We were absolutely honoured when Jim Bob agreed to swing by EIO40 HQ for a cup of tea, a slice of homemade cake and a chat about all things JB, Carter USM, writing books and other sundry stuff.
To be honest, not sure we could do an introduction justice for an interview with James “Jim Bob” Morrison. Noteable alumni of South London, famously one half of Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine, accomplished solo artist and award winning author. We could list the accolades and achievements, but won’t. We’ll be here all day. Instead we’ll just let Jim Bob’s own words tell the story.
In the usual EIO40 way of doing things, we asked a select group of the community to help us probe Jim Bob by telling us what they wanted to know about the man and his life. So a gracious thank you to our esteemed panel members @Betamax857 @jason_dobson Ray @country_mile Jon @Crowbiscuits @Dalliance68 @chemangel Dawn @Miss_D_xx Andrew @MerrieCityMan @sharkastic Sean @Carter_69 & Graham Ricket
“So put your feet up, enjoy the show
Twenty four minutes from Tulse Hill let’s go”
EIO40: Hi Jim. Thank you for giving up your valuable time to talk to us. Now, going back to the early days what were you like as a teenager? Were you rebellious at school?
Jim Bob: I think I was rebellious in a way. I mean when I was at school I would say I was one of the fairly good kids but I was easily manipulated by the bad kids. Definitely towards my final time at school I was hanging around with the wrong people. I didn’t go to school a lot in the last year. I think I did two exams. I did really badly at school. I went from when I was about 13 and top in maths and by the end of school I was in the non-exam group. I don’t know what that says about me. But I was always into music. I was passionate about it.
EIO40: What were you into musically back then? Those teenage years can be formative, can’t they?
Jim Bob: Yes or even before then. I mean it is the one thing I do remember quite a lot of. I had an older sister and she had quite a lot of friends that used to come round. Even when I was like around nine and she would have been about eleven, they used to listen to a lot of Ska music and stuff like that because they were like Smoothes. Did they call them Smoothes? Skinheads with hair. A sort of cross between mods and skinheads.
I probably was really into whatever she liked. Then whatever boyfriend she had I tended to get into their music. When I was probably 13 or 14 I remember a boyfriend she had for quite a while, he liked rock music. I liked whatever he had so that would have been things like Supertramp.
By then I had a lot of eclectic things going on with people I knew at school. The first band I was in, I must have been I suppose about 14. It was a band just doing rock and roll songs. The first live performance was doing Buddy Holly songs. It was a band that wasn’t really a band. I don’t think anybody could play. I think the music teacher played guitar just to link it.
I was really into rock and roll when I was young, like Bill Haley and Buddy Holly. But it was probably for really short periods of time because by the end of school when I was 15 or 16 it was punk. It was right at the end of my school that I got into that. I remember the headmaster doing an assembly and warning people about punk music. He told us that it was, “Just a phase and don’t get involved in it”.
I remember getting into trouble, not beaten up, with some other kids because I had straight jeans. I wore straight jeans and they were still wearing flares. You had to sort of be quite secretive about the fact that you might like The Stranglers or something because it was definitely frowned upon by most people, by kids I mean.
EIO40: On the subject of school, by that what we actually mean is your 2006 solo album ‘School’, is ‘Mrs McMurphy’ based on a real teacher?
Jim Bob: Yes she is. She is actually based on my daughter’s cookery teacher. In fact there are probably more. Some bits of the teachers in the album do come from her teachers at the time. She had a trendy history teacher, a really, really moody, chip on his shoulder geography teacher and a really horrible, really angry cookery teacher. I think I was just nicking those. But there did seem to be a thing about geography teachers. Do they still do options these days? When you got to 13 and you could choose what subjects to do, people seemed to drop geography and I presume if you are a geography teacher it must be a bit, every year, “Uh, here we go again”. It is the unpopular subject.
EIO40: Can you remember the first gig that you went to?
Jim Bob: I am pretty sure that the first gig I went to was Queen in Hyde Park. They did a free gig. I went with my mates. I don’t know how old I was. I reckon 14 or something. I remember my mate went to the toilet and I never saw him again that day. I was there like terrified, surrounded by all these old hippies. But they sort of threw bottles at a lot of the support acts. I remember quite a lot of that day, particularly having to get home on my own.
I remember one of the support acts was Kiki Dee. It was around the time of, ‘Don’t Go Breaking My Heart’ with Elton John. She did that with a cardboard cut out of Elton John. But I can’t remember who sung his bits or if she did both bits. Who else was on? Steve Hillage who was like a real old hippy. I don’t know any of his music but in my head he is like Neil from The Young Ones. I think a lot of people threw piss at him. I just remember it being quite an intimidating atmosphere at that age. I am pretty sure that is the first gig I went to.
EIO40: I understand you originally started a band with Les Carter (Fruitbat) called The Ballpoints, was that right? Was that your first band?
Jim Bob: I was in a band before. Well if you exclude the things I was in at school that weren’t really bands. I was in a band called Jeepster, which came from a T-Rex song. That was my first band. It was around the time of the mod revival, that sort of time. We were a little bit moddy. We had quite a lot of big ideas about how great we were and how all our songs were about very specific things. But we only did one gig. When we got the gig I left my job. It was my first job and I’d had it for quite a while. It was quite a good job. We had one gig in some youth club somewhere and I left work because I thought, “This is it. Here we go”.
Jeepster then sort of turned into The Ballpoints. It would have been two members of Jeepster became The Ballpoints. Then Les joined later. At that time he was a sort of a constructive destructive force. He used to come in bands and basically get rid of members, not in a horrible way but he was very good at sort of working out, “This person is holding us back” or whatever. Whereas I would just carry on. If it were up to me I wouldn’t want to upset anyone and just carry on forever and not get anywhere. Then we changed our name to Peter Pan’s Playground.
EIO40: Did you have any demo tapes from these bands?
Jim Bob: Yes we did.
EIO40: Have they ever see the light of day?
Jim Bob: No. They do exist and people are always asking about them. There are certain record labels that would like to release stuff. The Jeepster stuff to me is quite bad but it is brilliant in its badness. Whereas The Ballpoints probably stands the test of time not so well because we were trying to be serious. We were trying to be The Jam whereas before it was just fairly unique.
There is also a lot of Jamie Wednesday stuff that people are pretty much week-by-week asking us to release. I don’t know. I mean if I am honest I have to lie to people because I quite like not everything to be available. Do you know what I mean? I quite like there to be a bit of a secret for the 15 people that heard it at the time.
EIO40: Now there was a gap between The Ballpoints and Jamie Wednesday. Did you go back to work at that point?
Jim Bob: I was working. I mean not long after I left my first job I got another job. I did quite a lot of long term temp work. I was always working. But I think after The Ballpoints both Les and me were mates and that but we were both trying to do solo things. We made quite a lot of demos again. Some of those became Carter songs. I was doing solo stuff under the name Jamie Wednesday. He was doing solo stuff under the name Cartoon Carter because his surname was Carter. He was supposedly a cartoon character. But we didn’t really do anything other than just make demos really. Then at some point we decided to become a band.
I think it might have just been me wanting to play some of my songs live and Les played with me. This was around venues in Streatham and Croydon. Then maybe at some point we thought, “It would be good if we had some drums” or something like that. Then we met a sax player. A lot of times it tended to be meeting people. We met a saxophone player so therefore we had a saxophone. Then that led to Jamie Wednesday having a horn section and so on. But yes there was a time when we were just doing solo demos and that.
EIO40: A Jamie Wednesday track recently appeared on the Cherry Red C87 compilation (“We Three Kings Of Orient Aren’t”)
Jim Bob: Those albums are pretty good aren’t they? Just the amount of stuff they have on there. Cherry Red are brilliant at finding stuff. They will pretty much release anything but they are good at getting the right songs together. I suppose if you are thinking about the early ‘80s onwards there probably was an indie scene in the way there wouldn’t be now. Because now it would be so connected to money and Spotify and all the rest of it. Whereas then it was very much real. You could go and see four bands in a pub that nowadays would be playing Brixton Academy but selling fewer records.
EIO40: Okay, so moving onto Carter now. Did you ever think that you would be as successful as you were?
Jim Bob: I think we always thought we were really good right from the beginning. We always felt that. But I don’t think we planned as much when it happened as we had in the past. It all happened, with the exception of about a year at the beginning, quite quickly and quite easily so that there almost wasn’t time to really think about that.
EIO40: Watching an interview you did a few years ago, I think you said you’d only sent the demo to one label. There wasn’t any sort of shopping around per se.
Jim Bob: The whole thing came from Jamie Wednesday. The band split before a gig but we I had do something. Les & I went into a studio in someone’s garden shed, which is where we ended up recording most of the Carter albums, and just recorded these backing tracks. Then two weeks later or possibly even less, a week later maybe, we did the gig. We weren’t rehearsing or anything like that. We did the first gig and then from that did some other gigs. Then made a demo quite soon after and gave it to the first label. They said, “Yes do you want to do a single?”
It was only after that first single that there was a gap because we got in a legal disagreement about whether they should let us record anything else with another label. Then within a year or however long it was, the next thing would have been ‘Sheriff Fatman’. That wasn’t massively successful at first but it got reviews and stuff. Yes I suppose we didn’t really have a chance to think. Then all of a sudden you are doing really well and by that point you don’t like it anymore. You do some moaning, “Oh no not another interview”.
EIO40: Was that what you were thinking this morning?
Jim Bob: (Laughs). No, Back then it was more like you know you are doing something you enjoy but you have got to spend the whole day doing 12 interviews and you start to hear yourself, you start to hear your own opinions and think, “Oh this bloke is an idiot. What is he talking about?” If I had to read back or see some of those interviews, I’d think “God, what a twat”.
EIO40: What do you consider to be your best Carter gig?
Jim Bob: I don’t know. I mean I always say Reading in ’91. Of the ones I remember, I remember that as being amazing at the time, especially because we weren’t headlining, but we sort of felt like we were. Not in an arrogant way. More we felt we were almost at the peak. Whereas when we were in Glastonbury, even though we were headlining, there were a lot of people starting to hate us. Whereas at Reading most people liked us at that point.
But then most of the reunion gigs we’ve done, I kind of think were sort of better in an odd way. Not all of them. Although a thing that surprised me was when somebody put up a load of videos somewhere. I think it was when Jon Beast died. A lot of videos and some of the old videos are just amazing to me for what it was like. In some of the gigs it looks like there is no stage because everyone is on stage, the crowds, the stage diving, it is chaos. That is quite exciting. In a way those gigs with hindsight are probably more exciting than the recent reunions that were more controlled.
EIO40: You mentioned Glastonbury in 1992, where Carter were famously banned for life by Michael Eavis following Les taking umbrage at your set being cut short. Are you still banned?
Jim Bob: Well I have played twice on the Leftfield stage since but I don’t think anybody would have noticed. Les has played there with Ferocious Dog. I don’t think we would be banned anyway. The way I look at it, without meaning to sound like I am still having a go at Glastonbury, but I imagine if Carter were big enough when we reformed to headline it then I think they would have forgotten all of that. Because didn’t Oasis headline it? I am pretty sure they said worse things about Glastonbury than we ever did. Or the Manics, they said worse.
EIO40: Now you mentioned Jon “Fat” Beast earlier who sadly passed away in 2014. At what point in your history did Jon begin introducing you and the chanting start?
Jim Bob: I think the chanting had started before he had anything to do with us. He used to be a promoter at the Bull & Gate in Kentish Town. He had a club there called Time Box. Carter played there quite early, very early on. Everybody played there, bands whose names have slipped my mind now. No only did he promote but he also did the lights. There weren’t many lights but he did the lights. All I remember is they had a box at the back upstairs where he’d do the lights. For some reason, considering he was the light man, he had a microphone. So he would just sort of heckle us because that was his character.
Then at some point he said he thought we needed lights. We didn’t have any lights. We weren’t a band with lights. It was just me and Les and a cassette recorder. He was obsessed with us having lights and I think we kind of resisted it. Then by the time we did have some lights we were doing a sort of college tour and he wanted to come along and do the lights. He said he didn’t want to be paid. He would just sell the merch and take some money from that. We said, “No”.
Then the first day of tour we turned up and he was there. He just came. We just couldn’t avoid him so he was just there. Then at some point he introduced us and the Fat Bastard thing happened, but I think he had already done it for Mega City Four. They were already shouting it at him for that because it was a football thing anyway, wasn’t it?
He was still doing our lights so he would introduce us and then come to the back and do the lights. At some point I think he lost interest in the lighting part of it and he got someone else in to help him. In the end he was just doing that.
EIO40: Naturally we’d like to know a bit more about those memorable lyrics you come up with. Is there is any particular Carter song you are most proud of lyrically?
Jim Bob: There are loads of little bits. There are lots of lines. I can’t think of any. But lines of mine where I think, “That’s quite clever”. ‘Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere’ as a total song I guess. It has got everything in it but it is not too, you know it has got all the puns in it but not at a point where it is a bit too embarrassing. ‘The tequila sun is rising and the Harvey’s Bristol moon is sinking’, is a line I really like. At the time I felt quite a sort of certain pride, awkward pride I suppose about the way that song meant a lot to people, people who were having difficulty, sort of the way people related to it. It was horrible that they related to it, but they said that was a positive thing.
But the lines that people quote are often things that I nicked. Not nicked but like, I don’t know, I think of things like people sometimes quote, “You can’t judge a book by its cover but you can tell how much it cost”. That came from a film. That is not me. But I often see people say, “Oh genius”. The genius wasn’t me. That is from Brideshead Revisited. I am not saying they are all stolen. It is like Morrissey and The Smiths. With a lot of his stuff you find you are watching a film and somebody says something and you go, “Hang on. That is a Smiths song”.
I think the reason why our music is never used in films and adverts is probably because the lyrics were very specific. They tend to stick out. That is a good thing, but a bad thing financially. But yes, because if you hear ‘Sheriff Fatman’ in a film you are hearing all that stuff going on. Whereas you can play, I don’t know, say The Stone Roses and you’re not quite sure what it is about. Is it about a woman banging some drums?
I met this bloke in Germany once who wrote some sort of thesis or something about the lyrics of ‘The Only Living Boy in New Cross’ from a German perspective. He explained what they were all about. It was really interesting because there were so many different levels to it that I kind of ignored, that most people ignored. For example it would be, ‘Hello, good evening and welcome to nothing much’ and he’d have to explain about David Frost and where that came from. And that New Cross was a place in South London but it refers back to Only Living Boy in New York.
EIO40: What was your best memory from your time with Carter?
Jim Bob: I’m not sure. Some of it is not that clear but the early days in a way were really exciting.When ‘101 Damnations’ got in the indie chart and then the actual chart. Then being at a gig when that happened, how exciting that was because it was new. Later on it gets to that point where you think, “Oh. Only number two?” But moments like that, you don’t tend to remember in a precise way.
In more recent times I do remember I got that feeling when we did the first reunion gig at Glasgow Barrowlands, the first proper sort of reunion. Walking through the venue during the day when they were setting all the lights and everything up and thinking, I had a real sort of feeling, “This is not just for me, but this is for me”. It was the biggest rush. It was quite a good feeling. I think I used to like that at gigs. I used to like walking around an empty Brixton Academy knowing it was sold out and that you are kind of responsible for that. That was a really good feeling.
Also the fact that, apart from the band and people working there and the audience, not really anybody else knows about it. Kind of outside of that small circle certainly with the reforming things, people just don’t know it happened. Do you know what I mean? Because it is not in the press. Everyone just still thinks, “Oh that band from the past”. Yes I like that sort of feeling. I miss that.
Then of course the large riders. It is always good to see a large pile of alcohol in a room that you can’t get when you are playing in a pub.
EIO40: When you did that first reunion, how difficult was it to decide on a set list?
Jim Bob: If it was entirely up to me it would have been relatively easy. I mean Les would be more inclined to do some ones that were more challenging to him and to the audience. Whereas I was quite happy to just do the obvious ones. We played quite long sets as you definitely have to play longer sets when it’s a comeback gig because you can’t just base it all around a new album. You have got to do everything. We’d had 14 singles or something so we sort of had to do most of those I think, if not all of them. Then there were songs that we were obviously going to do, ‘Prince in a Pauper’s Grave’ and things like that. It mostly does itself really I think.
It was good when we did the four albums thing because we definitely played songs there that we had never played live before. That was quite good to do that.
EIO40: You were forced to do songs you wouldn’t normally play?
Jim Bob: Yes, and to play them in the right order because people don’t do that very often. But it is bullshit isn’t it? Because you come on and you say, “We are doing all this album and then we are going to do loads of hits afterwards”. Then you look at it and just think, “Technically I am doing the same set just in a different order”. Maybe there are a couple that you wouldn’t normally do.
EIO40: You’ve probably seen on Twitter and social media, as we most certainly have, that people have kept all their posters, T shirts and other memorabilia. Have you kept any of that yourself?
Jim Bob: Yes. It is not in an organised way, but I have definitely got a lot of stuff. There is a lot of stuff under the bed. There is a big silver chest. It is not made of silver, a silver cover with loads of t-shirts inside. I have got a lot more of the old stuff than I have of the new stuff. I probably haven’t got most of the new Carter shirts but I have got all the old ones. They were better made in those days as well. Although surprisingly few CDs and that sort of stuff. I have probably got one copy of ’30 Something’.
EIO40: Is there a particular item that you have a fondness for?
Jim Bob: I quite like the gold discs just because they look like prizes don’t they?
EIO40: Assume they are not shoved under the bed?
Jim Bob: No, but they are not hanging up. They are just there. There are good things that people gave us just sort of sitting there gathering dust, like puppets from Japan. People made puppets of Les and me. Things like that are pretty cool.
A more recent thing which was for the last Brixton Academy gig, someone had reproduced the tickets for all the times we played there, might have been 25 times, and had framed them with a picture of the venue. They gave that to Les and me. Things like that are wonderful.
EIO40: After having been in a band for so long how did it it feel performing solo?
Jim Bob: Well, because after Carter the first thing I did was ‘Jim’s Super Stereoworld’, so it was another band technically, live anyway. The first gig I did with ‘Jim’s Super Stereoworld’ was fine, because it was packed. Then we did Reading and Leeds, on the smaller stage, and that was okay. Then the first gig outside London was a shock. I remember that. Basically because there was no-one there. (Laughter). That shook me a bit.
EIO40: It was a different world that what you had been used to?
Jim Bob: Yes. I thought, “Oh, right.” and that carried on for a while.
EIO40: Do you feel more vulnerable performing on the stage as a solo artist?
Jim Bob: No. Because when going on tour one of the reasons I don’t do that many gigs anymore, definitely one of the reasons, is that even though it’s just me and a guitar I can’t do gigs on my own completely. I mean, I can but I’ve hardly done any. There’s always someone with me. I can’t drive, so someone usually has to drive. So that’s Mr Spoons. Then there will probably be Marc (Ollington) or someone else there, selling any merchandise or whatever, and collecting the money, things like that. If I went on my own I wouldn’t collect the money, because I would be too timid to go and ask for it. (Laughter) I would feel I was insulting people by asking to be paid. So they’re there and that makes it almost like having a band, in a funny sort of way, even though they’re not onstage.
Playing solo doesn’t scare me in any way, and it means I can do whatever I want, I suppose, song-wise and that. Then getting back together with Les you sort of realise that some things are better being onstage with someone else or as a band. Also there’s a fine line between band and solo with me and Carter, because technically I suppose we were a duo, so we weren’t really a band then. So that’s good, that feeling of having someone else there, but also you end up having disagreements about the tiniest things, that you would never disagree about on your own.
For me it’s very much an audience thing, depending who the audience is and how many of them there are. Probably my biggest – well, I think it is my biggest fear, in terms of being a performer, is empty venues. I really can’t deal with it. And that’s transferred into book readings being the same sort of thing. It’s not size of venue. If I played in your living room, and say it holds 25 people or something, and there were 25 people here, I would be happier with that than I would be at a 600 capacity venue with 100 people there. Doing those ‘Jim’s Super Stereoworld’ things to empty venues with a band was less of an issue, because we had a good time as a group of people.
EIO40: Is there particular artist that you would like to perform onstage with, alive or dead?
Jim Bob: Only in a fantasy type way. In reality I think it would be awful. It’s all bloody… It’s very much about that now, isn’t it? Collaboration is what everyone does. I can’t think of anybody obvious. There are people that I like and admire. I like Elvis Costello, but I don’t know what it would be like performing with him. Yes, I would say Elvis Costello.
EIO40: Is there a song that you wish you had written?
Jim Bob: Oh, God. Yes, there are probably quite a few, but they tend to be what I hear on the radio. Say a really simple song. I do remember not long ago hearing ‘The Air That I Breathe’ by The Hollies, and I thought, “Oh, I wish I had written this.” (Laughter) Those sort of real just brilliant songs.
They’re not massively clever. They’re just really simple, with brilliant melodies and that. There are a lot of those. Probably a lot of older songs. Those sort of things. I like ‘The Long And Winding Road’. Just simple, usually slow songs. I like a lot of Nick Cave, but I think it’s Nick Cave that I like as much as the songs, if you know what I mean.
EIO40: Turning to your solo stuff. ‘School’ and ‘Goffam’ were concept albums. How did you get the idea for those?
Jim Bob: I think ‘School’ was the only one that’s an actual proper concept. I’m trying to think if there was a first song on that that sparked it. I think it was ‘The Orchestra Song’. I think that’s how it started. I just had this idea, and then I wrote songs very quickly, I think it only took a couple of weeks or something, about a school orchestra. I’m sure it’s probably been done, and it’s probably a corny thing that’s been done in films, but the idea of a fame school being saved by a visionary headmaster who forms an orchestra. Not even a good orchestra. So that’s how that happened.
Then I had rules that I gave myself that all the songs had to be possible to be played by a school band. When I say school band I’m probably thinking of a school band from years ago, not now, because they’re probably all studio whizz-kids now. Some people didn’t like the album, because it didn’t have any bass and stuff like that, but I was thinking very much traditional, old-school instruments. So there are a lot of tambourines, and people banging things and lots of percussion.
It came together very quickly, writing around things that I remembered from school, teachers, and fights between schools, stuff like that. I thought it would be a musical. I still think maybe one day. If I was Damon Albarn these ideas would happen, but because I’m not Damon Albarn… I don’t know what I mean by that. Well, I do know what I mean by that. I imagine it as being a fairly simple musical that was performed in schools by schools. Schools would put on their own version of it. That was sort of how I saw that, but I haven’t actually written or got anywhere. No-one has written a script as such. But I think it’s all there. Like I say, if I was Damon Albarn somebody would give me £1m.
Goffam was a looser idea. A fairly simple idea. I don’t know where that came from. I think it was just a fairly half-arsed idea, but it was an idea about some terrible superheroes. Superheroes who just weren’t very good. Scared superheroes, in an inner-city deprived area, with superheroes who don’t really bother helping anybody. With ‘It’s A Humpty Dumpty Thing’, that was another loose idea about working in an office.
EIO40: There was a time then it was a bit confusing for us, whether it was Jim Bob or JR Morrison. There seemed to be an overlap.
Jim Bob: Yes. What happened there was I liked doing ‘Super Stereoworld’. I think even though it was a massive failure as a band I really liked the whole thing about it. But for some reason it was probably trying to get as far away from Carter maybe at the time, so I didn’t want to call myself Jim Bob. With hindsight, if I had called myself Jim Bob I think things probably would have been different maybe. So I think the JR Morrison thing was me still not quite ready to just give in to that. So I think whatever I did after that, I don’t remember what that was, was probably me thinking, “Oh, yes, just call me Jim Bob now”
When I did Carter songs live for the first time, Les really didn’t like it, for example. He doesn’t care now. He didn’t stop me, but I know he didn’t like it. I can understand that. Because that happens a lot, doesn’t it? Bands split up. Especially when there’s two of you. With Oasis maybe as some sort of example, The Smiths. When they split up the band, and then they did their own stuff, and then at some point both members start playing the band songs. It’s definitely happened with all those. Because Morrissey didn’t do that many Smiths songs, but now he does quite a few. Johnny Marr didn’t do any, I don’t think, but now he does. I’m pretty sure the Gallagher brothers have started doing Oasis songs, haven’t they? Probably when Les came to terms with it, was when he introduced a Carter song into his Abdoujaparov set.
EIO40: Moving on to books, was it an easy transition from being a musician/artist to becoming an author? Is it similar to song-writing or a completely different process?
Jim Bob: There are aspects of it that are the same, or that were the same. Like trying to construct sentences in an interesting way. Certain bits can take a long time and can drive you mad. And just trying to word a sentence. That did happen with song-writing. I could spend ages on one line.
I’m writing a book at the moment, which I’ve been writing for quite a long time now. It certainly feels like a long time. The process has probably changed now from when I wrote the first one. Because it would be more alien for me now to try and write a song than it would be to write a book now, if that makes sense.
I think it’s a lot harder to write books, because with music you can get away with a lot more. Firstly, you can do an album like ‘I Blame The Government’, which I don’t like now, but you would get away with that. Whereas with a book it’s not going to get printed if it’s not good, or up to some sort of standard, especially now. So that’s harder.
The hardest thing I would say for me is that you can’t get anyone’s opinion until it’s too late. I wrote 80,000 words of the latest thing, and my agent didn’t like it. That’s after I had written 80,000 words, by which time that’s a year and a half or something, With a song I could have said, “Do you like this?” “No.” “Okay.” That’s one thing.
The other thing is with a song, I would know straight away. I’ve never listened to a song, and someone else has told me it’s bad, and I’ve thought, “Oh, yes, you’re right.” Do you know what I mean? Whereas a book you really need other people’s opinions, but you can’t get them until you’ve done all the bloody work. (Laughter) That’s the worst thing for me, I think. And the not knowing at any point whether what you’re doing is a complete waste of time.
EIO40: Where did the inspiration for the character ‘Frank Derrick’ came from?
Jim Bob: Oh, it was entirely my mum. It was 100% my mum really. All the books up until now, there have been bits of people in there. Just tiny bits. Then exaggerated. ‘Storage Stories’, there’s probably a lot of me in there, in an obvious sort of way. ‘Jarvis Ham’, there’s a couple of people I know in there. With ‘Frank Derrick’, at that time my mum was 81. That’s the first giveaway. She was living basically all the things that was the setup with Frank. She was 81. She was living in a first floor flat in a village where it’s all bungalows. She had no money. She was just a fairly disastrous person, in terms of dealing with money and stuff like that. People were constantly knocking on her door offering to do her roof and stuff. Trying to get money out of her basically.
Because I was the nearest one in the family, even though I was 60 miles away, I spent quite a lot of time there. I would go down once a week. Then it became twice a week. Then she was ringing me five times a day. Then she started to get a bit… Let’s say ill, shall we? So I think just because I was spending so much time with her I wanted to write a book about somebody like that, about somebody of that age, who was realistic but also quite entertaining. Whereas the second Frank Derrick book was nothing to do with her. By then he was his own character, with other things created around him.
Yes, without my mum I wouldn’t have done it at all. So there are a lot of very specific things in there that I’ve just copied from her life, but maybe, like the Carter songs, exaggerated. Like she would buy crap from a charity shop all the time and presume it was all worth a lot of money. It never, ever was. Yes, that kind of stuff.
EIO40: Will we be hearing from Frank again in the future?
Jim Bob: I don’t know. I’m writing a different book at the moment about something else. It’s possible. The people who have read both books, a certain amount of people do want another one, but it’s a question of whether a publisher would want to publish it. It would also have to feel as though it wasn’t just, like I say, an old man going on an adventure. Because the first one is him in his normal life, and then the second one is very much like ‘Mutiny On The Buses’ or something.
EIO40: You are on a solo UK tour in December, what can people expect?
Jim Bob: Song-wise I think it will probably be half and half, or thereabouts, of Carter songs and not Carter songs. So there will be hopefully something for everyone. Chris T-T is the support, so we might do something together as well. The bulk of it will be me, the guitar, singing mostly the songs that people know. And I imagine, going from past experience, a lot of people singing along.
Certain gigs I’ve done in the past, especially some I remember on the last tour, a lot of the bad gigs were the ones where the Carter logo was so much bigger than my name. (Laughter). I have done gigs before and it said, ‘Jim Bob from Carter’, and the Carter was massive. That’s quite rude, really, isn’t it, in a way? I definitely did at least one ‘Jim’s Super Stereoworld’ gig where it was only a billing on a blackboard but they billed it as ‘Carter USM’. They just put ‘Carter USM’. (Laughter)
EIO40: Talking of being on tour. What is your least favourite road?
Jim Bob: Least favourite road? I think I wrote about this. I definitely did write about this. (Laughter). There’s a bit where you used to come in off the A3 or something. I just don’t know what road it is. It’s a road where we just used to recognise everything on it coming back from a tour, and it used to really depress me. Now, because I go to Devon quite a bit, and come home the same way, there’s that bit when you hit Wimbledon, just on the outskirts of Wimbledon, and that’s it. You’re suddenly in a traffic jam. And you know you’re back in London because everyone is rude and horrible. (Laughter) And it takes as long to get 5 miles as it’s just taken you to do 200 miles. So whatever that road is called, the one that goes over the tram track in Wimbledon. (Laughter)
EIO40: What is the most common misconception people have of you?
Jim Bob: The obvious ones would be the shorts and cycle hats. Because it never goes away. I heard recently somebody, I’m not going to name, a well-known person on a proper radio station, who should have known better, asking a question about, “Oh, yes, they always wore those shorts and those cycle hats, didn’t they?” The thing is, I didn’t wear shorts quite so much. I never wore a cycle hat. So that’s one thing.
There’s a lot of annoying things. Like people just thought that the band and the audience were very thuggish. Which I don’t think was true. Actually, the other thing I’ve just remembered is the assumption that I somehow, I was in any way involved in attacking Phillip Schofield. That was 100% Les. (Laughter)
EIO40: He’s got you in trouble a few times hasn’t he, what with Glastonbury?
Jim Bob: Yes, I know.
EIO40: Having been in a successful band, we are interested in your thoughts on the current environment for bands and artists compared to back in the day. Is it harder for them or easier considering how music can be accessed these days?
Jim Bob: As far as I can tell, I would say it certainly seems harder. I think the thing is that the levels of success maybe have changed dramatically. So you’ve got people who are more successful than they used to be, but then there’s quite a big drop to the next level. Whereas in the past you would have U2, say, and then Carter, but Carter was still really successful.
Now you would have U2, and then the equivalent of Carter would still have to have day jobs. And we would be giving away all our music, because it was the only way anybody could hear it. I think that’s the hardest thing, for people to make any money. Some of the things that we didn’t do, we refused to do, now you would have no choice. Like having sponsors names. We never had brand names near the stage and stuff like that. Now I would imagine that’s physically impossible, because all the venues are sponsored anyway.
And there’s so much emphasis on how you release stuff. Whereas before it was nothing to do with bands, was it? I mean we resisted CDs, definitely, for a while. We resisted things like the “buy one get one free” thing that was going on. We didn’t like that. And the extra tracks. We resisted all of that, but eventually gave in, I think.
Now it’s, “It will be released exclusively on Spotify”, after everyone has heard it on the Guardian website. That kind of thing. And the last people in the chain are the people who actually pay. I buy CDs still. So it’s quite frustrating when you buy a CD but you have to wait two weeks longer than everybody else before you can hear it, unless you want to just listen to it. But I feel like, “I’m going to wait.” (Laughter). Everyone moans. All the old bands moan that they’re not making any money anymore.
EIO40: What sort of music would be on your tour bus stereo?
Jim Bob: I haven’t done it for a while, so it would have changed, but there would be three or four of us on tour, because Chris would be there. When we first started doing it we had CDs probably. Then we did it with iPods. So I’m guessing we would be doing it with phones or something this time. So we’ve always done that. We will get 40/45 minutes each or something. There are certain things that you get used to hearing. Like with Marc Ollington, you know what you’re going to hear. Lots of David Bowie, Morrissey, and Pet Shop Boys. With me you know you’re going to get lots of The Jam and Elvis Costello.
Because I’m writing all the time at the moment, I do listen to music but it tends to be music that I know really well. I listen to a lot of old stuff. I think I’ve got possibly 30 different Elvis Costello albums. He’s made so many albums. So it’s that thing of thinking, “Right, what am I going to put on?” And you think, “Oh, one of these ones or something else?” So I haven’t bought a lot of new music , but I try and chuck in a few new ones, so as not to appear like a complete old fart. I really like Courtney Barnett and Sleaford Mods, but apparently they didn’t like us liking them. Actually , I’m not sure if that is true. This is hearsay. Somebody told me. (Laughter) They thought we were just pretending to like them to look cool or something. I do really like them though.
Oh, I bought the Dexys album, the Dexys Irish thing. That’s a mad album. I used to really like Dexys when they were Dexys Midnight Runners. I was a big fan. Everything they did I thought was amazing. Then years later… Actually this is not a particularly good story. It just was weird. It must have been around the time of the solo album. I was in a club with, I think I was with Clint Boon and he was meeting Kevin Rowland, and so there he was with Kevin and I was “It’s Kevin Rowland!.”
Then Clint Boon had to go off and do something, so I got left standing in this club, and it was really awkward, because he was quite quiet and I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to say, “Oh, you’re great.” (Laughter) But we just just sort of stood there not talking. So yes, that’s weird.
I love meeting famous people. Especially when they’re, to my mind, really famous. And then you tell people who you’ve met and it’s disappointing when they don’t know who you mean. (Laughter). I do go on about Cillian Murphy being at the last Carter gig. Do you know Cillian Murphy?
Jim Bob: From Peaky Blinders? The actor? The Hollywood actor? See, that’s what I mean. It’s that kind of thing. Ask your missus. She will know. Women love him. It’s that kind of story. Because to me it’s like, “Fucking Cillian Murphy.” He came in the dressing room, and we had a chat and that. Actually, he knew The Frank & Walters, because he is from Cork. He knew The Frank and Walters! So that’s good. I never quite got over that.
Before that I met Juliette Binoche, which was weird. I had written about her in my first book. I was with my girlfriend and
Juliette was doing a play at the Barbican, and the sound person was this French guy who I knew, who was a Carter fan. I’ve known him for years. He got us tickets, so we went to see it.
Then afterwards we were just going to go to the pub, and then he said, “Oh, don’t you want to meet Juliette?” “What?” I thought it was going to be some sort of green room thing, or press thing, with lots of people. It was just us in her dressing room with her. I think I was going to pieces a bit, and my girlfriend was just having a chat with her as though like… (Laughter). To me it was amazing. An Oscar winning actress. But then I just tell some people and they go, “Who’s that then?”
I don’t know why I started talking about that, but yes, I love meeting famous people.
EIO40: Okay, so you’re a songwriter, musician and now an award wining author, which begs the question. What you are going to turn your hand to next?
Jim Bob: Blimey! I think I will stick with books for a while. Off the top of my head I don’t think there’s anything else I can do. They’re both related to writing, I suppose. I was asked to write a film. There was one for that Word Count mini-novel thing that came with the Humpty Dumpty album. That was adapted for a film years ago, but it was never completed. There’s a ‘Storage Stories’ television series thing on it. But these are all just things that I was doing with someone else, and he did all the work basically. I just used to go and meet him and say, “Yes, that’s a good idea.”
I imagine I will make some more music or something one day, but it’s quite difficult. It’s the admin that just does my head in. Because I think the last album I did was one of the best things I’ve done, just ever, but getting that together, just booking the studio. I think there are 29 people on it or something. In the days of Carter I didn’t do any of that. I never knew what we got paid or anything really. Somebody could have just been stealing it all. I never would have known.
EIO40: Have you ever thought about getting a full band back together?
Jim Bob: Yes, I’ve thought about it. I would love to do that, but again, like I say, it’s mostly the admin. I don’t like the admin.
Friends of mine who played on the albums, just getting them to commit to be in the same room, on the same day, as the other people, that kind of thing. Which can be really complicated. Booking rehearsal studios. Then you have to hire a van.
That’s what I was saying earlier, about why I haven’t done so many gigs. Because the people I go on tour with have got more demanding jobs, and just can’t commit to it anymore, and I don’t want to do it on my own, and I don’t want to pay someone I don’t know to do it. So I would rather not bother.
So yes, I would love to have a band. I would like to have a really good band. I would like to have The Bad Seeds. That band specifically. Jim Bob & The Bad Seeds. (Laughter) That would be perfect. I would like that.
EIO40: The last album was well received. So are we going to see any new music from Jim Bob in the foreseeable?
Jim Bob: Not at the moment. With the last solo album specifically I suddenly had the urge to do it, and wrote the songs, and once I started they were finished quickly. But I don’t want to force it. See, that’s the way I see ‘I Blame the Government’. Also, there was one solo album where I felt, “Oh, I should probably make an album now.” Then I look back and I don’t know what the songs are about. So it will happen, but it won’t happen until it happens.
EIO40: Cheers Jim. Thank you for taking the time to talk to EIO40
We hope you’ve enjoyed our chat with Jim Bob.
Jim is currently on a UK tour with Chris T-T. He will also be playing on the Hull to Amsterdam Shiiine On Mini-Cruise in March 2017 and the Shiiine On 2017 festival in November. He will also be appearing at the Down The River Indie All-Dayer in Norwich in May.
You can find find more about the current tour, future live dates as well as all things Jim Bob related at his website
Feature photo by Jacqueline and Holly and taken from Jim Bob “School” album (2006)