Popstar Mark is home James

Manchester band James - L-R - Larry Gott, Saul Davies, Jim Glennie, Tim Booth, Mark Hunter, Andy Diagram and Dave Baynton Power.
Manchester band James - L-R - Larry Gott, Saul Davies, Jim Glennie, Tim Booth, Mark Hunter, Andy Diagram and Dave Baynton Power.
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He’s travelled the world with Manchester band James but tonight it’s time for keyboard player Mark Hunter to Come Home.

Mark, 40, grew up in Coniston Road, Fulwood, with parents Arnold Hunter and Sandra Field, and played in local band Ruby Lazer, before joining James.

Tonight, they play Preston Guild Hall for only the second time in 21 years and Mark can’t wait.

Speaking before the gig, he said: “I’ve got some old school friends coming along that I haven’t seen for about 16 years. There’s my mum, family friends.

“We’ve only played there once before but when I was growing up, I used to get taken to lots of concerts there.

“The Halle and the Liverpool Phil used to play there so my parents would drag me down, a lot of the time against my will!

“Later on, I started going to pop concerts there. One of the first things I saw there was Gary Numan who was one of my early influences.”

Mark now lives in London and is dad to Freddie, four, and daughter Asha, eight weeks.

He said: “I’m leaving my partner with her hands full while I get a holiday!”

He wrote his first song aged four or five at Kennington Road Primary.

He said: “I’d been given a little acoustic guitar and I remember taking it into school one day. I was just clamping one hand on and strumming madly with the other.”

While at Queen Elizabeth School in Blackburn he joined Ruby Lazer and played at Avenham Park, The Lamb and the Continental pub, and did sound at Raiders, now The Warehouse.

He said: “I don’t know if it’s still the same but there was never much of a local music scene even back then.

“I remember playing on Avenham Park, on the bandstand down there, one of those little summer festivals.

“I was thinking about it the other day because we used to go rolling Easter eggs down there when I was a child.”

Recording in Lancaster led him to James. He said: “The studio was owned by a guy who was playing keyboards for James but he didn’t like touring, he liked the studio.”

Mark auditioned and found himself playing a future hit.

He said: “They’d just written Sit Down. They were running through it, and they said, ‘See if you can come up with something’.”

Sit Down stayed at Number Two for five weeks, held off Number One by Chesney Hawkes.

Mark said: “We met him on Top of the Pops or something and he said, ‘I’m really sorry!’”

His first show was a sold out Liverpool Royal Court. He said: “The crowd were going nuts. But fame and fortune was never something I was looking for, it was the music.”

His success with James made his parents proud. He said: “After they’d spent all their hard earned money on grammar school fees, it wasn’t quite what they planned but once they actually saw it working out, yeah, they were really proud.”

His father died two years ago, but Mark said James changed him too and added: “He was a jazz and classical fan and next thing I know, I’d turn up at home and he goes, ‘Have you heard of this band, The Pixies?’”