The last Artist Profile #5 of The The 2018 Comeback Special. On bass: James Eller
Matt Johnson: I have worked with James Eller on and off for a very long time, notably on Mind Bomb, Dusk and The The Versus The World. Recently, he was musical director for my Radio Cineola band—which performed in the documentary The Inertia Variations. He also produced a version of ‘December Sunlight’ for the 45RPM compilation album, and so he is someone with plenty of good ideas himself. James takes the bass guitar very seriously, and is always very open-minded when it comes to trying out new ideas and sounds. He’s quite happy to play very simply to support the song, has superb timing, and instinctively locks into a solid groove when partnered with a great drummer. Despite his personal warmth, James remains the coolest man on four strings. He has played with Nick Lowe, The Teardrop Explodes, Damien Saez, Kirsty MacColl, Billy Bragg, and The Pretenders, amongst many others.
James Eller: Playing in The The for the first time squared a circle for me. There would be a disconnect in my mind between the music I liked to play and the songs and lyrics I liked to listen to. As a bass player, I loved, and was heavily influenced by, bass-heavy, hypnotic 1960s and 1970s soul, r&b and disco music. Lyrically, however, I preferred very different songs and writers from the New Wave and Post Punk movements. With The The, I was able to combine the two. Matt’s music is pretty bass-orientated, and he has written some great bass lines. To play his music I didn’t have to adjust my playing or think about it at all. We both like space between the notes and a powerful simplicity. There’s a very strong but not overt blues element in Matt’s music, a kind of soulful yearning, which I think is at the core of all of it.
Interview by Thierry Somers, Photography by John Claridge