An Interview with Pete R Jones:
Bassist, producer, artist and writer, it’s looking like a busy time for Pete. Apart from a recent extended tour with Department S, where they have supported The Rezillos up and down the country, he has been working on his biography and a solo album. Interesting times ahead, but of course, there’s a lot to delve into Pete’s past to see what makes him tick. Apart from the obvious references to his time in Public Image Limited and several musical interludes with Martin Atkins, lets find out what we should expect from Pete in 2019.
Where is Pete R Jones today?
“Physically, I’m in St Albans in rented accommodation while building work is being carried out on my house in Harpenden. Mentally, I’m all over the place juggling loads of different things at once. That suits me coz I get bored easily”.
Your website is the place to go for all things but where does ‘Joyless’ come from? http://www.joylessjones.co.uk/
“I’m naturally a dark person, but rather than get depressed about it I embrace the dark moods and just roll with it. Paradoxically, I’m at my happiest when I’m miserable. A good friend of mine gave me the Joyless moniker a while ago and it kinda stuck. Some say I could have an argument in an empty room”.
Your recent exploits with Martin Atkins sounded like it was well overdue, any future plans to meet up/work together?
“It was great to meet up with Martin again, i’d not seen him since last year when he came over to give a talk in Manchester. This time, he was in the UK talking about his 5 years in PiL and very entertaining it was too. At the Islington, I joined him onstage and we rattled through some bits of old PiL tunes together, reigniting one of the best rhythm sections PiL ever had. We haven’t played together since 1983 and it was great fun. When Martin releases his book next year (and mine too) we are looking at doing something similar but the extent of that has yet to be decided but we are both keen to do something along the same lines. Playing a bit breaks up the monologue nicely and as Martin can talk for 2 to 2 and a half hours its nice for the listener to hear music interspersed. Martin invited me over to Chicago in December to play at his talk there but unfortunately I can’t make it”.
What’s a typical week in the life of Pete R Jones?
“There isn’t a typical week for me! At the moment I’m more or less project managing the build at our house so I’m visiting the site every day, chasing builders and suppliers for various things. I fit in a bit of recording or writing as the mood takes me, if I get bored I’ll just go for a walk with the dog or look for some Tories to fight. I also do all the cooking in our house so I have to remember to get the dinner on at the right time”.
You have a studio, it’s it purely for personal use and production?
“Yes, its only a small studio so I can’t fit in an orchestra or anything. A new room at the house will be a bit bigger but still only for my own use to write or mix projects for others. We recorded a lot of the Department S album there apart from the live drums, Eddie was singing under the stairs with my dog at his feet”.
Your new album, how was that created?
“I wrote some songs a while ago destined for a new Department S album. When it became clear that a new Dept S album wasn’t gonna happen anytime soon I decided to use the songs for myself. Mostly they are built from the drums up, but all start out as fragments of ideas that I gradually add to over time. I record in Pro Tools and run Reason v10 for all the soft synths”.
What’s the driving force behind the new album?
“A desire to get this stuff done before it’s too late, to leave something behind. We’re not getting any younger”.
An unusual title for the album “Contrivances for the Soul’, should we look for a deeper meaning?
“That’s up to you! The title came to me one night in the early hours when I was fast asleep. I heard a voice say to me “go forth and manufacture contrivances for the soul” the voice was so loud it woke me up and in the pitch darkness I thought there was someone in the room. Of course there wasn’t anybody there but it freaked me out and bugged me for ages and it didn’t really make any sense. I eventually realised that if I made an album called Contrivances for the Soul, then it would make sense so once that seed was planted I kinda had to do it. Weird innit?”.
A solo album but you did have one ‘special’ guest. What did they bring that you felt was needed?
“I had one track left to finish mixing called Psycho Drill that needed a guitar solo. I wasn’t happy with what I had recorded and Leigh Heggarty from Ruts DC said he’d give it a bash. He did a great job (of course) putting 4 different guitar parts on the track it was so much better. I wish he’d been there from the start”.
Is this the start of something bigger?
“I doubt it. I have been talking with various showbizz chums of mine about playing live next year. A sort of supergroup but nothing firmed up yet. I guess fronting my own band is the ultimate challenge for me, as I’ve never done that before. I might do a special one-off concert but I’m not sure if I have the stomach for it, I wouldn’t want it to be just another aged rock band, I’d need to to be different in some way”.
Any plans for an album launch?
“Not yet. Unless I’m in a position to play the songs live there’s little point. I might have a launch on my own”.
You have used Pete Maher to master your album, any particular reason?
“He’s one of the best! Reasonable rates too and I’ve used him previously. He is a rare breed who supports unsigned musicians with his price structure. He also masters U2 so if its good enough for them!”
You’re working on your biography, is it a work in progress or should we expect it anytime soon?
“I’m at the first draft. My editors are hacking it to pieces as we speak. I am hoping to have it out by the time the new album is out March 15th 2019. I keep rewriting parts of the book and its been a bit of a slog to be honest, i’ll get there eventually though!”
Any ghosts to exorcise in the book?
“Loads. I’ve been quite open and honest, perhaps too honest at times but I like the transparency, nothing to hide approach. As long as the legal team don’t protest I’ll be ok. Its been quite cathartic to revisit some of the stuff in there, I just hope its entertaining for the readers”.
Department S has been a part of your life since 2014, has the ‘joy’ returned?
“To an extent. I can usually find something to moan about though”.
Where do Department S go from here?
“We need to review our strategy going forward through 2019. There are things we need to sort out to keep the enthusiasm going. We are essentially treading water and have been for 18 months or so. We were hoping to pick up support on the Stranglers tour next year but Dr Feelgood got it instead which was a shame. Probably fewer gigs, perhaps an EP”.
How did you develop your playing style and sound?
“By doing my own thing and not copying anyone else. I’ve never played in a covers band, have always played original material which has helped and therefore have never been confined by a load of other bass lines i’d learned. I’m not a purist, in as much I don’t follow the traditional technique that others might but that’s because I’ve been playing for over 40 years without any professional guidance or lessons. I made several attempts at learning to read music when I was longer but never had a need for it”.
Are there any standout performances or gigs that stick in your mind?
“The first PiL gig at Roseland in New York was immense. The first the band did since the infamous riot show the previous year. A couple of the larger Dept S gigs at Rebellion and Alternative Music Fest were great too. Brian Brain gigs were always a lottery and a couple of times we ended up in hospital so they were memorable for all the wrong reasons!!”
What’s left on the ‘bucket list’ for Pete R Jones?
“A new bucket. Apart from that, I’m nearly done”.