My Firsts: James Elkington | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, May 30th, 2020  

My Firsts: James Elkington

British for Cookie

Apr 02, 2020 Photography by Timothy Musho Web Exclusive
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My Firsts is our email interview series where we ask musicians to tell us about their first life experiences, be it early childhood ones (first word, first concert, etc.) or their first tastes of being a musician (first band, first tour, etc.). For this My Firsts we talk to British singer/songwriter/guitarist James Elkington. 

Elkington’s new album, Ever-Roving Eye, is due out tomorrow via Paradise of Bachelors. Ever-Roving Eye is the follow-up to 2017’s Wintres Woma. The album features previous collaborators Nick Macri (bass) and Macie Stewart (violin). The album also includes new collaborators Lia Kohl (cello), Spencer Tweedy (drums), The Weather Station’s Tamara Lindeman (vocals), and Paul Von Mertens (Brian Wilson) on woodwinds. Elkington and Macri were also in The Zincs together, who released some albums for Thrill Jockey. 

Ever-Roving Eye’s second single, “Late Jim’s Lament,” was inspired by both Elkington’s tendency to be late and his understandable fear of death. “No matter how I drive I know I can’t out-drive the hearse/’cause it’s too late in my mind and getting later all the time,” sings Elkington in the song. 

Read on as Elkington talks about his first word, an early pet, his first kiss, an initial dislike of music festivals, and the album that shocked his dad.

First word?

I have a feeling it was “biscuit,” probably from being constantly asked if I would “like a biscuit” (it was England in the 1970s). Those of you that have travelled extensively will know that by “biscuit,” English people mean “cookie.”  Anyway, it was too much for me and I said bicky-not instead for a couple of years. My son’s first word was “yes,” which by no means prepared us for the barrage of “no” we’ve had since, ha!

First pet?

A brown and white cocker spaniel that I named Joe Cool after watching too many Snoopy episodes. He wasn’t really that “cool” in the end, but he was very companionable and was sorely missed when he died. I might even call that my first bereavement. There, that’s cheery, isn’t it? You got my first pet and first bereavement with that question.

First broken bone?

I have never fully broken a bone, but I had my nose broken in a field hockey accident once. It was during practice and the teacher had just finished telling everyone how it is against the rules to lift the stick in the penalty area, so I felt as if I was no danger standing behind someone who was about to try and score a goal. I think the other guy’s stick actually went up my nose before he hit the ball. The teacher then hit the other guy for not listening.

First time you had to go to the hospital? 

When I was four or five my brother and I were jumping up and down on our beds for entertainment (it was England in the 1970s), and I went up vertical but came down horizontal, cracking my forehead open on the top of the radiator. By all accounts the scene in there was horrific and I vaguely remember being carted off in the ambulance. I still have the scar...

First person you kissed?

I honestly can’t remember. I do remember being at a party when I was about nine years old where a bunch of girls and boys had their arms around each other for the majority of the night, and that seemed just too grown up. The following Monday we were all disgusted with ourselves and avoided each other in the playground. Oh wait, it was Joanna West and I was about seven.

First album you bought?

The first record I bought with my own pocket money was either Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret by Soft Cell or Tin Drum by Japan. Tin Drum I still listen to, but I remember the Soft Cell LP better historically because my dad was APPALLED that I should bring home a record with a song called “Sex Dwarf” on it. I would have been about 10 or 11 at the time, and was familiar with dwarves from Snow White but couldn’t remember there being a “sex” one.

First musician you had a crush on?

It must have been Agnetha [Fältskog] from ABBA, because I remember telling my younger brother that when, not if, we married the ABBA ladies, he was just going to have to make do with Frida [Anni-Frid Lyngstad]. To this day I wonder if ABBA have a weird prepubescent effect on me—there’s something about their voices that seems sexually heroic, if there is such a thing.

First concert you went to?

My friend and I made a deal that if I went with him to see Nik Kershaw, he would come with me to see Thomas Dolby on The Flat Earth tour. I was really into Thomas Dolby. Howard Jones made a special appearance at that concert and the crowd absolutely lost their shit—too much synthesizer wizardry on stage at the same time, I suppose. The Nik Kershaw show was great too.

First music festival you went to?

When I was younger there weren’t that many to choose from in England, and the ones that existed didn’t sound that much fun to me. I was never one for camping either. I would read reviews of the Monsters of Rock festival at Castle Donington and the photos looked like something out of the First World War, and I wouldn’t have been interested in the music either. Glastonbury and the Reading Festival were more sensible choices, but I think I managed to put the whole thing off until a band I was in played at the Phoenix Festival. I wasn’t crazy about it.

First instrument?

I convinced my parents to buy me a drum kit around 10 or 11 years old (why do I think everything happened then?) and I was not very good at it. In fact, my younger brother showed much more aptitude for it, and was immediately banned by me from going anywhere near it. Drum lessons weren’t available at my school, so I started playing guitar just for something to do there. It’s strange that I’ve ended up playing my second favorite instrument...  

www.jameselkington.com

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