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HOWARD JONES INTERVIEW [2006]

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE HITMAKERS TOUR IN THE FIRST PLACE?

Well Martin and I have been talking about going out together for... I don't know, it seems like decades! So we just needed to find the right promoter to get it together for us and that's what happened... we really did talk about it forever though. Mind you, I don't know what his story is...

I THINK HE JUST SAID 'THEY ASKED ME!' AND I THINK HE QUITE LIKED THE IDEA OF GOING ON TOUR WITH YOU AND TOYAH...

That's about it. Martin and I have done quite a few things together and we're good mates actually so we know we're going to enjoy it and we know the other person isn't going to be trying to sabotage everything!

AND TOYAH, IS SHE SOMEONE YOU'VE WORKED WITH BEFORE?

Yeah, she did one of the Here & Now tours and I think she's great, but my children particularly like her and like her outfits and everything.

WELL SHE HINTED THAT FOR THIS TOUR THE OUTFIT IS GOING TO BE A KIND OF JAPANESE KABUKI THING...

Fantastic, I will look forward to that - I did like the copper bodice last time!

I THINK SHE'S KIND OF HER OWN WORST ENEMY IN THAT SHE WANTS EACH COSTUME TO BE BETTER THAN THE LAST, BUT I SUPPOSE THAT'S KIND OF THE SAME WITH ANY PERFORMANCE... YOU ALWAYS NEED TO BE PULLING SOMETHING NEW OUT OF THE HAT?

Yes that's right, and that's why every three years or so I really try to radically change the way that I present myself live because people get bored, and more importantly because we get bored... we can get so good at doing it one way, solving the problems or whatever, that we need a new challenge...

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR OWN INTEREST IN A SONG? 'NEW SONG' FOR EXAMPLE YOU MUST HAVE PERFORMED THOUSANDS OF TIMES...

Well it was very interesting because we did a 20th Anniversary show in London and that was in four parts, acoustic, contemporary electronic and a full band set, and then a second part showing people what it was like when I started which was the 808 drum machine and the Pro One sequencer and everything and I just remembered the excitement of those days and of just wrestling with the gear and making it up as I went along... and how much fun that was and I thought I'd love to do a contemporary version of that again but with a larger band and have that freedom again, that 'by the seat of your pants' vibe because out of those four sets I probably enjoyed that one the most.

DID YOU EXPECT THAT SET TO BE THE ONE YOU ENJOYED THE MOST?

Um... no! I didn't expect it, obviously I did enjoy all of them but that one was really quite special and Jed came on and joined me...

YOU ARE IN REHEARSALS NOW AREN'T YOU? HOW IS IT ALL GOING?

They are going really well now... we started off having a few technical problems with some of the new things we were trying to do and the gear wasn't quite stable enough to use live but we've changed a few things and it's all working really well now, I'm very happy. It's a completely new set-up, I've got an electronic drummer playing pads and standing up, and guitar and a completely new keyboard rig - it's like I used to do, but expanded and brought up to date which is great because it basically gives you the freedom to do whatever you want which is something I have always tried to aim for with electronic music, to make it as free and improvised as you can be with a normal band... it's like a holy grail!

IS IT A POINT THAT IS GOING TO BE POSSIBLE TO GET TO? TO ACTUALLY HAVE THAT KIND OF FREEDOM ONSTAGE?

Yes... I think on this tour we're close, this is the closest I've got to it since I started, with the whole band. All brand spanking new for The Hitmakers tour!

DO YOU LIVE WITH THAT PERPETUAL FEAR OF ALL THE EQUIPMENT GOING DOWN?

Yes! I wake up about half four every morning in a cold sweat! there is always that but what we're trying to do with this one is that we have a safety margin in that I've got my piano and Robin has got his acoustic guitar so if all goes horribly wrong we can always fall back on that... and usually people love that!

I SPOKE TO THOMAS DOLBY RECENTLY AND ON HIS RECENT TOUR THE EQUIPMENT DID ALL FAIL AT ONE SHOW AND HE HAD TO RESTART EVERYTHING BUT WHEN HE WAS TALKING TO THE AUDIENCE AFTER THE SHOW PEOPLE THOUGHT IT WAS PART OF THE ACT... A KIND OF EXTENDED DRAMATIC PAUSE!

Yeah I think Tom is very much in the same position as me, in all that we've done we have always taken it to the edge, and when you do that it is sometimes going to go wrong! Then all the conventional musicians have a little chuckle! But to an extent it is the fear that is the exciting thing about it!

WOULD I BE RIGHT TO ASSUME THAT TECHNOLOGY IS MORE RELIABLE NOW THAN WHEN YOU FIRST STARTED OUT?

Um... I suppose you're right but the thing is that if you are using cutting-edge things then it's the same because those cutting edge things are not tried and tested and proven and nobody should be mad enough to take it out on the road but some of us do! So I think we're really still in the same boat but the only thing now is that I have built in this safety mechanism where I can just play the piano and Robin can play guitar and people just say 'oh he played a nice acoustic set'...

THROUGHOUT THE HITMAKERS TOUR, EVERY TIME THERE SOME TIME OFF IN FACT, YOU KEEP POPPING OFF TO DIFFERENT CONTINENTS..

.

Yes... it's called 'extreme touring'! It's like how difficult can you make it for yourself? Basically all these gigs came in... when you get asked to do gigs it's difficult to turn them down and I remember Kevin Wilkinson used to say 'a gig's a gig and you have to be grateful to have them' and it seemed such a shame to turn them down and so that's why I'm doing them... it keeps you fresh!

I THINK IT MIGHT BE THE OPPOSITE! FIVE SHOWS IN THE UK THEN CANADA AND THE USA FOR A COUPLE OF DAYS AND BACK TO THE UK FOR ANOTHER FEW SHOWS...

I know! There's something about this year where it's been all about trying to pack in as much as I possibly can!

HAS IT BEEN A GOOD YEAR?

Yes it's been fantastic and I think that by the end of the year we'll have done over seventy shows and that's really fantastic for me, I haven't done that for a long time... and I've really enjoyed every single one I think. I'm looking forward to the Hitmakers tour especially because that's going to be with a band and we'll have a really good time... that will probably be the highlight of the year for me.

WHAT KIND OF SET ARE YOU PLANNING FOR THE HITMAKERS SHOWS?

Well I'm going to do a lot of stuff from the first two albums because that suits this way of playing things - I'm doing 'Equality' which I haven't done for a very long time, and 'Look Mama' which I haven't done for a long time and I'm doing one new song, 'Just Look At You Now' which works really well and I can't not do all the hits... but they will sound different because it's a different line-up and I'm treating them in a different way. It's all got quite a retro feel to it which I think is quite a contemporary thing to do at the moment, whereas before I've tried not to be that, I've tried to be more contemporary. This time I've deliberately said 'I want the 808 drum machine to start this song' and I want those references to be in there.

I THINK THERE'S A KIND OF LOOP ISN'T THERE? THINGS HAVE COME FULL CIRCLE AND THOSE SOUNDS DO SOUND CONTEMPORARY AGAIN...

Yes, that's exactly right. I think this is the time to be referring to that a lot because as you say it has come round again and that's the sound that people are thinking is contemporary even though we all know it started twenty-five years ago! I do think it's interesting how it all comes round and how it all becomes raw material for new things. I think that it's interesting that DJs will now include things from the eighties in their sets along with very contemporary things is great...

WHICH REMINDS ME... AT ONE STAGE FAIRLY RECENTLY THERE WAS TALK OF A DANCE COLLABORATION BETWEEN YOU AND FERRY CORSTEN?

That has actually happened and I did write a song with him which is on his new album... I haven't actually had the album yet, I think it may have gone out there and kind of fallen by the wayside... it's a really good track actually, it's called 'Into The Dark', which reminds me, I must do it... not on this tour but maybe on the next one!

WHEN I SPOKE TO MARTIN FRY AND TO TOYAH FOR THIS SET OF INTERVIEWS THERE WAS TALK FROM BOTH OF THEM THAT THEY'D LIKE TO TRY SOME SORT OF COLLABORATION, WITH YOU AS WELL...

I would love to do it but no-one has said anything yet! I suspect we'll get it together shortly before... I would really like to do it actually. Normally there's a lot of fighting and squabbling backstage but on this tour there's not, we're all mates and we actually want each other to do really well, we want to support each other so it would be great to do something together so I am definitely up for that.

'SUFFRAGETE CITY' WAS MENTIONED AS A POSSIBILITY BY MARTIN AND TOYAH WAS VERY ENTHUSIASTIC ABOUT THAT TOO...

Has it? Great! Well I'm up for that!

I FEEL LIKE SOME SORT OF MATCHMAKER - ALL THREE OF YOU HAVE TOLD ME THAT YOU'D BE UP TO DO SOMETHING BUT NONE OF YOU HAVE DISCUSSED IT BETWEEN YOURSELVES!

I'd better start learning it!

MOVING FORWARD FROM THE HITMAKERS TOUR YOU HAVE QUITE A FEW THINGS IN THE WORKS HAVEN'T YOU? LAST TIME WE SPOKE YOU WERE JUST ABOUT TO START WORK ON A PIANO SOLOS ALBUM...

Well that's all done now and we're just about to master it... we want to put it out in 5.1 as well as in regular stereo but that is imminent and we want to put it out before Christmas hopefully. I've now also got all the remixes for a remix album version of the 'Revolution Of The Heart' album and again we're going to have three special 5.1 mixes with that package as well... I hope to make it before the end of the year as well but because of this tour that might not happen, but I have got the artwork and all the tracks and it's just a question of getting it done now!

IS IT SOMETHING YOU HAVE REMIXED YOURSELF OR IS IT SOMETHING YOU'VE ASKED OTHER PEOPLE TO DO?

I've asked other people to do it. I don't really do remixes myself but I know what I like and I've invited certain people to do things and there's quite a big selection now and we're really ready to go.

IT ALREADY SOUNDS LIKE NEXT YEAR WILL BE VERY BUSY FOR YOU!

Yeah, well I've already got America, Australia and Dubai in before April and I hope to go to Japan next year as well so hopefully it will all pan out!

SEPTEMBER 2006

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