Wildcat keyboard player and rock n roll howler James Leg is the son of a Texas preacher, raised in the dirty south on gospel music. His journey from preaching himself at the age of 14 to travelling the world playing the devil’s filthy rock n roll has been a lively one, but he still lives to tell the tale and leave a crowd in a frenzy after his shows. Straight to your heart, and down to your pelvis, he makes the kind of music that ain’t pretty but it sure makes you feel good. I spoke to James about covering The Cure and what his family makes of his career ahead of his show at Norwich Arts Centre this month. So say Brother Leg.


ou’re the son of a Texan preacher and were raised on Southern

gospel music. In fact on your new album you cover Sister Rosetta’s Up Above My Head. Which gospel songs mean the most to you personally? I reckon the ones I’ve written mean the most to me personally; they’re my own prayers. I’ve always put at least one gospel song per record, though maybe they’re all gospel songs really. Te title track of my most recent record, Blood On Te Keys, is a sorta gutter-gospel. I like the ones make you feel something..the feelers! If Sister Rosetta Tarpe was still alive I’d go to her church every time the doors were open. Would you say religion is part of your life these days, and does spirituality come into your music deliberately or accidentally? Eh..religion is form. I think if “God” is what a person seeks there are more efficient ways to find it, go spend the day in the forest for example...but that’s just the view from my side of the river. Different strokes for different folks. I would hope spirituality to be inherent in my music rather than deliberate or accidental. You were preaching at 14 – has that had an influence on the

way you conduct your live performances? Yeah I’m sure it has. I’m socially anxious by nature and those were my first experiences of speaking or performing in front of a crowd. At 16 you turned to rock n roll, booze and drugs. What does your family make of your musical successes? I don’t know for sure, but I suspect they are proud even though I “play the devil’s music”. A cover I loved watching you perform live at the Red Rooster Festival last year, Te Cure’s A Forest. What made you choose that for a cover? I thought it was inspired. Tanks! Hell, I’m a fan and that’s one of my favorites from them. I like all kinds of music..I hope everybody does. It’s fun to perform songs that you rocked out to when you was young, it keeps it interesting for me. My main requirement in choosing a cover is if I can sing it with sincerity - if you wanna sell it you gotta believe it. You play your keyboards with such extreme passion. What does making and playing music mean to you? Is it a cathartic exercise? Well on a good night, if I’m doin’ it right it’s an exorcism, borderlining on self- immolation.


It’s a release and a refill at the same time. Many times it feels and sounds as if you are playing electric guitar on your keys. How did you develop your own unique style and sound? Back around 2005, before Mark Holder left Te Black Diamond Heavies and we became a duo I had a little side project duo with a drummer in Kansas City...just a few gigs for kicks. To try and fill the sonic spectrum I began throwing gain on the Rhodes from every angle..turn the piano and amp to 11, run everything through valves, add some guitar effects pedals and hit it hard. A Fender Rhodes will vibrate and tremor under those conditions – it’s somethin’! Your debut solo album Solitary Pleasure came out in 2011, Below Te Belt in 2015 and Blood On Te Keys last year. Are you working on new material for the next album? Yeah we’ve started road-dog’n some new songs. I got some studio time booked in July. We’ll see how it goes. How do you maintain your incredible gruff howl? Hell I don’t know. I still smoke a little too much probably, but I quit drinking whiskey a couple years ago. Damage done maybe? You’ve travelled the world

playing your music. What’s been the most extraordinary experience thus far for you playing live? Christ, so many good times! I’m veryw blessed to be able to travel around and do my thing, it ain’t lost on me. Last summer I did a few shows in some prisons in France. Tat was a fairly extraordinary experience for me and the audience both I guess. What can people expect if they come and see you at the Arts Centre here in Norwich? Well y’all can expect to have your lids flipped by Te Bonnevilles! I’m a prolly raise hell and lose my shit too.

LIZZ PAGE Read this interview in full at

INFORMATION James Leg and the Bonnevilles play at Norwich Arts Centre on 20th May. Tickets available from

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