Throughout its rich history, there are many musicians who can lay claim to having influenced rock music, each of them adding their own unique sound to the genre, each of them endlessly imitated. One name that you probably won't find on any list, however, is Jim Davies. And you probably should. Among the many classic songs he's contributed to are The Prodigy's 'Firestarter' and 'Breathe', both international hits that reached Number One in numerous countries, along with co-writing several albums with cult UK crossover band Pitchshifter, and collaborating with many other electronic rock acts and DJ's. While he'd be embarrassed by such accolades, perhaps it's time we'd updated those lists. Jim Davies may just be the best known guitarist you've never heard of.
His story is nothing if not fascinating, a true roller coaster ride that's taken him around the world to some of the biggest stages on earth, not least Glastonbury Festival, Australia's Big Day Out, Milton Keynes Bowl, and the US Ozzfest. But it begins, like many such stories, with a 16-year-old kid learning to play guitar in his bedroom, his influences being Jimi Hendrix, Steve Vai, Dimebag Darrell, and Joe Satriani. Ironically, while later known for his work with the Prodigy, Davies had little interest in so-called 'rave music'.
"At my school it was Rockers versus Ravers," he recalls, "and I was the kid at the back of the class with a mullet and a Skid Row T-shirt, arguing with the kids that were into rave that it wasn't 'proper music!'"
By 18, however, Davies was attending Staffordshire University, hanging out at 'rock nights', and he found the DJs increasingly playing crossover sets which included bands like Senser and Pitchshifter, along with tracks from the groundbreaking Judgment Night soundtrack, featuring the likes of Helmet and Faith No More collaborating with hip hop acts.
"The DJ's would also always play 'Start the Dance' and 'Their Law' by Prodigy, which I remember blew my mind," Davies says. "So around this time I started changing how I played guitar, as I was bored of playing traditional rock stuff. I started playing over albums like 'Jilted Generation' trying to emulate synth sounds. I had no interest in playing in a traditional four-piece rock band after the crossover scene happened."
As luck would have it, The Prodigy played Staffordshire University in 1995, and Davies had a job loading in the speakers for the Student Union. Noticing that the band didn't have a guitarist at soundcheck, Davies rushed home and threw together a demo tape, playing over tracks from the aforementioned 'Jilted Generation', which he gave to The Prodigy's Liam Howlett after the show. A few weeks later Howlett called and invited him to play in Paris with them the following week. Still finishing his degree, Davies spent the next year on the road!
Despite supplying the guitars for the band's next album 'The Fat of the Land', including the tracks 'Firestarter', 'Breathe', and 'Fuel My Fire', the band's image was changing around this time and they recruited a new live guitarist, while Davies continued to work in the studio with Liam.
Around 1997, however, he met Pitchshifter, another of his favourite bands, and was given a demo of some new tracks for the forthcoming www.pitchshifter.com album. In the now familiar style, he jammed over the top of the songs and sent the demo back, subsequently being invited to record guest guitars on a track called 'Please Sir'. In the studio, one track became six, and by the time the record was released Davies was invited to join the band full time.
"As with The Prodigy, I was a big fan of the band before I joined!" says Davies. "They really understood electronic music at a time when a lot of bands were trying to jump on the bandwagon by putting a shit loop at the start, middle and end of their tunes and calling themselves 'electro-rock'! They were really the only band I was interested in being in after my first stint with The Prodigy."
The result was Pitchshifter's biggest selling album to date, laden with Davies' trademark sound, followed in 2000 by the Deviant album, which charted in the UK top 40, and then 2002's PSI on both of which Davies co-wrote every track. By this time, Davies was also back playing live guitar with The Prodigy, headlining Reading Festival, among others, and essentially playing for two bands. Leaving Pitchshifter around the end of that year, when the band went on hiatus, Davies went on to join the punk band 'Flint' with Prodigy frontman Keith Flint, co-writing their eponymous album and playing Download Festival in 2003.
Sadly, although signed to Polydor records and produced by 'Killing Joke''s Youth, the 'Flint' record was never released.
In 2007 Davies started his own band 'Victory Pill', putting out a self-funded, self-released and self-titled album, and touring the UK with 'Static X'. This was followed in 2009 by an instrumental guitar album, entitled 'Electronic Guitar', on the iconic label 'Mascot Records', and then, in 2012, by a second self released 'Victory Pill' album, 'The Digital Divide'.
"By this point I was really disheartened with band stuff and trying to release albums commercially," Davies admits. "And I fell out of love with playing live. I started getting into writing production music for TV and film... it seemed like the perfect way to keep doing the part of music I enjoyed the most."
In a short time, Davies was able to write a vast quantity of tracks for industry leaders 'Extreme Music', quickly developing production skills and the ability to compose in a wide variety of genres (along the way winning an award for 'Best Wildcard' with long-time collaborator Nick Kingsley at the 2019 Production Music awards).
This, in turn, slowly rekindled the desire to make 'band' music again, finally able to release something he had 100% control over.
Entitled 'Headwars', the long-awaited new 12 track album is the result of years of experience, a phenomenal record that features guest appearances from vocalists Milly Rodda, Abbie Aisleen (Davies' wife), along with renowned electronic artist 'Tut Tut Child', and Davies' former 'Pitchshifter' band mates Mark Clayden and Jason Bowld. Darkly eclectic and catchy as hell, it takes in everything from trip hop and electronica to punk rock, and easily ranks as Davies' best work to date.
"A lot of the album is pretty dark," says Davies. "Lyrically a lot of the album is about dealing with that black cloud of regrets hanging over your head! I called the album 'Headwars' as it felt pretty apt! I'm guilty of overthinking everything, which is a bad head-space to get into. That's not to say the album is all doom and gloom lyrically! It's more about facing up to those issues and coming out the other side stronger."
Typically understated and self-effacing, Davies still had needless doubts.
"It took quite a lot of persuasion from friends and family for me to decide to release this commercially," he admits, "but I can honestly say I think it's the best music ive ever written."
Whether I'll play it live is a very different question, I'm probably thinking that I won't. I guess it depends if any one cares or likes it!... We'll see."
Which perhaps explains why Jim Davies is the best know guitarist you've never heard of. Until now...
'Fuel My Fire' (1997)
'More Girls' (2004)
'You'll Be Under My Wheels' (2004)
'Subject To Status'
'I Don't Like It'
UN-UNITED KINGDOM (1999)
Co-wrote all tracks.
Co-wrote all tracks.
Co-wrote all tracks.
DEVICE 1 (2003)
'Centre Attraction' (2008) - Vocals/Guitar
'Let Me In' (2008)
'I'm An Image' (2008)
'No Rockstars' (2008)
'The End' (2012)
'Poker Face' (2009) - Vocals
Victory Pill (2011)
Instrumental Guitar Album (2010)
TUT TUT CHILD'Talking Of Axes' (2015)
FUTURE FUNK SQUAD
'Black Manta' (Aquaman Soundtrack 2019) - Remix
Solo Album (2020)