Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Concert pianist, double world motorcycling champion and now Rock Singer. The CV of James Toseland is certainly a varied one. From being at the top of the tree in one area he is now seeking to establish both his name and reputation in a quite different field. Following the release of his debut album I caught up with the man himself to talk rock n roll and a few other topics also.
Obviously you are pursuing a different musical path these days,just wondering where your interest in rock music had originated from?
James”To be fair I was studying classical piano when I was a young kid. Then my mum met the boyfriend that had a motorcycle and got me into motorcycle racing. He was a massive Queen fan,and so when we started doing the bike racing first off Queen was always on in the car. That was the first thing really that influenced me in rock. Then when I got into motorcycle racing obviously in the paddock and racing in general it was all DC, Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and Guns n Roses. Queen was the first one that got me into it.”
Your mention of Guns n Roses in particular means that I can reference a story from a friend of mine. He recalls a evening when you were over in N. Ireland presenting an award at the Irish Racer Awards. Alcohol had been consumed which resulted in a very drunk rendition of that bands hit ”Sweet Child Of Mine”
James(laughing)”Yeah we ended up in a bar somewhere, that was about seven or eight years ago now.”
Your management Strange world has links to N. Ireland. Have you been back in N. Ireland since and isn’t it about time for a show over this way.?
James” I have recently just with the missus though. She got an honoury doctorate from Queens University in Belfast. That was only a few weeks ago so that was the last time that I went. We have not yet been able to perform over there and I know that Strange is really keen for us to go over. We are currently trying to find a gig over there at this point.”
The album has now been out for a while, and I read in another interview that you are now working on some new material.?
James”The album came out in March, and it has done so well. It has just been an independent effort from myself. Strange our manager and Toby Jepson who I wrote with. We have been on board with an agent as well at Itb and the entire Strange World Management as well as getting the gigs ourselves. This is going to be our third or fourth tour headline show.”
I have noticed that Toseland are certainly putting in the miles of roadwork. Just returning to the album. Who are the other musicians playing on it? Where they personal friends,or perhaps people that Toby had put you in touch with?
James”No I put the band together because the first member was my brother in law when I met my girlfriend at the time. He was studying at ACM in Guildford. The band line-up has changed quite a bit now, but the first line-up was musicians from Guildford ACM. They were the guys that actually played on the album.”
Where the songs all created then in the studio, or were they songs that you had already written over the years?
James”I had a couple of melodies that I took up to Toby that turned into “Kingdoms”and “Renegade”which were the piano songs that are on the album. All of them were written in Toby’s studio in Scarborough. I basically checked into a hotel up there and on and off for about eight months I wrote all the songs with Toby.”
Regarding the album itself, just wondered if you could pick out a couple from it,that stand out in particular for you personally.
James’Well the title track of the album itself is”Renegade” , that’s really the most autobiographical song on the album. Its about me growing up in the North of England. Its obviously a piano song as well. That’s always one that has been particularly potent for me.”Just no way”is going to be the next single and that was a song that Toby had written over ten years ago. He kind of got it back out of the closet for this project. He thought it would be perfect in it and it was for us.”Just no way”started the song writing process off and then from that came”Renegade”as the first song which I was singing and writing about myself about the journey of the whole album. Those two are pretty poignant ones on the album.”
I saw you during the summer at the Calling Festival with Aerosmith. Then Myglobalmind reviewed your support slot to Seb Bach in London. Had you the opportunity to meet and receive any career advice at those shows, or from any other big name acts that you have played with?
James”To be fair Unfortunately I have not had the opportunity to sit down and talk to any of the guys that we have been supporting. We were on the road for about five gigs with Quo-three with the Frantic Four line-up. We didn’t have the chance to get any words with those guys. Obviously with Aerosmith, and it was Stevie Wonder on the Sunday at Calling. I saw them from afar but when you get to that size they rock up twenty minutes/half an hour before the gig and they are on and then off straight away. Obviously it is really difficult to get talking to them. Its just been amazing to have been on the same bill as them really. “
Getting back to the motorcycling. Do you have any connections still to the sport these days?
James”No not since I retired three years ago, the wrist is really knackered and doesn’t bend at all. I gave up the riding completely. I am doing the presenting on Bt Sport for Moto Gp. I do that in between the gigs that we have got, and that keeps my hand in there. I have just been doing the Silverstone British Grand Prix last weekend and I played at the event as well. It was nice to tie them both in together. I help a couple of young kids out just with touring. Nothing too serious, I am just on the end of a phone if they need any questions answered really.”
You mentioned your injury, which leads me to my next question. Is the same level of physical fitness required for racing bikes as going out and touring with the band?
James”Its energetic on stage for sure, I am wet through after a gig just as much as I was when riding bikes. Its amazing how less physical it actually is on stage, but how much energy and how much you sweat in comparison. I remember doing the vocals up at Toby’s studio, all I was doing was stood with my feet planted just singing the songs. With the amount of passion and energy that you needed I was absolutely wet through. The same as I was doing two hundred miles an hour on a motorbike. You certainly need to keep your fitness up-but it is so difficult on tour, when you finish on stage at 12/1oclock in the morning. The only thing that is open is a service station or a kebab house. It is difficult to keep your lifestyle healthy. I still try to do my best. I do a lot of running, I do the London Marathon each year for charity. That gives me the motivation to keep my fitness up. There is a similarity with both and nerves before the show or getting on a bike. I think it is a little bit more nerve-racking
I think going out on stage and seeing all those eyes looking straight at you in expectation. Where on the motorcycle you fly past them at two hundred miles per hour,and you don’t see anybody really. Its just nice to have a job that you love doing. I loved riding motorbikes and I love performing and singing. I am very privileged to have done two jobs that have been so cool and enjoyable”
I read in another interview that you are already working on some new material in preparation for the forthcoming tour. How has that been going?
James”Really good we are actually doing it as we speak. Toby is right next to me-he has come down to my place and we are writing at the moment. We have got the rehearsals for the tour next week. We have over a dozen song ideas now,and going to put three or four in the rehearsal room with the band and see which sit better when the band start to play them. We are just working on new material just for this tour and then when that is finished we will really concentrate on really putting together the body of work for the next album.”
Then the tour including that N. Ireland date.?
James”Well its obviously a massive motorcycle community. It would really tie in well. It has just logistically been complications that it has not happened yet. I know that Steve Strange is really working hard at getting us a gig out there.”
Great rock scene also at the current time over here both from upcoming local bands and also international acts touring here.
James”Well we do want to really tap into the places were rock is appreciated.
Couple of questions to finish on. I realise that you had done music first,but going from racing back to music. What was the biggest challenge for you personally?
James”I really started from the bottom of the ladder, after 17 years of being treated really well stopping in the nice hotels, flying business class and all the other things that come from doing well at something. Starting again and you can see the mountain ahead with the level that you want to get to was probably the most difficult thing about this whole thing. As hard as it has been the rewards and the steps along the way have been rewarding because of the hard work. It has made it all worthwhile. I have got a lot of passion for this and the band have got the same energy and passion. We have got an amazing bunch of guys on-stage performing the music. We all enjoy being together and the vibe is great. Its just a case of everybody pulling together and doing the best job that we can to keep the ball rolling. At the moment it cant be going any better for us. Getting new material and getting the message out there that there is more to come.
Do you keep up with new music?
James”To be fair I have been so busy with my stuff that …Planet Rock have really championed us, and I have really been enjoying Slash’s new stuff. Just little snippets like that when I get the chance to listen to mainly on the radio.”
Any outside interests or hobbies?
James”outside of family I am trying to break the land speed record for the fastest person on a motorcycle next year. Trying to be the first person to go above four hundred miles per hour-in Bonneville in America. Thats hopefully on its way and we start testing in October this year. Its a Rolls Royce helicopter engine and a British team. Its been 1937 since a British guy did it and the record is 376 miles per hour. That is exciting also. We are just talking to some possible TV to cover it at the moment. Once that is all complete then the sponsors can all fall into place”
You have another tour coming up shortly?
James”Yes starts in September and goes all around the country,and finishes in London on 8th October.”
Thanks for chatting to me today.
James”Any time, and thanks for covering the band. We will definitely be over to Ireland for sure next year.