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Alex James (musician)
James performing live in 2013.
|Birth name||Steven Alexander James|
|Born|| (1968-11-21) 21 November 1968
Boscombe, Bournemouth, England
Steven Alexander James, FRSA (born 21 November 1968) is an English musician and songwriter, as well as a journalist and cheesemaker. Best known as the bassist of the band Blur, he has also played with temporary bands Fat Les, Me Me Me, WigWam and Bad Lieutenant.
James was born in Boscombe, Bournemouth and attended the state grammar school Bournemouth School, where he started playing in bands. He credits the Beatles with inspiring him to pursue music, proclaiming that: ″I was off school with chickenpox when John Lennon was shot in 1980. I spent the week watching a VHS recording of the Beatles film Help!, which was broadcast on TV the day he died. I still watch it once a year. Then I bought a Beatles songbook and a guitar, figured out the chord shapes and started strumming and singing along. I never looked back."
In 1988, James met future bandmate Graham Coxon at Goldsmiths College, where James studied French. Introductions with Coxon's old school friend Damon Albarn and Dave Rowntree soon took place; at the time Albarn and Rowntree were part of a band called Circus.
In 1989, James joined Coxon, Albarn and Rowntree's new band, Seymour, which would later be renamed Blur. While he has been in the band ever since, he now describes the experience as "a past-life".
Despite this, Blur got together with returning bandmate Graham Coxon to perform at Glastonbury Festival, Hyde Park, Oxegen and T in the Park during the summer of 2009. They also played shows at Goldsmiths College, Essex Museum and other venues around the UK and mainland Europe. Blur headlined a show at Hyde Park for the 2012 Summer Olympics closing ceremony. In 2013, the band performed at the Rock Werchter in Belgium, the Spanish and Portuguese dates of the Primavera Sound festival, and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in the United States.
Unlike Albarn and Coxon, James has not released any solo material, although he has been involved in other collaborative side projects. In 1998, James formed Fat Les with actor Keith Allen and artist Damien Hirst, releasing (excluding three others) the unofficial theme song "Vindaloo" for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, which reached number 2 in the UK Singles Chart. He also worked on side project Me Me Me with Stephen Duffy, co-wrote songs for Marianne Faithfull (appearing in drag playing a double bass in the music video for her single "Sex With Strangers") and Jane McDonald, and worked with Florence and the Machine and Gene Loves Jezebel.
James worked with Sophie Ellis-Bextor on her solo debut Read My Lips, co-writing and co-producing "Move This Mountain", and co-producing "I Believe" with Ellis-Bextor and producer Ben Hillier. He also played bass on both tracks. Ellis-Bextor's 2003 album, Shoot from the Hip also featured James as bass player and co-writer on the track "Love Is It Love". He also joined his friend and singer-songwriter Betty Boo in a band called WigWam in 2005. In 2009, James appeared as bass player on debut Bad Lieutenant record Never Cry Another Tear. The band consists of New Order lead singer Bernard Sumner and guitarist Phil Cunningham, along with Jake Evans of Rambo And Leroy. In 2013, James co-wrote the song "Did I Lose You?", performed by Giorgia and Olly Murs.
Alex James is a food writer for The Sun and has a weekly column, 'Alex James on All Things Food'; as well as a regular column on farm and family life in The Sunday Telegraph titled 'Mucking In'. He also writes a monthly column on cheese for Esquire Magazine. Alex contributes to a number of other British newspapers including The Independent, The Observer, The Times, and The Sunday Times, as well as Q magazine, The Spectator and The Idler. An autobiography of James's experience with Blur, Bit of a Blur, was released in June 2007 by Little, Brown & Company. It has since been described as "the definitive guide to Britpop". James published a follow-up entitled 'All Cheeses Great and Small: A Life Less Blurry' in September 2011, charting his transformation from rock star to cheesemaker as he moves to a farm in Oxfordshire.
In 2001, James and Graham Coxon appeared in the Channel 4 Pixies documentary "Gouge". James represented The Idler on BBC Two's University Challenge: The Professionals in 2005 with John Moore of Black Box Recorder. They secured a heavy win over the Financial Times in their heat, but did not score highly enough to return for the tournament's later stages. In 2007, James was a judge on the Channel 4 show Mobile Acts Unsigned and, in November 2007, appeared as a panelist on the BBC One satirical news quiz, Have I Got News for You. In August 2008, James appeared in reality TV series, Maestro on BBC Two. He was voted out in the fourth episode of the series.
In September 2008, a documentary television series, Cocaine Diaries: Alex James in Colombia, premiered on BBC America, in conjunction with the BBC America Reveals program. As the documentary progresses, James – who admits to having used cocaine extensively during Blur's Britpop heyday – learns about Colombia's violent drug export trade. In October 2009, James presented an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks and, in January 2010, he participated in the ITV1 reality television programme Popstar to Operastar. On 4 March 2012, James appeared on Top Gear as a guest for their 'star in a reasonably priced car' segment, clocking in at 1:45.2.
On 3 December 2011, he appeared on The Chase with Sara Cox, Ann Widdecombe and Eamonn Holmes against chaser Anne Hegerty, but he was caught by the chaser. On 16 March 2012, James appeared on The Bank Job and made the final, where he was beaten by Rachel Riley. He is also the first Bank Job contestant to find two "bankrupts" in a single game. James has been a participant in BBC One programme 10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight. On 26 December 2014, he appeared as one of the celebrity homeowners on Through the Keyhole with Keith Lemon. In August 2015, he won the Channel 4 programme [Celebrity Fifteen to One].
A 2016 documentary titled Alex James: Slowing Down Fast Fashion examined the fashion industry and how "consumers' seemingly unquenchable thirst for cheap clothing is having a huge effect on the environment and workers, both at home here in the UK and abroad".
James presented The A-Z of Classic FM Music. The show was named Commercial Radio Programme of the Year at the Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards on 5 June 2009. He has also contributed to the show's accompanying memorabilia, writing the foreword to both the book and CD box set, published by Reader's Digest in 2010.
- Artisan cheeses
James has become notable for his production of cheese. After his runaway success with Blur, he moved to the Cotswolds, purchasing a farmhouse and renovating it into a burgeoning cheese farm. The 200-acre cheese farm in Kingham, Oxfordshire, now produces award-winning cheeses including 'Alex James Presents' – a range of British artisan cheeses – 'Good Queen Maude', 'Blue Monday', 'Little Wallop', 'Farleigh Wallop', and most recently 'Goddess'.
All are distinct in their flavour: "Blue Monday" (named after his favourite New Order song) is a creamy Shropshire Blue, sharp with a very faint sourness; "Little Wallop" is a soft goats' milk cheese, washed in Somerset cider brandy and wrapped in vine leaves; and "Farleigh Wallop" is a goats cheese made with sprigs of thyme. The latter was voted Best Goats' Cheese at the 2008 British Cheese Awards, where James himself was a judge in 2010.
- Everyday cheeses
Tim Chester, writing in The Guardian, accused James of 'releasing bizarre flavour mash-ups in sliced, processed, plasticky form'.
Jeremy Bowen of cheese sellers Paxton and Whitfield said "They are cheeky price points, they are yummy, they are not difficult to understand. He wants to introduce the great and the good".
Music & food festivals
James announced he would open his Oxfordshire farm to host an annual food and music festival. The event, titled Alex James Presents Harvest, took place from 9–12 September 2011, in conjunction with promoter Big Wheel Promotions.
However, the event had a shaky start when Big Wheel Promotions went bankrupt leaving the ticketing company out of pocket and stallholders and performers unpaid.
The local primary school, Kingham Primary, were also owed £7000 for the entertainment they organised, with the headteacher telling the Guardian that "We are either going to have to lose the music teacher or take it from other budgets which will reduce other parts of the curriculum".
Then, in December 2011, a concert was staged locally to settle the debt. "I pledged to match the funds raised from my own pocket...I was very happy to do that" said James. Big Wheel Promotions, the company behind 'Harvest', then abruptly ceased trading even though it had already taken ticket fees for 2012. 'Alex James Presents Harvest' will also be remembered for a photograph of Alex James with David Cameron and Jeremy Clarkson.
Since 2012, James – along with Jamie Oliver - has hosted The Big Feastival, an annual food and music festival, on his Oxfordshire farm. On joining forces with James, Oliver said "The Big Feastival was a great success in South London last year and I cannot wait to take this celebration of the greatest chefs, the best local produce and suppliers and some fantastic entertainment to a more rural location at Alex's." Along with live musical performances from Paloma Faith, Gaz Coombes, The Cuban Brothers, Noisettes, Razorlight, Texas, and Sahand, there has been cooking demonstrations and masterclasses, Q&As and book signings with well-known chefs, as well as family entertainment from Peppa Pig, Slow Food Kids' Taste Adventure and Chipping Norton Theatre. 'The Big Feastival' returned to James' farm on 31 August and 1 September 2013 with a line-up including KT Tunstall, The Feeling, Rizzle Kicks and Basement Jaxx. The festival attracted over 30,000 attendees in 2014 and has continued to be held annually on August Bank Holiday weekend.
On 19 June 2019, James visited Bledington Primary School and invited the children to submit a fun, colourful, festival-inspired design. The winning entry was displayed as a stage backdrop at The Big Feastival. The 2019 festival took place on 23 – 25 August. The music line-up included Elbow, Lewis Capaldi, Jess Glyne, Rudimental and Jonas Blue, with chefs including Prue Leith, Mark Hix and Candice Brown.
James was voted eighth in GQ magazine's Annual Best Dressed List 2011. He has worked with Aubin & Wills as both a designer and model designing selected limited edition pieces. His first collaboration – the Galileo jacket - sold out.
James' father, Jason, was sales director of a company selling waste compactors and baling machines. James married Claire Neate, a music video producer, in April 2003 in Cheltenham. They have five children: three boys, Geronimo and twins Artemis and Galileo, and two daughters, Sable and Beatrix. The family live in Kingham in Oxfordshire on a 200-acre (0.81 km2) cheese farm, where James is considered a member of the Chipping Norton set.
In his book, James describes a long period of decadent lifestyle. To celebrate his birthday in São Paulo one year, he got the tour manager to find him a balthazar of champagne, which he shared with the five prettiest groupies who were at the hotel door. James estimated that he spent about 1 million pounds on champagne and cocaine; in 2015, however, he said that this story was not true. He mentions a long list of favourite bars, including the Groucho Club and The Colony Room.
- Bit of a blur. London: Little, Brown. 2007.
- All cheeses great and small : a life less blurry. London: Fourth Estate. 2012.
- "Alex James: Blur and Oasis owe a lot to The Beatles". Msn.com. 26 June 2019. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
- "Cocaine: Alex James in Colombia". BBC News. London: BBC. 28 January 2008. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "Rock Werchter 2013 lineup: Blur, Depeche Mode, Phoenix, Rammstein, and more". Consequence of Sound. 29 January 2013. Retrieved on 16 February 2019.
- "Blur Confirmed for Primavera Sound 2013". Pitchfork. 8 October 2012. Retrieved on 22 October 2012.
- "Coachella 2013: Blur, Phoenix and Red Hot Chili Peppers to headline". The Guardian. 25 January 2013. Retrieved on 7 February 2013.
- James, Alex (27 February 2012). "Mucking in: farm and family life". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- "Essential life skills No 237 - How to pair whisky and cheese". Esquire. 9 June 2011. Archived from the original on 9 May 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "Alex James". The Independent. London. Retrieved 14 July 2011.
- James, Alex (4 February 2008). "Alex James profile". The Guardian. London.
- Naughton, Philippe (16 January 2010). "Alex James on reuniting with Blur". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- James, Alex (10 January 2010). "Beyond Soho House what Nick Jones did next". The Times. London. Retrieved 23 April 2010.
- Caspar LLewellyn Smith (3 June 2007). "Review: Bit of a Blur by Alex James". The Observer. London. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Tom Lamont (9 March 2012). "All Cheeses Great and Small: A Life Less Blurry by Alex James – review". The Observer. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Eight passionate amateurs bid to become BBC Two's Maestro" (Press release). BBC. 23 May 2008. Retrieved 24 May 2008.
- Hassall, Greg (16 March 2012). "Alex James: The Cocaine Diaries, Saturday, 17 March". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Episode #18.6". IMDB. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "10 Things You Need to Know About Losing Weight". BBC One. 6 January 2011. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "Episode #2.8". IMDB. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Celebrity Fifteen to One - S2 - Episode 1". Radio Times. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- Carvell, Nick. "Alex James' new documentary, Slowing Down Fast Fashion, has just hit Amazon Prime". British GQ. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
- Davies, Catriona (11 December 2006). "Blur guitarist finds a new voice on the farm". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Alex James's Magical Musical Tour". Classic FM. 2014. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- Plunkett, John (13 February 2008). "Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Alex James join revamped Classic FM line-up". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Arqiva Commercial Radio Awards: Full list of winners". The Guardian. 8 June 2009. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Alex James' classical saviour". Skiddle.com. Retrieved 16 February 2019.
- "Alex James Presents". alexjamespresents.co.uk. 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "British Cheese Awards". Thecheeseweb.com. Archived from the original on 2 October 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Baker, Rosie. "Alex James launches cheese range with Asda". Marketing Week. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- "Blur bassist launches cheese range at York supermarket". York Press. 7 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- Chester, Tim (24 August 2011). "Alex James: plastic cheese punk". The Guardian. London, UK.
- Hastings, Rob (20 August 2011). "Ready for tikka masala cheese? Alex James hopes so". The Independent. London, UK.
- "Alexjamespresentsharvest.com". Alexjamespresentsharvest.com. Archived from the original on 15 June 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- Hyde, Marina (3 November 2011). "Dark days for Alex James's 'Worstival'". The Guardian. London.
- "School is still waiting for money owed after festival". Cotswold Journal. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 15 July 2012.
- Rayner, Jay (4 March 2012). "Blur star Alex James tells of shock and fury over farm festival that became a financial nightmare". The Guardian. London.
- Hyde, Marina (15 September 2011). "The day the festival dream died". The Guardian. London.
- "Faith And Razorlight To Headline Jamie Oliver Festival". Contact Music. 18 May 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "Jamie Oliver and Alex James perform at The Big Feastival". The Independent. 3 September 2012.
- "More musical and children's entertainment delights added to the menu for Jamie Oliver presents The Big Feastival with Alex James". Jamieoliver.com. 10 August 2012. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
- "Big Feastival 2015 tickets coming soon!". Jamieoliver.com. 11 February 2015. Retrieved 20 February 2015.
- "Get creative to win a free family ticket for Big Feastival". Oxford Mail. Retrieved 24 June 2019.
- Johnston, Robert (4 January 2011). "Best-Dressed Man in Britain: 8. Alex James". GQ. Archived from the original on 7 January 2011. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- Bergin, Olivia (26 November 2012). "Victoria's Secret News". The Daily Telegraph. London.
- "Alex James on Bournemouth and Cheese | News & Events | Bournemouth University". Bournemouth.ac.uk. 20 April 2010. Retrieved 16 February 2011.
- "University Announces Honorary Doctorates and Fellowships". Glos.ac.uk. 9 August 2013. Archived from the original on 21 February 2015. Retrieved 4 September 2014.
- Caroline Dewar (5 March 2012). "Who's who in the Chipping Norton set". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 6 May 2012.
- "Alex James interview: Blur's bassist on the band's comeback, Oasis". The Independent. 30 May 2015.
- James, Alex (2007). bit of a blur. pp. 192, 193, 228.
- Caspar Llewellyn Smith (3 June 2007). "The drinks are on you now, Alex". The Observer. London. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- Leonie Cooper (16 June 2007). "Sex and drugs and bacon rolls". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 25 March 2011.
- Alex James regularly contributes to The Spectator magazine
- Alex James is one of the regular presenters of BBC Radio 4's On Your Farm
- Evenlode Partnership – Alex James and Julie Harbutt's cheese company
- Alex James: the cheese diaries, episode 2
- Alex James: the cheese diaries, episode 1
- Alex James gives up vegetarianism after 17 years
- Article on Alex James and cheese manufacture
- Alex James presents Never Mind the Buzzcocks (Youtube)
- Alex James's top 10 reads, The Guardian, 10 December 1999
- Alex James presents on ClassicFM
- Alex James on IMDb
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