As they brought their ‘French Kiss In The Chaos’ tour to Nottingham, Reverend and The Makers’ frontman Jon McClure talks to ANDREW TRENDELL about Oasis, Africa, politics and the problems with the music industry…
AT: A French Kiss In The Chaos has been out for a while now. How have you found the fans and the world at larges’ reception of it?
JM: It’s been good man, yeah. I think people really like it. Trendy f*ckers don’t but people that like music do. It’s been good. We’ve done a lot of touring off the back of it. We did that Oasis stadium tour last year, then our own massive tour, then that Kasabian Arena tour so we’ve certainly been out there and people have got it. It’s been good man, I’ve enjoyed it.
AT: A lot of bands say that when they support bands in stadiums and arenas that it makes them up their own game. Have you found that?
JM: Absolutely, both Serge and Noel have said “can you come and support us because it makes us play better,” so its nice. When you’re supporting, there’s a different skill to when you’re headlining. There’s a different dynamic but we enjoyed it. It’s nice to be out there with bands who you respect who love your music.
AT: Does it feel strange to have played at some of the last ever Oasis gigs?
JM: Yeah, a little bit. I’ve got a watch that they gave us for supporting them. Obviously I grew up with Oasis so it was a bit strange. But its cool you know because I’m excited to be on Noel’s solo record. Noel was a talented motherf*cker so I’m hoping his solo record will be good. It’s weird because I’ve just come back from Africa with Damon Albarn, and when I was a kid both Damon and Noel were two big dudes. Damon asked a load of musicians to out to Nigeria with him last year, and I’ve just come back from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia with him so I’ve seen both sides of it now. It’s interesting though. Certainly because they were musicians that I respected and in many ways, they were the last ones really. Wembley Stadium is massive though. We had a game of football there for this charity match and it was only Rod Stewart and me who had both played football and sang there. You know what I mean? It’s a pretty big thing that.
AT: Was that a bit of a headf*ck?
JM: It’s unbelievable, isn’t it? You never think that you’re going to do stuff like that when you’re a kid but I did.
AT: What were you doing out in Africa with Damon Albarn then?
JM: Just jamming with some African musicians. I think Damon’s idea is that he’s trying to get us all into making African records and he’s trying to inspire us all to do it. I think the idea was just to take a few younger musicians and get them vibed up. He’s doing a good job, I’m really into it. It’s wicked.
AT: Your latest album ‘A French Kiss In The Chaos’ shows a clear progression. How would you describe the band’s evolution?
JM: I think it’s a bit more moody and dub-influenced – there’s more of a sense of gloom. I’m done with politics now. You try your best and people don’t want to know unfortunately and privately I can have my own politics and do my own little projects but on a musical level I think that if you go on about politics too much then you become a bit of a ranting nutter rather than a musician, and that’s not something I want to be. I want to make music that people enjoy and I think that there are only so many times you can make music that’s political, certainly.
AT: It’s always refreshing to your music with a message in it. Would you say that for you, the music and the message go hand in hand or will you be separating the two from now on?
JM: I might do. I’ve got this thing called Reverend Soundsystem at the moment and obviously I’m working on some African stuff. Reverend Soundsystem isn’t so much about the message, it’s more about the musical feeling that it gives you, and you know what I mean? I’m trying to separate music from politics but that’s just on this record – I might make a record in seven records time which is a different thing. You’ve just got to go with how you feel at the moment, and at the moment I don’t particularly want to say anything about the world. But I’ve done a lot of different things; I did that Mongrel thing with rappers and a lot of dub so I always just go where the mood takes me. That’s what I like about modern music, is that you can just change your clothes and do something new.
AT: Do you ever get despondent that people may not always react or care about the message behind your music?
JM: Yeah, of course I do. Whether it’s The Clash or Bob Marley, people used to care. But we’re living in different times – the record industry is owned by money men, it’s not owned by people who care about what’s happening. Everybody thinks Kings Of Leon are the greatest band in the world, which is obviously not the case. You watch this years’ Brit Awards and see JLS winning a few and you thinkg “f*cking hell, is that the best we can do?” But, by the same token, for every one of them there are a few people who get it and stuff but if everyone got it then it wouldn’t quite be the same.
AT: British indie music as a whole had a very clear set direction over the last decade. What would you like to see change within British music or within the industry in the next ten years?
JM: I’d like young multi-racial inner-city music to come back and make something that’s never been heard before. That’s where it’s at for me. That’s where hope lies. When you listen to the Bassline scene or the Dubstep scene, some of these kids are doing some interesting things so more emphasis should be placed on that. There’s really good stuff out there but t might not be four white lads with guitars and they might not dress like Kings Of Leon. I think the focus of the media is incredibly narrow and it regenerates the same old bullsh*t.
AT: In terms of sound, what are you leaning towards on your next record at the moment?
JM: I’m doing a thing called Reverend Soundsystem and I’m leaning towards electronic Badman music – that’s what I’d describe it as. It’s a big mixture of styles. It’s quite electronic and sounds like it was made in the city.
AT: Being a Sheffield band, I imagine a lot of lazy journalists or A & R men, see the word ‘Sheffield’ and make a bunch of assumptions about some sort shared sound or scene. Have you found that? Does it ever get frustrating?
JM: It did at the start, but I think I’ve done so much of my own stuff and I’m known for so many things other than that now – namely politics. I think having a big mouth has made a difference because people don’t really do that now. Journalism in this country is f*cking terrible – it’s at an all time low. I think it’s journalists that have the issue and not me. They’re not paid anything – that’s the problem. They all have to do internships and that inevitably means that they all become white-middle-class men. That’s the issue. If you’re a black lass from the North of England, how have you got time to go to London and become a journalist at NME or whatever? It’s not going to happen is it? It’s difficult, but journalism just attracts the same old careerists and that’s why it’s in such a bad way, both musically and politically.
AT: Not in a pious way, but would you say that your degree in History and Politics sharpens your focus on the world at all?
JM: Absolutely, but not as much as having an Iraqi girlfriend for 6 years during the Iraq war. My brother and I have a cousin who is in the Air Force, dropping bombs on my girlfriend’s family in Baghdad. My family are all traditional Labour, so when I first got to vote, I voted for Blair. That sharpened things up more than being at Uni but certainly being educated does help. It makes you realise what’s right and what’s wrong and where things really stand.
Interview By Andrew Trendell
Photos By Charlotte Hickmott