Monday, 1 March 2010

Joe Lean and the Jing Jang Jong Interview

A friend told me the other day that we are all made of stardust. Do you think that’s why we strive to create escapism, as being perpetually trapped in these ugly human bodies is not an inviting prospect?

Tom: no, I disagree.

Well, you’ve got a second option. Do you think it doesn’t make a difference. Because everyone is from the same stuff. Or do you think something else entirely.

t: Well I don’t think we’re all made from stardust.
Joe: I think that escapism is not to do with how wondrous the stars are. (sounds incredulous). And how beautiful space looks, and how people want to be away from the world. They do it because the conscious life is just so numb.

I didn’t mean it quite like that. It was kind of sarcastic. (nervous laughter ensues). But you kind of get what I mean? Sort of that if we know we’re made from something romantically idealised, we think we’re better than what we are, but actually we’re just humans.

Joe: I don’t know how to respond to that.
T: I don’t make any links to astronomy.
Panda: I use escapism not to strive to something more, but… I don’t know. Just escape from ourselves.
t: I don’t use escapism, personally.
Joe: You just hunt.
(Panda chuckles.)
t: I like the real life.

What would you call the real life?

t: What we’re doing now.

What about when you make music?

t: That’s real life.
(Joe disappears to speak to America.)
p: so that first question…

Often I think of things and write them down in a long roundabout way, then they come out not quite right, so sorry.

P: That’s alright.

I wont ask the next one then, if you’re not keen on the concepts..hah.

t: no, go for it. We don’t mind.

Ok. If you were going to go back to being some part of the universe, what part would you be?

t: BACK to being part of it? I haven’t been anywhere apart from here.
(laughs all round)

Well, if you were going to be part of it. What would you be?

t: Well I’d very much like to explore space, obviously, if it was possible.

As an astronaut?

t: Yeah as an astronaut, or perhaps an omnipotent being. Well I can’t say where I’d like to go back to , as obviously I don’t know the realms of the universe at all. But I’d like to just explore it generally.
P: I’d like to go anywhere.

(Bummer appears)

t:Hello! This is our drummer,Bummer.

Hello, I’m ali.

B: nice to meet you.

You too.

t: we’re getting asked some pretty ethereal questions,it’s great.

Well they’re all kind of up and down…It’s just because the other night I was camping at a friend’s house and we were watching shooting stars. There was a big shower of them.

P: it’s better than the usual stuff we get asked.

Well I do try and follow a personal policy…why ask something you can google.

t: I like your thinking.

Its, yeah…right. Lucio Starts Fires is about accidently starting problems. Do you think most of the things that happen in life are accidental, or are they from intent?

d: I think they happen because they’re supposed to happen.
P: I think a lot is down to fate.
t: I don’t believe in fate.
d: Do you not?

I’m sensing a pattern here.

P: tom’s quite an existentialist really.
T: I think things happen either because they’re intended, or they happen by accident. One of those two. But I don’t think it’s because of any…
D: But surely they both categorise under fate?
T: Well, they’re pretty different. (laughylaugh)I personally don’t believe in a grand design.
P:I believe in fate. I think that god made us meet.
T: Made you meat?

Meat, m.e.a.t, or meet m.e.e.t?

T: Do you believe in God?.
P: meet, m.e.e.t
T: so you believe in fate, in a round about way.

Do you think you should use your art with the intent to make things happen, or should you make it and not give a fuck, and let things happen by accident because of it?

T: I would personally choose the latter.
P: Would you? Why?
T: I don’t think you should make music to try and make things happen, apart form your own enjoyment, obviously, and other people’s.
P: I agree with that, but…
T: You shouldn’t be trying to solve all the problems in the world.
D: I personally don’t really believe….we don’t write protest songs, or do things on a large scale, but we try and let people listen to our music and get their enjoyment out of that, so I think in that respect we are making music for a reason.

Yeah, just for people to enjoy it. If you’re making music for no one to listen to then…

P: well we do that as well. But the music we make in this band, we want people to hear.
D: I know Joe always believes that if you make a piece of art, or write a song, and no one else hears it apart from yourself, then it hasn’t become art yet.
P: it’s like if someone paints a picture and keeps it at his house and no one sees it, so it’s not art.
D: I personally don’t think it makes a difference. I just thought that might be relevant.

Well it’s kind of really related to my next question; Joe played Turner in the Simon Schalmer ‘Power of Art’…

T: Yeah he did do that.

I used it for my art dissertation.

D: Did you?

I wrote it about slavery and Turner. But the documentary focuses a lot on one of Turner’s paintings, ‘Slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying, Typhoon Coming On’.

D: I haven’t seen that one.

Well as Joe’s not here I shall have to give you a brief low-down. It’s basically based on the Zong Massacre. When taxes on slavery were introduced in the 1700s, it meant on the boat’s insurance that if you lost slaves at sea, you didn’t have to pay for them. And in this particular case they chucked overboard around one hundred dead or dying people, to avoid the tax. There was also a huge court case, and all the judges just compared the slaves to horses and didn’t count it as murder. And Turner painted a picture depicting the story, which was met with absolute shock at the National Gallery. The painting’s greatest admirer, John Ruskin, was bought it by his dad as a present, but after a while he tried and failed to sell it at auction, because he said he couldn’t live with the subject matter. Oh crap, I haven’t really been asking a question. Do you think you could live with that painting?

T: I wouldn’t really want that in my house, no.
P: I’d want it in my house.

It’s quite a good painting really…

D: Oh I’m sure.
T: I can’t say because I haven’t seen it.
D: I could hang it in my bathroom.

The ship’s in the top left hand corner, so it appears almost insignificant, surrounded by big waves, the sun on the horizon and you can’t tell if it’s setting or rising, symbolic blah de blah, and there’s a channel of light through the middle, and at the front, a slaves leg floating in the water, sea monsters eating it, and mysteriously floating chains.

D: that sounds amazing
T: very cool yeah
P: I’d have that in my bathroom.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because we live in a different time now, it doesn’t seem…

T: I think it depends on whether you really absorbed the meaning or not, or whether you just saw it as a piece of art. Like, if it reminds you of large scale death…I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t seen it, but if it reminded me of that, I probably wouldn’t want to look at it very often.
D: It would depend if it disturbed me.
T: We’ll check it out.

Do you think that’s a reflection of how we live, our mindsets, that if things are difficult, we don’t have to live with them. Although it may have been better for that painting to be in a gallery so everyone can see it and understand the meaning, do you think things would change for the better if sometimes when things were difficult people just lived with them instead of trying to shove them out.

T: I think people do live with difficult things.
p: I think there are some things that people shove under the covers, but I think everyone deals with difficult stuff.
D: You have to have a solution. Especially the way the country’s going…
T: you have to manage it in the right way, find the right balance in managing what you concentrate on. Obviously you’ve got to dedicate some time to thinking about problems, but not too much. You’ve also got to try and lead an enjoyable life.
D: I think it’s how you do it
T: you’ve got to prioritise. You can’t just deal with the major problems. Like my mum gets worried about everything, about other people’s problems. But like when you look at a newspaper, you can feel empathy, obviously, but you can’t involve yourself.
P: there’s nothing unfortunately that you can do, on a grand scale.

I think you’re right, everyone deals with it very well. Can you imagine a world where people opened the papers everyday and were like OH MY GOD OH MY GOD PANIC PANIC.

T: You’ve got to be thick skinned.
P: I think everyone is.
T: or you’d just go mad.

Back to the painting…Turner mixed poetry and art, which I think is good. And it’s kind of what music is about.

P: yes it is, definitely.

Do you ever play just instrumentally?

T: Yeah, we do like playing without Joe singing.
Do you think it has the same meaning?
P: I think for us it does, but I think maybe for an audience they need lyrics. I think we do as well; people need the lyrics to grab on to. They can appreciate a piece of music, but I think a lot of the time to find meaning in it they need words.
T: I know I do. If you’re in a band, and you’ve created the music yourselves, then it’s obviously going to have a lot of meaning to you all, and it will mean something different because you’ll remember writing it, and be proud of the things you came up with, but that won’t translate to the audience.
P: Yeah I agree with that.
T: You want to have things you can actually sing, and feel like you actually understand the music a bit more.

If you sing along to a song, you feel you’re relating to it.

P: People always find the bit that they want for themselves, to find their own meaning in it.
And transfer it to their own experiences.
T: Yeah exactly. And it’s always nice when you hear a song with no singing but can still understand what they’re saying. You can’t get that from someone playing the guitar, so much. It’s not quite as immediate.

That did happen once, recently. I was watching John Williams and John Etheridge, and…I don’t know the technical term, it was one of those guitar pieces that’s kind of tinkly you know like (sings tinkly guitar…Spanish?) and it was just this point when it hit this high note, which I wont sing…but you know how it progresses up

T: yeah

And it was just something I could immediately recognise and relate to loads of different emotions that I had. And I couldn’t quite place it, but I knew I’d heard it in loads of other things. So yeah, it happens occasionally.

P: It does happen all the time,
T: I’m talking more about people in general. You need immediate triggers.
P: You always get emotion from music that you hear,but…
T: For me it’s just an intense experience, like you said it’s not just the lyrics but certain chord changes that might make you have a de ja vu feeling…
P: We’re really keen on making songs that are faultless, really good pop songs, or just a song where everything about it seems to have the right bits.

Pop seems to be coming back in a big way. Everyone I meet seems to be like ‘I wanna make POP.’ I think it’s a good thing. Intelligent pop. You should read the Sons and Daughters interview (issue two) it’s got a little bit about pop in it.

P: Really? They hate us.

Ahh, you should never believe that media hype…(chortle)

P: It’s on a video clip from SXSW on YouTube, they say they’ve seen us, and they hate us.
T: They don’t say they HATE us.
P: Don’t they? Well, they say something bad. I used to really like them.
(Tom laughs hugely).

As I said before, these questions are all over the shot.

P: Don’t worry.

How did you pick the cities in Brooklyn? Are they cities that you really liked?

T: Joe picked them. I think they were chosen more for the rhyming properties.

Yeah, I thought that might have been it.

T: It’s just for the sake of decent lyrics.
P: He’s been to all those cities though.
T: I don’t know if he has.
P: Oh, he might not have been.
T: You just have to use a bit of artistic license sometimes.

What are your favourite places to go to then?

P: Mine personally, funnily enough, is Norwich.


T: It’s my first time here.

It’s really nice. We have a castle.

T: Really?
P: I have a few friends from Norwich who are really cool people. A guy called James Hair, who’s in a band called the Vile Imbeciles, from Brighton.

Does he have big hair?

P: Yeah, big hair. He’s great. Who else do we know?
T: I don’t know anyone else apart from him.

You should do.

P: I find that people from Norwich tend to be quite eccentric...
T: I’ve only met two people.
P: Well look at James… (chuckles)

It’s because we’re so confined.

P: My favourite place is probably Tokyo. We went there for the first time a couple of weeks ago and it was the first time I’d been so far away from home, and it’s just so different there. The culture’s just completely different, everyone’s so nice. It was just an amazing experience. It’s something like three times the size of London, or something stupid like that. I just see it as an amazing place.

I went to Shanghai last year

P: Oh really?

It was dirty dirty horrid. But amazingly big. I don’t really understand how they can live there, it didn’t even seem like there’s that much to do. It seemed to all be offices…not like, London’s a big place, a lot of suburbs, but there’s lots going on all the time. I’m sure there is in Tokyo though…

P: (To Tom) What’s your favourite place, in the world?
T: I really enjoyed…
P: You liked Austin?
T: Yeah, I really enjoyed that but I would never live there. I loved the experience, the same as Tokyo. I like France and Spain, the South of France. And Italy.

I’d really recommend Orion, in Spain. It’s absolutely beautiful. There’s a little campsite inbetween the mountains, with a bay beach sort of thing, with eagles flying round over the beach. And when the tide goes out, the whole bottom of the mountains are made from oysters.

P: Really? That sounds amazing.

We camped there, but the campsite had like disco and karaoke on every night, which kind of ruins it…haha. Spanish children’s karaoke. (chortle)

T: Some of their fucking…techno.
P: We did karaoke in Tokyo.
To Japanese songs?
T: It wasn’t really karaoke, you just got to choose whatever you wanted to sing. I sang Wicked Game, that’s my karaoke song.

It’s a bit of a difficult one to sing.

P: He’s good at it.

Really? Do you want to show us now?

T: I might do it on stage tonight. In the sidelines.

That may be a little confusing for everyone. Maybe more for the band than the audience, I’m sure Norwich would love it.

T: The band would love it too.

A general success all round? Ok. If there was to be a stage production about your cataclysmic rise to success… (laugh at self)

T: A stage production?

Yes. How would you make it interesting? And would you play yourselves? (chuckle)

T: Umm, I’d probably have Kurt Russel playing me.
P: I’d have Keith Somerby playing me.
T: Actually I might have Nicholas Cave. That would definitely jazz it up.
P: I’d have Eva Green play our guitarist.

Just so you could hang out?

P: Yeah exactly.
T: I’d quite like the actors to be on wires as well so they could spring into the air…when I was young I saw Peter Pan on stage and I thought it looked great.
P: Yeah I’d like that.

Have you seen the Spongebob Movie?

P: Yeah.

You know the bit where Spongebob gets his wizard boots on and shoots up into the air, clad in a cape, and breaks out into an electric guitar solo. You’ve said you want to learn a new genre of music for each b-side…

T: Oh yeah that’s what Joe said.

Have you considered doing mime?

P: No, we have never considered doing mime.
T: I don’t think that would sell that well.And John Cage has already done it.
I’d like to have seen that. It would have been quite peaceful, just go in and have a think.
T: I’d probably rather do that than try and write something to impress some horribly posh people in tuxedos.

Peacefully awaiting their nap. I think really that’s all I ever do at a seated concert.

T: Yeah, it’s always really bizarre. Especially if you see something classical.

However amazing it is it just seems to wash around the room. Unless it’s REALLY AAMZING, in which case…

P: Unless you take lots of acid.
T: I watched the Magic Flute on acid.

It would make something like Peter and the Wolf really intense. Or Peter Pan on wires…

P: I think we should be on wires tonight.
T: We should be able to fly out over the audience.

You could use a zip wire.

P: Before you come in you could zip wire onto the stage.

With wings?

T: I’d rather it looked like I was just flying around.

What about magic gloves? It’s all about the stage costumes.

P: Magic boots? We’ll look into it.

Maybe just a tie?

P: Magic tie.

Interview & Words- Ali Hewson

No comments:

Post a Comment