Fans of The Stooges and Radio Birdman are in for a real treat this spring as guitarist James Williamson and singer/guitarist Deniz Tek have teamed up for a new spin on four classic Williamson compositions from the early/mid ’70s.
Tomatax caught up with James Williamson to talk about the project.
What inspired you to perform acoustic versions of your previous songs?
“Deniz and I struck up a friendship over the course of the last 4-5 years, meeting hear and there while the Stooges were still touring. During this time, we discovered that we both liked to visit the Big Island of Hawaii. So slowly, we had one conversation then another about doing an acoustic show at a small venue in Hawaii. Although that never materialized, we decided to record a few of the old tunes, just for fun really.”
How did you pick which tracks to perform acoustically?
“Well, Deniz suggested we do some of my old stuff, so I just picked 4 songs (2 from Raw Power and 2 from Kill City) which I felt could use some updating and were suitable to be done acoustically.”
Are there any plans to do any follow up acoustic renditions?
“Hard to say at this point. Just trying to get these out there. March 31st is the official release date. So, we’ll see after that how things go.”
Are there any plans for any other collaborative releases between you two?
“Same answer as above really. We’ll have to just take em one project at a time.”
Have you had any reactions of the EP from Iggy Pop?
“None from Iggy so far”
Are there any plans to perform the acoustic versions in concert?
“I don’t really tour anymore since the Stooges disbanded in 2013/14, however I’ve told Deniz I would do a couple of selective shows if we could get them. For example, The Bridge Benefit Festival in San Francisco would be perfect for this music. Let’s see what Neil Young thinks about it.”
You released your first solo album a few years ago, how does recording a solo album compare to being in a band?
“Well, its the same in the sense that there’s a group dynamic kinda like a band. And, on the album I only used 2 sets of musicians so it turned out almost like a band. In fact, some of them (Micheal Urbano on drums & percussion, Petra Haden backing vocals/vocals & violin, Gregg Foreman-keyboards) almost are like my band now because when ever I record something new (I’ve released 3 singles and the upcoming EP in the past year), they are my goto musicians.
On the other hand, on my solo stuff, I’m free to use whatever singers I wish to use and who want to do it, so there is much more flexibility in vocal styles.”
There is a wide range of guest vocalists on the album, was it hard to get them all together?
“Not at all, in fact it turned out to be quite easy since everyone I contacted pretty much accepted the offer to do it and I had nothing but positive experiences with all of them.”
Are there any plans for a follow up solo album?
“Well, I’ve been enjoying making singles and this EP in that with smaller projects, you give everything all your attention, you don’t gloss over anything. So, every song gets the best version and treatment you can afford. However, the marketplace seems to prefer albums…so hard for me to say at this point…I’m no longer in the music business really in the sense that I’m not trying to be commercial per se. But, I would like my music to reach people. Anyway, we’ll see how many songs I can write over the next year or so and that’ll be what I put out…long or short.”
You’ve been making music for over 50 years, what’s the secret to your longevity?
“I haven’t got a clue really. I’m the same as I was when I first started in that I write music to express my emotions. I don’t write it for any commercial purpose …at least not the good stuff… What I’m most well known for at the songs on Raw Power and Kill City, but I feel the music on Re-Licked is every bit as good. And, the newer stuff, I’m pretty sure will resonate with people but maybe not for another 20 years.”
I guess my music has a timeless appeal since it springs from within and is not linked to any particular genre or demographic. Of course I was out of the music business for around 25 of those years, so I still have the enthusiasm that many musicians that have been around as long as I have lost.
You donated your Leopard Lady Les Paul Custom, as well as your Gibson B25N acoustic guitar to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame Museum, does it feel strange not playing with them now?
“It feels pretty great really. Since those guitars had so much provenance, they were becoming a burden to protect. They had become valuable, yet no one in my family wanted to sell them. So, rather than store them we all decided they would be better served to be available to the public in perpetuity…I haven’t regretted that decision at all. Anyway, I have many other instruments which I’ve been playing for years now and sound fantastic…yes, those were special and I always played that Les Paul on everything I recorded…but that part is over now.
Now that this latest EP is out what do you have planned next?
Well the EP is out as of March 31st… I plan to keep writing new songs and figuring out who I should collaborate with to realize them fully. That and hang with my Granddaughter and the rest of the family.
Check out James Williamson’s website to find out more!