- 12 Jul 17
As one-time baggy figureheads The Charlatans return with one of their finest LPs yet, singer Tim Burgess talks about moving on after death, collaborating with Paul Weller and his debt to Alan Partridge.
Tim Burgess isn’t sure how heavy he wants to get. “Whatever this conversation is we’re having… the truth is that, after someone passes away, you move forward – you have to,” says The Charlatans frontman. “They are forever in your thoughts though, spurring you on.” Loss is a recurring theme in the career of The Charlatans, the baggy break-outs who have matured into one of the great British rock institutions of the past 25 years. In July 1996 keyboard player Robin Collins died in a car-crash en route to the group’s residential studio at Monmouth In Wales. At Oasis’ Knebworth blow-out three weeks later (at which The Charlatans were supporting), Liam Gallagher dedicated ‘Cast No Shadow’ to his late fellow Manc.
Just four years ago, meanwhile, the band lost drummer Jon Brookes, claimed by brain cancer aged 44. As with Collins, he has never been officially replaced. “You have to given yourself time to accept it – but then you have to overcome it,” says the thoughtful and quietly-spoken Burgess. “The amazing thing is that sometimes you feel they are spurring you on.”
In the stunned aftermath of Collins’s death The Charlatans released one of their greatest albums, Tellin’ Stories (the song ‘How Can You Leave Us’ a wrenching lament for a fallen comrade). The same blend of numbness and determination informs the group’s new LP Different Days, in which, out of respect to the absent Brooke, they utilise a revolving cast of percussionists, including New Order’s Stephen Morris. Had The Charlatans followed the script they would have long ago imploded – and might well be in the midst of a cynical comeback tour right now. Among the second wave of “Madchester” acts to reach a mainstream audience, they had a novelty hit with student disco staple ‘The Only One I Know’, which reached nine in the UK singles chart in 1990. Yet where fellow travellers The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays burned brightly and faded, The Charlatans kept on getting better, releasing a streak of classic long-players. Burgess is currently resident of rural Norfolk after stints in London and Los Angeles, where he lives with his girlfriend (Factory Floor’s Nik Void) and their four year-old son.