Contributor’s Note: After growing up with the songs of the Jam through my teen years it was a real pleasure to be able to chat with Bruce Foxton of From The Jam himself ahead of the bands forthcoming “Setting Sons”-40th Anniversary tour with Madness To Creation. From The Jam will be bringing along “The Vapors” throughout the United Kingdom. Fans can find From The Jam at the following locations:
Mark Dean: Hi Bruce, it’s Mark Okay. Just wonder, physically, how are you these days? I had an interview scheduled a few weeks ago but it was sort of postponed because you had some health issues. Just wondering how things are with you now?
Bruce Foxton: Yeah. It was just I had a cataract operation. I had the left eye done and then the specialist said, “Look, you’ve got the start of one on the other eye.” So I had that done, but they take two or three weeks to sort out, in terms of getting your vision back and that, so I kind of couldn’t see properly for a little while. But now I’m fine. It’s all healed up and I’ve got pretty good vision.
Mark Dean: You’re currently touring, From The Jam. You’re celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the Setting Sons album.
Bruce Foxton: Yeah. We’re about to start that, yeah.
Mark Dean: Just wonder what format the tour will take with regard to celebrating that album? Will you be playing the whole album? Maybe just the singles off the album?
Bruce Foxton: We’re going to play the whole album in it’s entirety. You can get mixed reactions with that because a lot of our audience might not have heard of the album Setting Sons. Well, here it is. If you haven’t heard it, we’re going to play it for you now. So, yeah. It’ll be front to back, and I was in rehearsals yesterday, and it sounded good. I’m really pleased how we’re presenting Setting Sons and then the rest of the time will be taken up with obviously… some classic hits, and some other album tracks.
Mark Dean: I just wonder how that was for you personally, because obviously when that album first came out, you probably wouldn’t have played it all live before. So there’s going to be some tracks then that you’re going to have to go away and think, “How do we do that?”
Bruce Foxton: Well, for instance, Wasteland, Paul played his sister’s recorder for like the lead line, and we got Andy Fairclough now on Hammond organ and mellotron, and he can simulate the recorder. We’ve got a good sound from that, so that’s one track that we can now do, because we’ve got the added bonus of a great, well, keyboard player basically. And yes, Smithers-Jones we’re actually going to use the mellotron as well to simulate strings. It’s sounds great. So, it’s going to be a bit of a challenge for me. I’m quite exposed singing it, but again it’s sounding good in rehearsals. It’s just a confidence thing now really. Just playing it a few more times.
Mark Dean: And I guess for you, probably the first time you’ve actually played some of these tracks live yourself?
Bruce Foxton: What tracks?
Mark Dean: The tracks from the album, given that you wouldn’t have performed them all first time around.
Bruce Foxton: Bearing in mind you know, we did celebrate the 35th anniversary of Setting Sons. We have played all those songs before. It is exciting to play them again. We don’t necessarily play like, Girl on the Phone, or Burning Sky. So it’s great to be playing them. They’re sounding really fresh. So, like I said, I’m pleased how the rehearsals have gone anyway.
Mark Dean: Do you have any abiding memories of recording the original album. Maybe how it was-
Bruce Foxton: Well, for once, I have yeah. I mean a lot it was a blur for various reasons, but because we were full on, with recording, touring, recording, touring, it all kind of merged into one a lot of it, but with Setting Sons, that was pretty much put together in the studio. Paul was… put down the idea, record the idea of a track during the day and Rick and myself would obviously be there and listening etc. And then Rick and myself would, through the night, work out what we were going to play on that particular song. And when Paul came in, in the morning, or late morning, whatever, we’d have a go at it, with the parts that we worked out the night before and it seemed to work okay.
Mark Dean: Do you feel though that at the time, it marked a change in musical direction for The Jam, given what had gone before?
Bruce Foxton: Yeah. No, absolutely. I mean, the thing is, from day one we wanted to challenge ourselves and not just have In The City part two, In The City part three. That’s like, This is the Modern World album, it didn’t get great reviews and I think the press at the time, were expecting In The City two. And we’d already gone down the route of we’re playing acoustic guitars now etc. And I think that grated with a few people. But, we’ve done that… or we had done that for all our career and I’d like to think I’m still doing that. We challenged ourselves individually musically, because we thought that was the way forward. It is the way forward. We didn’t want to just rest on our laurels and release another In The City album, as good as it was, one enough.
Mark Dean: I think I read somewhere that the Setting Sons was originally planned as a concept album, was that correct, or was that just misinformation?
Bruce Foxton: Well, I think it was, yeah. I’m a bit mystified by that as well. There’s a few tracks that link together. But as the recording went on, it become pretty obvious that it wasn’t going to be a concept album, so that’s the simple answer really.
Mark Dean: And, an unusual inclusion was Heat Wave.
Bruce Foxton: Yeah. I can’t really understand what people pick up on that and it was just a great live track. And we had obviously the benefit of Mick Talbot was on keys on that another great keyboard player. And we just thought it finished it off. A bit of light relief almost. Yeah, it was just a great live track, we wanted to include it.
Mark Dean: How did you and the other two guys in The Jam, how did you embrace success? I mean was it difficult when fame and success came along, you were still young lads?
Bruce Foxton: True, but I think on the whole, a bit like… on a much lesser degree, like Paul McCartney or Ringo etc. The pressure that must have been on them. We just… what we wanted out of the music business was the facility to be able to record and get it released worldwide. The rest of it, you know, like the partying and the ligging, we did a little bit of that, but not that much. Not because we wanted to be seen in Hello Magazine, or one of the trendy papers or whatever. We just took out of the music business, what we wanted, and what we thought was important to us and I think the three of us really, pretty much kept our feet on the ground and still have today. I mean, there’s no need to become an arsehole just because you become successful.
Mark Dean: But to be fair, at that time I used to listen to the charts, I think it was every Tuesday, when I was at school on a transistor radio. You were getting things like singles going straight in at number one, which wasn’t common at that time.
Bruce Foxton: No, exactly. I think Going Underground was the first single that had gone straight in a number one since The Beatles, and don’t ask me what Beatles track was, I’m not sure off the top of me head. I still, even today, I can’t picture at our peak, there was apparently, the public were going out every day and buying say, Going Underground. And we were selling twenty, thirty thousand records a day. Which to me, is a lot basically. And very hard to picture all those people up and down the country going out and buying it. But obviously, thank you for doing that, but yeah, incredible sales.
Mark Dean: Coming straight to the present, From The Jam have brought out a couple of albums on your own, I just wondered if you had any plans to release or bring out another studio album, as a follow up to Smash The Clock?
Bruce Foxton: Totally. It’s really down to getting time to do it. As you said, you’ve only got to look at our website. I mean, we are full on, live wise from now until eternity at the moment, which is great. If there’s huge demand for people wanting to hear those great songs, but in terms of time to go in the studio, we haven’t got it at the moment. We’ve got, with obviously benefits of iPhones and stuff, when we’re sound checking, we’ve got quite a few ideas, but we need to allocate I suppose, a bit of time to go into Paul’s studio again and record another album. It was great doing that and it was great that Paul played on the album and Wilco’s played on an album. It’s incredible. But at the moment, we can’t find space to get in. There will be another one, because we enjoyed Back In the Room and Smash The Clock, and they’ve done pretty well, considering they were on an indie label, you know, Pledge Music etc. They did pretty well. And they blended in rather well with Jam material. Yeah, you have a long winded answer to that really, I suppose, but there will be another Fox and Hastings album at some point.
Mark Dean: Do you ever envisage a day when you would be performing a totally new music set, or is that alien to the concept of From The Jam.
Bruce Foxton: Well yeah, I mean, we discussed, or we chatted about going out and just playing Smash The Clock or Back In The Room. It would take a lot of organisation to do that and a lot of rehearsals to get the band up to speed on it and yeah it would like so what’s From The Jam really, I mean it would probably go out as Foxton and Hastings. There’d be a lot of effort, a lot of time and effort involved.. I’m not saying we wouldn’t do it, but it’s not really top of the list at the moment.
Mark Dean: Okay, How do you still get inspired to play the old songs and bring them to life every single night, because you must have played them many thousands of times.
Bruce Foxton: That’s something that I can’t really answer. I get up on stage, we strike up the first chord of a particular Jam song and I’m totally immersed in it. It’s just what happens. I love those songs and I never get sick of playing them. The good thing is that we’ve got such a wealth of Jam material to choose from that if a particular song is getting a bit tired, we give it a rest. You know, put it on the old sub’s bench and we’ll come back to it at some point. So we try to keep it as fresh for us as for the audience.
Mark Dean: You’ve been responsible for many iconic anthems, just to mention two, Town Called Malice and Start. Did you instantly know when those songs were coming together with the two others in The Jam, did you know, did you get like a certain buzz. “This is going to be special this song.” Or it was only subsequently that you became aware that certain songs had become as popular as they are?
Bruce Foxton: It’s kind of, I’ve got a foot in each camp there really. We believed in everything we recorded, and thought it was special. But yeah, those particular tracks, Going Underground, really, if we could have known how successful they were going to be, I’d have been out there as an A&R guy, picking up loads of bands and making a lot of money out of them probably if I’d had the foresight to see into the future. But they did, they felt good. They felt good and You Wait ‘Til They Hear This, like Eton Rifles, etc. We were very proud of them that’s for sure.
Mark Dean:And of course you’ve played in not one iconic band, but two. I’m referring to your time in punk legends Stiff Little Fingers.
Bruce Foxton: Yeah, I was in Fingers about twice as long as I was in The Jam. I think I did about 15 years with Jake and co. which was great because Jake’s a mate and we go back years together, when The Jam were on the road and Fingers were on the road and if we happened to be staying at the same hotel, we had a few beers etc. So it was good to be part of that and a lot of fun, but for a long while.
Mark Dean: Looking back at your musical legacy, where the albums that you created with Stiff Little Fingers be on a par with what you created with The Jam, or not?
Bruce Foxton: It’s difficult. I’d think it’d be 60/40 really. You know my heart really was into The Jam, obviously when that finished, and Jake called me up, I gave it everything I could to do Stiff Little Fingers as well as possible. To do Jake and co. And all the songs he had written, justice basically, was my aim was to perform those songs the best I could and yeah, do it real justice.
Mark Dean: You must be proud of what you’ve created… your own musical legacy?
Bruce Foxton: Yeah, I am. Sweet isn’t it?
Mark Dean: Job done.
Bruce Foxton: I’ve had a… well, like a lot of people, you know most people, a lot of ups and downs over the years but yeah The Jam gave me a lot of ups moments, let’s say that.
Mark Dean: What about hopes, dreams, and ambitions. Because you’ve had the number one singles, albums, and all those achievements. Do you still have hopes and dreams? What would they be?
Bruce Foxton: Health. To keep well. And for my family to keep well, I think. My family’s had more than its fair share of the dreaded cancer etc. And I’ve lost a lot of my loved ones. So I would just hope and pray for good health for myself, my wife, my grand-daughter, my family basically.
Mark Dean: Just a final one then. If the roles were reversed and you could sit down with somebody, who would you like to personally interview? Maybe not even a musician?
Bruce Foxton: Well, that’s a problem. Got a choice really, John Lennon, George Harrison, Winston Churchill, take your pick really. There’s a lot of people out there I’d have liked to have been at a dinner party with say.
Mark Dean: Of course then, you’re out touring yet on the road soon yet again. I’m hoping to get along… well, I will get along to Manchester show, so I’m looking forward to that.
Bruce Foxton: Oh great. Yeah, yeah. That’ll be a good show. I mean, not just that… that’ll be a good show, but hopefully they all will. We’ll give it our best every night and see what happens.
Mark Dean: Thank you very much for chatting to me.
Bruce Foxton: Thanks a lot. Been a pleasure. Cheers Mark. Bye!
And there you have it! Check out the “Setting Sons 40th Anniversary Tour” featuring From The Jam with special guests The Vapors. The dates are all in the United Kingdom.
Thu. 10/10- Dorking Halls in Dorking
Fri. 10/11- Winter Gardens in Margate
Sat. 10/12- Assembly Hall in Walthamstow
Thu. 10/17- Pyramids in Portsmouth
Fri. 10/18- City Hall in Salisbury
Sat. 10/19- The Great Hall in Cardiff
Thu. 10/24- University Styles in Leeds
Fri. 10/25- The Empire in Middlesbrough
Sat. 10/26- City Hall in Hull
Thu. 10/31- Open in Norwich
Fri. 11/1- Empire in Coventry
Sat. 11/2- Foundry in Sheffield
Thu. 11/7- Corn Exchange in King’s Lynn
Fri. 11/8- Town Hall in Oxford
Sat. 11/9- Corn Exchange in Cambridge
Fri. 11/15- King George’s Hall in Blackburn
Sat. 11/16- Engine Shed in Lincoln
Sun. 11/17- Rock City in Nottingham
Thu. 11/21- The Avenue in Chesterfield
Fri. 11/22- Warehouse 23 in Wakefield
Sat. 11/23- The Ritz in Manchester
Thu. 11/28- Lemon Grove in Exeter
Fri. 11/29- Anson Room in Bristol
Sat. 11/30- Indigo at the O2 in London
Wed. 12/4- The Cavern in Liverpool
Fri. 12/5- The Cavern in Liverpool
Fri. 12/6- O2 Academy in Newcastle
Thu. 12/12- King’s Hall in Herne Bay
Fri. 12/13- Concorde 2 in Brighton
Sat. 12/14- Concorde 2 in Brighton
For tickets and further information on the 40th Anniversary of Setting Sons tour, click here.
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