There are some things you can't help but do; breathing, blinking, laughing during a staring contest. Mesmerising and plausible, you can’t help but become transfixed by his words. A rarity, James Anderson uses words like melodies - plucking the chords within our mind, evoking oddly tangible images that we see dancing in front of us like some form of a hazy memory that may have once been ours.
Sentence by sentence he composes imagery, evoking an oddly surreal feel to the world he has created for our persual; a world so fleeting, captured in a permanent state on the inked pages of his handmade books. He quietly presents us with the gift of eloquence in both written and spoken words. He enters with a quiet manner, and it quickly becomes apparent that although his tone is soft it's worth listening in.
The gentle strummer of images, the composer of written words, James Anderson.
Hi James, tell us a bit more about you.
My name is James Anderson and I'm a writer. I work under this umbrella, that is a brand called JRBA, where alongside writing and hand making books I work with other artists. This could be photography, film or music and the collaboration is an extension to my written piece. I find I am always searching for a genre of my own, I want to create a work that combines literature and music, like a literature version of film, or photography that works well with what I have already done.
Instant analogue by Cecilie HarrIs. Special thanks to IMPOSSIBLE.
That is an excellent answer, you mentioned you create hand made books?
Thank you! I sure do - I hand make every book I sell.
Our favourite of yours is Vanilla.
That’s my latest one, it's what I’m working on at the moment with different artists.
What kind of artists went into making that?
Every book I write I design the layout, but each is unique in it's own way. This one is made a bit more like a magazine with the folds and the spine, it was just so much easier with the size. Someone who was at BBG before contributed too, Cleo Glover, she did some photography! Her photography just worked really well - it's youthful, hazy and beautiful.
I also have a Producer called Andrea. I’ve always liked his music, while I write, that's all I listen too. I’ve recorded and produced tracks myself, but he is producing most and then, slightly remixing them. We're planning to release an EP on his record label, which is called Muse records. There is also a filmmaker from Bath called Lily Young, she has incredible work, I love it, and everything she manages to make is incredibly beautiful. I couldn’t think of anyone else I wanted to work with. What is great about this project is bringing friends together to create work.
It feels like in a way you approached people that inspired you, and then invited them to work with you?
I only ever wish to do collaborations if I’m really interested in somebody’s work. It’s the same with publications, it has to all slot together, and you need to make sense within the context of a magazine, I felt I made sense here. I want to enjoy what a publication does too before I share what I do with them, not to have it on some blog that I don’t even read.
It does help people relate to what you stand for.
Yes, I don’t want to put myself everywhere, it makes it more collaborative.
Are you working on anything at the minute?
No, I haven’t written anything since Vanilla, I’ve been collecting things about love, but if I’m honest it wont turn into anything real. I would love it to, but I don’t feel like anything is coming as a big project at the moment. Usually I’m constantly writing, but I think one big book a year might be alright.
Excerpts from the book VANILLA.
We also hear you're a poet, tell us a bit more about this.
I always consider what I do as poetry itself. I’m mostly inspired by French prose poets. All of my writing is closer to poetry than it is to novels, with more emphasis on the way things are written and the images they create rather than story telling - descriptive, but not in the way novels do it. However I don’t write in verse, I try to incorporate rhythm and cadence to my words so it sounds musical. It is not about the structure, it's about the feel.
Most people tend to stick to one creative genre, be it music, photography or writing. Why do you search all the spheres for your work?
I’m awful at that. I always have to go for what I’m interested in. Over time it just happens to not be a set thing, I used to be a musician, making and producing music. I’m a lot more selective and subjective now, because I understand how it works. Most of the work I bring together I have experienced myself at some point, which gives me a clear vision of how I can collaborate with someone. I’m good at writing, other people are good at what they do; I just want to bring it all together, reach out to them if I’m inspired by their work and if they like mine, perhaps we can create something together.
You have a lot of follow through in your work, writing, binding books, the promotion, like you follow it step by step and hand pick who you work with.
Yes I would hate to be telling people what to do, because I wouldn’t be able to work that way. Just do what you do, there’s a trust in that. It gives more freedom.
Why did you begin hand making books?
I’ve been rejected from every single publisher in the country, and some in France and in the US. I could have either taken that as a hint not to write or go ahead and print my own. I love making things, I think people might like it too. It’s the little things; I like the font I choose, the little ornamental parts, the spacing things you wouldn’t get in mass production. At this point I’m not going to sell thousands, so It makes sense to make them myself.
It makes you stand out. So many things are mass produced that people often crave the quirks you include in your works. Would you ever consider doing your own photographs?
No, I can take a picture, but there are so many people that are so much better at it. I want to do something that I can be good at not mediocre.
If you could sum up your work so far?
I don’t know how to explain it. My books are all dream like. They aren’t about anything in a way, it's not story telling. I always have something to say, but it's not what I’m trying to say it's what I’m trying to get people to feel and to experience. It is hard to explain, but eventually the experience is over, then the books are over and I just feel my way through it. Like in music it's about creating nice melodies, not always what story you're telling, you want it to sound nice.
Maybe it wasn’t so hard to explain. Music, words, poetry, image and video. James Anderson, ladies and gentlemen.
Interview and words by Liz Ord.