Alex James (musician)

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Alex James
Alex James 2014.jpg
Background information
Birth name Steven Alexander James
Also known as Alex James, A. James, Steven James, Steven Neate-James
Born (1968-11-21) 21 November 1968 (age 46)
Boscombe, Bournemouth, England
Genres Rock, Britpop
Occupation(s) Musician, songwriter, cheesemaker, author, columnist, TV personality, model
Instruments Bass, double bass, vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards
Years active 1988–present
Associated acts Blur, Fat Les, WigWam, Me Me Me, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Bad Lieutenant
Notable instruments
Fender Precision Bass
Music Man StingRay

Steven Alexander "Alex" James (born 21 November 1968) is an English musician and songwriter, as well as a journalist and cheesemaker. Best known as the bassist of the band Blur, he has also played with temporary bands Fat Les, Me Me Me, WigWam and Bad Lieutenant.

Biography[edit]

Main article: Blur (band)

Born in Boscombe, Bournemouth, he attended the state grammar school Bournemouth School for boys. In 1988, James met future bandmate Graham Coxon at Goldsmiths College, where James studied French. Introductions with Coxon's old school friend Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree soon took place; at the time Albarn and Rowntree were part of a band called Circus. In 1989, James joined Coxon, Albarn and Rowntree's new band, Seymour, which would later be renamed Blur. While he has been in the band ever since, he now describes the experience as "a past-life".[1] Despite this, Blur got together with returning bandmate Graham Coxon to perform at Glastonbury Festival, Hyde Park, Oxegen and T in the Park during the summer of 2009. They also played shows at Goldsmiths College, Essex Museum and other venues around the UK and mainland Europe. Blur headlined a show at Hyde Park for the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. In 2013, the band performed at the Rock Werchter in Belgium, the Spanish and Portuguese dates of the Primavera Sound Festival, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the United States.

Musical collaborations[edit]

Alex James in 2009

Unlike Albarn and Coxon, James has not released any solo material, although he has been involved in other collaborative side projects. In 1998, James formed Fat Les with actor Keith Allen and artist Damien Hirst, releasing (excluding three others) the unofficial theme song "Vindaloo" for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, which reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart. He also worked on side project Me Me Me with Stephen Duffy, co-wrote songs for Marianne Faithfull (appearing in drag playing a double bass in the music video for her single "Sex With Strangers") and Sophie Ellis-Bextor, and worked with Florence and the Machine and KT Tunstall. James worked with Ellis-Bextor on her solo debut Read My Lips, co-writing and co-producing "Move This Mountain", and co-producing "I Believe" with Ellis-Bextor and producer Ben Hillier. He also played bass on both tracks. Ellis-Bextor's 2003 album, Shoot from the Hip also featured James as bass player and co-writer on the track "Love Is It Love". He also joined his friend and singer-songwriter Betty Boo in a band called WigWam in 2005. In 2009, James appeared as bass player on debut Bad Lieutenant record Never Cry Another Tear. The band consists of New Order lead singer Bernard Sumner and guitarist Phil Cunningham, along with Jake Evans of Rambo And Leroy.

In 2013, James co-wrote the song "Did I Lose You?" performed by Giorgia and Olly Murs.

Writing[edit]

Alex James is a food writer for The Sun and has a weekly column, 'Alex James on All Things Food';[2] as well as a regular column on farm and family life in The Sunday Telegraph titled 'Mucking In'.[3] He also writes a monthly column on cheese for Esquire Magazine.[4] Alex contributes to a number of other British newspapers including The Independent,[5] The Observer,[6] The Times,[7] and The Sunday Times,[8] as well as Q magazine, The Spectator and The Idler. An autobiography of James's experience with Blur, Bit of a Blur, was released in June 2007 by Little, Brown & Company. It has since been described as "the definitive guide to Britpop".[9] James published a follow-up entitled 'All Cheeses Great and Small: A Life Less Blurry' in September 2011, charting his transformation from rock star to cheesemaker as he moves to a farm in Oxfordshire.

Television appearances[edit]

In 2001, James and Graham Coxon appeared in the Channel 4 Pixies documentary "Gouge". James represented 'The Idler on BBC Two's University Challenge: The Professionals in 2005 with John Moore of Black Box Recorder. They secured a heavy win over the Financial Times in their heat, but did not score highly enough to return for the tournament's later stages. In 2007, James was a judge on the Channel 4 show Mobile Acts Unsigned and, in November 2007, appeared as a panelist on the BBC One satirical news quiz, Have I Got News for You. In August 2008, James appeared in reality TV series, Maestro on BBC Two.[10] He was voted out in the fourth episode of the series.

In September 2008, a documentary television series called Cocaine Diaries: Alex James in Colombia premiered on BBC America, in conjunction with the BBC America Reveals program. As the documentary progresses, James – who admits to having used cocaine extensively during Blur's Britpop heyday – learns about Colombia's violent drug export trade. In October 2009, James presented an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks and, in January 2010, he participated in the ITV1 reality television programme Popstar to Operastar. On 4 March 2012, James appeared on Top Gear as a guest for their 'star in a reasonably priced car' segment, clocking in at 1:45.2. On 3 December 2011, he appeared on The Chase with Sara Cox, Ann Widdecombe and Eamonn Holmes against chaser Anne Hegerty, but he was caught by the chaser. On 16 March 2012, James appeared on The Bank Job and made the final, where he was beaten by Rachel Riley. He is also the first Bank Job contestant to find two "bankrupts" in a single game. James has been a participant in BBC One program 10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight.[11]

Radio[edit]

In 2007, James was featured on the BBC Radio 4 programme On Your Farm and became a regular presenter opposite Elinor Goodman and Adam Henson. James presents Alex James's Magical Musical Tour on Classic FM every Saturday at 7pm.[12] James has also presented the The A-Z of Classic FM Music. The show was named Commercial Radio Programme of the Year at the Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards on 5 June 2009.[13] He has also contributed to the show's accompanying memorabilia, writing the foreword to both the book and CD box set, published by Reader's Digest in 2010.

Cheesemaking[edit]

Artisan cheeses

James has become notable for his production of cheese. After his runaway success with Blur, he moved to the Cotswolds, purchasing a farmhouse and renovating it into a burgeoning cheese farm. The 200-acre cheese farm in Kingham, Oxfordshire, now produces award-winning cheeses including 'Alex James Presents' – a range of British artisan cheeses – 'Good Queen Maude', 'Blue Monday', 'Little Wallop', 'Farleigh Wallop', and most recently 'Goddess'.[14] All are distinct in their flavour: "Blue Monday" (named after his favourite New Order song) is a creamy Shropshire Blue, sharp with a very faint sourness; "Little Wallop" is a soft goats’ milk cheese, washed in Somerset cider brandy and wrapped in vine leaves; and "Farleigh Wallop" is a goats cheese made with sprigs of thyme. The latter was voted Best Goats' Cheese at the 2008 British Cheese Awards,[15] where James himself was a judge in 2010.

Everyday cheeses

James' range of everyday cheeses hit the shelves of Asda in 2011.[16] The flavour combinations include 'cheddar and tomato ketchup', 'cheddar and salad cream', and 'cheddar and tikka masala'.[17] Tim Chester, writing in The Guardian, accused James of 'releasing bizarre flavour mash-ups in sliced, processed, plasticky form'.[18] Jeremy Bowen of cheese sellers Paxton and Whitfield said "They are cheeky price points, they are yummy, they are not difficult to understand. He wants to introduce the great and the good".[19]

Music & food festivals[edit]

James announced he would open up his Oxfordshire farm to host an annual food and music festival. The event, entitled 'Alex James Presents Harvest',[20] took place from 9–12 September 2011, in conjunction with promoter Big Wheel Promotions. Combining the best of the British food scene with a live music soundtrack, the first collaborators to confirm included KT Tunstall, The Feeling, Richard Corrigan, Mark Hix, Rachel Allen, Jay Rayner, Monty Don and Sarah Don and Stevie Parle.

However, the event got off to a shaky start when Big Wheel Promotions went bankrupt leaving the ticketing company out of pocket and stallholders and performers unpaid.[21] The local primary school, Kingham Primary, were also owed £7000 for the entertainment they organised,[22] with the headteacher telling the Guardian that "We are either going to have to lose the music teacher or take it from other budgets which will reduce other parts of the curriculum".[21] Then, in December 2011, a concert was staged locally to settle the debt. "I pledged to match the funds raised from my own pocket...I was very happy to do that" said James.[23] Big Wheel Promotions, the company behind 'Harvest', then abuptly ceased trading even though it has already taken ticket fees for 2012. 'Alex James Presents Harvest' will also be remembered for a photograph of Alex James with David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson.[24] ' In September 2012, James' farm hosted 'Jamie Oliver & Alex James Present The Big Feastival'.Oliver said "'The Big Feastival' was a great success in South London last year and I cannot wait to take this celebration of the greatest chefs, the best local produce and suppliers and some fantastic entertainment to a more rural location at Alex's."[25] The festival's musical line-up included Paloma Faith, the Noisettes, Razorlight and Guillemots. Along with live musical performances, there were cooking demonstrations and masterclasses, Q&As and book signings with a host of well-known chefs including Valentine Warner, Mark Hix, Gennaro Contaldo and Simon Rogan; as well as family entertainment from Peppa Pig, Slow Food Kids' Taste Adventure and Chipping Norton Theatre.[26] 'The Big Feastival' returned to James' farm on 31 August and 1 September 2013 with a line-up including KT Tunstall, The Feeling, Rizzle Kicks and Basement Jaxx.

Space interest[edit]

James has confessed he has "always loved looking up at the stars."[27] His subsequent space fascination led him to involve Blur in the ill-fated Beagle 2 project. In addition to the band producing the Mars probe's call-sign, James was also personally part of the campaign to get the project funded. His interest with space is further bookmarked by the track "Far Out" on the Blur album Parklife, on which James sings a list of moons and stars. On 25 January 2007 James became "Artist in Residence" in the Astrophysics department at the University of Oxford. He also joined the British Astronomical Association while Blur were still touring. James has urged the general public to stop light pollution in a bid to make it easier to see the stars at night, urging "there is nothing like staring at a star-lit sky to remind you what an amazing miracle the universe really is."[27]

Style accolades[edit]

James was voted eighth in GQ Magazine's 'Annual Best Dressed List 2011'.[28] He has worked with Aubin & Wills as both a designer and model designing selected limited edition pieces.[29] His first collaboration – the Galileo jacket- sold out.

Honorary doctorates[edit]

Bournemouth University presented James with an Honorary Doctorate in November 2010. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Arts from University of Gloucestershire in November 2013.[30] [31]

Personal life[edit]

Hedonistic lifestyle[edit]

In his book, James describes a long period of decadent lifestyle. To celebrate his birthday in São Paulo one year, he got the tour manager to find him a balthazar of champagne, which he shared with the five prettiest groupies who were at the hotel door. James estimates that he spent about a million pounds on champagne and cocaine. He mentions a long list of favourite bars including the Groucho Club and The Colony Room.[32][33][34]

Family[edit]

James' father, Jason, was sales director of a company selling waste compactors and baling machines. James married Claire Neate, a music video producer, in April 2003 in Cheltenham and have five children: three boys, Geronimo and twins Artemis and Galileo, and daughters Sable and Beatrix. The family live in Kingham in Oxfordshire on a 200-acre (0.81 km2) cheese farm, where James is considered a member of the Chipping Norton set.[35]

Equipment[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Cocaine: Alex James in Colombia". BBC News (London: BBC). 28 January 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  2. ^ Hendry, Sharon (20 September 2010). "Alex James: From hard drugs to soft cheese". The Sun. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  3. ^ James, Alex (27 February 2012). "Mucking in: farm and family life". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  4. ^ "Essential life skills No 237 - How to pair whisky and cheese". Esquire. 9 June 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  5. ^ "Alex James". The Independent (London). Retrieved 2011-07-14. 
  6. ^ James, Alex (4 February 2008). "Alex James profile". The Guardian (London). 
  7. ^ Naughton, Philippe (16 January 2010). "Alex James on reuniting with Blur". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  8. ^ James, Alex (10 January 2010). "Beyond Soho House what Nick Jones did next". The Times (London). Retrieved 23 April 2010. 
  9. ^ Caspar LLewellyn Smith (3 June 2007). "Review: Bit of a Blur by Alex James". The Observer (London). Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  10. ^ "Eight passionate amateurs bid to become BBC Two's Maestro" (Press release). BBC. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-24. 
  11. ^ "10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight". BBC One. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "Alex James's Magical Musical Tour". Classic FM. 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  13. ^ "The MD's Blog". Classic FM. 6 June 2009. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Alex James Presents". alexjamespresents.co.uk. 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "British Cheese Awards". Thecheeseweb.com. Retrieved 16 February 2011. [dead link]
  16. ^ Baker, Rosie. "Alex James launches cheese range with Asda | News". Marketing Week. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  17. ^ "Blur bassist launches cheese range at York supermarket". York Press. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  18. ^ Chester, Tim (24 August 2011). "Alex James: plastic cheese punk". The Guardian (London). 
  19. ^ Hastings, Rob (20 August 2011). "Ready for tikka masala cheese? Alex James hopes so". The Independent (London). 
  20. ^ "Alexjamespresentsharvest.com". Alexjamespresentsharvest.com. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  21. ^ a b Hyde, Marina (3 November 2011). "Dark days for Alex James's 'Worstival'". The Guardian (London). 
  22. ^ "School is still waiting for money owed after festival". Cotswold Journal. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 2012-07-15. 
  23. ^ Rayner, Jay (4 March 2012). "Blur star Alex James tells of shock and fury over farm festival that became a financial nightmare". The Guardian (London). 
  24. ^ Hyde, Marina (15 September 2011). "The day the festival dream died". The Guardian (London). 
  25. ^ "Faith And Razorlight To Headline Jamie Oliver Festival". Contact Music. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  26. ^ "More musical and children's entertainment delights added to the menu for Jamie Oliver presents The Big Feastival with Alex James". Jamieoliver.com. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014. 
  27. ^ a b James, Alex (2 February 2011). "Alex James: Turn off the lights to see stars". The Sun (London). Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  28. ^ Johnston, Robert (4 January 2011). "Best-Dressed Man in Britain: 8. Alex James". GQ. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  29. ^ Bergin, Olivia (26 November 2012). "Victoria's Secret News". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  30. ^ "Alex James on Bournemouth and Cheese | News & Events | Bournemouth University". Bournemouth.ac.uk. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011. 
  31. ^ "University Announces Honorary Doctorates and Fellowships". Glos.ac.uk. 09 August 2013. Retrieved 4 September 2014. 
  32. ^ James, Alex (2007). bit of a blur. pp. 192, 193, 228. 
  33. ^ Caspar Llewellyn Smith (3 June 2007). "The drinks are on you now, Alex". The Observer (London). Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  34. ^ Leonie Cooper (16 June 2007). "Sex and drugs and bacon rolls". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 25 March 2011. 
  35. ^ Caroline Dewar (5 March 2012). "Who's who in the Chipping Norton set". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 2012-05-06. 

External links[edit]