Technology with attitude

Burning Your Stereo Down – an interview with The Jim Jones Revue

The Jim Jones Revue are about to embark on a North American tour. Photo: Steve Gullick.

Some bands slowly build from nothing, gathering fans one at a time, while others seem to explode onto the scene with an incendiary energy. The Jim Jones Revue is a curious mix of both. Rock fans will already be familiar with Jim Jones from his many years with Thee Hypnotics, but The Jim Jones Revue is an entirely different beast – and it’s only just starting to bare its teeth.

The band’s self-titled debut was released in 2008, but it’s their 2010 album Burning Your House Down that has really lit the fuse. The album is a growling, maniacal glimpse of  good old fashioned rock’n’roll at its rawest, a collection of tunes that owes as much to The Stooges as it does to Little Richard. If you thought twelve bar blues was looking dried out and dusty, then you’ll have to rethink. The Jim Jones Revue are more likely to be seen howling at the moon than pulling up a stool at a jazz festival.

The music world has started to sit up and take notice, too. Celebrity fans include Noel Gallagher and members of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds, and The Jim Jones Revue is about to embark on a North American tour that promises to blaze a trail across the country. The tour ignites in Vancouver, BC, on September 1, 2011, with a stop at Seattle’s Bumbershoot festival and an appearance on Letterman scheduled for Tuesday September 6. (Full tour details at the end of the article).

We were lucky to catch up with Jim Jones before the start of the tour to ask him a few questions about the album, their raw twelve bar blues sound, and the trials of being on the road.

Dan Coxon: The new album sounds like the perfect soundtrack to a barroom brawl, preferably filmed by Quentin Tarantino. Do you have to work hard at getting that kind of intensity on the record, or does it simply come naturally?

Jim Jones: Most music doesn’t mean anything until you invest some intensity into it – so that is a given. But the real trick is to try and get that intensity but also the keep the maximum degree of swing in there at the same time!

DC: Twelve bar blues feels like something of a forgotten format, maybe due to the likes of Status Quo degrading it in the Eighties. What drew you back to it?

JJ: It’s true, it’s a pretty fine line you have to tread to avoid falling into the same old cliches… but if you come at it from the right angle, you can find that the form still has some wiggle room. When you hear early Little Richard recordings they still sound vital… It’s not the form, it’s the presentation.

DC: There’s a strong narrative thread to some of the songs, which immediately reminds me of Nick Cave or Tom Waits. What do you love about the narrative format? Have you ever tried writing fiction?

JJ: That’s a hugely flattering comparison… Narrative is a great way experiment with ideas about life and perception… it’s like playing God.

DC: Talking of Nick Cave, I see that Jim Sclavunos produced the new record. What was it like working with him? What influence did he have on your sound?

JJ: We wanted someone who had experience with making powerful music but avoiding the cliches… Jim was great, very hands on right from the start. He’s played with all these bands we admire – like Sonic Youth, The Cramps, The Bad Seeds, and Grinderman – and was the perfect person to make sure there was a good twist to the standard Rock’n’Roll process.

DC: The Jim Jones Revue sounds like a band that developed on the road, rather than in the studio, and you must have spent a lot of time touring when you were with Thee Hypnotics too. Do you enjoy the touring experience, or is it a necessary evil? Any horror stories from the road?

JJ: Our attitude is very much ‘the show must go on’, and we will wade through hell and high water to make it happen… Sometimes though, there’s nothing you can do. Once we played a festival in the Basque country and a torrential storm hit the stage sideways… knocked over all the amps, blew the drums off the riser, filled up the PA system with rain, knocked over a lighting rig with someone in it (the emergency services rushed him to hospital) and the whole festival stopped there, no more music. All this in the space of about five minutes! It taught us to be prepared for anything… sometimes the Gods get involved!

DC: Have you played Seattle before? Why are you looking forward to playing the Bumbershoot festival?

JJ: The Pacific Northwest is beautiful, and I have some fond memories of living in Seattle for a bit in the early 90s. I remember Bumbershoot from back then… We’re hoping it’s gonna be one of the highlights of our tour!

DC: And finally, for those who haven’t seen your live show before, can you give us an idea of what to expect?

JJ: Bring a hat, cuz the roof’s gonna come off!

The Jim Jones Revue play Bumbershoot’s Starbucks Stage at 4:00pm on Sunday September 4. Tickets for all three days of the festival are available from the official Bumbershoot website, and you can find more previews of the festival and its artists on our dedicated Bumbershoot page.

The Jim Jones Revue’s North American tour dates are as follows:

September 1 – Vancouver, BC – The Biltmore Cabaret
September 3 – Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge
September 4 – Seattle, WA – Bumbershoot Festival
September 7 – San Francisco, CA – Independent
September 8 – Los Angeles, CA – Echo
September 10 – Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
September 11 – Allston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
September 12 – Montreal, QC – Casa del Popolo
September 13 – Toronto, ON – Horseshoe Tavern
September 14 – Chicago, IL – Schuba’s Tavern
September 16 – Philadelphia, PA – The Blockley Pourhouse
September 17 – Washington, DC – Black Cat
September 18 – Hoboken, NJ – Maxwell’s