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JOHNNY HATES JAZZ (CALVIN HAYES) INTERVIEW [2007]

YOU'RE REHEARSING AT THE MOMENT AREN'T YOU? NOT JUST FOR NEXT YEAR'S 'HERE AND NOW' SHOWS BUT BECAUSE YOU HAVE A SHOW IN MINEHEAD COMING UP DON'T YOU?

That's right, this is our third rehearsal in the last five or six weeks...

IS THAT YOUR FIRST SHOW SINCE YOU GOT THE GROUP BACK TOGETHER?

It's our first show ever! Obviously after twenty years we've had to go back and learn the songs all over again, and you know, although they sound deceptively simple actually the chords and the structure and stuff is quite tricky!

IT'S QUITE 'MUSICAL' MUSIC ISN'T IT? IF THAT'S THE RIGHT WORD, THERE'S A POLISH AND A SOPHISTICATION TO YOUR SOUND...

Well that is very much what we were always trying to achieve, to make it musical like you just said. Mike was - and still is - very much into West Coast music, as was Clark, so a lot of our influences were from there, things like Steely Dan and Michael McDonald. In fact Donald Fagan's 'The Nightfly' was a big inspiration for the sound of 'Shattered Dreams', the trend back in 1987 was to have these big drum sounds like Phil Collins' but we did the opposite and tried to make everything sound really small and I think that's part of why the sound was quite distinctive.

YOU WERE FAR MORE RESPOSIBLE FOR YOUR OVERALL SOUND THAN MOST BANDS ARE WEREN'T YOU, BECAUSE YOU WERE DOING EVERYTHING YOURSELVES?

Yeah, we engineered and produced our own records and because of that they were our babies we did put a lot into it... we were pretty meticulous, we'd spend maybe two days just on a hi-hat track! I don't think we could be called perfectionists because I don't think we quite achieved perfection (laughs) but it was never a case of 'oh that'll do'...

BETWEEN YOU ALL YOU BROUGHT A LOT OF RECORDING AND PLAYING EXPERIENCE TO THE BAND DIDN'T YOU?

Yeah that's true, in fact Mike (Nocito) trained with my dad (the legendary record producer Mickey Most), he was my father's engineer for three years and he also trained under people like Alex Sadkin who was a wonderful producer who did things like Robbie Neville and Bob Marley. It was the same with Phil Thornally so we were really all about the studio and that was where we felt most comfortable you know? Johny Hates Jazz all started with us doing a track in the studio together really and Mike suggested that we be the artists - that way if it was a hit we might get to travel, stay in nice hotels and get taken out for dinner!

SO CAN I TAKE YOU BACK A COUPLE OF WEEKS THEN? TO THAT FIRST REHEARSAL WHEN YOU WALKED INTO THAT ROOM WITH MIKE FOR THE FIRST TIME TO GET JOHNNY HATES JAZZ BACK ON THE ROAD... HOW DID IT ALL FEEL?

Well it doesn't feel odd working together - we haven't really worked together for about ten years I suppose but we have worked together over a really long time - so to use a cliché it's really a bit like putting a comfortable pair of shoes on again! The concern was that we were faced with our first ever live show and because we cared so much about how the records turned out we really wanted to make sure we did an equally good job on playing live... putting on a show that people will like.

WAS IT DIFFICULT TO DECIDE WHAT TO PLAY?

We're pretty lucky with the songs I suppose, 'Turn Back The Clock' for example is the perfect song for this kind of tour, it's almost the theme song for the 'Here And Now' tours! 'I don't Want To Be A Hero' too, the lyric is still very relevant today and 'Shattered Dreams' is just such a big song... we're really lucky to have those hits behind us because let's face it there's quite a few bands from back then who would love to do a tour like this but just don't have the catalogue...

IT'S QUITE EXTRAORDINARY I THINK, THAT YOU HAVE SUCH A GREAT SET OF SONGS GIVEN THAT JOHNNY HATES JAZZ ONLY PROPERLY RELEASED ONE ALBUM...*

Well yeah, I think we certainly did work very hard to make sure the album was as consistently good as possible. We all hated the fact that so often you'd hear a single from someone and love it and then buy the album and be really disappointed - we wanted to make an album that people who liked the singles would like just as much. We did treat everything pretty much as though it was a single...

IF EVERYTHING HAD GONE ACCORDING TO PLAN WITH YOUR SECOND ALBUM, 'TALL STORIES', WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'D BE TODAY?

Well if the band had stayed together and the accident hadn't happened then it would have been interesting to see what would have happened, especially in the states... our career was a bit like a premature ejaculation! I think the key would have been if we had managed to stay together... funnily enough Mike and I were talking about this earlier, we'd both recently heard interviews with Wet Wet Wet who were one of those bands who were always smart enough to stay together, they went off and did their own things but they never really stopped being Wet Wet Wet. We did stop being Johnny Hates Jazz!

WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES AROUND THE DECISION TO GO BACK TO BEING JOHNNY HATES JAZZ THIS TIME AROUND?

Well I think it was really that we were asked to do it! Probably ten years ago we would have just said no straight off, but I think back then the eighties was looked back on in a completely different way, whereas now it's looked back at more fondly. In the nineties to be coming from the eighties was kind of a dirty word, there were very few acts I think who managed to make that transition from decade to decade, I'm not a fan of U2 but the way they metamorphosed from being a dour rock group dressed in black to doing pop was really clever, and Madonna as well... generally though I think when a new decade starts it tends to rubbish the decade before.

ARE THERE PLANS FOR YOU TO RECORD NEW MATERIAL THIS TIME AROUND OR IS THE REUNION JUST FOR THE 'HERE AND NOW' TOUR?

Well we actually are talking about doing a new record... we have a lot of ideas and songs and things like that so it would just be a case of working out how to make an album that's relevant for now at the same sort of standard as the earlier Johnny Hates Jazz stuff...not trying to do it exactly the same but keeping the two things connected...

WHO IS IN JOHNNY HATES JAZZ THIS TIME AROUND?

Well it's me and Mike, we did approach Clark (Datchler, JHJ's original singer) to do it but for his own reasons he didn't want to do it so the singer is Danny Saxon who is an old friend of mine and is just incredibly talented musically. He's a songwriter in his own right and has produced a couple of Simply Red albums and worked with Jeff Beck and Pavarotti... he's got an incredible voice and about six months ago he said to me that he really enjoyed singing but most of the time, apart from doing the odd guide vocal for people to copy when he's making records in the studio, he doesn't get the chance to really sing so he was the perfect choice!

IS IT EXCITING TO BE ENTERING THE LIVE ARENA WITH JOHNNY HATES JAZZ AT THIS STAGE OF THEIR CAREER?

Yes it is... it's a great opportunity for us because it means we get to play an arena tour, to play Wembley, rather than going out in front of a hundred people in a pub somewhere! It makes it much more exciting, much more of a challenge...

HAVE YOU BEEN TO ANY OF THE PREVIOUS HERE AND NOW SHOWS?

I did see part of the show at Tatton Park recently, and I managed to see Altered Images and Belinda Carlisle do their sets and there were five thousand people there dancing and having a great time!

DO YOU ALREADY KNOW ANY OF THE OTHER ACTS ON THE FORTHCOMING TOUR?

We know Rick Astley, we used to do loads of the same TV shows and things... probably out of all the artists we know him the best.

ANYONE YOU'RE LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING OR MEETING?

I'm a big fan of ABC, especially their first album which I think is a real classic. We had met them before but I met Martin Fry again at the 'Here And Now' launch and he was very nice, a very friendly down to earth guy. I think this might be the time to do a tour like this, more fun than twenty years ago when everyone would probably have been a lot more... 'competitive' shall we say? There's bound to be less ego this time around. The girls from Bananarama seem nice, and the singer from Cutting Crew... it'll be good!

DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIFIC PLANS IN PLACE FOR WHAT YOU'LL BE DOING AFTER HERE AND NOW? I KNOW YOU MENTIONED THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ALBUM BUT ARE THERE ANY PLANS ACTUALLY IN PLACE FOR ANYTHING?

We'd like to do some more shows really, there are a lot of different territories where we had success before so we'd like to tour there, perhaps Europe, the Far East - there's already talk about a couple of shows in Malaysia... I'm also talking to EMI about a 21st anniversary re-release of the 'Turn Back The Clock' album, remastering it and everything. It's not that readily available now so we'd like to see that happen. And then a new record, that's the plan!

* The release of 'Tall Stories' was delayed when the band were involved in a near-fatal car crash which left Calvin in a body cast for the best part of a year and when it was released the album, the label and the band had all pretty much lost momentum.

NOVEMBER 2007

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