Track by Track: Healthy Junkies guide us through their new album ‘Forever On The Road’

On Friday London-based punks Healthy Junkies unveiled their new album Forever On The Road. Originally written as a soundtrack to the DVD of their 2018 US tour, the album sees the band add to the ferocious combination of grunge and new wave punk rock that has earned them fans on both sides of the Atlantic, throwing piano and string arrangements, hip hop beats, a dash of reggae and some haunting atmospherics akin to a horror movie soundtrack into the mix.

We asked guitarist Phil Honey Jones to take us through the new LP track by track.

  1. Intro

This is a continuation from the end of our last album Delirious Dream. Mixed in with an analogue synth it sets the scene for the chaos that will follow.

2. Last Day in L.A.

Initially we set the track listing out in chronological order but then decided to release the album in 2 parts, this being part 1. So we find this song as track 2. The whole album was initially instrumental and written as a soundtrack to our DVD release On The Road In The USA so each song represents its place in that journey. We made some friends in L.A., had a wild time in the sunshine city, and it’s epicentre Hollywood, the place where dreams are followed and brought to life for the lucky few. We got played multiple times on Sirius XM radio by the legend that is Rodney Bingenheimer, a man with his very own Hollywood star imprinted on the iconic Hollywood boulevard. So saying goodbye was a sad moment for us and that is really what this song is about.

3. Beat Box L.A.

This is the tune that accompanied us checking into our Air B and B in Hollywood. We were picking up some hip-hop vibes as we ventured through the town, the tour diary shows some of the band hanging out on the apartment balcony smoking the legal high and getting ready to live the L.A. life for the next few days. Street sounds and lone rappers walking up and down the boulevard chanting their rhymes inspired this music.

4. Transportation to nowhere

This is a song I recorded with the band I was in at the time, Nurotica, back in the year 2000. It seemed like an apt fit for its scene in the tour diary, driving on the freeway through Seattle. The mood there was much darker than in L.A. where we’d travelled from and this relates in the music that was written for this part of the journey. The lyrical sentiments of this song are just as relevant today as they were in 2000, that feeling of complete and utter hopelessness, powerlessness and desolation. Those moments when you feel your life is simply going nowhere fast and yet you still put on a brave smile in the face of adversity.

5. Halloween in L.A.

As I mentioned before this album is no longer in chronological order so we flit back to the sunshine of L.A. for this instrumental. It was indeed Halloween in the hot sun, something we are not accunstomed to in the U.K. The houses and streets were decked out with models of ghouls, witches and zombies against a summertime backdrop. This was a juxtaposition that we had not previously experienced. It felt like there was a sinister darkness underpinning the angelic, plastic layer of golden hope and dreams in that city of angels. That is what we were trying to portray here.

6. En Route to San Diego

Another piece of music written and recorded to accompany our journey across the vast screaming landscape of the West. I was driving us across the 250 odd mile freeway stretch to San Diego and it was quite a challenge due to my energy levels having somewhat dissipated. I did not know at the time but I had picked up a dose of flu from our drummer who had imported it from the U.K.  It materialised into the full blown virus the day after this journey. There is a tension in this piece of music that collaborates the oncoming of exhaustion and illness. Nina’s voices across the top of the tune are like sirens luring us into the rocks. At least that is how I see it.

7. The Puppeteer

This is another piece of music that I grabbed from a previous project. It is taken from an album called One by the band I was in in 2006/7. Originally in the soundtrack we used ‘Riders on the Storm’ by The Doors but as this would have caused us copyright issues I dug this piece of piano music out from the archive to replace it. It has a little nod to The Doors in it and fitted the scene perfecty where Nina splits up into a myriad of mirrors as she contemplates her arrival in Los Angeles.

8. Sunset Strip

This song is supposed to be exactly what it says on the tin. Cruising along Sunset Boulevard checking out the likes of the Whisky A Go Go, The Roxy, The Viper Rooms, The Troubadour and The Rainbow. This area is steeped in 80s style hard rock history with bands such as Guns and Roses and Motley Crue having ruled the roost here for many years. There is a sleaziness about this track that is throwback to those decadent times.

9. On Way to Portland.

This is also exactly what it says it is. The long and winding road trip to Portland. We shot so much film during our epic USA tour of 2018. Nina edited the film footage and handed it to me to put music to. We wrote the lyrics much later. The words are abstract and stream of conciousness. Nina came up with the vocal melody, I came up with the opening line ‘Flowers in the market I bring to you’ and we built the rest of the lyrics around that. We just let them flow at will. We created an imaginary character from a long ago time, a wistful lady of the lake, Arthurian in essence. The flowers are a reference to the flowers we placed on the iconic bench outside Kurt Cobain’s house. We bought them in Pike Market, Seattle where Kurt used to regularly hang out.

10. Give Me Back My Kiss

This is one of the more fierce and edgy tunes on the album. It is a furious rant at the world. An angry howl at the moon. A betrayal of trust. A Nirvana and Hole inspired track written to coincide with our time in Seattle.

11. The Sunlight Has Gone

This tune is led by a Tim Burton style creepy fairground keyboard part which goes round and round in an attempt to hypnotise the listener into a sinister tale of their own making. Nina’s haunting vocals are serene, ghostlike and add to the afterlife effect. This is a séance.

In the tour diary we used this music to accompany us as we trundled round and explored the vastness of Pike Market in Seattle. Once again the edgy undertones of this notorious city find their way into the tune. We were there in autumn which made the whole experience even more poignant amongst the beauty of the fallen, coloured leaves. It is the final call of nature before death carries it into the bleak winter.

12. Mayday

Mayday is a song that had been on the back burner for about 5 years. We used it in the tour diary at the point when we visited Kaos Radio in Evergreen State College. Nirvana had played some legendary shows at the college and recorded a session for Kaos. We dropped into the radio station out of the blue back in February 2018 when Nina and I first visited the U.S. Nina had us go on a Nirvana pilgrimage of her own making and we made contacts along the way. It was pretty easy really as they loved our English and French accents. Opportunities presented themselves in a way which we had not experienced in the U.K. This session at Kaos Radio for Healthy Junkies was one such opportunity. The song itself talks about the freeway and having your path blocked by an obelisk. The crazy, madness of humankind is an inexhaustible topic for us. The line ‘They tried to fix you and made you worse’ pretty much sums it up. Lockdown and pandemic fear has undoubtedly added to this and I would say that many of us are sending out a ‘Mayday’ right now.

13. Streets of Olympia.

We played 3 shows back to back in the relatively small town of Olympia. Home for Kurt Cobain for some years and It has a wonderfully vibrant bar and live music scene. It is basically one long strip with cafes and bars dotted along it. The first show we played was at very cool venue called Le Voyeur which is very small but oozing with character. We did an early set for the under 21s and then a later show for the over 21s. When we arrived at the venue to soundcheck there was a whole group of young, crazy street punks waiting. We naturally befriended them and shared bottles of brown paper wrapped rum and joints. These kids were like live Shakespearean theatre characters. When we played the under 21 show (They were all pretty young) these kids moshed like there was no tomorrow. One girl broke her collarbone and another guy cracked his wrist. They didn’t care, they were thrilled to be at the gig. We discovered Olympia has a huge homeless crisis which has been getting worse and worse. These kids lived in tents that covered an entire outside car park just out the back of the venue. America is like this it seems. Great if you can get that job, that car, that house but if you’re living outside the system you don’t stand a chance in hell. It was the same in L.A. Pockets of homeless people living on the edge of their sanity with little or no help from the rich surrounding in which they dwell. So this song is about those kids in Olympia who do live on the street. They were awesome company and full of creative spirit. I wish we could have taken them all with us on the rest of the tour.

14. Something in the Way

So I mentioned earlier about Nina’s Kurt Cobain pilgrimage. We visited under the bridge which is mentioned in the lyrics of this song. Spent some time there absorbing the atmosphere and soaking up the lingering spirit of the man himself. Visited the places he had lived and died at, the lake Washington under the cover of darkness, the venues Nirvana played at including The legendary Central Bar saloon where all the grunge greats like Nirvana, Mudhoney and The Melvins had graced the stage. We managed to get ourselves a Saturday night booking there which was undoubtedly one of the highlights of our tour. So having absorbed all of this grunge culture and followed the trail of Kurt Cobain like true pilgrims we decided to record our own version of Something in the way. Nina and I had met Krist Novoselic in Seattle back in February 2018 when he played a show with his current band Giants in the Trees at The Sunset Tavern in Ballard. He was very encouraging and said he loved our band name. Meeting him also played no small part in our desire to cover this song

15. Underground City

This is song is another one that had been on that same backburner for a few years. It was inspired by the perilous plight of the many migrants leaving their war-torn countries in search of safety and a better chance in life. At the time mainstream media was full on covering the many boats which headed for mainly Italy and Greece or on foot via Turkey into Greece. Images of whole villages and towns marching across mile upon mile of landscape was something that could not help but move the majority of viewers to bewildered despair. The underground city is a utopian ideal. A safe haven for the brothers and sisters and the starving children.

We have more recently seen more and more boats now coming to the UK across the English channel, trying to beat the weather and impending doom of possible new post Brexit measures to stop people from making these crossings. But what would we do I ask myself ? We as Brits generally have very little concept about what tragic circumstances would compel families to up and leave their native land in droves. It is a huge problem and is not being addressed in anywhere near the manner that it could be. Nina and I actually broke down in a car right outside an unofficial migrant camp in Paris. One guy wandered over to see what the problem was, then another, and before we knew it we must have had 30 or so blokes surrounding our car. They offered to help and we took them up on their offer. I engaged with many of the men there while the work was being done. They told me their stories, where they originated from : Egypt, Morroco, Afghanistan, Sudan. They wanted work but there was none, some wanted to travel to the UK.. All the people I had spoken to seemed cool to me with the exception of one very sinister bloke who turned up at the end and told me in all seriousness that ‘This car is now mine’. He brought with him a very negative energy and shortly after his arrival a nasty fight broke out with 2 guys on top of the car struggling and throwing punches. The gendarmes at that moment arrived at the scene and broke up the quarrel. I fortunately managed to resolve the issue between the 2 combatants before we left, they had after all helped us with the repair.

The chorus lyrics are ‘You can come live in my house, David’. While researching for this song I came across the story of the lost boys of Sudan when 20,000 or so boys from Southern Sudan fled initially to Ethiopia and Kenya. One particular story is of a boy named David Jal. The lyric in verse 3 ‘I see a lost boy run and hide’ also references this story.

16. Walking Away

This tune is really the closing piece for our tour diary. It has a sense of wistful finality about it. The feeling of looking back at what we knew at the time was a significant life experience for all of 5 of us who made the journey: Nina Courson, Phil Honey-Jones, Dave Whitmore, Pumpy and Stevie Bray our roadie and live photographer. Using melodic minor key piano and strings to capture this was instinctive as was every tune we made for this soundtrack. The choir vocals that appear as a type of chorus are uplifting and remind us that although the journey has ended it still remains in our hearts and memories for all of our own eternities.

17. Tricky Situation

This song was recorded separately at Ventura studios in Wembley by Jonathon Jacobs. We love his production and were keen to include the song on the album. We wrote it prior to going to the States in Feb 2018 on our recce mission. The lyrics take on a variety of tricky situations including ‘getting lost in translation’, ‘a bloody revolution’ and problems with ‘The U.S immigration’. The Brexit fiasco is referenced with ‘No deal, no good’ and ‘Off with her head’ being symbolic of course. It is full on garage style rock onslaught with Nina’s ‘na na na na na na na na’ vocal being a hook that is reminiscent of the music for the old Levi jeans TV advert by the band Babylon Zoo. The track was called ‘Spaceman’ and Levi’s used only the speeded up vocal at the beginning of the song. The rest of the song was frankly disappointing. We felt this song was the right choice in that it hopefully leaves the listener with an upbeat finale. It will be the third single of the album.

Forever on The Road is out now on Banana Castle Records. Order your copy here.

Introduction by Paul Maps

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