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Interview with Jon Stevens

JON STEVENS


In his homeland of New Zealand, he topped the charts twice as a teen. In Australia fronted the band Noiseworks who released three platinum selling albums. He took part in a sell-out arena tour of a smash hit musical and filled the shoes the late, great Michael Hutchence in INXS. Yet despite all the success down under, Jon Stevens is not particularly well known in the UK. Keen to put that right, James Gaden called Jon up for a lengthy and candid chat about his sprawling and excellent back catalogue.


Jon-Stevens-1


I was so thrilled to have chance to see you live when you played those five nights in London a few weeks back. I saw you at the 100 Club and it was superb.

Oh, thanks mate. It was a good vibe in there. I had fun playing the new songs, I'm really proud of them and we've been playing all over, it's just been great getting out there.

I want to cover your whole career while we have this time together, because I think it's criminal how few people are aware of you here in the UK, particularly with all the great records you have put out. Originally, you were more of a Pop star really, that was your start in the business, back in 1980.

Yeah, it was one of those things that I never set out to do at all. I was sixteen years old and my eldest sister knew a guy who owned a studio, he'd found out from her I could sing and he was looking for some new singers. She took me in there, we're talking about New Zealand back in the 70s, we didn't have a phone, didn't have a car... so my sister says that her friend wants me to go and sing in the studio, I procrastinated and eventually she just dragged me down there. I sang four songs, one of which was a song called 'Jezabel' which was written by one of your countrymen actually, a guy from London called Eddie Howe. It was an original song and I didn't know anything about studios or recording or anything. The guy literally just played me the song and said "Can you sing that?" and I said "Er, okay". I sang what I heard, did two or three takes and left. A few months go by and he asked my sister if it would be okay to send the demos he had made using my voice to CBS in Auckland. I wasn't interested, I said "whatever" and he sent them off. Then CBS decide they wanted to sign me. I wasn't interested in that either, so CBS just went ahead and released 'Jezebel' anyway, even though I wasn't signed! This was New Zealand, it was a backwater back then.

They put out 'Jezebel' and within three weeks it was number one. I've just turned seventeen, was still playing football with my mates and I had actually been working at EMI pressing albums, funnily enough! I'd been fired from that so when 'Jezabel' came out I was making rubber carpet underlay. All of a sudden, I was famous in New Zealand and it had nothing to do with me. I was fucking horrified. I come from a musical family but it's a big family, we were always singing, dancing, drinking... my dad was from Glasgow and my mum was Maori so it's a really tribal family, always singing. So while I enjoyed it for fun, now I had a number one record without even being signed!

CBS chased me down through my sister and said I needed to make an album. So I recorded an album within about two weeks. They asked me what my favourite song was and I said "Oh, I love 'Montego Bay', that's a favourite of mine" so we recorded that, they put that out and it knocked 'Jezebel' off the number one spot... and I still wasn't signed. (Laughs) I was extremely famous in New Zealand because I was the first Maori artist to be in the charts... and I hated every second of it.

That's insane! When you made the album did it ever cross your mind that this might be a career for you, or did you just do it because you felt coerced into it?

I was super shy, just a little Maori boy from out the country, the youngest of eleven children, I didn't know who all these big city slickers were with their flash suits and big studios with flashing lights, full of musicians laying around smoking pot. I was out of my depth. I could sing okay, anything they gave me I found I could sing no problem. They were all saying "Holy shit, you're amazing!" but I was just thinking "What are you talking about? I just want to get out of here." I was so shy, you couldn't get anything out of me.


JON STEVENS – 'MONTEGO BAY'



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So at what point did CBS try and sign you?

We made the album, they released that and that went right up the charts, got to number two or three I think and I was signed retrospectively. But within about eighteen months, two years, it was all over. I'd quit playing sport because people were all recognising me and smacking the shit out of me, I got a broken nose and stuff so I had to either give up football or music. I figured you got more girls with music, so I quit the football and within two years the music thing was pretty much over. I moved to Australia and met a guy who was going to manage me. He was managing Air Supply who had a lot of big hits and he took me to America, where I made a second album with Trevor Lawrence. By this time I sort of knew what was going on and Trevor, God bless him, he said "Well, we need to teach you how to write songs, pal". I had a lot more interest in music by this point and I got to work with all these guys in Los Angeles, like guys from Toto, Michael Jackson's band, Stevie Wonder's band, I was working with all these cats aged eighteen. It was good for me because the New Zealand success sucked... mainly because I was flogged to death. Honestly, I was sick of seeing me! (laughs) It was such a small place, I was just everywhere. I thought about quitting music completely but I chose to leave instead. Going to Australia, then America, I lived there for about ten months. Steve Lukather played on the second record, John Robinson was the drummer and he would go on to play on all Michael Jackson's stuff like 'Beat It'. Having these guys around, I started writing and getting into it. I made the record and ended up signing with a company called Big Time Records. It didn't go so well, so I moved back to Australia and had pretty much had a gut full of music by this point. I'd made two records, I didn't want the bullshit that came with it.

I met a fella called Michael Browning who had a label called Deluxe Records. He had just signed INXS and he had managed AC/DC right up to around when Bon Scott died. He had taken them overseas and done a lot with them, so I met him in November 1982 and he introduced me to Stuart Fraser, who would end up being the guitarist in Noiseworks. Michael called Stuart, he said "You need to come down here and meet this singer bloke" and Stuart came. Michael's idea was "Stuart's about your age, he's got black hair, smokes cigarettes and drinks just like you, he can't sing, you can't play guitar!" (laughs) So he introduced us and I told my story, saying I didn't want to be signed to a label. He got me out of my old deal and didn't ask for anything in return, and he didn't ask for anything from Stuart either. He just put us together and said "You guys do your thing and give me a call when you get something going". He was in the process of going back to the States for some projects so he left us to it.

By about 1985 we had Noiseworks together as a working band. CBS, which was part of Sony, came knocking because Stuart and I had written a bunch of songs, we were playing gigs and people were losing their minds. So CBS were really keen to sign us and I thought "We really need a manager". I didn't really know or trust anybody from Australia so I tracked down Michael again, told him we had a deal on the table and asked when he was coming back. It was weird, he'd just split up with his wife and was on his way home, so it was perfect timing. When he came back, he was a bit of a legend because of his work with AC/DC and various other stuff he had done prior to leaving, so when he returned he already and respect from people in the industry. So he walked straight in to become manager for Noiseworks. It just all clicked.

Noiseworks made three albums from 1987-1991, all of which were excellent, all with great success because they all went platinum in Australia. Was that more Rock orientated style something you felt happier in?

Well basically, meeting Stuart, we liked the same sort of things, we just hung out and wrote songs. We booked a rehearsal studio, asked some mates to join in, see who worked and who lasted longest, that was how we decided who got the gig! (laughs) We spent a long time in those rehearsal rooms playing, learning our instruments, drinking, hanging out and just doing what guys should do – it was a garage band really. When it came time to record properly, after we'd made some demos, the label had some producers in mind they wanted us to work with. One of the names on the list was Mark Opitz, who had done the Cold Chisel albums, The Angels, Divinyl, so we were all big fans of his. He was probably the best producer in Australia at that time. We met with him and we talked about how he felt about stuff, how he operates and I'll never forget it, he said "Boys, the best records I make are the ones where I sit in the back saying fuck all. You guys know what you're doing, you're the songwriters. If I need to say something, I'll say it." That immediately landed him the job. There was no wonder he had made so many great records. He wasn't a producer who had to put their stamp on something, he wanted to help the artist be the artist. So our first album was basically the product of that, it was great working with Mark. It was a great start for the band, great producer, great manager and CBS at the time were right behind us. We came to Europe and played there for a while.



NOISEWORKS – 'NO LIES' (Music Video)



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I'm too young to remember that. My first taste of Noiseworks was in an episode of Baywatch, believe it or not.

(Laughs) Baywatch? Really?

Yeah, in one of the early seasons, Season Two I think it was, before Pamela Anderson joined, they used 'Keep Me Running' in a montage sequence.

(Laughs) Wow, that's great! It's funny, when we did that first European run we played the Town And Country Club in London, it's called The Forum now, we played there and it was a great gig. We were just young punks having a great time. This guy comes up to us backstage and says "Oh man, I'd fucking love to produce your next record!" and I said "Who are you?" He said "I'm Chris." That meant nothing to me so I said "Okay Chris, cool, what have you done?" and he said "Oh, I'll bring you a tape tomorrow." So he comes to see me the next day and gives me a tape. I put it in and the first song that comes on is 'Start Me Up' by The Rolling Stones. It turned out he was Chris Kimsey! (laughs) The next song was 'Pretty In Pink' by The Psychedelic Furs, and then there was 'Wild Wild West' by The Escape Club, he had just recorded that, it wasn't even out at that point. There was so much great stuff he'd done, and we loved him because he didn't brag at all. So he came down to Australia and made the 'Touch' album with him. We were recording in one studio and INXS were recording downstairs, making the 'X' album, which was pretty interesting!

The third Noiseworks album, 'Love Versus Money', was always my favourite.

Awesome, I think that would be my favourite too. Randy Jackson produced 'Love Versus Money'. We were going to be producing it ourselves, and the record company got very nervous because there was nobody in our camp they could talk to! (laughs) So they asked Randy to come in and steer the ship – it was going a bit off-course with various members wanting to bring in orchestras, budgets were being blown out, it was almost an exercise in seeing how much we could jerk off! So Randy came in and was great, he got us focused. Prior to him coming in we hadn't written 'Hot Chilli Woman' or 'R.I.P. Millie'... 'Day Will Come' was another one, a lot of those would not have been on the record without Randy. We were fragmented all over the place making it and Randy was the go-to guy for all the different factions in the band. Randy and I went back to America and we sifted through it all and mixed everything until we had the record. I wasn't into dealing with people doing drugs and having ego problems. I took charge, I'd just become a father so I was super straight, super fit. The other fuckers were all too stoned. (laughs)


Jon-Stevens-2

After that the band split up and you did the role of Judas in the arena tour of Jesus Christ Superstar in 1992. That was actually how I first became a fan – I love John Farnham and I had the CD shipped over simply because he was playing Jesus. As soon as I heard you I thought "who is that?" and I started buying your records from there.

Oh, that's awesome mate! Noiseworks pretty much quit touring, we'd been doing eights months on the road, three months in a studio then a month off, that was our typical schedule for a few years and one day Steve Balbi and Justin Stanley said they wanted to do some other stuff. Justin wanted to move to America, I was getting kind of over it all, dealing with band politics and bullshit, so we all decided at the end of the tour, when we played the last gig in Sydney, that would be it. We told management, but didn't tell any of the public, we just came out and said goodbye at the end of the gig. We played the last song, which was 'Let It Be', said "Goodbye!" and the next day people realised Noiseworks were finished, there was a lot of shock. We all said "See ya boys!" and went our separate ways, nobody wanted to kill each other, it was all good. We probably should have just taken a break and then got back together, but anyway, we split and I got a call from Harry Miller who is a famous impresario and promoter down here. He called me into his office and said "I'm putting on Jesus Christ Superstar and I want you to play Judas." I said "What, you want me to audition?" and he said "No, you don't need to audition" and I said "Good, because I'm not going to." (laughs) He said "What do you mean?" and I said "Harry, I know this thing inside out, back to front, every part, I've been listening to it since I was twelve years old." I love the movie, Carl Anderson who was a monster, Ted Neely, Yvonne Elliman... it was a brilliant soundtrack, something I grew up listening to and learned, I know it off by heart. Harry couldn't believe it, he was rubbing his hands! (laughs) It was a perfect thing for me to do, a great role and the arrangements David Hirschfelder did were just incredible. Harry was smart, he got proper Rock singers in to do a proper Rock Musical. That was how it was written and I don't think it's been properly done that way very much. You guys had Ian Gillan do it originally but I think he was the only proper Rock singer to have played the part up until this point.

 

KATE CEBERANO, JON STEVENS, JOHN FARNHAM – 'EVERYTHING'S ALRIGHT' FROM JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR



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That was exactly why I liked it so much, the Australian version really put the emphasis on the Rock part, whereas often it's more Musical Theatre in style.

Oh yeah, and also, ours was an arena version too, playing to crowds of ten or fifteen thousand people a night. That had never been done anywhere in the world. Harry had the idea and got it up and running by getting me, getting John Farnham, Kate Ceberano... and that was a thing for me, when I asked who was doing it and he said John Farnham was interested I said "Well if Farnham's doing it, I'm doing it!" and John said "If Stevens is in, I'll definitely do it!" We all know each other and we were calling each other up about it. Angry Anderson joined, it was just great. The arena version still, to this day, holds the box office record in Australia. It was one of those once in a lifetime gigs where everything lined up.

I subsequently was in the UK version that came over here a few years back, with Tim Minchin. Tim was playing Judas, so I played Pilate and because I'm a bit older now, that was okay. It was a different setup, much more theatrical, but I enjoyed playing Pilate all those years later.

Then you can full circle and went back to being a solo artist, you put out 'Are U Satisfied' in 1993 which I think is a superb album. With you saying you got a bellyful of band politics with Noiseworks, was that the deciding factor in your going solo again?

I was still signed as an artist to CBS/Sony and after the success of the Jesus Christ Superstar album and tour, they were pretty keen for me to do the solo artist thing. So I made 'Are U Satisfied', which I basically made at home with my mates. I love that record, it's not a great recording, because it was just done on a 16 track, reel to reel. We did all our demos at a place called Damien Gerard Studios in Sydney and there is a song on 'Love Versus Money' called 'Everyday People'. That song is the original recording we did from there. We tried re-recording it and re-recording it in other studios but we couldn't recapture it, so we used the 16 track demo and just mixed and mastered that. I decided to do 'Are U Satisfied' in the same way. I got my mates round, wrote a bunch of songs and laid it down, I wasn't too perturbed about sound quality, I was interested in the performance.

It's a good Rock album, I think the record company would have liked something a bit more Pop in style, but there's some good riffs on there. 'Say What You Mean', 'Love Makes No Sense'... it funny, I haven't listened to it in years, because I just don't. I'm always thinking about what I'm doing next, but now we're talking about it... 'Hard As Stone', that's another one! Some good stuff.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine for Melodic Rock Music


You followed that up with 'Circle' in 1996, which was a lighter album than 'Are U Satisfied'.

Definitely, that was Randy and I hooking up to work together again and the whole music business was all over the place at that time. I went over to L.A. and hung out with a whole bunch of different people. It was more of an R'n'B thing. I think my blessing, and my curse if you like, is I can really sing anything. So it's a question of finding a direction and just doing it. Even back then in the nineties, I finished up doing an R'n'B record with Randy Jackson and then ended up working with Slash for a year. (laughs)

Yeah, I remember hearing about that. Is it true you guys made an album together but never released it?

We never made an actual album, but we did write a whole bunch of songs together during that time, one of which was 'Lock And Load' which would wind up on the first Dead Daisies album. We wrote that back in 1998 I think. I've got a whole bunch of songs from then in my demos, some fucking beauties, but I'd never put them out unless they fitted with what I was doing right now and if I had my brother's permission. When I eventually did 'Lock And Load' I thought that would have fitted great on that record, so I called Slash, told him what I was doing, asked if he was okay with me putting it on there, he said yes and I got him to play his parts on there. I actually recorded the bulk of the track with my own band, because there wasn't a Dead Daisies at that point, it was just me and David Lowy. He was the money guy and I was the creative guy.

After that you ended up fronting INXS after Michael Hutchence died. Unfortunately, despite playing loads of great shows, INXS did have any interest in you doing anything new with you. You only recorded the one song, 'I Get Up'.

That's it – in four years! What they did do was play a lot of gigs all around the world, it gave them back their touring licence I suppose.

It's a shame they never managed to make an album with you though, I always thought that was a missed opportunity.

Yeah, they should have but Andrew Farriss, who wrote the vast majority of their songs with Michael Hutchence, if he's not feeling it, what can you say? The buck stopped with him and that was the end of it. It's kinda sad because I always thought two guys wrote all that great stuff and the music guy was still there, still alive, but the magic guy was gone. All the ideas seemed to die with Michael. You have to figure out who the magic was in that partnership and I know who I think it was. I tried to do some stuff with them but it just didn't work out, they weren't interested. Such a shame, they were such a great band, they wrote some fucking great songs. The way I saw it, if you wrote great songs once, you should still be able to write more.


INXS – 'NEW SENSATION' LIVE IN CHILE 2003



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After that you went back to your solo work and made 'Aint No Life For The Faint Hearted' in 2004 which was another big change of direction for you, more Urban and Rap influenced.

A bit ahead of its time I think! (laughs) Some Rock, some Rap, some dance floor grooves... now I think about it, it was way ahead of its time and Australia wasn't attuned to that vibe then. Might be a bit more now, but not then.

I don't think it's what people were expecting from you either.

No! (laughs) Never give them what they expect, that's boring!

What I did find interesting though was even though you had a lot of loops and samples on that record, you then did an acoustic CD called 'The Works' in 2005 and some of those tracks went on there and worked superbly as acoustic songs – the mark of a well written song for me, when it can work in a variety of formats.

That's because I tend to write acoustically. At the time, I just wanted to see what I could do with just a guitar and some beats. The Rap thing happened and we did a version of 'Light My Fire' which I'm very proud of, because it's such an iconic song, that has been done a lot, but I did it in a different way to everyone else. I was really happy with that.

When it came to making your 'Changing Times' album in 2011 you had a heart problem discovered and had to have some stents fitted which saved your life. Lyrically I think that had a big impact on that record.

Yeah, prior to me going into hospital, we had started recording stuff, the nucleus of it was there. Then I went into surgery and it just took me out completely! (laughs) I was out of the loop and was thinking about just, basically, living, y'know? Family, friends, all that stuff - life. I spent a month in hospital, had a few complications like infection and stuff, I had a pretty rough time for a bit. Then I had a three month recovery from that, and during that three months, I started getting stronger, things started going through my head. I started getting ideas for songs coming to me again, and when I felt good I started working on the album again. Songs like 'No Surrender', the song 'Changing Times', 'Closer To God', those songs were ones that were about taking stock of your life - something a near death experience makes you do.

You gave the album away for free, just as a download initially. With the power of hindsight, do you think that was a good idea – how did it work out?

At the time I wasn't signed to any major label for it. I was independent and I made 'Changing Times' with my band. I really loved what we'd done and I just felt like it needed a push. Being independent, everything has changed with the internet. I just thought that now it was finished, what was I going to do, ask people to pay for it? Nah, I'll just give it away, what the hell. I'm so proud of that record, I just wanted people to hear it. I love the songs on it and I wanted it out there and maybe people will check it out and perhaps tell their friends. That was the idea, I spent about eighteen months on 'Changing Times' writing, funding, mixing, sorting out the artwork, I did everything on that record. I couldn't be bothered with the whole trying to sell it thing. In order to do that properly, I would need a manager.

So I put it out as a download, then got myself a manager and he got Universal on board. They said to me "Well, what would you like to do?" I told them I wanted to do a Bluesy Soul record. I wanted to do some of my favourite tracks from that genre and while that was happening the manager hooked me up with John Fields, who I had met on my previous sojourn to Los Angeles and I really wanted to work with. We made the 'Testify' record, which was done in like two weeks, I just loved how we worked together, we were just simpatico. Universal liked that too and offered to put it out as a double album, so the deal was they would pay for 'Testify' and they would get 'Changing Times' for free – after I spent my hard earned on it. (laughs) Probably a stupid deal really, but it's okay.

When I heard 'Testify', I was stunned by how good it is. In all honesty, when you said you were doing a Soul covers album, I groaned. Jimmy Barnes and many others have done this, and while I thought you'd have done a great job, did we really need you adding your versions of the standards? But you went the other way, you picked lesser known songs – it's was so much better for it!

Thanks mate! Yeah, I never wanted to do a record with all the usual hits - and misses, on them! It has been done to death and I just thought I could do something different. There's a generation of people who maybe aren't familiar with some of these soul things, they hear it and think it's a Jon Stevens record. If I put 'River Deep Mountain High' on there, it's part of mankind's DNA so they immediately think "covers album". It was a case of finding songs that felt good to me and that were a bit of a challenge. I had been playing Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' for a couple of years in my live set. I've actually opened with it quite a lot, because my version of it, the live one, is different to the one on record. I'd start with just the vocal and the chord, and it used to floor people. It got people's attention fast, because I didn't come blazing out, hitting them over the head with some rocking song. That was the catalyst of what direction to take, so then I had to find other songs that hit that sweet spot in my voice.

Finding John Fields for me was brilliant. I just had to be the singer. It was a whole different thing, I could do what I wanted musically, but not have to be involved with all the other stuff. It was a totally different feeling, making 'Testify'. And that would lead to the first Dead Daisies album. I wrote and recorded that with him in two weeks as well. That's how we operate. You're under pressure the whole time, but I'm like "Yeah, let's go!" I love it.

That stops you over thinking and over-polishing the material as well.

Exactly!, He, Vanessa Amorosi and I wrote those songs for the Dead Daisies record, we were a great little team.

It was a great album, then you followed it up with the 'Face I Love' EP in 2014. I was getting all set for another Dead Daisies album and then you weren't there anymore. Depending on which version you read on the internet, you left, you were fired... I don't know what really happened, so why aren't you in the Dead Daisies anymore?

Because of a couple of billionaires getting in cahoots I think. In my personal life, the shit hit the fan during that time, so much so I think it was all intertwined. My fiancée at the time went fucking crazy, I ended up getting arrested, while I'm tied up with that I find out that same day the band are booked to go to Cuba and they have a new singer. It made me wonder how long that had been going on for. I started that band, it was my name, my songs, my ideas...

That's why I thought the idea of you leaving would be a bit ridiculous, why would you quit your own band? I read you had been arrested for domestic assault and then it all got dropped very quickly because there was no evidence. I wondered if you had been ousted from the band because of the bad publicity, because it also affected your solo bookings too. The next thing I know, I've been sent the new Dead Daisies album 'Revolución' to review and John Corabi is the singer.

Yeah, and singing my songs too by the way! 'Make The Best Of It', 'Mexico', 'Something I'd Said'... all new songs I'd written which I never got to sing, because they did the dirty on me. That's the sort of people you're dealing with.

In my opinion, I think they suffered as a result. I have no problem with John Corabi as a singer but he has a very different style to you. When I was sent their live album and I heard him sing 'Lock And Load'... it wasn't for me. The music is just a bit generic for me now.

It will be, because they've replaced members and turned what was basically an Australian band into an American band. What is really funny is we put out a Noiseworks live record called 'Live And Loud' and they put out the Daisies one and called it 'Live And Louder'. (laughs) Are those guys children? Not Corabi by the way – I've never met him and I have no issue with him, he's landed himself a paying gig, so good luck to him.

You went back to your solo career and delivered 'Woman' in 2015 which I thought not only really showed you bouncing back, but was also a form of therapy for you?

That's exactly what it was. Those were some dark times and that album was a way of getting it out. With all the crap that was going on and being written about me, music was the saviour.

That brings us up to date, with 'Starlight', which is notable because you teamed up with Dave Stewart to co-write the album and he has produced it for you. How did you get him involved?

I was introduced to him by a mutual friend. I went over to L.A. to meet him and walked into a room with Dave... and about fifteen other people. There were all cameras in there, I didn't know at the time but basically he films everything that moves! (laughs) I walk in and there's a fucking film crew, all these musicians and I'm like "Hi, nice to meet you mate!" (laughs) He's so engaging and disarming though, the first thing he said to me was "Do you drink?" I said "Well, I've been known to have a couple..." and he said "Good. Martinis are at seven." It was like 11am, so I just looked at him and said "Right...that's a fucking long way away." (laughs) He said "Come on then!" and we go into a back room with a couple of acoustic guitars, just start talking about life, laughing, playing some riffs and it just started falling out straight away, bam, bam, bam. It was amazing, we just plugged into a stream of consciousness. He writes like me, he has no set form – he just finds the fairy dust, finds the moment and when you find it you don't procrastinate, just go with it. Pluck it out of the air and form it into something. It was pretty amazing. I had all these ideas going in, and I never played him a single one. We basically created the 'Starlight' album just from us meeting, within fifteen minutes of being together we were playing guitar and writing the songs. I love him, he's a character, just such a brilliant guy. He had a magical quality about him which is why everyone loves him. You can't not love him. He's funny and so creative and quite weird, in a really good way. Nothing is off limits, he'll try anything and I'm all about that musically.

One of the things I have to ask, this stemmed from a discussion on your Fan Club Facebook page... what do the initials stand for on the song 'F.U.C.'? I think, reading the lyrics, which are about a woman who is wild, crazy and unstable, I think it's 'Fucked Up Chick' but you wrote it, so you can tell me?
(Laughs) That's pretty fucking good mate! Yeah, you got it!

You pulled in some big name guests as well – including a certain Ringo Starr, which isn't bad going.

I know, right? We didn't plan that, Dave had invited me over to dinner at his house, I was over there and there was a knock at the door and it's Ringo and his wife! I was like "Er, okay mate, how are you doing?" Super nonchalant, you know! (laughs) It's normal for them, that sort of thing. It wasn't fucking normal for me! There were only six of us, we hang out, have dinner and a good laugh, Ringo is telling stories, they're lovely people. Then the guitars come out and we start singing and we had just written 'Starlight' so we played it on acoustic and Ringo says "Holy shit" which was nice! He goes "It's my birthday coming up and we get some people up to sing, do you wanna come and have a sing?" Er... yeah! So that was for his 75th birthday and a couple of weeks later Dave and I had written 'One Way Street' and I commented that Ringo would have been great on that. So Dave said "Let's ask him!" and called him up. We sent the track over, Ringo loved it and said "Yeah, of course, I'd love to. Nobody ever asks me to play drums." What?! (laughs) I don't know if they're too scared or what, I couldn't believe it, he was so chuffed to be asked!

The video for 'Hold On' that is on Youtube as well is superb, it looks amazing and it seems there has really been a big push behind this record.

Mate, we shot that with another of your countrymen, a guy called Jesse Davey. He's a killer Blues guitar player and also a wizard with a camera and CGI. He's amazing, people have said it looks like a big budget Hollywood thing, when we actually shot two videos in the same day, 'Hold On' and 'Starlight'.



JON STEVENS – 'HOLD ON' (Music Video)



(Cannot see the video? Click HERE to watch it on YouTube)


You're kidding!

No, it looks like some huge production, but it wasn't at all. That's the power of technology if you know how to use it. Jesse is a genius, he's brilliant and did an amazing job. At no time during the shoot was he flustered, did he yell at anybody, at no point was I thinking "This is shit" – it all went so well. Once again, it's the Dave Stewart connection, he has so many people that he knows, who love him and will get involved – that's how we got Richie Sambora and Orianthi to appear on the record. I knew Orianthi because she's Australian and I had met her before. She's going out with Richie and they popped in to say hello, anyone who was passing would do that. Dave was like "Well you're here, lets have you play on something". It's that casual thing, which is great, the way it should be.

You then came over here, played the Isle Of Wight Festival and did five shows in London, playing a lot of the 'Starlight' material. The album is out here in September and you're coming back?

Yeah, I'll be over for Dave's birthday concert at the Shepherd's Bush Empire and then I'll probably be doing some acoustic stuff – I'll play anywhere, it doesn't matter. I'd actually rather play than talk about myself. I don't mind with you because you know my history and my music but when I'm over there talking to people who haven't heard the record and don't really know me, they're just doing their job for the day, I might as well just play for them. I wanted to play more shows when I was over there originally but people just don't really know me in the UK enough.

I was really thrilled you did as many as five – and you brought the whole band, I expected it just to be acoustic but you had three backing singers, guitars, bass, keyboards, drums, the lot!

Yeah, someone said to me "you're playing five shows in a row in London, nobody does five in a row!" Really, what's wrong with them? (laughs). I got Holly, she sang on the record, she's from Manchester, she came and she brought Ulrika, her friend, so we had two singers, I brought my core band of guitar, drums and bass because they're all motherfuckers and great fun to hang out with, we hooked up with a keyboard player who was a friend of a friend and off we went. At this stage of my career, it's just about having fun. Making music, playing music, I just love it all. I'm getting ready to write another record actually. It's great, I'll put 'em out on the net if I want, who cares? I don't want all the fluff. Obviously I'll be pleased if 'Starlight' does well, but it's taken so long to come out, and it's still not out in the UK until September, it's like that whole record company thing drags, y'know? I hope they do something with it, but I see it as it's coming out in the UK about a year after I actually made it! (laughs)


Jon-Stevens-3

'Starlight' is released in the UK on September 15th. Click HERE to read the album review on Rocktopia.

For more information, please visit:

www.jonstevens.com


Jon Stevens - Starlight

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