that, or something. Anyway, yep, those – and please forgive me anyone I’m not specifically naming, but those would be my top four.
AMBY: Do you plan to make an album in the near future? Will it be a re-recording of the demos or new material?
James Lushey: Absolutely new material. The demos that I have on the site are being remastered as we speak and will have a physical form very soon with some new stuff – well not new stuff, but let’s say unreleased stuff that’s not on the website, and I’m most definitely drawing a line and moving on to completely new shit. Absolutely – new stuff.
AMBY: Which artist would you most like to tour with?
James Lushey: Well, it’s got to be Morrissey, hasn’t it? I think… I like to hope – I write about real things and since Tom Waits doesn’t tour much, sadly Mr. Lou reed is dead, unfortunately, so it would have to leave Morrissey. So – Morrissey.
AMBY: What do you mean by “My music’s been dissected, even by myself”?
James Lushey: Ok – huh right. This is kind of a complex one – what does the song mean? Well, there was a period of time – ok so when I lived back in the UK, just naturally, I went pretty fluidly from band to band to band, I was always writing stuff, I was always performing live, so there wasn’t really a break in my musical career, so to speak. When I came over to the States (year out), and I swear the very week I was in Austin I bought a guitar, like the first week… so it was still very first and foremost on my mind however I haven’t had a much success over here with finding people to play with despite being in the “music capital of the world”, which is part of the reason I came to Austin, and I use that term in inverted commas – “Live music capital of the world” so long story short Music Dissected was partially about things being shelved, even me not getting around to doing it – cause I’m certainly partially to blame, and then other outside factors, like that I don’t care to go into, but quite personal factors where I was oppressed if you want the truth, from working on my music … Absolutely oppressed. So I personified music in the song as being a kind of thing that could be dissected, that could be atrophied, but then there’s a part of the song that’s about something completely different which I’m happy to go into since you asked, and that was about me getting alopecia at 30 – so there’s a whole section about “I’ll never feel the same as I used to again”, or whatever, and that was directly related to hair loss, not music, so I also had to deal with that in my personal life ‘cause within a three month span I went from a full head of hair to absolutely nothing and it was one of the most frightening things I’ve veer been through, and very jarring for a 30 year old.
AMBY: You’ve been a musician for a very long time in both the US and the UK. How has the US, and the changes that have come with it affected your songwriting?
James Lushey: Hmm… That’s very good question… of course. Um politically, gosh there have been so many changes. Um – I won’t go into great detail – people can look online if they want about what potentially might cause alopecia – let’s just say that some people will get into a car wreck and develop alopecia so often it’s a – oh it’s an auto-immune disease – where basically my white blood cells are looking at my hair follicles and going “oh you’re a foreign body”, which they’re not… But anyway – let’s just say it was around the consequences of 9-11, right around that time that I lost my hair, on top of that I met my blood family for the first time around that time, and I just had a huge amount of stresses, aside from the fact that only recently could you be “free” if you happened to be in a non-heterosexual relationship in terms of things like visa and citizenship status and things like that. So it hugely affected my entire life on every level. I lived for a very long time quite an oppressed life if I’m honest, and thank you Sir Obama, who I adore, whatever other people think of him, I adore, because I finally have the rights afforded to me that any other straight, uh, heterosexual person always had, and that I now have.
AMBY: Do you have any live shows or stages planned?
James Lushey: Well, not immediately. But certainly – ok, my main focus right now is getting the old stuff collected, and in a physical form, and that’s going to be on my website – cheap plug – www.jameslushey.com, and once I’m done with that then yes absolutely, I am getting a live band together, because I obviously can’t play everything at once on stage even though I do it on the demos.
AMBY: What can you tell us about the artist credited with backing vocals on Your Thank You’s In The Mail, Billy?
James Lushey: Aww – well that’s very simple – he’s my 19 year old cat who I adore. If you listen very carefully there’s a tiny little part of the song where he goes “Miaow”. That’s it. Otherwise, I’m doing the other backing vocals. But yea – that’s it really. There’s I think The Last Flight has Billy or Zach – my sadly deceased cat (and shout out to Emi my other sadly deceased cat), but Billy is a bloody… well Stormtrooper sounds evil – which he is not, but trooper, a trooper – in terms of he’s been through cancer I don’t know how many times, and he is the strongest living being I know. Shout out to vegetarianism. He helped inspire me to get back to strict vegetarianism, which I’ve been for several years now, and I adore him, and so yea I’d hate to take him off the recording, and same deal with Zach… um… is on one of the old demos. But that’s it – yea most of it is me, but for a joke I credited him as a backing vocalist, cause he says “Miaow” at some point.
AMBY: What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to?
James Lushey: Goodness. This one’s gonna run the gamut – so to speak. Alright so first ever live show I when I was 13 was McCartney, at 13. And because of Lennon’s assassination, McCartney had stopped touring for a very long time, so I was a huge fan of his, but I just didn’t ever think he’d tour. And if you can imagine a 13 year old’s reaction when suddenly these tickets are going out and – oh I’m going to get to see one of my heroes live. I could not bloody believe it. Don’t even remember the venue but it was somewhere in London. Next big show was Morrissey in Alexandra Palace, again, I think it was something like ’92, but it was right around Christmas, and he brought on Shane McGowan and Kirsty Macoll who did Fairy Tale Of New York, the Pogues Christmas song, and Shane McGowan was so drunk, when he was twisting Kirsty Macoll around I could see in her face like this absolute fear like “Oh my god is he going to bloody throw me off the stage?” and he like dropped his mic like three times and the stage hands had to come on and like pick up his microphone, and as for Morrissey, I learned in that tour that whatever people think about it being a, you know, quiet, gentle, passive show, or him being like a shoe gazer (a term that came much later), but you know like some sort of an introspective, quiet, bloke, was absolutely wrong, it remains one of the most – not violent in a, in a – nobody was hurt, but I mean you couldn’t stay in one spot, the crowd was so wild, and I was shunted all over the place, so that…Um… Velvet Underground – I was extremely lucky – when they reformed I got to see them in their original form – Mo Tucker, Sterling Morrison, John Cale and Mr. Lou Reed in – I think it was Wembley Arena in – again, somewhere in the ‘90s. And I was at home from University sitting with my parents and I opened the Sunday paper, and there’s this little banana and I’m like “What in the fuck?” and thank goodness my Dad he was so kind that he immediately let me get on the phone and order tickets, cause, yea… Without whom, kinda deal. So that… Um… oh and of course Tom Waits – same kind of thing as McCartney in terms of he was just somebody I never thought I’d see live, and without word of a lie it’s the only show that I’ve been to where I was so bloody excited, and I clapped hard, hardcore, that I had bruises on the palms of my hands for about a week afterwards, literally these big purple bruises on the palms of my hands because I clapped so hard at that show and… It was kind of like a… it was like a South by Southwest thing, and he hadn’t toured in bloody forever and on the radio like “we’re releasing tickets” so me and some friends we were literally like driving downtown… It was at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas, and they literally… 300 seats was all that was available, and I swear to god – god bless him, a friend of mine named Felix, cause I was the cut-off, like Felix was like the 300th person, and I was right behind him, cause when they finally announced where the tickets were going on sale, everyone lunged, and Felix went and stood out of the way and gave it to me which was a very, very beautiful thing, which shows true love, and understanding of how much I bloody love Tom Waits.
AMBY: What’s the favorite instrument you own, and why?
James Lushey: It’s a Les Paul, a black Les Paul electric guitar. Quite simple. I adore it – I like the way it looks – it’s completely black. I like the way it sounds – I’ve recorded several songs with it. And I adore it – I absolutely love it. So a Gibson Les Paul, like a studio version or this and that.
Alright, and that’s about it. Thank you so much for the opportunity to interview, and I hope you have a great day. Oh, and peace and love to all, everybody – seriously – peace and love to all. Thank you.
Thank you James Lushey, for giving us your answers! James Lushey – Fundamental Crises Of Existence will be available to order soon at www.jameslushey.com.
Interview by Charlie Koncher | Website