"I was exhausted, physically and mentally. You call it whatever you want -- a breakdown or whatever -- but it's just a hard time. I'd been put through a lot."
James Grant, the man behind Love and Money is talking about the period after the recording of the band's last album, Dogs In The Traffic, when "illness" prevented him from doing any promotional work for the record. "I had to go down on my knees and beg for some of the songs which I think are my best songs like 'Whisky Dream,' 'Winter,' 'You're Not The Only One.' I basically had to suck dick for those songs, and I'd had enough of it. So when it came to promoting the record, I thought 'Fuck that, I'm not interested.'"
We are sitting in the offices of Iona Records, the Scottish independent responsible for the release of Love and Money's latest album, Littledeath another collection of songs about "love's mystery / from ecstasy to misery." James Grant is tall, thin and unshaven. He has a quiff so big that someone I know is convinced it's a wig. He looks fragile, and when I say this to someone else who knows him they agree, adding, "but in a good way. Sensitive." Grant himself does little to dispel this idea, explaining that Love and Money don't play live very often because "I find it very difficult. I couldn't really be specific about it. I find it really strenuous; it affects my health".
Later, talking about how he had a bad chest during an American tour, and had to get "jags up the arse in Kansas," he catches himself: "I'm sounding like a total fucking wimp here" he says.
Love and Money were formed in 1985. A perfect example of Glasgow's love affair with Americana, the band set out to be soulful and funky, a reaction against the "jingle-jangle" of the Postcard groups. Their debut single, "Candybar Express," was produced by Duran Duran's Andy Taylor and their second album sold 250,000 copies, but all the singles from it narrowly missed the Top 40. Their last album sold 25,000, and at the end of 1992, they were dropped by Phonogram. They could've been contenders.
There was a time when you could've been pop stars. Achieved Deacon Blue
status at least.
"Oh, that would have been good" he says dryly.
Now you're thought of as more of a mature...
...with a maturer audience.
"Well, I was younger, and that's what I wanted to do then and I got my rocks off doing it. And this is how I get my rocks off now. It was very flattering for a person like myself to get bras and stuff chucked at me, because I was extremely unpopular at school, so it felt like revenge. I saw myself as king of all the ugly people."
I was listening to the record the other day, wondering if you felt that you'd missed your chance, when I heard you sing, "I have tasted glory/Ineffable/Like a blind man's dream/And sometimes it's hard not to let the bitterness rise up" (from Keep Looking For The Light).
"No, that's personal bitterness I'm singing about. I'm not a great one for looking back and thinking 'If only'. The song's about personal bitterness. I've seen hate destroy people's lives -- in the respect that you love someone and then you grow to hate them -- and I've seen it happen to a few people, and I've seen it destroy them."
That song's like a pledge to remain optimistic.
"Yeah. I think that everybody in Glasgow's got a pessimistic nature, but it's only a veneer of pessimism, and at the core of it there's a hard optimism, y'know? If something goes right for people in Glasgow, they're like, 'That's a fucking turn up for the books', and if something goes wrong, they're like 'I knew that was going to happen.' I think it's got something to do with waking up every day and it's raining".
James Grant, who at the moment is writing music for a film ("a Glasgow film" for cinema release that he can't talk too much about) as well as trying to write a novel (about a priest who finds a gun, a truncated version of which appears on the album as 'Sweet Black Luger'), sees himself as an artist rather than a pop star. He peppers his conversation with phrases like "it may sound pretentious, but" before going on to talk about Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment ("I read it when I was about 19, and I was like, 'Fuck's sake, I need a pint.'"), or about how one of his songs is an F. Scott Fitzgerald pastiche. Which is fine by me, because (here it comes) while his music doesn't excite me, I love his style, I love his ambition.
"When you write a song," he says, "about something that's cut you up very very deeply, you play the hero, you play the leading role in the film, and it's like a grand romantic gesture."
James Grant could've been a pop star. Instead he's an artist. As tragedies go, it's perfect...
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