After a lengthy hiatus the darlings of the 80s Goth Scene return with a new album and a new found sense of enthusiasm. MM gets the skinny from GLJ main man Jay Aston.
Interview by Ian Pickens
MM: It’s been over a decade since the last Gene Loves Jezebel album (‘The Thornfield Sessions’); what has the band been up to during this hiatus?
JA: James has done of stints with The Cult & The Alarm and many others. Plus a lot of recording (Scott Walker, The Alarm and his own solo album to name a few). Chris has toured a lot with Hugh Cornwall (The Stranglers main-man) and lots of young and exciting dance music bands. He’s also heavily involved in recording lots of film and TV theme music. Peter and I did an Ugly Buggs album and videos, and a couple of great gigs.
MM: What kick started the band into recording the new album, ‘Dance Underwater’, after such a lengthy break?
JA: We play at least once a year together and without fail the band always say “we have to record a new album.” As soon as we head on our separate ways home, the idea is forgotten about. Last year in Portugal, I said to everyone that you’re all talk and nothing will ever happen. Pete took it upon himself to instigate a Pledgemusic drive. And here we are…
MM: The music business has changed quite a bit in between albums; did you find it easy to embrace the new model of funding and releasing a new album?
JA: James and I are both pretty active on social media and we have a fantastic relationship with our fans, so yes… it was easy for us.
MM: Has this new way of funding a band continued the democratization of music in the same way that Punk introduced the DIY ethic back in the 70s/80s?
JA: Absolutely. Anything is possible again. Exciting times…
MM: Since 2009 there have effectively been two versions of the band in existence – a UK based GLJ and a US based one – has this caused confusion for fans?
JA: Yes of course. There is no effort on the other party to clarify who they are.
MM: You recently played a pre-release gig at Black Heart in Camden; how did that go? Do you still get many of the ‘old’ GLJ fans showing up or is it predominately newer fans?
JA: Naturally, mostly our diehard fans (Monday night after Glastonbury!); but all age groups were reflected.
MM: GLJ’s sound has evolved quite a bit from bands early 80s origins; is this reflective of your own taste in music changing or just a natural evolution of the band’s sound?
JA: Ever since Peter Rizzo & Chris Bell joined us for ‘Immigrant’” in 1985, there’s been a consistency of sound. As soon as we started tracking the new album, James commented “That’s Gene Loves Jezebel.”
MM: Talk us through the tracks on ‘Dance Underwater’; are they predominantly written from personal experience; ‘How Do You Say Goodbye (To Someone You Love)’ and ‘Cry For You’ seem quite personal…
JA: Peter Rizzo wrote a lot with me and the album reflects some tragic personal losses. ‘Charmed Life’” deliberately relates back to ‘Break the Chain’ (from “Heavenly Bodies.” Just rereleased too). ‘Cry 4 U’ (spelling like ‘Izitme’ references early 70’s glam rock music) is actually about Brexit. ‘Summertime’ is about depression. ‘How Do You Say Goodbye (to someone you love)’ and ‘I Don’t Wanna Dance Underwater’ both relate to great personal pain. ‘Izitme’ is a love letter to Marc Bolan and Slade (amongst others). James and I were both influenced by that period in music. ‘Ain’t it Enough’ was a song I’d forgotten about, but James mentioned it and even remembered a melody part. The original, is very dark and foreboding. I love the fact it came out almost a country song! ‘Flying’ is another song about escaping depression. ‘Chase The Sun’ too. ‘World Gone Crazy’ is about drunks.
MM: Do you envisage ever returning to the Gothier sound of your earlier single such as ‘Promises’ and ‘Screaming for Emmalene’?
JA: We’re in a very exciting place at the moment. We’re mixing so many elements. Peter Bugg Rizzo is coming into his own & there is a real energy to what we’re doing once again. We’d become jaded and Ugly Buggs and my solo live work, has opened new doors. Anything is possible and if I’m playing guitar, then one naturally has that link to our early work. I’ll be playing more guitar… as will Pete.
MM: The artwork for ‘Dance Underwater’ seems reminiscent of the band’s ‘Kiss of Life’ album; was this intentional?
JA: Not intentional. Steve B. at the label suggested it. Peter Rizzo loved it straight away. It grew on James and I.
MM: Has social networking played a part in keeping the bands profile in the public eye? Do you see it a positive or negative element of modern culture?
JA: I see it as a positive. We all have a voice. We’re all equal.
MM: What’s next for Gene Loves Jezebel? Will there be a full UK/Europe tour to support the album?
JA: This is what we are hoping for in the autumn.
MM: Thanks for taking the time to answer these Jay. Much appreciated.
JA: Thank you Ian!