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Tim Booth: In Conversation – The Stoller Hall, Manchester, 23/04/2024

Tim Booth is undoubtedly one of the most gifted lyricists to emerge from the UK, both as part of the iconic indie band James and through his solo work. Thus the news that he was writing a novel was eagerly anticipated. To celebrate the release of When I Died For The First Time, Tim delighted fans with events in London, Glasgow, and Manchester. We were fortunate to attend the incredibly special evening at Manchester’s Stoller Hall.

Though many have incorrectly assumed that When I Died For The First Time is an autobiography, it’s actually a dark comedy that follows the story of musician and addict, Seth Brakes. A tale of second chances, the novel follows Seth after a near-death experience that propels him to carve a new path for himself. Having reformed his band, things seem to be looking up, but his past continues to haunt him. This story of highs and lows sensitively tackles the harsh truths of addiction and there’s surely no one better to write about life as a musician than Tim, who has been one for four decades.

James aren’t a band that stick to the status quo – they change their live sets nightly, constantly push forward with new sounds and rarely do what’s expected of them, keeping things exciting for both themselves and their fans. Thus, it was no surprise to see Tim challenge the usual two-chair setup of a book talk. Instead, he took to the stage and performed ‘Happy’ – one of Seth’s more vulnerable tracks from the book – accompanied by Dan Leavers from The Comet Is Coming on piano.


Joined by Manchester United icon and football commentator Gary Neville, a lifelong fan of James, Tim appeared comfortable and genuine as he discussed his novel – from his experience attending a writers group in California, to which elements of the book reflect his personal life. Discussing the barrier that Seth and the character Stella face due to her family’s disapproval of her being with a non-Jew, Tim shared that he experienced a similar situation when he met his wife, Kate. In the touching story, he recounted how, in an attempt to win over her grandmother, she asked him to sing a song for her. He then treated the audience to a rendition of that very song. Titled ‘Please Fall In Love With Me’, the beautiful track was first released on Booth And The Bad Angel, a collaborative project between him and Angelo Badalamenti.


The audience also enjoyed a reading from Tim, who chose a humorous and candid chapter detailing Seth overhearing the couple upstairs engaged in a particularly lengthy sexual encounter. A natural-born storyteller, both on page and off, Tim had everyone hanging on his every word, perfectly capturing the humour of the chapter. Sex is a prevalent theme in the book, which isn’t surprising given the main character’s status as a rock star. This led to some amusing moments, as Gary blushed when addressing the topic in his questions. 

Of course, as the story revolves around an addict, sex isn’t Seth’s only vice, which led to some intriguing discussions about Tim’s relationship with alcohol. Due to a liver condition he’s had since childhood, which hospitalised him at 21, Tim abstains from drinking, despite working in an industry that actively encourages it. Mentioning that there are only two occasions where he performed onstage under the influence, Tim expressed his disdain for it, due to it preventing him from being fully present in the moment and experiencing the natural high that performing offers.

Bringing a wonderfully unique evening to a close, Tim performed another of Seth’s tracks from the book, which himself and Dan had only learned that day. Titled ‘I Do’, it received a great reaction from the crowd, leaving this writer particularly eager for a recorded version. However, the question remains: is it Tim’s to record, or does it technically belong to Seth?

Tim’s skill as a wordsmith in songwriting has translated seamlessly to novel writing. A project years in the making, Tim’s hard work has certainly paid off with When I Died For The First Time. We’re already eagerly anticipating his second novel.

‘When I Died For The First Time’ is available now, both digitally and in print.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.