-Getting to this God stuff, I never got the sense with these dozens of James records that you were ever preaching to anyone. I've always had the sense that you have a certain, let me get the word right, satisfaction that you may have got a belief system that's further down the line than others, but you've never tried to put that to someone. So you could sing 'I believe that someone is watching over me' but I never get the feeling, Oh Tim Booth is trying to convert me, because I never know what you're trying to convert me to. (He chuckles.) I've heard Tim Booth is a Buddhist, I know he went through the Life wave thing when he was younger, he's always searching, but I've never seen it written down that you are this, or you are that.
I'm not a member of anything. I've got nothing to sell you. I have things to me which I guess to me are vague answers. But they usually throw out more questions than I had when I started. And I guess what I'd be selling is, Don't take a wholesale belief off the peg, because I think everybody's spiritual path or understanding is every one individual's spiritual path or understanding. If it's going to have a genuine root, it's got to come from your own life, your own passion, your own bliss. Caroline Myss said your biology is your biography (she's a medical clairvoyant), and she said it's all in your body. It dictates your whole life, how you see the world, everything.
-Healthy body, healthy mind?
More than that; she actually looks at the body and can see the energy entering it, and see where it gets dissipated. For example that energy should be going towards your liver but you've never forgiven that sixth grade teacher for slapping you round the face for doing art in the back of the geography class. You've got to forgive him because it's actually damaging your kidneys. It's really specific.
-On a very basic level, I'd have thought we've come far enough as humans to acknowledge that stress will cause back pain.
Even allopathic medicine acknowledges that. Ten years ago, they weren't acknowledging that. They're so fucking slow.
-It is incredibly slow. People can get cancers from emotional pain. They can allow their negativity to make themselves sick. Some of that to me is proven, so when you're saying that your biology is your biography, you would need to have your body in a healthy state to move forward.
And the only reason I would jump in on that is because I think her meaning of biology is a little bigger than just 'healthy body.' Because there's energetic components to the body that are outside our normal understanding.
-You're talking about things like auras.
I hate to put those words on it. But I do believe. Like this week I'm doing an acting course, and the course is done by a woman who works on the premise that the body stores body amour. Basically as kids we're born as wild little creatures and we have to be civilized by our parents and that process is very painful and we develop body amour to hide our fears and our anger and our rage, and she's teaching us to go into that body amour, get really raw and then do a speech. It's an amazing process. It's a healing process
You see, I've been doing this kind of thing for twenty years...
and I keep doing that stuff to stir up the psyche. And I think then that stuff gives me great material to create from.
-When you put it like that, there is a danger of coming across as the suffering artist, i.e. 'I need to go to scream therapy to produce lyrics that make me a worthwhile artist.' I assume that's not your intention.
No. And you can hear from talking to me on the phone that that's not how I live. I've dealt with the tortured artist myth in the past. And in England you have to deal with it. This kid Pete Doherty from the Libertines, he's about to be crucified in this country. And he's walking towards it with arms open. It's a route favored by many great rock'n'rollers, God bless you Kurt Cobain, and I don't swallow that myth. I'm furious at that myth actually, and furious at the people that support it.
-Embracing the drugginess?
Yeah, embracing the self-destructiveness. I met Kurt Cobain a couple of times. He was a fragile, sweet man, very scared.
-People get their vicarious thrills through someone else's pain.
And then people worship that, which is equally bullshit.
-The thing I was getting from Bone, maybe more so than any James album that preceded it, was the line that comes up in 'Monkey God,' that "Everything's connected." It seems like the whole album is about how nature and man are connected
Am I correct to see that as an overall theme on the album?
Yeah. I'm probably more happy with that song than any thing on the album. Yeah, and that song is that's a definite question song. What the fuck are we? We could be these complete animals, we could be this divine creature, and there in lies the amazing choice of man. You know, we've had Auschwitz it may not be going on as much in America but we've had programme after programme on Auschwitz from the 60th Anniversary. I remember hearing about Auschwitz and the Holocaust. I don't know how old I was. But it was the moment I lost an innocence
And the first time I shaved my head I was about 22 and I'd watched something on the Holocaust.
-I feel like there was someone who said, famously, "there can be no poetry after Auschwitz."
I haven't heard that one. And I would disagree. I think there's more need for poetry than ever.
[It was Theodore Adorno, who is commonly perceived to have said exactly what I quoted to Tim, that "There can be no poetry after Auschwitz". With some further research on the web, I came across a more precise account of his words. According to this Jewish literary site, 'Theodor Adorno, who wrote that "After Auschwitz writing poetry is barbaric," subsequently admitted that "perennial suffering has as much right to expression as a tortured man has to scream.'"]
Above: select books by some of the authors Tim discusses in this interview. You can access all these books at amazon.co.uk starting here and at amazon.com starting here.
-So you are saying that this is your strongest guise, and you're still asking the same question: are we biological accidents or divine creatures, or something in-between? You've got that line "God's pitch shift way out of time created an ape
" and I couldn't figure out if it was trying to be Creationist or Darwinist!
Yeah. In my own personal belief system, I would say there has to be some intelligence behind evolution. I look at life and I'm gob-smacked that people can believe that there isn't intelligence behind it. There's just too many patterns, too much beauty and too much structure in a snowdrop to not imagine there has to be, and I'm quoting myself, "Who put brown owl eyes on the butterfly's wings?" It's like, fuck. To me there just has to be. What the nature of that intelligence is may be a little bit more than a question. Because it doesn't seem to be always as nice and cuddly as some of the images of God that we like to comfort ourselves with, and it doesn't seem to be as human as many of the images we comfort ourselves with. (Chuckles as he says it.) But there's something going on, as far as I can see.
-I've never got beyond my own perspective and I'm comfortable with this of God being nature and nature being God.
To a large degree I think that's probably about as
I don't think the mind can do it. Joseph Campbell says, 'If you can say it, it's not true.' If the closest you can get is a metaphor, that's fine. I also think you can get a state of bliss by following your passion. If your passion is gardening or having babies or your relationship with your partner, if you love someone very much, that's your spiritual path. That's as close as we get to God.
-I'm not making my statement purely from the idea "who put brown owl eyes on a butterfly's wing." I'm saying that if I could worship anything that I felt was divining our future, it would be the planet. I.e. if we mistreat the planet, put it out of whack, it will and come back on us. Nature itself has given us all this beauty and if we don't respect it will punish us: that's scientifically proven to me, it's not even a spiritual belief. If we destroy the planet, it will speed up the process by which it destroys us. I'm just saying that's as far as I've been able to get and I'm comfortable with that. But anyway
with your music, you can sing "Who put the brown owl eyes on the butterfly's wing?" and then you can take it some steps further and I always appreciate that you're not trying to put it on someone. I've always sensed that you're saying to people "Your path is whatever you choose, I'm just making observations."
-Within that, I love that line on 'Monkey God', "Houston there's a problem here: someone's cut a hole in the sky." It amazed me that no one had come up with that line before. You could read layers into that, Houston is the oil capital, and we've put a hole in the sky through pollution. I'm not reading too much into that, am I?
No. But that is often how unconscious lyrics work. Some of the best lyrics I've written usually have about three layers in them, and I don't know where they're coming from. But you aren't reading too much into them at the end of them, when I've written them, I read them and say 'Fucking hell that's good, how did that happen?'
-So you can be as surprised as the listener?
-I was enjoying 'Down To The Sea' as a back to nature song, and then at the end of the year, the massive Tsunami disaster happened. And I've been listening to Bone, thinking, well we can be trying to worship nature, or we can be campaigning against them cutting a hole in the sky, and yet this can still happen. And it's not the result of any of that. (Of mankind.) And suddenly a song like 'Down To The Sea' took on a whole new meaning, I found myself listened to that thinking of hundreds of thousands of people being swallowed up by the sea.
"I would say there has to be some intelligence behind evolution. There's just too many patterns, too much beauty and too much structure in a snowdrop to not imagine there has to be."
Yeah. I've been listening to
Bill Bryson, A Short History Of Nearly Everything. I got it on tape, just this amazing, great book, about how this planet has been created by a series of impacts, volcanic eruptions, wipeouts in various forms. One eruption would have an impact that would wipe out 75% of all species, and then there would be another impact that would wipe out 90% of species. We're due one.
-But none of that makes you question that there has to be an intelligence because there's too much beauty in a snowflake?
Oh yeah. And I don't think it's personal. If I get wiped out, I don't think it's personal. To me, that's the other side of it. We're part of a cycle. We take it personally. Some days I think we're divine, transcendent, and then other days I think we're some kind of virus that is fucking up the planet and the earth will shake us off, have an eruption. Like when you get ill, your body will try and throw off this virus. What might that be that the planet throws off this virus that is destroying us? According to Bill Bryson, I think it's that 99% of all creatures that have lived on this planet are now extinct.
Continue to Part 3