Tim Burgess’ scene is: “coffee”. The Charlatans’ singer songwriter, who is also a solo artist and an author, states simply that his scene is: “Probably what we’re doing right now. Coffee.”
The Charlatans helped launch the Britpop scene with the initial success in 1990 of their debut record ‘Some Friendly’, featuring the indie anthem The Only One I Know. Since then THE CHARLATANS have released 13 albums, not including their eps, live albums, and their latest EP, Totally Eclipsing.
As an author, Burgess’ first book, Telling Stories, is an honest account of not only his highs and lows, but also his fears as well. In particular he wrote about an incident where he was waiting for 24 hours for his luggage, making scenarios in his mind, bordering on the type of black humour only real life can bring. Reflectively sober and sombre, Burgess explores that moment: “That was pretty scary stuff really. Well, those moments actually stuck out, even when I was drinking and taking drugs, and even at my most laissez-faire, they’re the moments that count. Because that’s kind of dangerous, I suppose, in my mind. Well definitely dangerous. So it was quite easy to remember, and I don’t know, it seems kind of comical now. I think the only way I could’ve written that was to have been sober. If I was still drinking and taking drugs then, then the humour wouldn’t have been there, I don’t think. I probably wouldn’t have even touched some of those stories because I would’ve been trying to hide them.”
Burgess continues: “So to be able to stand back, it almost looks like another me. I don’t know how many there are of me, so … But that is like another person completely. Well not another person completely, but another … It’s a different me, maybe. I mean people can’t believe it when they get to know that I was like that. Not at all. Not at all. I made a conscious effort. I was desperately trying to change it for a few years. And then when it actually came out, having to let it go. And also, I can do stuff 24/7 now, and I like that. I like being able to work all the time. It’s been nice to kind of like start drinking at 11:30 until 11:30. So it’s like 12 hours of just chatting and socializing and coming up with ideas that I’d forget in the morning. And I realized that, if I forget an idea now, it comes back the next day. Everything’s quite clear. So the clarity I love, and I don’t miss the hangovers.” He continues: “And all of my friends were having kids and stuff, and that was helping them to calm down a little bit, reel things in a little bit. But I didn’t have any children until I actually changed my lifestyle and forgot thinking about whether I was going to have any kids. I kind of changed my lifestyle, and then five years after that, found somebody and had a child.”
Until he actually changed his lifestyle, the onstage Burgess relied heavily on alcohol and other substances. Similarly with lyrics, “It’s kind of personal, the lyrics, and I think they were personal this time. And they’re kind of about me and Tim Burgess in the band and kind of looking back at what has happened in the past, to learn from them. I don’t think it’s about me personally, but more about me in the band. And so I thought that was quite an interesting concept. You know, that I used to break myself from the person. Obviously I’m still the same person as I am, but it’s a kind of different head space. It’s just a different head space, really, that I have to tap into. And the key is I can just go there and walk on that stage. It’s that instance. I think when I was younger, I used to try to search for it and it seemed to talk a lot longer. But now it just comes with a click of the finger now, where it used to take me hours. Drinking up something before I could get up on stage. Whereas now, it’s just completely, there’s no assistance.”
Touring is still exciting for Burgess and he promises that the old songs are not overlooked. He states: “A lot of the new stuff is pretty prevalent in the set. It’s about half an hour of new stuff, and then turn to older. But people seem to respond to it really well.” With Totally Eclipsing, Burgess states: “In particular two out of the four songs we’ve played live already. We just practiced the other two. And lots of stuff from Different Days, lots of stuff from Modern Nature.” In fact, Modern Nature has a special place in the hearts of fans – and in his own. He attributes this to the fact that although difficult, “dying connects a lot of people” and “Jon Brookes was sick for five years and then died. And during that time, we only played festivals, and we were doing that for five years. And we did lots of the older stuff. After Jon died, we used his memory as an inspiration, and so Modern Nature was a really great breath of fresh air. Since then we’ve just felt like we just wanted to keep writing new stuff, and new stuff’s just been coming out of us.” It seems the flood gates did open. Burgess, and The Charlatans, continue to make music. Burgess states: “Totally Eclipsing was recorded with David Wrench, who was somebody that I admired from afar. And I wanted to work with him, and the time came, and it was this beautiful experience. David has worked with FKA Twigs, Factory Floor. He’s an absolutely interesting guy so I was really seeing a bit of a wizard, and he looks like a wizard. And so, I felt it was a good experience and everybody loved it. There’s four songs on there that I think are all equally as good as each other, and I think the writing’s great. And so I’m pleased with it. I think it’s a good thing to have out there now. So that was a brilliant move, and at Konks’ studio where we recorded our Over Rising EP in 1991. Things just come full circle.”
Unfortunately we won’t be having a Tim Peaks Diner pop-up in Australia but Burgess will, as he usually does, be enjoying the coffee and culture scene over here.
Finally Burgess describes his sound in food form as a “pomegranate” as “some people can buy pomegranate seeds in plastic containers. And you can digest them pretty well in a big spoon. Or you can crack the pomegranate open, get at the seeds, or pick it out with a pin. It’s more complicated, but it’s also more interesting as well. So you dig things out one at a time as opposed to like a big spoonful. And I think that’s a quite interesting way of looking at our band. It’s not always there for people … It’s not been put on a plate. Obviously there are, we’re a commercial band, but it’s always that easy. And I think there’s more to discover under the surface than there actually is. What you see is not always what you get.” Burgess concludes: “We had commercial success, and we’re world-wide, but it makes me happy that you look at us like independent. And I think that’s the other side of the coin. The opening the pomegranate, splitting it half and taking it out with the pin.”
Catch The Charlatans on their Australian Tour, starting this week:
Friday 24th BRISBANE: The Triffid
Saturday 25th SYDNEY: The Metro
Sunday 26th MELBOURNE: 170 Russell
Tuesday 28th ADELAIDE: The Gov
Wednesday 29th PERTH: Capitol
On Sale now! Limited tickets left!