AppleJuice Magazine

Information

This article was published on 24 Apr 2017, and is filed under Illustration, Music.

Current post is tagged

, , , , ,

Jamie Lenman Now

Jamie_Lenman_Apple_Juice1

No longer the front-man of 2000s alt-rock/heavy metal band Reuben, no longer the illustrator working under the pseudonym ‘Baxter Sullivan’; this is Jamie Lenman now. The actual truth of the matter, is that he’s been Jamie Lenman since his first solo album Muscle Memory back in 2013. But this is different. Something has changed, and I think Jamie Lenman will be in your heads a LOT.

His first new single Mississippi came out in January, and it has been getting the recognition it deserves, in time for his imminent UK tour. The track has anthem qualities and a T-Rex reminiscent riff, and I cannot wait to hear a packed audience singing along to it with passion soon. A second single Waterloo Teeth came out this month and it is equally exciting.

I caught up with Jamie to discuss his new material, collaborations, the music industry, and his parallel career as a professional Dr.Who fan illustrator.

Jamie_Lenman_1

As I set up my photography equipment in their house, Jamie is bouncing ideas around with his gorgeous wife Katie, who is composing a poster for an upcoming 1920s burlesque life drawing class (I know, sounds amazing right?). In a short space of time, I am already getting an insight into the inner workings of a true wordsmith’s mind. Jamie has a way with words that makes him one of the most creative lyricists around at the moment.

Skip forward past a pretty straight forward photo shoot, and we’re enjoying a cup of tea on the sofa and discussing our mutual love of live music…

AJ: People are prepared to spend a lot of money on gig tickets, £50/£100. But equally, people are still going to pay £20 to see a small band.  I think people are just always going to love going to gigs.

JL: That is miraculous. A lot of people believe music is disposable. I think a lot of the reason people will steal music, is because they struggle to put a value on it. They think “theoretically I could do that, therefore it’s not special, so if I don’t have to pay for it, why should I”. But with live music, people still go and will pay to have an experience and it’s the only way a musician can really earn money these days. So I’m glad that still happens. There is a huge premium put on experience, things like Secret Cinema and what not. And that’s good. That’s one of the last ways artists like us can get by.

AJ: Speaking of live, what can we expect from your upcoming tour?

JL: Muscle Memory will make up the bulk of the set, because it’s my main solo release. But there will be some old classics in there from the band days, and I’ve got some new material. I’ve got my two new singles and maybe a couple of other bits. It’ll be quite balanced.

colour face

t-shirt design © Jamie Lenman

AJ: Mississippi was written at the same time as Muscle Memory. Was it meant to be on that album and got cut?

JL: No it was never meant to be, it was the opposite. I wrote it at the same time as I wrote Muscle Memory, but I didn’t want to get rid of the melody and harden it up for the heavy side, but it was too chuggy to be softened for the soft side. With other stuff I could take it and mould it to either area, but with that one it just fell directly in the middle and I thought “ok well let’s just put this to the side”. And that’s why it has the Mississippi mnemonic that is on Muscle Memory, and it shares a lot of the themes that are on it; family and the death of my dad, and sort of an Americana as well. So it’s kind of a missing track from Muscle Memory, but musically it didn’t fit.

AJ: Yeah it is quite different, with the electronic aspects. It reminds me of a Million Dead song, because its quite anthem-y

JL: You think? Which one?

AJ: Not the way it sounds, but the emotions it conveys

JL: “I’m only working here ‘cause I need the fucking money”- To Whom It May Concern?

AJ: Yes! How ever many years ago that came out, was when I first started working crappy part time jobs, and until this day I sing that in my head when I’m doing jobs that are killing me.

JL: It’s their finest moment. Thanks for the comparison.

AJ: It’s proper sing along. And I went to their last ever gig at The Underworld and they played it and it’s stayed with me. I think Mississippi has a similar kind of ‘all together’, worker song vibe.

JL: Yeah I never realised it has a sort of chain gang theme to it, actually my producer pointed it out. It’s also another thing we did on Muscle Memory; exploring the work song idea.

Jamie_Lenman_4

AJ: Back to Frank Turner, are you still collaborating with him?

JL: Frank was on the last Reuben album and then we popped up on each other’s records. I did some singing on England Keep My Bones, and that was the last time we collaborated on a record. When I was on Xtra Mile for a brief period during Muscle Memory, there was a lot more cross-over. But actually we haven’t sung together for a couple of years, and I haven’t seen him for a couple of years. I think last time I saw him was I went to his house for dinner and we had a nice chit-chat over some kievs.

AJ: You’ve just been signed to Big Scary Monsters. When was that and how did it come about?

JL: That was a couple of weeks ago. I signed with a new management about a year ago and they were looking for a new label to take me in different directions. These talks take an awfully long time and we talked with a lot of labels had some nice offers, but none of them were right. Then we met Big Scary Monsters and I met Kev who runs it. He’s from where I grew up which is a big plus. He seemed to have all the right ideas, everything he said, I dug. He’s a fan of my music personally, which you don’t have to be as a label boss. You can just spot a canny investment and that’s definitely a way to do it. But it’s flattering to me and very encouraging that I think he likes it personally. But then the fact that he thinks it’s worth investing his time and his money is also very encouraging. I just need a lot of encouragement these days. I didn’t before when I was springy and 20.

AJ: Also you’re solo now. When you’re in a band you’re a team. So actually now you need people around you that are supporting you in a business sense, and are also your friends!

JL: Exactly. There’s two factors – getting older and becoming a solo act, which I think are intertwined. I don’t think you can jump about in a stripy shirt playing Scared Of The Police when you’re 35. They go hand in hand. I would just play a gig at the drop of a hat 10 years ago, whereas these days I need a while to emotionally prepare myself. Y’know, remember all the songs. So now people’s enthusiasm and support is invaluable. I mean, we did have support back in the day, but like you said we were a team, and there were two other guys that were equally as hungry as me and that energy took us a long way. Yeah. I need more support these days.

 

Very Fast Very Dangerous artwork © Jamie Lenman

Very Fast Very Dangerous artwork © Jamie Lenman

AJ: Let’s talk about the illustration… I didn’t realise you had done a lot of the artwork and even some videos for Reuben.

JL: I used to do it under the pseudonym Baxter Sullivan when I was doing artwork for people and for the band, when I was in the band, because I didn’t want them to get confused. I was doing cartoons in Rocksound, and they were often lampooning a lot of my contemporaries. So number 1, I didn’t want people to think “oh look it’s that guy from Reuben taking the piss out of other bands” when I drew Papa Roach all funny etc. But also, I didn’t want people to, although I think people saw us as a bit of a cartoony band anyway, I didn’t want them to see our band and think of cartoons. Mainly what I did was cartoons. And also I didn’t think it was cool to say on the album cover “done by Jamie/ done by our singer”. I was a bit embarrassed that we had to do it ourselves, whereas a lot of people would see that as a strength today. But at the time I was a bit ashamed to admit that everything was quite so home grown, even though it was pretty fucking obvious we were doing it ourselves. So I just put Baxter on there for those reasons.

pap roach a

© Jamie Lenman

AJ: You’re right that now it would be celebrated. You’re kind of expected to have all the skills. You have to do your own PR, you have to be your own art director…

JL: To an extent, yes.

AJ: But I do understand why a young band, or a band starting out would want to..

JL: give the illusion we had all the people involved.

AJ: right! Well that makes sense why I didn’t know until recently that the artwork was by you. But now you just go by Jamie Lenman?

JL: Oh yeah I knocked the whole Baxter thing on the head as soon as the band finished. I thought it didn’t make sense to have a pseudonym any more. It made sense at the beginning of the band days, but these days like you say, everyone is very accepting of people with multiple careers. It’s a little symptom of the way the industry’s gone. Musicians are much more expected to have multiple careers. That’s something we all understand, and is part of the narrative. Certainly of the UK scene. When we were doing it in the band, I remember one article was like “get this, the singer still works in a chip shop”. Who the fuck did they think was in these bands? Of course we had day jobs. Nobody else would talk about it, and everybody liked to keep up this mystique that they woke up at 1pm and wrote a song and it cuts to vinyl and that’s it. People were ashamed of having to drive back 8 hours after a show in Glasgow to mop the floor in a chip shop the next day. But for us, that was a badge of pride, and all part of it.

AJ: I think it’s super cool that you’ve just designed your new t-shirt

JL: No it’s a real bummer, I wanted somebody else to do it! I don’t want to draw pictures of my own face.

AJ: I think it’s better that you’ve done it

JL: No you’re right, and I feel better about selling it to people. I felt slightly squeamish about selling something that I hadn’t made. I have a funny relationship with merchandising in music anyway, so I do feel better ethically to say “look, I drew this, even if it is my own face. You can buy this and I made it for you guys”. That is better, you’re right.

Jamie_Lenman_3

AJ: What came first, the music or the drawing?

JL: It was always the drawing first. Since I was a small kid I was always drawing. It was only really after I got a bootleg copy of Queen’s greatest hits when I was about 10, that I got into music. Which is quite late. I was drawing cartoons as soon as I got a pencil, but didn’t start getting guitar lessons until I was 10. And that was cool, especially when I got to my teenage years. It was way cooler to have a guitar than a pencil. But I was still drawing the whole time. When I was in the band and music was my main career, I was still drawing and still submitting to people and that’s when I started getting published in Rocksound as the cartoonist. So I kept it bubbling away all that time. I don’t think I was doing Doctor Who magazine yet.

AJ: You are a huge Doctor Who fan, right?

JL: Enormous

AJ: Not many people get to work for their idol. That’s pretty cool that you got your dream job. How crazy is that?

JL: Well it’s not really crazy, because you could say that my life was always pointed in that direction. But it is lucky that I managed to get the right thing. I got fired from Rocksound magazine for being a pest, even though they weren’t paying me I still managed to get fired. I was bummed out and I was going to send that work to other magazines because I was quite attached to those characters. My dad said “no one wants an old cartoon that was in another magazine. You need a new one. Do one about Doctor Who or something”. And I was like “SHUTTUP DAD” and then I realised Doctor Who magazine didn’t have a cartoon strip anymore. It used to when I was a kid, but I picked up a copy and it didn’t have anything so I thought maybe they want one. I pestered them and they did eventually give way and I only realised I was the cartoonist when I saw it in the newsagents. I thought I was still just submitting suggestions, but they published one, and then I had to do one the next month. It was lucky, but also I work really hard. This is what I always say.. anything that is truly brilliant that has happened to you is always a combination of luck and hard work. You can never get something that is truly amazing with either one. You need both. If you just work hard but you don’t have that spark of luck, you don’t get something brilliant. And if you’re lucky, something cool might happen but it’s never wholesome or nourishing. If you haven’t put hard work into it, it won’t last as long. You need both.

AJ: But I believe that you make your own luck.

JL: No that’s hard work. There’s that quote isn’t there “The harder I work, the luckier I get” (Dave Thomas).

PLAY DOH a

with kind permission of Doctor Who Magazine © Jamie Lenman

////////////////////////////////////

For all things Jamie Lenman, go to:

www.jamielenman.com