Alex James: The Great Escape

You can't ever say you're just not up for it
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The Independent Online

There's a great primary school in the village. Even the poshest children go there, which is saying something because there are some really posh people around here.

There's a great primary school in the village. Even the poshest children go there, which is saying something because there are some really posh people around here.

Last week, I got a call from Tim, a guy in the village. He's a recording studio designer. You'd think there wouldn't be many of those in these parts, but there's no shortage. I got to know Tim when I was setting my gear up last autumn. He came over and gave me a few hints. Lots of people did. It's strange, but building a studio is one of those things everybody wants to help with. The architect did his thesis on studio design, and couldn't wait to start on the soundproof membranes. He didn't want paying, just to join in.

It's felt like I've been building a spaceship or a time machine - everyone's wanted to get involved. Like the man setting up our broadband. He was something to do with Mayfair Sound, where they made all the glam-rock records in the Seventies. Or the passing producer who designed a "bass trap" for me. (I've no idea what it does.) Or Tad from Tickle, a hire company Blur use. He was on the train here before you could say "jack lead" to design the electrics. Everyone who's worked on the studio has added their own touches - curtains and whatnot. It's a living environment.

Anyway, I hadn't seen Tim since he'd been over, about a year ago, to talk patchbays and multicores. It had been very kind of him to give his time and expertise, and I'd assumed I'd run into him. But it doesn't seem to happen like that in the country. Specific appointments are kept, but the random chaos of the running into people thing, which is when all the exciting unlikely stuff happens, occurs less often here.

Tim's doing a benefit concert for the local school to raise money for music lessons for the kids, as the music teacher is leaving. Would I be in the band? The brass section is excellent, he said, nearly all pros. Rehearsals are on Thursdays and Saturdays. It's going to be quite a big event.

Now, I know it's a noble cause, but I hate brass sections, and I really, really hate rehearsals. Blur only had two rehearsals when we got a new guitarist. And it doesn't ever make for good music, a good cause.

Fortunately, the music industry has evolved a huge fabric of bureaucracy so that people don't ever have to say "no". People can be unavailable, on tour, recording, writing an album, out of the country, in rehab, exhausted or in prison; but no one ever says they're "just not really up for it".

Not having an army of assistants to do the dirty work for me, though, I just said: "Can you call me back? I really need to think about this, I'll do whatever I can."

It was only while I was mulling over the hideousness of interminable rehearsals with brass sections that it occurred to me that if it's a music teacher that's missing, maybe I can do that. Why don't I just teach the kids how to play their favourite songs on Mondays after school? I wonder if they'll go for it. Alex James's school dins. It's going to be the next big thing.

alexjames@independent.co.uk

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