Festival Guide

Jesus Jones on its 30th year as a band.

5 questions for Jesus Jones

Hey, Generation X'ers, we might need special glasses to read our bar receipts now, but we still know how to party. Maybe not as hard and as often, but we still got it. Go here for more Gen X bands at the Big Gig.

If you listened to alternative rock on the radio or watched MTV in the early '90s, you certainly remember Jesus Jones. The techno-inspired foursome from southwestern England formed in 1988, but songs like "Right Here, Right Now," "Real, Real, Real" captured a time when both the world and the music business were changing right in front of our eyes.

Jesus Jones comes to Summerfest Friday for a 4 p.m. show at the Miller Lite Oasis – and this concert marks not only their Big Gig appearance, but their first ever visit to Milwaukee.

We caught up with keyboard player and band manager Iain Baker by email when he was on the plane to Chicago to learn more about this almost one-off show at Summerfest. He says he's hoping this is a new opportunity for Jesus Jones to reconnect with old fans in America – and make some new ones, too.

OnMilwaukee: When you play Summerfest on Friday, this isn't exactly a kick-off to a big a U.S. tour. I read that you're approaching this gig in a different way. It's not all about the money, is it?

Iain Baker: No, it's not. This has been a real case of "doing it for the love." We've started from a position of "let's not worry about a fee, let's just get out there, and play." It's not exactly a holiday – but it's somewhere between that, and a trip down memory lane. We fully intend to rekindle the love affair we had with the U.S., and which we've somewhat neglected.

OnMilwaukee: Yet, you're using this as a springboard for future tours, right? I'd imagine most Jesus Jones fans in the U.S. have never had a chance to see you live. Could that change?

Yes, hopefully, it will! We've got visas now, for another year or so, and we want to put them to good use. Come over, play other festival shows, etc. We've always been desperate to come and do more in the States – but logistics and other things got in the way. This feels like we've broken the logjam, and got things moving again!

OnMilwaukee: There was a time in the early '90s when you listened to alternative radio, and you were guaranteed to hear Jesus Jones or EMF every hour. How has the landscape changed since "Doubt?" How have you guys changed? You're all adults with jobs and families now, but you've been doing this for 30 years.

It's changed a lot since then – but to be fair, it changed a lot in 1992. When Grunge happened, there was a real shift in style – and we were totally obsessed with Techno, at the time. These things happen, though – we're pretty cool about it. We've all learned to live with everything that's happened to the band over the years and more importantly, what's happened to us. Our families, our kids, our lives have led us on as many adventures as touring did – we've now got to the point where we appreciate who we were, as much as who we are. We all feel balanced.

OnMilwaukee: With an exception on drums, you're the same group of guys that emerged in 1988? Is that rare for bands groups that have the same personnel as long as you have?

It does seem to be rare, yes. We were lucky in that we did a lot of our fighting, and our animosity, early on. There was a point, on a world tour in 1991, where we almost split. We hated each other, and everything unraveled so fast. But, once something like that is in the open, it can start to heal itself - and over the last 25 years, we've grown closer than we ever were. We're not really a band now, we're just a family. It sounds corny, doesn't it? Absolutely true, though.

OnMilwaukee: On your website, you talk about some of the challenges in releasing a new album. What did you encounter? I heard "Suck It Up," and it sounds very reflective of your experiences. In a way, it reminded me of the lyrics of "Right Here, Right Now," which felt very contemporary at the time, and oddly, still feels relevant to people who were watching the world change very quickly at the time.

When we recorded our albums in the '90s there actually was a music business. Now, for a great proportion of artists – there isn't. For bands who've been out there a while, a lot of things just pass on by. So, we learned not to be bitter, or envious and worked out how to do it ourselves. We've made two albums in the last 18 months, which means our work rate is higher than it's ever been. Yes, there were battles, but it was inspiring too. And for us, the way that the songs are made always ends up influencing the songs themselves - so that's a bonus.

OnMilwaukee: I could be wrong, but I don't remember the last time you played in Milwaukee, if ever, and certainly not a festival like Summerfest, which is the world's largest. What does a Jesus Jones show sound like in 2019?

It actually sounds better than it used to! We're now so utterly comfortable with the material, that we hardly have to rehearse. We used to do it for weeks, before tours – now it's a weekend. the songs are ingrained in our DNA now - that leaves us free to enjoy the shows more, and hopefully, that's evident. We have as much fun as we ever did, on stage – we're very similar to how we used to be! And yes – can't recall a Milwaukee show, either. Isn't that odd? I think we obviously focused a lot, back then, on Chicago, and the surrounding area - but it's nice to finally get the chance to play there! Summerfest looks amazing!


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