Shortly afterwards, Tim was told by a clairvoyant that his career would leap creatively skyward if he collaborated with 'a man with the name of an angel'. Hmm. Who could she mean? Peter Gabriel? Well, James did later record the "Laid" album at Gabriel's Real World studios, but that's cheating a bit. Realistically, it had to be Angelo Badalementi. Problem was, they had never met and didn't look likely to.
Fate steps in. In the early 1990's a late-night British music show called Friday Night At The Dome had a running theme of bringing together musicians from disparate genres and cultures (i.e. Richard Thompson and David Byrne) and letting them play together. The producers asked Tim Booth if there was anybody in the world with whom he would love to collaborate, to which he replied "Angelo Badalamenti."
"My (musical) world is a little bit dark" says Badalamenti. "A little bit off-center. I think of it as tragically beautiful. That's how I would describe what I love best: tragically beautiful."
Tim Booth's world, by contrast, had known the restrictions of an English boarding school, the trials of university drama courses, the exhilaration of mediation groups and the life-changing truths inherent in the music and art of Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Nick Cave. These were the icons whose flame he constantly aspired to as a member of James: bone and blood and skin-of-the- teeth creative explosions.
In New Jersey, the fifty-something Badalamenti had never heard of Tim Booth or James. Contacted by phone, he agreed in theory to a collaboration, provided somebody sent him all the James albums and Tim was free to travel to New York. Tim said yes. The producers of Friday Night At The Dome would film the project, whatever it might be. Everyone was excited, not least Tim. Then Tim got the flu and was advised not to fly. The producers went to see a David Byrne concert without him, and had a serious car crash resulting in hospitalizations. Tim would have been in that car. Fate limps in.
Fate disappears for awhile. Not wishing to let the collaboration flicker out before it had even started, Angelo told Tim to fax some poems and he'd see if they sparked off any musical ideas. "I sent him some poems and heard nothing back from him," Tim recalls. Over in New Jersey, Angelo read the poems and wondered what the hell they were all about. "He'd leave these strange, lyric messages on my answering machine," Angelo says. "It was like having a stalker." Then in 1993, as a Booth and Badalamenti collaboration was looking somewhat optimistic, Paul McCartney telephoned Angelo and asked him to come to London to orchestrate a song, which he did. Meanwhile James's ground-breaking acoustic tour had just reached London. This put Tim and Angelo in the same city at last. Angelo saw James play at the Town and Country (now the Forum), found Tim's performance to be 'appealing' and went backstage, where they met up for the first time. "He said, 'Anything you want to do,'" Tim remembers.
Angelo returned to America while Tim went off to do the Eno sessions that would comprise the two James albums Laid and Wah Wah. In the spring of 1994, Tim took a holiday in New York where he and Angelo met for the second time. In the interim, Angelo had put Tim's poem to music. They immediately recorded it ( although it didn't make it on to the album in the end) in a New York studio and Tim took the tape back to Mercury Records, who gave the project the green light.
When Tim returned to New York later that summer, they began work for real, recording most of the songs for Booth And The Bad Angel in a six day improvisational period with Tim singing, Angelo playing keyboards, and American session men playing bass and drums (backing vocalists include Brian Eno; Angelo on "Life Gets Better" and, on "Dance Of The Bad Angels" Tim's vocal coach in England, Chloe Goodchild).
The material they wrote surprised both of the collaborators. Songs like "I Believe", "Dance Of The Bad Angels" and "Fall In Love With Me" (their mutual favorite) display the floating, ethereal quality of Badalamenti's music for Julee Cruise and Twin Peaks. However, "Hit Parade" and "Old Ways" are hook-packed pop songs that would be the envy of any young band.
Back in England with the tapes, Tim played the album's trump card. A fan of Bernard Butler, whose own collaboration with David McAlmont was at the time still under wraps, Tim gave the songs to the guitarist to play on (he plays on five). "Bernard was an amazing chance," says Tim. "We needed a guitar player and I'd heard he'd left Suede. I ended up putting a picture of him on the Booth And The Bad Angel album sleeve because I felt he'd added a huge amount to the record."
As well as playing guitar, bass and some piano on the album, Butler also mixed six of the songs (Tim Simenon mixed a further two). As Angelo says: "I met Bernard in New York and he's quite an unassuming man on the outside. But he sure gets into it when he's in the studio - you know, watch out!!"
Delighted by what they have achieved, Tim and Angelo are keen to work together in the future, including a possible tour if this album does well - although Tim stresses that he will definitely continue to be the singer in James, who are currently recording their new album.
"Tim has got such a great future," says Angelo with admiration. "He's so deep, he's so expressive, he can go anywhere. You can introduce him to chord patterns that he is not used to knowing, and he's able to go there. I think Tim's going to be in movies, man, I think he's going to be a great actor, because he's got it."
"He's a lovely man," Tim says fondly of The Bad Angel. "We didn't have one disagreement. It was such an enjoyable time I didn't want it to end."