I’ve known Tim Booth and Jim Glennie from James for a very long time and watched them over the years become a band that has sold over 25 million albums, including releasing no less than eight albums on Universal Music. Jim was recently kind enough to let me do an interview with him and I sketched out the following questions
When did you first start writing and playing music?
What was the Manchester scene like in 1980s and who was most on your radar and why?
How big an influence was Tony Wilson on the Manchester scene?
How did you first meet Tim Booth and what were your first impressions?
How did you come to work with Brian Eno and what was the experience like?
You’ve played alongside some major artists over the years, what have been the best, worst and strangest experiences?
What makes for a great song and what whose music have you loved the most over the years?
What are the 3 biggest myths about being in a major band and the music industry?
How has Spotify and streaming affected artist income and overall are the effects positive or negative?
If you could go back in time knowing what you know now, what message would you send back to your younger self?
We filmed the interview and will be releasing the footage via Green Eyed Records in the near future.
I first met Jon Gomm a few years ago when I interviewed hom for Music for the Head and Heart and was blown away by his playing and performing. He is truly a unique artist and will be headlining the Green Eyed Records/MHH live showcase October 7th this year. My band “The Heartache” and Towse will be providing support, so its gonna be a great night of entertainment. Not only is he an extraordinary musician, but also a great songwriter with an excellent attention to detail who creates really terrific material.
A few months ago Jon asked if anyone had any stickers for his new guitar case and I mailed him a GER sticker and a huge Code-E1 sticker that made the cut for the case. Jon recently received a guitar award from Ards International Guitar Festival who gave him an award that was an exact replica of his guitar cased, so Green Eyed Records and Code-E1 are now immortalised in ceramic!
I can think of no finer artist to be hosting this October and tickets are now available here
We just started rewiring the big rig in the studio which is a monster task as there are three main power amps, the Mesa Boogie 290, VHT amp and the new super rare Groove Tubes Dual 75 that covers all the Fender tones. I’ve only ever seen one other Groove Tubes 75 and that was 20 years ago in Amsterdam. Its a monster power amp designed to fit with the Groove Tubes Trio, which I bought 20 years ago. The combination is extraordinary and when played through two Mesa Boogie 1 x 12 cabs, it covers all the classic Fender tones in spades.
I’m using the Soldano Space box as a 100% analogue reverb and again this is super rare. I’ve never seen another one and the combination is terrific.
Egnater M4 and MTS modules
The big rig contains a number of Egnater and Randall modules which are run via two Egnater M4 units. These are also super rare and I bought both of these many years ago directly from Egnater in the USA. I remember having to wait for the second M4 in line after Steve Vai who swears by these units. The MTS modules are faithful reproductions of classic preamps by Bruce Egnater, including the Fender Bassman, Vox and other amps. Randall also made some of these but never found a way to properly market them.
Soldano X99 from Martin Barre
Years ago I heard about the Soldano X99 and asked Manson Guitars to look out for one of them for me. On the phone the Manson guy busst out laughing commenting “Nick, do you know how rare these are?” I later found out that only 200 were made and only 3 with UK voltage. Manson’s rang me 6 months later with one brought in from Martin Barre from Jethro Tull and I grabbed it.
I also have a Soldano SP77 which is the sister preamp to the Soldano X99 and is also rare, but not as rare as the X99. The VHS power amp is the perfect companion for these units, giving a classic rock tone.
Synergy SYN 1 and MTS units
Bruce Egnater and other builders combined to create the Synergy company to market the classic pre amp modules. The Synergy SYN 1 is a single unit module that is perfect either as a DI recording device or to play live. I have two of these in the studio and they work brilliantly as well as being really well made.
The rig requires a lot of cables and a Quartermaster unit for switching some of the preamps. I’m running these units out though two Mesa Boogie cabs, two two rock cabs and a Bognor 2 x 12 cab. This creates literally all sonic options. Its 100% a studio rig and not for playing out, as it would take a team of people to transport all this gear!
The last two years have meant covid musical adjustments with the advent of covid 19. For almost two years I only played one live gig which was the debut with the Heartache. It was a slightly surreal affair to suddently be playing to a full room of 120+ individuals. It was a great set and an absolute joy to be back playing, especially with the new electric material
I started rehearsing The Small Change Diaries ahead of a major future support slot and we’ve all been super careful to do lateral flow tests ahead of each and every rehearsal. In the UK currently more than one in 15 people have covid and although if you’ve been vaccinated it probably won’t kill you, it can still mean 10 days of being out of action and personally I can’t afford to roll the dice on that happening. This has meant cancelling a bunch of live activities I was looking forward to attending, but next week I’m in the studio on Monday working on the Towse collaboration, interviewing Sylvie Simmons on Wednesday, doing a band rehearsal on Thursday, so I can’t take the chance of missing any of these engagements.
I’m also hearing of many events being cancelled and I’m amazed at some close quarters indoor events still happening. With the Ukraine situation it seems many folks imagine covid has disappeared which of course is pure nonsense. This means making covid musical adjustments and taking as few risks as possible. I’m already seeing some festivals being cancelled due to covid and have great sympathy for all those artists who are touring and need to play out to maintain some income streams.
I recently asked the question about how people felt about playing and attending live music events in this covid era, after reading about the covid spike online
“The number of coronavirus infections across the UK rose by an estimated 1m compared with the previous week, with figures in Scotland at a record high, data from the Office for National Statistics has revealed.“
I’m also seeing a lot of local events pulled due to artists having covid and was surprised that some indoor events was still going ahead when covid remains a real issue. Yes, its true that there are less actual deaths, BUT there are still a lot of people unable to work for periods of time from being really unwell. With the news about Russia, covid seems understandably be taking a back seat and of course without testing its very difficult to accurately determine the extent of the problem.
One of the indoor uke festivals I used to attend is flagged as being sold out and I immediately remembered how at the best of times there was a lack of space in most playing rooms due to the nature of how the theatre was constructed. This problem is further problematic when the audience demographic is vulnerble to covid, in close contact and in an indoor environment with a lot of singing. One of the posters online commented the following about another similar event that reconfirmed my concerns.
“The Isle Of Wight Uke residential was apparently a Petri dish.Apart from artists coming back and having to cancel work I have one Uke group member who came back with it to accompany another hospitalising condition.“
Of course its 100% personal choice what people decide to do in this covid era and I’ve seen total polarisation of views. I know of one artist who defers to David Icke as an authority on covid rather than WHO advice, which I find (I’m being polite here) very strange… Another friend I know played a gig his band had played many times before pre covid and within 48 hours four of them went down with covid. My hope is that in time some normality will return to live events and festivals, but for now personally I’m in favour of a certain amount of caution.
Yesterday was a hugely productive day in the studio working on the album “All is fine till the world goes pop” album featuring Towse. We mastered and signed off on “In these times” “They don’t mind” and Wait until the pain has gone” I’m delighted to have so many superb musicians on this project including Towse from California, Michael Ross from Nashville, Laurent Zeller from France, Agi on backing vocals, Emily Mercer and Josh Burnell on keys, Fergus Quill, David Bowie Jnr and Howard Taylor on bass, Rich Ferdi on percussion. This is proving to be the dream team of artists and of course Carl Rosamond as usual does an amazing job on production.
There are at least four more tracks yet to finish – “Come on Down” “Nothing here sounds good” “Take Heart” and “Maybe” We’ll be back in the studio every two weeks to work up these additional tracks and I’m super excited to see/hear this whole project emerge. As well this album, there with be a “Nick Cody & The Heartache” EP “You gotta move” released ahead of October on Green Eyed Records. In 2023 I’ll be releasing the first Code-E1 remix album and we already have “34 tracks in the vault” for that release.
I’ve always been a massive fan of guitar amps, preamps and combos that are driven by tubes or as we say in the UK, ‘valves” To my ears there is something about the sound that has never been replicated by digital and solid state units. I recently took ownership of an extremely rare Groove Tubes 75 stereo amp, which I found on “Gumtree” of all places. Over 25 years ago I bought the Groove Tubes Trio preamp that fits with this, which replicates all the great Fender guitar tones. I’ve only ever seen one of these Groove Tubes 75 amps and that was in Amsterdam. Its a big unit that takes up four rack spaces and is pretty heavy. It uses three different types of guitar tube, 12 AX7, 6L6 and EL34s.
Egnater, Randall and Synergy modules
Many years ago I came across a modular preamp system created by Bruce Egnater. Bruce created a series of modular units that could be slotted in and out of a preamp chassis, and these all analogue hand built units perfectly replicated the sound of classic amps. This meant you could have a simple unit and quickly switch from a Fender to a Marshall to a Vox or any other kind of sound you wanted. The M4 units would house up to four different modules, each of which had two channels. This makes for a massive range of sonic choices for any guitarist and all these units were powered by a pair of 12 AX7 tubes. There was no UK distribution for these preamps and there were only 3 places in the USA you could buy from. I bought my first M4 from the wonderfully named Cowtown Guitars in Las Vegas and later persuaded Egnater to deal with me directly. When I bought the second M4 case these were clearly in demand for high end studios and I was third in line to Steve Vai and Def Leppard who had the first two units!
Super Rare Soldano X99 Preamp
I heard about the Soldano X99 preamp over 20 years ago and checked out the two major guitar specialist stores to see if a purchase was possible. When I rang one store owner, I was greeted with hysterical laughter as he commented “Nick, do you know how rare these units are?” To my great surprise, 9 months later he rang me to say ‘Martin Barre from Jethro Tull just brought in his X99 and you are first on a long list of people wanting this, so if you want it, I need to know NOW!
In recent years, I’ve become a massive fan of Supro amps and especially the Comet 1 x 10 combo that was recommended by my great Nashville guitar friend Michael Ross. He runs Guitar Moderne which is a great site for all guitarists. The Supro has a bite to its sound and I first used this live with “The Heartache” last year live. Its a one channel amp with a ten inch speaker and like all classic class A amps weighs a fair bit. That said its a terrific sound unlike anything else I have heard. I later bought the Royal Reverb pictured below which is seriously heavy, but much LOUDER! Both these amps use classic 6L6 tubes
Supro Royal Reverb
Guitar tube prices are cranking and David Gilmour’s stash
With the current global situation there are only a few places left that make guitar tubes and one of the main ones is in Russia. Tubes are therefore getting rarer and a lot pricier. Many years ago I knew one of the reps for Mesa Boogie amps and he arranged for me to have a tour of their USA factory. I’d also heard that Mesa still had some of the classic Phillips 6L6 tubes and at the end of the tour asked about this. “How did you know about these the owner remarked? These are mostly reserved for Dave Gilmour!” I persuaded them to let me have some of these items which I put in my Mesa Boogie 290 power amp in my studio. Twenty five years on, I’m running the same tubes and of course Dave Gilmour didn’t grab a stack of these without good reason!
Covid 19 put the world on pause and for the last few years. After many years of playing local gigs, UK festivals and overseas festivals and gigs, I’m now rethinking opportunities for playing live. There’s a real joy to bringing music to a live audience and to date we’ve had many superb live opportunities with different ensembles, including playing at The Lagoa Guitar Festival in Portugal, a number of sold out album launches and some solo appearances in New York and Nagoya.
One live gig is worth eight rehearsals
My producer Carl Rosamond always chanted the mantra “One live appearance is better than 8 rehearsals” I never really understood this until we started to play out in live venues. Its been a fascinating journey from the initial baptism of fire, when after a few local gigs, I found myself on the main stage at an international music festival. On that occasion, I learned more in 45 minutes than in the first year of rehearsals. When I look back at the footage, aside from playing everything at speed, the performance even in these early days was pretty solid.
Less is more
In the last two years, I’ve only to date so far arranged one live outing, this time with the new Heartache ensemble. This was an opportunity to try out some of the new material. I’m pleased to report that the set was well received and the material stood up really well in a live setting. One of the benefits of playing live is that you discover very quickly how well material is received by the general public, especially if its not your typical fan base.
To date its been fun playing local venues, but it can be a lot of work and crank up some costs, especially if you have a policy of paying the band regardless of income from any venue. The benefit is mostly a massive education in what its like to front a band to entertain an audience. I’m lucky to be playing with many superb musicians, which has meant that I’ve really had to up my game musically, especially as I am fronting all these ensembles and we are playing original material.
Selecting future venues and creating “musical events” v gigs
After a number of years playing the local circuit, I now far prefer to organize much bigger live opportunities, through the Music for the Head and Heart and Green Eyed Records platforms. This means starting to host more established artists and providing evenings of entertainment, rather than simply doing gigs. This doesn’t preclude doing future gigs, but now I’m adopting a policy of “less is more” and being more selective about where and when we play. This means a great deal of planning as great venues are in short supply and established artists will plan ahead for live appearances. Also this means a lot more personal investment in signing contracts with artist’s managers who understandably want the assurance that events of properly marketed.
Previously I ran two Music for the Head and Heart events pre covid and am now planning a series of much bigger musical evenings starting with a showcase event October 7th with Jon Gomm.
Creativity through collaboration
In keeping with the Green Eyed Records “creativity through collaboration” I am delighted to be offering Towse from California as well as my own Heartache ensemble. In April I already have signed another major international to play in Leeds as part of the forth Music for The Head and Heart showcases, with one of my ensembles supplying support.
We’ll be looking at “The Old Woollen” in Leeds again, as it is covid friendly, has free parking, full bar, fully seated and crucially a superb sound system. Crucially we have a great sound engineer for these events and none of the constraints in terms of curfew and audience limits which in my opinion hamper playing at some other venues in Leeds.
One of the key lessons I have learned in recent years is that if you want to make any kind of impact musically you need to be well organized and maintain constant momentum in musical releases. This means investing a lot of time and money in what you do to stay on the radar. It also means constantly reaching out in new ways to bring your audience to a wider public, unless you want to constantly play to exactly the same audience!
The schedule for 2022
The first single for 2022 will be “She’s Tough Enough” which is one of the collaboration tracks with Towse. Below is the promo for this single and the full audio and video release will be out March 11th on all platforms
Following this release, there will be another Nick Cody & The Heartache release, also on Green Eyed Records in May, called “That Gal is cool as f**k. We are currently editing the video for the track having already done two video shoots. Following “That Gal” will be another Cody/Towse collaboration currently being decided. The track will be one of the 12 tracks on the album due for Sept release “All is fine till the world goes pop.”
To date, we have 10 of the tracks “in the vault” with three already mastered, including “Thinking in Circles” which has been released and a terrific ballad “Go Now” which is unreleased. Next Monday I am in the studio signing off on the next single. Its an absolute joy to work with Towse and to help promote her music with my network of contacts. That’s the power of “Creativity through collaboration” This is truly an international collaboration of musicians with Towse from California and Michael Ross from Nashville as well as many great UK musicians and Laurent Zeller from France.
The Nick Cody & The Heartache EP “You Gotta Move” is almost completed with 4 of the five tracks already mastered. “Hold that thought” is the last track to master and then that project is completed ahead of a showcase live support appearance on Oct 7th with Jon Gomm at the 3rd Music for The Head and Heart showcase. I’ve realised that it makes more sense to do selective bigger gigs than small local appearances which cater to much smaller groups of usually the same enthusiasts. There’s a place for that, but its better to work with more focus.
All this work requires planning studio time to maintain momentum. Great studio professionals are always busy, so I have now booked studio time up until 2023 on a monthly basis. I am also lucky to have my own home studio which has been revamped with new gear, so we have a lot of recording options. Its important to maintain the best quality sound and not compromise in any way, especially if you want radio play.
Marketing momentum and packaging
As well as planning recording time, its essential to plan marketing on a rolling 6 week basis. I’m more convinced that the strategy of releasing and promoting singles ahead of an EP and album is a better way to go. Simply releasing 12 tracks in one blow means you lose making the best impact. There’s also an argument to say that these days people are more interested in individual tracks. I’m a fan of physical products, but have come to realise the need for really good packaging. This means some careful consideration on what’s presented and instead of getting mates to knock something up, better to employ professionals. All this activity means investing in a great deal of time. Special thanks to everyone involved in these projects as its all about collaboration and sharing resources.
I’ve been thinking recently about “the power of creativity through collaboration” and how there are wildly different artistic visions among artists and every different behaviours. I set up Original Ukulele Songs to provide a platform for ukulele artists who are interested in creating original music. The resource was and remains 100% totally free for anyone interested and some artists have the ability to have their own bespoke pages on the site to promote their music. Its essentially a totally free advert for performers and to date over 150 artists from all over the globe have taken advantage of this opportunity. I then started to look at running live events for some of these artists and in 2017 sponsored a stage at a known ukulele festival. We showcased 7 acts, videoed the event and this also helped promote artist awareness. The feedback was terrific and it was a packed audience that stayed to listen to all the performers, even though most attending only knew a few of the artists. This was a great example of collaboration and artists working together, rather than in isolation.
Expansion to Green Eyed Records platform
After a few years, I realised that the ukulele world was too small and there were too many politics. It made more sense to create 2 bigger music platforms, Music for The Head & Heart and Green Eyed Records. I’m grateful for some great assistance from a number of people who have supported this concept and in particular Sylvie Simmons and Frank Wilkes from Kycker who freely gave me a lot of time in thinking through the core concepts. The central theme for the OUS platform, MHH and GER are to promote the love of great music and the core ethos is doing this through collaboration and sharing. I’ve also realised the value to seeking out like minds and above all working with professionals. Its early days as the GER platform is less than a year old, but the FB page and the main site are getting great attention and feedback. More than ever this is IMO a time for creativity though collaboration to promote great music.
Why isolation is the death knell for most artists…
I’ve been happy to financially fund these resources and its interesting to have a huge range of reactions. On one extreme I have had some great article contributions and advice from seasoned professionals and at the other extreme I’ve had some quite bizarre reactions in promoting GER. On one FB I was promoting a live event cross posting and running ads for all the artists attending and one person hilariously accused me of incessant posting on a particular FB page. I immediately posted an apology for any offence created and politely reminded them that the the purpose to posting about a forthcoming live event was for her chosen artist to reach a wider audience.
Not only was I not taking any fee from the forthcoming event as a support act, but also was personally help fund the event to promote great music. All of this help fell on deaf ears and I realised that some folks don’t real get the value of working with others and prefer to work in isolation. That’s IMO always the death knell for most artists, both financially and creatively. Of course everyone has the perfect right to follow their own beliefs, but its hilarious when those who choose a path of isolation then complain about how isolated they are from reaching a wider audience essential for basic living expenses as well as being able to complete creative work to a good standard! Its a shame, but I have realised that there’s little point in explaining “the elusive obvious” in such situations!
I’m more interested in great music rather than being part of any artist fan club and I have become increasingly more selective about who I work with. In my non musical capacity I have a successful history of promoting events across the globe and running many productive marketing initiatives. The key ingredient in two decades of success is working with those who value collaboration and appreciate that
“No one of us is smarter than all of us”
Working with like minds and creating new opportunities
Later this year the next Music for Head and Heart Platform in association with Green Eyed Records will feature Jon Gomm as the headliner and Towse along with The Heartache as a support act. These evenings are all about great music and its an absolute joy to work with such professionals. Jon had already agreed to be interviewed for Music for The Head and Heart and its a real privilege to host him in a live capacity at a great venue in Leeds. The headline act for 2023 has also been signed and similar to Jon that performer has a very busy international schedule, so we have to plan ahead to secure the booking.
Green Eyed Records encourages artists to work together for the promotion of great music. I’m happy to put my money literally where my mouth is and to sponsor events, marketing and equipment with no strings attached. Many artists regardless of how talented they are, don’t have the individual reach to attract a wider audience. The old argument “We’re not interested in being big” is usually a cop out as many such artists often struggle to maintain paying weekly bills, never mind being able to invest in bringing their creative voice to the wider world.