James Domestic – the nom de guerre of James Scott – is highly active on the UK DIY punk scene. When he is not fronting his hardcore band The Domestics, he is usually up to no good working on another project: Pi$$er, Bring The Drones, Tokyo Lungs, Hazard Profile, Kord Vald, Froggy & The Ringes, Dis-Tank (another solo project)…well, the list goes on.
And when he isn’t recording and releasing his own stuff, he is liaising with punk rockers from as far afield as Peru to bring us new hardcore tunes via his label Kibou Records. As he reveals in his answers to this interview, he’s always got to be doing something. So far there have been two singles from his solo project, imaginatively titled James Domestic and described as “post-punk pop music for weirdos”. The album Carrion Repeating is out in the spring, so Nathan Brown thought it was time to sling a few questions his way to find out what makes him tick and what he has in store for us.
LTW: So, tell us when the album is out, and a little about the recording process. Is this all home recorded? Is it shouting in a cupboard under the stairs stuff, or have you built your own studio?
JD: Well, it’s been at the pressing plant for some months now, which is now the “new normal” it seems! But the test pressings are approved, and it’s scheduled for an April release. It’ll probably go up for a longer-than-usual pre-order from mid-January, when the next digital single and video are released. It takes so fuckin’ long to get a record pressed at the moment that pre-orders are essential to DIY labels, otherwise they’re out of pocket for so long that it’s completely unworkable.
95% of Carrion Repeating is recorded at home, yeah; most of my bits and the vocal Lu James does on Is That You?. Some of the vocals were recorded at a bunker in Rendelsham, where The Domestics – and sometimes The Stupids – rehearse. Oh, and all of Clare (Gillett)’s vocals were recorded at her and her husband Matt’s place. Matt also did the steel drums, and extra guitar on Mañana there, Eddie O’Toole did sax on one song at his place, and John Hewson did some backing vocals on a tune at his gaff. But it’s a totally DIY-style record, mixed by me, and then a quick mastering polish at North London Bomb Factory.
I have really basic equipment, and I’ve never been one of those people that’s into music gear. As far as I’m concerned instruments are just tools for making songs. I really don’t understand these people that spend two grand on one guitar, and usually have a dozen. That’s mental. Those people usually make really shitty music too; maybe it’s a compensatory thing – who knows? I really don’t get it.
I’m still using the same £129 Les Paul copy I bought 20 years ago, and a second-hand Ibanez bass I picked up for £100 maybe ten years ago. Other than that, there’s a keyboard, a Roland sound module, a Boss BR1600, and my imagination. I started playing guitar at thirteen so that I’d have the means to write songs, not because I wanted to be a guitar hero shredding out superfast solos standing on a rocky outcrop with my hair blowing dramatically in the breeze y’know?
I guess it’s always been about songs for me. Even in all my hardcore projects, the song and the energy given to the performance of the song are the most important things for me. If there isn’t actually a good song in there, it’s just riffs and shouting and, whilst I do like riffs and I do like shouting, there really needs to be a bit more than that for me at the end of the day. There’s a billion bands doing that; largely because it’s really fucking easy to do.
Why? And why now? What prompted the new project? Are you sick of working with other people?
Nah, working with other people is fun. It’s just that have so many ideas in my head all the time, so I need lots of outlets – that’s why I have about ten projects and bands on the go! Also, whilst punk has always been my bedrock ever since I discovered it as a teen – not just the music, but the DIY approach, the attitude, and everything that goes with it – I’ve always had an extremely broad taste in music and this time round I wanted to focus less on speed and aggression, and more on groove and bass, and maybe a bit less on thrashing guitars. Most of my projects still very much involve other people, and there are a few guests on this solo record too.
You’ve moved away from your usual hardcore punk focus for this solo project. Is there any particular reason?
Like I said, I just have such a wealth of ideas. I spend every day in a state of near-permanent distraction with all the musical ideas, and often fully-formed songs that pass through my brain. It actually makes everyday life pretty difficult sometimes. My concentration is fucking appalling as there’s always music in my head, and I mean always. Sometimes I don’t know how I function at all, but I guess I manage somehow to bring it further forward or further back when really necessary. But I’m one of those people that’s always tapping their fingers or feet, and humming some tune or other. I’m totally haunted by sound all day every day. It’s constant.
The music on Carrion Repeating doesn’t quite fit anywhere, which is kinda fitting; I think I’ve always experienced life like an outsider looking in, with bits of me in slightly different areas. Large dose of imposter syndrome. But with age I’ve become a lot more accepting of these things, more accepting of me and who I am, and just give way less of a fuck now that I might not fit into one thing or another, and my brain works differently to a lot of people’s brains. I think you either embrace your difference or it eats you up, and I’ve still got a lot of stuff to do. Someone called me a ”weird cunt” on some podcast the other week. Even five years ago that would’ve gnawed away at me, even though it was said in a jokey way, but now it’s like water off a duck’s back.
The two streaming singles you have so far released have been quite different. What should people expect from the album?
They are. And the third one, Mañana, is different again. For me, all eleven songs on the record are pretty broad stylistically. There are songs like Push on Through, which are heavily indebted to krautrock – Neu! in particular – songs that have more of an obviously punky framework, like Faze Out or Bean Counter. There’s a fucked-up disco tune – kinda like Chic meets Ian Dury meets The Monks…something like that maybe. There’s garage rock with saxophones, dub-style basslines, bits of marimba, filthy electro.
The point is, it’s really varied, but what it isn’t is a jumbled up mishmash of any old shit I came up with. I’ve been really brutal in the song selection and culled a good few tunes that I’d written for the record, because I wanted it to have a cohesiveness about it. It’s not supposed to be a “look at me, aren’t I clever mixing up all these styles, give me a pat on the head” kind of record. Fuck that! There was a lot of that in the nineties, and it resulted in a lot of really directionless, jarring records that don’t really stand the test of time. Despite the variety, there are elements that bind all these songs together; the prominent bass, the unfussy beats. It’s a rhythmic record.
Did you plan out particular sounds or styles to aim for or has it developed organically? What’s the vision?
Not really. I just decided it was about time I made something that combined all of my many other influences and made the stylistic decision that the bass would be prominent, and there would be more spoken style vocals. As I say, I’ve got a pretty minimal studio setup so I have to be creative within the parameters of that really. I mean, even to say “studio setup” makes it sound far grander than the reality. There’s a video on the Kibou Record YouTube channel that shows the room it’s in – along with a bunch of other completely unrelated stuff. I don’t know whether you’d call it a “vision” as such, but I just wanted to make a really good record, full of really good songs, that wasn’t restricted in the ground it would cover. I guess it was pretty organic, but with a bit of focus.
You know I’ve been trying to do different things with some of my other bands – PI$$ER being the most obvious example I guess. D-beat with a saxophone was something I wanted to try for a long time. People said it was a stupid idea; that it’d never work, and I was crazy to even try it, but I think it’s fair to say that we did make that work. I’m very proud of the records we’ve made so far, and people seem to really like them.
On top of that, a band like us would never make a remix record – but we did! The older I get, the more I enjoy getting out of that comfort zone, doing things that I want to do, just to try them out, and not really giving that much of a fuck if it’s the thing you’re supposed to do or not. I just got asked to try out narrating a small independent animation, and I was like “why the fuck not!”. Always got to be trying new things. I’d really like to do some more voice work. Or acting even. Throw stuff at me and if I fancy it, I’ll give it a go!
Let’s talk about the keyboards. I guess you’re not classically trained. I thought this worked really well on Faze Out, adding to the sound. Is there a reason you decided not to get in a ringer to tinkle the ivories?
Funnily enough, the first instrument I learned to play was the keyboard, when I was about eleven of twelve. I even had some lessons. I think my parents thought it’d keep me out of trouble. I was pretty good too; could read music an’ all that. Then I got into metal at about thirteen and abandoned it in a heartbeat. Totally lost any skills I had in that department! I was only interested in playing guitar then. Total switch pretty much overnight. Keyboards were for wussies! The folly of youth, right?
For the solo stuff I spend a lot of time getting the parts right. They’re rarely too complex for me to play them and if they are, I just practice them until I can do a good take. If I do get a band together I’ll get someone else to do the keys though.
Any solo gigs on the horizon…maybe you with a backing track, or an assistant stood smirking behind a laptop?
Not as yet. I guess I’m waiting to see how the record is received first, which is completely arse about face really, but y’know, that’s how I operate a lot of the time. It’d be a live band. I don’t think a Sleaford Mods setup would really work for me. They’ve done that and they do it really well. First time I saw them I was blown away. Just two blokes, a mic, and a laptop. More energy in that than half the so-called punk bands on the scene, and more to say too.
But yeah, I don’t think that would be the route to doing these songs live, and I think that will be more apparent once people have heard the album. I have people in mind for most of the roles if I do put a band together for this. Even if some of them can cover a couple of different instruments and switch between songs, I’m still going to need five other people, so we’re looking at a six-piece band, minimum. It’ll be pretty cumbersome beast, but that’s how I’ll do it if I do it.
How can folks see or hear more?
There are a bunch of different places really. The core thing is probably www.jamesdomestic.com. That’s where you can keep up with what’s going on with the releases and stuff. If you subscribe to the website you get access to exclusive tracks and mixes, plus a heads up on new stuff, and are able to access a few subscriber-only giveaways, competitions etc. – just go to the ‘Extra Content (Subscriber Only)’ page and sign up. The next subscriber-only mix is by Chronolux, which is Dave Ellesmere, ex-Discharge, who’s been making some great electronic music for years now. Stayed at his house when The Domestics played in Berlin; top bloke.
You can find the videos on that site, or at the Kibou Records YouTube channel. I’m also on Instagram, Spotify, Twitter…fuckin’ all of it now! All stuff I said I’d never do – it’s a learning curve. Never say never I guess. Follow me for records, cats, nonsense, and whatever.
You heard the man, follow him! All relevant links at www.jamesdomestic.com
Words by Nathan Brown. Check out his Louder Than War Author Archive.