How jamming with Pretenders, Sex Pistols and Stray Cats inspired James Walbourne to take his high-voltage rock ’n’ roll outfit His Lordship to the next level

ames Walbourne of The Rails performs with The Pretenders at Portsmouth Guildhall on October 14, 2017 in Portsmouth, England.
(Image credit: Harry Herd/Redferns)

James Walbourne will be familiar to GW readers from his work with the Pretenders, where his rootsy style perfectly complements the unmistakable vocals of Chrissie Hynde.

Walbourne’s current project sees him embracing the wild excesses of rockabilly and punk, unleashing a couple of EPs under the name of His Lordship. All Cranked Up, the title track from the newest release, perfectly describes the incendiary mix of guitar-fired rock ’n’ roll that Walbourne delivers – a welcome respite from a world filled with doleful singer/songwriters. 

The band’s first EP, His Lordship Plays Rock’n’Roll Vol 1, was super-raw, just guitar, vocals and a drummer – but no bass player.

“It’s really just how things evolved,” Walbourne says. “We’d had a few shows canceled due to Covid and lockdown, and I thought I’d just play some rock ’n’ roll with Kris Sonne on drums at my local pub. This started to develop into a bigger thing, with people like Chrissie, Glen Matlock, [Sex Pistols’] Paul Cook and [Stray Cats’] Slim Jim Phantom turning up.

“We realized we’d hit on something, so we decided to just make a really quick recording to document what we were doing. We did all six songs in about 20 minutes.”

The new EP, All Cranked Up, takes things a stage further – all original songs with the punk-meets-rock ’n’ roll sensibility of Johnny Thunders’ Heartbreakers. 

“Exactly,” Walbourne says. “I really love Thunders, and when I was young my dad took me to see the likes of Chuck Berry, Duane Eddy and Jerry Lee Lewis. I’ve always loved music with that wild, escapist feel. There doesn’t seem to be so much of that these days. We’ve been drawing great crowds, so I can see that there’s a hunger out there for this kind of music.”

Walbourne’s gear choices are as minimal as his music. “I used a 1963 Gibson SG with one P-90. I was never a fan of them until I recorded Break Up the Concrete with the Pretenders in 2008; I borrowed one and realized how great they can sound. For amps I use a Fender ’68 Custom Deluxe and very little in the way of effects – just a Strymon Deco [Tape Saturation and Doubletracker] pedal with the saturation on and some delay.”

Walbourne maintains a hectic schedule, working constantly. “I’m equally committed to everything I do; there are no ‘side projects’ in my life,” he says.

“I’m in the throes of recording a new Pretenders album with Chrissie at the moment and I’m also planning to release a new album – with my wife, Kami Thompson – as the Rails, which we’ve been doing for quite a few years now. I definitely plan to take His Lordship as far as I can; we’re really going for it – taking no prisoners.”

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Mark McStea

Mark is a freelance writer with particular expertise in the fields of ‘70s glam, punk, rockabilly and classic ‘50s rock and roll. He sings and plays guitar in his own musical project, Star Studded Sham, which has been described as sounding like the hits of T. Rex and Slade as played by Johnny Thunders. He had several indie hits with his band, Private Sector and has worked with a host of UK punk luminaries. Mark also presents themed radio shows for Generating Steam Heat. He has just completed his first novel, The Bulletproof Truth, and is currently working on the sequel.