When you reach our level of standingin the lucrative insurgent country scene, there always willing hands ready to do your every bidding.
How many pieces of clothes do you carry inside your suitcase when on tour?
Many pairs of underpants and socks, an old cowboy shirt and a thong for the beach.
In ‘Freedom and Weep’ ’s democracy, you share vocal duties and split mic time with your partners Deano (mostly) and Tracey. Also, Mark Durante (Durantula) makes an astonishing appearance as a singer, stepping behind the mic for the last song, ‘Join the Club’. Whose lead vocals do you like most?
I am far too diplomatic to play favorites on a public website, but, although there is much to be said for Mr Dear’s cheeky neo-Crosby-esque crooning, the playful lyricism of Schlabowske’s authentic and semi-masculine americana howl and Durantula’s anguished, yet strangely angelic deep-throat laments, none of them can sing the skin off a rice pudding in my opinion - I am best and I like me most! Actually, Alan Doughty, our bass player, is a fantastic singer, but he never sings lead, why should he? He don’t need the hassle man… But you should hear him in the shower!
Sorry, I don’t like to watch other men in such private moments. Speaking of Durantula, my little opinion is that his pedal steel rules all over ‘Freedom and Weep’. Don’t you agree?
He is marvelous -isn’t he! Old, cranky, troublesome, but marvelous. We’re thinking of having him stuffed. When I met him, he was just a surly punk-ass heavy metal gonk, but now he is a really, really great pedal steel player and a top chappie to boot - ah! the healing power of Western Swing - I am proud to say we pay him an equal share of all money taken in…
You traveling a lot these days?
Just got back from Australia, where I did some shows with Sally Timms, including a stripped down version of our ‘Executioner’s Last Songs’ multi-media piece at the Basement in Sydney (fantastic club), recorded a live CD and had a really successful artshow. I was there for the Greece v. Australia friendly - Melbourne was crazy!
How often do you go back to England?
Haven’t been back for almost a year, but that was for a tasty 5 week chunk last summer. I miss Wales a lot. Going back at the end of July to play some dates and finish a Mekons CD - check out www.mekons.com for details.
What happened to your childhood bedroom?
It is preserved in every detail by the Welsh Punk Rock Heritage Foundation - 2 quid to get in, but don’t sit on the bed…
What happened to your childhood dreams?
Washed away in a tide of Militarism and Materialism - I thought we’d all be living in socialist pods on the moon by now…
What made you leave home, and relocate in the States, Jonboy?
The love of a good Greek American woman.
Have you picked any American accent and habits?
I drink less, which means I am less British than I was - I think I was too old to get an accent.
You drink coffee or tea?
Why did you choose Chicago to settle in?
My wife grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and returned there from France in 1991, to go to Architecture School - I followed like a dog.
Many people view you as a sort of father figure to the Chicago music scene. What did you learn, by playing and getting in touch with your labelmates on the highly-appreciated Bloodshot Records and all those that shared the same stage or studio with you?
Chicago has been really good for me - a great deal of cooperation, support and enthusiasm from fellow musicians of all styles and the people who run the clubs and labels - very different to the UK - Chicago is a place of possibilities. I learned to trust other people to do what they do best. That’s really all I ever do when I produce projects and put bands together - I never really tell people what to do - I just let ’em go!
Fave US city?
Apart from Chicago, I love NYC and Austin (and New Orleans and San Francisco AND Seattle AND Milwaukee... er... this could go on for a long time.
What you think of the Bush administration, Jon?
Shitty Oilmen, cynics, traitors.
Any possibility to re-activate the -fabulous- Three Johns?
No really - geography forbids.
Are the Mekons pre-paring any new material?
The new CD will be completed by the end of July. It’s called ‘Natural’.
What about the Pine Valley Cosmonauts?
Always bubbling away.
When a new song comes to you, what is it that leads you to bring it in The Wacos or the Mekons? How do you decide on which group of the ones you’re involved in a new-born song of yours will fit? The songs that end up on your solo albums are in advance specially-designed for that?
The songs on the solo CDs are usually things that don’t fit anywhere else, but that’s a big playing fireld as I write very specifically for the Wacos, and never write on my own for the Mekons - just wrote a load of kids songs for a project called The Wee Hairy Beasties with Sally and Kelly Hogan and the guys from Devil In A Woodpile - and I’m working on an album with Kat from the Ex (Amsterdam’s finest) on a CD called KatJonBand - a noisy mental duo…
How has your songwriting changed?
I think I’ve got better, but I don’t know if that’s really true. We did a Mekons lyric book a few years ago, and had to go back and look at all the songs we wrote back in the 80s, and I was really proud of them. I thought it was going to be really embarassing…
How has your singing changed?
I have really worked on that. I used to be the one who did the shouting. Since making the ‘Skull Orchard’ and ‘Gold Brick’ solo CDs I feel I’ve really turned into a crooner like Perry Como or Bing! I realized I was writing songs with strong melodies that I really should try not to destroy with my salty sailor singing…
How has your guitar playing changed?
I got really used to playing on my own with the 3 Johns (anything goes), and doing this KatJonBand thing has really got me back to a lot of that wilder stuff. Playing in a band with other (better) guitarists (Waco, PVC) leads me to just play as simply as I can…
What pays best: music or being a visual artist?
Bit of both, but in Australia the art definitely won!
You have a BA in Fine Arts from Leeds University. What were your horrible jobs, throughout College and High School?
High School I worked at Marley Homecare in Newport, and that was terrible - cutting carpet tiles with a hangover is bad…
You think situation in the music industry is better now that it was when you started making records?
When we started, Punk was going off, and the possibilities seemed limitless. It’s been up and down in between, but now my seniority and statesman like demeanour had left me in a pretty good position to do what I want to do, and tell the industry to go to hell.
Ever been in a riot?
Does being beaten up in a carpark outside an anti-Nuke gig in rural Herefordshire count? The young farmers didn’t like our haircuts, but that was 1982, and now I wear a hat… We definitely hadn’t when the first Mekons single came out.
Do you have a good time during your radio program, ‘The Eclectic Company’?
It’s on WXRT, a fairly big commercial rock station in Chicago, but the rule is I can play anything I like, and have fantastic guests on, like Graham Parker, Jon King of Gang Of Four, Freakwater, Kelly Hogan, John Doe, Robyn Hitchcock, Wreckless Eric etc. etc. DJ – It’s the best job in the world… If you go to their website (www.wxrt.com), you can listen live at 5 in the morning every Wednesday… (It’s on from 10 til midnite over here, so what time is that with you?)
Do you play the drums nowadays, Jonboy?
I will this Friday - The Wacos play a special “cavalcade of drummers show”, as a benefit for our Chicago drummer Joe Camarillo, who was in a really nasty car-crash - he has no health insurance and is way in debt (but on the mend, which is the main thing), so we will guest drummers including Janet Bean from 11th Dreamday, Martin Atkins of Pil and Killing Joke and me - I can manage about one song, before I pass out these days…
You mind telling us a few things about your Greek wife?
She is very beautiful and dark and fierce and smart and is an architect.
In terms of your next project, what are your ideas?
See above - KatJonband, Wee Hairy Beasties, new Mekons - my idea is to keep doing whatever I want as long as I can - to keep all the plates in the air.
Finally, I have this idea: could you draw something exclusively for our interview, scan it and e-send it along with your answers? That would be just awesome! Anything is more than welcome.
I shall try! Hmmm, how’s this?
For more on Jon Langford’s art, why don’t you take a moment and stop by his page at Yarn Dog? You’ll be rewarded with many fine pieces of art.
The Waco Brothers are consisted of the hardest drinking men in show business: Jon Langford (Mekons, Three Johns, Pine Valley Cosmonauts), Steve Goulding (Mekons, Poi Dog Pondering, Graham Parker & the Rumour), Dean -‘Deano’- Schlabowske (Wreck, Dollar Store), Mark Durante aka Durantula (KMFDM, RevCo), Alan Doughty (Jesus Jones), and Tracey Dear (World's Greatest Living Englishman).
Last but not least, our credits. Our sincere gratitude goes to two lovable ladies:
- JP Pfafflin. Jenny, thanks wholeheartedly for making this special thing happen!
-- Thais Fletcher (an ex-Bloodshot-er) for sendin’ out the Wacos CD in the first place. Cheers, Thais!