The Jim Jones Revue is a band that oozes testosterone. A nonstop tour schedule keeps the British roadhouse outfit moving, performing passionate and hard rocking shows to feverish fans. The performances are almost evangelical in character, whipping everyone into a frenzy.
Jim Jones spoke to us rather eloquently about the creation of the latest album Savage Heart.
Rachel Levine (RL): What do you think is at the heart of the new album?
Jim Jones (JJ): The heart of the heart. When it was time to start recording, we were looking at what songs we had and trying to come up with some sort of cohesive thread that connected everything together. I thought about how the songs I really love, how a lot of songs I love, have a tribal element to them. So we have a bit of that in this album. To back track, because the band started with that 50s driven rock and roll, our first album was very much about that spirit and finding that spark and seeing if we could master it while putting our own energy in to that equation. Once you’ve done that, you’re like where do you go now? You’re in this constant process of holding on to what was great, but taking it somewhere else and seeing where else you could go with it.
The Savage Heart — it’s like a journey in some ways. I sort of use the analogy of going out to sea into unknown waters and looking for new monsters, strange and exotic creatures. That’s what we did with the record. When we talked about the album, we mentioned The Heart of Darkness, the Joseph Conrad novel. We thought that was a great sort of image of traveling up the Congo and discovering all these things.
At the same time, it coincided with the whole stock market craziness and the aftermath of the American government billing the people 60 billion dollars for the mistakes of the elite. It seemed crazy — people losing their jobs and businesses and austerity measures. Where we living in London, as we were driving back form France, we drove into the middle of these riots in the city. From the window of where I live, there were riot police marching down the street and protestors throwing missiles at them, cars being smashed up. All of this brought home that whole feeling that civilization is this wafer thin, paper thin, a smokescreen that sits on top of this true savage nature of mankind.
These were the kind of things I was thinking about with my lyrics and what we were thinking about when we made the album. We’re going up our own verison of the Congo, into London and into the riots.
My voice is only a small one, but I need to say something. I’m not a politician and I don’t have a particular agenda, but I can ask a simple question: what did you do with the money. The average man hasn’t changed anything in his routine. It seems like a question that anyone from a political pundit who dies interviews that make politicians feel uncomfortable right down to a kid asking can ask: where did the money go. Onward through the album, if you listen to it with that in mind, you’ll get the journey that I’m talking about.
RL: How was recording this album different to prior ones? Were there changes to the process?
JJ: I feel like the whole first of the half of recording was similar to the previous album. I can’t remember how or what we did exactly, but at a certain point, it came to be a lot more open. We allowed ourselves to take a completely honest look and see what was there in every avenue. We are always searching for new ways to have a new voice and express ourselves, but the process with this album went further. Forget the band and what we’ve done — see and try anything that feels interesting. We opened a lot of new doors. It was almost a shame to cut that short by getting on with the recording process and finishing up the album.
RL: Any particular songs have meaning to you?
JJ: There’s Seven Times Around the Sun. It’s about how in the process of trying to find your own voice, sometimes the only way to do it is to strip away everything and what you’re left with is what’s important. You go through this process of taking away as much as you can so that there’s nothing left. Seven Times was one of those — originally it was meant to have guitars and all kinds of instrumentation, but the voices with the piano was just enough, with some simple percussion. In a lot of ways, that seems to feel more emotional and greater intensity than if it was a full bombastic band. We did a lot of experimenting like that.
RL: Given the new process, how does live performance feel differently from recording to you?
JJ: Well, recording is just trying to capture the best you can of what’s exciting about the song you managed to put together. Live, you’re not capturing it, you’re giving it away. I think the real key thing is the audience and our shows. Don’t think of our shows as watching TV. It shouldn’t be a passive act. Being in the room changes what is going to happen. Every single person there affects the outcome of that. People don’t realize their responsibility when they go to a show. I go and see bands that I like and hover in the shadows and observe, which is not to say I don’t get moved to tears sometimes. Each show is always different. Whatever people bring in with them, that’s what they’re going to get. Add that to the ferocity of the band. That’s the kind of show you get. You get as much out of it as you put into it.
RL: I have to ask, who brought you to tears?
JJ: ZZ Top. It’s Billy Gibbons’ phrasing. There are a billion guitar players out there who can go wibbly-wibbly, but the choice of how it is phrased, there’s so much soul to it. When you’re faced with that, where the audience is and the feeling in the concert room — I got a lump in my throat. The greats, they have that little extra something, that’s the part of what makes them great.
Also, Leonard Cohen – similar stuff going on there. You feel privileged, when you hear how the whole thing is put together, the effortless way that it comes accross. You shake your head in admiration.
Jim Jones Revue plays Il Motore (179 Jean Talon W) on January 18. 8 p.m. $15/12.