Interview - Sarah James - Gordon Russell
Friday 24th June 2011
Blues en Bourgogne Festival
We are pleased to welcome Sarah James & Gordon Russell at the Blues en Bourgogne Festival in France. Nice to meet you.
Sarah-Gordon : Nice to meet you, as well.
AM : You are a duo, a two-piece band formed in 1993.
Sarah : Apparently yeah, we've forgotten, it's such a long time ago.
AM : In Paris.
Sarah : Yes, that's where we started.
AM : Why Paris ?
Gordon : Because we met in Paris, we were living there, and we decided
we just liked the same sort of music, lots of different styles and we put
them together and...voilà !
What do you like in Paris ?
Gordon : Paris is a beautiful city.
Sarah : It's lovely, I love it.
Gordon : What don't you like in Paris ?
Sarah : It's very beautiful and it's quite small compared to London, so it's just a great city.
AM : What do you dislike in Paris ?
Gordon : What we dislike in Paris...
Sarah : nothing really, I dislike the fact that there are not so many good couscous places that there used to be, can't get a decent tajine the way you could 15 years ago, but I love it.
Gordon : I dislike nothing.
Why did you choose to name your band "Two Timers" ?
Gordon : That's yours.
Sarah : It's a long story, and basically, you know how you choose a name
off the top of your head, because it was a two piece band, it's an expression
in English, it's just a silly name and it kind of stuck and 10 years down
the road, you still have that name and you think damn, we can't change it now!
Gordon : We just started it for a bit of fun really, and we did a few little
tours of Brittany and we just decided to use that name because Sarah had used
that name before and then we got more and more concerts and it got bigger
and bigger and we thought we really want to change it, but we couldn't, it has stuck with us..
Do you remember When did you two meet ?
Gordon : Yeah I remember. Do you remember ?
Sarah : Gosh, would you tell that story then as I can't remember.
Gordon : I was playing in a band in Paris and Sarah came to see a friend,
the bass player of that band.
Sarah : Yeah, that's right, in a small club.
Gordon : We were both touring with people living in Paris and we talked and liked
the same music and after a while we started this.
Sarah you're a vocalist, you play the harmonica, the violin and also percussions ?
AM : Did you play all these instruments when you were a teenager ?
I learnt the violin at school, that was an instrument I scraped away at
for quite a few years in my youth. I love the music, I always loved music,
but I started to play percussion and snare drums later, and harmonica came
in gradually as well, later on. I started singing you know when I was at
university, then I just kept on with it.
Gordon : I can tell you that, when we started Two Timers, we started just
the two of us, then we decided you know, we thought we tried with a band,
so we had a bass player and a drummer just for a little time but it's very
difficult keeping it together with the bass player and drummer doing other
things, so we just kept the two of us, we had to play lots of instruments
just to make a big sound like a band, so Sarah started playing drums,
I started to play the suitcase and we got more and more...
Sarah : And then we could fire the rhythm section, great!
AM : You play the electric guitar and the acoustic guitar and the mandolin too ?
Gordon : I don't have a mandolin with me tonight but I can play three chords on the mandolin.
Sarah : Yeah, the correct chords.
Gordon : The three best chords on the mandolin.
Sarah : The three best chords. You don't need any others.
Gordon, you played with Dr Feelgood.
AM : From 1983 to 1989.
I think I did, yes that's right.
AM : What is your best memory with Lee Brilleaux ?
Oh God, probably in France, looking for the best restaurant in France.
He loved France. Lots of memories we used to do 200 concerts a year.
He was a funny man always sitting in the van making everybody laugh.
AM : Are you still in contact with the band Dr Feelgood ?
AM : You also played with Eddie & the Hot Rods.
I did play with Eddie & the Hot Rods.
AM : In 1984.
When ? No, in 1994, ah, I've caught you there!
AM : Yeah! 1994, OK sorry, for one year?
For about one year, off and on.
AM : Are you still in contact with them ?
I saw the singer a few weeks ago actually. We saw him, didn't we?
Sarah : We keep bumping into Barrie.
Gordon : Everywhere he goes, Barrie is a really lovely guy.
You released 4 Cds. Can you talk about them ?
Sarah : Yeah, the first one, Two Timers, that was a little more of a downhome affair,
that was our first recording in Paris with a small label in Paris, and then on we branched out more onto our own record company and we made Aubrey Rex and Other Stories, the second album,
can't rembember what year, don't ask me what year, I don't know, but that was quite
an unusual album and it's produced by Dave Bronze who played with
Sarah : Yes produced Eric Bibb, he played with Eric Bibb, a lovely guy.
That's when we first went back to England, and we made a live album called Lucky Dip..
Gordon : Lucky Dip was just a melange of all different demos and live stuff that's
a fun album.
Sarah : Yes, that was a lot of out takes from concerts.
Then the last album we made was The Big Casino, which I think you have got there.
AM : Yes, here it is.
Sarah : It has a lot of tunes that we wrote. I think it's all our stuff on here.
Gordon : That's the first album with all our songs on it.
Sarah : There are some unusual numbers on it, stories about death, destruction, depression.
Gordon : Depression?
Sarah : In a happy way.
AM : There are 11 tracks on it.
Sarah : You're right, good, I never noticed that, we gonna play most of them tonight.
AM : What are your favourite tracks on this album?
Gordon : What are our favourite tracks? Show me the tracks.
Sarah: Edgar Allen Poe.
Gordon : Yes definitely Edgar Allen Poe.
Sarah : Edgar Allen Poe is our 'hit'.
Gordon : And The Devil And The Deep Blue, is a nice song.
Sarah : That's a song that we wrote after
died and it's about him basically. We always play that one.
Gordon : And The Last House In Town, is a country number.
Sarah : I like Home, that's one of mine and I really like it.
Gordon : I can say that all of our CD's... we are happy with them,
we made them over the years but, as we got better and better playing live,
I think we are more of a live act and I think it's always sounding...
it's quite visual what we do, so every song always comes across better
live, so people love to see them live, the CDs are a souvenir of what we do,
but we are a live act, don't you think ? Say something.
Sarah : People tell us that, so I believe them! If everyone is watching us they should know!
How did you manage to compose the songs and work together ?
Sarah : With great difficulty honestly. There's a lot of fighting, there's a lot of blood,
sweat and tears and compromise, and lots of songs along the way, but it all
works out well. I think so.
Gordon : But you've read Keith Richards' book, haven't you...
Sarah : Sure, I suppose it's often like that...
We come from different places on it but that is what makes it.
Gordon : Sarah writes all the lyrics, all the songs we have ever written without
doubt they are hers, and we've done a lot of music together, and Sarah has written
some very good songs on her own, but it's still how the two of us play it that
makes it, and we sort of arrange the songs all together and that's how it comes out.
Sarah : Yeah.
Sarah what do you do when you are not on tour ?
I do a lot of voice coaching, I'm currently doing quite a lot of accent training,
so I'm kind of practicing different accents for theatre, for actors, it's a new
thing I've got into. At home I play the piano, trying to write songs I do a lot of
that at home. I read Shakespeare quite a lot, I'm a big fan of Shakespeare at the
moment, so I am having a bit of a Shakespeare revival currently.
AM : You're a voice trainer.
I am. I train people to sing and to speak clearly or actors to speak expressively.
AM : What about The Soul Sisters?
Soul Sisters is a singing group that I put together in Brighton, which is my home
town, and it's basically a singing course for women, but it's like a crash course
in singing, with a concert at the end, and it's really a confidence building course
for women, it's great fun. So I'm doing that right now and have a concert coming up on July 10th.
AM : Gordon what are your hobbies, what do you like to do when you don't tour?
Gordon : You know everything about Sarah but do you know anything about me!
Sarah : (laughs) What have you got on him?
Gordon : I have a little music school where I live, I teach children to play music and
I put children together in bands and I use my experience to arrange songs and
get them to play live at concerts, that's what I do, and that's basically my life
and my hobbies and everything you know, so hobbies I don't know... what we can call
hobbies... I go running, reading, always music really I suppose, always playing
music you know, listening to music and discovering new things.
What are your wishes for the future ?
Gordon : Our wishes for the future. After the concert ask me that again!
Sarah : We just hope to get through tonight, that's as far ahead as we can look!
Gordon : Let's get through the concert tonight.
AM : Thank you very much Sarah and Gordon for your time and have a great gig tonight