Starting in March of 2020, as the quarantine of an early lockdown of the pandemic began to take shape, front-facing juggler Tim Burgess found a way to connect people through music even during the most isolated of times.
Tim’s Twitter Listening Party celebrates an artist breaking down an album in stunning detail, as fans and artist alike listen to a record together, connecting via Twitter comments in real time.
Artists anywhere from rap duo Run The Jewels to Beatle Paul McCartney have featured and the series has become a lifting force during an uncertain period.
This positivity extended to sessions of Burgess’ sixth solo album typical musicone defined by a palpable sense of optimism despite the turbulent times in which you were born.
“I think the overall feeling is one of optimism,” Burgess said by phone. “I wanted to kind of build an airtight spacecraft and transcend everything that was going on in the world. I built that with a minimal crew. We’re going to make this wonderful, colorful music that will kind of light up everything.”
In July of 1996, British rock band The Charlatans were recording their fifth album Tellin’ stories At Rockfield Studios in Wales, when original keyboardist Rob Collins was killed in a car accident near the studio gate. Burgess is back in the studio to work on it typical musicRecording in the studio for the first time since the tragic accident.
“I love Rockfield Studios. And I’ve been wanting to go back for a long time,” Burgess said over the phone. “We didn’t really want to go back there because we couldn’t face the reality of what really happened. But, you know, with time… that was 1996. A lot of time has passed. Now I just walk to the gate and kind of like thinking about it. He invited me to be at The Charlatans so I owe him a lot – he taught me a lot. And I feel like he’s still here with me somewhere, you know? “
I spoke with Tim Burgess before a series of November UK solo dates about Tim’s listening concerts on Twitter typical musicMusic’s power to connect people, and more. Below is the text of our phone conversation, slightly modified for length and clarity.
You said that during COVID, I fell in love with the world again and that idea was somewhat enlightening typical music. Here you have politically turbulent times in both the US and UK as well as a global pandemic. How did you fall in love with the world again?
Burgess: Well, I think my world was definitely the listening party. And I was doing 10 hours a day on it, especially the first three weeks, trying to get everything organized. And I just think my braver questions, the more responses I get, the better.
I remember having to stop while I was driving – parking my car so I could organize listening parties for Kylie Minogue and Paul McCartney. Literally standing on the side of the road on my way to the studio. Everyone thought it was a good idea and wanted to participate and wanted to help and give their time and all that kind of thing. So that was mostly.
Plus, I fell in love with someone during that time as well. So I think that made me fall in love with the world too, because that could do that.
I love the idea of a double album but sometimes people have these preconceptions about it – they think over-the-top or these sprawling acts. But this is definitely not that. How did you deal with this idea when you started putting together a double album?
Burgess: Well, I’ve been very keen on an album called Kiss me, kiss me, kiss me by treatment. That was 16 tracks. I suggested to Thighpaulsandra and Daniel O’Sullivan, who I was working with, that when I hit 16, they should yell at me. Because I thought this was a good place to start. And they said, “We’re already over that. We have so much more.” We counted them, and they were 22. And they were all within three minutes – a couple was a little more. But mostly pop songs.
We thought, “Okay, let’s color them all in and give them all the attention to detail we can give them and finish it off and give them all a chance.” Then I could not leave anything.
So I thought it would be cool to put all 22 and we found a way to do that.
Your book is called Storytelling. There is an album Charlatans Tellin’ stories. Sure, there is an arc for storytelling typical music. Who are some of your favorite writers or favorite storytellers whether it’s a song, a book, or something else?
Burgess: Oh my God. Well, they all have stories right? I love Carol King. It is clearly a classic. And I loved the things I wrote with Jerry Goffin, the things I did with her band The City and of course the things I wrote for other people – and texture onwards. I really like her writing.
Storytellers in other works… Sharon Horgan, who tells the greatest stories I believe.
I imagine being at Rockfield Studios has mixed feelings. How did it feel to go back there and register there again?
Burgess: I love Rockfield Studios. And I wanted to go back for a long time. There is something amazing. The audio booth is very simple. I don’t want to sound too technical here, but there is a frequency unit that is just like golden echo. It makes the sound great. You don’t even have to try so hard – it just makes it sound like it’s from another world.
I wanted to go back there a few times with charlatans. I’m sure most people know, but Rob Collins was [killed] In a car accident at the end of the gate. And we didn’t really want to go back there – because we couldn’t face the reality of what really happened. But, you know, with time… that was 1996. A lot of time has passed. Now I just walk to the gate and kind of think about it.
He invited me to be a charlatan, so I owe him a lot – he taught me a lot. And I feel like he’s still here with me somewhere, you know?
There are times when social media can carry a negative connotation. But for you, that really positive force became during that period of early solitude. How important is the act Tim’s Twitter listening parties had become?
Burgess: Very important. Important to everyone, including me.
There was a day I was sitting here and I was on the phone with Ian Astbury [of The Cult] Gary Kemp of Spandau Ballet followed him and they were all very keen on giving the best listening party possible. So they wanted the details – if there was any key to doing that. So it meant a lot to artists as well as people. There is something amazing about listening to a disc and knowing that so many other people around the world are listening too.
I tried to compare it to meditation. I meditate and exercise twice a day on my own – but I’ve done it with 10 other people and 100 other people, and it’s way more powerful than anything I’ve really tried. Just sitting there in silence with a mantra. And in this case, with the listening party, the album in question was the mantra. The teacher was the one who participated in the record. And we, the listeners, meditate.
This morning I was searching for a very extensive list of artists who participated. And it’s a varied menu – which is pretty cool. Is there a moment or one participant holding onto you as a surprise right now?
Burgess: Pretty cool, yeah. Stephen Morris from New Order did a great job Power, corruption and lies. “Blue Monday” was the single but wasn’t on the album (it might have been in America but here it was only eight songs plus the 12-inch hit “Blue Monday”). But I knew he was going to play Blue Monday after that and it was just a countdown to the bass drum starting Blue Monday. It was like delirium! It was amazing. That was great.
Gary Kemp talks about “True” and the album he made with Spandau Ballet – a band I never knew or cared about (it was my fault, not theirs!). But just hearing his stories about him being 19, his 21-year-old brother and his mother all living together in this council house in London. And he had these great songs like “True”, “Gold” and “Communication”. The only people who heard were his mother and brother – and they both admired him.
It was like, “Wow!” These are the stories you don’t get.
Looking back now two and a half years after its inception, in a world that has been constantly changing over that time, what do you learn from an experience like this?
Burgess: It was great. The first three weeks were mostly from my friends who were doing it. Bonehead from Oasis, The Chemical Brothers, Dave Rowntree from Blur, Alex Kapronos from Franz Ferdinand. Over time, we wanted to make it far-reaching and add new bands. We got We Are KING, R. Stevie Moore, Sofie Royer, and Run the Jewels. And that’s when it started to take the shape that I kind of wanted it to take. After that, I left her to run on her own. Because everyone is invited.
It doesn’t really matter if it’s The Slow Readers Club one night or Paul McCartney the next. Size doesn’t matter. It mattered how great a listening party they felt they could do.
McCartney did a great job. It was amazing. He didn’t have to bother, you know? But he did. It was wonderful. He did a really great job.
The thing that really shocked me in the last year or so when concerts started coming up is the way music can bring people together – it can connect people. Even during quarantine, I found a way for music to connect people. In general, how important is the role of music?
Burgess: Yeah, I think people communicate through fear, you know? And music, usually, saves people — and gets people excited and excited, it kind of can bring people together in a beautiful way. It is absolutely amazing.