Tim Burgess – interview
Tim Burgess on stage at MCR Apollo with The Charlatans, 1 June 2012. Image by Elspeth Moore.

It’s been a busy old year for Tim Burgess; the release of his tell-all autobiography, anniversary gigs with The Charlatans for 1997 album Tellin’ Stories, running the OGenesis record label, preparing to release and tour his new solo album in the autumn, writing various columns for various magazines and even appearing on Newsnight to share his views on music piracy. 

Oh yes, it’s been a busy old year for Tim so far and he shows no signs of slowing down or doing anything other than loving every moment.

He was certainly all smiles at Kendal Calling at the end of July as he flew in from Poland on the Saturday to curate and collaborate in musical magic in the log cabin which was transformed for the festival into the real-life version of his usually virtual ‘metaphysical, metaphorical’ Tim Peaks Diner.

It was one of *the* places to be over the Kendal weekend. Serving coffee and afternoon tea (including damn fine cherry pie), jukebox in the corner and a succession of bands and poets to entertain while you chilled out or sheltered from the occasional bout of rain.

And on Saturday it became the spot for one of those absolutely wonderful, pure magic festival moments as over the course of the day Dave Haslam, Edwyn Collins, Roddy Frame, Hatcham Social, Nick Heyward and Tim himself appeared in various groupings to offer musical bliss, smiles and all round good feelings.

We caught up with Tim as he prepared for the festival and presiding over Tim Peaks.

LTW: It’s been a busy year already for you – between autobiography Telling Stories being published, OGen, DJ sets, festivals, Newsnight appearances, the Tellin’ Stories anniversary gigs and your solo album and a tour due in autumn – is world domination just around the corner? 

Tim: “I just love being busy. World domination is not on my list of priorities but if it comes my way, I’ll try to be nice to everyone – I’ll direct proceedings from my hollowed out volcano base somewhere in the Indian Ocean.”

LTW: What have you particularly enjoyed about these various projects? What are you most looking forward to?

“I’m most excited about the tour in October as it’s the latest thing I’ve been working on. I had to get a band for the tour and it’s a while since I put a band together. Everyone I asked said yes – Mark Collins from The Charlatans, Duffy from Primal Scream and Finn, Toby and David from Hatcham Social. I’ve worked with them all before but never at the same time.

“The album is coming out on O Genesis which is the label we started last year – we’ve released records by The Vaccines, R Stevie Moore and it’s given me the chance to work with some of the best new bands around too. Bands like Blood Music and Keel Her.

“I’d produced a few bands before but never seen someone else’s record right the way through from first hearing them to seeing it in a shop. Every single and album we’ve released has been such a thrill and it’s going from strength to strength. I got an email this week from one of my favourite bands ever, saying they have something to put out on the label.

“Things like Newsnight are fun to do but DJing, making records and playing gigs are what it’s all about.”

LTW: Being so busy it was inevitable that Tim Peaks couldn’t go on serving virtual coffee on Twitter – do you miss it? What did you get from the experience?

Tim Burgess – interview
Tim performing with Hatcham Social at Tim Peaks Diner, Kendal Calling. Image by Sarah Lay.

“The Twitter stuff has been amazing – I’d had MySpace and Facebook accounts and they’d been a really good way to keep in touch with friends and with people who knew our music.

“When Twitter it first came along I wasn’t too bothered about having yet another way to communicate. Then I realised it’d be cool to do some album listening parties and tweet along while people round the world listened and asked questions or shared their thoughts about the songs.

“One day I thought I’d see if anyone fancied a brew and Tim Peaks came from that.

“I definitely miss some bits of it. It was amazing to see where it would lead and all sorts of things came from it – raising money for The David Lynch Foundation, my own breakfast cereal (Kelloggs created Totes Amazeballs for Tim and they were served at the Kendal diner – Ed) and even a cartoon strip.”

LTW: How did the diner being a part of Kendal Calling come about? What are you most looking forward to about it being there?

“We’d played at Kendal Calling last year and they were a real decent bunch of people. They asked if I’d like the diner there this year and showed me a picture. A log cabin, right near a lake. I couldn’t say no.

“Without a doubt the thing I’m most looking forward to is the chance to see Edwyn Collinsand Roddy Frame play some songs. I’ll definitely be making them a cup of tea!”

LTW: Telling Stories, your autobiography, was very honest and a friendly read – what did you get out of the experience of writing? What was particularly hard?

“Getting started was pretty difficult. Penguin had got in touch a few years ago and asked if I fancied writing a book. I did but I didn’t really know where to start. They kept asking me to go to meetings and they’d buy me coffee.

“I’d not got started but I enjoyed the coffee so I kind of said I was writing away and everything was going swimmingly. Eventually I thought I best get started.

“We finished an Australian tour and I was pretty exhausted and the time just seemed right. I recorded around 24 hours worth of ideas and then had to type them up.

“I’d been offered a ghost writer but I wanted to see how it turned out just in my voice. It was a bit of a risk but the reaction to it has been as good as I could have hoped.

“I’m glad you found it friendly and honest. Thanks. Hopefully it’s friendly and honest enough to buy your mates for Christmas!”

Tim Burgess – interview
Tim Burgess, June 2012. Image by Elspeth Moore.

LTW: In fact, Telling Stories reads more like a novel than an autobiography in places – any aspirations to go down a creative writing route? Do you read a lot yourself? Favourite writers?

“One of the first people I sent the transcript to was Emma Forrest who was a journalist when we started and is a novellist now. She picked up on the fact it was like a novel and a few people have said it since.

“I’ve never really thought of myself typing away, inventing characters and situations. I kind of get that from writing songs so it’s a scratch I don’t really need to itch.

“There’s lots of writers I like. Anthony Burgess, Albert Camus, Charles Bukowski, Bill Bryson – I just looked at who I’ve said and realised I must think alphabetically.”

LTW: There’s been rumours of a film being made of Telling Stories – any truth in it? Even if hypothetical who would you most like to see play you in the film?

“I like a good rumour. If I say too much, I’ll either scotch the rumour or make it into a fact though so I have to tread carefully.

“I suppose that whenever a book comes out and a few people read it, there’s always talk about making it into a film and I was pretty flattered when I heard people mentioning it.

“I went to see The Stone Roses at Heaton Park and I was talking to Craig Parkinson – he played Tony Wilson in Control – he introduced me to a kid he said would be ideal to play me at the time I joined the band.

“He was a looker so he passed the first test.”

LTW: Back to the music – the album Tellin’ Stories has just celebrated it’s anniversary and you’re touring it – how has this felt? Has it been good to play this album or hard?

“The Tellin’ Stories gigs have been a real highlight of the year too – the reaction to the Glasgow, London and Manchester gigs was pretty staggering.

“The time when the album came out is pretty well documented and it was amongst the hardest times of our lives – we’d just lost Rob. We had the Knebworth gigs lined up and it was a real make or break time for the band. Martin Duffy stepped in and saved us.

“This has been a chance to celebrate the songs, to remember Rob and play some really cool gigs.

“People who’ve seen the band more than 50 times saying they were the best gigs we’ve ever done. We hadn’t really listened to some of those songs in 15 years and we realised they were really good songs.

“I’m just glad we can do the songs justice. From what everyone’s saying, we’ve definitely done that.”

LTW: A Case for Vinyl was quite a different sound to your voice – is this an indication of what we can expect from the solo album?

“The songs on the album – it’s called Oh No I Love You – were all recorded in Nashville and I wrote them with Kurt Wagner from Lambchop.

“A Case For Vinyl is definitely an indication of what to expect. There’s no dubstep or anything but there’s quite a range in the songs.”

LTW: What made you decide the time was right for another solo release?  

“I loved making I Believe and I always knew I’d do another solo album. After Kurt played in Manchester, I was carrying his guitar to the car for him and we got talking about songwriting. We discussed the idea of writing something together and somehow it turned into an album.”

LTW: How does the way you work as a solo artist differ from the way you work with The Charlatans or is it pretty similar?

“It’s pretty different to working with The Charlatans as we’re all one fifth of the band. Whereas this album just has my name on it, so there’s maybe not as much discussion.

“Having said that I was working with some of the best musicians in Nashville – members of Lambchop, Clem Snide and My Morning Jacket – it was great to see how they worked and listen to their ideas.”

LTW: You play lots of festivals – is this something you really enjoy?

“Yes, I love playing festivals – it’s a chance to play for people who may have come to watch another band.

“It’s not a competition, but it’s cool to imagine people who might never have seen us before, wandering back to their tents as new fans.

“Festivals are a real sign of the summer even if the weather isn’t.”

LTW: What’s your best or worst festival experience?

“I don’t like to dwell on worst experiences but I’m quite a festival friendly person – even if some of the bands don’t hit the spot you’re generally with friends and if you let a bit of bad weather spoil it, you maybe shouldn’t be there on the first place.

“I remember watching New Order at Glastonbury in 1987, that was the first big festival I’d been to and was quite a highlight. Then again, last week I watched Chic and Dexy’s play their songs and we were the headliners so that was pretty cool.”

LTW: If you were putting together a fantasy line-up for a festival who would top your bill?

“I’ve curated a couple of stages at festivals so I’ve had the chance to put on bands I love. I put together the line up for one of the stages at The Isle of Wight Festival in 2009. Who was top of the bill? The Charlatans. I’ll be modest and say that wasn’t really my doing but I picked The Horrors, Killing Joke, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and some of my favourite bands.”

Tim Burgess – interview
The Charlatans, June 2012. Image by Elspeth Moore.

LTW:Who have you been listening to recently and who would you recommend to LTW readers?

Minny Pops are brilliant. They were signed to Factory in the ’80s but I never had a chance to see them before they split up. Last year they got back together and I went to a few of their gigs.

“Keel Her is always on my iPod. R Stevie Moore too – it’s quite cool with O Genesis as I can get to release records by people that I hear and they’ve both got records coming out on the label.

“I best say some stuff that’s not O Genesis – Factory Floor, The Horrors, John Maus, Ariel Pink and old favourites like Throbbing Gristle and Crass too.”

I could talk to Tim Burgess all day, every day. A living, breathing, grinning musical encyclopedia with a contagious passion for everything around him.

There is something gorgeously innocent about this man who is anything but. Something in the way he seems to find the wonder and joy in so much of life, of music, of love just makes you want to go along for the ride, wherever he may be going.

But he’s a busy man so, for now, we must let him be on his way; adventures abound.

  • Tim Peaks Diner at Kendal Calling raised £1112 for the David Lynch Foundation. 
  • You can catch Tim and The Charlatans in play Tellin’ Stories in full at gigs in Aberdeen and Edinburgh on 24 and 25 August. More info on The Charlatans website.
  • Tim’s album, Oh No I Love You, is released on O Genesis on 24 September along with an album of remixes.  Find out more about this and other O Genesis releases on their website.
  • Tim will also be heading out on a solo tour in the autumn. Dates here.
All words by Sarah Lay. You can read more from Sarah on LTW here or follow her on Twitter.


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