JUMP launch their 13th studio album in the spring of 2016 (which just happens to be a leap year!) So we went OVER THE TOP to speak to JOHN DEXTER JONES.
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Hi John, by way of introduction, please tell us who does what in the band and what kind of music you play.
Everyone in the band does something. Some do more than others but that's bands for ya. I sing and talk a lot, Steve plays the guitar and is just 'there', Ronnie plays the guitar like he's a bit of a rock god, Mo plays keys and accordion (yes really), Mark does bass and gin, and Andy sits at the back with his kit.
Why the name 'Jump'?
Cos it didn't represent anything... anonymous and odd rather than spectacular and knowing...
Your 13th studio album comes out in April 2016. Where did you record it and how did the songs come together?
Over The Top was recorded at Mars Studios in Buckinghamshire. The songs were written in the usual fashion - that is to say in every conceivable way possible, be that on the back of a cornflakes packet in North Wales, in five minutes at rehearsals, or in a cold sweat in the middle of the night. JUMP songs have always happened in different ways and they then get worked on in different ways. Sometimes three of us take something somewhere and then another two might take it somewhere else... and then when we're all there we pull them and twist them and refine them and then spring them into gigs. The lyrics also find their way into the world in diverse ways. Poems that fit straight in or line by line in relation to a riff or chasing a chorus that arrived on a train or in the pub... the ideas are always there. I know what I want to write about but there is no real method, just careful editing, making sure the rhythms in the words are right. Over The Top has its narratives and its themes. The best way to get involved with them is to listen to the songs.
What's the story behind the artwork?
The cover is a self portrait by my son Charlie - he balanced his phone on a playground bench and shot this great image of himself flying off a swing. When he showed it to me we were working on a song called Behind the Lines and there and then it became the album cover. I reflected on what a fifteen year old lad does now for 'adventure' and what a lot of lads of the same age and a little older sought 100 years ago. I keep wondering why all those lads were slaughtered, what for and who was in charge - big themes but ones that surround us still. Charlie's cover is all daring and innocence... a different kind of Over The Top. Behind The Lines is a song about the execution of a deserter - someone who wouldn't let go of the trench ladder.
Any special plans for the launch?
We play the Limelight Theatre in Aylesbury shortly after the release - always a tremendous gig for us and one where our hard core fans come and mingle and have a few pints with us after. They come from all over and constitute a cross section of ages and musical interests that exist outside the limits of any genre. If you asked a JUMP fan what kind of music we played they'd probably just say 'JUMP' music. I'll take a sharpie!
I've been listening to tracks from your previous albums, and every album since 1991 has its own separate identity, different from what went before and what came after. The Black Pilgrim, released in July 2013, has very much of an acoustic folk-tale vibe, with the accordion and the storytelling lyrics. Will the new live set include songs from this album? Which songs (and from which albums) do you most often include when you play live? What songs do your regulars call out for?
JUMP, whilst essentially a six piece rock band, plays gigs in a number of formats. We mix things up by playing a number of full band acoustic gigs that focus on that whole acoustic-folk-tale vibe as well as acoustic trio gigs where we strip down songs from across our catalogue - this has often acted as a great introduction to the band when we go out as a support to bigger acts in bigger venues. As for albums having their own identity - yes, I'm glad. We once got criticised for failing to notice the progressive rock revival and not delving into our lush past to recycle something we'd already done... I mean what? If you want to hear that... it's already there... we just write to please ourselves and give life to our musical and lyrical ideas. Mind you a notable journo upon hearing Over the Top did tell me he thought we'd nailed a quintessential English Prog album... so I'll take that... (even though I'm Welsh!)
What's been the best gig you've ever played, and what made it so?
Far too many 'best evers'. Every gig is great. Honestly. We've played massive gigs on tour with Marillion and Fish and the like and we've played tiny bars and clubs where the magic has been amazing. We've played Abbey Road Studio 2 and we've played strip joints and village halls. I just couldn't say. We played a magic night at The Norwegian Church in Cardiff last week... it was brilliant... there were probably 40 people there. So I guess we've never played a bad gig... just all sorts... and we've loved every minute - how lucky are we! Anyway we've done well over a thousand now and still look forward to 'em all!
Any Spinal Tap moments?
Steve trying to mount a Mercedes in his Peugeot outside a gig in Chester. You had to be there. You just had to.
With so many long-established music clubs closing down, and with rock venues moving towards coverbands and student disco nights, and most horrifying of all recently, so many legends dying... what's the future for rock and rockbands? Who do you think can carry the torch and where will they carry it?
Well we certainly can. We have no choice! We find places to play, we engineer the circumstances, we work hard on telling people. We'll never be famous, but the future for rock and rockbands is rock and rockbands. Make your own opportunities if it's all covers and discos. We've been going 26 years and seen it all come and go and come back again... and go... very few people give you anything, but when they do, you have to be ready, fit, able and on top of it. I remember Fish ringing me up about a week before a tour back in '97 and offering us the support slot. That's a rare thing but then he's rare character - a real genuine guy who knows the score. We were there like a rat up a drainpipe but if we hadn't been in shape it could have been a worry. Bands have to get stuck in and make things happen. That's how you pick up your turn with the torch.
Who's been your biggest inspiration in the music business, and why?
All the people I've worked with. Their work has inspired me the most. I see what they do and I know what it takes to become a part-time professional musician - the commitment, the lack of sleep, the banging your head on the walls... and then, the moments when the magic happens in a rehearsal studio or in a gig. That's true inspiration. Too many bands to mention have entertained me and rubbed off on me and become friends with me but in the end it's the people I work with who continue to inspire me. Outside the 'business' it has to be the fans. If you're not inspired by people who travel and pay to see what you do, then you're missing out. I love hearing their stories, hearing about their lives, hearing about what inspires them... the very fact that they are there inspires me to keep on exploring.
What would you say to anyone out there who hasn't been to a Jump gig yet?
If you come to one, I'll bet you you come to another!
© Get Ready To Roll - 7th March 2016