Category Archives: Interview

JON McCLURE (REVEREND & THE MAKERS)

“WE DON’T SEEM TO PLAY WALES OFTEN ENOUGH,” SAYS REVEREND & THE MAKERS FRONTMAN JON McCLURE, AS WE CHAT AHEAD OF THE BAND’S APPEARANCE AT THE LLANGOLLEN EISTEDDFOD NEXT WEEK. “WHEN WE’VE PLAYED IN WALES IN THE PAST WE’VE ALWAYS GONE DOWN REALLY WELL, SO I THINK IT’LL BE A PARTICULARLY SPECIAL GIG THIS ONE”.  

With Manic Street Preachers on the same bill the prestigious Denbighshire festival promises much for McClure: “I’m excited about supporting them. I genuinely really love the Manics. They’re one of Reverend & The Makers main sort of reference points, in a way”. Before the Eistefodd appearance, and a couple of months ahead of release of his band’s sixth album (THE DEATH OF A KING, out in September, and led off by dynamic single TOO TOUGH TO DIE), McClure took the time for a long conversation with The Mouth Magazine. We discussed the new record and, as you might reasonably expect from someone as politically opinionated as McClure, much more – including his appearance on Channel Four News in ‘strong support’ of talismanic Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn…

TOO TOUGH TO DIE IS THE RECENT SINGLE. IS IT INDICATIVE OF THE NEW ALBUM AS A WHOLE?
I would say TOO TOUGH TO DIE is one of the heaviest moments on the album, and certainly one of the heaviest moments we’ve ever had as a band – but no, not really. The album itself goes all over the place. We took a kind of mid-career swerve on the last one – we went out to Jamaica and did an album called MIRRORS. It could best be described as… you know the second side of ABBEY ROAD, where it all merges in and all the songs are connected together..? It was like that. We’d never, at all, ever been ‘a critic’s band’ before, and all of a sudden the critics were all “It’s great, it’s amazing”… So we’ve kind of carried on in that vein. We all went off to Thailand to do this one and that’s the vibe, really. It’s different, it’s eclectic, it’s interesting, it’s all over the place. There’s not just me sings. I do sing, but the guitarist sings, Ed Cosens sings, Laura who plays keyboard and trumpet, she sings… So it’s a real… just trying to think of a word… Smorgasboard!

IT WAS RECORDED AT KARMA SOUND STUDIOS WHICH IS DESCRIBED IN ITS OWN PRESS-KIT AS “A CREATIVE UTOPIA”… WHICH MUST HAVE MEANT AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT EXPERIENCE TO, YOU KNOW, GETTING HOLED UP AT A STUDIO IN SHEFFIELD… NOT THAT SHEFFIELD ISN’T IN SOME WAY A CREATIVE UTOPIA, OF COURSE! 
Ha ha… I think when you get to your sixth album, if you record it in your mate’s shed in Sheffield that’s a bit boring. Basically we looked at going to Thailand like taking a working holiday. We toured with The Libertines last year and Carl were like “You’ve got to go to this studio, it’s mega”. So we went. we were all supposed to take us families and kids, but my wife Laura, who is in the band, fell pregnant. They had that Zika Virus out there so she couldn’t come unfortunately. So that left me on my own and I didn’t have my family with me. The whole thing took a bit of a weird swerve, ‘cos I got nicked at one bit. I got nicked for not wearing my helmet when I was on my bike, so I got banged up. Then the King died and the whole country went into mourning. And there was a mad monsoon. I think all that made it a bit moody… but I also think that atmosphere made for some good music, actually.

I WOULD GUESS THAT BEING SOMEWHERE THAT IS – IN THE LEAST OFFENSIVE WAY POSSIBLE – SO ALIEN FOR A NORTHERN LAD MUST HAVE GIVEN YOU QUITE A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE ON THINGS?
Yeah, definitely. I think it did. And you can actually hear a little bit of Thai influence in the new record. You’ve got to be careful, haven’t you, not to go off on that whole ‘cultural appropriation’ thing? When we made that album in Jamaica I didn’t want to make a reggae record, you know what I mean? There’s no Jamaican influence on the music at all. But a little bit of Thai influence got into this one. There’s a Thai influence particularly on one track. On other tracks there’s the odd bit of Thai, we had a couple of local musicians come down. I’m enormously proud of this new record, and I think people are gonna love it. The thing is, I think ‘the West’ has just exhausted itself musically. It’s dull. If you look at us pop charts they’re really terrible, aren’t they? So it’s interesting to look at other things. I’ve done lots of this musical travelling thing, now, and I’ve been abroad a lot. I’ve been in Africa with Damon Albarn doing the Africa Express thing. I travel around quite a lot (and I’m looking at making a film to this end, actually, next year). I’m just into musical travel – ‘cos music’s the main thing that connects us all isn’t it? It’s the main thing we all do. Apart from eating and shagging.

YOU SAID THAT TOWARDS THE END OF THE THAILAND TRIP THINGS TOOK A BIT OF A SWERVE, THAT YOU WERE REALLY READY TO COME HOME… I’M GUESSING THERE WAS NO HENDERSON’S RELISH OUT THERE? I THINK I HAVE A MEMORY OF HAWLEY TELLING ME HE TAKES A COUPLE OF BOTTLES OF IT OUT ON TOUR WITH HIM…
Interestingly enough Henderson’s Relish is made from tamarinds, right, which is native to that part of the world. You have a tamarind prawn and you can imagine a bit of tamarind in Henderson’s base, can’t you? So bizarrely there’s actually a bit of linkage there… No, really, we loved it out there, it were great. I really did love it. But I was without my family, I’d been nicked, the Kind had died (and he actually recorded his jazz album in the studio we were in, so all the staff there were upset and really crying) so it became quite an intense atmosphere. It was a lot more intense than the Jamaican experience… We did some filming out there in Thailand as well – bits of it are in the video of TOO TOUGH TO DIE. Yeah, it was an interesting place. I like doing that, though – just diving into situations and come what may. Just seeing what happens. It’s reflected in the music. I’m pleased about that – I think people these days just release records and they’re not really sure why.

THEY’RE ON THE TREADMILL, AND THE RECORDS ARE JUST SOMETHING NEW TO SELL RATHER THAN ANY SORT OF ARTISTIC THING AT ALL..? IS THAT WHAT YOU MEAN?
Yeah, they just do ’em. There’s no reason, there’s no story, there’s no new influence, there’s just another album. It’s just boring. People’s attentions spans in these days of social media are so short, that you have to have a reason for being, almost. So I’m excited me. Obviously us last album was the most critically acclaimed thing we’ve done, but I think this is a great album and I think there’s lots more to come. I’m thirty-six this year and I don’t feel like I’ve wrote my best song, yet. You mentioned Hawley, and you talk about him and people like Elbow or Nick Cave, Damon Albarn’s another one, and they’re a bit older and they’re doing great work. They’re making great music a bit later in life. Long may it continue.

IT’S A PRETTY GOOD PLACE TO BE, ISN’T IT? AS A FOOTBALLER, SAY, YOU’RE FINISHED BY THIRTY-SIX… AS A MUSICIAN YOU MIGHT BE AT, SORT OF, THE START OF THE GLORY…
Yeah! Yeah, fingers crossed man. I’ve had a lot of telly work, as well, over the last few weeks – ‘cos we got Jeremy Corbyn onstage at this gig we did at Tranmere Rovers. I got him on half way through our set and the crowd started the chant “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn”. That’s where it started, that chant, and it’s took on a life of its own since then. So, since then, I’ve been asked to do a load of telly work talking about politics and stuff. I’m embracing it. I just think these opportunities and the things that are open to us are great. If you’d offered me this stuff twelve years ago I’d have snatched your hand off. I mean, I’m not a millionaire but, equally, I don’t have to get ‘a proper job’. Long may that continue, as well.

YOU FEATURED ON CHANNEL FOUR NEWS SHORTLY AFTER THE GENERAL ELECTION RESULT, ABOUT A MONTH BACK. IT WAS A REALLY IMPRESSIVE APPEARANCE, ACTUALLY. YOU SPOKE PASSIONATELY ABOUT THE MOVEMENT SPRINGING UP AROUND JEREMY CORBYN… SOCIAL JUSTICE, A FAIRER SOCIETY… HAVE YOU, YOURSELF, EVER HARBOURED ANY DESIRE TO GET INTO POLITICS?
Ha ha ha… You know, it’s funny but when I come off air after that appearance I had literally loads of people messaging me saying “When are you standing for Parliament, John?” and stuff. But I think I’m alright without the Murdoch press rifling through my bins or doing exposés on me shagging Sharon from Parsons Cross ten years ago, know what I mean? I don’t want that intrusion into me life. I quite like just throwing stones at the greenhouse from the outside, really. I think I’m uniquely qualified, because a lot of the voices on the left are a bit London. They’re cosmopolitan urbanites who come across as a little bit elitist, at times, to the very people they should be trying to convince. I feel like I can offer quite a unique voice and I enjoy doing that. It’s good doing these things, and I hope I can do more of them.

IN THE PAST, JOHN, YOU’VE OFTEN BEEN OUTSPOKEN BUT I THINK WITH THAT CHANNEL FOUR APPEARANCE YOU REACHED THE MAINSTREAM IN A REALLY CARING AND ELOQUENT WAY…
Obviously it helps being a bit older. Although my politics haven’t necessarily changed at all, I’m probably a bit more nuanced than when I was younger in the way that I put my opinions forward. I think I can get my point across without, sort of, banging on at people and lecturing ’em. So, yeah, I’m calmer. I don’t take quite as many drugs, for instance. Class A drugs and politics are a terrible mix, aren’t they?

YOU’VE NO DESIRE FOR REVEREND & THE MAKERS TO BE SEEN AS ‘A POLITICAL BAND’..? AND YOU’VE NO AMBITION TO BE YOUR GENERATION’S BILLY BRAGG…
No, not at all. I don’t wanna be Billy Bragg. As much as I respect Billy, what I wanna be known for is my music, for writing good music, rather than politics. I’ve made a few political things in the past but I think once you’ve said it you’ve said it. In music terms I’ve no desire to be thought of as a political artist. It’s just one of a number of things I’m interested in, you know. Football’s another… But, we’re talking here – and I do have to say I fully support Jeremy Corbyn. I think he’s amazing. Undoubtedly there’s something happening, a movement coming, isn’t there?

THERE IS SOMETHING COMING – THE NEXT GENERATION…
I heard a stat the other day. In 1983 the Tories had a nine point lead amongst eighteen to twenty-four year olds. This time round amongst eighteen to twenty four year olds it was a fourty-seven point lead to Labour. So, undoubtedly the world is changing. The forces of the left are becoming more vocal. I was born in 1981, and I’ve never had a left-wing Prime Minister in my lifetime. Blair weren’t Labour, and Gordon Brown weren’t Labour. They were New Labour – a kind of Diet Tory. What really irks me is that Jeremy Corbyn is continually accused of being ‘hard left’. He’s no more left than any other Labour Prime Minister, bar Blair and Brown. He’s Harold Wilson or Clement Atlee or any of them people, you know what I mean? He’s not ‘hard left’, he’s just left. Look around you. If you’re happy with things in this country then you’re mad – ‘cos there’s lots of problems and there’s lots of things wrong with this country. We’ve had right wing government for, what, thirty seven or thirty eight years now. It’s time for change – and I think young people recognise that and large sections of older people recognise that too. It’s encouraging on both of those counts. If there were a General Election tomorrow I think Corbyn would definitely win, actually.

I THINK HE WOULD, TOO. THE CURRENT STATE OF UK RIGHT-WING POLITICS AND HOW IT’S BEING CONDUCTED IS A COMPLETE CLUSTERFUCK AND THAT IS BECOMING MORE APPARENT EVERY DAY. WE’VE GOT A MINORITY TORY GOVERNMENT BUYING THE SUPPORT OF A MORALLY QUESTIONABLE PARTY TO GAIN A MAJORITY ADVANTAGE AND PUSH THROUGH MORE SOCIALLY DESTRUCTIVE POLICY. WE JUST HAD THE GRENFELL TOWER DISASTER, AND THE TERRORIST ATTACKS IN MANCHESTER AND LONDON, AND THE RESPONSE OF THE ALREADY BELEAGURED AND UNDERFUNDED PUBLIC SERVICES TO THOSE EVENTS… AND THEN THE TORIES VOTED DOWN THE AMENDMENT TO THE QUEEN’S SPEECH, THAT JEREMY CORBYN TABLED, TO TRY AND REVIEW PUBLIC SECTOR PAY… BUT DO YOU KNOW WHAT REALLY GOT TO ME..? THE TORIES CHEERING AND BRAYING LIKE A BUNCH OF PSYCHOPATHIC WET-NURSED TOFFS WHEN THE RESULT WAS ANNOUNCED… IT’S A DISGRACE. HOW CAN ANYONE FEEL PROUD OR PATRIOTIC WHEN THE TOP SPITS AT THE BOTTOM LIKE THAT? WHAT A TIME TO BE ALIVE… AS THEY SAY!
Oh, mate. They’re a bunch of bastards. They’re detached from reality and really cold-hearted, I think. I’m from the white working class, right? And I have members of my extended family who voted UKIP, much to my disgust. But I thought the UKIP vote would then break for the Tories in this General Election, but it didn’t. People went back to Labour – and I think that the more people see of Corbyn, the more they see of the policies that the Labour party are putting forward, the more they think “Actually, that’s bang on“… One thing I would say, and it irks me a little… one thing I would say is that if you wanna hold on to them people you’ve gotta get working class voices from the North, from Wales, from Scotland. This isn’t a pitch to get meself more media work… but I think you need them people in the media because they’re the ones who speak the language that’s required to talk to, especially, the white working class. Let’s be honest, vast swathes of this country have gone over to the right wing in the last few decades – and I think that somebody who lives in each of them communities needs to be countering your Katie Hopkins types and your Tommy Robinsons and whoever else speaks this hatred. As much as what’s happening with Labour is interesting and they’re gaining, I think there’s a significant minority who are listening to your Tommy Robinsons, and who are listening to your Katie Hopkins, and they could gain again. It needs people who are of the people to counter that, do you know what I mean? I love Lily Allen. I think she’s great. But she’s not the person who’s gonna convince the man on the street and the woman on the street not to listen to Tommy Robinson, is she?

I ABSOLUTELY DON’T DOUBT HER INTENTIONS – AT ALL – AND I THINK SHE IS A GENUINELY GOOD-HEARTED PERSON AND ALL THAT STUFF. BUT I FEEL THAT THERE’S THIS SLIGHT AIR OF CARING ABOUT THE POOR WORKING CLASS AS BEING A BIT TRENDY, THE LATEST PROJECT, OR A MIDDLE-CLASS HOBBY… IT CAN COME ACROSS AS A BIT PATRONISING, SOMEHOW. MAYBE I’M DOING HER A DISSERVICE… I DON’T KNOW.
She’s a good person, man, and I know that she means well and stuff. But she comes across as rich and elite and, actually, a bit of a toff. Same sort of thing with Billy [Bragg] now… Billy’s in a two-and-a-half million pound mansion! We’re on the same record label and I know Billy and I respect him and all that but, you know, come on man… What I’m saying is, I live amongst the people who actually hold these views. Some of my fans hold these views and, let’s be right, they support Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins. So I have it out with ’em. I directly challenge that ignorance and I challenge them views….

… SOMETHING WHICH PRINT MEDIA OFTEN DOESN’T, ‘COS IT’S THERE TO REINFORCE THOSE VIEWS… AND TRADITIONAL MAINSTREAM MEDIA IS SO NARROW ANYWAY…
It is very narrow and it needs to be wider. We’ve got to have more democracy within us media, ‘cos I think the age of their print media is actually over. Twenty-two percent of the readership of The Sun voted against The Sun. So there’s this void and people are looking about: “Who shall I listen to? Who should I go to, to put me on the path, here?”, and I just think if it’s continually the same people, it ends up feeling a little bit like it’s London telling the rest of the country what to do. There’s got to be more people of the people in the media. And, I’ve got to say this… Although I’m very left wing, I think there’s some ‘bad comrades’… How can I word this? I think they have a monopoly on being the ‘go to leftie entertainers’… They don’t wanna share the platform with other leftie entertainers, through fear of losing the monopoly, and losing their effect on people. Do you understand what I mean?

YEAH. SHARING DAMAGES THEIR LEFTIE BRAND AND THERE’S A CHANCE IT WOULD REDUCE THEIR INFLUENCE…
That’s it. I’m not naming names but these people very viciously protect that niche that they’ve carved out for themselves. I’m not like that. I want us all to be together.

I WENT TO HEAR JEREMY CORBYN SPEAK AT A RALLY ABOUT TEN DAYS BEFORE THE GENERAL ELECTION. IT WAS ACTUALLY QUITE A SMALL DO, A COUPLE OF HUNDRED PEOPLE, SO I FELT PRIVILEGED. IT WAS OUTDOORS BUT IT WAS LIKE A SMALL CLUB GIG, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN? AND THERE WAS DEFINITELY SOMETHING IN THE AIR… I HADN’T FELT THE OLD SPIDER-SENSES TINGLING LIKE THAT FOR YEARS. IT WAS TANGIBLE THAT THERE WAS ‘SOMETHING HAPPENING’… THE DEMOCRATISATION OF DEMOCRACY, IF THAT MAKES SENSE? PEOPLE FEELING EMBOLDENED BY HAVING THIS REALLY HONOURABLE CHAMPION, AND FEELING THAT THROUGH PUBLIC MEETINGS AND THROUGH A VERY SHARP USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA THINGS CAN BE CHANGED…
Yeah, definitely. And also I think what the Grime people are doing, people like Stormzy and that, I think what they’re doing is exciting and brilliant – ‘cos they’re really engaging directly with a demographic that has maybe been disenfranchised from politics for a long, long, long time. That sort of approach could be reflected country wide.

I THINK IT WAS INTERESTING THAT A LOT OF CORBYN’S MESSAGE WAS CAMPAIGNED ACROSS SOCIAL MEDIA. I KNOW THE TORIES USED SOCIAL MEDIA, TOO, BUT I FELT THERE WAS THIS CONDESCENDING AIR OF THERESA MAY AND HER PEOPLE LOOKING AT IT AND THINKING “TWITTER AND THAT SORT OF THING IS A BIT OF A NOVELTY, FOR CHILDREN AND PLEBS”…
Yeah, absolutely – and I think they just dug themselves a hole with that. The Conservatives never sent out a single Tweet or put one single Facebook post out there that was designed to get young people to vote. Not one! That’s ‘cos they don’t want young people to vote because they know that if young people vote then the overwhelming majority of them will vote for the Labour party. I mean, that’s just awful – to actively discourage democracy. So then you twin that with this billion pound bribe – ‘cos that’s what it is – that they’ve given to the DUP, when they also say there’s no money to pay more to our firefighters, our nurses, our teachers, our police… Listen, people aren’t stupid in these days of social media. You cannot fool people in these days of social media. This mass propaganda that the Dacres and the Barclay brothers and the Murdochs of this world foisted upon us for years and years and years, it’s over. It’s gone – because social media is so powerful. It has unleashed forces that the Conservative party doesn’t understand or know how to deal with. That’s why they want to lock off the internet…

… “TO COUNTER TERRORISM” – BUT IT’S NOT, IS IT?
No. This isn’t conspiracy theory, this is based on actual proposals that Theresa May’s been putting forward. They want to control the algorithms so that they always know what you’re looking at and what you’re saying.

TO MONITOR AND CONTROL SUBVERSION…
I think that’s a really really dangerous road to go down. I think that’s really dangerous for democracy. It’s on the road to fascism, that… So, ha ha, I’m pleased really ‘cos I don’t actually think they’ve got that long, this Government. The Brexit thing is gonna really divide the Tories, ‘cos it only takes the likes of the Ken Clarkes of this world and a few other minor MPs to defy the whip, and then the Conservatives are in all sorts of trouble. As a leftie, I find that encouraging, really…

WHEN I HEARD CORBYN SPEAK AT THAT RALLY, REGARDLESS OF THE ABSOLUTE NUTS AND BOLTS DETAIL OF HIS CORE BELIEFS, HE WAS TOTALLY COMPELLING. ANYONE WHO SAYS HE’S NOT A LEADER IS TALKING OUT OF THEIR HOLE. HE WAS BRILLIANT – CHARISMATIC AND STRONG, BUT IN A VERY CALM AND GENTLE WAY… QUITE DIFFERENT TO THE STREAMLINED POLITICIANS WE’RE USED TO. IT SEEMS RIDICULOUS AS I SAY IT NOW, BUT I REMEMBER THAT FOR A MOMENT I COULDN’T HELP THINKING THAT THE BUZZ WAS LIKE BEING ONLY SIX FEET AWAY FROM SOME SORT OF MAJOR ROCK STAR… THE AURA ABOUT HIM, AND THE RECEPTION HE GOT, EVEN FROM THIS SMALL CROWD… 
Absolutely. Absolutely. You saw what happened at Glastonbury last weekend, right? Alright it’s a leftie crowd, it’s a leftie festival, but… I don’t know how old you are, but there’s loads of people from, say, forty years old down who are saying “I’ve never seen this before in my lifetime, and never in British politics”… I mean, I was lucky enough to go and have dinner with Tony Benn once, but he’s the hero for the leftie generation above me. I loved Tony Benn, but I think Jeremy Corbyn is really exciting and he’s for now. There’s people below Corbyn and coming up through the ranks who are interesting too. There’s a lad who grew up over the back fence from me, Jared [O’Mara]… He’s a working class lad, the same background as me. His Dad were a train driver. Literally, I’ve known him since I were one, he’s the same age as me. Terribly afflicted by Cerebral Palsy, disabled, and it really affected him growing up… but he’d gone on and this year he challenged Nick Clegg in Hallam. And Hallam’s been Lib Dem or Tory forever – the one constituency in Sheffield where all the rich people live, the one consituency that never votes Labour when everywhere else does… And he’s beat him. He’s now in Parliament. I think that’s enormously empowering. I think it’s a very important thing.

I STAYED UP THROUGH THE NIGHT FOR THE GENERAL ELECTION, AND SAW EVERY RESULT COME IN – SO I SAW JARED’S SPEECH LIVE ON TV WHEN HE’D WON. IT WAS ACE – AND THERE WAS NICK CLEGG LURKING IN THE BACKGROUND AFTER LOSING HIS SEAT, WITH AN EXPRESSION ON HIS FACE THAT SUGGESTED HE WAS THINKING “… BUT YOU’RE NOT EVEN A PROPER POLITICIAN LAD! SO YOU SHOULDN’T EVEN BE STOOD UP HERE”… WHICH I THINK KIND OF SAYS IT ALL ABOUT THE ATTITUDE OF THE POLITICAL CLASS…
Yep. Correct. Correct. And also Jared’s been a disability campaigner all of his life. He means it. It’s not a career. He’s not a technocrat. The other thing is, right, I had an Iraqi girlfriend during the Iraq war, so my feelings about Tony Blair are very very visceral and I really feel strongly about Blair and that whole New Labour thing, that whole Neo-Liberal thing.

THE NEO-LIBERAL THING IS, WE CAN HOPE, NOW DEAD…
I think it is. That cannot be a bad thing, ‘cos it just stood for nothing, the whole Neo-Liberalism thing. Literally, the absence of principle. You look at Corbyn and you recognise that he’s been saying the same things, consistently, for thirty-five years. My own politics have not changed in my life – but I’m not gonna lie to you. The election where Nick Clegg stood and got in, I voted Lib Dem because the Lib Dem manifesto was more progressive and more left wing than the New Labour manifesto. That’s how bad the Labour party got at one bit. I handed back my Membership over the Iraq war. I don’t feel that I recognised the Labour party for a long long time. Corbyn’s not yet been elected – but at the very least he’s forced the conversation right into a place that we’ve not had it for years. For decades, really. He’s making the Government aware of issues that they’d just be completely ignorant to, otherwise. As an absolute minimum, that’s quite an achievement. That’s a good thing.

LABOUR ACTUALLY LAUNCHED THEIR CULTURAL MANIFESTO SHORTLY BEFORE THE ELECTION – IN FACT ON THE DAY THAT I WENT TO HEAR CORBYN SPEAK. IN THAT MANIFESTO THEY SEEM TO BE OFFERING THE ARTS SOME SUPPORT AND THE PROMISE OF OPPORTUNITIES, WHETHER THAT BE ‘ART’, OR MUSIC, OR WRITING OR DRAMA OR WHATEVER… THINKING ABOUT THAT EARLIER, WHILE CONSIDERING WHAT WE WERE LIKELY TO TALK ABOUT IN THIS CALL, I WONDERED HOW YOU MIGHT REFLECT ON THE SUPPORT AND OPPORTUNITIES YOU HAD BACK IN MID-1990s SHEFFIELD…
One of the few things New Labour did do which was cool was to expand Higher Education, so there were loads of us who were at Uni and had the time on our hands to be in bands and be creative and all that sort of thing. And we had a lot more small music venues. Did you know Radiohead played four hundred small venues around the time of the PABLO HONEY album, and there’s only two of them left? So that gives you an indication of how hard it is to keep a venue open, and how hard it is to even play a gig these days. It is harder these days. There’s hardly anywhere to play, and also the print music press has collapsed…

… THE STATE OF THE NME NOW IN COMPARISON TO WHAT IT ONCE WAS… IT’S NOW A FREE GLOSSY MAGAZINE, PRETTY THIN ON SUBSTANCE, WITH LOADS OF ADVERTS…
Yeah, the print media for music has collapsed and that’s impacted music massively. But also I think the radio – they’re completely scared of the BBC Trust, they’ve completely politicised the BBC. They’re terribly scared of the Tories, they’re scared of losing their licences, so they’ve become over-reliant on stats and data. Now, if you look at the polls, for recent eklections, and for Brexit and stuff, they tend to be so woefully out as to be non-applicable. So apply that polling stuff to radio. They go out and ask people on the street “What should we be playing on the radio” – and that’s where music’s going wrong… ‘cos it’s all concentrated in London, so all the research is done in London… but London is not Britain. So therefore what you’re getting is this really narrow focus. They’re chasing their own tail. What we used to have was someone outside of all that shit – John Peel. He was dead cool and he’d play you stuff that was dead cool. Like, you know, “Listen to this”… So you used to have gatekeepers and leaders, and that’s where music’s going wrong.

I THINK WE’VE GOT 6MUSIC WHICH IS A BIT MORE TOWARDS JOHN PEEL, BUT I THINK PROBABLY STILL HEAVILY SUBJECT TO PLAYLISTS AND… WELL, YOU CAN’T REALLY SPREADSHEET ART, CAN YOU?
No, you can’t. You can’t. You just can’t reduce music to science like that. 6Music’s good man, it’s brilliant. But what I would do is, I’d actually devolve Radio One. I’d have a Scottish Radio One, I’d have a Welsh Radio One, I’d have a London Radio One and I’d have a Northern Radio One. Should there be a time when the Labour party get into government I would love to talk to them about this ‘cos I feel so incredibly passionate about it. I’ll give you an example, whether you like their music or not, ‘cos that’s irrelevant to this. The Courteeners. Fifty thousand people to see them in a park in Manchester. But they don’t get played on the radio. So how can that be right? They’ll play a trendy London band who nobody really likes, and they’re a-listers every week…

OVER THE YEARS HOW DO YOU THINK ALL THAT SORT OF THING HAS AFFECTED REVEREND & THE MAKERS, THEN?
My band is alive despite them, not because of them, because I get hardly any radio play. That’s not because the music’s not good – ‘cos it’s miles better than the vast majority of music out there. I’m not saying I’m a genius or that we’re the best band in the world, here. But the fact is we’re too old to get played on Radio One, right? Fine. Play us on Radio Two then. What you said earlier… 6Music should be free. I’m not criticising. I’m saying that I think they should be free to do what they want, free of that political influence, and I’m not sure they are. I’m not saying they’re doing a bad job. I’m defending them – I’m saying they should be left alone to do what they want to do. The BBC is at its best when it doesn’t try to compete, commercially. So stop trying to compete with Capital and all them, and just let ’em get on with it, let ’em get on with what they’re good at. The last time music was the actual focus of BBC radio was in the 1990s – and look what happened! A proper boom. Not a boom like they reckon there is now, which is actually only five artists who are big in America. That’s not a boom. That’s twenty people profiting. I’m on about, like, down to the grassroots level where everybody’s buzzing ‘cos there’s a proper scene going on. They’re not allowing that to happen ‘cos they’re acting schizophrenic – they back things one minute and then run away from them the next. That can’t stand up, you know…

I WAS ACTUALLY LIVING IN SHEFFIELD IN THE MID-1990s, SO ROUND ABOUT THE TIME YOU WERE FIFTEEN OR SIXTEEN YEARS OLD MAYBE… I REMEMBER THE CITY AS SOMEWHERE THAT HAD JUST ABOUT PULLED AWAY FROM THE BLEAKNESS OF THATCHERISM, AND WOKEN UP TO THE FACT THAT THERE WAS A GOOD FUTURE… SO, PARTICULARLY MUSICALLY, IT WAS A VERY EXCITING PLACE TO HANG OUT. PULP IN PARTICULAR HAD BEEN DOING WELL AND THEIR DIFFERENT CLASS ALBUM EXPLODED NATIONALLY… THERE WAS BABYBIRD, A REALLY PROLIFIC WRITER DOING THIS BRILLIANT STUFF… RICHARD HAWLEY FIRST PROPERLY EMERGED, AS PART OF THE LONGPIGS… SHEFFIELD FELT CULTURAL. PEOPLE WERE TRYING. SO, IS THERE MUCH CULTURAL, MUSICAL, COMING OUT OF THE CITY NOW THAT COULD ‘MAKE IT’ OR THAT YOU THINK WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME?
Yeah, there is. Sheffield’s incredibly fertile at the moment. It’s a great place. I love this city and I’m enormously proud of the cultural output. We’ve got Warp Films here, there’s talk of Channel Four moving up here… Musically, there’s a band called The Sherlocks who are doing really well. there’s a band called Liberty Ship who I think are great. There’s a great Grime scene and obviously Bassline was a big thing here and continues to do really well. Toddla T’s done his thing and got a show on Radio One. Electronic music’s always been big here and it continues to thrive and prosper. There’s an abundance of cheap spare land for practice rooms and to have raves and stuff. Sheffield’s a great place, man, and it always will be – it’s just projecting that onto a national level. That’s partly why I’d devolve Radio One. You could afford, then, to get people into these cities like Sheffield or places like Nottingham or Leeds or even Hull, and they could afford to send DJs there to find out what’s actually going on, rather than relying upon radio pluggers informing them in London. People in London seem to shift their focus every so often. Every twenty years or so London puts the spotlight on us in Sheffield and decides we’re cool again. But we’re always cool. We’ve never stopped being cool.

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