Alex James interview: Blur's bassist on the band's comeback, Oasis, and making cheese

Blur are playing a number of dates over the summer following the release of their latest album, The Magic Whip

So, Blur are back. Are you excited?

It's just wonderful that the record has been well received. The longer we left it, the more of a mountain it was. You know when you leave the washing up and it becomes a pile? It was like we were all afraid to go back into the kitchen.

Might you end up like the Stones?

I wouldn't want it to get grotesque. But it's such a precious thing we have, this ability to make music together, that's been there since our very first rehearsal. We wrote our first single, "She's So High", in that rehearsal. It's a highly honed relationship. You don't really get bands now. It's all solo artists with session musicians.

So we haven't heard the last of you?

Well, I treat every show like it's the last. It is genuinely edgy and precarious. You never know what Coxon is going to do next, or when I'm going to do something that upsets everybody.

How serious was the old rivalry between Blur and Oasis?

Liam's come out and said "Lonesome Street" [from Blur's new album] is his favourite song of the year, god bless him. And Damon and Noel are quite good friends now. So, I think, let's focus on the positives. It's lovely that it's got a happy ending. I hope they get back together. They can support us.

 

You spent a million quid on cocaine and champagne. Do you remember much of the 1990s?

To be honest, I kind of made that up to promote the book [his autobiography, Bit of a Blur]. But everybody seemed to believe it. One of the lovely things about getting back with the band is that the music is so evocative. I'm really proud of what we did. But I'm proud of winning gold medals for cheese as well.

Oh, yes. Cheese. When did you realise you'd have a post-Blur career as a cheesemaker?

You don't tend to think about the future that much when you're in the thick of things. But I couldn't help noticing that people threw cheese at me while we were playing. They knew that I liked it. It took about a year of living on a farm before I worked out that was what I should do. And it was actually writing about it in The Independent that made it happen.

So we're to blame. How did you come up with the flavours for your Asda cheeses? They were interesting…

Yeah, Cheddar Tikka Masala. That was actually remarkably good.

Tomato Ketchup Cheddar?

One of my children, I have to tell you, doesn't like cheese – apart from that one. The thing is, you can still have fun with food. I'm not sure how easy it is to have fun in the music industry any more.

So now it's all about cheese, is it?

Chefs are the new rock stars. If you want to be in a band, you have to be up really early and be nice to everyone. Chefs can tell people to shove it and get up when they like.

I read that you've registered the trademark for a drink called Britpop?

Yes. I haven't had time to do anything with it yet.

And what's on Blur's rider now?

It's sort of a torment being asked what you want every day. But two things you're always pleased to see is a new pair of socks and a new pair of pants. And cheese, obviously. I always want some cheese.

Biography

Alex James, 46, found fame in the early 1990s as the bassist in Blur. He later moved to the countryside and began manufacturing a range of cheeses, including a Stilton called Blue Monday. He now lives in the Cotswolds with his wife and five children. Blur are playing a number of dates over the summer following the release of their latest album. James is working with the Red Tractor BBQ Bonanza promotion until 14 June and will invite competition winners to a BBQ party on his farm.

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