Interview with The Reverend.
Last week I had the pleasure of having a chat to the delightfully outspoken Jon McClure from Reverend & The Makers. I’ve been a fan of the outfit since their 2007 debut album The State Of Things horned its way into my CD player and, for quite a while, remained one of the biggest players of that year for me. Now with the follow up record A French Kiss In The Chaos on its way at the end of July (which, FYI, is a totally brilliant album and wipes the floor clean with the debut), the Reverend himself sat down for a chat with me about Jade Goody, Nazi’s infiltrating British politics, the ‘Skins Generation’, oh, and the new album of course.
Hello Adem, your name is spelt the Arabic way. Are you Arabic Adem?
No not Arabic but I have an Islamic background…
As-Salam Alaykum Brother!
(Laughter) Alaykum-u-salam John! How are you?
Good man, very good.
How’s Australia treating you so far?
Good man, the response I’ve had from the journalists and the radio and TV people here has been fucking amazing, it’s been an absolute pleasure being here. One of the main reasons I came here is to expand this thing called Instigate Debate which is set up in Britain. It’s kinda kicking off massive and is one of the reasons now that the British press seem to think I’m their darling when they wanted to kill me before (laughs). I’ve got Tim Levingston from The Herd, and he’s gonna set one up in Australia and one coming up in New Zealand so, good times ahead man.
Tell me a little bit more about the Instigate Debate website – what’s the purpose behind all that?
Yeah man, this is one of the reasons these people wanna put me forward as some kind of fucking spokesperson or some shit (laughs). The reason I set up Instigate Debate is, well, unlike your culture here in Australia, our cultural landscape is completely dominated by celebrity vacuous bullshit. I don’t want to be some boring rock star not doing anything about it, so I set up Instigate Debate so we could get some celebrities, musicians and MP’s and ask them some real questions, y’know, rather than nonsense. We then turned it over to the kids and said right, okay, if you wanna interview your local MP or a musician, whatever, send us the video from your mobile phone camera, we’ll put it on the website and then we’ll come play a gig in your house as a response.
Yeah, we’ve been playing in peoples houses. So it’s really kicking off and on that first day people had said “It’s like the new punk rock.” I said I’ll be fucked if it’s the new punk rock because it’s not! Because we’re using the very medium of mobile phone technology, Internet, laptops. But it’s a bunch of people who’ve had enough of the bullshit over the last 10 years. You know, these bands that come over to Australia and stand there like they don’t want to fucking be there, just here to cash their cheque, people are expecting a little more these days, and they rightly deserve it. We’re gonna change the world man, I mean Twitter for instance, the election of Obama, the thing that’s happening in Iran, I wrote a song about the death threats against the British National Party, we put the track online, and two hours later you’ve got a song in full circulation showing the distress people are feeling towards the Nazi’s getting in (to the British government). We can soundtrack the times of what we’re living in, and in less than two hours man.
I was actually just about to ask you about “Manifesto/People Shapers”, I guess a lot of my readers may not actually know what the fiasco with the British National Party gaining two prominent seats…
Yeah basically they’re Nazi’s, and they used to go round blowing people up and now they go around wearing… Politician suits. I mean, these people denied a holocaust for fucks sake, these are pretty messed up people. And because our politics are in such a state, people are voting for them. But you know what? It ‘aint all about the politics man, before it used to be only me saying these things but now there’s a little musical posse coming out of the woodwork man, and they’re starting to talk about the world that we’re living in, but in a cool way, making good music about it rather than the same bullshit over the last 10 years where people just stand there looking cool with a nice fucking haircut (laughs).
You’re not one to shy away from controversy or politics; do you think more people with a public profile like yourself should be making a more proactive approach in their political leanings?
Well we’re the ones that are gonna do it Adem, definitely. You’re a guy who is a writer, and I’m a guy who sings songs. People listen to us, you know, and whether we’re right or wrong people will listen to us. And so therefore, it’s up to us Adem; I mean, you could set yourself up for a nice retirement writing for a magazine and you made a lot of money, and I could say yeah I sold a lot of records. But ultimately you wanna look and say that you did something fucking cool for the world man, and that it meant something and in my time and on my terms, not arcing back to punk or bollocky movements. This is as much yours Adem as it is mine. The reason why journalists are banging on about it in England is because, for the first time in a long time, they can actually be fucking journalists and write about something that exists, you know, rather than having to create headlines just to sell a newspaper, you know what I’m saying?
(Laughter) Oh absolutely.
It gets them excited.
Would you say that there aren’t many strong messages being brought forward in pop music these days?
Yeah man, well not until recently they’re saying “Jon McClure is the spokesman for this new scene.” I can only speak up about the things I know about, but I’m certainly encouraged by the fact that there are a lot more political artists coming out from the underground – they’re coming out from under there and people are starting to notice ‘em. Then you’ve got these people like Bono saying one thing and then returning home to his lair on a fucking yacht man. Why not stay in a spaceship man, you’d create a lot more headlines that way Bono. You know what I’m saying to you brother, you’ve gotta understand that for three years I’ve been called all sorts of names for talking about what I believe in and things that actually fucking matter, like Gaza for example. I said this thing about a TV celebrity here recently called Jade Goody, you know her?
Oh yes, Big Brother, Shilpagate, Death; I know all about Goody.
Here’s what I said. See what you make of this Adem. I said that it was very sad she got cancer. I know people with cancer myself, it’s awful. And if it makes girls go for smear tests and get themselves checked out that’s also good, right? But let us not forget she was a talentless racist, and the media coverage that she gets overrides the fact that Israel’s just dumped phosphorus on Gaza, or that the fucking ice caps are melting. Or Iraq, or the credit crunch, for fucks sake – even the fucking footy results. Let’s get our fucking perspectives in order, you know?
The news of her death even made headlines here and most Australian’s would not know Jade Goody from a bar of soap.
Exactly man. Hypocrites, hypocrites, the fucking lot of ‘em. It’s a new time we’re heading into Adem, and you’ve got to decide as a journalist whether you’re going to be apart of it or not. But the young kids all over this country and in the UK are sick of it, they’re fucking sick of it man. They’re sick of being force-fed bullshit and being told what to like. When a big band comes around you have to give them the coverage, even if it does sound like Bon Jovi like that new Kings of fucking Leon record does, you have to get the coverage. It’s bullshit man. People want something new, something fresh, they’re sick of people just milking it.
Jon, I follow you on Twitter and recently saw something you posted saying “welcome to the skins generation son! Leave your personality and opinions at the door!” Can we talk about that??
Let’s talk about it man, why not?
Okay. Well, Skins is a program that supposedly defines our generation. I don’t think it defines my generation though; I’m 27, it doesn’t define what I’m living in, and I speak to kids that are 16 and it don’t define what they’re living in either. What I’m saying is everyone looks the same, everyone dresses the same and they like the same music, it’s one big homogenised mass of force-fed bullshit. Someone like me sticks his head out and says something like that though and it can be frowned upon. But I’m loving the way Australian’s have reacted to me because I’ve learnt that here in Australia, no one likes bullshit.
We’re not that big on it, no.
Yeah man, you Aussies are fuckin’ alright hey. I’ve found my people you know what I’m saying?
(Laughter) We’re glad to have you here Jon! I must say, congratulations on the new follow up record “A French Kiss In The Chaos” – it’s magnificent stuff.
Thank you very much indeed brother.
You worked with Jagz Kooner on recording for the album, how was it working with him??
Yeah he’s a good guy man, he’s worked on them experimental, psychedelic, political things before, if you remember Swastika Eyes, Primal Scream…
He was able to help me pick what the best thing about those 60’s psy records were, but also making it relevant to the modern age by using electronica and lyrical concept and stuff. I can’t praise him highly enough. And truth be told, I think we all did a lot more drugs on this album.
(Uncontrollable laughter) I’m sure the fans are very pleased you decided to keep the band together… what made you want to return to the music biz?
Well, you know, I got sick of the fact that rich white men control everything, and that’s dictated in our culture. I put the Mongrel album out with the Independent newspaper. Half a million people got that album in the UK, which means we’re the best distributed album this side of Take That! What made me feel good about returning to music is people kept telling me I had to make another record. So I pulled myself together, I made it, and it sounds good.
And what of Mongrel – will you guys be releasing a second album at all?
Dunno yet, but gonna go do some stuff with the Marley family hopefully soon, politics gets a bit much if you’re going on about it all the time. I’m also gonna go down and see Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and he’s gonna drop a speech for a track, I mean, I’m also working on the third Reverend & The Makers album, so I’m sure I’ll make sense of it all at some point but we’ll see how we go. The record industry is dying and everyone is fleeing for the hills [re-enacts noise of people fleeing for hills] “Oh we’re going bust!” Well a lot of them deserve to go bust because they’ve been fleeting people for far too long. Music is sort of like the Wild West now man, nobody knows what’s to happen.
I’m told you’re going bowling tonight. Tell me Jon; are you actually any good at bowling?
I’ve been bowling twice already during my run here in Australia, and, based upon those two previous bowling trips, I’ve gotta tell you now that I am absolutely shit at bowling (laughs). So yeah, I don’t think I’ll bowling for a very fucking long time. But I’ve met some really nice Aussies and had a good time, so that’s really what matters.
You planning on coming back to Oz to do some shows?
We’re gonna come back and do some shows coz a lot of the journo’s seem to be really into what we’ve been saying. I think we’re getting a nice sorta buzz out of it. The great thing about the journalists in this country is if they’re onto something they’re brilliant and they’ll back it to the hills. In England though they’re so cautious. But yes, we’re gonna come play some shows and then I’ll probably set up my nice little house in Melbourne!
Good, come live with us!
Fuck yes man, definitely looking forward to returning, I don’t want to leave!
We’ve loved having you in Australia, and I can’t thank you enough for the chat mate it’s been an absolute honour…
Salam! Take care brother.
You too Jon!
A French Kiss In The Chaos is released through Wall Of Sound on July the 27th.