Interview: James Walbourne

James Walbourne is bringing His Lordship back to Norwich
James Walbourne is bringing His Lordship back to Norwich

High-octane rock ’n’ roll duo His Lordship are returning to Norwich in April promising a mix of new material alongside their turbo-charged renditions of classic tracks. Pretenders guitarist James Walbourne and manic Danish drummer Kristoffer Sonne are embarking on their second UK tour next month. Walbourne took a break from rehearsals to talk to MARK HARROP about the band, Chrissie Hynde and cheap suits.

You came to Norwich to play Voodoo Daddy’s last July on one of the hottest nights of the year. What are your memories of that night?

It was a great night. A brilliant end to the tour. I loved it, best crowd by far – the place was amazing.

Are you looking forward to getting back on the road and coming back to Norwich?

Absolutely, can’t wait. It’s what we do. We’ve done a European tour with a guy called Jason Isbell, we did that in November for a couple of weeks, but we haven’t toured the UK since. We’re still very eager. We had two years, it probably lingered on a bit longer than that, of the pandemic, not being able to go anywhere. Going anywhere now is just a buzz.

That was a horrible time for bands and live venues.

It was horrible, yeah. It was a funny time because I did a lot of writing, I didn’t enjoy it too much, but it served me well with the writing because I couldn’t really do anything else, so I got a bunch of tunes out of it.

James Walbourne (right) is one half of His Lordship, alongside Kristoffer Sonne
James Walbourne (right) is one half of His Lordship, alongside Kristoffer Sonne

Do you think a lot of bands have come back stronger for that experience?

I think a lot of people have reassessed how they do it and why they do it. From big bands to small bands, we have to think about why are we doing this really.

You and Kris seem to have a great chemistry on stage. How did you two get together?

We met when Chrissie Hynde was doing a solo record back in 2014. I’d been with The Pretenders a long time but wasn’t initially involved. She fired her band but kept Kris and she got me in, so I met him there and we just hit it off musically and as mates. It’s been amazing meeting Kris – you never know until you start writing together and playing together how it will go but we’re really on the same wavelength. It’s a joy, we laugh a lot.

Kristoffer Sonne, James Walbourne's partner in crime
Kristoffer Sonne, James Walbourne’s partner in crime

How did your friendship evolve into His Lordship?

There was no plan. It sort of evolved out of boredom, really. We wanted to do something that we loved, and we just didn’t give a fuck if anyone else loved it. It was for us and if you don’t like it, tough. It’s been quite freeing, we just have a really good time doing it. One of the main stipulations of doing it was that it’s got to be a good laugh. I think it was sort of a reaction to everyone taking themselves so fucking seriously all the time. We do take writing the songs very seriously, don’t get me wrong, but the aim is to have a good time.

When you go back to some of the rock ’n’ roll classics such as The Way I Walk and Red Hot, the originals seem very sparse. How do you go about reinventing and supercharging those songs?

It’s like a natural state for me, really. We don’t really think about it, especially those old songs. I would get the lyrics and then we would just go and play it. It’s quite instinctive. It’s a little wild, it can go anywhere and a lot of it is improvised.

Chrissie Hynde in 2013 (Picture: Harmony Gerber)
Chrissie Hynde in 2013 (Picture: Harmony Gerber)

You’ve both been playing some smaller gigs with The Pretenders recently. How does that compare with playing with His Lordship?

It’s a very different gig. We’re there to serve Chrissie, really. She’s the star and you want to make it sound great. It’s a lot more reserved, obviously. She’s been on it for a long time making great songs. I think she’s a bit fed up of playing all the hits all the time, I think she wants to do some of the great songs she’s written for true Pretenders fans.

She’s clearly a big fan of His Lordship and has said some really complimentary things about you.

Yeah, she’s great and has always been really supportive of whatever I’ve done. She’s come to see us a few times and been very kind and generous to us. I owe her a lot.

Can we look forward to hearing some of your new material on the His Lordship tour?

Yes. We’ve recorded an LP and that’s ready to go. We’re just figuring what to do with it and how to put that out. It’s 12 songs in 30 minutes so we’ll probably do all of them and dust a couple of others off. We’ve got quite a few tunes now so it’s got a lot easier. When we first went out, we didn’t have that many original songs so we were playing quite a few covers. Now the balance has shifted, which is what we always wanted.

What’s the songwriting dynamic between you and Kris?

I come up with a melody or a song and we start to play it together and that totally transforms the song. Kris’s drums completely bring a whole new element that I never would have thought of. He’s a great arranger as well, it really is a co-write situation. I never realised that drums were that important!

Do you now see His Lordship as a long-term project?

Oh yeah, it’s now our main thing. It’s just things take a while now. Even putting a record out can take six to nine months to get it released. It’s a battle but hopefully it will come out in September. We’ve got a single coming out in April – that’s called Buzz Kill – then another one after that before the album and another tour of the UK.

How did the band’s name come about?

It’s a joke, really. We were playing at Goodwood, of all places – that car event. They kept talking about His Lordship’s this and His Lordship’s that, and from then on we just started calling each other His Lordship rather than Kris or James. We couldn’t think of a name for the band at all. Then, while we were recording one day, we just thought, “Why don’t we call it His Lordship?” and we just couldn’t stop laughing. “Fuck it”, I thought, “I like it!”

Finally, do you still wear cheap suits?

Yes, but nothing’s that cheap any more and they do sort of perish after a tour. They really smell bad.

His Lordship are playing at Norwich Arts Centre on Friday, April 14. Click here for tickets.

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