Caturday with Tim Burgess

Words: Matt Robinson

As they are about to embark on their UK & Ireland tour, we speak to The Charlatans frontman Tim Burgess about 90s Manchester music scene, his cat Gaia and what it was like working with his heroes Johnny Marr & Stephen Morris on the new Charlatans album.

Photos by Nik Void

What current artists/bands are you into?
My favourites right now are a band called Average Sex, they are playing a few dates with The Charlatans on our up and coming tour. Keel Her are a great band – NPVR (Peter Rehberg and Nik Void) have a fantastic album out soon, I’ve heard a sneak preview. Solange is playing on my iPod at this moment. I’d recommend all of them to everyone.
How do you feel the internet is affecting music today? 
Good and bad – like anything but I’m a positive kind so let’s talk about the positive stuff. It’s how I know about Puss Puss Magazine so that’s a good thing. I can write a song in the morning, record it in the afternoon and share it in the evening, all thanks to the worldwide web – other people can too so we call get to hear things much quicker and easier.
Your cat is called Gaia. Do you believe cats are of spiritual significance to man? 
Yes, they think we are their servants and for some reason we are hypnotised by them into believing that too. There’s that old story that dogs see how much we love them and they worship us. Cats see how much we love them and assume that we worship them. There has to be some connection as not many animals would have the confidence to demand that their litter tray is in your kitchen. I respect them for that – Gaia does that thing of bringing gifts of small dead animals, got to admit I’m not so keen on that – plus I’m a vegetarian, I’d love him to just bring a radish or maybe some halloumi but just not sure how to put that across. He has a bigger bell on his collar now to scare the potential gifts away.
Did you have cats growing up?
Nope. My first cat, Tipton, was when I was 21 and I moved to London. There was a Dick Whittington feel to the whole thing.
If you had a time machine, where would you go and why?
My little boy loves dinosaurs so I’d head to back then for a selfie or two with those guys.
Who would you consider to be your most influential band? What bands were you listening to when you were a teenager?
Most influential is maybe not who we sound most like but most impact I’d say was Joy Division and The Cure. I spent all my teenage years listening to music so the list is long: The Clash, The Monochrome Set, Killing Joke, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Byrds, Orange Juice, Fad Gadget, Throbbing Gristle and loads more.
When the Manchester music scene was coming together in the 90s, what was the most important thing that made it what it was?
The way of thinking.
What was it like to work with Mancunian legends like Johnny Marr & Stephen Morris on your new album?
As you might imagine, it was such a treat, almost beyond words. They are my heroes and they treated me as an equal. I got to watch Mark Collins, our guitarist and Johnny Marr work out the guitar lines to the three songs Johnny played on. Just to welcome Stephen Morris into our studio was such an honour – maybe I wouldn’t go back to dinosaur days with that time machine. Maybe I’ll go to 1983 and find me and tell me that I get to work with the drummer of Joy Division and guitarist from The Smiths.
What or who set you on the road to becoming The Charlatans? 
Alan Erasmus from Factory Records inadvertently set of a succession of events – he used to call in at the newsagent where my mum worked and she said her son was really mad about music – next time he came in, he brought some records for me. It made the whole world of rock n roll take a big step closer to me. It made me think I could jump into that world. 
The Charlatans is a great band name, when did it stick? 
It stuck just before I joined! Martin Blunt, Jon Brookes and Rob Collins started the band and they asked me to be the singer. The name was theirs – then we found out there was a band of the same name in America but even that only made us add a bit at the end.
What was the most cinematic experience in your life? 
David Lynch giving me and award – he was filming in Poland and he kind of handed it to me through a live link screen. It was cinematic and Lynchian.
Do you have a favourite place in the UK and what is the significance of this place to you? 
I was born in Salford, my family are from there. We played a gig recently at Salford Lads’ Club and it was great to be back.
What are the themes on the new album? What’s been the process?
Changing times, stay close to your friends, realise we’re part of a much bigger world, share your good fortune, maybe look at who we trust and who we let lead us.
Are you taking a book on the road?
Ian Rankin is on our new album and I thought I’d take a few of his. 

Click to listen to Tim’s exclusive Caturday playlist

The Charlatans UK / Ireland tour kicks off on 29 November in Nottingham, Rock City.

The new single ‘Over Again’ will be released on the 1st of December on 7” green vinyl, click here to pre-order it now.