1991 Part Two
Review of the Great British Music Weekend - probably from NME - circa January 1991
had their own crown unsurped by a certain bunch of Dean-agers, Jesus Jones
seem intent on causing fireworks, staring daggers at anyone brave enough
to mention the word 'unbelievable' in their presence.
Literally leaping straight into action, they immediately show their anxiety. As 'International Bright Young Thing' starts to take shape, the keyboard player ODs on adrenalin, jerking his limbs this way and that in an attempt to convince everyone he's actually suffering from epilepsy. Fortunately, few are convinced and the rest of the Jones' family do their damnedest to ignore his horribly contrived contortions, surreptitiously poking him in the ribs whenever he comes their way.
Which is just as well. Because, at its best, Jesus Jones' frenetic, highly-strung pop is more than good enough to stand up on its own two feet. Though 'Info Freako' is saved for another day, 'Real Real Real' and 'Right Here Right Now' prove that Mike Edwards & Co are perfectly capable of walking it like they talk it.
Interview - NME - 26th January 1991
how real life imitates popular culture don't you think? Take Mike Edwards
and his colourfully clothed cohorts, for instance.
Around this time last year, swatting a fly with a copy of Smash Hits was the nearest Jesus Jones had been to the Top 40. It was also about 12 months ago that Mike Edwards wrote a fiercely tongue-in-cheek ditty called 'International Bright Young Thing'.
As 1990 progressed, Jesus Jones swaggered their way into that famous list of 40 hits with the equally self-effacing and sarcastic 'Real Real Real' a modest hit, but a hit nonetheless.
September brought a second invitation to the Top Of The Pops studio, courtesy of the more sombre 'Right Here, Right Now', the Jones boys commentary on the world's changing political climate. Further inroads were made towards the consciousness of the masses, but in all honesty Jesus Jones were still nothing more than another competent pop group in the eyes of the customers at Our Price.
Fast forward to the present day, and Edwards' fun-poking paean to self-important pop stars is sitting pretty in the Top 20, elevating Jesus Jones to the premier league of the quite ludicrous music industry.
Unwittingly or otherwise, Mike Edwards has become the international bright young thing of the moment.
Foolhardy types suggested that the immediate success of EMF - Top Three with their first single 'Unbelievable' - had eclipsed Jesus Jones. Edwards' attitudes and ideas had been remodelled, remoulded and made much more radio-friendly, it was thought by many.
The high chart placing of 'International Bright Young Thing' will go some way towards silencing the critics and ripping unfair comparisons in the bud, not that Mike really cares one way or the other.
However, Jesus Jones' long awaited moment of glory nearly never happened. Miek came close to ditching the song on a terrifying dull flight from Japan. Halfway through the words to the second verse he glanced out of the window at the less than inspiring sight of Eastern Siberia below.
"I was in a really high frame of mind, everyone in Japan adored us and I suppose we were all getting drunk on our own importance. On the flight back I was finishing off the lyrics - which I thought was a very pop star sort of thing to do - and I looked down at Siberia and was aghast."
Iain Baker chimes in: "We felt like conquering heroes leaving Japan, we'd convinced ourselves we were international pop stars on that trip. We all felt we were like Bob Geldof and we'd saved the world and we were the avenging pop stars riding off into the sunset. Then we looked out the the window of the plane and we saw what looked like something out of Space 1999 or something."
Mike: "I was watching Lawrence Of Arabia the other day, about how immense and difficult it was to cross this huge desert. If you compare Saudi Arabia to Siberia it's nothing. It took us eight hours to cross Siberia."
"The pilot told us that the Russians monitor you every step of the way on that route, which is a good thing. If the plane goes down over that you're gonna want somebody to know where you are."
Iain: "A desert is a piece of piss to get across compared to the Steppes. It's serious shit. 'International Bright Young Thing' was codenamed 'Fun' before the lyrics were written, but that trip certainly wasn't fun. It put everything into perspective and brought us back down to size. A very humbling experience."
It's been 16 months since the last album, 'Liquidizer'. The second long player, 'Doubt, is in the shops next week. Containing the three aforementioned singles, it's a much more eclectic mix than its predecessor. Where 'Liquidizer' was very much a brash, sonic assualt, 'Doubt' is a record of many varied hues. Mike claims it is a complete reaction to 'Liquidizer' and everything it stood for, his earlier post-adolescent arrogance having been replaced by a mature sense of doubt. Hence the title.
"This album was written during a very miserable time in my life," he says. "I'd got a lot out of my system with 'Liquidizer', but inadvertently that record also helped fuel people's preconceptions about Jesus Jones. A lot of people have a pat opinion about Jesus Jones and I wanted to smash that in any way I could. 'Doubt' is an album of extremes whereas 'Liquidizer' was highly stylised, very cocky and very confident.
"This record is the sound of a pendulum swinging. The reaction from the public and the press to the first album took us aback. The praise we received in some quarters was very encouraging, but I personally lost a lot of confidence over some of the criticisms. 'Doubt' is the perfect title for the new album, because I'm not the cocksure little chap everyone thinks I am. I'm not perfect, I have self-doubt and I hope that comes through in these songs. This is a much more human record."
Kicking off an album with a sample from Sledgehammer, TV's most dangerous and untrustworthy cop, sets the listener up for the schizophrenia that is to follow.
"'Trust Me' is the song with the most doubt on it, it's meant to be hugely sarcastic, but maybe that parody will go over the everyone's heads," says Mike. "I don't want to come across as too self-pitying, but what I'm trying to say is that I really don't have all the answers, I'm not altogether sure what I'm doing. Hopefully, the song serves to shoot down the whole 'Liquidizer' thing. If I am to be self-pitying, at least I'm able to take the piss out of myself."
'Doubt' took just seven days to record, but it took another seven moths to be released. Jesus Jones have been sitting on the album since last summer, but has to fall in line with the worldwide ogre that is EMI before they could get their product into the shops. A sign of the band's emergence as bona fide international bright young things, claims Mike.
"You could say that this is our old new LP. It coincided with - how can I put this? - with our becoming a worldwide act. We'd toured America and Japan and EMI wanted a worldwide release and these things take time to organise. The Americans only got 'Liquidizer' last May and the last thing they wanted was the followup just four months later - they were still marketing and promoting the first one."
"My original wish was to get the album out in Britain last September with the rest of the world following when they could fit it into their schedules. Eventually we let that one go, which, in retrospect, I think was a good decision. We plugged the gap by releasing 'Right Here Right Now', and making it more that just a single, adding tracks and making it a full-blown EP."
"At least by having a worldwide release in January we realise that EMI are taking 'Doubt' very seriously indeed, they'll be able to put as much muscle into it as they would with Tina Turner or someone like that."
Iain points out that a September release in Britain would have led to imports turning up abroad and diluting the impact of the "official" overseas release: "That's particularly true in Japan where imports are actually cheaper than the domestic release. The Japanese always make their records much more elaborate, with sampler flexi paper hat bonuses and stuff like that. They're not too keen on the bog-standard albums we release over here."
The seven month delay dealt with, a seven day recording schedule is perhaps something to be applauded in these days of naval-contemplating and time-wasting in the studio, where three or four months is seen as the norm when putting together an album.
Iain: "I really don't see the point in taking an eternity to make an album . The sooner you finish the sooner you can run out and have a pizza. It's only stupid bands, stupid morons who take ages in the studio. Don't they realise it's their own money they're wasting? They're the ones who are going to have to pay for their own laziness at the end of the day."
Mike: "It's the classic rock'n'roll thing that when you get working class people who make good, they've never had a lot of money before, and you can quite understand them going apeshit and spending as much as they can. That may be a bit of a generalisation, but it's certainly true in a lot of cases."
"We're not quite as shortsighted as that. We're certainly not working class either, we've never been ashamed to say that."
"The thing with me is that I dislike waste and I dislike excess. I'm probably not a very good rock'n'roll star for that reason, but I'd rather not live out a cliche for other people, it's just the way I am."
Iain: "We cut down on waste as much as possible. Our tour van is testament to that. At the end of a three week tour the back of our transit is packed with satsumas, peanuts and cans of Red Stripe left over from the riders at each gig. We waste nothing."
Mike: "Mind you , at the end of the tour we do have a big satsuma party. That's about as rock'n'roll as it gets." With no album to promote last year, the Jones boys spent the best part of 1990 seeing the world, playing their first gigs in Japan and America, plus a groundbreaking visit behind the Iron Curtain. They withstood the cynicism that suggested their much-publicised British Council tour to Romania was nothing more that an exercise in hype. For a start, the band had no product to promote at the time. Also, the other bands on the tour (Crazyhead and Skin Games) were dropped by their respective record companies soon afterwards, so where's the hype in that?
The Romanian trip, however was the trigger for one of the most striking songs on 'Doubt'. Mike befriended a radio journalist while in Bucharest, who gave him a message to take back to the West: "Everyone is hungy, everyone needs to know." The simplicity of the sentence struck a chord and manifested itself in 'Stripped', perhaps the most jarring and confused moment on the new album.
"I certainly don't have the answers to all the world's problems, but that song is an attempt to get some of the confusion and frustration across. That's why the music sounds slightly wrong. It should strike terror into the listener in some way."
Iain: "In some ways it reminds me of when I first saw Jesus And Mary Chain in the early days, there was always a sense of impending violence, like I was going to get thumped at any second. 'Stripped' makes you want to clench your fists for no apparent reason, it's that kind of tension."
'Stripped' is followed by the album's closing track, the more subdued 'Blissed', complete with submarine noises which are more at home in Voyage To The Bottom Of The Sea. Paradoxically, this mellow moment samples the guitar part from 'Pretty Vacant'.
"I like the idea of taking something as wild as a Sex Pistols track and subverting it to my own whim," says Mike proudly. "I'm exploring that side of sampling more and more, I'd quite like to take 'I'm Not In Love' by 10cc and make a House eversion of it."
"'Blissed' is very much an Ambient House Buzzword, but I think it would be nice to reclaim bits of the English language from drug jargon. It's a nice word, meaning a feeling of inner contentment, and I don't think it should be the property of people who converse in drugspeak. That does upset me."
Things that upset Mike take centre stage as we speak. It's an hour or so into the interview and he has an observation to make: "You haven't asked us the EMF questions yet."
Ah, yes, the pretty boy pin-ups from the Forest Of Dean who many would claim have stolen Jesus Jones' thunder by hijacking their sound and making it more user-friendly.
With the Top Three success of 'Unbelievable', EMF have made an impact on their own terms. They've been compared relentlessly to Jesus Jones, but has it been at the expense of their musical big brothers?
"The comparisons are very unfair," thinks Mike. "They rely on the notion that EMF's success is largely attributable to us, which I think is immesely insulting to them."
Iain: "On a personal level I get on with EMF very well, I was out for a drink with them just the other might. Derry used to follow us around on tour and talk to me about sampling and stuff. I remember him talking about saving some money and going for it himself. He's done it and I'm very pleased for him. In some ways I suppose we have influenced them and that's great. it's like teaching someone to drive, you have a bit of knowledge and you pass it on."
Mike: "If you teach someone to drive it doesn't necessarily dictate where they drive to. This whole comparison thing is so dirisive, but the press wil get tired of it sooner rather than later and move on to something else."
"The argument that they do something better than us is a very fatuous one. One of the pleasant by-products of this band is that we have influenced other people, we're a band that others want to emulate. In some ways, and this may sound arrogant, EMF are the first of our big successes. After this album's been out a while there will be more."
In the meantime, Jesus Jones will continue their frenetic pace in 1991, with lots of tours all over the world. The early bluster of 'Liquidizer' may not be as evident on 'Doubt', but the live shows will still be the frenzied affairs of old. Jerry the guitarist will continue to fall over his own feet, Mike will continue to break guitars and Iain will be just as manic on his keyboards.
"What's that song you play with your nadgers, Iain?" asks Mike matter-of-factly.
"Eh? Oh, the one I play with my plums!" he cries with a glee of recognition. "Yeah, there's a whistle sound on 'Barry D' that I've learned to trigger genitally If I time it right I can hit middle C with my plums."
Iain: "Hmm, I would like to see someone play a Strat on their scrotum. I think I'm pushing back the frontiers of popular music on that one."
Don't you worry about groin strain, or the musical equivalent of housemaid's knee?
"So far I've got away with it, but it would be a hell of a rock'n'roll casualty, wouldn't it? Having to gracefully retire after developing keyboard testicle..."
Review of Doubt - Record Mirror - 2nd February 1991
The success of Jesus Jones has come as something of a surprise to many. Not 'cos they're crap or anything, but they've just always had that look of a band destined forever to peak at the dreaded number 41 spot in the singles chart.
Now, a couple of giant hit singles later, they are acquiring an aura of tenure, cementing their position in the pop charts and emerging as leading lights for a new generation of crash-dance bands such as you-know-who from the Forest of you-know-where.
'Doubt', their second LP, sees Jesus Jones in familiar territory, barricading their songs behind a barbed wire defence of cranky melodies and Mike Edwards' bee swarm vocals. Inevitably, the singles 'International Bright Young Thing', 'Real Real Real' and 'Right Here, Right Now' are included but quite wisely peppered across the album rather than grouped, allowing the other material a chance to shine.
'Trust Me' is as furious as anything on 'Doubt', with Edwards employing an injured hyena vocal approach which borders on the gothic at times. 'Nothing To Hold Me' sees him perform his best BA Robertson impression but it's saved by some excellent percussion work throughout, proving that Jesus Jones are capable of the subtle as well as the dramatic.
The Osmonds' 'Crazy Horses' influences a manic grunge start to 'Stripped', and coupled with tribal drums, it sounds like Jesus Jones' impression of a rather unpleasant industrial accident. 'Blissed' rounds things off and is marginally the best track here, trading throbbing musical pulses with etheral vocal loveliness. Firm but fair.
Review of Doubt - Q Magazine - February 1991
Jesus Jones's Liquidizer was one of the most assured debuts of recent years,
an exhilarating but solid presentation of a band who, though mindful of modern
musical developments such as samplers, refused to allow their essential guitar-band
nature to be swamped by keyboard technology. Unlike the Pop Will Eat Itselfs
and Gaye Bykers that occupied similar post-modern territory, their raw rock
attack was always in the service of shiny, user-friendly pop tunes. Here it
seems, was an individual and imaginative alternative to the burgeoning baggy
Since then, a certain desperation seems to have crept into the Jones camp, discernible in their all-purpose hipness - the skateboards, the samplers, the Mary Chain guitar washes, the hooded paisley tops - and now in the variegated nature of their second album, which lacks the solidity and sense of unity of the debut. It's as if, wary of the ephemerality of pop trends, they've approached that difficult second album as a kind of portfolio of possible stylistic variations, ranging from the marginally baggy (Right Here, Right Now and International Bright Young Things, unsurprisingly their two most recent singles) to the slack-strung, legs-akimbo hard rockin' (Two And Two and the opening rush of Trust Me, which brandishes sturdy punk roots).
Call it cowardice, call it insurance: the way is open for them to be regarded simultaneously as fashionable indie-dance fellows over here and post-punk hard rock types in America - which might not be that stupid, judging by the poor performance of contemporary Mancunians in the latter marketplace. Meanwhile, the only really all-round pop presence on the album belongs to Real Real Real.
The sad part of this is that though Doubt - an apt title - has plenty of fine moments, it has effectively reduced the sense of purpose and direction of the debut to a series of textural flourishes. Chief among these is Mike Edwards' slurred delivery , so drenched in echo and ADT that at times it sounds as if it's running backward - an effect heightened on I'm Burning by reversing the attack and delay characteristics of the accompanying drum beats. The sampling that was such an integral part of the debut, however, is now so integrated it's barely noticeable: only Stripped features the kind of exhilarating sound-collage maelstrom that could stand muster as a Public Enemy backing track, and in truth it's the only track here with a substantial "What's that bloody row?" factor.
But there are compensations, especially in the album's quieter moments. Nothing To Hold Me plays a deadpan background rap vocal against a low-key mood-music backdrop, the result being rather like conscience nagging at the back of the mind. The album's finale, Blissed, uses a gently rolling pulse and occasional electronic bleeps, swelling into a mist of ethereal synth-tones for the chorus. The effect is numbing, an abrupt suspension, as if suddenly forced to tread water. An appropriate end.
Review of Who? Where? Why? - Probably from Sounds - circa February 1991
Not at instantly catchy as 'International Bright Young Thing', nevertheless strong enough to reaffirm their new position as Proper Pop Stars without losing the respect of the diehards. This one will sneak up and catch you unawares, rather than hit you full on. The rhythms are still dance-compatible, but Mike Edwards' vocals are softer, more reminiscent of a letter-day Beach Boys. By not making the mistake of repeating the 'International...' formula verbatim, the clever bastard's guaranteed to keep us holding on for the next instalment.
Review of Who? Where? Why? - Smash Hits- circa February 1991
I subscribe to the view that Jesus Jones have got gradually more boring since their terrifically exciting first single "Info Freako". This sounds like their other hits - it's got a trendy beat, a couple of interesting sounds, a bit of zip and energy, but not much else. And Mike Edwards needs elocution lessons. Sharpish.
Interview on The Technical Side Of Things - Sounds - 2nd February 1991
According to the 808 States or Nitzer Ebbs of this world, technology
and tradition don't mix.
However, in the case of Jesus Jones, there's nothing to beat gathering together the collective sounds of aircraft, UFOs and orchestras and then thrashing along to it, guitar in hand.
This astute mix, that has really come to fruition on the band's new 'Doubt' album, is the result of a complicated set up and a keen mind - that of noted perfectionist Mike Edwards.
The Joneses' equipment list goes like this: Two AKAI S5950 samplers with hard disc drive; a Roland D70 keyboard; a Roland Juno 60 that's been Midi Upgraded; an AKAI ASQ 10 sequencer and a keyboard which (for reasons best known to the band) has been fondly renamed the Yamaha Unpleasant.
Next to the technology, Jesus Jones have two Fender Telecasters - one USA type, and one Japan type that's been fitted with a Korg 23 mini-controller and runs a 23 synth - plus a Yamaha SPS 50D FX unit.
Rhythm is played on a Gibson 1963 Goldtop Les Paul and a Yamaha SG 200, bass is shared by a Music Man and a Rickenbacker 40001, and the whole lot pours out through two Marshall 600 watt amps, a Marshall 4x12 cabinet, a Carlsboro Stingray bass amp and a Trace Elliott 8x10 speaker cabinet.
"We've got one sampler run from the sequencer," explains Mike Edwards, "and that plays bass lines, samples that require exact timing, percussion sounds. The sequencer also runs the D70 and the Juno - clearly it would be pointless to get people onstage to play sequences of three notes every ten seconds."
"The other sampler is actually played live. People don't believe this, but the keyboard player actually plays live sampler."
"People have a great deal of problems understanding what this technology actually does. I've gone on radio shows where people have said, I thought Reading Festival was really good, but it's a pity you mimed it! Which is really weird, because it was all 100 per cent live. If a sequencer breaks down, we'll still play on. It's happened before and most people don't notice, but to me it's imperfect."
Essential to this cauldron of sound is the balance between old and new equipment.
"There's a lot of stuff, like the Roland Juno, that's quite old and I had to get it Midi Upgraded, cos I wanted that mind of acidy sound," says Edwards. "Modern stuff doesn't give you all that squeaky bubly stuff. They're really good for percussion samples and bass lines and stuff. Whatever works, is the general outlook on how the band works."
With models always being upgraded, is working with computers an expensive business?
"Well, we're not fixated by technology. The most recent things I bought was all the midi guitar stuff," he considers. "It's just occasionally when you find things that you think will sound interesting. I don't go round shops on a regular basis. What normally happens is, I have an idea, I want to create an effect and I look around to see how I can achieve it."
It is the constant cry of computer-only bands that you can achieve the infinite without having any musical knowledge. But isn't it essential for creativity to have more of an understanding of the way music can be traditionally made?
"The thing with computers is you can programme in inflexibility," says Mike. "We spent the last tour with two songs that were of variable length. It's just the way you programme, you can make it do anything you want. It's all there to be subverted, perverted, whatever you want. When you've got good stuff it's easy to just jam along with it."
"But, yes, if you can play, you don't have to worry much about technique so much. Ultimately you will gain technique. My ability as a keyboard player has improved immensely, I can play with two fingers instead of one!"
"But it's nice when you want all these piano chords to come crashing down through a sequence, anmd you can do it one note at a time. It definately aids your creativity, especially with samplers, cos if you've got the time and creativity, you can write any sort of music for any sort of instrument. All people try to do is express what they hear in their minds so that other people can hear it, and this is the ideal technology for it."
What's the most unusual sample you've ever used?
"We had a a plane crashing in reverse, sounds from Star Trek, a telephone ringing," he laughs. "I sampled my alarm clock recently, for a B-side for the next single. I didn't have a microphone so I had to get a pair of headphones and put them over my alarm clock, and set the clock so that on the record it'll be going out through the PA live."
"Normally I take sadistic pleasure in it - like giving Bulgarian folk singers digital sex changes and making people sing backwards."
In fact, there's only one instrument that Mike has problems with, and that's his voice.
"I'm a much better singer than I used to be," he asserts. "But there were times when if I wanted to hit a sequence of notes I couldn't have done it. I've even had people coming up to me at the end of gigs telling me how much I've improved."
The greatest thing I face is the expectations the industry have of you," he continues. "I'm sitting here now thinking about five months of solid touring. I am the most boring man in rock music."
"You have to keep fit. If I get a cold I'm screwed completely, so I keep taking all sorts of cold preventatives - like eating a lot of garlic. But by far the most important thing is getting a good night's sleep. It really pisses me off to think of Janis Joplin, and all the stuff she did, all the drink she consumed, and she could get up and sing like that."
"I know if I deviate a little bit, if I have one drink a night, my singing the next day is godawful. I'd love to be a rock and roll animal but the next night people would get a shit gig and I don't want to do it."
Instead, Edwards buries himself on the quest for new ideas.
"I'm interested in getting some different guitar sounds on this tour," he grins. "The idea of playing samples through a guitar is an exciting one. The guitar is a fantastic rock and roll instrument, the computer is a crap one."
"You can be like Barry D, our man (JJ keyboard player), and run around smashing it on your head, that helps, but it doesn't have that kind of phallic appeal. So if you can make these fantastical noises with a guitar, which you certainly can, it would be a very good idea."
Interview - BIG! Magazine - circa February 1991
Mike is squeezed into the BBC canteen phone box to talk to
BIG!. "I've just stuck a quid in so we'll have to hurry
- we're at Top Of The Pops!" shouts Mike excitedly
above the general hub-bub. "It's fabulous!"
Mike's always wanted to appear on Top Of The Pops so this is a dream come true for him. "Top Of The Pops has been going longer than I have. I've wanted to be on the show since I was young - it's such a great programme," he says.
And now he's finally made it, he's taken to Britain's biggest pop show like a duck to water. "It comes naturally being on The Pops - especially when you're a bunch of show-offs like we are!"
The band 's been getting ready for this, their third Top Of The Pops appearance, for weeks now.
"We've been going through our moves - I can't promise a heavy metal guitar on my knees for Who? Where? Why? but we've got a couple of other things up our sleeves," says Mike.
They went out and bought spanking new outfits for the show - not terribly successfully as it turned out though, says Mike. "Yes, well, we've all tried to be different from each other for today, but due to a freak shopping accident Ian, our keyboardist, and I both got white jeans and the same tops on, which is a bit embarrassing. Ian'll have to change or get kicked out of the band!" he laughs.
They've also invested in new footwear for the occasion . "You see secretly we all vie for who's got the best pair of trainers." explains Mike. "And how much we spend on a pair of trainers depends on whether we're due to appear of Top Of The Pops or not.
"Our current fave is SPX trainers (around £70 a pair!). We like them 'cause they're white and new - apart from that, we like them 'cause they're nice and chunky!"
But Mike's no strict follower of fashion. "I like to be different. On my feet as I speak are my purple suede boots. They're a bit like desert boots, but purple. They seem to be the envy of every person I meet - at least I like them anyway!"
The group hates to look the same as other people, he says. "Jesus Jones aren't fashion victims. We like to wear new clothes though, and being musicians, living in London and having money helps us look up-to-date."
And they certainly don't like to look behind the times - The Jones chucked out their hooded tops a long time ago in favour of white jeans, Mike says. "Hooded tops have lost favour with us. I developed a white jeans fixation about a year ago and now the others all like them too."
But apart from jeans, Mike has no more hot fashion tips from Top Of The Pops for us. "The others are just wearing what they like today. Our drummer Gen has a T-shirt with Robert De Niro from the film Taxi Driver on it. It says 'Animals Come Out At Night' and other things which are too rude to tell you.
"Alan, our bass player's gone for more the rock 'n' roll thing. He's wearing a black leather jacket which he's very attached to, and knowing his washing habits, it's probably very attached to him!"
Beep, beep, beep! Mike's money has run out in the coin box.
"Gotta go," says Mike, "we've got to do the show now! I'll wave at BIG! readers on Top Of The Pops!" Then - click, brrrr, he's gone!
Review of Town And Country Club, London gig - Smash Hits - February 1991
"Gigging": A Guide To Success By Jesus Jones! Hey!
1. Sell lots of tickets to people that think you're great. These usually are the tussle-headed sorts who like to remove their grubby T-shirts and show off their grey-tinged "pecs" in an unnecessary fashion. Most upsetting. (And that's just the girls, ho not very ho.)
2. Squash all these folks into London's foremost concert venue, i.e. the "homely" Town & Country Club, witness to such gigging veterans as The La's. And EMF. And other seminal bands.
3. Make sure everyone gets all hot and flustered and squashed and ugly because that's what live music's all about.
4. Play all your ace tunes. REALLY LOUD AND FAST. That way the millions of sweat-drenched "punters" get to jump up and down (especially during "Real Real Real") and go wiggy flip-out mental from start to finish.
5. Look like proper pop stars with your swirlabout hairdos, your limb-hurling antics with luminous trouser "action" and your perfection of the synchronised guitar-wielding leap. You can take your top off if you're called Alan or Gen.
6. Say things like "Shall we go home now then?" and "What do you want to hear now?" (Mike) because you have such a happy rapport with your audience and they all want to touch your hand and nick your guitar, if you are silly enough to offer it to them (Jerry).
7. Play all your hits and three encores. Then retire to a swank party upstairs where lots of record company dullards and wigs-who-are-big offer you congratulations and give you gold discs (for your LP "Doubt") with your name spelt wrong on them.
8. Tipple till you topple.
9. Go home.
10. Easy, isn't it?
Review of Belfast Queen's University gig - NME - February 1991
simple", explains Mike Edwards to his host at Belfast's Downtown
Radio when describing the Jesus Jones masterplan. "I want to stamp
our identity on the face of rock music and be the biggest band in the
If you want to know the future of rock, imagine Mike's high-tech sports shoe kicking repeatedly against a human ear, forever. That's the theory anyway, even if this first foray into unconquered territory goes off with more whimpers than bangs. Today at least, Jesus Jones have to settle for being the biggest band in Northern Ireland,
But supremely confident with it, having just blasted straight to Number One in the album charts with 'Doubt'. For Mike, such incredible success vindicates two years of being slagged for hype, arrogance and - most recently - not coming from the Forest of Dean, The media's time-honoured confrontational tactics painted EMF and Jesus Jones as sworn enemies, Mike countered these fantasies with diplomatic praise for the West Country upstarts, but the real story is somewhere in between.
"I would love to see them inject some more of their own personality into it, not take ideas so literally... I see no point in slagging EMF because they are an extremely good pop band for the beginning of the '90s, I'd much rather have then than another bunch of retrogressive wasn't-1971-a-fabulous-year types."
An old debate, but the distinction is important. Jesus Jones, you see, are nothing so cheap and cheesy as an all-out commercial concept: "there are elements of us that don't make a great pop band, however hard we try, and some things we refuse to change, most notably my voice. I have the sort of voice that is not comfortable in a pop setting..."
Later, in a pop setting, Mike's voice settles snugly into the sexily streamlined surroundings of 'International Bright Young Thing'. A thousand Belfast students have already witnessed ten minutes of grinding sonic collage and techincal trip-ups, Ian slinging his keyboards around while sampled-up guitars groan under the strain, but only when the chart-chewing hits arrive does everything finally mesh together.
'Right Here Right Now' injects more much-needed subtlety into the machine, its incongruously introspective refrain smeared across a solid gridlock of bruising beats. 'Real Real Real' is a blinding burst of bucking-bronco adrenalin and new single 'Who Where Why?' a technofied terrace chant of existential angst gift-wraped in cracking wah-wah and witty samples. In such moments, the Jesus Jones game plan seems infallible.
But tunes which carry the band forward with sheer momentum are only half the story, and at least as many again require dragging along themselves. Despite their techno trimmings, several numbers are tired rock formulas given a lick of fluorescent paint, Ian's loose rapping lacks conviction and too often Mike's constipated vocals opt out of their obligation to involve or inspire his audience.
Strange, because by now the Joneses should be a mind-blowing live act. Nobody in the pop arena has harnessed modern techonolgy as successfully as them, or so effectively yoked together the twin peaks of punk and hip-hop. The riotous 'Info Freako' sounds better than ever, like a jumbo jet full of electronic weaponry landing in your front room, but there is still something uncomfortably rigid and inflexible in their manner. Instead of sitting on the fence' Jesus Jones are the fence.
Admittedly joints will creak at any first-night-of-the-tour gig. By the time they hit your town, the Jones gang will almost certainly have tweaked their remarkable and relentless spectacle into shape. But tonight's offering, confesses Mike, is "not greatest-band-in-the-world material" and he resolves to shuffle the set. Today Belfast, tomorrow...?
Review of Leeds Polytechnic gig - Melody Maker - 23rd February 1991
So they've done it. As arrivals go, it rivals any of Zebedee's. One moment they're filling up space in the nether regions of the chart, the next they're engaged in a furious butting contest with Queen at the serious end. It occurs that I could be talking about either Jesus Jones or Soho here. Tonight's proceedings verily amount to a convening of the Greatness Thrusted Upon Society, Leeds chapter. There would, ergo, be very real cause for monstrous recrimination should any of this be less than very giddy indeed.
See, people who refuse to let fame (especially new fame) go to their heads are the worst, a kindred diluted spirit to those tepid suburban proles who scoop lotteries and meekly announce, "Eeee, it’s nice to win, but it won’t change me".
The wealthy, the recognised, they should be different: self-obsessed, eccentric, egotistical, obnoxious, outrageous, not one of us. They should be utterly deranged, if at all possible. They should not be "wacky", "unaffected", "down-to-earth" or a "good bloke". We’ve got trainee bank officers who can do that. They should be vicariously exciting, at all times. It is after all, what we pay them for.
It pleases me considerably, therefore, to be able to report that both bunches of newly-anointed chart heroes on show tonight show substantial promise in these and other regards. The bravado of the vindicated in full effect. I was about to say that this was non-stop celebratory delirium, pretty much, when I came over all professional and remembered that I was going to get something of a critique in here somewhere. These bands are not perfect, not yet.
Soho’s "Hippychick" is a fine single, to be sure, and they present themselves with an admirable amount of bounce and verve, but they suffer from a surfeit of transience, if you get me. As Special Guest Second Opinion Chris Roberts will suggest of Jesus Jones later on, it’s all a bit much like watching a video - entertaining, (exciting, even) enough at the time, but without connecting, without touching. Too much medium and not enough message. This is either an inherent problem with the genre or the reviewer or the reviewer’s problem with the genre. Mea Culpa. Call me Mr BBC1, but I like something I can go away humming. Usually.
Anyway, here’s where we tie it all together and knot all these loose ends about the prequisites for deserving fame and the difficulties of immortality you can dance to into a gigantic tangle of logic and drop it at your wearying feet. Hold onto your hats. Almost a year ago I saw Jesus Jones play in Sydney and decided that they were trying too hard to be all things to all people, trampling themselves to death in a rush to cover all the bases. Mike Edwards later told me he thought I’d missed the point, which is probably fair enough, but my contention that they’d be a better rock band you could dance to than they are a dance band you can rock to remains unshaken.
Jesus Jones are a superb live band by all the traditional measures concerning energy, vibrancy, passion, etc, and their recent success and resulting adulation has served to bolster their unswerving belief in themselves to happily arrogant effect. (Iain particularly is in fine form, now a tag-team keyboard-player to rival Tex Axile.) However.
While "Doubt" is a stronger, more diverse album than many would think them capable of, their best songs ("Right Here Right Now" and the curiously Ray Davies-ish pop of "Welcome Back Victoria") are still the ones which are more focused, less flailing, less reliant on beat, not dance. (Again, this isn’t to say that there aren’t some relatively stonking moments among the ones that are dance - "Never Enough" and "Bring It On Down", are as ever, your proverbial storms in a beatbox. Maybe Mike should just do an acoustic solo album or something. Now that would be interesting.)
Whatever their shortcomings, Jesus Jones are less pitifully easy to pin down than most, and that can only be healthy. Yeah, I’ll buy it; the ascension starts here.
Review of Birmingham Institute gig - Sounds - February 1991
now, it's a real crotch crusher on the dancefloor, underlining Jesus Jones's
giant strides towards stardom over recent months. Sure they've always
been fancied front runners, but the 'Liquidizer' album left huge questions
marks about their staying ability - beneath the faddish, self-absorbed
techno-glitz, what else was there?
Now, with 'Doubt', they've moved from pocket billiards to Pot Black in the space of an album, and at last have the means of unfusing their always energetic live shows with a leavening wedge of songwriting quality. There's 'Victoria', which, though it lyrically gives only a slipper-shod kicking to the new puritanism, also has a jaunty singalong bitterness that hints at hidden depths in Mike Edwards; emotional armoury. Then there's 'Blissed', hitting the hardline trancedelic mainline in a manner unthinkable in the early days.
The crucial element now is control. Sure the band still operate according to a 'kitchen sink and all' philisophy, what with samples a-gog, speaker knobs cranked to 11, and a bassist who perches astride the speaker stack as if about to launch a pre-emptive stage-diving strike.
But, even as the old faves are wheeled out ('Info Freako', Never Enough'), there's less of a rasp to Edwards' voice, and the impulse to six-string excess is increasingly curbed by a cooler club culture vibe. Right here, right now, Jesus Jones are the noise of '91.
Interview - Record Mirror - 2nd March 1991
There's no doubt about it: Mike Edwards is the most talkative and courteous interviewee in the world. The success of his London-based band, Jesus Jones, over the last year has induced nothing from Mike in the way of cynicism or malice. Edwards has grown in confidence and tightened his grip on the events that surround him, events that have swallowed the egos of more impressionable types in his position.
Which equips him well to deal with the scrutiny surrounding the release of Jesus Jones' new single 'Why? Where? Why?', another quick-fire burst of dance-rock (ahem) about to set the charts alight. Of course this isn't the first single to be relased from the 'Doubt' LP, 'Real Real Real', Internatuional Bright Young Thing' and Right Here, Right Now' already having made a big impression.
"I'm not totally comfortable releasing another single form the LP," says Mike. "But, in our defence, it has been radically reworked. When people say 'This is a remix', it's so often to describe something like someone pushing up the treble in a snare drum. This is a completelty restructured arrangement, which makes me feel a little easier about it."
He has not always felt comfortable with himself and Jesus Jones' direction. Many of the songs on 'Doubt' reflect a continuous sapping inner examination which plagues Edwards' soul.
"I wrote 'Why? Where? Why?' during one of my low points," he says. "What I didn't want to do was make it sound self-pitying, but it just occured to me that when you question everything there comes a point when you say 'What is the Real me?' We are all two people: the person we're with when we dream, and the person we pretend to be when we're with other people. It's a sort of act we put on which is very sad, but helpful in that it enables us to survive.
"It has occured to me that the people who become completely genuine and honest about themselves are the ones who have the greatest mental and emotional diffculties.
"The reason our second LP is called 'Doubt' is partly because when our first LP 'Liquidizer' was released, I was doing my first heavy duty interviews, with people questioning me about everything the band and I had done and were doing. After my initial spell of super confidence which followed the album first coming out, it started to turn into self-examination, doubt and a lack of self-confidence. I looked around at what we'd done and thought 'Have we just fooled everybody? Are we really that good?' I mean, I've always thought we were good and everything, but all that constant self-searching can really knock you back.
"I've always liked the idea of doubt - questioning everything, tearing things down to the bedrock of what you really believe in and building up on that afterwards. There's a note on our LP sleeve which says the songs are about doubt, hope and optimism, whihc seems contradictory, but if you question things enough you find a level of what you truly believe in."
After 10 minutes of this I'm beginning to feel like a student of philosophy sitting in the back row of an extremely large auditorium trying to decipher what are undoubtedly pearls of wisdom from the new Messiah. One thing that is immediately apparent, though, is that Edwards, by thinking things through so far, could easily end up believing in nothing.
"Yes, I've found that that could be a problem," he continues. "There was a point when I felt I didn't know how to feel about anything and it was then that I decided I'd better start absolutely believing in the things important to me, which is why I'm super confident again. That confidence has lasted me all through the cross-examination that's gone on up to now; and people have come at me with some pretty serious attitudes.
"It's very productive for me, it sets off my imagination in all sorts of ways and it's certainly beginning to dictate the emotion on the next album.
"I'm now determined in what I believe in. I have complete confidence - unshakable confidence. It is flexible though. I still entertain ideas I find interesting and stimulating."
That Jesus Jones have had a remarkable effect on the charts and the type of music being made by artists trying to get into the charts is undeniable. Rock-dance is now the fastet growing form of 'new' music around and, with the likes of Jesus Jones and EMF controlling the uppermost slices of the top 40, it looks certain to continue that way. All of which has not gone unnoticed by Jesus Jones' record company, Food/EMI. It has poured a small fortune into TV advertising and hype so that 1991 will be Jesus Jones' year both domestically and internationally. Having written 'International Bright Young Thing' in order to keep his ego and those of his troops in check, it ironically looks like an international fate is sealed.
"For a long time now EMI have had this feeling that Jesus Jones were going to be really big," says Mike. "They didn't have to work it out for themselves, other people were writing it for them. But whether I had a record deal or not I'd have to have this form of release. It is cathartic. The best rock music always is, if it's to have any personality at all. I don't feel under pressure. It's understood that I'm being paid to be indulged in, which I find an hilarious situation...It's magnificently brilliant.
"I've never understood all these miserable gits who complain at having to do tours and go to all these different places and stay in hotels. I absolutely love it."
Far from the madding crowd (in his Liverpool hotel bedroom in fact), Mike Edwards comes across as either a completely pretentious git taking us all for a ride with his fancy city boy talk of inner torment or, as I'm prepared to stake my bus fare home on, a man of great honesty and confidence who gets a kick out of realising that other people will notice and evaluate his thoughts and leanings.
"Everybody wants to be noticed," he says, "that's why I joined a band in the first place. It's a fundamental weakness in myself and other people that we need a sense of identity. There's no better way to feel a sense of identity than, when walking through this shopping centre in Liverpool, someone comes up to you saying 'You're Mike Edwards aren't you?' I enjoy the opportunties created by fame. It's not like I just say 'Yes I am Mike Edwards, now piss off you little pleb', I just stop and speak to people. You can cut through several layers of diplomacy.
"Everyboy wants to be impressive - I'm selling myself to you. When fans come up to me they're effectively selling themselves to me. They want me to be fascinated by them and often I am. People want to appear as great characters - memorable, intelligent, witty, outrageous people."
Mike's control of Jesus Jones' destiny is certainly impressive.
"I dominate the proceedings, yes," he says with all the certainty of a rat-stuffed cobra. "I know exactly what I want. That doesn't mean the other people in the band are merely session musicians - I value their studio and live interpretations of things I've already laid down as songs in my bedroom very highly. I find their work very agreeable."
And so do the fans, who've taken to Jesus Jones like Paul Gascoigne to a plate of fried halibut. Stylish and hard, Jesus Jones are fast emerging as role models for a generation who seem to empathise whole-heartedly with the lyrical and musical panache that has become 'Jesus Jones - the youth culture force'.
"Jesus Jones exist not so much as stylistic leaders, but more because we've got the same ideas as the rest of our generation," says Mike. "It's just that we're in a position to be able to express those feelings quite well, often ahead of the market trends.
"In my more confident moments I do believe we have those qualities of innovation and, yes, we can be outstanding. But I attribute that to the fact we have a lot in common with other people in our generation."
So what do you think? A pretentious twit or a visonary with a bread bin brimming with fully-baked ideas? Answers on a postcard please stating who you are, where you live and why Jesus Jones are on their way to universal fame and fortune.
Another Review of Town And Country Club, London gig - Melody Maker - 9th March 1991
For Jesus Jones things are easier. Thankfully they've avoided the crucifixion that Stroppy Journalists might otherwise have ladled out around now - that they're got the temerity to still exist. To the munchkin suicide squads revelling in quadrophonic frenzy nothing matters, as Jesus Jones invade their heads and direct their limbs. Being the sort of chap who thinks they've never made a bad record, but nor have they ever thrilled me live, I latch onto the singles. I'm entertained, but not excited.
Maybe it's the charisma? It isn't really there. Or perhaps it's the rigidity of the drums and slightly flossy keyboards. Whatever, they are cool, undulating and stately, as well as going bananas in a bizarrely ordered rout. "Who? Where? Why?", "Real Real Real", "International Etc"... in another year they'll be able to produce a Greatest Hits album for an even younger audience! By then, "Info Freako" will be studied on the O-Level syllabus and Tanita Tikaram will be a mini-cab driver. Such is life, such is justice.
Jesus Jones, blissed out, metronomic and going click click click-click in all the right places represent the common currency. Right here. Right Now.
Another Review of Town And Country Club, London gig - Record Mirror - 16th March 1991
Jesus Jones have undergone a radical transformation over the past couple of years. From bright young upstarts to professional stars, their rise has been meteoric.
While vinyl excursions continue to veer from the entertaining to the regurgitated, onstage they come into their element with style. A mass of chaotic light, wild and precarious body jerks, and a madding musical overdose set the scene. Mike Edwards' rasping vocals and his overblown wild man routine seems so contrived that, frankly, it's embarrassing. Despite this irritation, even the sceptics among us have to admit that Jesus Jones put on a blinding live show.
For now they're on a wave. If in the future they can match the twin peaks of 'Right Here, Right Now' and the ever-excellent 'Info Freako', that wave may last. They could well become the epitome - and perhaps even the way forward - for pop music in the '90s. EMF have followed their lead. Who's next? Nick Duerden.
Questionnaire - Record Mirror - Jerry De Borg 16th March 1991
What's your best joke?
Q: What do you call a man with a shovel in his head?
Q: What do you call a man without a shovel in his head?
Q: What about a man with no shovel in his head and no ears?
A: Lugless Douglas (after-thought!).
Who's your favourite comedian?
Spike Milligan, because he's completely bizarre and enjoys cracking himself up.
How funny is Jeremy Beadle?
Is he supposed to be funny?
What's your funniest piece of underwear?
I gave them to Gen.
Have you ever pissed yourself laughing?
No, but snot usually comes flying out me nose (at an amazing spped).
Is there anything silly you wouldn't do for Comic Relief?
I wouldn't put one of those red noses on my willy.
Describe the noise you make when you laugh?
A high-pitched cackle.
Have you ever laughed at something you shouldn't have?
Of course: people with wigs.
What's your favourite comedy catchphrase?
Where are you ticklish?
How important is a sense of humour in a relationship?
It depends, my bank manager likes a laugh.
What's the funniest part of your body?
What's the last thing you laughed at?