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Interview: HOWARD JONES

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They were two of the U.K.’s biggest chart toppers in the Eighties. Howard Jones and Kim Wilde have become synonymous with the music from the era and Australian audiences are in for a real treat when the two artists come together for a double headlining tour in November. We caught up with Howard to talk about the tour, recount some of his career highlights and find out what else he is working on these days.

“I always like coming to Australia. I love your country. It’s one of my favourite countries to tour. Kim and I know each other well. We’ve done a lot of stuff together in the U.K. and, in fact, we have band members and crew members that can work with both of us so we thought if both of us combine, we could try and make it work.  It’s a double headline thing. I’ll probably be going on first and we hope to do a couple of songs together as well. Kim is a wonderful lady and we’re all looking forward to it. We love Australia so it will be great.”

He has toured here a few times in the past and one of those tours was with his solo acoustic shows. “There are two strands to my story,” he explains. “I do a lot of solo acoustic shows because I’m a songwriter and I like to play a lot of songs from my career, tell stories about them and talk a lot and then there’s the electric band; it’s electronic and I play the hits and it’s a much more sort of high energy vibe so I do both.”

Howard likes to make use of current technology in his shows.  “I don’t want to have a conventional rock band because it seems like another era for me to play like that so I like to do things using the technology that we all use to make music and that’s always been my philosophy; that you should reflect the time that you live in and use all the amazing technology that has been developed because that’s how I started. I started out in a one man electronic band using all these amazing instruments that were just becoming available. That’s always been a big passion of mine. And to kind of counter balance all that, I do my acoustic show where I play piano to give a more ‘nuanced’ performance.”

While perhaps best known for his big hits in the Eighties, Howard has certainly not stopped writing and recording. He recently released a CD that was crowd funded. “Again, it’s about a new development that’s come upon us via social media. It’s a new kind of thinking. The album’s called ‘Engage’ and it’s a sort of multi-media project. It’s not just a CD. There’s a DVD as well. It was intended as it was written around the idea of a live performance and a very different approach. I’ve used all my influences in the arts including classical influences and contemporary dance; there’s a ballet section in there. I just wanted to do something really challenging to myself. I’ve also developed an app so when people come to the show, their phone would interact with the show as well so a visuals will come up on your phone and we had make-up artists in the foyer who could do your make-up. We had performers in the audience. It was about being engaged and involved in the event that you’re going to see. It’s probably the most ambitious project I’ve done.”

Howard says that he will probably do two or three songs from the ‘Engage’ album at his Australian shows. “I don’t think we will be able to show the visuals on this show but I’ll definitely be doing two or three songs from that and also some brand new stuff that I’m just working on as well as all the hits. I’ve got to play the hits because the audience really want to hear them and I’m really happy about that.”  He thinks it is great that people still want to hear those songs after all these years. “From my point of view, we have so much more gear and equipment, synthesisers and everything works so much better now than the old days. We can sound so much better than when I started out. That music has just had a lovely facelift now and it’s punchy and well mixed.”

The conversation turns to some of the highlights of his long career. “There have been so many,” he recalls. “Going back to the eighties, I played Live Aid and that was a really amazing event to be involved with and it meant so much to people around the world. It was the first sort of global event really, I suppose. There were two billion people watching that link-up around the world and it raised money that actually did save tens of thousands of lives so it was a wonderful thing to be involved with. It’s always going to be a highlight for me. And I remember the first time I played Madison Square Garden in New York. As a teenager, I’d always dreamt of playing that venue on my own because all the bands that I followed when I was young ended up playing there and I thought: ‘One day, I really want to play there,’ and one day I did!”

More recently, the singer had the honour of touring with Ringo Starr. “I was part of his band for six weeks so that was amazing. It was just great to hang out with one of The Beatles. I adored that band so much when I was very young and just to be playing with Ringo was really special.”

He has also just finished a five date tour of America. “And we had some fabulous experiences on that,” he tells me. “We played Red Rocks in Denver which is the most amazing venue up in the mountains and played Central Park in New York. I’m still doing things that give me a huge buzz.”

Things like his current project of writing a song for an animated film called ‘Animal Crackers’. “I met the director. It’s his first film and he’s independently funded it. I think he’s got Chinese investors. $25 million is big money to raise. I always like to work with people that I kind of relate to personally. It doesn’t feel like it’s a job; it feels like you’re working with somebody to help them create something amazing. He asked me to write a song for a specific part in the film which I’m working on now and that’s really good fun. And I’ve just done a few songs for the Eddie the Eagle film which is out now. In fact, it was on the plane when I was coming back from America.  It seems that I’ve been asked to do that quite a bit which I’ve really enjoyed because you read the scripts and you understand the narrative of the film and then you have to craft a song that explains the emotion of a certain point. I really enjoy that. I really believe it is important to be constantly trying to challenge myself to be doing new things and writing new things and go places I haven’t been before because that’s the way you develop and you can bring all that development back to your heritage music and the vintage stuff but I think it’s important to always go forward because you can’t just always be a musical museum.”

Howard Jones and Kim Wilde will be touring Australia in November. Get full tour details here.

 

 

by Sharyn Hamey

Copyright © Sharyn Hamey 2016.  All rights reserved

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