If you’ve had any interest in the UK underground hardcore punk scene over the last ten years then you may know him from his numerous bands and projects. These include the hard-gigging THE DOMESTICS, who have blazed their way through Europe a number of times.
A renaissance man? A Jack of all trades? A perpetual dabbler? Well, he’s a published poet, runs a small record label, holds a doctorate (after leaving school with little more than A.S. Level English and a deep-seated aversion to authority figures), writes at least one good song per day (“I’ll write three in my head, forget one, record the other two, and throw one of those away ‘cos it’ll be rubbish…the third one will be great though”), an occasional soul and reggae DJ, erstwhile gig promoter and fanzine writer, published academic, fledgling producer and video editor, not to mention the person that popularised the term East Anglian Hardcore (now sported in tattoo form by a number of young punks in the area, and emblazoned on t-shirts far and wide)…they don’t call him “the busiest man in DIY punk” for nothing!
A man rumoured to have been visited by a friend carrying a copy of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ album and being so enraged at this effrontery that the record was immediately frisbeed down the street. A condition of entry, apparently. And who can blame him? Always a fan of many music forms, with no such thing as a ‘guilty pleasure’ (“that’s a miserable fucking attitude”) the material produced under his own name satisfyingly binds together myriad influences from Krautrock, post-punk, hip-hop, northern soul, funk, reggae, and his beloved hardcore into a cohesive whole.
Now residing in Suffolk, his upbringing in the dismal, ailing, seaside town that his East London-raised parents moved to when he was four, has certainly shaped his worldview. This was the place that voted in the first UKIP MP in 2014, which paints a sorry picture. Luckily, he was long gone by then (“I had to go; it would’ve killed me if I’d stayed any longer”). James nestles comfortably within a long lineage of singular British pop where M, MADNESS, KAREL FIALKA, IAN and BAXTER DURY, KATE BUSH, JONA LEWIE, ROOTS MANUVA, JOHN COOPER CLARKE, THE FALL, BILLY CHILDISH, VIC GODARD, LIEUTENANT PIGEON, DEXYS MIDNIGHT RUNNERS, and SLEAFORD MODS, amongst others, reside. He has a singular vision, a discreet, often self-deprecating, wit that will turn viciously on others in the blink of an eye, a bagful of bullish basslines, and an ear for a devilish hook.
Imagine CAN, MINAMI DEUTSCH, early P.I.L, ESG, KING TUBBY, FLIPPER and THE FALL, but dragged mercilessly towards catchy, idiosyncratic pop tunes. Maybe that’s somewhere close – you decide. I can’t do everything for you!