Railing against music industry ageism and citing his joy of joining the Loughborough Junction choir, Uncle John has a lot to say. ‘Ground Zero’ is his latest single (produced by Jessica Winter) and it’s time you got to know more about the man behind the magic.
‘There’s my relationship with Jessica (Winter), so humbling to work with my niece – she’s super talented and it makes me proud to have this special musical connection.’ – Uncle John
You are involved with a local community choir. Tell us how you got involved with them and how that experience is valuable for your wellbeing.
Uncle John: A local choir started at the end of my street over ten years ago now. It’s a great way to keep your voice in check. It’s a community choir so it’s not a hardline experience. Some great people too.
How long have you been with the choir and are there any particular vocal techniques that you’ve picked up and placed within your solo material?
Uncle John: I was there from their first day above the pub The Cambria in Loughborough Junction. You’re not centre stage in a choir so it’s about holding your end up well and trying to blend well with everyone. All those breathing techniques really help when singing live and in the studio to get the best out of my voice.
In our first video interview you hinted at having a lot to say about your age and the music you want to produce. Feel free to share your thoughts on your generation and the music you decide to create.
Uncle John: I didn’t want to be another fifty year old who picks up an acoustic guitar and slips into folk or country. I want to challenge the industry with its obsession with youth and no room for someone older trying to make a way. I love pop music in all its forms. From the folk pop of the early seventies like Joni Mitchell to punk/new wave like Blondie and Human League right through the eighties till now. Although I feel today there is such a boundary around music that is put out to what is being created.
Arguably, in your favour, the curiosity and need for audiences to discover and welcome people who don’t fit strict industry archetypes has grown. So long as the voice has something true to offer in a world increasingly being exposed as exploitative and commodified falsehood. You’ve recently spoken of trying to find a kindred group of artists to join on a bill. I can only imagine that your recent billing via Pink Eye Club was a step in the right direction if not at first seeming counter intuitive. What are your thoughts on this? Loved the tune you played on the piano by the way. What was it called?
Uncle John: I love that Hayden from Pink Eye Club just throws me in the mix. It seems to work. I find it daunting when I’m at sound check and these young bands just get up and play. But once I’m up there it’s my world too. I wanted to throw in a piano section this time. It’s such a confidence booster as I’m not a great player but enough to get by. The song was called The One. It’s probably the next to get some production going.
What compromises have you had to make for your musical career and is there anything that you’ve decided not to do in order to protect your artistic integrity?
Uncle John: I’m such a songwriter that wants to write big long pieces. I adore a five minute plus track from singers and bands that I love. I fully enter their world. But it’s about no more than three minutes now. Some songs I hear are like two and half minutes long. In order to get rolling I’ve compromised that way for now but I feel what I have put out so far still is true to my sound and style and there’s always a narrative there.
It’s amazing how much can be put into three mins, and let’s face it, strict economy in pop music often serves the immediacy of the piece better in the long run, especially live. What do you find you have to let go of structure wise in order to make the grade? I imagine intros and outros?
Uncle John: Yep, I love a long outro but my middle sections – can’t call them middle eights – would go off somewhere else or just build musically. I’ve got this song called ‘Alone’ and it feels like a demented zombie circus has come to town. It’s a few years old now but I still love it.
Demented zombie circus? Sign me up! Before closing this mini interview, do list three major happenings in your career thus far that you’re especially proud of.
Uncle John: I’m still blown away that I’m able to write music – it’s like an eternal revelation. There’s my relationship with Jessica (Winter), so humbling to work with my niece – she’s super talented and it makes me proud to have this special musical connection. And to finally have a professional visual to go with Ground Zero – the song is one of my favourites – it is important to me to who I am today as a fifty two year old gay man and to have this pulled together in a visual that is so strong and emotional is a beautiful thing. It’s a statement piece of work.
Wonderful sentiments. Thank you for being so open in this interview.
Uncle John: Xxxx
‘Ground Zero’ is out now (via Bandcamp and other sharing platforms).
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