With the world currently in the midst of a global pandemic, the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Spanish Flu a century ago, finding ways to keep yourself busy and entertained is proving a much more difficult test for some than others.
Someone who’s keeping himself extremely busy is Jim Davies. The world-renowned guitarist has featured on legendary records by The Prodigy and Pitchshifter to name a few and is on the verge of releasing his long-awaited second studio album ‘Headwars’, a project that combines his loves of rock and electronic music into a brilliant wall of noise.
However, despite the new project being just days away, Davies isn’t resting on his laurels and sees the coronavirus situation as a great reason to get right back to work: ‘’I was going to leave it [another album] a little bit longer, but I think it’s the perfect time to start another one! I was talking to my Mrs about it, and I was thinking if I write one new tune a week then by the time this has finished, I’ll have another album.’’
After first entering the public eye in 1995 when he became a live guitarist for The Prodigy, Davies has become one of the most respected musicians around. He’s been in the industry through four decades, but what does someone with this ability to remain relevant define as success?: ‘’For me, success is being able to continuously write music and have people still be interested and enjoy it. I started off very early but the first stuff I did when I was 21 ended up being pretty big. For a lot of people that could have been their 15 minutes of fame and then they could dine off that for the rest of their lives, but for me it’s about always moving forward. I want to look ahead rather than look back, so I always want to bring out new music and get better as a musician.’’
Davies went into more detail about improvement, which may seem like a huge task for someone as accomplished as he is: ‘’With the band stuff I did in the past I was only a guitarist. I wasn’t a producer, I didn’t mix anything, because I never really thought I could do that. I was in the mindset of ‘that’s another level, I’m just a guitarist’. I see this new album as the peak of my powers really, because I’m able to do everything I want to without relying on anybody else.’’
It should come as no surprise that after being in the industry for so long, Davies has seen many colossal shifts in the way its run, and especially the challenges artists face. He spoke about the ever-changing musical landscape and how that affects artists looking to stay relevant and make a living: ‘’Well when I was doing band stuff like Pitchshifter, we were getting major record deals and really good budgets, even though most of that budget went towards getting a big producer out in Los Angeles. That’s all changed now, and I think that’s for the best really. Those sort of ‘big rock producers’ end up being massively overrated. The generation of today write stuff in their own bedrooms, they don’t write a track with the intention of sending it to a producer. They can just do it all on their laptops, even if the overall quality may dip a bit.’’
However, Davies isn’t immune to change himself, which shouldn’t come as much of a surprise given his wealth of experience in the industry. So how has the man who first started working with The Prodigy at just 21 progressed over the years? He says the biggest change is his attitude: ‘’I think I’ve just learned to like myself a lot more. I know that sounds a bit dark, but I beat myself up a lot which is referenced a fair bit on the album. I look back at when I first started with The Prodigy and I find it a bit cringeworthy, because I was so young and inexperienced. I really didn’t know my arse from my elbow! I was just playing in a band and didn’t care about the business side or anything like that. It did end up being a bit of a double-edged sword, but I probably wouldn’t still be doing music today had I not felt like that.’’
Davies has been somewhat out of the limelight over the past decade, focusing on writing music for television and movies rather than any personal projects. He admits that even those close to him were surprised when he announced Headwars: ‘’I’ve had a lot of conversations with my friends and family and they were saying ‘are you sure you want to do this?’, and even said I’d get bad reviews! But I thought no, I’m going to do it and treat it as fun, even if people don’t like it.’’
Headwars features a host of collaborations, including Tut Tut Child and Jason Bowld to name just a few, and Davies is planning on using this approach in future releases: ‘’I enjoy collaborations because they take a bit of pressure off myself. A lot of people in rock may not have heard of Tut Tut, but he’s a huge name in electronic music since he’s signed with Monstercat. We actually met because we write for the same company for TV, and we just got on immediately. It’s so easy with collaborators too, I’ll go up there one afternoon and in no time we’ll come up with something really good.’’
Headwars is a true return to form for Davies and is an album that long time followers of his have been dying to hear for a decade. Be sure to listen however you want if you fancy supporting a proper legend in the industry.