For one band member to leave could be regarded as a misfortune. For two to go looks like carelessness. To lose three – on the same day – sounds more like a conspiracy.
Either way, even Oscar Wilde would have struggled to script the mass walkout that befell London five-piece Inglorious at the end of 2018, shortly before the release of their third album, Ride To Nowhere. With the album ready and tour dates a few weeks away, overnight they were down to a duo.
Thankfully, two years on the story arc has turned upwards, and their fourth album, We Will Ride, a tour de force of vintage hard rock cut from the Purple-hued cloth of the greats, is their best yet.
Inglorious’s resurgence is testament to the indefatigable drive of founder and frontman Nathan James. But things got worse before they got better. At first the departures of guitarists Drew Lowe and Andreas Eriksson and bassist Colin Parkinson were announced with customary diplomacy. Then Parkinson, now fronting his own project Temple Of One, gave an interview with Sleaze Roxx, in which he criticised Inglorious as being “more of a theatre show than a band”, dismissed it as “Nathan’s project” and referred darkly to “bitchy comments”.
Within 24 hours James responded, via a Facebook live chat that one of his former colleagues was kind enough to upload to YouTube. In a fierce rant he took a swipe at unnamed former colleagues, among other things spitting: “Do not use my fucking name to get press.”
He went on to take a distinctly immodest view of the situation (“The only reason anyone knows who these people are is because of their affiliation with me”) and observe, faux-sympathetically: “They don’t all have four-octave ranges and sing like me, so it must be hard.” He concluded by raging: “Never, ever underestimate me.”
Soon afterwards, he apologised, to the same website that ran Parkinson’s comments, admitting that he felt “embarrassed and ashamed”, and has since removed his tirade from the web. But was this the mask slipping and an inflated ego bursting free? Not that this magazine has ever shied away from giving a platform to charismatic rock frontmen with bulging reserves of self-regard and a tendency to piss off their colleagues.
Whatever your view, when Classic Rock makes (virtual) contact with Nathan James he appears to be the model of easygoing humility. He is not yet able to see the funny side of the episode we’ve just described, though.
“I was going through an incredibly low time,” he offers. “Three band members left in the space of a day, and everyone was expecting me to act like nothing had happened."
He pauses before continuing: “I was having a breakdown. I feared for my mental health, and everyone around me did as well. It was the first time in my life I’d thought about committing suicide.
“My family and my management took my phone off me, asked me to go and seek help. “I was in a desperate place. This band that I’d set up and I’d got together, and in the beginning I’d bankrolled until we had our deal, to have that thrown back in my face so publicly was gutting. And so poorly handled. If people wanted to leave they could have had an adult discussion about it. It didn’t have to be so vindictive.”
You sense that for all James’s other achievements – at the time of the Inglorious split he was touring arenas with Jeff Wayne’s War Of The Worlds live show, for example, and he recently announced that he’ll be fronting a supergroup with Stryper’s Michael Sweet and Whitesnake’s Joel Hoekstra – Inglorious is his real labour of love. And one that he didn’t want to risk falling apart again when he put together what he calls “Inglorious mark three”.
“I knew I had to surround myself with great friends,” he says, “and that’s exactly what I did, with two guitarists I’d known for years and respected hugely. I wanted a great team around me, and then I wanted to focus on writing something great.”
James and Inglorious drummer Phil Beaver, another founding member, were joined by teenage guitar ace Danny Delacruz and rhythm counterpart Dan Stevens, along with new bassist Vinnie Colla.
Then the keenness of producer Romesh Dodangoda (Bring Me The Horizon, Bullet For My Valentine, Motorhead and more) to get involved behind the controls proved to be another boost. Maybe he heard what we’re hearing: snarling, wind-in-the-hair hard rock tunes built on full-fat riffs and nagging hooks to underpin tall tales of femme fatales, evil deeds and dark thoughts.
COVID restrictions meant the band could only go into Dodangoda’s Cardiff studio one by one instead of all together, but it also meant singer and lyricist James was home a lot more. While forced to do that he developed a serious Netflix habit. “My niche was crime documentaries and thrillers,” he says.
That interest inspired songs such as Cruel Intentions, which addresses someone “taking loved ones from their families” and “living a fantasy where you were born to die”.
“That one is specifically about a famous serial killer,” James explains, “and a couple of lines are taken from what was read out when he was sentenced.”
Other songs echo the woman-done-me-wrong tropes of 70s blues rock, but in James’s eyes it’s born of admiration for bad girls rather than resentment.
“I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by strong female figures in my life,” he says. “And I really enjoy writing about badass women. That crosses over with the crime obsession: the title track on the album is about a seventeenth-century highwaywoman called Katherine Ferrers. She was a fascinating character.”
James is no stranger to the concept of heroes and villains, his career having been kick-started by reality TV: he was rejected on The Voice in 2012, but later that year he reached the live final of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s West End audition show Superstar.
He has said that the experience helped him develop a thick skin. Which is just as well, as, particularly since that public rant in 2018, he’s had to field plenty of online flak.
“I’ve had all sorts,” he says. “I’ve had death threats on social media. And when I announced my last guitar player he even received racial abuse – he’s half-Filipino. I remember thinking: ‘God, is this the rock community?!’ I’m just a singer in a rock band, ha ha! I’m not Trump! Do you know what I mean?”
Still, if the best revenge is living well – and coming back stronger creatively – then Inglorious could hardly have offered a more convincing response. Don’t @ them, just listen.