John Dexter Jones (JUMP)

 

John Dexter Jones - Summers End Photo by Martin Reijman

John Dexter Jones – Photo by Martin Reijman

JUMP! A band, not an order. Ever heard of them? You should have. I caught them at HRH Prog 2014 and thoroughly enjoyed their performance. I thought I spotted an early Marillion influence, but singer John Dexter Jones was quick to point out the folk and blues elements in their music. Turns out they have a rich and productive history, a wide range of influences, don’t sound much like early Marillion and might not even be ‘prog’! (I blame it on the beer!) Thought I’d better let JDJ set the record straight. Are you sitting comfortably?

Hi John! You sing for a well-established band called JUMP. What can you tell us about the band?
JUMP has been around for 24 and a half years, so next year is a big one for us! Four of the original six members are still in the line-up – that’s me, Steve Hayes on guitar, Mo on keys and Andy Barker on drums. The other original guitarist, Pete Davies, was replaced by current member Ronnie Rundle over ten years ago and original bassist Hugh Gascoyne has had a couple of successors, with Mark Pittam joining us in 2013. JUMP has released 13 studio albums and two live albums and to date we reckon we’re close to having done 1500 gigs.

I gather you’re a North Wales boy? How did you end up in a High Wycombe-based rock band?
Yes, I’m a Bangor lad through and through. I’d already spent ten years gigging out of North Wales when I decided to make the move to the south of England. I’d learned a lot by then, done loads of gigs and realised that whilst I was gigging a lot, I wasn’t really moving forward. I had some fantastic times but I needed to go. I knew a few people in the Wycombe area and saw a really interesting ad within a week of moving, that wanted a front man for a  rock band, no beginners. They gave me a tape (!) of a couple of pieces and asked me to write parts for them. Both ended up on the first album and both knocked me out on first listen.

I saw you on the prog stage at this year’s HRH Prog event. Do you think the ‘prog’ label suits your style of music?
To be honest I have absolutely no idea whatsoever. I know that people like labels – perhaps it helps them sift things by genre – but I couldn’t tell you what we are. If progressive rock is about fusing different music forms and shaping them into a sound then yes, that’s definitely us; we draw on a wide variety of six people’s musical tastes and that becomes JUMP music. If progressive rock is sounding as close as you can to early Genesis then … er … no, that’s not us. We play electric and acoustic music that turns out the way it turns out. Our last album was predominantly acoustic; the next will be full-blown electric.

Progressive rock is often associated with demons and wizards, fantasy and fiction. Can it, and should it, have social relevance?
All music can have social relevance. Does it have to? No, I think it can be whatever you want. It’s an art form and its limitations are only defined by the player and the listener. Personally my own style is rooted in the narrative. I like stories and I like the idea that we can learn from stories; we can see our lives and our principles held up and think about things. So JUMP tends to be a vehicle for a loose social commentary illustrated by examples (the songs). On the other hand, if I want to write wizardy fiction, I won’t feel constrained not to. If a band writes a wizardy concept album full of golden threads and four headed cats then good luck to them and their fans – if they go to gigs, love the band and enjoy themselves, there’s nothing better.

John Dexter Jones Photo by Martin Reijman

Photo by Martin Reijman

What would you say to someone who thinks that progressive rock was killed by punk?
I’d say they needed to get out more. Punk was great, it was dynamic and inclusive and rebellious and the best of its music was as sonically appealing as anything before and since. But it didn’t kill anything. It’s a popular myth to suggest that it had this profound effect on ‘bloated’ and ‘self-aggrandising’ establishment music. Well, it had no negative effect whatsoever on my musical tastes, just added to them, and Dire Straits played Wembley Stadium, so work that one out. The spectrum of music gets bigger … things come and go … but killed … nah!

Is it possible to say what music means to you?
It means a lifetime of enjoyment … listening, writing and playing. It means meeting people over a 35 year career and exchanging views and thoughts, drinking beer and valuing their company. It means magic and excitement, special moments, travelling thousands of miles. So that’s pretty good, eh?!

Who was the first artist to make an impression on you?
Gary Glitter. Is it ok to say that?! As a kid in the early 1970s, the glam rock bands switched us all on to pop music. Gary Glitter is, of course, not an individual whose company any of us would crave now, but it was ‘Leader of the Gang’, ‘Hello, I’m Back Again’ and ‘Rock and Roll’ and those records that engaged me and made a first musical impression. Very quickly, by about the age of 12 or 13, bands like Zeppelin and Sabbath overtook the pop, but it was ‘Leader’ and the Sweet’s ‘Ballroom Blitz’ that lit the fire. I hope that doesn’t offend your readers but it’s the truth.

An album, song or lyric that means a lot to you?
Too many to list. Different music for different moods. Let’s go with the Led Zeppelin catalogue. If everything else was lost, I could get by with that.

An artist who has stayed with you over time?
Robert Plant. Don’t know if there’s anything he’s done that I haven’t liked.

Dylan or Morrison?
Morrison. Dylan doesn’t appeal to me. I acknowledge his contribution etc., etc., but not anyone I’d go and see. I’d have gone to see a Doors gig though!

Gabriel or Collins?
In the context of Genesis, don’t care … I’m not a fan. Beyond that, Gabriel … I prefer his music.

Jump - Summers End 2013 - Photo by Bo Hansen

Photo by Bo Hansen

Your best encounter with an artist as a fan?
In 1984 I travelled as a guest on The Firm’s European tour and spent an hour chatting at the bar of the Intercontinental Hotel in Frankfurt with Jimmy Page. We met in the lift on the way downstairs, we had mutual friends, and he was an absolute gentleman. We talked about life in general, the state of the nation and North Wales. Obviously, having done many tour supports I’ve met many notable artists of whom I’ve been a fan, but the encounter with Jimmy Page would probably count as the one to dine out on!

Your strangest encounter with a fan as an artist?
In 24 years of JUMP there have been many, many, many … though I think the one that sticks out the most, without telling the whole story, was when a young man who, having lost his girlfriend to suicide over a year before, told me he had felt able to go out to a gig for the first time since it happened. Apparently she loved JUMP and he said he thought she’d think it was ok if he came to our gig. I’m not normally lost for words but for a moment I was floored. It was a lesson in humility – just how important music can be to people, how it can help heal as well. If not ‘strange’ it was certainly the most profound.

What makes a gig special?
I couldn’t tell you. Every gig is unique, every set of circumstances different, every sequence of events that got the band and audience there has never been before and won’t be again. It sounds a bit ‘worthy’ but I honestly love every live performance we do. If I stopped enjoying it I’d pack it in. I suppose sometimes all those circumstances come together and it’s ‘special’ but if we could put our fingers on the secret we’d have taken over the world by now!

What’s the most notable gig you’ve played as an artist?
I couldn’t give just one. Gigs are notable for any number of reasons. My first one was in the Angel Hotel in Aberystwyth – that was pretty notable. If you’re looking for ‘status’, well, The Forum and Shepherd’s Bush Empire take some beating … but then we’ve played the NEC – long story – and even Abbey Road Studio 2 … so I’ve no idea, really. My first gig in London was The Mean Fiddler in Harlesden and the venue I’ve played the most was the legendary Nags Head Blues Loft in High Wycombe.

Your most memorable gig as a fan?
Ginger Baker and friends supported by Bangor heroes Fay Ray. My first proper ‘big’ gig at the Student Union in Bangor. It lit a fire. I figured if I worked at it I could be up there one day.

Sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll – jaded stereotype or the meaning of life?
Certainly a brilliant phrase. For me, one is my private business, one is my public business and the other is for mugs … by way of a neat little rhyme. Nuff said!

John Dexter Jones - photo by Bo Hansen

Photo by Bo Hansen

How do you view what you do as an artist?
Mostly through rose-tinted spectacles! When we were kids in the band in Bangor we used to finish rehearsals and go to the pub and, to coin a phrase, “drink each other under the table and tell each other how good we were”. Trust me, I’m 50 now and I still do it. Any artist, somewhere deep down, must think that what they do is worthwhile and want to share it. Other people have to judge its real worth … we just sit in that pub and hope!

Is there a particular album, track or performance of which you’re most proud?
No. Live in the moment and keep on doing it! I’m proud of what we’ve done, of course, but no one musical thing defines me or the band.

What would you say to people who say that rock or the rock era is dead?
The same thing as I’d say to anyone who asserted that punk killed anything. Get out more!

Do you see a future for progressive rock?
I can see a future for all types of music … music just is … it evolves and as it does musicians of all kinds hoover up influences new and old. It’s all there, waiting for another bunch of kids, or even grey old fools like me, to sort it out and give it some legs. Progressive rock? Well, like I said earlier, what is it anyway? Yes, there’s a future for all of it, whatever it is. Give a kid an electric guitar. That’s all you have to do.

What next for JUMP? Where can people get your albums and catch you live?
We have our extensive catalogue available through Bandcamp, via www.jumprock.co.uk and, of course, we’re on Facebook. Anyone who wants to know more can always search for me on Facebook – there aren’t too many John Dexter Joneses out there! All our live stuff is there too. What’s next? As I said, next year marks 25 years of JUMP. There will be more gigs, a new album, beer, road miles, laughs, bleary eyes and 100% every time we hit the stage. What else is there?!

John Dexter Jones - Jump!  Photo by Bo Hansen

Might as well Jump! Photo by Bo Hansen

CHEERS JOHN!

Visit the official Jump site at: www.jumprock.co.uk

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