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Tim Burgess - This album is me, so check it out!

Feature: Jack Foley

"I WANTED my songs to represent me, my soul and my spirit," explains Charlatans singer, Tim Burgess, ahead of release of his first solo album, I Believe, on September 8.

"When I started writing I never thought it would get this far, there were so many obstacles in the way, but once I got started - I just couldn't stop.

"All the musicians who helped me with this record did it as a favour. The album was recorded in Linus' one bedroom flat in Hollywood and, if you listen carefully, you may be able to hear the noisy neighbour downstairs blaring out 80's hard rock.

"I would describe it as a 'cheer you up record', songs of joy and travel with influences from all of my favourite artists, rolled into my own style. This album is me, so check it out and turn it up!"

The album, I Believe, was produced by Linus, who has worked with Puff Daddy and Lil Kim, and was mixed at Studio Nine by Michael Patterson (J-Lo, Snoop, Beck and B.R.M.C). The band includes Roger Manning - Keyboards (Beck / The Vines) and Probyn Gregory - Horns (Brian Wilson).

But while many hailed The Charlatans' last album, Wonderland, as the best of their career, Burgess' decision to go solo has prompted many a fan to ponder whether it is all over for Britain's favourite band?

"Not at all," insists Burgess, aghast at the suggestion. "Part of me thought that I didn't want to trouble the rest of the band with all my obsessive personal shit. All my stuff about California.

"But, at the same time, part of me thinks I really wanted to keep it all for myself. That's a terrible thing to say, maybe even a selfish thing. But deep down I realised it's very, very personal."

So why did he feel the need to do it?

He reckons it is because he pushes hard and has dug deep into his own soul, as well as his desire to push other people really hard.

"Some of the time it's unintentional, but I push people almost to the point of them hating me," he explains. "And I push myself to get some sort of obsession, or repression or… something out… I wanted to record everything that I was thinking on any given day… I was bored…

"There were just a million reasons to do it. I wanted to do something that was more free than the sound of the band.

"A song like We All Need Love - a lot of the strings on that song, I was learning again. That might not have happened in the band. It wouldn't have been fair to inflict on the band the sound of me learning as I went along.

"And it also wasn't fair to put a song like Po' Boy Soul into the band - this record is not group therapy. I write all of The Charlatans lyrics, but these songs are more selfish.

"Being at home, in my apartment, not having any outside influences, gave me a definite freedom. I wasn't concerned with anyone else hearing it till it was finished. Freedom... and no fear."

Tim Burgess began writing the songs that would end up on I Believe two years ago, while The Charlatans were touring with support band, Starsailor.

The Charlatans never write on the bus, deeming it - possibly rightly - 'a bit hippie-ish', so Tim would take himself off up the back of the bus and get busy with pen and paper.

"I had this strange moment of clarity, and started writing songs instead of getting drunk," he recalls.

"I just knew that I had to do it. This is what I'm good at. I mean, I'm great at partying too. But I didn't realise my worth, and by doing it and succeeding and getting a record deal and it being my own record company, it's helped me to feel a lot better about myself."

Burgess then began the process of meeting his new musical collaborators.

Producer Linus had done a couple of things with Puff Daddy, while mixer, Michael Patterson, had worked with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and with J-Lo often enough to call her Jennifer.

Keyboard player, Roger Manning, was Beck's regular guy, and had also been on The Vines' album, while Probyn Gregory, on horns, had worked with Brian Wilson.

The first song Burgess wrote was Years Ago, a short, pacey, ramblin' man tune that speaks of the corner of Burgess' record collection that is forever Dylan.

The rest were penned in his Hollywood apartment, mainly on guitar. He would demo songs at home on his little Dictaphone.

These would then be worked up to eight-track level in Linus's home studio. Every day, during recording, Burgess would walk the two miles between his place on Franklin and Cayuenga, and Linus's place on La Brea and Franklin.

He would duly arrive motivated and, usually, inspired by something he'd seen on his romp across Hollywood.

The first song recorded was the melodramatic, string-laden, horn-studded We All Need Love, in August 2002.

The last was the hands-and-glasses-in-the-air anthem All I Ever Do in June this year.

In between came I Believe In The Spirit, the first single and opening track, which, according to Burgess, 'just summed me up at that time, it was a mantra'.

Only A Boy is described as being a song about 'regret', while Oh My Corazon fused elements of Percy Faith with The Clash's Spanish Bombs.

We could go on, but we urge you to catch the album for yourself... Charlatans fans won't be disappointed, for this is a very good solo project indeed.

And as for The Charlies themselves, a new album is currently in production, if the word on the net is to be believed.

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