Michael James Band
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Michael James Band


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"Grandma's Boys"

Grandma’s Boys
The Michael James band gets cozy on Grandma’s couch to talk about albums, hell and love
Published April 29, 2010 by Kathleen Bell in Music Feature

I’m sitting next to Michael James on a worn-out yellow couch in his grandma’s basement. The room is scattered with musical equipment, half a Macbook connected to a monitor on which the band records its demos and a ginormous TV screen attached to an assortment of gaming gear. I’ve already been offered beer, perogies, pancakes and more beer.

“I’m the leader, I guess,” says James, moderating a statement that’s already been made flatly clear by his band mates, drummer Kurtis Shultz and bassist Eugene Raam, and the unambiguous fact that the boys rock under the signature, The Michael James Band. So James quickly adjusts, dropping the qualifier. “Well, I am. But on stage, I don’t feel I’m out there sticking out like a sore thumb. I got my band and they’re kicking ass. It’s been proven time and time again now, I can say and do the dumbest shit on stage and it’s all right because my band will hold it together.”

“Sometimes a song just breaks down to Mike with his hands flailing in the air, dancing on the spot for two minutes,” acknowledges Shultz, who is sitting to my right in a well-loved armchair.

“Or I’ll trip on a rug and I’ll end up flat on my back on stage in the middle of a crucial moment,” James says.

“Ya, for the first five months I wore safety glasses on stage,” says Raam from two flowery cushions to my right, grinning his agreement. I gotta say, it takes a certain kind of cool to invite a reporter to your grandma’s basement and still remain every bit as rock ’n’ roll as the guys sound on their 2009 EP Cold Land.

And their sound is straight up rock. It’s driving, rough and has that desperate edge that most good rock tunes flirt with. This latest disc is a little preoccupied with hell, which James stumbles to explain. Luckily for him, even in an interview, his band is there to hold it together.

“From an outside perspective?” Shultz interjects. “You know, pretty conservative upbringing for all of us really. And we’re not really conservative people at all. We’re all extremely liberal in our actions. So I think heaven and hell is always on your mind. If you’ve been brought up in a certain way, it’s inbred.”

“Plus, hell is a one-syllable word, heaven is two, so it works a lot better,” adds Raam.

“I actually don’t, and I never have at any point, attributed the cold land to hell in writing” says James, after he gets his footing. “In the context of the song it’s a mythical place but it’s really essentially just my mindset. The Cold Land is the inside of my head. During the time that I’ve holed myself up in this basement just writing and recording for so long, it had been through kind of a tough time.”

If that’s true and there’s a coldness lurking inside James’ mind, he hides it well behind an easy smile. In fact, I spent over an hour on that yellow couch, joking with the band about writing a motorcycle concept album (I think that was a joke), hiring a glockenspiel player (only if they could really rock the glock) and choosing a photo for this article (FYI, James takes all the band photos himself). To wrap it up, I ask the band to summarize themselves for the folks playing along at home and Raam is there instantly with an answer.


“See, that’s what I’m saying about my band,” laughs James. “I was like, ‘oh fuck!’ [and Eugene’s like], ‘love.’ Boom.” - See Magazine

"Right to the point: Michael James does whatever it takes"

Michael James Band
Right to the point: Michael James does whatever it takes

Mike Angus / mikeangus@vueweekly.com

For a quick litmus test of an artist’s mettle, it’s helpful to ask what inspires them. Given that answers can range from the noble (“the creative process”) to the cringe-worthy (“boats and hos”), I was intrigued to hear Edmonton’s Michael James hold his influences modestly to his chest. Yet, for him to reveal that he has returned home after a brief stint in Toronto’s “uninspiring” music scene, the question begs to be asked: what inspires you?

“I seem to be inspired completely by emotion,” he ruminates, hinting at the unintentional process of making his new album, Tall Shadow Short Walk. “I hadn’t intended on making an album. I was just trying to get some shit out.”

James’s cathartic approach to songwriting, however, doesn’t come across as wearing his heart on his sleeve, per se, but rather, on his bandaged arm. His first demo, Take Me to the Hospital, was a loose collection of songs recorded in his basement studio after leaving T-dot.

“Everyone [in Toronto] seems to have a band or two,” he points out, dejectedly. “What I was doing felt dishonest.”

No matter how discouraged he felt, this sense of integrity inspired James to return to Edmonton and make the vulnerable and honest Tall Shadow.

“There’s a tall shadow that follows me around, keeping me humble,” he explains of the album’s title. “I have a pretty ghetto studio set-up, which inspires pretty ghetto music to be made.

“I write, record and produce all my own music, but it’s good,” he continues enthusiastically. “You gotta be real crazy, y’know?”

While he may feel compelled to apologize for his DIY approach to recording, he makes no bones about his approach to his live show.

“I’m always going to take advantage of my time on stage. Again, it’s really emotion-driven. If I have to take myself out to get my point across, I’ll do it.” V - Vue Weekly


"The Cold Land" EP-October 2009

"Tall Shadow Short Walk" Full Length-March 2009

New Full length coming in Summer 2011



Just like the line in one of his newest songs, all Micheal James wants to do is have a good time. And he wants you too as well. No musical expense spared as he writes songs inspired by real life and tough times and turns them into exciting electrically charged anthems to celebrate to.

Running of the success of his March 2009 release “Tall Shadow Short Walk”, Michael felt a strong need to still push himself even further. So, he left his basement studio behind and headed to one of Edmonton’s finest recording facility, Sound Extractor. Joined in the studio by Toronto based producer, Mike Langford as well as James’s band, Michael set out to raise the bar on himself yet again. The result of the experiment is his latest recording…”The Cold Land EP”. This recording is perfect blend of Michael's creative song writing and heart stopping Rock and Roll beats. Make no mistake, MJ is an artist of the next generation in Rock and Roll. After releasing "The Cold Land EP" The band set out east across Canada, making friends and fans from Edmonton to Montreal. Now nearly a year after it's release, the EP is still generating the band enough exposure that they are in the middle of scheduling their second Canadian tour, this time to Vancouver. After returning home the band is ready to hunker down again and record a follow up full length to temper the demand from fans for more MJB! Look for it in 2011!

In its live form, they are a high-energy rock trio, that has been able to stand tall along side such acts as Corb Lund, Hey Ocean and Portugal the Man. With James at the helm handling the song writing, guitars and vocals, flanked by percussionist Kurtis Schultz and bass player Eugene Raam, “The Michael James Band” truly are the essence of rock n’ roll, and the purist example of the direction music is headed.

Michael James has an amazing ear for creating good music. His work is honest, emotion-driven and consistent. Every new listener becomes a believer in this project, and there is no doubt that this is only the beginning.