Rich Jones is one of the musicians who over the years has managed to turn up in not just one but a number of brilliant bands. This goes right back to his days in the sadly missed Black Halos. Last year he managed to find himself involved with two of the best musical happenings of the year. The first of these was his appearance on the fantastic new album by The Loyalties. Then later in the year he was part of the legendary Michael Monroes’ touring band. Thankfully he still found the time to have a few words with The Soul Of A Clown.
Hi Rich, normally when I head up interviews with musicians it starts with x member of y band, however, this isn’t quite as simple for you! Therefore, against interviewing protocol, lets start with what are you doing now?
Well I had a real busy year last year, first with The Loyalties, then touring with Ginger and making the ‘Albion’ record, and finally closing out the year filling in for Dregen in Michael Monroe’s band. Entering 2014 I’ve got a completely blank calendar although there’s a few playing possibilities on the cards which I can’t talk about yet. Fingers crossed I’ll be busy this year though!
I first came across you via The Black Halos, they were a really great band who perhaps didn’t get the level of exposure over here in the UK that they deserved. I thought they were a Canadian band?? so how did you get involved in them?
I started the band when I was living in Vancouver in the early 90’s. There wasn’t much of a music scene there for people who liked punk and rock & roll so we had to go and make our own. We ended up signing to Sub Pop and making a couple of records for them, as well as doing a lot of singles and EPs for other labels. It was a great time for me and I have some fantastic memories of those years. We’re talking about doing some reunion shows with the original guys this year for the 20th anniversary of the band starting. It’s easier said than done with me living in London and Jay Millette living in Toronto but there’s some offers on the table so if we can make it work then we’re gonna do it.
You then went on to play for Amen who were quite a big band at the time and were somewhat different to the Black Halos, how did that transition go?
It was a lot of fun at first and a huge challenge. But I’ve always liked to push myself musically and I was a fan of the band before I joined so it worked out. Casey and I shared a lot in common in terms of the bands and records that we liked and I always felt like Amen was more of a punk band than a metal band anyways. Those were some wild times, I’ll just say that.
Back at the beginning of last year, I reviewed The Loyalties album (http://thesoulofaclown.com/reviews/i-l/)and it also appeared in my top 5 albums of the year. Can you tell us a bit about that band?
Well The Loyalties came out of the ashes of The Yo-Yo’s, when we finally got tired of dealing with the drama and baggage that came with being in that band. Tom Spencer and I started The Loyalties to be something that we do for fun, and most of the time it is. Other times it’s an expensive headache to be in that band, haha.
How would you describe that album?
I’m really proud of that record actually. We recorded it over a week or so in Berlin in the basement of the Wild At Heart rock club. It was a real back-to-basics recording vibe and we really picked up a lot of the energy of being in that city when we made it. It was also a pretty big challenge to make the book and the album work together but also work as stand-alone projects as well. I imagine that there’s a lot of people who like the record that have no interest in the book (or even know it exists) so it was important to make sure that it worked on that level. I think we pulled it off. It was also the first full-length record that I’ve done as a producer and I think it turned out pretty good.
Can we expect to hear any new material from The Loyalties or will there be any more live shows?
There’s always a chance. Usually when Tom or I get bored we’ll come back to the well for some more Loyalties punishment, haha. We’re talking about doing a live-off-the-floor EP sometime soon and it’d be nice to do some gigs this year if we get the time. It’s tough because everyone is busy with other projects so we’ve gotta find a time frame that works for everyone. But I hope so.
You also got the chance last year to tour with one of my all time rock n roll heroes, Michael Monroe. Have you always been a fan of Michael and his former band Hanoi Rocks?
Yeah, of course. I loved Hanoi Rocks growing up and over the years I got to know Michael and the guys. I did some artwork for Hanoi during their reunion years, which was fun, and then I took over Michael’s website and merch when he went back to being a solo artist so when they asked me to fill in it was cool because we were all already friends.
You stepped in on the tour to cover for ex Backyard Babies guitarist Dregen, did this place any additional pressure on you?
A little I suppose. It’s always tough being the ‘stand-in’ guy anyways and Dregen is a big personality so I was fully expecting to get some flak from the fans but it was the total opposite. I got a lot of compliments and thanks from people for making it possible for the band to tour while Dregen was away – Michael has some wonderfully devoted fans and they were great to me. It also helped that Dregen was extremely gracious about it and said a lot of nice things about me on the internet, haha. And the guys in the band were a total dream to work and hang out with, it felt real natural and I honestly had the time of my life. I really couldn’t have asked for it to go any better than it did.
Presently, I understand that you have been working with Ginger. He has always appeared to be a very interesting character, what is he like in real life and how is he to work with?
He and I have been friends for years as well. That’s what led to the Wildhearts & Amen touring together in 2004 (I think it was) and that’s also how Scott Sorry and Ginger met and led to Scott eventually joining the Wildhearts. So yeah, in real life Ginger is a great friend and a total blast to work with – I honestly wouldn’t do it if he wasn’t. There’s a real gang mentality when we head out on tour, it’s an absolutely insane mix of personalities in that band (and I mean that in the best possible way) and it’s inspiring to work with all of them. The level of musicianship that goes on in that band is insane and it really keeps me on my toes trying to keep up
He also seems very determined to forge his own path in ‘the industry’ and especially now with own releases and self funding. Have you had your own frustrations with the industry and would you see this as a way forward?
I think everyone needs to find their own path, regardless of what they do. Ginger’s recent success was born out of necessity but it really showed a lot of people that there is another way to do things. What he does wouldn’t necessarily work for everyone else but that’s the point. The industry is playing catch-up again and I think we’re in the middle of a real change in how the business works.
Bands like The Black Halos, The Yo-Yo’s, The Loyalties all have a similar type of style, is this the type of music you like best?
I guess this is the kind of stuff that I find the most natural to write and it’s a ton of fun to play live as well. I’ve always been a big fan of the NYC punk scene in the 70’s – The Dead Boys, Ramones, New York Dolls, Heartbreakers, etc etc – and with the Black Halos it was all about bringing some of that energy back to the music scene. We were real lucky to put out our first record when there was a really great scene coming up of like-minded bands like The Hellacopters, Zeke, Murder City Devils, The Makers, and The Yo-Yo’s, who we played with quite a few times.
You have met and been involved with a lot of great bands and musicians over the years, who is the one person you have been proudest to have met?
Ah, you know it’s hard to nail it down to a single person. I’ve had a crazy life in terms of the people that I’ve been fortunate enough to work with and every year it seems like there’s something new happening. I hope that doesn’t sound like a cop-out!
Ok, a big and tough question, of all the bands you have been involved in – which one did you most enjoy the most and also which record are you most proud to have performed on?
I’m real proud of the Black Halos stuff because I worked hard on that band, everything from the songs to the artwork to the business side of things. It was kind of my baby and so any successes, big or small, felt pretty great. I felt like we hit a peak on The Violent Years and I’m real proud of that record. I learned SO much from making the first record and it felt like we really refined everything for that album. And Jack Endino totally ‘got it’ and did a great job producing and mixing it as well.
Also, have you ever thought that you would have been better off just forming your own band again and persevering with that?
Haha, well I did that with the Halos and more recently with The Loyalties. At the end of the day, I’ve been real lucky to be asked to work with people who I really admire and I would have been crazy to have turned down those opportunities. I’m certainly not a ‘hired gun’ kind of guy who’ll take the first gig that comes along, I only work on things that excite me musically.
Finally, chance for a more, local question, I understand you are from Coventry which is not too far from my town, Leamington. Do you get back to Coventry often and what do you think of it and the most important question of all which is your favourite pub in the area?!?!?
Yeah, I grew up in Ash Green, near the Ricoh Arena. I still get up there regularly as I have family there (and Loyalties guitarist Rich Rags just moved to Leamington) but I don’t spend a whole lot of time in the city centre as I find it kind of depressing to be honest. My cousin, John Dawkins, opened a venue there last year called Rehab Warehouse and he’s doing a lot of work to try to revitalise the city but the council seems dead set at trying to stop him at every opportunity. It’s sad. So with that in mind, I haven’t got a favourite Cov pub. I like to stay in the house and get drunk on scotch with my dad!