Alex James Photo © Adam Gasson
After Britpop superstars Blur first split up in the early 2000s, bassist Alex James got married and moved to a farm in the British countryside—and then he started making cheese. Now, James is more involved in fermented milk than he is in music: He writes newspaper columns in the UK about food, and in August he is curating a music and food festival with Jamie Oliver called The Big Feastival, which will be held on James’s 200-acre farm. Unfortunately, his three artisanal cheeses—Little Whallop (goat cheese washed in brandy and wrapped in a vine leaf), Goddess (a rich, semi-soft cows' milk cheese), and Farleigh Whallop (a goat cheese log rolled in thyme)—are unavailable in the US. This spring James is back on tour with Blur for a handful of big festival shows, including Coachella. Just a few hours before going onstage, James sat down with blogger Zach Brooks to talk farming, Sting’s olive oil and cheese. A portion of the interview is below; to download their entire talk, head to foodisthenewrock.com.
What's it like having a farm in the Cotswolds?
Buying a farm is like running a small bankrupt country. It’s not just a house—a farm—it’s a business. It’s not grand. It has to work. We’ve got a couple of hundred acres and the first two years was like: Hedges, what are you supposed to do with hedges? And drains, and ditches, and there’s water going everywhere, and things are breaking and falling over and running away. And suddenly I found I was getting up earlier than I ever had. But I absolutely loved it. And I’ve always loved cheese, and it took two years to figure out that’s what we should be making on the farm.
When did you get the farm?
Ten years ago. I think farms probably are the natural habitat for the aging rock gentleman. It’s hard to think of somebody in a serious band who doesn’t live on a farm. Roger Daltrey lives on a farm. Paul McCartney lives on a farm. Sting lives on a farm. I tell you what: Sting’s olive oil is the benchmark celebrity food product. It’s absolutely knockout.