British singer-synth whiz Howard Jones isn’t resting on the laurels of his nine U.S. Top 40 hits. He’s still looking for challenges in the 1990s.
Just as he was finishing up the album “Angels & Lovers,” for release only in Japan, Jones was invited to participate in a “songwriter’s boot camp” last year at a castle in France. Led by ARK 21 Records head Miles Copeland, Jones and other artists were paired off each day, assigned to write a new song by lunch and record it before dinner.
The experience, Jones said, was invigorating.
“It’s the best fun I’ve had with music ever in my life,” he said recently. “It’s very intense. You write a song every day and record it. You have three hours to do an eight-track demo of the song. I found that under that kind of pressure, it brings out things in you that you didn’t know were there.
“It was absolutely brilliant to get the chance to work with people you’ve never written with before. It’s very scary, because you don’t know whether you’re going to be any good at it. For me, it was finding out that I could do it. Each group of people brings out something different in you that you didn’t really realize.”
Three songs from the boot camp ended up on an expanded version of “Angels & Lovers,” which was retitled “People” and released stateside July 14 on ARK 21.
” ‘Everything,’ the reggae track, was actually recorded there. That’s a demo, basically, with (ex-Police-man) Stewart Copeland on drums,” Jones said. “I added a bit of Hammond organ, but that was it. And ‘Let the People Have Their Say’ was from there, and ‘Tomorrow Is Now’ as well, which I wrote with Jane Wiedlin.
“It’s fun to write with other people and exchange ideas and see what happens when you combine with other people. A lot of it involved writing a song with somebody else in mind, somebody else singing it, and that requires a different thinking. I really enjoyed that.”
Jones needed that rejuvenation after his 10-year association with Elektra ended in 1993.
“The whole industry has changed so much that I wouldn’t want to be with a major label these days,” he said. “They don’t have enough respect for artists; they’re regarded as disposable commodities.”
While he enjoyed sharing the stage with Culture Club and The Human League on this summer’s definitive ’80s redux tour, Jones relishes having the spotlight this month on his new band, which he jokingly calls “the Blind Faith of the ’90s.”
“Kevin Wilkinson (drums) was with China Crisis and Nick Beggs (bass) was in Kajagoogoo, and Robin Boult (guitar) has been with Fish, who used to be with Marillion,” Jones said. “It’s my dream band, the best I’ve ever had.
“The album’s just now getting going, really. It’s in the shops, but we’re really looking at it as quite a long-term project, meaning all of next year as well. That suits me fine. It doesn’t have a huge budget commitment behind it; it’s going to be more of an old-fashioned approach where I’m going to tour a lot, do lots of interviews and lots of TV and radio. As long as I’m out there doing it and I’m not getting bored, I’m happy.”
BWF (before we forget): Get to know Howard Jones well on the Web @ www.howardjones.com. … The Howard Jones album discography – “Human’s Lib” (Elektra, 1984); “Dream Into Action” (1985); “Action Replay” EP (1986); “One to One” (1986); “Cross That Line” (1989); “In the Running” (1992); “The Best of Howard Jones” (1993); “Live Acoustic America” (Plump, 1996); “People” (ARK 21, 1998).