Alex James is the bassist in British band Blur. But can a popstar best known for playing the bass transform himself into an opera singer?
Having had five number one albums, Alex says: “Elton John buys 100 new pop CDs every week, just so he can keep up with what’s going on. I admire his diligence, but I’m not like that anymore. It occurred to me that listening to young bands – the music didn’t connect in the same way anymore. It reminds me of that line from ‘Panic’ by The Smiths – ‘because the music that they constantly play, it says nothing to me about my life’.”
Alex, who with Blur in 1995 won four Brit Awards, emphasises, “Pop music is about running away and getting the girl, and I’ve done that. OK, I’ve done what you told me to do – what do I do now? That’s when I started listening to classical music. I heard the William Tell Overture and thought, ‘that sounds amazing! Suddenly a new world of music opened up for me. Now I listen to classical music and it makes sense to me.”
The timing of the invitation to appear on Popstar to Operastar was ideal for Alex who also presents a Sunday morning show on Classic FM. But Alex hasn’t found opera singing straightforward. “The hardest thing is trying to do everything at once,” he muses. “You’re simultaneously trying to concentrate on singing, breathing, meaning and acting. The definition of something complicated is lots of simple things happening very quickly at the same time.”
Whatever the outcome, Alex is relaxed about his role on Popstar to Operastar. “Does my life change if I win or lose? No. I’m not like an X Factor contestant. I’m just really up for it. But if it goes well, I may just keep it up. Next stop, La Scala!”