The first three Jesus Jones albums, Liquidiser, Doubt and band / fan favourite Perverse (1993) were followed by Already , released in 1998 in the US and 1997 in the rest of the world. Almost totally ignored by the press it failed to do as well as hoped and as a result EMI dropped the band but kept Mike on for three more fruitless years. Having spent their time in the wilderness, the original five members reformed to start work on London, for MI5 Recordings in New York at the start of 2001. As with Already, Gen left again to continue working for Deckard, and by default, Regency Buck (the former being the basis of the latters live band). His place was taken by Tony Arthy, previously drummer in Miles Hunts' (The Wonderstuff) band.
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Jesus Jones did short US and UK (supporting The Wonderstuff) at the end of 2001 and plan much more touring and recording in future.
Mike has also been working with his new band Yoshi, Jerry formed The Feely Room (now disbanded) and co-opted Tony into Sum Demeana, Alan is with Chicago expatriates The Waco Brothers, Iain is a radio DJ on London's XFM and Gen is still drumming for Deckard (formerly baby Chaos and Callaghan). Links to all of these can be found on the here.
Andy Ross, then deputy head honcho at Food Records, opens up his briefcase in Camden's Devonshire Arms. Inside is an inferior brand personal stereo with no discernible bottom end. Excitedly, he places the crappy headphones upon your correspondent's ears and presses the play button. I hear the trademark wall of noise, the sound of guitars being churned up in a barrage of electronics, the insistent, incensed chorus.
"So Crazyhead have discovered that there was always a dance element to their music?" I say. "Or have Gaye Bykers finally worked out how to play their instruments?" Wrong and wrong. The name of the band is JESUS JONES and the song, 'Info Freako', a £125 demo, sniffs the proverbial pissed on lamppost that is the Top 40 when it is released the following February. It sneaks in at 42. Around that time, the assured, beret-wearing, basketball-booted Jesus H Jones (aka Mike Edwards) and his cohorts start appearing in the press. Edward's moniker is perfect: religious icon-drug acronym-everyman. And in a world obsessed by soundbites, Edwards attitude is perfect too: he handles himself like he was on a personal crusade to reboot rock 'n' roll at a new year zero. On paper then, it's already in the bag but what about in the flesh?
Early on, JESUS JONES play a gig in the packed bar of London's U.L.U. in a four-one formation. At the back is mild- mannered janitor and drummer Gen (Simon Matthews); upfront it's a three-pronged axe-attack plus keyboard player Barry D (aka Barry Dogg, or plain ol Iain Baker), head shaking like a fermenting Pet Shop Boy. Guitarist Jerry de Abela Borg is virtually pinned into a corner by bass player Al Jaworski's (Alan Doughty) unfeasibly flailing hair extensions and Edwards' uncontrollable exuberance. It's official! The compression of dance, hip-hop and rock through one mixing desk works onstage too.
In June the band release a second single, 'Never Enough', another Number 42. JESUS JONES become Eurostars, playing the Lorelei Festival in Germany, then come home to take a tin opener to David Bowie's arse, playing support to the rusty Tin Machine. The live spectacle is further tested during a U.K. tour and at Reading Festival, after which JESUS JONES reach Number 46 in September with 'Bring It On Down'. The album, the aptly-titled 'Liquidizer' follows a month later. The album sleeve lists 38 influences as far ranging as Big Black and Eric B and all of them seem to have been pureed in the rush to blend the entire back catalogue of western civilisation. It notches up a respectable 32 and goes silver before the year is out. In November, synchronicity strikes when JESUS JONES cover grebo godheads Crazyhead's 'I Don't Want That Kind Of Love', for the Food Christmas E.P. The video is recorded for the princely sum of £24.95 at Star Trax in Piccadilly's Trocadero. The band finish off the '90's in style, playing at The London Town & Country Club (now The Forum) and having praise heaped upon by all the inkies. Hurrah!
Meanwhile, there's another revolution going down in Romania which doesn't involve samplers and skater chic. Instead of sending food parcels, Britain send a Food act (and two other bands lost to the mists of time). There are rumours that JESUS JONES will be kidnapped and held for ransom, and consequently they are escorted by 250 conscripts wherever they go. The teenage soldiers prefer dancing about with their rifles in the air to forming a human wall to stop any stray sniper bullets. Everyone shares a brief moment of hope in the prospect of a united Europe, and each of the gigs culminates in a heartfelt rendition of 'Keep On Rocking In The Free World'.
On JESUS JONES return they discover they have moved up into the premier league. Their next release 'Real Real Real' reached Number 19 in March. After appearing on all the right stages at all the right times throughout the Summer - including Glastonbury and Reading - JESUS JONES go west in September, for their first tour of Canada and the U.S. (where 'Liquidizer' had been released in the U.S.). Back in Blighty, 'Right Here, Right Now' is released sans samples from Prince's 'Sign O The Times' and reaches 31. It's followed by a U.K. tour. By December, they have their first Top 10 - 'International Bright Young Thing' is a U.K. Number 7.
JESUS JONES second album, 'Doubt', enters the U.K. chart at Number 1, going gold overnight. Mike is at home when his manager calls with the news. Does he throw the TV out of the window? No. Mike thinks, 'shit, that makes us the new New Kids On The Block.' Fortunately for Mike's sanity, the album drops down the chart quicker than you can say "Morrissey" but a disaster is round the corner. After touring the U.K. and the U.S. (plus releasing their poppiest single to date, 'Who? Where? Why?', which reaches 21 in February), America goes ballistic for the JONES boys. In July 'Right Here, Right Now' reaches Number 2 in America, and 'Doubt' sells over a million copies. JESUS JONES come home in style, playing to 72,000 at Wembley Stadium supporting INXS, then fly back to America for the MTV Awards. Much to the disinterest of their roadies and the astonishment of the band they pick up a gong for Best Band Named After The Son Of God.... No, just kidding, it was Best New Video. Mike's speech in full: "We're going to call it Eric." Meanwhile, young upstarts EMF are reaping similar rewards but despite peer pressure, JESUS JONES refuse to be drawn into a Blur V Oasis scenario.
From the sublime to the biologically perverse, JESUS JONES head off to South America where the "MTV stars" perform to 250,000 at Rock In Rio. For the second time in their lives they are escorted everywhere by armed bodyguards, and even going to a cafe involves having your hair ripped out by the roots and having to call the cops to get out again. After being flashed at by boys, girls and a few people of indeterminate sexuality, JESUS JONES return to headline the more prosaic Slough Festival in July. Bon Jovi decide they need a dash of this future sampler thing and ask Edwards to remix one of their singles but have second thoughts at the last minute.
The band release album number three 'Perverse', in which JESUS JONES take music made by sampler to infinity and beyond. It reaches Number 6 in the U.K. Mike seems to be obsessed about making music for tomorrow today. A precis of all the press he and Iain do at the time: Techno! Techno! Techno!
"The album was really good," says Edwards now. "It was our most adventurous and most principled, that's why it failed... If you call half a million failing." Edwards, though, is starting to reach saturation point. Disillusionment by expectations of record sales is followed by lacklustre performances on the 'Perverse' tour. Cabin fever has set in and the band are too busy holding each other out of hotel windows to realise that their leader may be on the verge of a mid-career crisis.
In September he starts writing again but finds himself bored with the process of making a JESUS JONES record. Instead, he remixes others (incl. Roxette), writes and produces three songs for Traci Lords, contributes a chapter to the book Love Is The Drug and makes music for the spaceship sim. computer game, Absolute Zero. Over the next 12 months, between clubbing and mountain biking, Edwards writes 12 songs, which take the songs on 'Perverse' to their illogical extreme. Edwards feels increasingly trapped by the need to make more and more principled music, and starts to lose a grip of his personal life.
Everything goes prickly pear shaped. Edwards splits up from his wife and Food reject the new material (where's the tunes?). JESUS JONES lick their wounds in the Far East, playing with Japanese superstar, Hotei. On his return, Edwards bites the bullet and writes 16 more songs in three months. There are still nods to the latest club developments - a drum 'n' bass vibe sneaks in here and there - but Edwards has become less obsessed with being different and more concerned with writing good pop songs again.
JESUS JONES enter the studio with Ian Richardson and Nick Coler. The next album is going to be a band thing, not a one- man show. After four months in the studio, neither Edwards nor his record company are satisfied that they've captured the back to basics band feel. Edwards is so fed up that in November he goes mountain biking in Tibet and climbs halfway up Everest. Meanwhile, back home Jerry tinkers on ideas for the album, Iain is off DJing all over the world, Gen was drumming for a couple of other bands, and Alan is playing in Chicago with a bunch of expats including Jon Langford under the name, The Waco Brothers. Rolling Stone rates the Clash-cum-Pogues pish-up.
A light bulb is turned on above JESUS JONES's collective heads. They approach Martyn Phillips (whose credits include Erasure and an American No.1 single 'Right Here, 'Right Now' by some famous band with a familiar name!) to remix a few of the songs. Phillips though, wants to remix the whole thing.
In April, to avoid cabin fever and to road test the new material, the band do a short, low-key tour, during which they literally play a toilet (albeit a converted one) in Tunbridge Wells. Not only have JESUS JONES not been forgotten but fans from all over the world hear the news by word-of-internet, and people from as far afield as L.A. and Australia appear at tiny venues in Stoke and Northampton.
JESUS JONES are invigorated but, on their return, the measured pace of Phillips' remixing finally proves too much for Gen, who leaves the group in September to join Baby Chaos. Jerry describes it as the bleakest moment in the band's career.
JESUS JONES return. Cue the 'Second Coming'/'Back From The Dead' headlines. Cue the music: a single 'The Next Big Thing' and an album, 'Already'. Cue the pre-release teaser: 'This time they've made a band's album....'
'Already' is unashamedly reminiscent of old school JESUS JONES - Edwards vocal style for instance is an unforgettable as it is consistent - albeit exploring new sonic territory, especially on the self-explanatory 'Wishing It Away' and 'February', a tune about seasonally adjusted depression. There are songs about the sensation of falling off mountains, destiny, alien abduction, consumerism gone mad and the depravity of the Roman Empire as seen through the eyes of the News Bunny on Live TV. And, perhaps most importantly, there's a song about fallibility. "We did a promotional tour of South America in 1993," remembers Edwards, "and it was basically a scam - it just happened to be Summer there. And that's pretty much the way things are now. And to be honest, I think that's the way things worked before, but for me that was never enough. It had to be the grand scheme as well we're not just here to have fun, we're here to do something worthy, which is bollocks."
Mike Edwards had to stop for a while to remember why he wanted to make music and JESUS JONES had to stop to let the rest of the world catch up with how they made it. As Romania begat Sarajevo, so 'Liquidizer' begat Pop Music as we know it at the end of the millennium, where breakbeats and samples are now as commonplace on a rock 'n' roll record as a Fender guitar. But Edwards is not interested in smugly telling everybody, 'I told you so'.
"I don't want to get into that 'I invented rock 'n' roll', because I've had it with all those soundbites and grandiose claims. That's another thing that bores me about our past." Now when Edwards says "I invented rock 'n' roll, dontcha know?" he says it with a smile.
Written by Shaun Phillips - 1997
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