Thanks so much to Richard Starke for the interview! Jane Pow were a fantastic Southampton (and later Brighton) band that was quite modish! Maybe the band from the period that was influenced the most by 60s sound. They released records on many great labels as Ambition, Marineville, Target and Slumberland. Actually, you can still buy their CD on Slumberland that included both “Love it, Be It!” and “State” albums here.
++ Hi Richard! Thanks so much for being up for the interview! What are you up to nowadays? Still making music?
Hi. Thanks for the offer ! Well not anything too exciting or glamorous but i keep myself kinda busy. I’m still trying to make music though not in the serious or intense way I did back with Jane Pow. I live just outside of Seattle, WA USA. Moved here 15 yrs or so ago.
++ Let’s talk about Jane Pow, was it your first band or were you involved with other bands before it?
No I was playing since I was about 14. Played bass in a band with a friend, started playing with other people in variously dumb titled bands, The Kinky Boot Beasts, The Metric System, F Yes Bubble, Sunset Strip (With Mike from the Music Liberation Front).
Jane Pow came about from meeting various people that seemed to want to do something a little more serious. Greg McDermott was the only other constant member of the band. He is a great player and always kept me in line. He was the musician in the band. We started off playing this droney Spacemen 3 rip off . We would project Pop Art over ourselves (Bridget Riley I think) our gigs and make a huge racket. (The cover of “Safe” is actually a picture of one of our gigs that has been made super low res) It was pretty cool and the first time we met Mark who would start Ambition. We played at his “indie” nights. He spun records and we would play. I think he got other bands to his nights as well after a while. From there we started playing other venues and eventually other towns.
++ So how did the band start? How did you all knew each other?
We were just friends of friends and played in bands around Southampton. We were all about 16 or 17 so we would hang out and party and you just meet! We got it together pretty quickly. Me, Greg McDermott on drums, Rupert Hanna on Bass and Vincent Kellet on Guitar. We all kinda liked some of the same music and I think we all wanted to play in a serious band.
That first line up recorded our first few singles and the first full length “State”. Vincent is an accomplished classical guitar player and I think he got bored with me asking him to play one chord for 5 minutes ! He left after we did the first album. So at first we were all in school and just practiced when we were meant to be studying. At that point it kinda took over my life and I think everyone’s. We started to play bigger places and got a good following in Southampton. We were a pretty good live band. Loud and aggressive. We played fast and noisy !!
++ What’s the story behind the band’s name?
That’s pretty simple. We had to think of a name the night before our first gig and we sat around all night trying to agree. It got more and more silly and we ended up with Jane Pow. The name of a girl the 3/4 of the band went to school with! I though it sounded pretty Mod! It just stuck!
++ How did you like Southampton back then? What were the places were you usually hanged out? Was there a healthy scene there?
Yeah I think it was good. The place has changed alot. The scene was pretty underground. “Indie” is so mainstream now, it doesn’t mean what it did back then. Indie was everything from Goth to punk to folk music. It was a way of conducting yourself as a band and a fan. We were looking for something away from mainstream culture. It felt at the time like it had more integrity, I think that was cause we were young though. Now I’m so jaded !!!!!!!!!
We played at and watched many bands at The Joiners Arms. Its still going strong ! We supported Ride there and Primal Scream to name some big names. A good few others and also some great local bands. We played at the Labour Club at Mark from Ambition’s night. It was a club affiliated with the Labour Party. It was in the wrong end of town near the docks and had subsidised Beer !!!! You could get very drunk on not much money and have a great time jumping around to noisy indie music. There were always a few die hard OAP Labour Party guys there looking at us like we were crazy ! I remember some other pubs and clubs but its all a little hazy ! I lived in a small village on the outskirts of town called Netley. I remember some very long walks that seemed to last all night coming back late from shows. I also just remember hanging out at parks and by the water after staying up all night. We had a great time even though there was a lot of angst going down !
There were a lot of good local bands that i cant remember the names of !!!!!!!!!!
++ From the period, what we can consider the indiepop heyday, you must be the most 60s influenced band, at least you sound like that. What were you listening at the time? And just out of curiosity, which bands from those late 80s, early 90s, did you like or felt closer to what Jane Pow was doing?
Yeah it’s funny that it seems like a heyday ! I think there were other bands as into the sixties thing as we were. There were so many splintering groups of sub cultures that its hard to generalize. I remember being pretty frustrated with being lumped in with bands from say Sarah Records or such stuff. I never saw Jane Pow as in that group, we never seemed to go down so well with their audiences ! I remember bowl cuts and pointy boots being pretty big at Creation around that time ! Primal Scream, Razorcuts, Jasmine Minks Biff Bang Pow, Mary Chain etc etc We all seemed to look like cast offs from a Velvet Underground bio pic !
I used to like and still do Felt, Primal Scream, The Wolfhounds, Momus, McCarthy, The Jasmine Minks,Jesus and Mary Chain, Microdisney, The Chameleons, China Crisis, 808 State, The Blue Aeroplanes , Julian Cope, My bloody Valentine . You know the list goes on !
I always loved older stuff to and we became more and more obsessed with trying NOT to sound like an indie pop band. In the nineties it all got very britpop that never really did it for me. By that time I was more musically educated and preferred to listen to older guitar music. I did start to get into hip hop and electronic music . I had a bit of a Blue Note and early 70′s jazz phase!
++ Your first two singles came out on Mark Pearson’s “Ambition Records”. How do you remember signing to his label? How did the deal work out? Any anecdotes you can share about Mr. Gnome?
Mark : Lets make a record, ill put it out !
Us : OK !
Contract negotiations over !
I don’t think there was a deal as such. He paid for the recordings and the pressing and all and we got a record. We got to sell some at gigs and made a bit of cash. I don’t remember it being a big thing just cool. I honestly don’t have many memories of that time. I mostly spent my time being all angsty in the corner and writing songs!
++ You then released one single on Marineville, the Sanitized 7″, which is really great. I find Andy Marineville to always be in the shadows, doesn’t like much promotion though he has been quite a supporter of Cloudberry! Which I’m very thankful. Did you ever get to meet him?
Oh yeah. I think Andrew was friends of the Marineville guys and we hung out a little bit. This was when the band had relocated to Brighton, along the coast in the south of England. We had our own label called Target Records. We put out the Jane Pow album “State” and “Love It Be It”.
We also put out a few other bands, Arthur, Studio 68, High Llamas, Prescriptions, Monoland. We were always open to people putting out tracks as singles or on compilations. We were on the Slumberland “One Last Kiss” comp and a few others.
++ And also on this single you come up with what will be more or less your design aesthetics for the next records. Who came up with that look? Oh! and what is this song about?
Most of the design was done by Andrew. It was great to have total creative control over covers and music. It was our own label so we could do pretty much anything we wanted ! Also though we were responsible for all the mistakes !
We were very into late 60′s underground art and that stuff was influenced by a Richard Neville book called “Play Power” . He had been a leading light in the underground scene in late 60′s London. His book is great. We carried on the artistic style with the rest of our releases. Andrew spent a lot of time working on those covers. We were doing it by hand, cutting out letters and pictures to make the final cover art. This was way before we had Photoshop on our computers !
++ Then you suddenly release a 7″ in the US, on Slumberland. It wasn’t that common then for a UK band to release in the US. How did that happen?
Hmmmmm ! Cant remember to be honest ! I think he heard our stuff somewhere and just asked to do it. Pretty informal. Warm Room seems to be a song people liked. If I remember that was mainly written by Rupert the bass player in the band. We were not as connected as we are today so maybe fewer bands did it cause of that . I remember some other bands putting out 7 inch singles in the states on labels like “Bus Stop”.
We met Mike from Slumberland in DC and hung out with him for a night if I remember. He was very cool and into the music so we saw a like minded label.
++ Then two albums on Target Records from Brighton, listening to them today, how do you think they have aged? What are your favourite songs from them? What do you remember from recording them?
I think I like the “State” LP best. It seems more of a product of things rather than a copy of things. By the time we did “Love It Be It!” we were very conscious of NOT being an indie band. I was listening to pretty much all old music with a few bands like Felt and early electronic music like 808 state. We recorded “State” in a small 8 track studio with Peter Dale. We would have 3 guitar parts and a horn section on one track. Mixing the record was like playing the mixing desk. It was a fun record to make. Pete was a great engineer and into helping us with our sound. I felt like we had made a good record and was proud to have it out.
“Love It Be It” was harder to make. We tried recording in a 16trk studio but it didn’t go too well. We ended up recording 4 songs in our basement apartment ourselves ! I had a definite sound that I wanted and couldn’t get !!!! It was frustrating. There are some good songs on that record. I like the fact that “Sanitized” is mono until the last 30 seconds or so! but I don’t think the recordings do them justice.
As for favorite songs, I’d go for “Through”, “Latitude” and “Take”. On “Love It Be It!” I’d say “Sanitized”, “90′s”, “Playpower”, “It’s on Its way”.
As to how they have aged! Well sometimes I find it unbearable to listen to them!!!!!!!! They are badly played and sometimes badly recorded but they have a certain something! They were played from beginning to end, no computers chopping and re tuning. Just 3 or 4 or 5 blokes making a noise! I wondered how I played some of those guitar parts too! Thinking about it Greg did moist of the hard bits!
++ These same albums were released around the same time but on 1 CD on Slumberland Records. Why was that?
Well just cause Mike wanted to put them out and it all fit on one CD ! You couldn’t get our LP records in the USA at the time and it was cool to have them on a CD. We also put a few extras on there like “Sophia Green” and “Morning side”. Those are not on the vinyl version of the albums.
++ Ah! I have to ask, one of my favourite tracks of yours is “Sophia Green”, I always wondered who was that Sophia you sing about?
Well ask Mike Evil!!! I don’t know!
If I could change the world, I guess I would. /
If I could see what I need to see then you know I would /
But you gotta keep telling me now what to give /
wheres my independence oh wheres my hope. /
so i live my life in harmony /
try to stop my ideas getting chopped down with me /
cause there everything, yes there everything to me /
Sophia Green to me was always that mythical Girl that was your ally, your love and your hope for life. Who you needed to be with cause they are everything, but who, of coarse you lost, or maybe never found.
++ Also you had that song 90s, which makes me wonder, which decade did you enjoy the most, the 80s, the 90s, or perhaps this one, the 00s?
I suppose they all were so different from each other. In the 80′s I was growing up and getting into life and music. I was 14 in 1984 when I heard the Jesus and Mary Chain, The Smiths, etc, etc, and it blew my mind. I loved listening to Peel and started playing music.
In the 90′s I struggled with playing in Jane Pow and trying to make that a success, ultimately fleeing the UK for the USA. I got married and that was another part of life.
In this decade I have worked at a few record labels and a few web companies, had 2 amazing kids and met some great people here in Seattle, I have also missed England and lost my Dad so its a toss up.
I always think that the next one will be the best until you are far enough away from the past to gain perspective.
++ What about gigs? Did you gig a lot? Any in particular that you remember?
Yeah we did. We played a lot in Southampton at first but then all round the UK and got as far as the USA and Germany. I remember the German tour being good. Playing Hamburg was great. There’s at least one show in the USA that I remember very well and changed my life for ever!
I remember supporting Primal Scream , playing at the Labour club at the Gnome’s night. I also remember playing to 4 people and a dog at various London venues, those gigs were the worst. Hoping that some wanker from the NME was gonna review the show or some A&R dude was meant to come down. I hated all that stuff. I loved playing at the Joiners Arms to a sell out home town show !
++ When and why did you call it a day?
When I moved to the USA I suppose. We had recorded a 3rd LP with myself and Greg as the only original members. It got screwed up and was unusable. There are a few tracks floating around from that time. We had gotten signed to a sub label of Acid Jazz but it didn’t work out so decided to do it ourselves on my old 8 track machine!
We had a new bass player Andy Jackson, Rudy on the congas, Paul Sutton on sax and my big bro Andy singing. The songs were sounding great and then we had some technical issues that screwed the whole thing up. After that it just kinda stopped. I have never played in a band since!
++ What did you all do after the band’s split? Are you still all in touch?
Ive been in the USA since then. Ive been to college, worked at a college radio station, a commercial station , some record labels and an internet company. I’ve made music under the name Firingbullets. Its pretty sporadic right now though.
Greg is back in the UK and has played with a few bands most notably Fiel Garvy. Rupert moved to Norway and Vince teaches guitar! Andy was in the Regular Fries for a while and now makes movies. We are still in touch. Everyone is on friendly terms!
++ Alright, let’s start wrapping the interview, but before, what was your guitar during those Jane Pow days?
A couple. I had a Fender Jaguar that I loved . A big Hofner semi acoustic and a red Telecaster. I had a 12 string acoustic as well. Rupert played a Fender Jazz bass. We also used a Korg ms10 , a stylaphone, Hammonds and an occasional synth horn section!
++ And one last one, what are other stuff do you enjoy doing aside from music?
I have 2 kids 8 and 10 so they take up a lot of time. I’m a soccer dad ! I help out on my kids team and generally potter around the house. I like the usual stuff books , UK TV and radio but to be honest if you take music out of my life you loose a huge chunk of it !
++ Thanks again Richard! Anything else you’d like to add?
No problem! Not much just that its amazing and gratifying that people remember Jane Pow. I put alot of emotional energy and time into the music so its good to know that someone enjoyed it!
Jane Pow – Sophia Green