A popular choice among fellow musicians for the Scotland’s Greatest Ever Drummer shortlist was James Hamilton from Errors, who received high profile endorsements from the likes of Stuart Braithwaite and John Disco of Bis. This week we spoke with James about being nominated, touring with Mogwai and the other Scottish drummers who have influenced him:
Dear Scotland: Where are you now and what did you do last night?
James Hamilton: Right now I’m in my new flat in glamorous Paisley, enjoying the broadband I’ve just got installed which is the first good thing about the flat. Once my furniture actually gets delivered and the persistent leak in my bedroom ceiling is fixed I’m sure it’ll be much cosier though. Last night I spent teaching drums to several rather talented youngsters at the studio I work in in Johnstone, then watched ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’ which was enough to convince me that I can firmly do without a television.
DS: Paul McCartney said he got into music to avoid a job – and get lots of girls. What made you get into music?
James Hamilton: Watching Nirvana on TV performing “Lithium” at the 1992 MTV Video awards, it was like a revelation for my young mind. I’d never even considered playing music before that, but watching Dave Grohl annihilate the drums made me want to be a drummer. I wish I had the flair and audacity to drop a quote like Macca, but I’m the drummer in an instrumental post-electro band, so I play music which makes girls avoid me.
Nirvana at the 1992 MTV VMAs
DS: So how does it feel to be in the running for Scotland’s Greatest Ever Drummer?
James Hamilton: It feels absolutely fantastic. I’m not exactly an egotistical person and I have few actual skills to speak of, but my drumming is the one thing I’m genuinely proud of. I’m almost completely self taught so it feels like an achievement. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank John Disco for nominating me, and for unwittingly making life hell for everyone I know.
DS: You’re working on new stuff with Errors right now right? What is your favourite song to play at the moment?
James Hamilton: We’ve just finished recording our new album which is due for release in February 2010, so now that the actual writing and recording process is over we have to concentrate on making the songs work live. My favourite song to play on the new album is called “Germany”, it’s got a lot of really nice rhythmic changes in it. The new stuff is a little bit more organic than the last album, a little closer to what we sound like live.
Errors – Toes (Live)
DS: Errors toured with Mogwai a few times in Europe this year, what was your favourite place to play in?
James Hamilton: We played in so many nice places it’s tough to pick one, but I’m going to stick my neck out and say Le Bikini in Toulouse was probably my favourite venue. Everyone there was incredibly nice, the food was unbelievable, the venue was amazing and the audience reaction was great. When we toured ourselves in Germany and France afterwards though my favourite show was in Paris. The audience were just plain mental.
DS: How was touring with Mogwai?
James Hamilton: It was great, they are just the best people to hang out and tour with, and I’m not just saying that because we’re contractually obliged in our record deal with them to say so. Honest. We got to play in big venues in Milan and Lisbon and get treated incredibly well by everyone, while getting to hang out with our friends all the time. Though maybe a little too much at times. I passed out on Mogwai’s tour bus after a show in Italy and sparked a panicked manhunt from our touring party. Woke up on a couch in Milan very, very confused.
James Hamilton: I’d be more inclined to nominate him for his drumming in The Mighty Joe Young Trio. I’m not sure how long they were together but they supported Papa M at King Tut’s a few years ago and they were smashing. Well done, Stuart. Not just a pretty face. He got more votes than Angus Young for Scotland’s Greatest Guitarist didn’t he? I love Stuart but I’m not sure he’d suit the schoolboy outfit.
Mogwai – Live Film “Burning” Teaser
DS: Do you feel more Scottish when you are abroad, or do you adapt well to new places? Anything you miss about Scotland?
James Hamilton: It depends really… There are obvious things, like sunburning really badly, or my accent subconsciously becoming stronger in England or Wales, but generally the thing I enjoy most about touring is seeing and experiencing new places and absorbing a little of them. Having said that, we’d been in Europe a lot at the start of this year and we had a day off in Cologne; Hines, our Tour Manager, went shopping and came back to the hotel with cans of Irn Bru he’d bought in a little British shop and I nearly cried with joy. Nothing makes you feel more Scottish than Irn Bru abroad.
DS: Are there any Scottish drummers, past or present, that have influenced you?
James Hamilton: My mum was a huge Runrig fan and as a nipper I remember watching them on TV, so maybe subconciously Ian Bayne has been an influence… One of my favourite bands as a teenager was Baby Chaos, who in my opinion ought to have been far far bigger than they were and Davy Greenwood was a great drummer. There are a few Scottish drummers around right now who I admire, Martin from Mogwai being the main one; I played extra drums on “Fear Satan” with Mogwai at the Field Day festival in London this year, with a floor tom and a snare set up facing Martin, and he’s just an absolute wonder to watch, even if he did tell me not to play any Samba during the song.
John and Paul from Dananananaykroyd are both awesome too, I sincerely hope John is able to play as well post arm-break as he did before because he’s a beast. And then there’s Richie from Desalvo, who is frankly unbelievable, better than me… maybe… And although he’s not technically Scottish but he is based in Scotland, Alex Neilson is probably the best drummer I’ve ever seen with my own eyes (outwith the Boredoms). I wish I’d been able to see a lot of the old guys who would play in the Black Bull jazz club nights in Glasgow back in the seventies, I’m a great admirer of classic Jazz drumming, my biggest influences are people like Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa who just reinvented the drumkit for their time.
Baby Chaos – Hello
DS: Errors are an instrumental band, do you ever get an urge to grab the microphone and say or even sing something?
James Hamilton: No no no, I get complete and utter stage fright if you remove the drums from in front of me. I had a solo project called ‘Crapdragon’ I did a few gigs as and used to ramble terribly between songs and end up spending half of the gig going “uuuuuh”. That was an instrumental project too, which is probably a good thing. I can’t sing for toffee, unless I’m drunk and there’s Karaoke in which case I do a mean Bowie.
DS: What should the Scottish national anthem be? (It can be anything, perhaps from one of the artists you just mentioned, or one of your own)
James Hamilton: “Hoots Mon” by Lord Rockinghams XI, definitely. Maybe the football team would do better if they had that to sing before matches.
Lord Rockinghams XI – Hoots Mon
DS: What is the best after-show experience you’ve had?
James Hamilton: There’s a few… the first was playing at a festival in northern Finland which Apparat (who I am a massive fan of) headlined. After the festival, which had been generally fantastic and we’d been treated like kings, there was a massive all night (which in midsummer in Finland is daylight) party in a mansion in the middle of a forest and we hung about with Apparat having a great time while he pinched all our cigarettes. Great time. DJing at the Arches in London at an all-night rave after supporting Mogwai at the Hammersmith Apollo was pretty amazing too. I’m the worst DJ in the world. No mixing. Stop track, start next one. But I played a lot of techno so nobody seemed to mind.
Playing a house party in Austin at SXSW was great too, though the after show experience turned into a pre-show experience because Crystal Castles, who were on before us, broke the PA system and it wasn’t fixed until about 1am, but the guys from HEALTH were there and John gave me a t-shirt and a CD because he thought I was a great drummer. Wow, sounds like we’re pretty Rock’n’Roll. We’re not, these are the exceptions, usually we drive to a travelodge and eat Pot Noodles. Sometimes we’ll play a game while driving at night called ‘Bridge or Cloud’ where we have to guess if something in the distance is a bridge or a cloud. Wild, we are.
DS: And finally, many many years from now, when you finish your farewell world tour, is there one place to where you would like to retire?
James Hamilton: Paris. I’d like to live out my elder years eating cheese and still being unable to speak French properly. I love Paris, along with Berlin it’s one of the few cities I could really imagine enjoying living in. As long as someone sent me care packages of Irn Bru.
Errors return with their new album in February 2010. To celebrate they’ve announced their two biggest dates so far. They’ll be playing Glasgow’s Grand Old Opry and The Scala in London.
Full details about the album and some additional dates to come at the Rock Action Records site.
Errors – Pump
Photo Credit : I am Martin