#1
Alex James
Full time cheese farmer, part time astronomer. Oh, yes, he also used to play bass for Blur.



Alex James
Alex James was born on the 21st of November 1968, in Bournemouth, England.
He spent his youth throwing himself off of cliffs into rhododendron bushes, working for a scaffolding company, and trying to start bands. James lusted for synthesizers, fascinated by all of their flashing lights and futuristic knobs and sliders. However, they were all too expensive, and so he bought a bass. His first bass was a Tokai Jazz bass copy.
In 1988, sick of stacking shelves for a living and with terrible A level results, he left Bournemouth for Goldsmiths college in New Cross, London; to study French. It was here he met Graham Coxon. Coxon was already in a band, with Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree. They needed a bass player, and with the lure of studio time, he couldn't say no. They soon gained a reputation for their intense, and often inebriated live shows. Before long they signed to Food Records, under the condition that they changed their name, and the drummer stopped wearing pyjamas to their shows. Blur was born.



Blur exploded on to the London scene. They recorded their debut album, Leisure, which reached #7 on the UK charts. Their second single, There's No Other Way, also went top ten. With a promising career with Blur, and at the risk of being thrown off of his course, they went on tour. As Blur got more and more popular, James got drunker and drunker. In 1992, Blur released their follow up album, Modern Life is Rubbish. Which helped spawn the Britpop movement. They went on to release critically and commercially successful albums such as Parklife, The Great Escape, Blur, 13, and Think Tank.
James also formed Fat Les with Keith Allen and Damien Hirst (also in the band was Joe Strummer, Michael Barrymore, Lily Allen, Matt Lucas and David Walliams. Among many, many others). Whose hit single, Vindaloo, outsold any of Blur's. Today, Alex James lives a quiet and sober life with his wife and family, in a very big house in the country.



As a bass player
Often undershadowed by his partying, James is a very talented bass player. With drummer, Dave Rowntree, he provides a rock solid foundation for Coxon's complex chordal harmonies. His often angular sounding basslines, which may have been influenced by his love for 80's new wave and the new romantics, add a distinct colour to the bands music.
The line for the song Girls & Boys makes use of octaves and chromaticisms, whereas Coffee & TV shows his ability to settle back into a nice groove, and harmonise with the guitars. My personal favourite (as a bassline, and as a song) is For Tomorrow. This line has a bouncy melodic feel to it, and has lots of variations and fills.

Equiptment

James is not so much of a perfectionist compared to many other bassists(and you lot) when it comes to gear. I quote: "I treated my basses as Biros, chewing them up and then losing them." For most of his time with Blur, he was almost always seen with a Fender Precision, commonly a two tone sunburst with gold scratchplate. This is also the bass(wether it is the same bass or not I do not know) that he used when Blur played at Glastonbury 2009. On 13 James used a Music Man, a Sting ray (I think). For the recording of Think Tank, and live shows around the same time, he used a Gibson Les Paul bass. James played double bass on the song Tender.
He uses Ampeg SVT amplifiers, and Ampeg 810 cabinets. A bass player's best friend, in his own words. This gives him the signiature Ampeg/P bass growl, best heard on Girls & Boys. He is not a huge effects user, but it is James' bass going through a home made distortion box that gives Song 2 it's crunchy sound, not the guitars.




Why did I choose Alex James?

I wanted to write about someone who was not so frequently mentioned on the boards, yet not someone who nobody had heard of. At least you don't know who Alex James is, you know who Blur are.
I also love his playful approach to playing bass, and music in general. He is a firm believer in music, that it truly is the highest and most primitive of art forms. His bass playing has influenced the way I see the bass guitar.





Sources:
Bit of a Blur by Alex James
Alex James - Wikipedia


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Last edited by ScottB. at Dec 9, 2009,
#4
very cool!!! love that first picture, it said it all.
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#5
he seems like a really down to earth guy having listened to some of him on classic fm (AND PROUD!) unless you count the innumerable playings of song 2 just about everywhere, the first time i really properly listened to blur was when they headlined reading or leeds or glastonbury - i forget which - and i have to say they are much better than i was expecting. nice read too

EDIT: must have missed the "glastonbury" part
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Last edited by moody git at Dec 4, 2009,
#6
Quote by moody git
he seems like a really down to earth guy having listened to some of him on classic fm (AND PROUD!) unless you count the innumerable playings of song 2 just about everywhere, the first time i really properly listened to blur was when they headlined reading or leeds or glastonbury - i forget which - and i have to say they are much better than i was expecting. nice read too

EDIT: must have missed the "glastonbury" part

Yeah, Song 2 is defiinitely way overplayed. It seems to be played whenever Blur are mentioned anywhere, but there are other songs that sum them up much better.
Quote by guitarhero_764
I think you need to stop caring what people think about it. I stayed home all day today and masturbated like 5 times. Fucking blast.

Ibanez ATK300 ◈ Sansamp VT Bass ◈ EHX Nano Small Stone ◈ Hartke LH500 ◈ Ashdown/Celestion 115
#7
Song 2 gets played excessively at most N. American hockey games.

I do like Blur--they are one of those bands I tend to listen to on long road trips.
#8
Very nice, I liked the ease of read, and as for Alex James, one of the better bass players in history. He just stuck in that mix so well. Thanks for the post!
#9
I would actively like Blur if they were more like Song 2 more of the time. But I quite like their chilled out sound too. Nice article mate.

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#10
Quote by m4l666
I would actively like Blur if they were more like Song 2 more of the time. But I quite like their chilled out sound too. Nice article mate.

Yeah, it's bit of an anomaly in their sound, but the Blur album has a very american sound which you might like.
Quote by guitarhero_764
I think you need to stop caring what people think about it. I stayed home all day today and masturbated like 5 times. Fucking blast.

Ibanez ATK300 ◈ Sansamp VT Bass ◈ EHX Nano Small Stone ◈ Hartke LH500 ◈ Ashdown/Celestion 115
#11
Song 2 to me always feels like Damon taking the piss out of american college rock, and indulging grahams love of it....showing the world that yes,they can write music like that too,they just dont want to. It feels really sarcastic to me...

Great article though, I do like Blur, its a shame I didnt see them at T, altho the hugely reduced setlist means I wasnt that cut up. Heard them at any rate = ]
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#12
Editied in some stuff that I forgot in the equiptment section.
Quote by guitarhero_764
I think you need to stop caring what people think about it. I stayed home all day today and masturbated like 5 times. Fucking blast.

Ibanez ATK300 ◈ Sansamp VT Bass ◈ EHX Nano Small Stone ◈ Hartke LH500 ◈ Ashdown/Celestion 115
#13
Nice write-up.
'Entertain Me' is probly my favourite Blur bassline; it's one of those gloriously OTT ones he used to occaisionally knock in "...just to piss off Coxon...". (That was a quote from a Q magazine interview back in the day!) 'Girls And Boys' was arrived at in much the same way.
Also rated highly by me; 'Mr Robinson's Quango' and 'Strange News From Another Star'
If you can find old footage of him from the 'Leisure' era, you'll see his Precision with the J/P/H pickups - awesome noise!
#16
Do you know what specific SVT Alex uses? His bass sound is one of my favorites and he's on of my bass playing influences. Appreciate the article; it's nice to see him get mentioned since he's often overlooked, even though he's quite a tasteful and talented bassist in my opinion.
#17
^I've looked it up and haven't been able to find an answer, sorry. Maybe someone else knows, I'm not the biggest SVT nerd.
Quote by guitarhero_764
I think you need to stop caring what people think about it. I stayed home all day today and masturbated like 5 times. Fucking blast.

Ibanez ATK300 ◈ Sansamp VT Bass ◈ EHX Nano Small Stone ◈ Hartke LH500 ◈ Ashdown/Celestion 115
#18
I have a friend called Alex James. Back to the subject, good player, pretty good band. Might get into their music. Thanks!