Interview: Reverend & The Makers’ Jon McClure on the social network boom, music revolution, and giving political commentary a miss

Since the release of modern indie classic ‘Heavyweight Champion Of The World‘ put Reverend & The Makers at the forefront of a guitar-led charge on the charts in 2007, the band’s frontman Jon McClure has proven himself to be one of the most engaging characters to burst onto the British music scene in recent years.

And while many contemporaries have already fallen by the wayside since that rock surge of a few years ago, McClure’s spirit of diversity and willingness to experiment has kept him right at the edge of the many changes which have re-shaped the music industry forever, with the band’s embracing of social networking ahead of the release of third studio album ‘@Reverend_Makers‘ on May 7th another strong symbol of their desire to welcome new trends with open arms.

In this exclusive Live4ever interview, Jon discusses the social network boom and its value for interacting directly with his fans, the revolution of the music world he’s witnessed during the last decade, how being chased by the cops on Facebook helped to fill in time between albums, and why he’s giving political commentary a miss this time round.

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Reverend and the Makers are back and sounding well on form, new free download ‘Bassline’ has “big summer tune” written all over it. What’s 2012 been like up to now coming back after the lay off?

It’s good man. I just needed a minute not doing the band ‘cos it was frying my head a bit, but I’m back into the groove of it now and enjoying it. This year’s been boss so far. We played some sold out comeback shows and then toured with Noel Gallagher which was fun as usual. So I’m just buzzing about what’s to come really and the reception to ‘Bassline’ has been hotter than Tulisa’s sex tape man.

What was it that sparked you back to life with the group, and what were you doing in that time Jon, musically?

I’d been doing my Reverend Soundsystem, which is me and my mates James Welsh and Maticmouth just messing around with different sounds, and we were playing raves and house parties etc all over the country. Proper renegade business until the cops started watching our Facebook group and busting up any parties we had. It was then I thought, maybe I should get back with the Makers. Fun as it was I think the Soundsystem kinda had to end ‘cos people wanted to hear me with the Makers, but it’s informed so much of what this album has become.

Really embracing the net with the album, not just with the title ‘@Reverend_Makers’, but with the release of ‘Bassline’ via the Facebook page, getting fans to send in favourite tracks for the tour, as well as getting them to contribute on the bands videos. The direct link to the fans is great, how important do you think social media and internet is to bands now?

Well it’s everything. I feel like when got into the music game we were dressed in khaki and now it’s snowing. Does that make sense? Things have changed in music more in the last five years then they did in the preceding 50. There’s pros and cons with that, but yeah the net is ace. For the speed of delivery and the connection with fans not through anyone else’s porthole but like my own words. Direct to the fans. Kinda liberating really.

Tell us about the album. Sheffield as a city figures quite large on the album doesn’t it?

Course it does. That’s cos it’s officially the best city on planet Earth, bar none. It informs everything I do. The people here are special man. They have a spirit and a sense of humour that’s second to none. I’m obviously really biased but fuck it. It’s r8 as we say round here. But yeah kinda like the first album. Little stories from around the way you know. Back to subject matter people understand.

What’s excited you or influenced you making this album, what’s new on your radar Jon?

I’ve been listening to the bass culture emerge from the shadows and kinda take over and I like that. I like the ‘fuck off-ness’ of it all. Dubstep and Bassline are aggressive and fresh sounding and I kinda wanted to in some small way incorporate that into the sound of the record. I think you can do the retro thing to death a bit. Like there’s only so many Led Zeppelin riffs people can nick int there?

We read you said you’ve made two political albums already, so is the new album, let’s say, more consumable in that way?

Yeah the Mongrel album and the second Makers LP are both dead political. But I just wanted to leave that where it was. It becomes boring doesn’t it, saying the same thing. Both for me and everyone else. I’ve let people know how I feel now it’s time to move on. Na mean?

Despite that move away from political commentary, just one question on it! Nicky Wire did actually criticise new bands a while back for ’not having anything to say’. Do you think there are enough bands, and in particular new bands, who are lending a voice to the various political and social arguments we’re witnessing at the moment?

Nicky Wire’s wrong. So is Billy Bragg. There’s zillions of artists with loads to say. More pressing is why they don’t get heard, played and written about at all? Then the same people who bitch down political bands will moan there isn’t any! A thousand fuckries.

Though under this economic lapse it’s hard not to be affected or influenced in making or putting music together, what changes do you feel have come into the business since 2005 when the band started up, and what changes have you had to make in Reverend and the Makers?

Well I guess this album is quite escapist and I’ve kinda reasoned out that in hard times people maybe want to escape and not be reminded of how shit things are. It’s a bit like offering someone a shit sandwich after they’ve swallowed a bucket of sick haha.

remakers2How about the Noel Gallagher support dates the band played in February. How did it go as they were the group’s ‘comeback’ dates in a way, some comeback that!

We’re not like proper bum chums or anything but after we supported Oasis on the last album we just kinda stayed in touch and then he offered us the gig. But we buzzed on it naturally ‘cos we have always loved his songwriting. Noel is a proper genuine nice fella so it was a total pleasure and it’s ace to see him doing so well going solo.

A lot has been said about the ‘death of rock n roll’ lately with guitar bands struggling in the charts etc. So what would you now consider to be a success for the new album, and again how much have those aspirations changed in the last few years?

Success is when your songs resonate in people’s hearts. But yeah guitar musics is on its arse partly ‘cos there’s some rubbish bands about and partly ‘cos the guitar music culture is so bitchy that no one is afforded the room to become a proper phenomenon anymore. They get bitched down before they even get going. I love The Janice Graham Band from Manchester. They are my favourite new band.

And what’s the reaction been by Rev fans to have the band back? You’re down for T in the Park, Chilli Peppers at Knebworth and more, are you looking forward to it, being back on the road?

Rev fans are keen. Our May tour is sold out and everyone’s buzzing that we are back. Its emotional. I feel like when Harold came back in Neighbours or summat.

What are your thoughts on the spate of reunions we’ve seen lately, The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays etc? Do you think this is contributing to new bands struggling to get attention as we mentioned earlier?

Nah, it’s more a direct result of what I was saying earlier. New bands get bitched down before they start. The charts are full of fucking gash aren’t they? So people will naturally hark back to better times and the Roses and the Mondays reforming kinda shows that. Having said that I can’t wait for the Roses gigs myself and I’m made up for Mani who’s like the soundest motherfucker on planet earth.

(Words: Carl Stanley & Dave Smith)

Reverend & The Makers’ new album ‘@Reverend_Makers‘ is released on May 7th. The band are due to support Red Hot Chili Peppers on June 23rd and 24th, and will embark on a headline tour of the UK later this year, beginning at the Newcastle Academy on October 11th. Full details can be found over on the band’s official website.

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