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Matt James in cap smiling at camera

Gene’s Matt James performs at the Jenny Lind on 4 February

Gene’s Matt James to perform new solo material in Hastings

In only his third show as a solo artist, Matt James, drummer with ’90s indie rockers Gene, will showcase new songs and a few old favourites, at Jason McNiff’s Folk Sundowner on Friday 4 February, says Annie Waite.

Musician Matt James was the drummer/co-writer in the ’90s Britpop group Gene, who sold over 1 million records and played festivals all around the world, as well as headlining venues such as the Royal Albert Hall.

Joining the Hastings music scene

Now living in the East Sussex countryside just outside Hastings, it’s shaping up to be a busy 2022 for Matt, starting with a McNiff’s Sundowner early evening gig at the Jenny Lind pub in Hastings Old Town, on Friday 4 February. It’s also the release date of his third solo single, High Time.

“I play a couple of Gene songs live, but it’s obviously very stripped down and different to way we played them. I didn’t return to music to play Gene songs but I co-wrote them and have such a strong emotional connection with them. I mainly perform my own work, though,” says Matt. “Having said that, I do love doing cover versions and I will do one for my Jenny Lind show from Jason’s list of his favourites on the Sundowner poster.”

Later in February Matt will also be playing the Hastings Fat Tuesday music festival, supporting pop-rock band The Magic Numbers at The Brass.

Matt is excited to perform as part of the Hastings music scene, having enjoyed a few gigs in town already. “The music energy seems incredibly strong here and the first time I went out around a few pubs in the Old Town, like The Albion, I kept doing double takes at all the music journalists and label reps I recognised from London. It was quite uncanny!” he says.

Summer album with legendary producer Stephen Street

When the band Gene split in 2004, Matt continued his musical career by session drumming, and managing the punk band Mower, signed to Graham Coxon’s Transcopic label. He also played in Palace Fires (alongside former Gene guitarist Steve Mason), and then went on to explore a career in wine – he’s now a professional wine merchant, supplying many restaurants and gastropubs.

During the 2020 lockdown, Matt re-ignited his passion for music and wrote 20 songs. He sings, plays guitars, bass, keyboards and of course drums on his upcoming debut album, which is due out in July on Gene’s former Costermonger label, and produced by legendary producer, Stephen Street (Blur, The Smiths, The Cranberries).

“It’s such an exciting journey to go on and reminds me of feelings I had in the earliest days of Gene,” Matt says.

Matt James stands in garden holding guitar by trees

Matt James in his East Sussex garden

Life as a solo artist

“I am not unaware of the fact some people might think ‘What on earth is the drummer from Gene doing making a solo album?’, but I hope it will interest and maybe surprise some people. My musical tastes have always been very wide, and as one of four people in Gene, my influences were not always reflected in the music – which I am very proud of – but this record is the first time the buck stops with me… which is terrifying!”

Rooted in a tradition of British indie rock, the album also has shades of country, folk and US heartland rock. Tracks like From Now On and High Time showcase Matt’s mellow, rootsy, alternative country style, but are combined with lyrics focusing on serious topics including populist sloganeering, mental health, addiction and Tory austerity.

Featuring Steve Mason and Kev Miles from Gene, Mick Talbot of the Style Council, Peredur Ap Gwynedd from Pendulum and other musician friends, the album includes Matt’s first two digital solo singles released in the later part of 2021, A Simple Message and love anthem Snowy Peaks. The latter was written about his wife Alex, graphic artist Fossil who has also been creating the upcoming album’s artwork.

Gene band standing near a canal

Gene band (L-R): Matt James, Martin Rossiter, Steve Mason, Kev Miles

Hastings hotspots

So, having moved to the Hastings sticks from Camden in 2015, and with a young family to entertain, what are Matt’s favourite places to visit in the area?

“We often find ourselves playing pirate golf on the seafront, or skateboarding at the Source Park. I was very in to skateboarding as a kid myself, so going there always piques my interest and it’s an amazing resource to have close to us,” Matt says.

“I would highly recommend the Electric Palace Cinema too for a cool, relaxed non-corporate film and arts experience, and when we are mooching around Hastings in the daytime we like to head to the Goat Ledge or Pelican Diner.”

See Matt James play Jason McNiff’s Folk Sundowner at The Jenny Lind on Friday 4 February 2022, 5-7pm (free entry) and Hastings Fat Tuesday festival on Saturday 26 February 2022, 8pm (tickets available via Eventbrite).

Find out more about Matt James:

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Posted 08:57 Thursday, Jan 27, 2022 In: Music & Sound

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