Don’t be fooled by his MC like moniker. Jamie T is a tall, skinny lad from the south-west London suburb of Wimbledon, influenced as much by The Clash, Tom Waits, Rancid and The Specials as the drum’n’bass and garage that surrounded him while growing up.
Armed only with an acoustic bass guitar, a teenage Jamie Treays (he’s know as Jamie T, due to his unpronounceable surname) begun playing the backrooms of pubs in Soho and Twickenham, playing his solo show of tales of life in identikit suburbia and what it is to be a young man growing up in 1990s Britain. The live experience was akin to the troubadour spirit of the American folkies of Woody Guthrie and Bob Dylan colliding headlong with true English gents like Paul Weller, Billy Bragg and Elvis Costello, with a few pills and cans of Stella to loosen the creative juices.
But determined to avoid any of the clichés that acoustic playing implies, Jamie decided to fuse his loose folky songs, with a punk, reggae and hip hop tinge. This was done by recording in his bedroom, with the budget equipment usually used to create drum’n’bass and garage tracks. The end result is an uncategorisable and exciting new sound. A raw and scruffy hybrid of production underpinning torrid but touching stories of London living. Where girls find love behind the bike-sheds, where New Years Eve is predictably always shit, and drunk boys brawl on the top deck of the nightbus.
As a child Jamie was prone to panic attacks, a condition that was the inspiration behind Panic Prevention – a series of mixtapes and club nights he has put on. Panic Prevention 1 + 2 were mix cassettes that chopped up dialogue from self-help records with tracks from Jamie T, the Clash, Jacob Miller, Squeeze, the Beastie Boys and many more. Both mixtapes were given out at gigs, and have gone on to become collectors items, reaching silly money on ebay.
Meanwhile Jamie began his Panic Prevention Disco – a club night in Soho’s 12 Bar, where he’s been playing live and putting on bands such as Vincent Vincent and the Villains and Baxter Dury. Now three events old, the night has been sold out each month with several hundred unlucky punters locked out each time. The Panic Prevention Disco is going out on tour in June, with Jamie T playing live accompanied by a band for the first time, plus some excellent supports selected by Jamie.
The release of his ‘Betty And The Selfish Sons EP’ in March on his own Pacemaker Records, plus the series of Panic Prevention mixtapes he was giving out at gigs, saw an explosion of interest in Jamie. Radio One in particular became massive supporters, with Zane Lowe making ‘Salvador’ his single of the week and ‘Back In The Game’ his Hottest Record In The World, while ‘Salvador’ received several plays on Jo Whiley. Since then Jamie has been locked away in his bedroom and in studio in Elephant and Castle, finishing up the recording of his debut album.
‘Sheila’, out on July 3rd, is the first single proper to be released from his forthcoming album. The track is a huge live favourite, with the audience always shouting back the word “London” during the chorus. Full of typically Jamie T pithy one-liners and a massively upbeat sing-a-long chorus (“Sheila goes out with her mate Stella, which she pours all over her fella”), it’s actually a bleak tale of drunken misadventure ending up in tragedy as the “Paramedic announced death at 10.30”.
As the introduction to Panic Prevention 2 says: “The hope is that after listening to this you will feel more relaxed and less alone about your fears.” We hope so too.