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Interview:
Howard Jones at Meadow Brook, 5 Things To Know
 

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

» See more SOUND CHECK

The 80s MTV scene produced plenty of one-hit wonders, whose songs are remembered more than they are.

Howard Jones, however, had a few hits, ("New Song," "Things Can Only Get Better," "No One Is To Blame") and his reputation endures well beyond the era, and the haircuts, as an accomplished pop craftsman as well as a keyboard-playing vanguard who carved out his own brand of synth-pop.

Jones, 62, doesn't mind playing the nostalgia card -- like headlining this year's Retro Futura 2017 Tour or the just-released compilation "Best: 1983-2017." But the British musician still has present ambitions he's finding a way to exercise for those who would, to paraphrase the song, like to get to know him better...

A package like Retro Futura 2017 allows Jones to connect with 80s peers who he didn't necessarily get to spend much time with back in the day. "Y'know, we were all based where we were from and we were all very busy," he recalls by phone from St. Louis. "So really our paths didn't cross very much. You sort of kept up with what they were doing through the music press. It would have been great, though. I would have loved to be able to share all this excitement about the new stuff with somebody who was doing a similar thing. But in reality we were all working in isolation."

Jones' mid-80s work is often cited as an influence on EDM, but he's careful about taking too much credit for that. "You never know what the direct relationship is," he says, "but lots of artists have said that one of the first concerts they saw was me, with all the synths and stuff like that, so obviously there was an influence. I suppose I started out pioneering some of the new technology, drum machines and synths, and that must've inspired a lot of young people to go down to the store and buy synths and drum machines and experiment with them, and maybe dance music developed from there."

Jones is quick to point out that he's more concerned with the songs than the sounds, however. "It's the songs, really, that are the most important thing to me," he explains. "I do love messing with technology and I love getting different sounds together, but those are just the tools of the trade. I don't love that more than the end result, which is, 'Does it move you? What does it make you feel when you hear it?' The whole point to me is the effect those songs have emotionally on people, and how do they contribute?"

Jones latest endeavor is a four-part, performance-based music and video project he began during 2015 with "Engage." He's working on another, "Transform," and has its successors mapped out as well. "They end up as albums but they're sort of project that all go together," Jones says. "I'm thinking about them as live experiences and how to present the work live, and then that will influence how I record them. At the end of the decade or something I'm going to perform them all together, over two nights probably. It's always good to have a goal; that gives you more momentum to get it done. I like to push myself to do things I haven't done before."

Of the many rock and pop artist who have passed away recently, Jones was particularly moved by losing fellow keyboardist Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, who committed suicide last year. "I was absolutely gutted," Jones recalls. "His influence on me was a teenager and beyond was immense, because he was the keyboard player who was a frontman as well, and he made keyboards exciting. I followed him from the early days and knew all the records and then learned to play all those parts. He was such a big influence on me, and then I did get to meet him and I felt a real personal connection to him."

Retro Futura 2017 with Howard Jones, the English Beat, Modern English, Paul Young, Men Without Hats and Katrina

7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4.

Meadow Brook Amphitheatre on the campus of Oakland University, Rochester Hills.

Tickets are $35-$99.50 pavilion, $25 lawn.

Call 248-377-0100 or visit palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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