Alex James: The cheesemaker and musician talks superstar chefs, Blur and bad habits

 

Our food culture was a laughing stock until 20 years ago When rationing ended back in 1954, British food had a lot to catch up on. As a teenager I used to save up loads of money to go to France and spend it all on good food there. It may have been only 21 miles from England, but Calais tomatoes were a completely different proposition from Dover ones. On one exchange visit, instead of buying cigarettes and alcohol, I spent my money on juicy steaks from a butcher and delicious potatoes at a grocer, and had a feast.

Food has become the new rock'n'roll When Jamie Oliver was on stage at The Big Feastival [held at James' 200-acre farm] last year the crowd was as big as for Basement Jaxx. Chefs such as Gizzi Erskine and Valentine Warner are stars – food has become theatre.

Eating local produce was the great thing about touring I always had cheese on my rider and every country would leave me a different type. A promoter for a gig in Alsace, France, said, "I hear you like cheese," and he gave me a lot, and it was delicious. I don't want to go on about cheese too much, but I find it endlessly fascinating.

I needed something different after Blur I fell head over heels in love, got married and then me and my wife Claire wanted to run away together. So we bought a ruin of a farm in the Cotswolds and I've spent the past 10 years pouring my heart and soul into it, to become a biodynamic cheesemaker. At the time everyone from my mum to my accountant said "don't be an idiot".

Cheese is the ultimate mammalian-distilled elixir I was at a supermarket in Devon recently when a glum, bedraggled old man shuffled up to a cheeseboard, and put a small piece into his mouth. And as he began to savour the taste of it he began to straighten up, his whole face lit up and he looked at me wide-eyed, completely transformed by this cheese.

Food is the last great bastion of snobbery We can't all afford to eat artisan food every day and while my range of cheese flavours such as tikka masala [which James released two years ago, along with eight other flavours] was really nice, the range has been misunderstood by the critics [who claimed his products, such as tomato-ketchup cheese, were simply gimmicks]. I was just having a bit of fun really, and it's since been widely copied by big international brands.

Blur's songs bring back memories When I think of the single "Tender" [released in 1999], what it reminds me of now is playing Glastonbury in 2009. Something happened when we played there: it was a moment that made me realise Blur hadn't gone away, even after almost 10 years of not doing it. I remember thinking, this thing still lives and breathes. There were 150,000 people singing along and crying their eyes out – and I was one of them.

We're working on some new material We were in Hong Kong last month for a Blur gig and were due to head on to Taiwan and Tokyo afterwards, but the shows were cancelled. So we all ended up staying in Hong Kong and we went to the studio to record some new tracks, and it went incredibly well.

I've spent far too much time in hotels over the years And I've picked up some bad habits. Claire says the worst one is blowing my nose on towels. But I think there's something very resplendent about it.

Alex James, 44, is a musician and award-winning cheesemaker. Jamie Oliver and Alex James's food and music event, The Big Feastival, runs from 31 August to 1 September (thebigfeastival.com)

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Business Support - Banking - Halifax - £250 pd

£150 - £250 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - HR - Halifax - £150 - £250...

Geography Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum + pre 12 week AWR : Randstad Education Manchester Se...

Marketing Executive

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Charter Selection: A professional services company ...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game