Howard Jones Exclusive Interview with Glasgow Eyes
By Sean Graham
Howard Jones burst on to the scene back in 1983 with his synthesisers and lyrics of positivity on his debut song, New Song .
He has supported artists like China Crisis, OMD, Eurythmics and Peter Gabriel to name but a few and he won the Best New Artist award in 1984 in three separate readers polls.
Howard has gone on from strength to strength selling millions of albums and cracked the USA with the beautiful, No One is to Blame.
He also flew in to play Wembley ( in the middle of a tour) when he was one of many artists to take part in Live Aid in 1985 one of the highlights of his fantastic career.
Howard has been writing and performing for many years and he is back on tour throughout the UK including Glasgow with support from Dan Burton but he took time out to speak to Glasgow Eyes about his career in music and the up and coming tour promoting his new album, Best 1983-2017.
Who would have thought that a guy who started off in the early seventies in a classical rock band called Warrior, would be on of the iconic figures of the eighties and an artist we still know and love to this day!
Glasgow Eyes Get To Know Howard Jones Well!
Howard, you have been writing and performing for years and it’s clear you still love it as much now as you did back in the eighties and the fans still love eighties bands and you and your music, what has kept you going?
For me, I have always done what I do, I love music and I love writing.
I come from that generation, we were just following our instincts and it was a great time for music.
I think there are really great bands out there and really great music in our country now.
We have such great talent and it’s amazing and I am really glad that the people still want to come and see us.
Can you tell us a bit about your new Electric Band?
It’s kind of been an evolution to this stage, it’s a five piece band now, the band used to be me, Robbie and Johnny on drums but we have added two more people to the band.
One is Robin Boult ,my guitarist, who I have worked with for about 20 years and who is a genius guitarist and a lady called, Emily Dolan Davies, who is an incredible drummer and percussionist
She has added more percussion and rhythm to the band and with Robin on guitar it is the best band I have ever had and I am very excited about it.
I have heard the visuals on this tour are pretty special, what is different?
We try to upgrade everything and we try to make it better all the time and not stand still.It is very important to me that we don’t get stuck in a rut and always keep moving forward.
How many synthesisers will you be bringing on this tour?
I keep all my synths at home in the studio because they are all pretty valuable to me and they don’t really take to going on the road very well, I come home and they are smashed to bits.
I use a thing called MainStage, which has software inside it that which emulates all my classic synths, Jupiter 8, Juno 60 and the 808 drum machine, all those classic sounds I can now have on my laptop on stage.
So it is much more powerful and we can make a much better and cleaner sound and also make sure it works, so that’s the way I have gone.
I like to use the modern technology, when I am at home in the studio I get the old synths out but when I do that live so that you are going for quality of sound and flexibility and reliability, that’s what I have done.
Do you have any early memories of playing Glasgow?
I particularly remember the first time I played Glasgow. I was opening up for China Crisis on our first national tour.
I got to Glasgow and I got such an incredible reaction and that gave me such amazing confidence to go and do the rest of the tour.
I thought, wow, these people really, really, like the music and are really showing it to me and it really was a big turning point for me, so I have always had that connection.
When we played the Apollo and the whole balcony was leaping up and down, it was amazing.
I have had some absolutely cracking gigs up there, I have got a big of history with Glasgow, so I love coming back.
I did a couple of acoustic shows at Oran Mor recently and really enjoyed those as well, Glasgow is great for me.
The music from the eighties in particular has stood the test of time, why do you think this is?
I do think it was a great era for music there were so many different things going on at the same time.
Different genres of music, there was something for everyone and people could have their own tribe.
If you liked electronic music, you had that, if you wanted Indie music, Soul, Reggae, Heavy Metal, anything, there was a real mix and I think that music was very important to that generation.
Now they have had their kids and they are coming out again to see concerts again, it’s really great.
Your music in particular always had a feel good factor to it , was this intended?
I always thought that it was important for me to be putting out music that gives people a bit of a boost.
Life can be tough for everyone in so many ways.
Someone in your family may not be doing very well or it’s difficult at work , it’s not an easy time.
I think music can really help give people a boost to say, come on we can really get through this, we can get over this problem.
That is what I am trying to put out there in my work and I think a lot of people in the eighties were doing that.
Do you think most folk were surprised when Jed appeared with you on Top of the Pops?
I don’t think that many people realise that Jed and I had been doing that show live for three years!
It wasn’t just a case of , let’s just get Jed on to Top of the Pops, we did the whole show with him as all different characters.
New Song was at 44 at the time and they never used to go down that low on Top of the Pops, they only went to 30 maybe so they went down to 44 and it was a big break for me and we did the show and it just went mental after that and I was absolutely petrified doing it.
I had grown up with Top of the Pops , it was like a religion to me.
I watched it every Thursday night , it was like seeing the history of pop evolve right in front of your face and I couldn’t wait !
Before I was actually going on it and it looks like I was fairly calm but underneath, I was just bricking it but it did go well and things marched on from there.
Do you miss Top of the Pops?
I really miss it! I love to see what new bands are doing and what they look like.
You can do that but you have to do a lot more work to find them on You- Tube etc but yeah I do wish that it was still going.
What was your message of positivity behind New Song?
The song was really about not being afraid to have a go at things you really want to do.
Some of those things may be just beyond what we can do but it always leads you to the right thing I think.
If you are not afraid to have a go, it will take you to where you are supposed to be and that is what the song is all about because that was my thing.
I was working in a factory and I really wanted to do music. I was spending all night in demo studios and I was falling asleep at work because I was so knackered, I kept believing that it was really possible that you could do what you wanted to do, so I put that into work and into the song.
Can you tell me how Phil Collins became involved in the beautiful, No One is to Blame?
The first version was on Dream into Action but I thought that it could be more of a radio song.
I met Phil at the Prince’s Trust and he really loved the song and agreed to do it and we done it over two weekends down at Genesis studios
It just worked, it was my biggest song in America reaching number 4 and I think it got to number 16 in the UK, it was a shame that it didn’t get further as it was an important song of mine, it was never really that big a hit here.
What was it like to play at Wembley for Live Aid?
That was amazing! I did one song which was Hide and Seek and got to meet Paul and Linda McCartney, Davie Bowie members of Queen, it was just incredible!
I had also met Diana and Charles, it was just thing after another and I will never forget that day and doing the song.
I got to the chorus and the whole of Wembley joined in with me and you can hear it on the recording.
It gave me such a boost to have everyone join in, I will never ever forget that day it was just incredible!
Howard Jones and the Electric Band Plus Special Guest Dan Burton will be performing at the following venues in the UK
Thursday 23rd November 02 ABC Glasgow
Friday 24th November 02 Ritz Manchester
Saturday 25th November 02 Institute Birmingham
Wednesday 29th November Tramshed Cardiff
Thursday 30th November 02 Shepherd’s Bush