The Charlatans – Tim Burgess

Lending his expert ear to help decide which bands will win the 'Road To V' competition, VF cornered Tim Burgess to find out who's on his stereo and what we can expect from him next...

Not only are Tim Burgess and his band The Charlatans playing at V Festival for a record seventh time, not only are the band playing an exclusive gig in Birmingham for Virgin Mobile customers, but Tim is also helping out as a panelist to decide which two bands go on to open V Festival as winners of the third Road To V contest. We caught up with him checking out some of the bands at London's Islington Academy…

Virtual Festivals: You’re here to help in the selection process for Road To V. Is it important for you to be seen supporting new music?
Tim Burgess: No, not really. It’s good to be here, I listen to a lot of new bands coming through, and I think this is a good competition but I don’t feel any responsibility to support new music. It doesn’t really need it at the moment anyway, does it? The standard of bands playing Road To V is excellent, I’ve been very impressed. I’m just focusing on The Charlatans and making sure that we keep sounding fresh.

VF: Do you think the new album 'Simpatico' has achieved that?
TB: I don’t know. It’s had the most mixed reviews ever, which I’ve found impressive in itself. It’s definitely caught people off guard in terms of style, but it’s just another Charlatans album and one we’re happy with. I’ve been listening to a lot of Bob Marley and Curtis Mayfield recently and those kind of influences have shaped the record, as well as just stuff I’ve been into listening on the radio. Lyrically, a lot of it’s based on my experiences in America. ‘New York’ is obviously about New York and there’s a song on there called ‘The Architect’ which is about gang warfare and underground mafia. We’re on tour at the moment and we’re looking forward to playing the new songs live over the summer at the festivals. So far, we’re playing V Festival, T In The Park, Oxygen and a new one, Electric Gardens.

VF: What’s your favourite festival?
TB: That’s a difficult one. I’d probably say Benicassim in Spain. Hopefully we’ll be playing that one this year. We sent out a list of ones we wanted to do and that was on it so we’ll see. I know we’re doing something in Madrid around that time so hopefully we can tie it in.

VF: Are you looking forward to V?
TB: Yeah, it’s a bit of a special one for us as I think we’re the band that’s played V Festival the most times. We played the first one and the third one and it’s pretty much gone on like that with us playing it every two or three years. It’s now been seven or eight times.

VF: You've made nine albums to date. How do you select which songs you play?
TB: On tour we’re doing about 22 songs, so the live show’s around about an hour and 40 minutes, so we’re managing to get a load of songs covered, old and new. It’s a lot of fun for us because we can play a lot of tracks that maybe we’ve neglected a bit in the past, and the fans seem to be enjoying it. At festivals it’s a little bit different because everyone expects you to play all their favourites, all the hits.

VF: Is there one song you always play?
TB: Yeah, a song called 'Sproston Green' which is the last track on our first album, Some Friendly. We’ve always ended on it right from the beginning. In fact I think there’s only one gig we’ve ever done when we haven’t played it. 

VF: You live over in LA currently. Is there any difference between being in a band over there compared to here? 
TB: No, I think audiences here and in America generally appreciate the same things. We’ll treat playing in places like New York, LA, Boston, and Chicago in the same way we’d perform in Manchester, London and Newcastle. The only differences really come in playing smaller places which can be a bit more intimate and excitable because you tend not to play those places so frequently.

VF: Do you ever feel like you’re missing out on what’s going on over here? Many people are saying that musically this is the most exciting time since Britpop.
TB: I love coming back and I’m over here quite a lot so I never really feel like I’m missing out, especially because things are so exciting over in the States too. The standard of British music is definitely in great shape, you’re right.

VF: What’s playing on your stereo at the moment?
TB: I’m listening to the new Dirty Pretty Things album. Carl Barat’s a good friend of mine.

VF: Got any juice on the Carl and Pete situation?
TB: Of course I have. We’re mates and obviously mates tell each other things, but they also keep those things from journalists! It’s not really for me to say. They were in a great band together and whatever’s happened has happened and I think they’re both doing well.

VF: Would you do another solo album?
TB: Yeah, of course. We’ve got to get the first Chavs single out first though! (The Chavs are the super-group formed with Carl Barat, Andy Burrows from Razorlight and Primal Scream’s Martin Duffy last year).

VF: Ah, is there talk of a reunion?
TB: Yeah we’ve got a good song down, it’s called ‘I’ll Suffer Tomorrow’. We haven’t recorded it properly but it’s pretty good. We went in the studio together once and just played a demo of it that went on non-stop for about an hour. I’m obviously focusing everything on The Charlatans at the moment and it looks like we’ll be touring off and on for the next year and a half on the back of ‘Simpatico’. But after that who knows?

VF: Any live performances from The Chavs this summer? A festival perhaps?
TB: Yeah, if we’re all there then maybe it’ll happen, watch this space.

The new album from The Charlatans 'Simpatico' is out now.