James Stevenson is a guitar hero and punk legend. He’s been in Gen X, Kim Wilde’s band, The Cult, Glen Matlock’s Philistines, The Alarm and super group The International Swingers. The Chelsea guitarist tells all about his more than 40 years in music.
Andrés: What sparks your imagination?
James: When I hear a new piece of music that’s amazing.
What was your ambition as a young man?
I wanted to be an archeaologist
Where did your interest in music come from?
I always loved music – since I was 3 or 4. I heard the guy upstairs from my Dad’s apartment playing The Beatles and I was hooked..
Did your father work influence you to become an artist?
No. He wasn’t into rock music. But he was very supportive of anything I wanted to do. He was an amazing man.
What are the most important qualities for a guitarist to have?
I think not to show off and to work out the guitar part that will fit the song perfectly.
What guitars were you playing in the early days? What guitars are you playing now?
I’ve played Les Pauls all my life and probably always will.
Do you like re-visiting the past? Do you go back and listen your own records?
Yea, all the time LOL. I always think about what I could have done that would have been better.
Give me a snapshot of the making of the Chelsea album debut
The recordings were spread out over many sessions – not all in one go – I guess whenever Miles Copeland could get cheap time. We wrote the album as we went along. I love Trouble Is The Day – I put it on my 40 Years retrospective album.
Did you enjoy punk rock era and what are your memories of that time?
It was a great time. London was alive with venues and live music. Sadly that’s no longer the case.
What is punk?
I would define it as having the confidence to have a go at something, whether you believe you’rew good or not.
Chelsea: What went wrong/what went right?
That would be a huge book! I think the fact we’ve just made two of our best albums ever – Saturday Night, Sundy Mornirng and Mission Impossible says a lot.
What was the most widely-held misconception about Chelsea?
I think that we were just a sloganering punk band. Gene October is actually a great rock singer.
What is the legacy of Chelsea?
I think it’s expanded with time. When young punk bands open for us I can sense a grudging respect LOL.
Do you have any regrets?
I wish I’d stayed with the band for Urg A Music War. The line-up in that film doesn’t do the band justice.
How the musical combination work between Glen Matlock and you?
Well I’ve known Glen over thirty years. We had Hot Club in the early 80s and I’ve worked with him on and off ever since.
What is your favourite project with him and why?
I love The International Swingers Album
Your other projects: The Alarm, Gene Loves Jezebel, Kim Wilde and solo artist. What’s your best work and favourite album and why?
That’s a tough one. I guess at the end of the day I’m most proud of my solo album Everything’s Getting Closer To Being Over.
Are you planning to record something with your wife Elizabeth (Westwood)?
No myself. But she has a couple of cool things going on. She’s nearly finished The Rebelles album with Tracie Hunter and she has been recording with Kirk Brandon and that sounds amazing.
In terms of politics, music and technology: What do you make of 21st century so far?
Feels like everything is getting worse all the time. The whole world is suffering from weak government. Take plastic – every government is saying “yes, we will do something about single use plastic” and nothing happens. Just ban it tomorrow!
How would you like to be remembered?
I guess for the bands I was in and music I made. And that I tried to be a cool and reasonable person.