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The Life and Times of Tim
Patrick Freyne interviews chief Charlatan tim burgess, about 20 years of music, a new collaborative album and his role as a mentor for this year’s JD Set band competition.
Patrick Freyne, 11 Nov 2009
Last year The Charlatans made musical history when they gave away their most recent album for nothing. Looking back, frontman Tim Burgess isn’t really sure that what they did made much business sense.
“What you’re meant to do when you give away something for free, is to collect all the data from the people who download it so you can use it to sell them the next thing,” he says with a big grin. “That’s what everyone tells us anyway. Well, we didn’t bother to do that, which was a bit silly. ”
This and a litany of other mistakes will, Burgess says, make up the bulk of what he has tell a cadre of wide-eyed and up and coming Irish bands later on the day of this interview. As an icon of this year’s JD Set, a new band competition sponsored by Jack Daniel’s, Burgess is meant to take on a bit of a mentoring role.
“Business-wise we’re not really the best role models,” he admits. “We’ve made a lot of mistakes. Signing to a record label for hard cash was a mistake. We’d been on Beggar’s Banquet for years, and we didn’t have any money at all. However, they did put a lot of money into the albums. So we made the mistake of signing to Universal for a lot of money. ‘Yoo hoo!’ we thought, ‘a big pay day!’. Then they didn’t put any money into the record and we ended up spending all the advance. So we learned a bit from that. We’ve always been terrible businessmen. Our current manager says that it’s a wonder we’ve survived at all given how badly we’ve been managed over the years.”
Of course, when Burgess got involved in The Charlatans back in 1988 he had no idea he’d still be with the band 20 years and 10 albums later.
“I wanted to make as many records as a band called The Prisoners who I really liked,” he says. “Well, they made four records, and we’ve gone way beyond that now. Music’s come full circle in a lot of ways for me. The first band I ever really loved was Crass [anarchist punk legends] and the first album I ever got on the day it was released was Penis Envy [Crass’s classic feminist record]. It taught me a lot about women and turned me into a bit of a feminist. I’m meeting Penny Rimbaud the drummer next week, and I’m hoping to do something with him.”