A conversation with Jamie Lidell
This interview was conducted for showcase.ca
With a title like that, I feel like I should be wearing a smoking jacket and smoking a pipe, but instead I’ve got on my laundry day attire. No matter, I did the interview over the phone with Lidell as he hungrily waited for a meal at a truck stop somewhere in Washington State. It got slightly weird, but it was always interesting. If you want to win an awesome tour poster, a cute button and Jamie's amazing new CD, Jim (one of my faves this year by far), mosey along to our newsletter page to enter our Jamie Lidell contest. Now sit back and enjoy what might go down as the best interview in my history.
Jaime Lidell: Yes! Nicolle Weeks: Hello, is this Jamie Lidell? JL: Yes! NW: Should I call you Jim or Jamie? JL: Ha! I’m happy with either, whatever’s easiest. NW: Why did you decide to call the album Jim? JL: Perhaps it was just because I didn’t get enough love as a child. I’m trying to make it up for it now. You can never really make up for it. … I don’t know the answer to that question. Actually, the absolute truth, the bottom line… do you really wanna hear it? NW: I do. JL: I hate naming albums. It’s an awful pretentious affair. People call it like, The Return of Forever or something shitty like that. I said, I’m just gonna get on with it. One day, Gonzo was sitting next to me and he asked me what the album would be called. I just said, Jim. Off the cuff. I looked at him and there was a pause and he looked at me and I realized I’d said something that was gonna stick. He sort of looked at me and said, “I quite like that.” It’s a record and it’s an intimate affair. Since then, I’ve adopted the moniker Jim Shady. It’s an honest record, it’s an honest me, it’s an innocent me. NW: I thought maybe it was the dichotomy of your artist self and your other self. JL: It’s also that and many other things. NW: How did you approach this album? JL: With caution, like a wounded cougar. NW: Oh really, why’s that? JL: You don’t want to approach a wounded cougar all willy nilly, you gotta take it seriously. No, I approached it like someone who had ambition, yet with a soft touch. I love making music, I love the song. I wanted to make ten songs that I liked and a pop album that I liked. It’s one of those things I find difficult but pleasurable, so I’m in the right business, I think. NW: Is it more pop than experimental? JL: I think we have to admit it really is. NW: Is there a reason for that? JL: Because I wanted to have interviewers ask me why. It seems to be working out nicely. I get my dream. There is a reason for that. I thought it sounded better. Also, the songs themselves ended up dictating the way they should be, however ridiculous that sounds, it’s what happened. After a certain amount of time, songs start telling you things, they start to talk to you. NW: I read that you talk to yourself and that’s how you write music. JL: That’s fucking ridiculous! NW: It’s ridiculous? JL: Not really. Of course I do. It’s true, I talk to myself. We all talk to ourselves, but some of us don’t like to admit that. NW: And that’s how you write? JL: It’s part of it. Talking with other people is nice if not a bit overrated. I talk to myself and, in a way, that’s what you do when you create. You’ve gotta have a word with yourself. NW: I do that, too, when I’m writing. JL: Yeah! Sometimes I find myself asking myself questions. I think it’s fine. If it’s not fine, it’s madness. NW: You seem to draw from a lot of eras of music for inspiration. How do you do that so well and make it work as a streamlined thing? JL: God knows, really. I’m very happy that you think I have done it so well. I’m a humble servant of music. I’m a fan of music, of all the eras, really. I’m tapping into my inner sponge and draining the good juices. I’m trying to be true to the fermented truth. NW: And you seem to have a sense of humour about it. JL: That’s how I live my life from day to day. Creativity and humour are one thing, I think. NW: I saw some of your webisodes, they were funny. Why did you decide to do them? JL: I didn’t actually. I find that name, webisodes, kinda scary. Someone at the label asked me to do an EPK [electronic press kit]. I find it a redundant aspect of record labels and marketing people’s vision of the way the music industry can be. Hopefully, we can get rid of them because they’re bloody awful and antiquated and full of all the trappings that make me really wonder why I do this. But I decided of course, that I could enjoy and indulge myself in my own flight of fancy. I turned it around and made it my own thing. NW: They are very funny. JL: Well, thank you, I’m glad that you thought so. People get offended that I take it so lightly, it doesn’t match the music and the solid intention that I might have as a pop artist and it should be more serious like Jack Johnson or John Legend.
JL: Sorry for the shouting. NW: Where are you right now? JL: I’m at a truck stop somewhere between Seattle and Portland. NW: Are you enjoying yourself? JL: Not really. [But] I’m a happy soul, I’m a happy camper. NW: Does the travelling bother you? JL: It can, I’ll be honest. NW: It must be hard to be away from all your people. JL: At the same time, it’s always a pleasure to roll up to a new place. You can’t underestimate the power of novelty. You resent the lack of sleep and all the things that go with travelling, but once you stop moving, you also really resent being stuck in one place. I try to address that natural dichotomy and just chill the fuck out. NW: So what do you do to chill out? JL: All sorts, really. Count sheep, talk to myself, smoke air as I’ve given up every kind of smoking. Sleep, drink a camomile tea. Really strong camomile tea. A lot stronger than you think. NW: So you were talking about marketing and being forced to do all that stuff. You’ve said that you’re hard to market. Why is that? JL: Sometimes in the industry, the way people like to think of us is not the way we really are. They have a romantic image of the way an artist ought to be, what we should do, the way we should look. As an artist, I could make electronic music, weird sounds for them, disturbing, horrible, jarring noise. At the same time, I could make a really sweet ballad and they think I’m a bit deranged. NW: What would your ideal be, then? No marketing, no interviews? JL: No, no, I’m not complaining. I’m just saying I’m difficult to market. NW: What’s your favourite part of the whole thing? JL: Making music, it’s simple. It’s really amazing having this band and everyone is a lot of fun. We’re having a laugh, enjoying being around each other and then music happens. NW: Do you know where it comes from? JL: I don’t know, do you? NW: No, I thought maybe you would know. JL: Well, if I did, I wouldn’t tell you, to be honest. I feel like if I held that knowledge, I should hold on to it like a leprechaun slightly out of reach of the gold. NW: It would be a very expensive secret. JL: You couldn’t bottle it. NW: So what’s the meaning of life? JL: Oh, well… the meaning of it? NW: Yeah. JL: I don’t think it has a meaning. Is that cynical? NW: No. JL: I don’t know. It’s as meaningful as a mineral. NW: Okay. Well, thanks… JL: Wait, is that bad? NW: No, I think that’s a great answer. JL: I think a mineral is alive in some people’s eyes. NW: Perhaps it is. It’s moving. JL: People should look for the use of life as opposed to the meaning. But I embrace life, I love it. I’m aware of the futility of wasting it, I’ve spent many a year doing that very thing, coming out with little more than gas. Sorry, I’m losing it slightly. I’m waiting for food.
Check out Jamie Lidell on tour:
Toronto, June 5 at the Opera House Ottawa, June 6 at the Babylon Club Montreal, August 3 at Osheaga