Interview with James Stevenson Guitarist Extraordinaire

James

I last saw James Stevenson playing with The International Swingers. But James is a busy boy and as a guitarist he wears many hats or he floats like a feather and stings like a bee. Soon after I read he was touring with The Cult.  But it doesn’t stop there! He started out in the band Chelsea and since then he’s been in Generation X, Kim Wilde, The Alarm and Gene Loves Jezebel. James has a notable amount of music credits and he’s very much in demand. I had a much unexpected opportunity to explore his career and expound on his considerable exploits as a guitarist. Below are all the deets on his exploration and passion for music!

LA Beat: I saw and read you were playing with The Cult.  Are you still playing and touring with them now?

 James Stevenson: The band had a few sporadic gigs in April. We did like 8 gigs throughout the month. Now it’s over for a couple of month till we do a gig in Canada in July.

LA Beat: I sure you’ll have more summer activity because it’s summer.

James Stevenson: Well that’s true. There are so many festivals now days, especially in England. There’s like 60 or 70 festivals. So there’s always something cropping up to do, you know.

LA Beat: I’m sure there was a time where those kind of opportunities that weren’t nearly as prevalent.

James Stevenson: I mean it’s still tricky. There’s like 500 bands chasing every place. It all pans out evenly.

LA Beat: I know you were in Generation X…

James Stevenson: That seems like that was in a different life time it feels.

LA Beat: I’m sure it feels completely different now. I was differently a unique period in time.

James Stevenson: In fact there is a well-known British journalist, who’s Nick Mercer. He was reviewing an album by the band The Alarm, that I also was playing in, but I’m not an original member… and he said, “Guitarist James Stevenson, then in brackets it said, who has now played in 72 percent of all known bands.” I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve got around a bit I guess!

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Photo by Billy Bennight for The Los Angeles Beat

LA Beat: I know you’re working with The International Swingers. You’re not doing anything with them right at the moment, right?

James Stevenson: No, not right now. We’ve been playing together for about 2 1/2 years. It was put together by a bunch of friends. Clem Burke plays in Blondie. He’s always busy with that. Glen Matlock is the bass player for the Sex Pistols and he’s out doing acoustic stuff. With The International Swingers, it’s just the logistics of everyone not doing anything so we can actually do the stuff together. That’s the tricky part with the band. We going to recording an album at Dave Grohl’s Studio 606. It’s actually here in Los Angeles at Northridge. Hopefully. We’ll be recording an album there this year.

LA Beat:  How did the single go? I was there for your set at Redballs Rock & Roll Pizza.

James Stevenson: Oh yeah, right! That was out in Moorpark.

LA Beat: Oh yeah, it was way out there in Moorpark!

James Stevenson: Yeah, I don’t even know how that gig came about. I think Gary Twinn, the singer in the band, is friendly with the owner and they have a lots of gigs there. We were all in town and we played The Farmer’s Market and he offered us to play there.  It turned out to be a really fun gig!

LA Beat: I thought it was pretty cool because Dave Grohl had just played there the previous month and got a lot of press off it. Then you guys followed up and I thought, in my mind, was a perfect transition.

James Stevenson: Yeah, everyone said Foo Fighters were amazing. They had a fantastic gig there!

LA Beat: Yeah, anytime you can see the Foo Fighters with about 125 people, and pizza!

James Stevenson: Yeah, that’s fantastic! And with good pizza!

LA Beat: Yes, indeed! You had a single. How did that work out? I know you were recording in the Studio 606 and then: it was two songs, right?

12414163054_b93fff2cb0_zJames Stevenson: We’ve actually put out 2 CDs; which are CDs of our demos. We recorded a bunch of demos, in fact it’s, Tommy Derrick of Jonestown Massacre. We liked the way they turned out. We thought we would make a CD of the 3 track, so people could get a feel of what we‘re about. We have a bunch of demos and we ended up recording a lot and we ended up with 2 CD over a period of 12 months. They’ve all sold out now. We only sold them at gigs. We pressed up a couple hundred of them. No doubt they’ll be collectors items someday.

LA Beat: So there is no way people could acquire that stuff digitally through a website.

James Stevenson: I think if you go to www.theinternationalswingers.com there’s one song that is a free download.

LA Beat: So what’s your next thing? Obviously, you’ve did The Swingers 2 months ago and The Cult. Are you doing anything with The Alarm?

James Stevenson: You know, The Alarm, Mike Peters is the singer and he’s doing a bunch of acoustic gigs on his own. So there’s nothing on the horizon with The Alarm. Also, I’m in a band called Gene Love Jezebel. Well. There’s two versions of the band. There were two twin brothers that fronted the band. Now, each have their own version. It’s all very confusing for the people that like the band out there. Jay Aston, who is the twin, with the red hair, most of us from the original line up, not the first original line up, but the line up from the most successful period, we all still play with him. We’ve got a few European tours in the summer. It’s quite a juggling act for me. Luckily I’ve never had a clash where two bands had to do something at the same time. I’m sure it will happen one day and I’ll have to figure out how to get around that problem.

LA Beat: It will be two different bands and at the same festival.

James Stevenson:  (Laughs) Well, that has happened to me. Just about a month ago. I flew out to do these shows with The Cult. There a festival in Minehead is Southwest England on Saturday night with Gene Loves Jezebel, and I did it on a Sunday night with a Punk Rock group called Chelsea, it was way back in the day. I like to be busy.

LA Beat: You were in Chelsea first and you transitioned to Generation X?

James Stevenson: Yeah, I joined Chelsea when I was very, very young. I was still at school. I joined the band and I was in the original 1977 Punk Rock group in London. It was all part of that scene with The Roxy and so a couple of member left that band in 1980 and I left the band as well. I was wondering what to do next. Tony James from Generation X gave me a call and wanted to know if I’d like to Generation X. He was looking for a guitarist.

LA Beat: I met Tony James during the Sigue Sigue Sputnik period. There was a lot of hair.

James Stevenson: Yeah (chuckle), that was a funny old group!

LA Beat: I guess they were met with tomatoes, at what’s called the Avalon now. They were controversial.

James Stevenson: They were. I don’t know what Tony did wrong with that because everyone was very excited by them and then everybody got bored with it very quickly. The rumor got out that they had gotten this huge advance and then people questioned the lead singer. It went from sweet to sour very quickly.

LA Beat: That’s only good in Chinese food.

James Stevenson: Yes, absolutely! Tony is an interesting guy.

LA Beat: So when do you think you’ll be getting back with The Swingers and do your thing with them?

James Stevenson: We’re trying to figure out about this album. I think we’re going to do a pledge, which will start in August. Gary Twinn, the singer, and I are here in Los Angeles. Clem is in New York doing some stuff with Blondie. Glen is in London. We’ve worked out the soonest we can get together is in November to record this album will be the first week in November. That’s how far in advance we have to plan. Sometime we all happen to be in the same city and we slot in a gig real fast. That’s how we kind of have to run it right now.

LA Beat: I’m interested in The Swingers, not that I’m not interested in the other groups, but The Swingers have been around a shorter time and there’s a lot of energy there!

James Stevenson: Yeah, yeah, we all love playing together. As Clem Burke said, “No one answered an advert to get this band.” It actually, came through Gary, the singer, that had a huge hit in Australia back in the day. He had a promoter, who was his friend, say, Hey, why don’t you put a band together with friends and come out together and play all the hits form the bands they’ve been in. So he called me, Glen and Clem. We thought it was a great idea. Then off we go to Australia and did some shows out there. That was 2 1/2 years ago. After we did that we really enjoyed playing together. We are all friends socially anyway. We’ve been mucking it about ever since.

LA Beat: Is there anything on your mind you that you would like to share with people?

James Stevenson: My solo album!

LA Beat: Oh, then share!

James Stevenson: I’ve been playing in various bands for 35 years. But I always wanted to do a solo album. About a year ago I decided I was going to get it done! I wanted to do it properly in a proper studio with a proper producer. I think you get that little sonic extra by doing it like that. So I rang up a producer friend of mine, Peter Walsh, he’s produce 4 Gene Loves Jezebel albums. He’s done like, Simple Minds, Scott Walker and Peter Gabriel. I told him I was going be doing a solo album and is there any he could help me out with it, just a little bit. He said, “James, I’m producing your solo album. I wouldn’t let you do it with anyone else!” So I was really, really happy with the way it came out. A lot of my friends played on it. I didn’t get every single person I know. I got people, if I thought they would fit the song. Glen Matlock is on it, the rhythm section form Gene Love Jezebel is on it and Steve Norman the saxophonist from Spandau Ballet is on it. Barriemore Barlow from Jethro Tull is in it. I was playing him, actually in the studio, in the control room, The International Swingers, because he was obviously interested in it because Clem Burke is a really well known drummer. Afterwards Barriemore said to me, “Yeah, I can do all that stuff. Why don’t you let me play on a couple of tracks?” So he played on it and he was fantastic! Then later on, Johnny Tempesta, the drummer of The Cult, when he heard the drums, I told him it was Barriemore Barlow playing. Johnny said, “Wow, Barriemore Barlow, that’s the guy that got me to pick a pair of drum sticks in the first place!” That was all really interesting. It’s only came out in the U.K. I’m trying to get a release here in the US, but it’s on iTunes right now or you can get the CD from my website at http://www.jamesstevenson.info/. It’s so funny how the world has changed! If you want to buy a CD now there’s no stores anymore. The music industry is in a strange state right now. I think it will find its feet.

James Stevenson’ CD “Everything is Getting Closer to Being Over” is out now.

jamesstevenson.info/

Twitter.com/jamesonguitars

Facebook.com/JamesOnGuitars

Photo courtesy of the artist’s website

Billy Bennight

About Billy Bennight

Billy Bennight is a writer, photographer and wardrobe stylist with expertise and years of experience in these disciplines. His musical youth started as a Punk Rocker and has expanded into exploring many genres of music, with an keen interest in art, fashion, photography and writing. He shoots celebrity events and red carpets for PR Photos, Photoshot and The Photo Access/Corbis. His images have been published in Vanity Fair, People Magazine and The Los Angeles Times. He's very engaged in life. You can follow him on his Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/billybennightartist
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