The former Jim Jones Revue frontman is back with a new band, returning to Brighton as part of the People Powered show at the Brighton Dome. We spoke to him about musical and political developments and the strength of community protest.
Did you have any hesitation or concerns in taking part in this fundraiser?
Absolutely not. I genuinely feel like I’m getting a chance to serve my country. There is, finally, some hope for the future, and I’m proud to be be a part of that.
Jeremy Corbyn gets a similar reception and has as devoted a following as you – have you been to any of his rallies?
Oh yeah, a few of us from the band have been to see him speaking. There are so very few people in British politics that appear to genuinely represent the interests of the people above the interests of the establishment, and the military industrial complex. I think what so many of us are inspired by is his authenticity; which is, sadly, such a rare virtue for someone in his position. With what seems to be the full weight of the mainstream media doing their best to discredit him; the very least we can do is stand up for him, and speak up for him. Or shout even?
Why did you decide to call it a day as the Jim Jones Revue?
Obviously it’s never just one thing that causes a split, it’s a mixture of things. I will say this though: a band exists on the energy and the chemistry between the members. Once that starts to wear out, you have no other choice but to carry on as a self-parody, or call it a day. We had done some amazing things together and in the end we decided to draw a line and preserve the memory of an incredible journey.
Any regrets or was it the right thing to do?
What can you say? We could have pressed on as a ‘job’ or money-making operation, but that would have gone against the original feeling of the band, which was just a pure celebration of rock’n’roll uber alles.
How did it feel doing a whole tour of farewell shows leading up to the Forum finale?
The last tour was pretty intense. Really a bittersweet experience, but most of the best things in life are that way, aren’t they?
The last show round here was so explosive it left people buzzing and talking about it for months afterwards. Do you have any memories of that show or of visiting Brighton over the years?
Brighton has always been somewhere we look forward to playing and always such a visceral experience. One time when we played The Great Escape, the room got so hot that the lacquer in my guitar started to run.
How does The Righteous Mind differ from the Revue? Is it a natural progression, free from the expectations of that band?
Exactly. For me, The Righteous Mind is what the JJR would have become under the best circumstances.
The songs you’ve released so far have a dark country/neo-gothic feel with a touch of Lee Hazlewood. Is he a big influence?
Immense! There’s a whole other world in Lee’s music for everyone to discover. I think that side of the music was something I’d been keen to express and get out of my system for a while, so it was the first thing I got stuck into with the new band. Now I’m starting to feel the beast of rock’n’roll rearing its ugly/beautiful head again. It feels good to be in a position where you can go with the ebb and flow of those things again.
Were you surprised when Henri Herbert became a YouTube sensation and have you seen his new rock’n’roll band in action?
I was surprised Henri wasn’t a sensation years ago, he is a machine. He was working with us on the first sessions for The Righteous Mind when the interest in his straight up boogie woogie stuff became so great that he had to say goodbye and get out there on his own. I haven’t had a chance to see his band, but we keep in touch. I shared a stage with him for a recent Johnny Cash tribute night, and it was great to catch up.
You seem to attract a lot of highly excitable female (and male) fans at gigs – what’s it like being a sex symbol?
Ha ha… wish I knew!
With the demise of London’s Tin Pan Alley and new neighbours shutting down venues, is there any hope for small London venues?
These are dark times we’re living through, to be sure. I think one of the few weapons we have against the corporate stranglehold, is community. Independent venues are places where people of all ages and backgrounds can come together and celebrate real life and real art and real music. It’s essential to fight for and understand how important these places are – they are the headquarters of the resistance.
You directed and produced the ‘Aldecide’ video. How difficult was it to put together and do you plan to expand on this with longer videos or even a feature length film?
I love the idea of working on a feature length film, but really, I’ve got enough on my plate for the time being. I can only imagine how all-consuming it must be to give birth to such a thing. Bringing that little video to life was very draining, and particularly tough trying to make something of quality with very little time and money. I was extremely lucky to know a bunch of really talented, creative and generous people that were up for helping me midwife the thing into the world.
When will the album be released and can we expect to see you back in Brighton for a full show soon?
The LP is ready to go, and due for release early next year (February, with a bit of luck and a strong tailwind). Once the album is out, I want to be touring like a maniac – no excuses! There are a lot of places we haven’t had a chance to play yet, and Brighton is a MUST!
Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind are playing at the People Powered concert at Brighton Dome on 16th December 2016
Photo by Steve Gullick