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Baker's Dozen

Thirsty For Song: James Johnston Of Gallon Drunk's Favourite LPs
Julian Marszalek , November 16th, 2016 09:31

As well as being the lynchpin of suited rock howlers Gallon Drunk, James Johnston has played with Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds and PJ Harvey - but we're not going to hold the fact that he's picked both of them for his Baker's Dozen against him. Portrait by Steve Gullick.

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PJ Harvey - The Hope Six Demolition Project
I got the call to come into the studio the week before recording, and now it's become an entire world for me with the tour. The level of focus and drive that went into this is phenomenal and unlike any experience I've ever had. The recording itself was so unusual to start with, what with being watched through the two-way mirror as it was being recorded at Somerset House in London. I'd walk over the bridge at Waterloo every day from where I live in Lambeth to get to the studio installed in the basement, which, fittingly enough, is an old rifle range.

The record has such an unusual sound, almost no bass guitar, the primal heartbeat of the drums taking a lot of the low end. Battalions of brass and guitars juxtaposed with incredible lightness and subtlety. 'Chain Of Keys', 'Dollar Dollar', 'Ministry Of Defence', 'Ministry Of Social Affairs', 'The Wheel', 'River Anacostia', 'Community Of Hope'… the whole thing.

Playing this live every night is an absolute joy. Again, the focus involved with a ten-piece band, the lyrics, the music itself, the subject matter, the incredible attention to every detail, and, of course, the people. I've met so many lovely people in and around the band through this process and it's friends old and new thanks to this album.

The first gig I did with Polly was as Gallon Drunk with PJ Harvey doing a surprise slot, at a tiny pub in Hampstead in 1992, and then we supported her all round Europe and the States in 1993. So now for Terry and I to be working together with Polly again, finally, after all this time is just wonderful, and to get to play back-catalogue songs with these wild arrangements for the big band is amazing.

What a voice, just astonishing live. An all-round incredible experience, and a brilliant album.


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