Synth-pop icon Howard Jones reflects on three decades of success
PUBLISHED: 11:58 30 January 2016
A defining figure of ‘80s pop, Howard Jones is coming to the Union Chapel on Febuary 5. Promising an evening of songs, piano and stories, he talked to Alex Bellotti.
In An Evening with Howard Jones, you’ll be sitting down at the piano, which you used to compose many of your hits. Do you have a clear process for song-writing?
Piano is my go to instrument to quickly get ideas down, but the process of writing the Human’s Lib and Dream into Action albums involved working with all those shiny new drum machines and synths that were part of my live rig. It has been interesting for me to take the early songs and create piano arrangements for them. I am always trying to work out new ways of approaching writing. Sometimes I start at the piano and then orchestrate with the keyboards, other times it will be an exciting sound or new instrument that triggers an idea.
Considering the revival of interest in synth-pop and that your first single, New Song, was used on Breaking Bad, have you noticed newer generations finding your music?
I do see new young faces in my audience and I feel very privileged to have their attention. It’s easier than ever with streaming services to explore the history of popular music and find the whole of an artist’s recorded work in one place. I suppose this can be triggered by hearing a track in a film or TV show or even in the supermarket.
Looking back at one highlight of your 30 year career, what do you remember of performing at Live Aid?
Live Aid was the most brilliant event of the ‘80s. I felt very happy and nervous to be there amongst all that rock royalty. The most poignant moment was when the whole of Wembley started singing the Chorus of ‘Hide & Seek’ with me.
You’re one of a select group of British artists to have a US number one (with No One Is To Blame). Why do you think your music resonated there?
A I lived in Canada when I was a kid so I always felt a connection with North American culture. In the early days of the career I toured the U.S. from tiny clubs to eventually the bigger gigs and I got to make a lot of friends in radio.
Considering you’re a board member of the Featured Artists’ Coalition, how has the digital age changed the way you make a living?
When my record deal with Warner Bros. finished at the end of the ‘90s I embraced the internet and started a post-major-label life as an independent artist. Since that time we have seen an extraordinary change in the way artists interact with their fans. Artists have the power to connect directly and take charge of their own careers in a way we never dreamt of and at the same time the amount of income flowing from recorded music has been decimated.
Personally I have decided to shift the emphasis towards live performances, with recordings assuming the role of souvenirs of an experience. I see the relationship of fan and artist as symbiotic – each with an equal role to play in a dynamic partnership.
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