Tim Burgess, English singer and songwriter with alternative rock band The Charlatans, chats with Kevin Cooper about working on a building site, his ideal Christmas, their latest album Different Days and their forthcoming tour of the UK.

Tim Burgess is an English singer-songwriter and record label owner, best known as the lead singer of the alternative rock band The Charlatans.

The Charlatans were largely influenced by acid house, 1960s-era West Coast psychedelia and the Syd Barrett era of Pink Floyd. Their debut single Indian Rope was a success, as was The Only One I Know which charted in the top ten of the UK Singles Chart. The band has released twelve studio albums to date.

He has also had a solo career after releasing his debut solo album, I Believe in 2003. Burgess’ second solo album Oh No I Love You was produced by Mark Nevers.

Burgess has twice contributed vocals to tracks by The Chemical Brothers; 1995’s Life Is Sweet, taken from their debut album Exit Planet Dust; and 2005’s The Boxer, from their Push The Button album. He has also contributed to the song You Don’t Know This About Me by Freebass, the group featuring New Order ex-member Peter Hook and Mani of The Stone Roses.

In 2012 he performed at Manchester Cathedral as part of a super group featuring Mark Collins of The Charlatans, Martin Duffy of Primal Scream and New Order’s Peter Hook. The performance was part of a concert organised to help the city’s deprived youth.

Whilst getting ready to tour the UK with The Charlatans, Tim Burgess took some time to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

Hi Tim how are you?

Hi Kevin I’m very well thank you, how are you today?

I have to say that all is good with me thanks and before we move on let me thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

That’s okay, you are very welcome.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

Life at the minute is treating me very well, in fact I have to say that everything is fine.

I would like to talk about the latest album Different Days which I have now been playing for the past few weeks and I have to say that I think that it is a fantastic piece of work.

Thanks for that, it really is great to hear, so thanks a lot.

On the album there are contributions from an enviable cast of friends from Paul Weller and Johnny Marr to crime writer Ian Rankin and writer/actress Sharon Horgan. How did you get these people to contribute to the album?

(Laughter) the simple answer is, I asked them.

Were you and the rest of the guys happy with the fans reaction to the album?

I have to say that is the reason for us going out on tour is because I don’t really know what the fans reaction to the new songs is as yet.

Well let me just say that I have read some fantastic reviews and in fact, a lot of the fans are already saying that it is your best work to date.

I have to say that a lot of the reviewers have said that so I am hoping that the audiences will think that too. We will just have to wait and see (laughter).

You will know better than me that favourite tracks change from day to day depending upon the mood that you are in. Having said that the three tracks that I find myself keep going back to are Over Again, Let’s Go Together and There Will Be Chances. I personally feel that they really are the standout tracks on the album.

(Laughter) it’s funny that you mention Over Again because that is scheduled to be the next single. There Will Be Chances is an interesting one, in the fact that I think that is the only track on the album without any guests appearing on it. Having said that I might be wrong; I don’t know (laughter). It’s funny because I don’t think of any of the guests on the album as being guests anymore, I simply think of them as being part of the band.

I personally feel that the album has a lighter and more relaxed feel to it than a lot of your previous works. Would you agree with that?

Yes I would, I probably would. A lot of the album was written acoustically, and the track Not Forgotten is the one track that we have played live the most. You have to remember that we have only played a few festivals here and there together with a few acoustic shows but Not Forgotten seems to be the big song live at the moment.

It’s the sort of album that you want to be playing in the summer when you are driving around with the roof down isn’t it?

Yes it is, it really is a euphoric album which has been made during very uncertain times. Should we really mention Brexit and Donald Trump (laughter)? It was made at the time that all of that stuff was going on plus all of the other stuff that everybody knows now. I thought to myself the world is in a mess, so let us make a really euphoric album, and that I believe, is what we have done.

Where did you record the album?

We recorded and mixed the album at The Big Mushroom Studio, which as you will know is the Charlatans recording studio.

And just how long were you working on it from writing to recording?

It took us about three months in total, but having said that we didn’t work on the album every day. Me and Mark (Collins) demoed the songs that we bought to the table pretty extensively. For this album we actually demoed quite hard. That meant that they were almost finished by the time that we bought them to the table and the rest of the band.

What do you think to the current demand for everything to be released on cassette?

(Laughter) I have to say that I personally think that it is very extraordinary. I never really thought that cassettes sounded very good the first time around. However, having said that we did a run of five hundred cassettes and they all sold in a day. We are now doing a second run so yes, I understand that there is a demand for them. Don’t laugh at this but I personally don’t have a cassette player, because I am a massive vinyl fan. I never really fell into CD’s but now in a strange sort of way I quite like them. I have always had an iPod simply because if you are running around, jumping on a bus, travelling on the tube, going for a walk with your headphones on then it is good if you want to listen to music. But most of all I love listening to vinyl at home, and the feel of putting a record on.

The last time that we spoke you told me that you are always working, always thinking about the next project. Are you working on the next studio album already?

No, I wouldn’t say that I am specifically working on the next studio album as yet but I am currently writing songs. There are a couple of songs that I have shared with Mark that will be, I’m sure, part of a Charlatans album and there are also a few that I have not shared with him as yet. So they may well finally make it onto an album when I get around to sending them to him, or make it into something else. I don’t think of where they go when I am writing them, but sometimes when I have finished them I sometimes think ‘I wonder if Mark would like this’ because I really do love working with Mark and he can very often surprise me about how much better a song can be.

Is the music industry in the UK currently in a good place?

I have to say yes, I really do think that it is. I think that it is currently in a place where the bottom fell out of it and the only thing that it could really do was not care. When it gets to that stage you can be even more experimental and even more irreverent, if that’s a good word. You can be more throwaway and more fun. Initially when the music industry started to collapse there was a panic, and people were starting to make records that were really uptight. Now people are much more laid back; they are doing fun things, with lots of records being released, and every year the record sales seem to be going up and up. So I personally think that the industry is at the moment in a pretty cool place; everyone is releasing stuff on coloured vinyl, cassettes, CD’s so yes, why not.

Where do you stand on streaming; will it save the industry or is it the devil in disguise?

I think that once Google start paying the artists what they are due then I think that eventually things will start to level out. Jon Bon Jovi was on the Larry King Talk Show and he was saying how he was only paid something like 0.0001p per stream. The problem at the moment is that Google own everything so we have to wait to see just how long it takes them to pay the artists their worth.

Looking at things from the outside I personally didn’t think that Bono helped the situation in any way when he gave away U2’s album free of charge.

(Laughter) well what can I say, it doesn’t help my life (laughter). That is the only record that I cannot get rid of from both my iPod and my little boy’s iPad. So wherever I am I will plug my iPod in and the only thing that comes up is flipping U2 (laughter). You know what it is like when you are pressing a button and the thing won’t go off, and to do that to so many people, it is, in my opinion quite simply bullying.

You are about to tour the UK and once again the tour will kick off here in Nottingham at Rock City on 29th November. Are you looking forward to that?

Yes I am, I can’t wait to get out there and play the new songs for the fans. However, I have to tell you that me and Mark will also be playing an acoustic set at Rough Trade the same day that we are at Rock City. I don’t know if it has been announced as yet so you can announce it if you want.

Do you have fond memories of Rock City?

Yes I do and we always seem to play there whenever we tour the UK ever since we first started out. I have always had some very interesting experiences at Rock City, and I have always felt that it is such a great venue on the inside. In fact I think that we also kicked off our last tour at Rock City too. So obviously we must have a thing for Nottingham (laughter).

Yes you did. Do you enjoy your time spent here in Nottingham?

Yes I do and I personally have quite a lot of history with Nottingham. I can remember DJing up there at The Social way back in 1995. I remember being on a bus travelling up to Nottingham from London with The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk and Monkey Matthew. We all went up to Nottingham, we all DJed and then went back to London on the bus (laughter). For me to be DJing with Daft Punk up there in Nottingham was a great experience. Here is a bit of trivia for you, Daft Punk finally ended up remixing the Chemical Brothers track Life Is Sweet, which I sang on.

So just what we expect at Rock City?

Well what can I say, the Rock City gig will be great and the Rough Trade session will be fantastic too. Things are really starting to happen in Nottingham I think.

Far too many students for my liking but….

Don’t say that, they will be the ones going to the gig (laughter).

The Charlatans have now been together for twenty-nine years. Are you all currently in a good place?

I think so. As you know we have had our ups and downs in the past but I personally feel that we are now in a far better place than we have ever been. Not just as an album but an album will always reflect exactly where a band are at that moment in time. For the five years before the death of our drummer Jon (Brookes) he was very ill and we were trying to make music but it wasn’t really happening but we all wanted him to be involved so we kept on doing as much as we could. We all, including myself, went through having kids, marriage breakups, so there were lots of changes during a crazy, tumultuous period of our lives.

After we had played the Albert Hall Tribute Concert for Jon we all got back into the studio; we all thought that the previous five years had been manic and the good thing was that we all, once again, wanted to make some music. All of the really hard times that we had been through during those last five years simply disappeared and we were all together once again being able to create some great music. It was all about the timing really. We toured all over the world selling out wherever we played. The album Modern Nature was in the charts in the best position that we had had for a while and so we didn’t want anything to change with the latest album Different Days.

So as you can see we all at this moment in time feel that we are in a far better place again after the touring of Modern Nature. Because we were all on a high from the success of the album and the tour, we went straight back into the studio and made the record. We didn’t tell anyone, we didn’t want to put ourselves under any pressure, we just did it. Then it became a thing that we wouldn’t tell anyone which we all felt was quite cool (laughter). Then we got a load of friends to come along and visit us and managed to encourage them to keep the big secret as well.

If it hadn’t have been a career in music what would it have been?

Well some people tell me that I would have always found myself a way into making music or into the music business because that is what I have always really cared about. But I don’t know whether I agree with them because I was also very happy working on the building sites wearing headphones and just dreaming all day. I used to get a weekly wage, I was working out in Northwich and Liam Gallagher would find himself some years later doing the same job as me. It was for me a labouring gateway into stardom (laughter).

Are there any thoughts regarding a new solo studio album?

What can I say, I am writing with a few different people at the moment so there is always a chance of some new stuff, yes. And some old stuff because I have loads of old stuff as well (laughter).

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

There was something in Season Three of Twin Peaks but I can’t for the life of me remember what the song was (laughter). I had tears of emotional joy. It was an old 50s song of which the title has slipped my mind.

What was the best Christmas present that you have ever received?

That’s easy, it was a second-hand Raleigh Chopper bike which you should know quite well as they were made down there in Nottingham (laughter).

Yes I do, I almost had one but cried off at the last minute. So moving on from that, what was the worst Christmas gift that you have ever received?

That was a poster of the Mona Lisa smoking a joint (laughter).

What would be your ideal Christmas?

That would be for me to be with everybody who came along and helped us make Different Days. All of the people who are on the record are not only famous in their own right, they are also really brilliant people and are so much fun to hang out with. Plus my little boy who helps to glue it all together by trying to get everyone to play with his dinosaurs (laughter). I think I would like my dad there too because he is not very well at the moment.

On that note Tim let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been great.

Thanks for that Kevin, it’s been a pleasure. You take care and I will see you up there in Nottingham.