Review – The Room – Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam – by Emma Roebuck

Due to be released on 20th November 2015 by Bad Elephant Music, the new album from The Room – ‘Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam’ is reviewed by our own Emma Roebuck.

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The first thing I have to own up to is that I like The Room and am promoting one of the forthcoming tour dates.

I came late to these guys and bought ‘Open Fire’ on a whim, I immediately regretted not buying it earlier.

On first play, ‘Beyond The Gates Of Bedlam’ is the natural successor to ‘Open Fire’ in content, style and the music. It has all the hallmarks of song structure, melody and lyrics that made me like them in the first place.

The prog credentials are still there, 5 tracks coming in at over 6 minutes and this allows the musical ability of the band to come through in spades and the rest are not lacking for being shorter.

It has a better feel and production as well as being far more confident a product than ‘Open Fire’, there is a definite ‘levelling up’ on this album.

Although not a concept album there is a theme to it.  Life, love, and power, and how it affects people. Martin Wilson’s vocals add to the distinctive sound, filling the songs with passion in his delivery.  The guitar work from Steve Anderson is rich and varied but not overpowering, his ability shining through on such tracks as Masquerade and the Hunter.

Andy Rowe (bass) and Chris York (drums) provide a really solid foundation throughout the whole album, giving this very varied release a consistency worthy of the songs. Steve Checkley’s keyboards fill the music with light and shade, combining well with Anderson’s guitar on The Book, a song about the manipulation of faith by the powers that be for their own ends.

Even the more or less straight rockers on the album like Splinter are complex enough for the average prog fan. The high point for me is Bedlam, a ‘Post-apocalyptic view of life and how the fabric of life can easily break down when law and order is no longer effective’. This track is going to be a classic, 20 minutes of pure prog condensed down into 5.

Looking at this as an overall product, if you like a well contrasted songs with melodic variety at the progressive of the music market then, this is the album for you, if you want metal, dissonance or Canterbury, this is not it. For fans and listeners of  Frost*, Jump or their ilk, I reckon your money would not be wasted .

Released 20th November 2015 through Bad Elephant Music.

Pre-orders opening very soon, please keep an eye out for details.

Pre-order CDs from The Merch Desk

Download from Bad Elephant Musc

You can listen to Carrie, the first single from the album, at the link below:

Listen to Carrie

 

 

Weekly Wallet Emptier – 22nd July 2015

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The Fierce and the Dead – Magnet E.P.

“A soundtrack for the current generation”, The Fierce and the Dead have a new EP on the way. For those unfamiliar with these ‘funny music’ pioneers they play instrumental music with a huge amount of substance, powerful and majestic with sheer brutality in places yet they can turn their hands to pensive and thoughtful or expressive just as easy.

“I think this EP represents a different sound for us, it’s important to keep moving forward. It more joyous and intense with bigger riffs and more of an electronic feel.” says Dead guitarist Matt Stevens. Bassist & Producer Kevin Feazey continues “We’re doing what we want to do. Full circle. Back to sounding like the bands we grew up with, from Nuclear Assault to Boards of Canada. Every record we’ve put out has had it’s own character and story, with different sounds and a different reality for each”.

The proof of the pudding is in the eating and the limited run of 250 CDs is looking as if it will sell out before the 14th August release date so get one whilst you can!

Stand out track – Palm Trees

Due to be released on 14th August 2015 via Bad Elephant Music.

Pre-order Magnet from bandcamp

 

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Echolyn – I Heard You Listen

I was a late comer to the Echolyn party and it wasn’t until 2012’s self-titled release that I discovered their captivating style of progressive rock. Storytelling by music, getting to the heart of the matter and opening up small town America, I have heard them called the US’s answer to Big Big Train. To me that is a compliment to both bands, they play music that will engross you and lift your soul. Sometimes a band can come very close to perfection with a new release and this album is as close to a must buy album as I’ve heard this year.

Album due to be released on July 31st 2015

Stand out track – Empyrean Views

I Heard You Listening will be available to order from bandcamp from July 31st

 

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Wilco – Star Wars

Stepping out of my usual comfort zone, this next release is forged from the fires of alt-country. Wilco have been around for a while and I have dallied with their music before to no avail for my record collection and their bank balance. This time, due to a free download on the band’s website, I may have finally found an album from the band that I can appreciate in every facet. Fast paced and energetic, there is also a darker core explored on some of the tracks. There is a slight progressive note to a couple of the tracks but, overall, it is quite a gem of an alternative country focused album.

CD release date 21st August 2015 , Vinyl 27th November 2015

Stand out track – You Satellite

Free download (limited time) and CD, Vinyl pre-orders here

 

Blast from the past……..

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Parzivals Eye – Fragments

 

I featured the new Parzivals Eye release ‘Defragments’ earlier this month and, as is my want, I have gone back in time to the original 2009 release ‘Fragments’ to find that, to my ears, it is even better. Ex RPWL bassist Chris Postl’s solo project is a multi-faceted delight. Soaring soundscapes, brilliant vocals (Christina Booth and Alan Reed) and some superb guitar work (Ian Bairnson) all combine to produce an album of high quality neo-progressive music that really should be in your collection.

Originally released 9th September 2009.

Buy Fragments at The Gentle Art of Music

 

 

 

Review – jh – Morning Sun

I must ad mit to a vested interest in this release as my alter-ego is PR Chief for Bad Elephant Music, the label that the album was released on but this is a fair review and not biased in any way (your Honour) so please sit back and enjoy.

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To me Music is more than a mere soundtrack, it has become a part of my life. Music is a treasure that I seek out at any given opportunity.

“A painter paints pictures on canvas. But musicians paint their pictures on silence.”  – Leopold Stokowski

That is one of my favourite quotes because I don’t like to live my life in silence, I fill every pause and every gap in my whole being with the joy of music and one of my favourite things is finding an artist whose work I have never had the pleasure of hearing before. It is like hidden treasure that is unearthed and unveiled in all its glory, to wash over you and become part of your life.

I have to ask the question of where this artist or musician has been all my life, why have I not heard their music before? But I cannot berate myself in any way, I just need to enjoy the fact that I now can appreciate that music in my life every day. The musician in question this time is the mercurial jh, a solo artist from London. jh is the nom de guerre of Jon Hunt, he writes, arranges, performs and mixes all his material himself, with the exception of some of the drums.

It is impossible to describe jh’s music in a nutshell, as the only ethos he has is to make exactly the music he wants with no regard to commercial thought. This makes him extremely difficult to market, but more importantly his integrity remains intact. His albums hearken back to the spirit of the ‘album’ as being an artform in itself, jh’s music is eclectic, honest, and quintessentially English. His recordings are startlingly honest pieces of work that reveal more and more on each listen.

There have been three previous albums, all of which have been self-released, 2008’s ‘Truth and Bullshit’, 2011’s ‘Wanderlust’ and 2013’s ‘So Much Promise’.

2015 has seen jh link up with the eclectic record label Bad Elephant Music to release a fourteen track compilation of his most iconic tracks to date. ‘Morning Sun’ will be released to an expectant public on March 16th and Jon took a minute to talk about the record and his link up with BEM.

“Morning Sun is a 14-track, 77-minute retrospective of my three albums to date (Truth & Bullshit (2008), Wanderlust (2011) and So Much Promise (2013)). I have tried to showcase all aspects and styles of my music, and sequence it all in a coherent way.

I have had some complaints and sarcastic comments regarding songs I have left off at the expense of some of those included, but this will always happen with compilations unless you burn yourself a personal CD!

I’m very happy with it, and I thank David Elliott of Bad Elephant Music for letting me have free rein to choose the tracks myself. It’s great to be working with BEM, as they have such an array of talent, and everyone involved with the label from the CEO to the acts absolutely lives and breathes music.

The fact that David and Co. enjoy and understand mine is a great feeling, as you don’t usually associate this kind of affinity with the term ‘Record Label’! I’m looking forward to a long and rewarding partnership.”

Enough talking, time to immerse myself in this labour of love……

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The first song Next Time begins with a welcoming introduction that takes you straight into Jon’s distinctive vocals, like Billy Bragg with a personality transplant. This slightly lilting and melancholic track is definitive of that singer/ songwriter style song with expressive and clever lyrics and a velvety touch to the music. The earnest vocal delivery and classy guitar add a touch of elegance to the hometown feel. I Wanna Spend my Summer With a Rich Girl flies into view like The Beatles chased by Blur in a fiery coach and horses. It doesn’t just make your ears prick up as hit them with a taser! The jangly guitar note and wide boy vocals are instantly catchy and it runs along at a rollicking pace with a huge grin on its face. Jon takes some of the better elements of Britpop and melds them to his own recipe to produce a song that couldn’t come from anywhere but England, the chorus is a work of genius. Originally part of the 40 minute London Road Suite on ‘Wanderlust’ the next track London Road gives a hint of the more progressive and expressive side to jh. The song begins with a measured and meaningful introduction, a gentle piano and Jon’s wistful vocal invoking in you a nostalgic and pensive state of mind. When the strings join in it brings a lump up in my throat, I get the feeling it is a nod to sepia tinted past where life, whilst being hard, was much more simplistic. As the track builds up and gets into its stride your mind opens to the poetic vista that the music hints at. A painfully beautiful song that leaves you with a sense of loss as it comes to a close.

The off-beat ending to the previous song is a perfect introduction to Lucy’s Party and you are transported to the pop sensibilities of the 1980’s. More highbrow than some of the nonsensical fare from that decade, there is inventiveness to this track and it has more than a hint of mischief to it. The vocals are delivered in a style more akin to spoken word and the clever use of the drum machine adds that feel of big hair and bigger collars that the decade that taste forgot will always imbue. Wartime Spirit is a song that has an intimacy to its core, one man and his guitar playing to a rapt audience. The pared back acoustic guitar and heartfelt vocals draw you in and, when it opens out and blossoms with the clever drum sound, you nod in silent appreciation, a serious yet approachable track with honesty deep at its heart. Quirky from the start Fort Dunlop has an off-kilter and slightly chaotic feel to it as it messes with your head. The initial instrumental seems to be deliberately obtuse and out there with a drum beat that seems set to random, it is a cacophony of noise that imparts a delicious agony to your eardrums. There is a feel of a David Lynch film soundtrack going on here as it moves into an electronic jazz vibe unlike any other track on the album, you are kept guessing at every turn with this song ,it is not for the faint hearted but you get out of it what you put in.

A nod to Pop-Punk with its grungy, reverb heavy guitar and antsy vocals In Ascension is raw and earthy and a short, sharp punch to the kidneys. Almost like a musical palate cleanser after the intensity of the previous two tracks, it holds nothing back and is a riotous alternative to the sophistication elsewhere. An ethereal track with a hint of discord hidden behind the beauteous exterior Angels begins with a subdue gentility and an apprehension that leaves you holding your breath, almost unable to move. The subtle use of a distorted guitar leaves a trail of dissonance to be followed on this intelligent and idiosyncratic piece of music. As the tension builds and the vocals take a digitised note the hairs on the back of your neck begin to rise. There is such expressionism deep at the coal face of this music, it is captivating and holds you rapt in attention as it plays with your sensibilities. After the haunting, fierce aura of the previous track I’ll See You Tomorrow in a Different Light has a delicate fragility and refinement to it. Subtle instrumentation and an earnest vocal with an emotional catch combine as the song glides in like a breath of fresh air. Another composition solidly in the singer/songwriter style, I love its underlying simplicity and modesty. Taking the social commentary of a Paul Weller and imbuing it with a guitar note reminiscent of 60’s pop, it takes you on a sun-kissed musical journey that leaves a touch of joy in your soul.

What comes next is simply jaw-dropping, taking the progressive-rock mantle and running with it full tilt, Making Tea is Freedom requires you to take eighteen minutes out of your day, sit down, put the headphones on and forget about everything else. When I first heard this multi-faceted track, I just played it straight back again, it’s that good, jh takes all of his influences and puts them into one big melting pot. There is the social commentary of Billy Bragg and Paul Weller, the alternative style of Talk Talk, the Britpop feel of Blur and the progressive tendencies of Porcupine Tree and Genesis but, that is all they are, influences, Jon takes them into himself and gives them some a part of his own soul to deliver a monumental musical epic that shakes you down to your roots. An acoustic guitar that seems more than three-dimensional takes the helm and drives the early part of the song on its fateful route. A hesitant and understated vocal provides the narration, leading you to a crossroads where you wonder what direction you will be taken in next. A flamenco hued guitar grabs your attention and roots you to the spot before your world is turned upside down. A guitar note that has a sinister undertone creeps into your psyche and makes your skin crawl a little, in an enjoyable manner. The middle part of the track is an instrumental smorgasbord of ideas all held together by that distinctive, raw-edged guitar note and transfixes you in its full on glare. The piquant musical onslaught continues unabated, running through your very soul before it breaks onto your aural receptors and you are left empty as the musical landscape turns bleaker. In your mind, an open, blasted vista appears before you, waiting to be populated by the music as you focus on that sound hailing from the distance. The drama comes full circle as Jon’s powerful vocal leads the final moments of euphoria and his superb guitar playing brings this monumental track to a close. A full on rock track as heavy as they come, like a wall of sound pressing you against your chair, The Sky is Breaking is BIG in every sense. A demonstrative vocal allied with a crunching guitar note and a huge drum sound fill every silence and shout from the rooftops on this enjoyable romp. Reminiscent of The Who at their pomp but with Jon’s distinctive touches, it is one of my favourite tracks on the album, especially that notable guitar sound that has an unending depth to it. Your ears are left with a not unpleasant ringing sound in them as it comes to a triumphal close. Collapse has an anecdotal feel to it, a tender, heartfelt vocal accompanying the ever present acoustic guitar that has rapidly become synonymous with this intriguing artist. With an integrity that comes deep from his heart, it is powerful and soul stirring.

Something’s Happening Here sees Jon take his guitar and enjoy himself again, another fast paced escapade that carries you in its wake, kicking and screaming as you try and rein it in. However, there is a seriousness deep down that surfaces now and again, an antidote to the frivolous feel, one that would be sure to be a live favourite with its sing-along chorus and high energy delivery. This superb collection of songs has to, unfortunately, come to a close at some point and the final track is aptly called The End. It does have feeling of finality to it, amongst the gentle fragility and sorrowful note of the vocals. The whole song is contemplative and forlorn and plucks at the heartstrings with the feelings of loss and yearning that it engenders in your heart and soul. A sublime and rarefied track that brings to mind 10CC and I’m Not in Love and leaves you glad to have listened to it but sad that it is over.

This is a compilation of songs that are thoughtful and thought provoking from a musician who is comfortable in his own skin and has found his own niche. Eclectic, quirky and off-beat jh may be but, overall, there is something rather clever and intelligent at the core of it all. Distinctly English and proud of it and one of the best singer/songwriters at play today, you could do hell of a lot worse than invest in this release.

Released 16th March 2015

Buy Morning Sun from bandcamp

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RFbcxYIWYRQ

The Man Behind the Moniker – An Interview with jh

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One lucky bonus of being the PR man for Bad Elephant Music is getting to delve further into people behind the music and getting to know who they really are. In the first of an occasional series, I have been speaking to Jon Hunt, the man behind the musical persona of jh.

We released the jh anthology ‘Morning Sun’ earlier this year and it has been well received by critics and listeners alike (see above). In a bid to get into the mind of the man behind the music, I interviewed Jon about many topics, please read on to hear what he had to say…..

First a little history……

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jh is the nom de guerre of Jon Hunt, he writes, arranges, performs and mixes all his material himself, with the exception of some of the drums.

It is impossible to describe jh’s music in a nutshell, as the only ethos he has is to make exactly the music he wants with no regard to commercial thought. This makes him extremely difficult to market, but more importantly his integrity remains intact. His albums hearken back to the spirit of the ‘album’ as being an artform in itself, jh’s music is eclectic, honest, and quintessentially English. His recordings are startlingly honest pieces of work that reveal more and more on each listen.

There have been three previous albums, all of which have been self-released, 2008’s ‘Truth and Bullshit’, 2011’s ‘Wanderlust’ and 2013’s ‘So Much Promise’.

2015 has seen jh link up with the eclectic record label Bad Elephant Music to release a fourteen track compilation of his most iconic tracks to date.

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Now onto the interview itself…..

Progradar – Jon, what started you on your musical journey, who or what made you want to be a musician?

jh – My dad is a piano player, so I suppose it was in my blood, I grew up around music. I suppose I always had a good ‘ear’, there was always some sort of a keyboard around the house.

Progradar – What were your earliest musical memories and influences?

jh – One of my earliest memories was spending hours at a piano at my parent’s friends’ house and just coming up with stuff and feeling like I was being taken away into a different world. I also remember listening to my parents’ vinyl collection, and losing myself in that, too.

Quite lot of classical music actually, along with easy listening. Neil Sedaka’s ‘Greatest Hits’ was played a lot. Everyone thinks of him as the guy who did ‘Oh Carol’ and ‘Amarillo’, but his more mature stuff in the seventies was actually amazing song-writing, the arrangements and melodies. I’d go so far to say some of that stuff was an influence (not that’d you’d be able to tell!).

The first records I bought were ‘So Lonely’ by The Police, and ‘The Eton Rifles’ by The Jam on 7″ vinyl. Then my next door neighbour taped me ‘Tubular Bells’ and it all went downhill from there haha! (JOKE!)

Progradar – Your first solo albums were all written, recorded and produced pretty much as a one man project, what helps and hindrances did that cause?

jh – The good thing is, if you have a strong and/or ambitious idea of what you want, you don’t have to argue with anyone to get ‘permission’! However the downside for me is that the majority of work creating an album isn’t particularly creative. Just to record and mix the thing involves so much messing about with software, levels, labelling, saving each tiny setting and programs crashing that can be infuriating.

The bits of making a record I really enjoy are when I start layering instrumentation – For instance adding bass, guitar, or harmonies to the original idea, and you hear the song come alive – that’s a real buzz. And of course having the finished product. But apart from that, it can do your head in having to cut stuff up, crossfade, add compression or reverb, if using a drummer then getting all that right and then sorting out mixing the kit, etc.

And I’m a luddite – I like to try and keep things as simple as possible, not polish them too much, I’d rather have a dodgy take with emotion in rather than a perfect clinical performance, so it’s not that I use a ridiculous amount of needless gear and effects – the complete opposite. It’s just all the boring fiddly stuff you HAVE to do, which has nothing to do with why you made the song, what you love about the song.

Progradar – As a solo artist do you like the freedom that writing and recording your own music gives you?

jh – Yes I really, really do.

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Progradar – You have been described as a lyrical wordsmith, where do you get the inspiration for your songs and do you sit down and physically make yourself write them or do you carry a notebook around in which you can put idea as they come to mind and flesh them out later?

jh – I usually start with the lyrics. Or at least lyrics with a melody. I have to be in the right mood but when they are flowing they come very naturally. It can sometimes take months, though. I think lyrics (in music that has them) are extremely important and I take them very seriously.

Through talking to people, I honestly think the majority of music listeners aren’t THAT bothered. But I am! On some more recent songs I have just put long streams of thought down on a laptop, then come back to them and viciously edited and moulded them to something that sounds good, but still has its meaning. I suppose it’s like poetry really. 

I did that with the title track ‘So Much Promise’ which basically is all about the mental illness that alcohol can cause some people. The problem I have now is that I’ve covered all the topics that I’m obsessed with/bothered by, sometimes more than once. I need to find some new bugbears!

Progradar – Is it easier to write the more pop inspired tunes than the more complex progressive feeling tracks?

jh – To be honest I’d say they are the same. If anything, more progressive stuff can be easier, as you can just come up with something, and build and build, it’s a great experience. Some of my best stuff has been written that way, such as ‘Making Tea Is Freedom’, and parts of the ‘London Road’ suite.

Progradar – Where did ‘Making Tea is Freedom’ come from, it seems so different to a lot of the other music that you write and record?

jh – I think it’s different to some of my stuff, but not all of it. I’ve always loved progressive rock, well, at least progressive rock that has soul and emotion. I just wanted to have a song which was like a journey, you know. As I say, quite a bit of it was sort of made up on-the-spot, and some of my best stuff comes like that, I think.

When you have something immediately and get it down, it’s obviously more true to the original emotion. That song was also kind of a statement of intent – on the first album. I remember at the time a friend said to me “Why don’t you just do a CD of your songs, and a separate CD of all your Prog sh*t”!!

That was completely missing the point – most of my favourite albums are highly varied in styles, and I pay a lot of attention to the sequencing of tracks, so the actual album is a sort of journey in itself – including the ‘Morning Sun’ compilation.

Progradar – Do you bounce your ideas off anyone before you actually finish writing an album?

jh – No, I never do. Only when mixes are nearly finished I’ll ask a couple of people that I respect for an opinion but this would only be in terms of ‘do you think the mix is alright?’ or ‘Are the vocals too quiet/loud?’, something like that.

Jon Hunt

Progradar – If someone doesn’t like your music do you take it to heart or just accept that different people have differing opinions and move on?

jh – No, I don’t take it to heart. I’m quite funny in the respect that I can put on one of my  favourite albums, and if I’m with someone who I know dislikes the band , I can completely understand WHY they hate it as it’s playing! We all have different tastes.

I can completely understand why some people could find my music highly annoying, for example! (Of course, it goes without saying I completely understand why people would really love it, too haha). It’s all horses for courses, really. I’m overwhelmed and proud that ‘Morning Sun’ has had such good reviews, though.

Progradar – I believe you have known David Elliott at BEM for quite a long time, how did the tie up with Bad Elephant come about and how  much of a culture shock was working with a label on ‘Morning Sun’ compared to your previous releases?

jh – I’ve known David since I released ‘Truth & Bullshit’ – he loved it and was a huge supporter. David and I talked before my second album ‘Wanderlust’ came out. This may even have been just before the first B.E.M. release, I’m not sure. But I was almost ready to release it, and had gigs, videos, promos planned etc.

‘So Much Promise’ I was in a bit of a dark place at the time, and actually recorded and released it really quickly, without really notifying anyone. Always a good way to market an album! Anyway, I wanted to make a compilation to round off those albums – I see them like a trilogy, really. I mentioned it to David one day over a murghi masala, and he said he’d be delighted to release it.

The real culture shock was having someone with a business head promoting jh material for the first time. I’ve never had a ‘business head’. People actually hearing (and hopefully enjoying) my music has been a revelation really. And of course folk like your good self who obviously ‘get’ the music spreading the word (before you were officially made PR man) – it’s a really nice feeling.

Progradar – Who inspires you musically and generally in this day and age?

jh – Anyone who doesn’t compromise when they make music, a lot of which I probably haven’t heard. This certainly applies to most of my label-mates, I think. Artists who love music so much they ‘have’ to make it, really. I don’t listen to as much new music as I’d like to to be honest.

I have to mention Steven Wilson – I’ve been listening to his music and seeing him play for over twenty years now. The fact that his latest album is to my mind the most complete album he’s done is amazing really, the quality of his work over the years, he seems to be getting even better. Now he’s having the success he deserves I keep waiting for the material to become pedestrian or ‘sell out’ or something but it never does – it’s actually getting better!

I think it’s amazing that an album as conceptually ambitious and stylistically varied as ‘Hand. Cannot. Erase.’ made the top 15 British charts or whatever it was. Hopefully it will give people confidence to make more ambitious albums, and introduce that kind of thing to people who may not have heard it.

What inspires me generally? I suppose the same things as always, hope, anticipation – the unknown in life, what can be out there if we bother to look for it, travel, opportunities, love… sorry I’m sounding like a hippy now!

Progradar – Do you think it is harder starting out as a musician in the digital age compared to the days of vinyl and single releases? What advice would you give to a fledgling musician that you would have appreciated hearing when you first started out?

jh – When I was making ‘Truth & Bullshit’ I actually had a Wilson quote pinned on the wall saying something like “Thinking about things like how to get signed, genres and what people want are irrelevant. If you want to start a band with 3 bassists go for it, you want to make a twenty-minute song? Go for it. You have a lot more chance of being successful if you do what you genuinely love.” I can’t really add to that.

I’ve known some artists who copy styles, or second guess what the next thing in fashion is, or are obsessed with the fashion/looks end of the ‘industry’. It’s bullshit. If you make the most honest record you possibly can then you can’t lose. If you’re putting loads of thought into what people will want/what people will say then you’re either not that good, or you’re making music for the wrong reasons. It’s dishonest, people will see through it and it won’t have any kind of longevity.

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Progradar – Do you think that the charts are relevant in today’s world of mp3’s and file sharing and do you actually take any notice? What are your thoughts on file sharing, illegal or otherwise?  I couldn’t honestly tell you if the charts are relevant or not.

jh – I couldn’t honestly tell you if the charts are relevant or notHmm – I’ve just contradicted what I said previously! Generally I really don’t know anything about them anymore. I have a feeling they’re mostly full of ‘product’ rather than music. File sharing is a hard one. Personally I want as many people to hear my music as possible. I’d like to think that if they got it for free and liked it then they’d buy a physical copy.

I put quite a bit of thought in to the artwork and concepts etc, and I consider all that PART of the album to a certain extent. No matter how talented an artist is, unless they have a huge major record deal, then you really don’t make a living from this. All the musicians I’ve known (some signed to quite well-known labels) have to do other things to pay the bills.

Progradar – You describe yourself as ‘quintessentially English’ what exactly does that mean?

jh – Firstly, I’m one of the minority of people who sings in an English accent (the default is American). Secondly, I do like the atmospheric ‘pedal-tone’ chords (which is keeping the bass the same and moving the chords over it) which can be very emotional and atmospheric. Tony Banks ofGenesis and Pete Townshend use this style a lot, so I think that’s associated with English bands. I also think my lyrics are steeped in Englishness, whether it be mentioning our Cities, describing our overcast weather or banging on about our fucked-up ‘very English’ human condition haha! 

Progradar – Do you prefer recording music or playing it live?

jh – Or playing with friends. Ask me to play covers for two hours in a pub for money and I’ll be as confident and as slick you like… it’s a job. Albeit a job that I wouldn’t describe as ‘being a musician’, but that’s a topic for another time. Playing my own stuff in front of people, well, I have a lot emotionally invested in it, and I WANT it to be good, I do panic sometimes when things go wrong.

I’m getting better, though. If the gig is right, then yes, it’s a lot of fun and rewarding. Otherwise, I hate all the waiting around (though some musicians love this aspect of it). I hate the bullshit fawning with other bands/artists. I hate promoters who think it’s fine to charge your fans £5 each to watch you play 25 minutes on a crammed bill, make a fortune on the bar take, and not give you a token drink let alone any money.

The few gigs I do, I refuse to play those venues anymore. The best thing you can do is put on your own evening, at a venue you like, with a sound-man you trust, do your own publicity. If you make it into an ‘event’ with like-minded support acts etc, then people don’t mind paying/buying a ticket for the evening. At the Wanderlust launch, I did two sets, had projections, showed the videos in the break, and everyone got a raffle ticket and before the last song I picked 3 and they got the new album.

That’s a nice thing to do, more of an event/an evening. I would love to do a few more gigs, but as I am (and have never been) a ‘hustler’ or ‘business head’, then I’ll just do things now and again, if they seem right, and if it’s likely that people can enjoy themselves and the performance can be good.

jh live

Progradar – Name 3 albums that you think everyone should own (not including your own)?

jh – Oh blimey! The first is a complete cliché, but I’m sorry – The BlueBeatles ‘1967-1970′ album for obvious reasons. So much has been said, obviously, but to me that’s where popular music starts, and also where progressive rock starts actually thinking about side 2 of ‘Abbey Road’.

Secondly I’m going to go for ‘The Last Broadcast’ by Doves. This came out in 2002, and is such an immense record – Great song-writing, varied styles, they actually describe themselves as ‘Modern Prog’ which I would agree with. Basically all the songs have interesting instrumentation, twists and turns, deep and honest lyrics and some beautiful, moving moments – it’s the complete package as far as I’m concerned. The fact that this emotional indie album actually got to Number 1 and the guys in the band look like they’ve just turned up at your door to fix your plumbing – restored my faith in good music at the time.

Thirdly I’m going to have to say everyone should own ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’ by Genesis even if they hate it. Simply because whenever I mention the ‘G’ word, most people think of Phil Collins doing that walk on the video of that cheesy song. It’s not their fault – they went huge during their really commercial era, it’s just a shame that people connect the name of the band simply to that and don’t realise there’s a vault of amazing music, especially from the seventies. The Lamb is my favourite by them and one of my all-time favourite albums. I could easily have chosen three others, by the way.

Progradar – What does the future hold for jh, is there a new album in the offing, where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

jh – There will definitely be a new jh album by the end of 2016, hopefully a lot, lot sooner. Over half of it is written albeit in skeletal form and with places to improvise. I have a lot of ‘life’ stuff going on this year that I need to sort, but I always come back to writing and recording songs… it’s like my therapy. 5 years time is a scary question. I’ve always been obsessed with the passing of time, it keeps speeding up – I’ll just TRY and focus on the present, I think…

Progradar – And, finally, is there anything else you’d like to add?

jh – This is my first ever interview! So many thanks for interviewing me, and for all your support, Martin. 

A really in depth interview with an interesting man, all of jh’s back catalogue will be available soon with extra goodies from the Bad Elephant Music sales site.

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