Photo credit: Nadim Nazerali
Nathan James was 11 when he first realised what he wanted to be: a rock star.
“As soon as I first heard ‘Sweet Child o’ Mine’ by Guns N’ Roses I thought: ‘God, that’s what I want to do’,” the singer remembers. “At the time I was a chorister in a professional boys choir so it wasn’t really in my voice then,” he laughs, “but after my voice broke and I partied somewhat, there it was.”
That soulful, soaring voice — often compared to Glenn Hughes’ and David Coverdale’s — helped him achieve his childhood dream; first with Trans-Siberian Orchestra and Scorpions guitar god Uli Jon Roth, now with his own band, Inglorious.
The five-piece, also featuring guitarists Andreas Eriksson and Wil Taylor, bassist Colin Parkinson, and drummer Phil Beaver, specialise in the kind of all-out, ballsy rock synonymous with the ‘70s. Quite fittingly, then, they announced their arrival in 2014 with a fiery rendition of Deep Purple’s ‘Burn’.
“It let me sing really high and show off. It’s an absolute bugger to sing, and it gives everyone in the band an opportunity to show off,” explains James of the song that become something of a mission statement for the group’s self-titled debut album.
“I was really keen for people to know that we could play it live because that for me is what’s been missing for the last few years. I don’t know if there’s anyone, especially from the UK, that really wants to be a master and really wants to learn their craft fully and every single person in this band does.
“We’re always learning every day, we want to be better constantly. We practice, we rehearse, we work really hard, and I think that’s what shows because that’s why we were able to record the album in the way we did.”
Although some of the 10 tracks on the self-produced ‘Inglorious’ came together thanks to 21st century technology — ideas were shared and embellished via WhatsApp — the group were adamant they’d record it old-school style: from the vintage Neumann microphone and Neve mixing desk to the actual performances.
“We all really wanted to be in the same room at the same time and that’s what we’ve done. There’s no click tracks, there’s no overdubbing, there’s no doubling of guitar parts. What you hear is what happened in the room at that time,” James reveals excitedly.
“I think it’s so exciting to be able to say that we tracked the backbone of our debut album, completely live, in two days.”
That’s not just testament to the musicians but the songs themselves. Written by Inglorious, with a few guest writers including Whitesnake’s Joel Hoekstra (in a hotel room in Omaha, Nebraska) and Alice Cooper alumnus Al Pitrelli (backstage at a Salt Lake City arena), they’re clearly intended to be played on stages around the world.
“One thing I learned from Al and Joel is ‘keep it simple’. If you can play it on an acoustic guitar or you can play it on a piano and you can sing it, it’s a good song, and that’s kind of how we wrote this stuff,” offers James who makes his songwriting debut on the album — by writing every word to every song.
“It was quite daunting,” he admits, “but it came easily. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I hadn’t written until I was 26, so I’ve got 26 years of things to write.”
And James is now looking forward to belting out those lyrics.
“This is the first time I actually get to say words that I mean and really care about. Some of these songs are very personal: there’s a song on there about my best friends, there’s a song on there about my granddad, there’s a song about people I love and people I hate. It’s a really good, personal album for me.”
It’s also a barnstormer — from the foot-stomping chest-beating ‘Until I Die’, smoky whiskey bar anthem ‘Girl Got A Gun’, and defiant title track to the gut-punching ‘High Flying Gypsy’, incendiary ‘Unaware’, and majestic power ballad ‘Bleed For You’ — that explodes to life at the band’s live debut, a London showcase gig held back in November. And with good reason: during auditions James picked only the strongest musicians who shared his rock ‘n roll dreams.
“There’s a generation of people my age and lower that think being a session player is what is they want to do and I don’t think it is. I think being a rock star is way more cool, so I had to find people who wanted that,” says the front man. “I don’t understand why anyone would want to play in their bedroom when they could play in front of people. I don’t know if they’re scared. It’s very odd. I’ve never been like that,” he laughs, “ever.”
And that genuine rock star swagger is bound to work in Inglorious’ favour.
“We’re very confident and we’re here to fly the flag for rock music,” declares James. His 11-year-old self would certainly approve.
- Inglorious play O2 Forum Kentish Town with The Winery Dogs on 31 January 2016. The self-titled debut album is released on 19 February 2016 via Frontiers Music, followed by a national album launch tour kicking off at Islington Assembly Hall on 21 February 2016. For more info visit the Inglorious website.