One on one with drummer jon lee
Hey, Jon. Where are you now?
New York.By the way, if we lose each other, I can’t help it. It’s just cell phone communa-technology. You know? (laughs)
Yeah. So where you at?
I’m in London stuck in a traffic jam. I’ll tell you what, the traffic is nearly as bad here as it was in New York City.
I missed you when you were in New York because of Hurricane Floyd.
Well, it wasn’t really a hurricane, was it? It was really just some heavy downpours and rain, but yet Manhattan seemed to close down because of it. People ought to spend a few days in Wales; it rains like that non-stop for days.
I guess everyone thought it was going to be a big deal, but it never panned out.
I know. It wasn’t a big deal.
Are you touring now?
We start our tour in the North of England, then on to Scotland, and then we’ll make our way back down.
So what are your plans for the US?
We are trying desperately now to get on a tour because we’d like to fill up the rest of the year in America or at least in the beginning of next year. I think the album has been received pretty well from those who have heard it. We spent nine months there last year and set a little foundation and we’d like to capitalize on that. Maybe we can dominate your market over there. (laughs)
Personally, I think the album is great.
Well, thanks. How long have you had it?
Probably a month, or a little more perhaps.
So it’s had a chance to grow on you?
Yeah. When did you start recording the album?
We actually started doing demos for it before we came to America last time. So I’d say we started it January ’88, oops, I mean ’98. Oh God, not ’88. (laughs) We did a little recording while we were in America, but most of those tracks are B-sides. Then we came back and started recording again in December. Then we took a break for Christmas and started again in January, and then pretty much finished in March. It has been spread out really. We didn’t have a chance to use a producer on it because the people that we wanted weren’t available, so we did it ourselves.
Really? So did you have experience producing?
We have worked in studios before, so we know our way around, and we had the same engineer that worked on the first album. So it was a case of getting on with it. It was pretty spontaneous, really. I think it reflects that in the record, the way it sounds. I think it is a more exciting sounding record than the first one.
How do you guys write your material?
We came to the studio with song ideas and sat down and flushed them out, or we might come into the studio with a great track and just couldn’t get it to feel right, so we just change the feel of it. Like “Waiting For Changes”. That was originally written in half times, really, and now it is in double time. It’s just whatever works. If something doesn’t work the first time around, maybe we’ll come back to it the next day and work it out. The record company gave us leeway to record, record, and record. By the time we finished recording, we had thirty-two tracks total. So, we had some leeway to record as much as possible and had the choice of tracks.
The thing I like most about the album is that it doesn’t tail off at the end. I’m sure that has something to do with writing so much material and having the luxury of choosing from so many songs.
Yeah, it keeps going and going and going. (laughs)
Right. I mean, the last track, “Paper Faces”, is great.
That is a really strong song. It was one that we tried a couple of times at various stages and the style that seemed to work for the record was the real simple way of recording it, and that was like an old style straight ahead Lennon way of recording it really. But you are right; we picked the best stuff and the most dynamic songs that we could. I think it worked. I’m glad that you picked up on the similar vibe that we had about the record.
I also like “Pictures Of Perfect Youth”. What is that about?
I obviously don’t write the lyrics, but for an overall view of the lyrics: Grant views it from either his point of view or opinions. It’s just everyday life really, like relationships he is involved in or what others are involved with. It’s what he picks up going through life. Like “Insomnia” is about sleepless nights on the tour bus and getting off stage full of adrenaline and then having to get on the bus for five or six hours to the next town or show. There are references for places to Florida, yet there are references to places in Wales where he grew up. It’s just observations and paranoia. “Pictures Of Perfect Youth” was about an old girlfriend. It is about the fact that when you are young and you get into a relationship that you think things are going to pan out for you and they don’t. And that comes to a halt and then you go through your early and late twenties rather quickly, and you seem to forget about those who were so important to you when you were younger, until you come across an old photograph.
That’s cool. I also like how it goes from a fast track and then to a slow track.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I think it is important to have dynamics on an album, especially when it’s your second album. A lot of people have problems with their second album. The whole process was a happy one. And with fingers crossed, it might do well. It did well in the UK.
I listen to a lot of British music and I’m always surprised when a really great British act doesn’t catch on in America.
I think partly because British bands come over, I mean, America is a giant place, and they get disillusioned with it. You have to really, really work it. We were there for nine months and got our name around, but we did get our foot in the door. Bands go over there and play for months to ten people when they play to thousands in the UK, and they get disillusioned and want to come home to what they know. Eventually, if you stick it out long enough, you’ll catch on. Look at Bush, they stuck it out for a long time and they had a radio single and it went sky high.
I read that there was something called “Feeder Week”. What was that?
In July, yeah. It was the playback for the record. What we did was we sent out area reps out to book a club and invite lots of people down to hear a playback of the record via the internet or fan club. We had a really good response. We got the idea for “Feeder Week” from a show on the Discovery channel called Shark Week. I’m into sharks and it’s pretty similar. (laughs) It was just something for the fans.
What did you grow up listening to?
Oh, wow. Well, I’m thirty-one years old, so Black Sabbath was really big when I was growing up. So were Led Zeppelin, the Who, and the Beatles, obviously. The Kinks, ABBA, and went on to the punk scene, like the Sex Pistols and the Clash. Duran Duran made a big impression on us. I’m not speaking for myself; I’m speaking for all of us really. We all grew up on the same thing, pretty much. We are pretty open minded about music, so we never stuck to one style, really. I was forced to listen to choir music by my father, so I had that crammed down my throat all my life. I think that is why I have gray hair.
What started you playing the drums?
I had a kid who lived next door to me who had a drum kit, and I used to be in my room at night listening to him thrash away. My parents asked me, ‘What do you want to do in life?’ and I was like, ‘I want a drum kit.’ As soon as I saw someone else playing, that was it for me really. Sad, really, I wish it was piano. We all have crosses to bear. (laughs)
What are your plans for New Year’s?
We might be playing a show in Wales. Who wants to do a gig on New Year’s Eve? Not me. I’m expecting a baby anytime now, so hopefully I’ll be with my baby and my fianc. Hopefully I’ll be with my child, being thrown up on all night. I’m quite into that, really.
+ charlie craine