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INTERVIEW – Kelly Jones, Stereophonics – June 2013

| 28 June 2013 | Reply

By Shane Pinnegar

2013 saw Stereophonics return after a couple of years doing other things, bringing with them new album Graffitti On The Train and an Australian tour locked in for July.  Singer, guitarist and songwriter Kelly Jones also told us about a screenplay which covers the story of the album tracks, which they are hoping to have made in the next 12 months.  Exciting times in The Stereophonics camp, and Jones is in a jovial mood down the phone from the U.K.

Stereophonics Kelly Jones 03

100% ROCK: G’day Kelly. How you doing today?

Kelly: Hello mate. I’m good, mate, how are you?

100% ROCK: I’m very good indeed. Thanks for your time, mate. Much appreciated.

Kelly: No problems. Thank you for yours. Cheers.

100% ROCK: We’re very happy that you’ve just added a Perth show to your Australian tour.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah, we’re trying to do as much as we can in as many places as we can, but sometimes proves more difficult but we’ve finally got it in there, so that’s a good thing.

100% ROCK: Excellent stuff. It’s been a while. It’s been a couple of years since you were last here. Maybe even four years I think we saw you at Metro City in Perth.

Kelly: Yeah, yeah, we, the last album took us around the world for about two years and then we took a year off touring and just been having a good time making this record really, at our own studio and stuff. We, took a year to just do some creative stuff really and we’re back out there and taking it to the people.


100% ROCK: Look, reading the bio that came along with the album information, it sounds like you really approached the new album very differently from your previous albums.

Kelly: Yeah, I think every album we make, we’ve always been very conscious about not repeating ourselves and trying to find a new approach and a new sound and that’s the same on every record, but I think on this album, I think we gave ourselves a bit more time after ??? was released a few years ago it gave us confidence. The people have a big love for the band and I guess in the past we were always conscious of keeping the band in the public eye constantly every two years but I think we gave ourselves a bit of a break really in the sense of let the band breathe and let the songs a grow bit more. We’ve always given ourselves six weeks to make a record and we wanted to see what would happen if we allowed it to be a process of just going into work every day.

We ended up recording so much material and that gave us so much more choices in songs to choose from. It was a good experience and a good way of doing it. We didn’t work any less. If anything we worked more, but we just discovered ourselves and gave ourselves a bit more time to find that sound.

100% ROCK: One of the things that was written in your bio was that you came into the studio, I think it was for something like 40 unfinished the ideas, rather than ten finished songs.

Kelly: Yeah

100% ROCK: Does that mean that you managed to combine a lot of things together or, with the help of the band, or does that mean that there’s extra songs out there ready for next time?

Kelly: Yeah, there are a lot of extra songs – we mixed 26 songs. We considered making it a double album then we thought we’d concentrate it down more, because I think people’s attention spans these days are shorter, rather than longer, so we were much more focused. There is a lot more songs to release and there’s a lot more songs recorded and there’s a lot more areas where the band could come to do what they wanted to do and there was … you don’t finish an idea it’s interesting to see what would happen as you start developing in the studios or the hotel or on a bus or whatever. And that only comes from giving yourself a bit more time.
If you know you’ve only got six weeks to finish the record then you got the songs have to be ready before you go in there and it’s just a matter of performance, so it was not set in any guideline really and just seeing what would happen and seeing what this record could become without boxing yourselves in before you start. I think that was a good learning process for us.

Kelly Jones of Stereophonics in 2013

100% ROCK: Cool. Look, it’s no coincidence that the music on the record sounds so cinematic when reading the bio that it’s apparently based on the screenplay you wrote of the same name. Is that likely to be developed into a movie or a mini-series or something like that at some stage?

Kelly: Yeah, the screenplay was kind of being written at the same time. We’ve changed it a lot as we were making the album and in the last couple of weeks the screenplay’s in a place now where we start the meetings next week and try and get producers and finance people on board. We’d like to try and get it off the ground sometime next year really, so yeah, it’s a screenplay that, you’ve got its own title and the music was kind of a soundtrack to that. It’s a rite of passage story about two kids running away from a small town and travelling across Europe and discovering the stuff about themselves really.

It’s, yeah, I think the album goes through that as well, lyrically they go through some spiritual stuff and come out the other end really kind of hopeful and enlightening. It was a good way to work, it was something to lean on and find ideas from. Eventually they’ll be pieced together and in a few years time it’s going to be one big piece of work.

100% ROCK: Wow – that must be pretty exciting for you branching out into a completely different area like that.

Kelly: Yeah, I’ve always loved film and music. I did my university stuff in film and I’ve always written all these ideas and stuff and I just think of it as the same thing as storytelling. I write stories in songs and film is another way of telling stories, so for me it’s just branching out into a different medium, but the job essentially is the same really, which is trying to move people with the stories you’ve got to tell.

100% ROCK: I think your strength as a songwriter is your storytelling ability, that’s obvious. You write songs about like little people living normal lives and yet you imbue them with so much soul that they really connect with the listener. It’s a real talent, a real gift, but I guess the question is, does that take its toll on you personally in an emotional sense, putting that much heart and soul into something that you create?

Kelly: I think for me it’s an outlet really. I mean, I come from a very small place and I was brought up in an environment where people didn’t really talk about problems or anything. They just kind of either brushed them aside, pushed them under the carpet, or drank, or whatever they did. For me, I’m just fortunate that and grateful that I got a way of expressing whatever’s going on around me or in my head or in my life or things I see. I’m quite disciplined in the fact that I’ll do it intensely for the period of time I’m working on it but then I won’t really get affected by it after I’ve finished it really.

Once it’s out of my system I’m kind of okay again, so I kind of know when to turn the tap off and turn the tap on. I don’t know how I know, but I’ve always been able to do that, so I guess that’s the key to it really.

100% ROCK: That was going to be my next question. Do you, when you’re channeling this do you switch on and switch off or is it something that’s always there for you? Yeah, interesting.

Kelly: Yeah, I think when I’m in the middle of the album it’s just, it’s all time consuming. Once it’s done I kind of let go again. It takes me a while to let it go but once it’s done I say okay.

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100% ROCK: As well as writing from a personal perspective, a lot of the time you write observationally about things that you, situations or characters you’ve created or things that you’ve witnessed or heard about. Do you get a lot of people coming up and saying, “Oh, Kelly I’ve got a story for you, you’ve got to write a song about such and such, blah, blah, blah.”

Kelly: [laughs] Yeah, I used to get that a lot on the, after the first album, because a lot of the first album’s about the small town I was from and people would sit next to me in the pub and start telling me stories. They’d say, “Oh, don’t put it in a song”, but what they really meant was, “Put it in a song.” Yeah, it used to happen a lot on the first album.

100% ROCK: Wow. How’s the new boy, Jamie Morrison? He’s your third drummer to date. How’s he fitting in with the band?

Kelly: He’s great, man. He’s a big Stereophonics fan and loves the band – we did the Jools Holland TV show last week and he was amazing and he’s done his first leg of the tour. Great energy, great sense of character. Yeah, so he’s settling in really well and Richard [Jones – bass player] loves playing with him. There’s always that thing with drummers and bass players, they always have their problems. I think the rhythm section is happy at the moment.

100% ROCK: Good – always good to have that. With the new directions of music on Graffiti on the Train how has that affected the way that you guys play live? I mean, do you need a keyboardist now, have you incorporated samples into the set? How’s it working?

Kelly: We’ve got a keyboard player – well, since Performance & Cocktails, really – out in the wings. He’s always there with us behind the amp somewhere. Yeah, it’s amazing what you can do with a lot of the new gear now, so we’ve got the strings sampled into the keyboard so we can play those parts. If we do bigger shows we take some string players with us. Yeah, it’s pretty accurate to what the album is and they’re sounding great. And [the new material] fits in really well with the old stuff as well, because, you know, Graffiti and Indian Summer are being played lots on the radio, and they’re pretty much anthemic tracks live as well now just like Local Boy In The Photograph – so we’re very proud of the fact that we’ve got all these albums, but the new one is … even though it’s quite diverse, there is stuff that fits in really well in the live forum.

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100% ROCK: Excellent. How’s the set list shaping up? I mean, you’ve got a lot of favourites to choose from over eight albums.

Kelly: The set list is getting harder and harder…

100% ROCK: How democratic a process is it writing that?

Kelly: Yeah, we’re just writing songs of each type so everybody stays happy [laughs]

100% ROCK: Yeah, right.

Kelly: It’s great to have so many songs to choose from, so yeah, it’s just finding the energy balance really, just to try and take people of a journey and then the different songs on different albums sometimes can do the same job as a different song. You just have to mix it up really. Yeah, it’s been really good actually, it’s been really good.

100% ROCK: How do you guys, I guess, keep it fresh for both yourselves and for the audience when you’re playing a song for the thousandth time?

Kelly: I think if you’ve got a balance in your gig, the new and the old – we’re the type of band, we’re all mates, we all get along, we all hang out with each other outside of the music so it’s all pretty open, it’s not like we meet on stage and do the same set list every night and then go home to separate hotels. It’s a conscious and a continual conversation over a few days and what worked, what didn’t work. It’s just a matter of if something feels stale or we’ve had enough of it, then we switch it for something else. That’s the beauty of having eight albums to pick from so we don’t really ever let it get to that point where we are all on stage bored out of our minds.

100% ROCK: On a personal note, how, how easy is it to deal with your level of fame, especially in the UK? I mean, you’re pretty much instantly recognizable and you went from, after your first couple of albums you became a face that was just everywhere. You were out partying with Ronnie Wood and doing this, that and the other and on every TV show. Is that difficult to deal with on a personal level?

Kelly: I’ve never really found it that difficult personally. I’ve never really played the media game. I’ve never really used them as my tool. Like I said, if I’m making a record I’m out and about, ‘cause I’m out and about working generally and you meet people along the way. An hour and a half ago I just dropped my two girls off in school and some people will say, “Oh, I saw you on TV Tuesday, it was great, blah, blah, blah.” “Can you sign the album for my kids?” “Yeah.” I don’t really take it that seriously and I realize real life is real life. I’ve never, touch wood, but I’ve never had people come up to me and be hard work or an asshole. People are always pretty complimentary. It’s a bit like Springsteen said, “If you stick around for 20 years, people start being nice to you.

100% ROCK: Awesome. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording of any one record in history, which one would you choose?

Kelly: Maybe Led Zeppelin II. That was the first record my brother ever gave me on vinyl and I played that a lot and I always loved the solo in Whole Lotta Love, and I would love to have see how they did that whole middle section of that song, so I would go for Led Zeppelin II.

100% ROCK: Awesome. Very good answer. Look, thank you very much for you time. I’m really looking forward to seeing the band when you hit Perth. Love the album.

Kelly: All right, man. Take it easy.


Stereophonics Australian tour dates:

July 18 – The Enmore, Sydney
19 – The Hi Fi Bar, Brisbane
21 – The Palace, Melbourne
23 – The Palace, Melbourne (NEW SHOW!)
25 – Metro City, Perth (Rescheduled from the 23rd)


Category: Interviews

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Editor, 100% ROCK MAGAZINE

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