MOUTHY ISSUE TWO
interview by Ben Gott
Stephen Jones has had a long and prolific career. After releasing four albums of lo-fi masterpieces in the early 1990's, he emerged in 1996 with Ugly Beautiful, his first major-label release. The hit "You're Gorgeous" peaked at #3 in the British charts. After another lo-fi album and a Greatest Hits collection, he released There's Something Going On (which contained the singles "Bad Old Man" and "If You'll Be Mine") and "Bugged" (which introduced the world to the magic of "Fireflies"). A limited-edition three-inch CD set of soundtrack music followed after Jones was released from The Echo Label. His first album for Sanctuary, Almost Cured of Sadness, was released earlier this year. PlayLouder calls it "an utterly brilliant, triumphant rebirth," and Manchester Online calls it "real and honest." Mouthy's own pet rock, Ben Gott, sat down at the computer to talk to Jones about major labels, obsessive fans, and, of course, his favorite British band. (Ben's, that is.)
So here you are, off the Echo Label and recording again as a lo-fi musician. How was it being on a big label, and what are the plusses and minuses of being free?
The label I am on now is Sanctuary, which is in fact bigger than Echo, so there are more problems. Working at home is the still the fun part, but then the machine takes over and I get lost. Again, I am the victim of a poorly-promoted album. Just got to get it right next time.
Every Babybird album is different, and Almost Cured Of Sadness, although not a Babybird album, is about as different as it gets. What made you decide to go off in such a direction?
I never chose a particular style. I go into a studio, empty my head, and use whatever's got batteries in, a plug on, or still has some surviving strings or piano keys. Structurally, the start is the loop, then a simple two note three note thing, made up on the spot, then layered and samples added. On the bigger studio Babybird albums, there was the time and facility to replay and improve on stolen sounds.
You've listed a very diverse set of influences in the past, Carter Burwell comes to mind most immediately. Who are some of the people whose music has paved the way for yours?
I don't really have influences. I love a lot of things (Burwell, etc.). They go in through the ears and are mashed up with everything I have ever seen or heard. Then this subconscious splurge emerges; then the mess is tidied and tarted up into song shape. Of late, I have been listening to the Chinese film score, “In the Mood for Love.” I was brought up on film, so Jim Jarmusch, David Lynch, Hal Hartley, and hip-hop Ice Cube's first four albums, Eric B & Rakim, Public Enemy's "Burn Hollywood Burn," etc.
Do you have obsessive fans? Are they a pain in the arse, or can you take them in stride?
In the old days, yea, and there are some that I have met from the website forum - a couple of fucking middle age weirdo women who wanted to rape me in front of my girlfriend.
What other musicians would you like to collaborate with?
I would rather work with filmmakers. I currently have a film agent who is looking. That’s how I started, writing instrumentals.
What's your favorite place to play live?
With the old band, the best was playing and making up stuff for There’s Something Going On in a studio in the southern Spain hillside called Il Cortijo. Live, it would probably be somewhere small and intimate, for 100-200 people. I have played to 20,000 Portuguese, and, even though it was fun, you just get lost in waves of people.
What are your plans, musically?
Find a new label. Write film music, and continue the work I have done on the three-inch disc, triple and quadruple instrumental albums, 1985-2002 and Plastic Tablets.
There was a rumour going around the XTC mailing list that you send some demos to Andy Partridge. Confirm or deny? Are you an XTC fan?
No. I liked Joy Division, Cabaret Voltaire, etc. XTC were too poncey.
What do you think about the current state of music -- is it better or worse now when you started out?
Popular music constantly gets worse because its business driven, and due to competition from games, tv, etc., it dumbs down; becomes more and more manufactured. So you always have to dig deep to find anything good, and that's the fun of music: to discover something and keep it to yourself ‘till it explodes or implodes.
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