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Last Updated: Friday, 15 October, 2004, 07:35 GMT 08:35 UK
Wendy James races back into view
By Tom Bishop
BBC News Online entertainment staff

Wendy James
James moved to New York to record an album under the name Racine
Wendy James, the seductive former singer with punk-pop band Transvision Vamp, is back with her first album in 11 years.

She burst onto the music scene in 1988 with the boisterous I Want Your Love, which along with Baby I Don't Care helped Transvision Vamp notch up seven top 30 hits in the UK.

The forthright James earned the band acres of media coverage yet, despite American, Australian and European success, Transvision Vamp split in 1991.

"We were the definition of a pop band," says James. "We shot into the sky, burned brightly then exploded. Pop."

Musical shift

The decision to quit was mutual, she says, after three albums and a gruelling world tour which left the four-piece exhausted.

"If our record company had given us some time off, Transvision Vamp may have been able to continue for a few more years," she reflects.

"But by then music had moved on. People were into Public Enemy, De La Soul and the Madchester scene. Suddenly being in a white pop band wasn't such an exciting proposition."

Wendy James in Transvision Vamp
I Want Your Love
No 5, June 1988
Revolution Baby
No 30, Sep 1988
Baby I Don't Care
No 3, April 1989
The Only One
No 15, June 1989
Landslide of Love
No 14, Aug 1989
Born to be Sold
No 22, Nov 1989
(I Just Wanna) B With U
No 30, April 1991
After her solo career made a stuttering start with Now Ain't the Time For Your Tears, a poorly-received album of songs written for her by Elvis Costello, James vanished from public life.

While she had contributed to Transvision Vamp material, James was now determined to write her own songs from scratch, so she taught herself to play the guitar, drums, keyboards and anything else she could lay her hands on.

"When touring and promoting records constantly you come to resent the recording studio," she explains. "I had to give myself space to experiment and allow those sparks of inspiration to come."

Two years ago James moved from London to New York and recorded under the pseudonym Racine, the name of a drag strip in Chicago which also means "roots" in French.

"I never pictured myself as a lone female singer-songwriter," she says.

"I'm not a Joni Mitchell type. I like being part of a gang, so I took on a band name even though I played everything myself."

Lyrical lust

The result was the album Racine Number One, a self-assured mix of hypnotic electronic beats, warm guitars, lyrical lust and boy racers.

"It's exactly the sound I wanted to make," James says.

"There is a quiet calm there but also a great deal of strength and confidence. It accurately reflects my personality."

Wendy James
I have always been inspired by people who have the conviction to do something different
Wendy James
James is delighted that the album sounds like nothing else in the chart, even as she prepares to release her single Grease Monkey.

"I have always been inspired by artists who have the conviction to do something different, and the balls to stand up in front of an audience and say 'this is me - take it or leave it'.

"You can trace that right back to Chuck Berry and Little Richard through to Public Enemy's Chuck D, Dr Dre and Eminem. Rap is the most exciting form of music for me at the moment."

Nevertheless James admits she would love to have a number one single. "Of course I would!" she smiles. "I just don't want all the attention that comes with it."

Artistic freedom

Smoking an American Spirit cigarette, she says she enjoys the artistic freedom and opportunities of living in New York and does not plan to move back to London any time soon.

"I can wake up every day and see the Empire State Building from my window," James says. "It's like being right in the middle of a Woody Allen movie."

Neither does she intend to re-join Transvision Vamp, even if a lucrative deal was offered.

"They know better than to ask me," she says. "Why would I want to go backwards?"

Racine Number One is available on the Pia-K Recordings label.

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