Dee James is the Queen of Uncool. Literally. That is the stage name that the ageless British artist goes by. The Queen of Uncool is described as the “vulnerable, awkward daughter of Judy Fights Back,” an old alt rock band that split. She was also been described by Chris Cornell simply as “that motherfucker,” forged a genuine bond with Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers, and been compared to an angel singing from the depths of hell from some random guy in a bar.
With two EPs behind her, using just an acoustic guitar and vocals, she shows she can survive on her own. Now, her third EP is nothing like she has done before, full of synths and electronics. She takes on more responsibility with writing, arranging, performing and producing the entire thing alone, instead of working with musicians from her previous EPs, like Richard Sadler (Neil Crowley Trio), or Dan Guilno (Marina and the Diamonds).
The Queen of Uncool doesn’t even look like a princess of Uncool, dressed fabulously in a vest reading “Love is Hard” and simple shorts. Her style is almost as unique as her music. That is why when GIGsoup writer, Regan Harle, interviewed her, the first question had to be
Why did you call yourself Queen of Uncool?
It’s about embracing what is fundamentally shit about everything. It’s a really British thing to celebrate what is shit. Like, someone smashes a glass in a bar and everyone cheers. It’s also a bit more philosophical. You have to embrace what is different or quirky about yourself because that’s what makes you who you are.
Your Facebook bio is interesting. Did you really meet Chris Cornell?
I didn’t meet Chris Cornell, but he did call me a motherfucker.
Really? How did that happen?
When Audioslave were first starting out, they got a lot of shit, and all the press was like “is it more Soundgarden, is it more Rage Against the Machine, what is it?” So, at an Audioslave gig, Chris was on the stage trying to make a point. So he goes “who are we?” and the crowd goes “Audioslave.” He did it around four times, and at this point I felt really patronised, so I just shouted out “you’re not Soundgarden then,” and he called me a motherfucker.
You also met Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers?
I did. It was a nice moment. Sometimes it’s really hard to connect with anyone on any given day for any reason, particularly when you’re put in a situation where you’re just some random person that’s there, and then there’s band that are there to perform. There’s that dynamic, and a lot of bands deal with that in different ways. He had no ego. He was just really genuine. He’s a cool guy, for sure.
Now that we’ve heard from other people. How would you describe your own music?
That’s an interesting word. Anything else to add?
First and foremost I make rock music, but it’s not really out there for anyone to listen to.
I played a bunch of gigs that never got recorded. There are scraps sitting about waiting to be released.
Are you ever going to record it?
Yeah, a lot of it is recorded, it’s just not finished. In my old band, Judy Fights Back, that was what it was all about, and that’s how Queen of Uncool came about. I couldn’t get the music how I wanted it. It wasn’t right. As a writer you write new stuff, and if you haven’t recorded your old stuff, you don’t want to keep going back, you want to put out the new stuff and go with the momentum and go with what’s current, what you’re currently doing. So currently what I’m doing is kind of electronic stuff, but the rock never really goes away, and I don’t really like having to do one or the other. I was told a long time ago that I had to do one or the other, and so it all became a bit separate.
Do you prefer being solo or being in a band?
I hate being a solo artist. It’s bullshit.
Are you looking to restart a band then?
Name the day, I’m ready. I just haven’t found anyone to play with.
Have you been looking hard?
Yeah. Maybe I didn’t look in the right places, maybe I wasn’t there at the right time. Networking is really something I find difficult. It’s bullshit. A lot of it is fake, and I’m not good at faking it.
Was it hard to make this EP essentially on your own?
Yeah, that’s why it’s taken me so fucking long. If everybody else would just accept the demo, the raw idea, and if I could just put it out like that, I would be happy. Normally when I come up with an idea that’s enough for me. I’m like, “here’s the idea,” and I make it and record it and it’s there, and other people say, “it’s not finished, is it? You need to do this, you need to do that.” So it’s kind of more for other people, which is a shame, but maybe I’ll release some raw shit some time.
Since your previous EP Winter has a whole story behind it, is there a story behind the new EP?
There’s a theme, it’s not a story. The Smashing Pumpkins are a huge influence on me. Billy Corgan once said that Siamese Dream was a record they made because they wanted to show every part of their personality. They wanted happy, sad, angry, silly, and they wanted to put it all in one record. That’s kind of what’s happened with this EP. I’m exploring lots of different angles and ideas and they don’t necessarily all fit together or make sense, but when you put them all together it still works. Queer was kind of a bit tongue in cheek, something with a sense of humour, something fun also, something celebratory. Girl Outside is a lot more serious, reflective, internal, and there’s a couple more to come, and they are different as well.
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Your music is more electronic than usual. Do you have any electronic influences?
It’s electronic out of necessity. I had no choice. I had no band. So I got bored of playing acoustic guitar, and frustrated because I’m not making the sound I want to make. I just sat down, and thought, “well, I’ll do this.” It’s a protest to not having a band.
Are you planning to tour?
At the moment, I’m trying to recruit some people to at least play the EP live once and see how that goes. I want to do a launch when it comes out, so I will do a launch gig. I’m itching to get out and play. Each song takes so long because I’m doing so much myself. So by the time it all comes out I don’t think I want to go around and play these tunes exclusively. I want to be able to play some of the rock stuff. I want to do some other stuff, too.
Where would you like to perform?
I would really like to perform the Clapham Grand. I just love that venue. It’s got mojo. Also, if you’re a rocker, Brixton Academy is the one. So that is the dream for me.
Did you work with any other musicians on this EP?
Mainly just me, but I know lots of people, and if they have time to spare, then it’s cool for them to help out. I want to record a cover of this metal song with other musicians. It’s a Pantera song. Last night I gathered some people, and we had a run through it.
Which Pantera song is it?
I don’t know if I want to spoil it. I’m eventually going to post a video of it.
Any other future plans?
Music wise I plan to play more rock music. Maybe it will be a mish-mash of stuff. I don’t really know if I’ll end up working with other people. I’m always looking to collaborate with other people. I really just want to scream a bit. With the electronic everything is very controlled, so I’d like to break out of that.