I caught up with Matt Jones (a.k.a Django Black) of Grenades after their May show at the Talking Heads in Southampton, where they supported Pulled Apart By Horses. Here’s what he had to say about the local music scene, his hopes for a future album and the state of the music industry in general …
Couple of quick fire questions to warm you up …
Download or Sonisphere?
I would have to say neither, we’re more ATP kinda guys; private chalets and shellac.
North or South?
Both have their merits. Leeds have got some cool bands at the moment, obviously PABH are from there, but it’s also home to my new favourite band, Eagulls. Of course, we’re from the South though, so it has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ in comparison. Some might say a mystical allure..
Jägermeister or Firewater?
I’m not entirely sure what Firewater is, but if I wanna get proper grotesque I’ll go with a cocktail of absinthe and chemicals, followed by a self-loathing chaser. I often abuse myself before writing, like an anti-chastigation to filthy the soul.
Classic Rock or Rock Sound?
I couldn’t say, I don’t read the music press. The irony isn’t lost on me.
South Park or Family Guy?
I’m religiously South Park. It’s so clever on so many levels. If someone just wants gross-out humour, then it’s there, but it also has cutting satire, stemming from socio-political observations that challenge the way we look at culture. I think that if someone has a platform to express worthy, well informed opinions that question the way by which society behaves, then I can only commend them for doing so, and if they make it funny at the same time that’s even better. Family Guy’s good too though and I really enjoyed Ted.
Now, down to serious business ….
Are you finding that you have the same faces turning up to gigs, i.e., are you building a solid fan base?
To be honest with you we’re lucky for anyone to turn up at all. The crowd were wonderful at the PABH + Wytches show, but they hadn’t come to see us. Hopefully we entertained them though. Winchester has a brilliant venue called The Railway which puts on some really cool acts, I recently saw Nick Oliveri down there who was raw and awesome, but there just doesn’t seem to be any kind of scene. There are some excellent bands about like Cavaliers and The Wynona Ryders, but there’s just no consistent crowd of people who seem to go out for live music. It’s amazing when you consider that students make up about a quarter of the city’s population. Obviously, I’m not talking about every student, but the majority don’t seem to be very inquisitive, supportive of local art, or interested in what else is happening outside of their Uni bubble.
It’s quite worrying that presumably the future generation of leaders and professionals seem disinterested and unengaged with what’s going on around them. After all, the arts at their grass roots are what define our culture. So for anyone who might be reading this, don’t just sit in your room listening to music on the internet, don’t just attend the already well attended festivals, don’t just sit on your bum, in front of the TV obsessing over glorified karaoke contests, head down to your local venue and check out who’s playing. That’s where you’ll see the magic, unspoiled, pure creativity before the corporate machine chews ’em up and spits ’em out. These guys ain’t doing it for a job, this ain’t their 9 – 5, they’re doing it because they love it, and I for one think it’s amazing to experience that first-hand, because once you take part, you become part of the history and that’s how legends are made. I appreciate every single person who has spent their time and money on coming to see us play, do you think that Mr Rock & Roll feels the same way when he’s performing to a sea of anonymous faces, made up of lads and Dorises at some Disney Land festival sponsored by the Devil. I’m not saying don’t go and see your favourite bands, I’m saying do both, because there’s great stuff happening on your doorstep.
Well said and entirely agreed with! When you’re writing, what influences you?
I think the most obvious influences are the Pixies, Nirvana and Fugazi. Essentially, I’d become pretty bored of the indie-pop bands that were dominating the alternative music scene. Don’t get me wrong, I really like acts such as The Maccabees, Bombay Bicycle Club and Bloc Party, in fact, Grenades’ early material fell far closer to that camp. It’s just not my passion. Simply, I want to make music like the music I grew up on and I have a lot to say. After graduating from Uni last year, Chris De Roux and myself really struggled to find employment and were forced to sign on. Now, Winchester is an expensive place to live so what we received in benefits didn’t cover our outgoings. Once rent and bills went out we were left with about £15 a week for everything else; food, toiletries, clothing, washing up liquid, etc. I had to go out administering hand jobs in public toilets just so I could eat and apparently I’ve been told that’s illegal work, like I enjoyed it or something …
Anyways, during my sordid year of living in poverty I became acutely aware of so many social and political injustices. Why do the rich exploit the poor? Why can’t people look after the environment? Why do people kill each other over things like idealism and religion? What the hell is racism all about? Racists are weird. The list can go on and on and that’s what the songs are about. The funny thing is, as a teenager and young adult I was very much concerned with these themes in my first band Yenpox, but over the years I guess my lifestyle became more comfortable and I suppose I became apathetic, losing my edge. Maybe falling on hard times was a blessing in disguise because I got my mojo back.
If you had to pick two of your tracks to turn a new fan on to Grenades, which two would it be?
My favourite track that we do is probably ‘Santa Maria’, I think it’s cool, visceral and gnarly. The others see it as more of a fan favourite, but I would want to release it as a first single. I think it would really announce the band. The others like ‘The Mark of Cain’ best. I think the other one I really like is ‘The Rapture’. Actually, this is a tough question, it’s like Sophie’s Choice. I really enjoy playing ‘Babel’ too and can be heard singing it in the shower.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Obviously, I’ve already mentioned a few bands, but the others I’m digging at the moment are Men of Good Fortune from Hackney Wick and Royal Blood from Worthing; both excellent. The cat’s out of the bag regarding Royal Blood but MOGF are equally worth listening to. On top of Grenades I also do quite a bit of acoustic stuff under the name Django Black (I have a Soundcloud) so often pay attention to that scene as well. At the moment I’m listening to guys like Chris Simmons, George McCanna and Greg Vernon, who are all really talented songwriters.
What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever given you?
I don’t think anyone’s ever given me anything weird. In truth, I’m far more likely to give them something weird, weird and unexpected. It weirds me out when people ask for autographs though. It really isn’t worth anything. If it was I’d be selling it myself, I’m completely broke.
What’s the best/worst thing about being in a band on the local music scene?
The best thing about playing in local venues is there’s no driving involved, therefore we can all get pissed. The worst thing is limited exposure – obviously, I want to be performing to as wide an audience as possible.
Grenades supporting The Wytches and Pulled Apart By Horses at The Talking Heads, Southampton, 10.05.14
Have you had any notable ‘celebrity’ band moments?
I’m not sure what you mean by ‘celebrity’? The most star struck I’ve ever been was supporting Eric Bachmann of The Archers of Loaf. They’re one of my all-time favourite bands, and he made a point of watching me play. With his permission, I even did a rendition of ‘Web in Front’ during my set. It was a special night for me, and I’d like to give Andy Rossiter at Love Thy Neighbour in Brighton a shout out for booking me, thanks man. If you mean the reverse of that scenario I always love it when other people cover my songs. It’s a massive compliment and reaffirms to me that I’m doing something right, even if I don’t get paid for it.
How do you see the music industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?
Who can say? I think rock music will actually start rocking again. I think for the last 15 years roughly, rock music has been very tame and more like pop. That’s not to say there haven’t been some fantastic acts, it’s just I think it’s time the pendulum swung back the other way. Commercially I hope that more people start paying for music again. If you don’t buy the music, the artists don’t get paid, they have to work day jobs to fund living and ultimately the quality dips. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the moment people stopped paying for music it became a bit more shit.
Can Grenades fans expect an album in the near future?
I would very much like to put a record together. We have some small label interest, but we’ll see. I would like a certain amount of autonomy over the recordings, so doing it ourselves might be for the best. I want it to be as filthy and gnarly as possible. Basically, I want my parents to hate it. That’ll learn yer for getting me an Admiral Akbar instead of Boba Fett for Christmas 1984, I still carry these scars.
What’s next for Grenades?
Over the next couple of months we’ve all got bits and bobs here and there, but I’ll probably write a few more tunes over the summer. I just need to get angry and induce some alcohol-fuelled misery and pain.
Check out the Grenades facebook page at www.facebook.com/GrenadesMusic