[INTERVIEW] James Taylor

James Taylor is a much respected musician being at the forefront of the indie movement that emerged in the early 2000s. Drumming became his career for over a decade playing in some of the most pivotal bands of the time. It was time to find out what motivated him to become the musician he is today.

James lives with his fiancée Lauren and cat Pixie in a converted brewery. Beside the house are two stables and at the end of the garden is a shed. This appeared to be the place James was leading to, it was the eve of Halloween after all and in his own words, “the shed is home to many a great story.”

Once inside the shed we were greeted by Pixie – a nine-year-old tortoise shell hunter cat sitting proudly on the kick stool of James’s latest piece of kit – a Pearl session custom drum kit in crystal ruby red. “She’s like a guard cat – every time I try to play she keeps running under my feet. She really loves that piece of kit.”

As it was the eve of Halloween James lit the pumpkins carefully placed around the shed and lowered the red fairy lights sparkling on the drum kit. Pixie settled down and James poured the drinks as we sat towards the far end of the shed. “I was fifteen” he said, “my dad wanted me to learn bass guitar.” His dad Stewart was once part of the great punk band, The Head famous, for their antics in the local area. On second thoughts Stewart asked James to do a triplet (a term used in drumming).

James did exactly that and states, “dad was so impressed by what I did, he said, I’m buying you a drum kit and the rest is history.”

Taylor, as James likes to be called nowadays, has been in an astonishing number of bands collaborating mostly with the two brothers Jamie and Justin. “They were the best people I’ve worked with; really professional, Justin was a perfectionist.”

The first band Taylor and the two Js were in was DeFault which had a Grunge angle to it. Following this was Rapeseed with an industrial metal sound. YearZero followed a year later and then onto Meet John Doe one of the groups most successful outfits. Meet John Doe later became The Broadcasts. All five bands comprised of the same members – Taylor on drums, Jamie vocals and Justin and Charles playing the guitars.

“One of my happiest memories in the music business was getting signed at the Camden Underworld with the boys.” He adds, “an A&R guy came over from Canada to meet us and signed Meet John Doe to this Canadian label called Kubrick.”

Taylor poured a couple of drinks to celebrate the past whilst Pixie sat purring on the kick stool listening in to our conversation. “We got to play at The London Astoria with Enter Shikari in 2005, The Clapham Grand (one of my favourite venues he added) and Nass Festival in Bath where we met the band A and Dirty Sanchez.”

Taylor and the boys gained great reviews with a media storm whipping up anticipation in them being the next big band. They were interviewed on air by Mary Ann Hobbs (Radio 1), Rock Sound and Metal Hammer magazines before getting a double spread in Kerrang. Pixie appeared unfazed by the talk of fame and fortune as candle light flickered on the ruby drum kit. “It wasn’t always fun and games though” Taylor chuckled; “I once worked in an off-licence.”

“An old Scottish guy used to come in regularly for Famous Grouse, he had a long ginger beard and grey hair, we used to call him ‘Whisky ice.’ It wasn’t too long before we decided to start making our own using cube trays filled with whisky and diet coke.” He continues, “I thought about calling Pixie ‘Whisky Ice’ but she’s female so it wouldn’t have been right.”

Pixie twitched her whiskers a little and Taylor carried on, “we used to share the same dressing room as Enter Shikari. Those guys didn’t know how to have fun and only drank tea so we poured a bottle of homemade ‘whisky ice’ into their kettle! They were on fire that night it’s what kicked off their career.”

“It wasn’t always about our homemade secret weapon though; I remember the time we toured with Skindread. They only drank Strongbow and sweared by it so we really pissed them off by swapping their brew for Carling. They hated beer; they never toured with us again.”

“Sometimes pranks can go too far as we found with Charles our guitarist. Charles agreed to be pushed along the promenade in a shopping trolley! Fuelled by whisky ice and us edging Jamie on Charles inevitably ended up being projected overboard from an Asda trolley into the sea.” He adds, “I’ve never seen a guy get so mad in my life; I believe the RNLI even got called out that night.”

Pixie had a mad look in her eye. Rory, the neighbour’s cat, had crept in whilst she was asleep and stolen her supper. Taylor responds “I feel sorry for Rory he’s always starving; his owner was in a band called Johansson, nice guy but real tight.”

Rory was not the only one who sounded hungry a fox was howling loudly outside on the cold frosty night. “This reminds me when a friend of mine called Dave Sears came to the shed for a few beers. Sears grew up in Africa, his dad got a job out there in the early eighties as a lion tamer after years working in the circus; he would teach the young farmers how to protect their herds from the lions.”

“Sears has a sixth sense when it comes to animals, James adds: he is able to read their minds and calculate the exact time when they are about to attack.”

“Out in Africa they had an ancient remedy called Malibu & Ice which the trainee lion tamers would drink before entering the enclosure. It gave them confidence and ability to show the lions whose master.”

“I remember it was late me and Sears had been drinking beer and drumming all evening, we could hear a lot of howling outside the shed and several foxes started trying to get in the door. Sears looked at me scared and said they sounded hungry! He nervously climbed up on the kick stool and peered out the skylight, he shot back down and said there was a pack of hungry hounds surrounding the shed and were about to attack. Without any Malibu & Ice in sight and lacking in confidence we barricaded ourselves in the shed until it got light. Now I always keep a bottle in the shed” James laughs.”

The spooky Halloween stories had put a chill in the air Pixie’s hairs were standing up on her back. She stood upright on all fours, the ruby red candle light flickering in her eyes as a presence could be felt in the shed, the howling hounds outside were getting louder. The whisky glass began to shake in my hand and something shot through the door, Pixie leapt off the stool going from friendly cat into attack mode – POW POW POW her paws punched the air. James grabbed me and threw me back into the chair “don’t worry” he said; “Pixie goes real crazy when there’s a moth in the shed”.

It was getting late and Halloween and time to go. Each house had a pumpkin glowing brightly in their doorway except Rory’s thrifty owner.

James adds: “Fuelled by ancient remedies of Malibu & Ice, Sears and I once felt invincible entering the lion’s enclosure. We paced over to Johansson’s front door and poured the left overs of our Thai takeaway through his letterbox! That should give him some food for thought, Rory would be proud…

Words by Trevor Osborn

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