Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind, the new band from former Jim Jones Revue / Black Moses / Thee Hypnotics front man. The new band doesn’t exactly pick up where his previous one left off, there is bluesy garage rock guitars and honky-tonk style piano, but also more reflective and more experimental sounds. Tracks like Boil Yer Blood, the title track of their debut EP, are loud and raucous; but the gently psychedelic 1000 Miles From The Sure is more distinctive and the groovy Hold Up is driven by drums, handclaps and backing vocals in counterpoint to Jones’ crooning.
We very much look forwards to seeing them at Le Beat Bespoke 11 on the Saturday night! Darius Drewe caught up with them recently.
01. Let’s start with the new songs. The three I’ve heard already, from the “Boil Yer Blood” single, are sonically very disparate, meaning that whereas I could get a “handle” on your previous bands quite easily, I’m still slightly perplexed by the Righteous Mind. Is this band deliberately meant to be un-classifiable, or is there a more clearly defined “modus operandi” you haven’t unveiled yet?
Hello mate, Yeh, the Jim Jones Revue was a fairly specific sound and, as you say, easy to get a handle on, so, after eight years or so of that, which involved a lot of touring, the first thing you want to do is ‘everything else’ .. you know, travel to new and exotic lands etc.
There’s already more than an albums worth of Righteous Mind material recorded, and it is fairly varied, by design, but there is a thread, or a kind of pattern that you can get a hold of once you’ve heard a number tracks… On the Boil Yer Blood EP. though, it was a conscious decision to put quite a wide spectrum across as the first release, so as not to get boxed in too early in the game.
02. What particular musical influences have shaped this new venture? Have you discovered any new sounds that excite and thrill you, and if so, what are they?
All the same stuff mostly; roots music especially, but from a different angle than before; from the standpoint of time and experience… I think all truly great music comes back to haunt you again and again in the best possible way; it’s like a lesson that you learn a little deeper each time.
03. On a similar subject, do you ever get tired of shifting from band to band? This will be the fourth group you’ve fronted in just under 30 years, and from the MC5/Stooges-infused psychedelia of Thee Hypnotics through the funky soul rock of Black Moses to the rock’n’roll revivalism of the Revue, they’ve all differed from each other significantly. Obviously, many of music’s greatest innovators, from Bowie to Miles Davis, constantly reinvented themselves but do you think people ever wonder why you can’t/won’t remain in the same outfit for more than five years at a time? Or has it simply been an accidental mixture of coincidence and circumstance?
It’s probably more like eight to ten years at a time, but I’m not counting. Trouble is: not everyone has the stamina to regularly get out on the road for long periods of time and give a hundred and ten percent of yourself night after night, it can take it’s toll… Once it’s in the blood though, it’s hard to do anything else. Most people will have a lineup change and keep the same name, which I guess is the smart way to do it, but I suppose I’ve never been business minded in that way, I always see it as a chance to wipe the slate clean and reinvent yourself. Hopefully The Righteous Mind will be the one that keeps rolling. Which is another good reason for the broad horizon on the first single.
04. Tell me a little about the other members of the line-up and how you came to know them.
I’ve always been pretty lucky when it comes to finding good people to play with, and The Righteous Mind is no exception, in fact it maybe the best unit so far.
Gavin Jay, as you know, was also the bass player in the Jim Jones Revue. First time I saw him, he was playing in a small club, the band and the crowd were pretty static, but he was throwing himself into it with gusto; a sharp dressed man, who could play well, and knew how to put some presence onto the stage… I’ll have some of that! I ‘borrowed’ him at first but the Revue soon became ten times busier than his other band and the rest, as they say etc etc. Gav is really great to work with and is also known as ‘Mr One Take’ in the studio – He plays amazing stand up bass too, with and without a bow, which was ignored in the Revue for one reason or another, so that was one of the first things I wanted to utilize with the Righteous Mind.
Phil Martini is on drums, I’ve known Phil from a while back and from his previous band The Tokyo Dragons. He was my first choice for someone to work with, and I approached him as soon as JJR started making noises about calling it a day. I’m always pushing the drummer to try to find an unconventional groove, a different approach and something unusual sounding for each song, which isn’t always easy for them, but Phil’s taken everything I can throw at him without batting an eyelid. This has meant that I could work really fast at getting new material together.
On piano we have the brilliantly mysterious Matt Millership. Originally, Henri Herbert was set to be part of the project, but around the same time I was starting to work on the bare bones beginnings of the songs that I had, Henri’s YouTube clip of him playing piano in St Pancreas station went viral and he was flooded with offers to come and play straight boogie woogie piano which had been a lifetime dream for him, so I just said good luck, and wondered where the hell I was going to find someone as good as him (???) It was Henri himself who recommended Joe Glossop. Joe’s an amazing intuitive player who’s been around the block, we worked with him and got the lions share of the songs up to speed and subsequently recorded. Joe did the first short tour with us, but when it came time for the first single release he couldn’t do the show’s that went with it… ‘what do you mean you can’t do the shows ?’ – ‘Sorry, I’ve been asked to go on the road with Tom Jones’… fair enough, as long as it’s a Jones… So I had to hunt around again and was lucky enough to get Matt. He had been in the frame to possibly replace Elliot Mortimer in the JJR but the timing hadn’t worked out and that’s when Henri had turned up just in time. Matt jumped straight in where Joe left off and without missing a beat, we were on the road again.
Malcolm Troon (Dr Troon) is playing pedal steel, theremin, additional guitar and percussion. I’ve known Malcolm for a while as a hot-shot Denmark street guitarist. He’s a formidable musician, and also, like Matt, stepped in to rescue the band when our original and also incredibly talented guy David Page was called away by Rick Ruben and the gang to work on an LP.recording with The Ruen Brothers… Phil had worked with Mal before in the Dragons and it was his suggestion to get in touch with him. As you can imagine; finding a pedal steel player isn’t the easiest thing, let alone finding two of em! The pedal steel itself takes a high degree of skill and confidence to master, and to make matters worse; I’m asking these guys to then NOT play it in the traditional way but to subvert it and use it to create new sounds. They’re all great to work with and easy to be around, I can’t believe how lucky I am really.
05. Do you think this band has an advantage over its predecessors, inasmuch as that whereas all the others began at “cult” level and attempted to work their way up, you were already famous by the time you formed this one? It has enabled you to more or less launch straight into medium-sized venues and big festivals, whereas both Black Moses and the Revue began their careers in small clubs..
Yeh, it’s definitely taken some of the slog out of the thing.
06. With the Revue, you were definitely perceived as a flag bearer for the vintage/retro/revivalist scene that was proliferating in the UK at the time, filled out by bands like your close friends the Urban Voodoo Machine on one side and the likes of Vintage Trouble and Little Barrie on the other. Did that sort of tag piss you off? And if so, is the Righteous Mind a deliberate attempt to escape it?
To a certain extent yes; on the one hand it’s frustrating to be misperceived, as I’ve never viewed the old/new thing in that way… It was never to do with a trend; in fact it’s more of a ‘reaction’ to bullshit trend’s or fashions… It can be a fine line sometimes, and I’m quite aware of how easy it is to fall into a weird kind of role play, and you have to avoid that at all costs if you want to feel you’re doing something valid and not just regurgitating the past. Just to be clear though: if there’s a choice between old and new; and the old thing is still valid and in working order; 9 times out of 10 the old shit is 100 times better than the new shit.
07. When I first knew you, you were living near Ladbroke Grove but these days, you reside in “trendy” Dalston. How do you view the perceived “hipsterization” of the East End these days, and more importantly, the music scene in London in general?
Hackney has now become a bit like Ladbroke Grove was when I left there… I live in Walthamstow now, which is where I was actually born and it still hasn’t been completely gentrified.
08. And what about equipment? One musician of my acquaintance (won’t name him, but he recently joined a reformed 70s punk act on drums) is such a purist that in order to achieve what the believes to be the “true rock and roll sound”, he insists his other band, in which he writes the material, only use certain guitars, basses, kits and amps. And, though I wouldn’t take that approach myself, he’s not the only one. But where do you stand on it? Obviously I can imagine what you wouldn’t use- I’d be unlikely, for instance, to ever see you playing a BC Rich or an Ibanez- but are there any particular brands you favour? And how essential are they to your music?
It’s not to try to sound like someone else; because that’s a dead-end; but I like old stuff, if it’s still working, or new stuff that’s built as good as the old stuff. It feels more honest, like it’s come out of the earth.
09. A lot of your music tends to celebrate an atmosphere of bohemian, bacchanalian decadence. How much of it is genuine? Is it a creed by which you live your life? I only ask because I’ve seen you leap across tabletops at a party with drink in hand, surrounded by stunning burlesque women, but I’ve also seen you being domestic, reading your kid bedtime stories. Is there a “real” Jim Jones? Or is he a mixture of all those disparate elements?
Yeh, it’s always nice to be a little more three three-dimensional, don’t you think? You really can move between worlds, as Tom Waits says: ‘You don’t always have to stay the night.’
10. On that subject, do you think rock’n’roll musicians sometimes have to play up too hard to their public persona, sometimes resulting in their premature demise?
Yeh, it can become that ‘role play’ thing again. It’s all nonsense really… I think what a lot of people miss, is that the difference with people like Lemmy or Keef is that they put their work first.
11. Final question. It’s taken you approximately 28 years’ worth of work, self-belief and dedication to get where you are now – do you think everything you’ve had to endure along the way has been worth it? Or do you think that it’s more a reflection of how long it takes to achieve anything in this country outside of the mundane, and that had you been born in the US or Europe, you’d have been a star by your 20s instead of your 40s? More to the point, if longevity is the goal, do you think you’ll stay the course like your mentors Iggy Pop, Wayne Kramer and Tom Waits have?
I don’t think it’s any easier in the States or Europe although there is more money for arts in places like France, but then that’s one less thing to kick against… I’m a lifer, there’s no getting around it, and it’s not really a matter of choice, you know, more of a vocation… I think the key is: don’t look back !
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