Photo by Josh Aberman
Sitting in the dressing room of Islington’s The Grace, it’s obvious that Jamie Perrett lives and breathes music. You can feel the excitement radiating off of him in anticipation of playing live with a band again. I got to the venue in time to catch the end of his soundcheck and was surprised to see how much heart he put into a performance with no audience—an energy that was only multiplied when he began the gig. He moves in the interview the same way he does on stage, with an openness and light-hearted demeanour that obviously comes from the joy of doing what he loves. Having grown up with Peter Perrett of The Only Ones as his father, it’s no surprise that Jamie’s made music his passion. Having previously played for his father in projects like Babyshambles, he is long overdue a spotlight of his own, and his first singles, Angel of Santiago and Masquerade of Love, are only the beginning of his plans for his solo work.
What was the inspiration for your single ‘The Angel of Santiago?’
I don’t like to go into too much detail about what songs are about generally, because it’s good to leave people with their own interpretation of the song. I guess it’s about taking someone for granted. The song was written after a car journey. I went to Barcelona to the Primavera festival, I stayed out and got a bit too drunk and we had a train the next day to go to the next festival. We missed our train by seconds, and I had only half an hour’s sleep. We thought we could get a coach and went all the way to the station and the coach didn’t exist and we thought ‘this is getting really bad.’ It was like the Scorsese film After Hours—where everything just goes wrong. I remember lying down on the floor of this coach station and feeling really tired. I play guitar with my father Peter Perrett, and he was texting all of us like ‘where the f- are you, you said you would get to the gig on time!’ We started panicking and the person in question, the ‘angel of Santiago,’ got us to the gig. We got in an uber to a car hire place, and she just said we're going to make this gig. I was like ‘Brilliant!’ Still drunk, I just pointed in the direction of France and said ‘to France!,’ and she just put her foot on the accelerator, and we got the 400km in a few hours. We actually got there before my dad! The song was written in appreciation of that person going to the end of the line to be so kind when I didn’t really appreciate it at the time. That friendship subsequently ended. I felt sad and heartbroken after that trip. The song became a form of therapy—I sang it over and over.
You mentioned your dad—do you think you learned a lot from him?
I learned from him in a lot of different ways. Musically I learned a lot obviously, listening to great records around the house. I had some guilty pleasures like Ace of Base. I love Britney Spears too! They're all my guilty pleasures. When I was young, I discovered bands like Small Faces, then I turned to Bob Dylan who changed my life and the way I look at things lyrically. So musically [my Dad] introduced me to a lot of things and in terms of the lifestyle and his history, it taught me the things not to do in life.
What’s the most important lesson he taught you—musically or otherwise?
Musically, it's just: keep going and believe in what you’re doing. Trust your instincts. One thing about my father is that he’s really strong-minded and he doesn't let anything alter his mindset. You just cocoon yourself against the world and do what you must. In a lifestyle sense, be careful what can happen in the rock-and-roll life. It's sad that people can be seduced by certain things outside of music, and a lot of the time it's just trying to recreate that feeling you get from music. It's being careful of the dangers and what can happen.
Would you say you’re 100% about the music then?
Yeah, I would say so. For me music is the most important thing—you can’t worry too much about outside influences.
Who are your biggest musical inspirations?
Johnny Marr is a great guitarist. I like him because it's always about the song—you never think of him as a soloist. I always thought of him as a guitarist who can create those tapestries or sounds that can be a bed for other things. If I had a dream lineup, I would have Johnny Marr and Hendrix as my two guitarists. Hendrix is what got me into playing guitar, I think he completely changed the way people think of and play guitar. He just had so much emotion. But I think Bob Dylan was my biggest inspiration and people like Otis Redding, The Ronettes, and The Strokes. I love old-school stuff.
What are your top three desert island songs?
Probably ‘Be My Baby’ by The Ronettes, ‘Like a Rolling Stone’ by Bob Dylan—specifically the Live at Manchester version where they chanted Judas at him—and ‘Strange Fruit’ by Billie Holiday since it was one of the first protest songs. It’s still incredibly relevant today, sadly. A very heavy, but powerful song. Shows how music can hopefully change the world for the better, but maybe that’s me being an optimist.
How do you feel about politics and protest in your own music then?
With my own music, I want people to feel something. There are a few political songs. I'm not necessarily a political artist, I try to stay away from that because what’s going on in the world is so disappointing. I think it's important to know what’s going on, but it just makes me mad. It's probably controversial to say, but I was a Jeremy Corbyn fan—at least at the time when he seemed to speak to young people. I just thought the way the press destroyed him was savage. Then we have this lot at the moment, but I don’t want to get into that. My father’s extremely political, and if I’m ever in the interview with him I always say ‘just don’t talk politics!’ because he'll start ranting. I mean it's such a divisive topic.
What is politics in music generally?
It’s obviously very important. You think about The Clash and Bob Dylan; then you have grime music which is like the voice of the people. It's important for someone to sing about these topics because I don’t think you can trust the mainstream media to tell the true story. Really though, I think you should sing about everything that inspires you.
What inspired you to strike out on your own as a musician?
I don’t think anything’s changed. I was in a band called Love Minus Zero, which was just before I formed this band. But I was fronting that and writing the songs, it’s always been my preferred choice. I love writing songs and singing and I love playing the guitar, but I guess I wanted a bit of a break. It can be exhausting emotionally when you’re a frontman, you can literally absorb everything, depending on what your role is in the band you’re just a front person that’s okay, but if you’re a leader and a writer and everything you can burn yourself out. I just wanted to have a bit of fun, so I started playing guitar on other projects and jumping around on stage. Now it's time to focus on what I love.
You’ve come out with two singles—is there an album in the future?
Yeah, the album’s recorded!
Can you give us a name?
I haven’t got a name yet. After a breakup partly inspired the album, I thought the name Change of Circumstances was quite funny. The Gravity of Chaos was another name I thought of. But, for now, I’m going to do another single and an EP by the end of the year, with the album at the beginning of next year. I think it’s best to record a lot of songs and have a big pool to choose from rather than just using the first ten songs you record. But there is an album recorded and I want to get it out next year, maybe do a few festivals and go on tour.
What is the importance of performing to you?
I feel really appreciative, especially considering the last year and a half. I think when performing is taken away it's scary, but obviously you still worry because Corona has not disappeared and you want everyone to be safe. There are still measures you take to get into venues which is great, it's what should be done. But now it makes you realise how precious music is, and how much people have missed it. To get back into [performing] again I did a couple of acoustic gigs, but this is my first one with a band—it’s all a bit nerve-wracking but exciting!
Did you spend a lot of time at concerts when you were younger?
I remember going to see my dad when I was really young. A woman tapped me on the shoulder and gave me these earplugs. I later found out it was Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders. I also remember Morrisey being at a gig! Seeing my dad was cool, but I didn’t really go to that many gigs until it was legal.
So you weren’t too involved in music when you were young?
I actually started writing songs from age 12. It was a really natural thing to do, it felt like the most natural way of expressing myself emotionally.
What’s your favourite concert memory?
Although for the wrong reasons, one of the most memorable was this gig I played with Babyshambles, which ended in a riot. The whole venue got smashed, all our equipment was stolen, people were running up and down the street with snare drums and guitar pedals. The entourage was like, ‘that was such a good gig, so rock ‘n’ roll!’ I was just thinking, ‘that was shit! All my equipment got stolen. We only played for 20 minutes!’ That was my attitude towards it. My actual favourite gig though... maybe playing Primavera with my dad. That was really special. I did a solo acoustic gig in Spain when things were first opening up, and that felt special because of the world's current situation. I also played some special ones in the town of Glastonbury where people were just loving live music. I think now the way we listen to music has become a bit more diluted. It’s become a backdrop. It’s like, ‘I'm going to a festival to take a selfie with the band,’ rather than just going to see the band.
Can you describe your new singles in a couple of words?
‘Masquerade of Love’ is probably something like oxymoronic, bittersweet, uplifting, and heartbreak. For ‘Angel of Santiago,’ however, I would say maybe regretful nonchalance, out of it, and a tender tribute to someone who’s underappreciated.
Photo by Josh Aberman
Edited by Josh Aberman, Music Editor