THE CHARLATANS From madchester to alt-rock

In their 29 year career to date, The Charlatans have produced 13 albums and have had international success with hits such as The Only One I Know and One to Another. With Madchester and Britpop origins, throughout their touring years The Charlatans have surpassed these styles to produce a sound that is all their own. Most recently, the band released new single Totally Eclipsing, have embarked on an international tour, and will be performing in Perth at Capitol on Wednesday, August 29. ALEXIA LARCHER spoke with frontman Tim Burgess about Totally Eclipsing, music festivals and his influences and formative years as a musician.

I was just looking at The Charlatans tour schedule and looks like you are set to perform at Belladrum Festival in Scotland in a couple of days. Are you in Scotland at the moment and what are you up to?

I am in London at the moment and I’m just having my breakfast. Don’t know how the day is going to unfold yet. I was actually at Kendal Calling (music festival) over the weekend. It’s a three day festival and it’s a beautiful thing. I will be flying to Scotland on Friday morning.

Are you looking forward to performing at a music festival? Do you like the whole festival atmosphere or do you prefer more of an indoor stage setting?

I do enjoy touring indoor stages, but doing festivals in the summer time has become part of life now. It’s just a thing that everyone has embraced over the last 20 years. So yeah, I do enjoy the whole festival atmosphere. There are no particular live music venues that I enjoy playing at more than others.

At Belladrum Festival you will be performing alongside acts such as Primal Scream. Have you had a favourite act who you have performed alongside? 

Yes, I suppose in the early days L7, Beach Boys and Sonic Youth. In later years, New Order, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and recently a young band called Average Sex.

Growing up in England in the 70s/80s a lot would have been going on music-wise with performers such as The Who, The Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd, Joy Division, The Smiths and more establishing themselves as artists. Such an amazing era of music to grow up to. Did you have a particular musician that changed everything for you and inspired you to want to become a songwriter and performer?    

Mark E Smith, Ian Curtis and the music of New Order were all influential to me as a person. That was really early on though. As I’ve grown as a musician or singer I have found inspiration all the way along. For me, growing up in and just outside Manchester, New Order were the band that I followed around the country. I was a bit too young for Joy Division, but their legacy hung around New Order obviously. I was exposed to music by watching people on Top of the Pops, listening to the radio and buying records. Punk music was a big thing for me, I was very young, but I liked the emotion, anger and vibe that came from it.

As a teenager, what were your favourite albums?

New Order, Power Corruption & Lies, it was like a rite of passage for me really. Before that I was into a band called Crass, an anarchist punk group, and liked their album Stations of the Crass. I was young, about 13 years old.

In The Charlatans’ formative years, the band was associated with the Madchester scene. However as a band you appeared to have drifted from that throughout your career. Did you want to establish the Charlatans as a band that incorporated that genre?

I didn’t think about it too much because Madchester and Manchester styled music was a part of my life. The only people in my opinion who had a problem with being associated with Madchester/Manchester music were the members of The Charlatans who were not from Manchester (laughs). I never second guessed it because I was already from there. I think our band’s genre of music in some ways is college rock or alternative rock.

I read that in formative years The Charlatans were influenced by acid house, 60s West Coast Psychedelia, and in particular the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd. Syd Barett is amazing obviously. In what ways have you been influenced by him?

Well, I had to discover him. I discovered him early, going to clubs and parties where people would play psychedelic music. If you listen to acid house at a club it makes some kind of connection with something like Interstellar Overdrive or Arnold Layne. I don’t know whether it was conscious, but I dismissed some of their other stuff. I do like some of it like The Wall, but I’ve never listened to Dark Side of the Moon. But I love Syd Barrett’s solo stuff, yeah I just love him.

The Charlatans also released Different Days in 2017 and Paul Weller featured on the album. What was it like working with Paul Weller?

I love working with Paul. I love hanging out with him. I’m very pleased to be able to call him my friend. I’ve known him since 1993. I’ve listened to his music from 1979.

Have you been influenced by Paul Weller musically?

I think so, I did an album called Wonderland. And I chose a style of singing they call falsetto. For me I was concentrating on Curtis Mayfield and Neil Young who both use that technique. But I think if I really trace it back, the first time I ever heard someone singing in that style was Paul Weller in The Style Council, in You’re The Best Thing so that’s probably my major influence. But I like a lot of his stuff and love him as a person.

Johnny Marr who also featured on the album has a unique style of guitar playing, did you find that this blended well with The Charlatans sound in initial recordings when you first started working together?

Yeah definitely. Johnny played Manchester styled music in the early 80s and I consider him an influential person. I loved The Smiths songs, but I kind of wasn’t a fan at the time (1980s). I loved some of their singles, but I got more into them when they put out their live album Rank. I brought that record and then backtracked after that. I was a big fan of New Order when The Smiths were putting out records. They were kind of in competition, so I guess I wasn’t much of a fan at the time.

I would like to talk about the latest EP Totally Eclipsing which I think is a fantastic piece of work. What was your inspiration or motivation to create this EP? How much time did you spend working on the EP?

Thank you. We first wrote Totally Eclipsing last August and then recorded it in January. We had around 6 months to work on it. We had an idea of putting a festival together which we called North by Northwich, a festival located in the band’s adopted hometown. We decided to put on a series of shows there and also an exhibition for 10 days. The idea was to record something and have an EP to come out at the time, so that was the reason behind it all.

Do you have any future upcoming albums planned?

No, we haven’t written anything new for a while. We recorded Totally Eclipsing in January, but no one heard it until May. I guess its August now so it feels like that has gone quite quick. I have a few things knocking around that could turn in potential songs, but that’s the exciting thing about being in a band – when you’re looking for something new and putting a song together. I like piecing things together, it’s quite exciting in a good song. I still like creating music, that’s the best bit.

 And finally, you’re set to tour Australia soon, what should we be expecting in terms of a set list? 

Wow that’s coming up soon. Yeah definitely, I imagine we have an hour 45, so we have a lot to cover. Well, we always finished with Sproston Green and that’s from the first album. We don’t have any trouble playing The Only One I Know or North Country Boy or One to Another, the big parts. Also Let the Good Times Be Never Ending and hits from Different Days are new classics. We will play Totally Eclipsing because it’s a banger. There are not that many of our songs that I don’t like playing, so I’m kind of open. And even the ones I don’t like playing, it’s because it hurts my voice or throat a bit, probably because I’m lazy.

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