We talk to eighties synth king Howard Jones.
Howard Jones was one of the biggest names in the electro-synth movement of the mid-eighties. Best known for a string of top ten hits including New Song and What Is Love, he also went platinum in America with 1985’s Dream Into Action album which he is performing live on a UK tour next year.
And what’s he up to now?
“What, right this minute? I’ve been doing a seminar for songwriters at a local school. Before that I was touring the USA, the Phillipines, Scandinavia, playing the festival circuit. It’s been busy.”
You’re doing your first two albums, Human Lib and Dream Into Action, in their entirety on the next tour. Have you done anything like this before?
“We did it in London at the 02 last year. That was recorded and filmed for released and the fans wanted it to tour. It’s 2 ½ hours – I’m pushing the boat out. It’s a real journey, back to the days of 1983 and what’s really good is how the songs can be interpreted differently now. I’m able to play songs that I couldn’t do live before, because technology has improved.”
Back in the day you played Live Aid. It was seen as a great occasion then, but the long-term impact has come in for some criticism. What’s your opinion?
“At the time it was totally brilliant – the best thing that happened in the eighties. One man got angry and got off his arse to do something. It raised something like £100 million and saved however many lives. I don’t know about the long-term impact but I do think it showed that if you’re well-known in popular culture you should use your position for the greater good.
“I always try to make my lyrics positive to give the listener a boost. Songs can do that – they can turn you round.”
The current period seems like the early eighties, with riots, strikes, unemployment and a royal wedding. Does that mean that in a couple of years we’ll have a period of synth-led pop as happened back then?
“That’s an interesting theory. Times are different now, we consume in different ways. There won’t be any strong co-ordinated movement anymore. The days when a show like Top of the Pops could get 17 million viewers are over. There are some types of music you can only find online so for an entire movement to take off would be difficult.”
The popularity of shows such as X Factor seems finally to be waning. Is this a positive progression?
“Yes. X Factor is so limited, its main problem is that it encourages young people to be like someone else and not be original. This country has always been so good at producing one-off original talent and the X Factor is the antithesis of that. It’s designed for manipulation, the whole machinery of the show is set up for artists to be controlled. “
You’ve mentioned the internet and you’ve been doing podcasts for some time. Do you think online is a good thing for music?
“It’s worked very well for me. I was able to set up my own record label and I’ve been able to communicate with fans all over the world. I’ve been able to release material worldwide and remain in control. It’s been amazing to be so independent. You have to take the positives from any situation – downloading has taken money from a lot of bands but others have been able to create a career via the internet that they might not otherwise have had.”
You’ve done the Here & Now eighties tours, you’ve played the Rewind festival. Do you intend to do much more of the nostalgia circuit?
“At the moment I’m concentrating on my own shows. I did the tours and you have arenas full of people enjoying themselves, and the Rewind had 40,000 people watching, so you can’t knock that sort of success. But when you’re only getting 25 minutes you can’t do a proper show.”
Finally, do you think music will always go back to four or five young lads playing guitars and drums?
“Young people will always want to do something different, to use their energy to express themselves. I’m probably the wrong person to ask this question, as a synth/electro musician. It doesn’t have to be guitars and drums, though. Youngsters will always want to say ‘This is how I feel’.”
Howard Jones performs the entirety of his albums “Human’s Lib and “Dream Into Action” in the UK during April 2012.
Ticket Hotline: 0844 477 2000, www.ticketweb.co.uk. Dates include O2 Academy Bristol (April 11), O2 Academy Sheffield (April 12), O2 Academy Liverpool (April 13), O2 Academy Birmingham (April 14), O2 Academy Newcastle (April 17), O2 ABC Glasgow (April 18), O2 Academy Bournemouth (April 20), O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire (April 21). More info: www.howardjones.com.
Howard Jones new live DVD “Humans Lib & Dream Into Action – Live at The indigO2 – London” can be ordered from – http://www.howardjones.com/shop