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Percy Jones

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Percy Jones from 2014

You’ve had quite a career over the years. Are there any particular musical moments that stand out more than the rest for you?

Working with Brian Eno was very rewarding because he gave everybody a lot of freedom. That way of working was very unusual and very interesting. I think he got the best out of the musicians. So, it was always fun working with him and I think he got really good results. So, that was very rewarding. Brand X was something that was quite rewarding. The last couple records that came out weren’t – well, actually they came out without our knowledge.
MSJ: Really?
Yeah, I remember when Is There Anything About came out, I was living in Brooklyn at the time. Somebody said to me, “there’s a new Brand X record out.” So, I bought a copy because nobody sent me one, and it was disappointing. I think I gave it away. I don’t think they liked it either.
MSJ: If you weren't involved in music what do you think you'd be doing?
Probably something in the electronics field. I studied electronics engineering when I was younger, but I’ve never really studied music. So, my academic knowledge of music is pretty poor.
MSJ: So, do you use the electronic engineering knowledge in your music?
Oh yes, so it wasn’t a waste of time.
MSJ: Who would you say are your biggest musical influences in terms of bass playing?
Well, Charles Mingus was a very big influence. I first heard him when I was about 19, I think. I was playing in a band  called “The Liverpool Scene” and we were playing at the Roundhouse. On the PA they were playing this jazz stuff. I didn’t know who it was so, I asked the saxophone player and he said it was Charles Mingus.  So, I started getting hold of some of his records. In fact, this saxophone player had a few of his records that he loaned me. So, I started really getting into Charles Mingus. So, he was a very big influences. There are several upright players that I really like, even though I don’t play upright. Well, I have played one, but very badly. Upright players have been a big influence, probably more than electric players actually. I know that sounds a bit strange.
MSJ: So, it doesn’t translate that well going from electric to upright?.
No, I mean I started on electric bass, on fretted bass. It’s a very different technique to upright. So, I’ve always had an admiration of guys who are very good on both – like Stanley Clarke. He’s very adept at both – and John Patitucci.
MSJ: But you play fretless electric bass, so it still doesn’t translate?
Well, the right  hand techniques are quite different – well, in my case, anyway. The right hand technique on an electric doesn’t translate very well to an upright. That’s why I have difficulty. Probably if I worked at it, maybe I could get very good at it. I owned an upright when I lived in England. I bought an old second hand one that had a crack in it. I bought if for like next to nothing. When I moved to the US, it wasn’t worth shipping it. So, I haven’t played one since.
MSJ: What musical projects do you have on the horizon now?
I’ve got a band, well, it’s two varieties of the same thing. It’s called “MJ12” and the core of it is myself and drummer Steve Moses. And then we have a small core of musicians that we call on for different gigs – Dave Phelps on guitar and two horn players that we use, Chris Bacas (who played with Buddy Rich for quite some time) and Mike McGinnis (another really good saxophone player. We use a theremin player, Jack Warren and also a vocalist Aubrey Smith. Those are the people we usually work with. We use different combinations on different gigs. It’s a very loose framework. We’ve got quite a lot of stuff worked out, but we can always go into something unknown so there’s a lot of improv. It’s nice to think that we can go anywhere – we can go different places from one night to the next to keep things fresh. So, I really enjoy it. I have a lot of fun doing it.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought?
I haven’t bought a CD in years. I honestly can’t remember what the last one I bought was. It was years ago. I get given CDs. That last one that was given to me was Graham Collier, the British upright player, which I still haven’t listened to. It’s sitting on a pile here.

What have you been listening to lately?

Not much at all, really. I always make recordings of our gigs and then I sit back and listen to them. Not out of any kind of vanity, but just to get more ideas.
MSJ: Kind of like an athlete watching the game tapes, right?

Yeah, exactly. It’s like doing the post-mortem. These things didn’t work and these things did work.

MSJ: What was the last concert you saw for your own enjoyment?
The last concert I saw was Magma in New York. It was very good. 
MSJ: Are there any closing thoughts you’d like to get out there?
Only to let people know that I’m still playing. I still play and I’m still trying to be creative
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2014  Volume 2 at
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