Photo: Kyle Mcloughlin
If there's one man who embodies and manifests the innovation, creativity and musical prowess within alternative music it's undoubtedly Jamie Lenman. Ever the gentleman, we got to sit down with him before his set at Download to chat about Devolver, the transition to Big Scary Monsters, his opinions on people asking for a Reuben reunion, channeling the energy of Satan, ice cream and more.
Hi Jamie, how are you?
Jame: Yeah I'm good man, it's a beautiful day out here, it's bright, it's not too warm, a gentle breeze is caressing my neck, I feel good.
How you feeling about your set?
Jamie: You know what I haven't really had the chance to get into the zone for it! Since I got here I sort of managed to cram a sandwich down and then I came pretty much straight here to do press and the funny thing is that everything is asking me 'how do you feel about your set' and I can't tell them because I'm still in my chatty chatty mode. So in a minute I'll go to my trailer, light a few incense sticks and I'll say a few prayers to Satan and then I'll be in the zone to bring hard music to the people.
So is that you're go to warm up routine for a show?
Jamie: Absolutely, just a couple of utterances into the nether worlds and it fills me with the spirit of darkness and then I can play awesome music.
You're latest album Devolver is structured very differently to you're first solo record Muscle Memory. Was that a conscious decision?
Jamie: Definitely, usually I just go into a record and record whatever songs I have. What we used to do in the band (Reuben) is just record ten or twelve songs, where as with that one (Muscle Memory) I decided as I was writing to make it a project and split it up into two halves and make certain songs a little bit softer than they were and make certain songs a little bit harder so they could fit. But a lot of stuff I was writing fell in between, they had a soft bit and a heavy bit, which is how I naturally write. But those songs didn't really have a place in either half so I had to either modify them so they would fit or just keep them until later, which is how they ended up on Devolver.
So you recently made the change to Big Scary Monsters from Xtra Mile, which you were with since Rebuen. How did that come about?
Jamie:I changed my whole team after the last record and I didn't have management, I didn't have press or PR so this time when I got a new team assembled we cast a much wider net and talked to a lot of labels and Big Scary Monsters just had the best ideas. They had a lot of very exciting ideas like the pre-order campaign so I thought 'let's do this one with those guys and see how it goes' and it's worked out really well.
That label is firing on all cylinders right now. So at 2000 Trees last year there was a lot of mutterings and rumors about a possible Reuben reunion, which obviously never came to fruition. Do you find such rumors and people asking for a reunion annoying?
Jamie: Well, I don't find it annoying that they wan't a Reuben reunion...well, yes I do actually! I feel like certain types of art, particularly rock and roll bands, are so much about youth, energy and a special moment. I feel that these moments can only be special if it's finite and if it carries on forever then you have to ask whats the point, it looses it's magic. When people want all their favorite bands to keep playing it's just so weird to me because it's never going to be like it was, you're on diminishing returns there. So even though I'm happy people like that band, like, I don't want my fucking favorite bands to come back! I'm happy, I've got my five or six records from them. When band's come back it's usually not very good, they've lost their vital energy that held them together, especially after they've been away for such a long time. So I never enjoy it personally and I find it a bit bewildering that other people would want a relive something again, again and again. I've spent 10 years now telling people it's not going to happen and either they are just not listening or they think I'm a lair and both of those are quite frustrating. To feel like people aren't listening or they are listening but they just don't believe you, that can be quite frustrating because I always tell the truth, I'm always very honest with people. So you think by now they would of got the message.
Where did the idea to wear formal attire on stage come from?
Jamie: Well that’s not a onstage persona, that’s just my persona, that’s just me. When we went on our last tour with our heavy metal band, everyone was wearing waistcoats, trousers and smart shirts because that’s what I would wear and I thought it would be funny if I came out and my band were all in jeans and t-shirts. So I did say to them, ‘look, get some waistcoats and shirt so at least we would all match.' It wasn’t the thinking that ‘hey, everyone wear a uniform’, it was more that I was going to wear what I wanted to wear anyway, that’s just what I wear everyday and I didn’t want to stand out. So I made everyone to match me and now we wear the white clobber and again, that’s just more of a practical decision because wearing the waistcoats can be quite stuffy so it can allow us to wear less. You would think it’s a stupid idea to wear white but the thing is when I go to big party or have a wedding anniversary, I wear white. White’s my colour, that’s what I wear at any special occasion and when I play a gig I see it as a special occasion really. Plus because there’s only two of us now you want to be seen a bit more so it helps to wear white. It’s all a very logical process, it’s just like picking out what you would wear to a party or a special occasion. And again, I make Daniel (Drums) wear white so we match, it would look weird if he came on in a kilt right?
It would totally be a sight. So you play a fair few stripped back acoustic shows and you’re set to perform an acoustic forest set at 2000 Trees next month. Do you approach these shows with a different mindset?
Jamie: Well physically and practically they’re very different. If I’m doing an acoustic show all I’ll have to bring in is an acoustic guitar and I don’t have to rehearse or anything else but if we’re doing an electric show we have to bring all this gear in, I’ll have to soundcheck with Daniel and you have to hire lots of people to make it sound good. But philosophically I don’t think there’s any difference at all, I don’t like it when you see bands who do ‘X band, acoustic show, or X band, full on electric show’. I think it’s just the same song, what’s the difference between a bit of volume? I would like to think that if someone came to my show and were expecting full on metal and I turned up with an acoustic guitar by the time that the 45 minutes has passed I hope they would have left having had a great time. It might not have been what they expected but even if I’ve got an electric guitar and a drummer or if I’ve just got an acoustic I’m going to go out and I’m going to sing a hours’ worth of songs and they’re all going to be great songs that I tried really hard to write and I’m going to mean every word of them no matter what format it is. So as far as I’m concerned there’s no difference to me, I’m still giving it 100% performance wise.
That’s a fantastic outlook to have. That’s all about we have time for but before we go, what’s the most memorable or oddest thing you’ve seen at a festival?
Jamie: Oddest thing that I’ve seen? Wow. I think the oddest thing I’ve seen was when I when I went to Hevy Fest with Dave McPherson from InMe and there was this crepe stand and a few Mr. Whippy vans. I was like ‘Ayo, what if we get a crepe and turn it into a funnel and then we’ll ask Mr. Whippy there to fill it on up?’. We went on a mission to find someone who would do it for us because a fair few ice cream vans wouldn’t do it. But we finally found one guy who would do it. To see that crepe full of ice cream, it was beautiful man. That’s my favorite thing I’ve seen at a festival.
Sounds delicious. Cheers for the chat mate!
Jamie Lenman is set to perform at this year's 2000 Trees, Tramlines, ArcTanGent and Rocked Up festivals. He will also be directly supporting Marmozets at their one off London show at the 02 Forum Kentish Town on the 19th of October. Nab your tickets using this link, you're not going to want to miss it.