Thanks so much to Simon Ashby for this interview. Well, what can I say about The Jeremiahs?! I don’t know of anyone that has listened to them and haven’t thought these songs were really special. Their one and only record is almost impossible to find and it’s a masterpiece of jangle pop. On the web there’s barely anything written about them. And hoping there’s a re-release of all their songs, here is a fantastic interview for you all to enjoy! Also do check his blog EarTwister.
++ How did you know John, Robert and Ben? And what did each of them brought to the creative process of the band?
Before we start, I have to say this was a long time ago and much has happened since those heady days, so if there’s anyone out there who knows any different then please feel free to chip in. There’s every chance I may be talking nonsense.
John Robert and I went to the same school, we started messing around with music then doing covers and rehearsing in the drama room at lunch. Our first band was called Art23, named after the table we sat at in art class funny enough. I think they numbered the tables so they knew who to blame when stuff was pilfered. Ben is John’s cousin and arrived much later when The Jeremiahs formed.
After school John and Rob formed a band without a drummer and a art school type singer who was all haircut and no substance, to some extent we’d stopped hanging out. I was drumming and singing backing vocals in a band at college. We were doing a gig when the singer’s mic packed in and I filled in the lead vocal whilst drumming till the problem was fixed.
Not long after that gig Rob asked me if I wanted to join the band. I remember carting my drums over to Rob’s house in my dad’s car to find out that they wanted me to sing not drum, my dad wasn’t best pleased. We played as a three piece for some time before John got in touch with his cousin about playing kit. The only problem was, Ben lived bloody miles away. We travelled to his home town and spent a few days jamming and writing and pretty much dragged Ben back with us after that. He moved into John’s parents’ house and the rest as they say is……… We made our first recordings in Ben’s home town somewhere near Cheltenham in a garage come studio. We recorded two songs, ‘Never Come Back’ and a really fast number called ‘Bluer Days’. I listened to if for the first time in an age and couldn’t believe how quick it seemed.
++ Where does the name The Jeremiahs come from?
Miserable and moody was fashionable in those days, there was quite a bit of dark indie around at the time, early Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen etc. Jeremiah was the profit of doom and gloom so The Jeremiahs it was. Rob came up the name as far as I can remember. Some would say he was a sensitive introverted type, others would say a miserable sod. I remember him having a go at me once for making him laugh whilst someone was filming a rehearsal. Laughing it seems was not cool.
++ What sparked you to make music? Did you have any music heroes perhaps? And what was the music you were listening at that time? Did you feel part of the so called C86 guitar pop sound from back then?
I knew I wanted to make music from a very early age. The Salvation Army band used to come down my street once a week with a collection bucket. I was a toddler at the time but my mum tells me I’d sit on the garden wall with my tin drum and wait for them to start playing so I could join in beating my drum, it must have really pissed them off the racket that thing made. We moved out of London when I was quite young, not a place to bring up a family apparently. At first my new surroundings were great, plenty of trees to climb and open space, but as you get older it becomes more like a green prison. Music would eventually become my escape route. My mum would play The Carpenters, Mammas & Pappas and Neil Diamond at the weekends whilst cleaning the house. Between them they have written some great songs with some stunning melodies. That was my introduction to music, but around the age of 10 I got probably my best birthday present ever, my first record player. It was white and allowed you to stack 7 singles at a time. I’d never treat vinyl like that now. The first band that spoke to me was The Jam. Weller was simply singing about me. I couldn’t believe it, someone who knew what I was thinking, and the power in the music was incredible, I was gutted when they split. The Clash, Blondie (I learnt to drum to Parallel Lines in a padded cell, well a garage lined with mattresses) 2Tone and various others followed until the arrival of the Bunnymen, REM and The Smiths, my next love affairs. As for the C86 thing, I can’t say we felt part of any scene. By that time being in the band had become all-consuming and the outside world was just that, outside of what we were doing.
++ What about gigs? Did you play many? Any particular ones that remain a favourites ?
We played loads of gigs, way too many to mention. As for favourites, I’m not sure. I enjoyed every time we played the original Marquee on Wardour Street in London. Every band that had played there had signed the dressing room wall and it was mad to see our names next to those of The Who, Bowie, The Small Faces, The Jam and hundreds of others. By the time we got there you had to find a small space in which to write. Not the done thing to scrawl over another band’s signatures. That wall must be worth a fortune now. The Marquee is where the Japanese thing began. We played with a band called GI Orange who none of us had ever heard off before. They were a fucking terrible band, seriously cringe-worthy. They were English, but it seems nobody was interested over here so they’d done a bunk to Japan where it transpires they were pretty popular. It turns out that gigs in Japan at the time started earlier than gigs in England, so when we went on stage the place was packed with Japanese girls. They simply took our music back to Japan with them. The next thing we knew we were being sent copies of magazines that had us top 5 in the Japanese airplay charts. By this time the band were living in the same house (I think). I remember one day when we just found a bunch of Japanese girls outside our house, bloody mad. I think Robert went on to marry one of them…….. I’ve just googled GI Orange and they’ve only gone and reformed, sad f**kers. Give it a rest boys, it was shit first time around.
++ There’s little information about The Jeremiahs’ online. So I wonder, back in the late 80s, were you more known? I mean, was there coverage of The Jeremiahs in fanzines, perhaps radio play? You think it was harder or easier back then to get your name out?
There was plenty of coverage in fanzines, Melody Maker and the like, the trouble is I didn’t keep any press, it just didn’t occur to me at the time. To busy doing it to be reading about it, and certainly no scrap book. Leave that sort of thing to GI Orange. We were pretty well supported by regional radio too.
Was it more difficult back then? To be honest it’s hard to say. The internet has certainly made it easy to access music you like, but as with most swords they’re double edged. The trouble is, you have to wade through so much shit to unearth the gems amongst it. Back then we just had to gig, gig and gig some more to build a fanbase. Our fans were pretty cool though, they’d put on coaches to follow us around.
++ So yes, that one fabulous release of yours. The very rare and sought-after “Driving into The Sun EP”. From the top of my head, how many copies were pressed? And how do you feel when it goes for crazy prices on eBay?
I have no idea how many copies were pressed, I don’t think bands asked in those days, a decent run though. Someone asked me to sign a copy whilst I was in a pub in Manchester not so long ago; they actually went home there and then to get it, crazy. How they recognised me all these years later is beyond me and so far from where the band was based too. As for the prices on ebay , I wished I’d stashed a box of vinyl away in the loft, it could pay for this year’s holiday and then some.
++ The cover art, are you all the guys in the photo? If so, who is which? And what about the back cover?
Yes that’s us. Top left Rob, top right John, Bottom left Ben and bottom right me. The pictures on the reverse were drawn by us in relation to how we perceived the song title. If you placed the drawings image over the photo you’d know who drew which. You see, mines bottom right, happy soul by nature.
++ Abstract Sounds has a very eclectic catalogue, from your fantastic jangle to well, New Model Army. I was wondering, how did you end up signing to them? Was there a contract and all, or just a handshake?
To be honest, you’re better off talking to Tim Paton on this one (I’ll give you his contact details), he was our manager at the time and also a staff photographer for the Melody Maker, so he may have some photos and press. That and I’m sure his memory cells will be less ravaged than mine. As far as I can remember though, we signed with the label. The only other things I can remember was being taken out to watch James play at the London Astoria, sitting in a private booth on the balcony, probably just after we signed. That and the bloke behind the label shared his business address with his wife who represented some of Britain’s best known glamour models, the sort that appear topless on page three of our red-top newspapers. I think she was making loads of cash, some of which was used to fund things at the label. I have a memory of Tim taking me round the label for some kind of meeting, and there were women wondering around the place with their tits out, all very enjoyable for a young man.
++ For me this release is a true indie pop classic. So if it’s not much to ask, would you mind telling me, perhaps just a little description, one or two lines, about each song on it?
The only thing I’ll tell you is that all four songs were recorded at completely different sessions. As for the lyrics, for The Jeremiahs stuff I think its best left to the listener to draw their own conclusions. Either that or you can track down Rob who I’m sure will be more willing than I to divulge what’s behind the tunes.
++ You were telling me there was a promo video for Honeysuckle Love!! I hope it shows up on Youtube someday. But how was it? What does it show? Any anecdotes you could share about it? And where was it shown? Top of the Pops?
I can’t remember where it was shown to tell you the truth. It was half performance video and half of the band wondering through some local woods and messing about. The stuff shot in the woods was black and white 16 mm film, whilst the performance side was shot in a film studio in Paddington London on 32mm. We had to mime at double the track speed as people shook a net above our heads containing what seemed like every autumn leaf that had fallen in London. The idea was that once the track was slowed to normal speed, we’d look as if we were playing as usual while the leaves were falling in slow motion. My two abiding memories are; too much make-up (colour shoot) and the fact that having worked late into the night, one of the camera men feeling somewhat tired managed to crash his new Ferrari into a tree on his way home, ouch!
There’s a kind of documentary of how the video was made that goes with it. But the audio quality has suffered quite a bit on both over the years. It’s something I hope to address when I have the time.
++ One of the songs was recorded in London, and the three other in Oxford. Why was this? Where did you have a better experience?
We’d already recorded ‘The Reason’, ‘Honeysuckle’ and ‘Wipe Away Your Tears’ in various sessions in Oxford and they sounded pretty good to us, so why re-record. We used VM Studios in Oxford quite a bit. Chris Bayliss who engineered and produced was a family friend of Rob’s clan and there never felt like any pressure to rush things. He’d also work with some of the big pop acts of the time so he knew his stuff.
The two studios couldn’t have been anymore different. VM was outside Oxford in what seemed to me to be the middle of nowhere, which by and large kept us out of trouble. Chris used to fill the vocal booth with candles and turn out all the lights when I was laying down vocal tracks, very zen.
‘Driving Into the Sun’ was recorded at Greenhouse Studios in London. I can remember hearing the Kings Cross prostitutes earning their money in the cheap hotel where we stayed, a particular pub open 24/7, having a chef to cook for us in the studio and generally having a great time.
So in answer to your question the two experiences are beyond comparison.
++ Before this release, in 1986, there was a tape that contained three songs, “Over the Stove”, “Wipe Away Your Tears”, and “Never Come Back”. I believe this is the tape I listened at Firestation HQ. It was fabulous! Which makes me wonder, how many other songs were recorded and didn’t get released?
There’s quite a bit of material out there somewhere, unfortunately not much with me. I’m doing my best to track the stuff down and digitise it before it rots. I watched a ruff video of us playing the Marquee not so long ago and there’s songs in the set I didn’t even recognise. My friend Stephen who plays bass for Twisted Wheel has got quite a bit of stuff that we’ve started to digitise, but I won’t catch up with him again until Kendal Calling Festival in late July.
++ The other song I’ve heard by you is “Far From the Maddening” which is a sublime tune. It was included in a compilation called “The Final Teaze”. There seems to be other compilation appearances by The Jeremiahs too. Care filling the blanks?
I’m afraid I can’t help a great deal. I think tracks have made it on to four or five compilations (so people tell me) but to be honest you probably know more than me. The one thing I can tell you is that I’m pretty sure ‘Beyond the Fence Begins the Sky’ was the first. The compilation was put together by a DJ from a radio station. He was probably the first to jump on the band, playing ‘Never Come Back’ whenever possible. With that said you’d think I could remember his name but for the life of me I can’t. Sometime later in Manchester I was approached by an American singer called Dane Chalfin (now a vocal coach) who wanted to cover ‘Never Come Back’. I produced the session and really wanted John to play guitar on the track but we couldn’t make it happen for some reason. It may have been our first song but it still holds a place in my heart. Shame about the drum sound though.
++ So what happened? So many great songs and just one release? Were people deaf then? Weren’t there any labels interested in releasing your records?
It’s strange but it just wasn’t that simple. It seems you hear a body of work when you listen to the music as we did at the time. Sure there were slight differences but it was all Jeremiahs to us. The trouble was that everything back then was so niche and some labels couldn’t see past the simplest movements in style. I remember somebody had sent ‘Over the Stove’ ‘Wipe Away Your Tears’ and ‘One Way to Go’ to a national magazine. They used guest reviewers from time to time and that week it was the head of Cherry Red Records, who back then were a label we really admired. The review was unbelievable and ended with what basically amounted to a deal being offered in print. But when they heard the ‘Far From the Maddening’ sessions we’d just completed they simply didn’t get it. They took it as a massive change in direction rather just a part of a bigger picture. So yes, deaf is probably right.
++ And so then what? When and why did you split? And what did you do after?
I think it’s fair to say that it wasn’t musical differences as some reported, not entirely anyway. The long and short of it is Rob and I could no longer work together, it got as bad as coming to blows. It would be unfair to go into detail as other parties were involved and the whole thing is pretty personal. Only those who appear on or live life through reality TV shows would put such things in the public domain.
I think John probably felt the same way as me and Ben was probably ducking for cover and who could blame him. I can’t be positive when the split happened but I remember playing a few cracking farewell shows, one in particular at Reading Trade Union Club was packed and fairly emotional.
I can’t speak for the others but after the split I drank too much, messed around with girls that I shouldn’t have messed around with, (which resulted in a split of a different kind) and was generally dissolute. On another indulgent night out at the After Dark Club I met a girl who was visiting whilst on a break from University in Manchester, Jo was her name. A few days later I upped sticks and headed north. It was a case of sex for no rent but I think it suited us both. Six months later I’d moved all my equipment up there and formed my next band This Gigantic World. Six months after that I was back touring and making records. The closest thing to the Jeremiahs stuff was our debut single ‘Raft’ which got joint single of the week in the NME along with a track by the Paris Angels. I have to say touring with TGW was an absolute riot from start to finish. Downing instruments mid set to fight an entire Rugby team, nearly losing our drummer Trev overboard, Partying with those kids in Belfast and playing some blinding gigs on the way.
++ Looking back in time, what would you say were The Jeremiahs highlights as a band?
There is nothing bad about being young and in a band; everything is a colourful and exciting new experience. It’s you against the world and fuck the consequences. The girls were good too.
++ Are you still making music these days? What other interests or hobbies do you have?
I’ve never left the world of music, I mean why would you? Since the split of TGW I’ve worked in A&R, managed bands, lectured in music business at Salford University, promoted gigs, regularly DJ a Manchester indie night called Modern Vintage, currently write for UK Music mag the Hit Sheet and the brilliant Eartwister blog and still misbehave whenever possible. I reviewed Elbow’s stunning show at Jodrell Bank Observatory last weekend and will be doing the same for the Stone Roses reunion shows at Manchester’s Heaton Park this. I’m also working with a great young band that I will remain tight-lipped about at present. Other than to say, that if you like The Jeremiahs you’ll love this lot, I’ll keep you posted.
As for writing and playing I’ve not done so in some time. However only today it was muted that something could be in the pipeline, working with Tim Thomas from the brilliant Blueprint Studios (home of Elbow). I’ll let you know if it sounds any good, otherwise it never happened.
++ So, Manchester, I was there this summer, really nice town! I hope I visit again soon, probably next year! So any pointers on what to see, where to eat, where to go record shopping?
That would make for a very long list. Just drop me a line and I’ll show you around and perhaps take in a gig or two.
++ One last question, is there any hope there will be a Jeremiahs reunion one day?
I’d love to have a reunion with John and Ben if just for a drink. I’ve spoken to John’s dad (Ben’s uncle) Clive on a few occasions but getting hold of the boys has proved very difficult. When I think of them it’s with real fondness, it would be good to hook up. As for Rob I have no idea where he is, maybe Japan. If you’re suggesting a musical reunion which I think you are, hold on a minute…………..Sorry about that, several pigs just flew past my window.