You may know James Ellis Ford as one half of Simian Mobile Disco (and Simian before that) or from his production work for Arctic Monkeys, Foals, Florence and the Machine, Depeche Mode, Haim, Gorillaz, Klaxons, Jessie Ware and Kylie Minogue, to name just a few. Twenty some years into his career, Ford has just announced his debut solo album, The Hum, which will be out May 12 via Warp.
The album began life when Ford built a new home studio in 2017 which were soon followed by a couple of developments: he became a father for the first time, and his SMD partner was diagnosed with a rare disease, AL amyloidosis, which meant they would be on hiatus for the foreseeable future. Instead of hitting his Contacts list, he opted to make a truly solo album. “I was making tracks and thinking, ‘Maybe I’ll send this to Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys).’” Ford says. “It genuinely did cross my mind that I could make an album with a lot of guest features, but it just felt braver for me to do it on my own.”
Using a wide arsenal of instruments, from vintage synths to acoustic instruments (he learned bass clarinet just for this), he recorded most of it as live as possible. “With technology it’s easy to fix ‘mistakes’ after the event, and I really hate this point we’ve arrived at in recording history,” he says. “So I didn’t put things in time and didn’t even edit on the computer. Because of the approaching AI nightmare, humanness is the main positive quality you can add to a record.”
The first single from the album is “I Never Wanted Anything,” a skroky, wonky blast of art pop that is in the Brian Eno / Robert Wyatt sonic realm and finds him reflecting on middle age. “I feel incredibly lucky that I’ve managed to keep doing what I do. When I play music and I get the feeling that it’s going to be amazing? That’s literally the buzz that I chase every day.” Watch the video below.
James will play solo at this year’s Green Man Festival.
1. Tape Loop #7
2. Pillow Village
3. I Never Wanted Anything
4. Squeaky Wheel
5. The Yips
6. Golden Hour
7. The Hum
10. Closing Time