mardi, mai 17, 2005

Jet interview

Every now and then an Australia band comes along built from the hard slog of the pub and club circuit. That is how AC/DC did it, same for INXS, Chisel and Midnight Oil. The Australian pub circuit is the way you really become an Australian Idol. If you can't make it there, you simply just can't make it.

Now meet Jet. This is a hard working rock and roll band with true rock and roll values. Singer Nic Cester and Bass Player Mark Wilson caught up with Undercover's Paul Cashmere.

Paul Cashmere: The "difficult" first album has been a long time coming for Jet.

Nic Cester: A pleasurable chore.

Mark Wilson: Indeed

Paul Cashmere: Here's a quick summary of the band. A few mates from Melbourne form a band. You sign to Elektra Records in New York. Billy Preston plays keyboards on your record and suddenly we have the album 'Get Born'.

NC: I like the short version.

MW: The short version is good.

PC: The condensed version makes it sound like a fairy tale but how quickly did it really happen for Jet?

NC: I wouldn't exactly say that driving a fork-lift for 6 years exactly flashes past. We have been a band for a while but the period from when things started to happen was really quick, really really quick.

PC: One of the great things for this year was your support with The Rolling Stones. You are obviously big fans of The Stones.

MW: What makes you say that?

PC: (laughs)

NC: Exactly

PC: Was it intimidating touring with The Stones?

NC: Yeah, a little bit but I'm glad we had the chance to do something so scary so early because it is hard to get scared now.

PC: How was it meeting The Stones?

NC: It was great. I wouldn't have been surprised if they just stuck to their rooms and we hadn't seen them the whole time but it wasn't like that at all. Whenever they walked past our dressing room they always made an effort to stop and say hello and have a quick chat.

MW: They are nice guys. I had heard stories that they would be arse-holes but they don't have to be anymore. They are just a bunch of old dudes playing shows and have the family along as they go to work. They are just a bunch of lovely blokes who play in a band.

PC: They have to be nice guys, they have been Simpsons characters. That is something for you to aspire to.

NC: To be Simpsons characters?

MW: I think that would be the ultimate goal.

PC: What did you talk to The Stones about? What is small chat with Mick Jagger?

MW: Mick wasn't into small chat. He told us stories and it was like a Mick Jagger show in the dressing room for us. He would tell stories and he was a pretty funny guy.

NC: He would tell us stories about other support acts like Oasis and generally inquire how the shows had been going so far and if we were having a good time. He was generally polite.

MW: Charlie (Watts) had a big chat with Chris (Cester) about drums.

PC: What I love about the new Jet album is you unashamedly show off your influences with the wonderful styles produced for this record. You are obviously all very big music fans and that is obvious listening to the album. When you were creating the songs did you have in mind the history of rock behind you?

NC: A song is a song and you can dress it up any which way you want but we kind of chose to dress it up in this style because that is what we like. The trick is it is just a bunch of chords and a melody. You can play it in a way that it sounds like AC/DC if you want to or you can not. You can go out of your way to make it sound a bit Beatley or you can disguise that. We like the way they sound.

PC: When I listen to the record I hear echoes of Iggy Pop or The Stones or AC/DC, even The Beatles. Is that because you are fans of all those bands?

NC: Absolutely. After listening to that stuff for years it just comes out that way as well.

PC: Because Jet was named after a Paul McCartney song wasn't it.

NC: Yeah, off a song from Band on the Run.

PC: Why that name?

NC: We didn't name ourselves as an ode to the song or an ode to Paul McCartney. It was just that we were familiar with all of those song-titles and we thought it would be a cool name.

MW: Also the way it is written, if you are playing with another band with 10 letters in their name and we have three, it gets stretched to take up the same amount of space.

PC: Ahh, strategy. When I listen to the album, on track four Look What You Done, I'm hearing John Lennon so it is interesting the bands name is inspired by Paul McCartney and there are influences of John Lennon in there as well.

NC: We use a lot of old effects that aren't really used any more. They are the same effects John Lennon used to use.

PC: How do you discover those sounds? Do you take an old Lennon album to your producer and say "make us sound like this"?

NC: Yeah, a bit of that and a bit of just knowing.

PC: The other Beatle overlap is that you guys have the services of Billy Preston playing on your record. He is the only person ever to shall a co-credit on a Beatles song (Get Back, 1968). How familiar were you of the work of Billy Preston?

NC: Totally familiar. That is why we got him. The Beatles are my favourite band in the world. I don't know how many times I have listened to 'Don't Let Me Down'. I couldn't tell you. That was pretty special to have him there.

MW: And it was cool to watch him because he is hunched over.

NC: He had on the worst looking tracksuit I had ever seen in my life.

MW: We expected a guy with a scivvy and big Afro to come in.

PC: So the moral of the story is it doesn't matter how rich and famous you get your dress sense won't improve.

MW: Actually it gets worse. History has showed us that. You get to a point where you go "I'm staying, this is where I'm happy".

NC: It is called the 80's.

PC: You made the album in LA. Was it a quick process to put the songs down?

NC: No. It could have been if we wanted to. A lot of bands wear a badge of honour. "We did this is three days and it cost us 20 bucks". We have never really aspired to be like that. We actually liked spending the time to get meticulous. We spent a lot of time just on sounds, like drum sounds.

MW: We spent less time on takes than we did on sounds. We just wanted everything to sound awesome to tape rather than mixing it later and fucking it more.

PC: It has been reported that you guys were given a huge advance to record not only this album but a number of albums. Is it true? Were there millions of dollars thrown at the band?

NC: We have never said how much. Not because we are trying to hide it. It was a lot of money. We think the more you talk about the money the more it detracts from the focus. You don't ask people what they earn. It is irrelevant. Because people knew it was a lot and we never actually disclosed the figure it everyone assumes it must be something ridiculous. The $3m I keep seeing is crap. It is nowhere near that.

MW: In the newspaper the other day it said we were all millionaires.

PC: The White Stripes recorded their album for a couple of grand so why do you need so much money?

MW: I don't believe they recorded that album for a couple of grand.

NC: I think they wear that as a badge of honour as well. I'm sure they did it cheaply but even that is exaggerated. Good on them. They do what they do and do it well. It is just not how we do it.

PC: There was a huge bidding war for Jet. What did that do to the egos in the band? Did you all get swelled heads when record execs from all over the world flew in to see you?

NC: I think when you are faced with something like that if you are an arrogant person by nature you become more obnoxious but we aren't like that. I'm a bit shy and it made me more reserved. When you are overwhelmed with something you get nervous. One minute we are playing to a couple of hundred people at a pub and the next moment there are heads of labels ringing us up. 10 labels from America flew to Sydney to watch us. That show in itself was pretty scary knowing that that night would determine the rest of our careers.

PC: You signed with Elektra and the new head of A&R now for Elektra Records is Ric Ocasek, formerly of The Cars.

NC: Yeah, he is the head of A&R.

MW: And I'm a big Cars fan and got to meet him a few weeks ago. He is a lovely guy. He looks like Dracula. He is gaunter than ever.

PC: You are his second Australian association.

MW: Yeah, he produced Waikiki.

NC: Did he really? I didn't know that.

PC: One of the bands you are associated with though similar management is The Vines. The Vines had a lot of trouble with the media around the world because of their antics. Have you followed that and what they have done through the press?

NC: I don't go out of my way to read it.

MW: We've got the same management so we hear stories. We have the same guitar techs.

NC: Because we are overseas so much we bump into them. Not so much Craig (Nichols) but the rest of the guys we see. We saw them a few months ago in New York. They are great guys.

PC: Do you learn from their mistakes?

MW: We make our own mistakes and learn from ours.

NC: It is better to worry about yourself. You have got to make your own mistakes before you can really learn. There are some things. Now that I think about it, I suppose yeah but I wouldn't have thought of it before. We don't go out of our way to see what they are doing.

PC: So in the back of your mind do you have "do not destroy instruments on the Jay Leno Show"?

NC: I wouldn't do that anyway. My guitar is my prize possession. It is all I have, that and a suitcase.

PC: What is the essence of a great song?

NC: Melody, for me.

PC: Is that where you start?

NC: Absolutely. If you can't hum a tune what's the point. That is what songwriting is, isn't it. It is a melody through a bunch of chords.

PC: We are going to watch you later at lunch and see if you have the round meat in the square toast.

MW: I've seen him do that.

Jet's debut album Get Born is released in September by EMI Records in Australia

By Paul Cashmere