02 January, 2018

[INTERVIEW] with... James White

Humanitarian, musician, olive lover and all round good guy James White has sat down with us over a frothy coffee today and we've chit chatted about what he's been up to.

Hello James, thanks for giving me a slice of your time, now tell me, if you were to describe your musical stylings to a new fan what would they be?
The musical style has obviously changed, I mean, I was previously doing comedy-acoustic under the alias of "Rage Against Genital Herpes" so the last few years I've taken a new path into doing more "serious music". A lot of the music has a folk-blues style to it. Some songs like "Take Me Home" have brass section and a piano in it whereas others like "Democracy Hypocrisy" has just the guitar. So it does vary but yes I would say a blues – folk style!


What inspired you to first pick up the guitar?
I was inspired to pick up the guitar because I completely and utterly became infatuated with music. I had musical heroes like Angus Young from the band AC DC. I used to watch DVDs of him and just felt completely and utterly in love the way that he bled emotion through playing an instrument like the guitar. It wasn't only that it was also the fact that I was suffering from being isolated at school from being a different individual to the peers around me. It led me to a few dark, lonely and depressing years where I found sanctuary in playing the guitar. I would lock myself away my bedroom when getting home and play for around three hours a day. Quite often I wouldn't actually be playing songs but just doing guitar licks and solos. I think that's probably what I enjoy in the music I do now because the rhythm side of my guitar playing absolutely sucks!


Would you ever consider turning you solo act into a band?
I would absolutely love to have my solo act become a band! However, I completely and utterly understand having previously played in bands that is very hard to get musicians together, particularly as musicians tend to be the least reliable of all people in the world! Also as well it being hard finding the time whilst training to be a lawyer and doing charity work as well, considering I give almost everything I make from my music to charity, it would mean having people who are equally on-board are willing to give their time to doing the same, which would be very hard. If that happens then sure, because I love the bigger sound of a band - particularly violins, brass and piano! But if it means sacrificing money that could go to charity for the sake of my ego then no way!


Where would you want to perform at next?
Where would I want perform next?! I've just come back from playing Belgiam. which was absolutely insane. It was really cool being on the radio there playing live sessions, living The Lonely Island dream of playing a private show on a boat! The two public shows added there were absolutely brilliant. The crowd were awesome and I would love to go back there and do it again. I want to play in other places like Germany, go back to places like France where I feel I have unfinished business after the demolition of the Calais Jungle. I'm off to Greece to a refugee camp this year and so come out with that in one piece! Ultimately I want to be playing more festivals this year. Playing Strawberry Fair is always a staple for me and I love doing it because Cambridge is where my heart really lies. I love the multiculturalism of Cambridge. I want to visit as many cities as possible this year and spread the joy of music and raise awareness for the humanitarian crisis that is still ongoing in the form of the refugee crisis as well as other things.



When you released your first two Eps the money went to charity, care to tell us why you chose the charity you chose?
It is kind of hard to pinpoint exactly why I decided to give everything to the refugee charities from my first two EPs. Initially, I wanted to give the money to the mental health charity, MIND. They really helped me during the darker times of my life when I was growing up and when I just finished university and found myself buried in substances I shouldn't have been. They really did help me during a time of darkness and I do ultimately want to go back to raising money for MIND. But it is getting harder and harder to pinpoint the exact moment I decided to help and contribute with the refugee crisis. I am not sure if it was just crossover of seeing the horrible images hit the media or whether it was just me entirely disbelieving the articles in newspapers saying that the Jungle was a swarm of rapists and economic migrants. I kind of felt I had to go see it myself and show and tell everyone the truth behind the fog. I played this show in Cambridge called the City of Sanctuary which was at this awesome Art Deco hall in the centre. It raised over £10,000 and had speeches from volunteers who had been. It really moved me. I then organised show at my local football club, Saffron Walden Town Football Club, which ended up being a couple days after my grandmother's funeral. I basically got so blackout drunk that I ended up not being able to play. It was incredibly embarrassing. I felt that really I had unfinished business and the only way to change that was to go out there myself. I signed up then. It's something I still will carry on doing it even though that the nearest one in the form of the Calais jungle and the camp at Dunkirk are now basically just no longer there. So my next up will be to Greece. I want to go to one of the islands and hopefully do lifeboat duty where you help shepherd in migrants refugees who were just arriving onshore in the form of ridiculously poorly and crudely made, terribly unsafe boats which have ultimately taken the lives of thousands upon thousands of people crossing the Mediterranean. So that's my next challenge. But the reality was that I just simply felt that I had the power to make some sort of small change, not as in the change that can completely change the course of human history, but are simply going there bringing supplies and taking myself and get are there just to try and put a smile and deliver a little bit of normality to the people who are in the camps. So my life still isn't done!


I see you went to Calais before the 'jungle' camp got shut down, what was it like?
I still feel somewhat torn on my opinion of the Calais Jungle. The Jungle was effectively a beautiful nightmare. The fact that it existed in the first place was a demonstration of not just the UK's, that the EU's lack of a human touch towards the crisis. There were effectively very few places where you can get clean water, and by the time I went for the first time the camp had swelled to nearly 10,000 people. There was no running sewage systems, there was asbestos everywhere, the camp had a terrible smell, it was incredibly dirty yet through all of this it had this incredible beauty which was formed in this community of people working together to survive and make the best of a very horrible situation. The church that was built there was absolutely stunning and that's coming from someone who is a devout atheist and not particularly fond of religion and the effects that has had on our history whether you look at things like the Crusades all the way through to the Holocaust and this idea of Social Darwinism as ideology. I remember one Sunday this gospel choir singing. It was genuinely magical. The fact that people manage to make the best of their lives there by opening shops, hotels and even nightclubs was just insane! In fact some of the best food I ever had was in the Calais Jungle. It was a bit of a shock when I first came back. For about the first 24 hours it felt like nothing changed until I ended up just lying in my bed reflecting a wide bin and the fact I could just get up and go have a warm shower that I was there with a roof over my head and had access to things that are simply shouldn't be luxuries like a roof over my head running water the Internet and the fact I could feel safe. The fact that was in can get tear-gassed and playing cricket all that rubber bullets were just trying to be fired over from some mundane reason. Mr Calais Jungle, but the fact existed in the first place should be a big pointy finger towards the human race. This crash after coming is a common thing sadly...more so when I last went. It didn't get any easier.




You've also been back in Europe for a number of shows, how did that come about?
Well the show in Italy came about because I state and an Italian lady called Greta Cobalchini. She is a YouTuber who did a series called "Tall Girl Problems". You should check it out, it really embarrasses her but the fact is that we obviously know she enjoys it because she keeps making videos! She's from Vicenza originally so she spoke to some people and I ended up heading out there. It was a real laugh and I will be playing on a makeshift beach there this coming year. Other than that as well it shows in France after making connections with people during my time in Calais and also went over to Belgium as I mentioned before through a promotions company called Across The Line. Jess and her boyfriend Jonathan are both wonderful people had a great time there! I look forward to going there again in 2018.


Would you do it again?
Of course! I would happily go there again next month. I had an amazing time and I've come back knowing who people are like Johnny Halliday, may he rest in peace! I love going to different places all the time. I love travelling, I love meeting new people, I love experiencing different cultures trying different food and enjoying different beer. Most importantly I enjoy the human connection that there is in the form of music and what it brings to the world. It's in our human nature, music is in our DNA!


What's next for James White and what can we expect from you in 2018?
What's next?! Well, I've finally finishing my third EP, Citizen of Nowhere, that's a reference to Theresa May's comments made after the nation voted for Brexit and she became our Prime Minister. So it is a politically driven EP again but in that time as well I've been writing this, and it has been a year and a half since I released my last EP, and I did deliberately plan to take a quieter year for 2017....but in that time I have had a relationship crash and burn, a wedding called off and had to basically restart parts of my life. There's been a lot of personal stuff happen that will come out in this. Without naming names... But yes this year will be a lot busier than last year, hopefully! I am Intending on playing more festivals, going to mean European cities hopefully in places like Germany and Holland and maybe other places as well if people will have me!