Jesus Jones – Mike Edwards

Interview by Mark Bayross

Jesus Jones were one of the bands that defined the alternative sound of the late 80s / early 90s. Alongside bands like EMF, The Shamen and Pop Will Eat Itself, they occupied the elusive territory between indie student cred and the Charts, scoring hits with legendary singles like RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW and WHO? WHERE? WHY?, reaching number one with their second album DOUBT and playing to stadium crowds.

The band went on to release another two albums, PERVERSE in 1993 and ALREADY in 1997, but spent most of the mid-to-late nineties concentrating on side-projects and, in the case of lead singer and main songwriter Mike Edwards, mountain biking in Tibet. Last year, they recorded LONDON – album number five – although so far it has only been released in the US. They have also been out on the road and have tours of the UK and the US scheduled for May and June of this year.

Now EMI are releasing NEVER ENOUGH: THE BEST OF JESUS JONES, a two CD compilation of classic tracks, remixes and a brand new track. What’s more, it will be accompanied by a DVD of all 12 of the band’s videos, and will coincide with the re-release of the first three albums.

Time for PHASE9 to catch up with Mike Edwards…

A retrospective of Jesus Jones songs is long overdue. Had you been planning a “best of” for a while?

Actually, responsibility for that is entirely in the record company’s hands. When EMI suggested it we were having a bit of an interesting week – our original drummer had come back and said he would like to get back together with us again. A guy in America who had a record label had also contacted us and said he wanted to release some of our new stuff. That’s what really interests me – I have always seen Jesus Jones as doing new things…I have a real problem with the thought of being seen as some kind of nostalgia act.

The Prodigy and The Aphex Twin have remixed some of your songs for the album – are they friends of yours?

Not really. I used to meet Richard James out and about during my serious clubbing days… I have always liked what he did, so the remix was a personal request. I hadn’t met Liam Howlett before though.

When you did meet him, did he thank you for opening the doors for his band?

[Laughs]…It’s interesting because at the time, he was looking for a rock band to help him bridge that gap, and fair play to him cos he really pulled it off!

What is your favourite Jesus Jones song?

I suppose I have a number of favourites. RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW has always been one of my favourite songs, even when it was half-completed…and it went on to do really well. I’ve been quite fortunate with that song, as it could have been a real millstone around my neck… INFO FREAKO, certainly…and the third album, PERVERSE, which is the band’s and fans’ favourite. Most of the first and second albums I don’t like…

Really? There are some moments on LIQUIDIZER and DOUBT that are really powerful, really ahead of their time…

You’re certainly not the first person to say that to me recently! [Laughs] It’s quite flattering, but I think those records are very much of-their-time. Having said that, they’re not something I’d ever change.

You toured with The Wonder Stuff last year. Were those the first shows you’d played in a while?

We did three dates in December (2001) with them…I’m not sure you’d call that a tour! [Laughs] But, no, we had played together beforehand – we did a few dates in America and played in New York six months ago. So we’ve been playing in dribs and drabs…

How did it feel to be playing live again?

Absolutely fantastic! The dates with The Wonder Stuff and the shows we did in America, which were a bunch of low-key club gigs, were some of the best we’ve ever done. It’s great because there’s no pressure now – we’re not trying to prove anything to anyone. Now I can really enjoy playing.

You have upcoming tours of the UK and US – what can we expect from your live shows?

Well, there wasn’t much broken that needed repairing. Without wanting to sound big-headed, we always were a good live band – it really helps that we’re a bunch of friends. As for what to expect, we’ll be playing some new stuff from the new album that was released in America.

Has LONDON only been released in the US so far on account of the American record deal you mentioned earlier?

Yes, it’s because that deal came from America. I’m not sure if it’s going to be released over here – I mean, you can buy it here on the Internet, of course. As long as you can buy it on the web site, we’re not all that bothered about releasing it in the UK. I guess we’ll see how things go…

What have been your favourite moments of your career so far?

Going to Romania was an incredible experience, largely because of the time we went. It was a month after the revolution, and music was a real social force, not just entertainment. Another great moment was listening to our manager’s message on the answerphone, saying our album [DOUBT] had got to number one. Then, in the summer of ’91, we had a number 2 hit single [RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW] in America – it was a very exciting time.

Which bands do you see as kindred spirits?

It’s hard to say now…I suppose bands like The Wonder Stuff, although not musically… I always like to say The Shamen – they were very influential on us – I think we saw a similar way of making music… I’m flattering myself a bit here, but The Prodigy when they went for their ‘rock’ sound on MUSIC FOR THE JILTED GENERATION…

Do you feel you have helped create a crossover sound that other bands were able to follow?

It wasn’t just us. By the end of the ‘80s, it was clear that a lot of music was going that way, using samplers and so on. It’s not like we invented anything…I don’t sit there and go “told you so”…!

How did you end up working with Traci Lords on her album 1000 FIRES?

She really liked a song on DOUBT and got in touch…well, her people got in touch with my people…

And what was she like?

She was wonderful! She’s the queen of the clubbing scene in LA and a really respected DJ out there. Her taste is pretty eclectic. I was very impressed with her – she knew what she wanted and how to get it – and she’s very talented lyrically – there’s a song on the album called FATHER’S FIELD that’s very harrowing. She was really sweet, nice and very clever.

How come Iain [Baker, keyboards] ended up DJing on Xfm?

I think his wife sent one of his tapes in to Xfm – it’s as simple as that! It’s wasn’t an old boy network thing, there were no strings attached…!

You once played the Tunbridge Wells Forum. What was that like?

We never had a problem going from playing big shows to little shows. We could quite easily go from playing in front of 10,000 people in America to, like, 40 somewhere in Europe. The way we see it, every gig has its own merits – you’ve got to do the best you can no matter where you’re playing.

With all your success in America, do you feel more affinity for the States than the UK?

Absolutely not! Otherwise we might have called the last album “New York”…! Some of the music that came out of America like acid house and early hip-hop was hugely influential, but on the whole the market there is dominated by slow-moving mainstream music, and I’m afraid I don’t feel much affinity with that!

PHASE9 would like to thank Mike Edwards for this interview.

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