A Conversation with Joe Jackson
Puremusic: I'm really loving Volume 4. I've been following you since the very beginning, and I love a lot of the musical changes that you've gone through over the years. And I'm really impressed with, after all those changes and all the time that's passed, how effortlessly it seems that your original band meshed together again.
Joe Jackson: Yeah, it's amazing!
PM: When you first decided that you might like to do this reunion, were you confident that it would work, or was it kind of a gamble going in?
JJ: No, I was pretty confident, but it's turned out better than I expected, to be honest. I was pretty confident because I knew that everyone was still alive and still playing great. Nobody was horribly, embarrassingly fat or messed up on drugs.
PM: I know that you and Graham had continued to work together off and on over the years since the original band called it a day, but had you kept in touch, at least, with Gary and Dave during that time?
PM: So, was everybody very responsive right away to the idea when you approached them about it?
JJ: Yeah. I mean, Dave had to sort of sleep on it. He was the one who I thought might say no. But he said yes, and that's really why it happened. If one of the guys had said no, this would never have happened.
PM: Dave's the member who has kept the lowest profile over the years.
PM: But, obviously, he's kept up his drumming.
JJ: Oh, he's playing great!
PM: Would you talk a little about each of the guys and their strengths? For example, Graham is, I think, as amazing a bass player as there has been in the last 25 years.
JJ: Yeah, oh, totally, yeah!
PM: He's so nimble, and when you're not taking a keyboard solo, his bass is more or less the lead instrument in the band.
PM: Was that always what you wanted?
JJ: Yeah, it was. That was partly because I liked the idea of featuring the bass more, and partly because I had such a great bass player--so, it was both. But also, it's because of the fact that I'm not a guitarist, and I don't approach things from that point of view. I think that's one of the reasons this band is not a guitar band, actually, in an odd sort of way, even though it has a guitar in it, you know what I mean?
JJ: I think that's one of the reasons that it sounds unique.
PM: But, you know, moving on to Gary, I've got to give him so much credit...
JJ: Oh, yeah!
PM: ...because you had said in one interview that he was almost over-qualified to be in the band in some respects. But it's not really easy to be a great rhythm guitar player, and he adds so much texture to such an austere band...
PM: ...I think he's invaluable.
JJ: Oh, yeah!
PM: And he does get to cut loose and solo a little bit on this record. "Bright Grey" is one track...
PM: So, he's obviously very, very talented. Has he always accepted the nature of his role in the band, Joe?
JJ: Yeah. One of the reasons that he's the right guy for the band is that he doesn't have this kind of typical, huge, lead guitarist's ego. And he was quite happy to play the role that I wanted [the guitarist in the band to play]. You know, it's very much like casting. People ask me, "How does this band work?" And it's very much like I'm a playwright who writes the play, and then I have to cast the characters. And if you get the right actors, then it all just works so much more easily. So, I think this is just the right cast.
PM: Absolutely! One of the things that I love about your band is that it is both so powerful and so nimble. I mean, you guys gracefully execute a lot of hairpin turns and abrupt rhythm changes on various tracks. And Dave is so solid and yet so graceful at the same time--he's very original.
JJ: Yeah, yeah!
PM: It's great that he's kept up his skills. I know that during the band's hiatus he's played with a lot of local bands in the area where he lives, but did he do any sessions with other musicians I may have heard of, as Graham and Gary did?
JJ: No. continue