August 12, 2011

What's up with Alex James after Blur ? Interview August 2011

Alex James

The musician and cheese maker talks about his family

  • The Guardian,

My uncle was a jazz pianist and my granny's sisters were on the stage. My grandma was part of a glamorous dance troupe called the Dolly Sisters, so music was in my blood. My dad taught me how to play the piano, but that was the only musical training I had. Mum and dad would have much rather I'd been an accountant – until Blur started getting written about, by which point they were very pleased to tell all their friends.
My family dealt with me becoming a public figure remarkably well. I think they all liked it. My mum got doorstepped a bit by journalists when I first got famous but everyone has just enjoyed the benefits and didn't make a fuss about the negatives. My mum and dad came on tour with Blur at the height of Britpop and loved it.
My grandfather was a chef and because of that my dad never cooked a blooming thing. It can go two ways when your dad's a chef; you're, like, "What's going on here, how do I do that?" but my dad was, like, "Ooh, thefood here is really good", so he never cooked anything in his life. But he had a very developed palate so we discovered food together and food is absolutely the focus of family life for me.
I'm protective of my sister, Deborah. She's two years younger and we've always been close but are very different. She's really good at painting and drawing; she's got visual acuity. She's a glass artist and has made a few pieces for Damien Hirst.
Meeting my wife Claire happened at the same time that Blur sort of stopped, so it felt like a new part of my life was starting. I think when you get married that it's the end of rock'n'roll. When you start having kids something does change. It's been amazing, though. When I was 18 I thought I was going to have to kill myself when I hit 40. I thought it would be all over, but it keeps getting better and better as you evolve. What you want out of life changes, and my idea of heaven now is good food with my family. It's pretty simple but it's about as good as it gets.
I've got five children and people say, "are you busy?" and it's like, before I even go to work, I'm busy. I've got five kids. I need a spreadsheet to keep track of them. No one ever regrets having children. To be honest, I don't know how people do it with less than five.
I thought I was getting the hang of parenting and then our first girl came along. She is two now and she amazes me: "What? You'll just sit there colouring and you're happy to do that? Really?" The boys need constant attention – they want you to fight, play football or make Lego with them. It's all about doing things.
I live on a farm now, which is a natural environment for an ageing rock gentleman. There's a reason I wanted to put down some roots after all those years living out of suitcases. You can't be more grounded than on a farm. so I've built my life around my family. They're my main source of pleasure, and of pain too, but it's worth fighting for. It takes absolutely every ounce of your strength to keep the ship sailing straight, but fucking hell, it's worth it.
Alex James is an ambassador for MasterCard's Big Lunch campaign, which encourages people to embrace community spirit. For more details visit


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