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Progressive Rock Interviews

IQ

Interviewed by Josh Turner

Interview with John Jowitt of IQ From 2009

MSJ:

This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Do you have any tours or concerts lined up at the moment? 

We’re playing RoSfest with Frost* in May. Sadly that clashes with the Blind Ego dates, so I can’t play those. We’re also setting up a series of dates for iQ. I think there may be at least one show with Caamora too - more please!

MSJ:
You’ve been a staple of RoSfest. We missed you that year you didn’t show.

John Jowitt I played RoSfest last year, but missed the previous year. I had been asked along to play a few numbers with Starcastle, but sadly that clashed with some IQ dates. As well as RoSfest with Frost*, I understand that IQ are playing the Minnuendo Festival in Spain and 3RP.

MSJ:
Speaking of RoSfest, I recall those crazy striped pants you were wearing in the inaugural year. Where did you get them from and why were you compelled to wear them that night? Is there a story behind them?
Well, I always like to dress up for Jadis gigs! I found them in a mall in Philadelphia, the King of Prussia, and thought, oh yes! As someone said, life’s much too important to take it seriously!
MSJ:
You’ve been appearing in so many bands these days: Jadis, iQ, Arena, Frost, Blind Ego, and Neo to name a few. What would you consider your home band these days?

 I always said IQ was my heart. Different bands have been my head. IQ is a wonderful band, but plays such a few gigs. I love playing live, so I go out with anyone who’ll have me! That’s a hint, by the way…

MSJ:
Tell me about any significant musicians that have influenced your playing. Do Chris Squire and Tony Levin make the list?
Every other bass player too, I guess! I met Chris Squire when I was playing for John Wetton. I knew I was going to make a twit of myself, but I had to say hello. So I took a deep breath, went up to him and said, “Sorry to bother you Chris, but 25 years ago I heard you play and that made me want to become a bass player.” He said “And did you…?” Ah, fame! Not all it’s cracked up to be!
MSJ:
That’s hilarious. In terms of the new wave of players, who impresses you most? Jonas Reingold maybe?

Jonas is a tremendous player. There are so many good players out there. Lee Pomeroy with It Bites is great. I also like Squarepusher a lot. But there are so many out there, and you can learn a bit from everyone.


I think bass players are generally less competitive than guitarists or drummers; it’s our job to hold everything together, to make that link between the melody and the rhythm in the band. So if you start going, “Me! Me! Me!” you lose something, I think. If you get someone on bass trying to be Yngwie, you generally think “that’s great,” but you still need a proper bass player!’ That’s probably why I go for the loud trousers instead!
MSJ:
You’re funny but I have a serious request. Please explain your songwriting process.

 Usual stuff, I guess, noodling on an instrument or inspiration out of the blue that you then try to remember and record ASAP. I much prefer working with other people and bouncing ideas off them.

MSJ: What else we can expect from the studio?

Expect nothing from the studio. It’s a place of pain and regret! I have never left a studio without thinking a few minutes later “course, what I could have done is…”

MSJ:
Ha. Funny and insightful, but I have to keep with this thread. Do you have any plans for a solo album? That would be awesome.

Definitely on the cards for this year. I don’t think there are any real writing plans for this year. So I plan to learn how my Logic system works and get some stuff down. I thoroughly enjoyed doing the Dirtbox album with Mark Westwood about ten years ago, but it pretty much confused a lot of people! This one should be more “oh, I get it..!”

MSJ:
Any plans in the works for live albums or DVDs?

I’d love to do a live Frost* album at some point soon. The songs live are very different to the studio versions, so I think that deserves an airing.

MSJ:
I can only imagine and would love to hear them live. Are you in any other projects these days aside from what's been mentioned?

Well, I have been asked to do some recording with two projects that I can’t tell you about yet; so we’ll see what comes of those….

MSJ:
You can bet I’ll be looking out for those. Had you ever considered playing a different instrument or pursuing a different career?

I started as a trumpeter, loved Louis Armstrong. My first son is called Louis, and yes, he is the spitting image of his namesake.

MSJ:
I tell people I don’t play an instrument, but I too played the trumpet years ago. Wanted to be a drummer but got my brother’s trumpet instead. Going back to the beginning, how did you get involved in music?

My sisters loved The Beatles - teenage girls growing up, constantly with the record player on. I think that was formative, but now I can’t stand The Beatles. I reckon too much too young! My Dad loved classical music and jazz, which I still do. With the trumpet, I got into the school orchestra, and enjoyed playing as part of an ensemble, and went from there.

 

MSJ:
When did you decide you wanted to be a bassist and join a band?

Well, probably the first time I heard Fragile. I originally had a Kay SG copy, but the only band in my year at school needed a bass player. So I took the top two strings off and used that! I then bought a horrible, horrible Precision copy from a catalogue.

 

MSJ:
The new Frost* album is phenomenal by the way. What songs did you help write and were your contributions lyrical, conceptual, or strictly instrumental?

Thanks very much. No contributions whatsoever to the album; a few to the way we play them live. Jem is very certain about what he wants from his music.

MSJ:
What is the title “Experiments in Mass Appeal” alluding to? Does it mean something specific or is it just a flashy name?
One for Jem, but my take on it is his problems with the music biz. As you probably know, he’s a phenomenally successful songwriter. He’s sold in the region of 6 million singles. But as a writer on call, it’s always a difficult balance between art and commerce.
MSJ:
What is a “Pocket Sun?”
“Pocket Sun” is a song about a man who finds the window to his room is a time machine - very prog. He has a great time going back, picking up the paper from the future, winning the lottery with his information, etc, till one day he goes back in time and finds the window locked shut.
MSJ:
Can’t say I picked that up on several listens. I’ll have to go back to it right away. Along the same lines, what is being sung about in “Saline?”

Tears.

MSJ:
“Dear Dead Days” is a cool song too. How much of that was fleshed out ahead of time and what parts were developed after you got into the studio? It’s hard to imagine how its intricate parts came together. Can you shed some light on this one?

Yes, I like that a lot. I have a demo of that going back to August 2007. It’s pretty much all there. The changes came about in the arrangement.

MSJ:
Where is that “Wonderland” being referenced in the last song?
t’s a reference to something you think is wonderful that doesn’t quite turn out that way; but sometimes you have to carry on pretending it still is, for the sake of appearances or whatever.
MSJ:
On a side note, I wanted to touch upon the others who contributed to the Mirror album. How do you know these musicians – especially those chaps from RPWL - and how did you get involved in that project?
Blame George Roldan! We met at RoSfest, going to and from the airport and chatting in the van – have you ever noticed that Yogi Lang is the German Gary Chandler?

 

MSJ:
Actually, I did.
Later the following year I was asked to play a gig with Arena in Germany where RPWL supported, and Kalle asked me after the show.
MSJ:
What’s your take on the artwork for Experiments and Mirror?
I like them both – With Mirror, I’ve always liked orange, and I think the rubber sheet look works really well. For EiMA, the asterisk is iconic – you can use it anywhere and it looks great in so many versions, and it doesn’t necessarily look like a band logo unless you know about Frost* - it’s just a great image.
MSJ:
I totally agree… When I ask this next question, it makes most artists scratch their head… Can you tell me about a Spinal Tap moment that you may have experienced in your career? I assume you have plenty of stories. Feel free to share a few or at least a very juicy one.

No, no idea what you mean. Nothing like that has ever happened to me…

MSJ:
I’ll save you the trouble and segue into some questions that may relate. What's the worst part about being a musician?
To me, it’s the so near and so far part of it. A bad day as a musician is a better day than anything else, and I’ve been so lucky in the bands and musicians I’ve played with but so often there’s been fabulous opportunities where just one person in the band has said “nah,” and that’s it. There’s nothing you can do. You are literally only as strong as the weakest link.
MSJ:
Good way of putting it. On the brighter side of things, what’s the best fan interaction you’ve had to date? I am a huge fan of yours, but this interview doesn’t count.
I bet you say that to all the boys…

 

MSJ:
Actually, I don’t but let’s stop the double entendre right there.
Seriously, it’s one of the best things about playing in a band; getting to meet new people and old friends. That’s one of the reasons why I love RoSfest. It’s such a lot of fun. On stage, the best response ever was Frost* at The Peel in London this December. Packed, sweaty, everyone going mental and singing every word, and singing along with the instrumentals too! - phenomenal.
MSJ:
Now I know I have to see you guys live before somebody says “nah.” Anyhow, I'd like to find out about your current musical tastes… What's the last CD that you purchased?
That would be I Know You’re Married But I Have Feelings Too by Martha Wainwright.
MSJ:
Interesting selection. What's the last concert that you attended as a fan?

Well I should have gone to see Killing Joke last October, but that didn’t happen. I’m off to see King’s X next week. And a couple of weeks thereafter, I’m off to see the very wonderful Magazine – they’ve reformed for a handful of gigs. Don’t know if they ever did anything in the States, but I order you to go and buy Play immediately. Trust your Uncle John.

MSJ:
I always appreciate recommendations from artists. I'd like to find out some of your favorites… What is your favorite album of all-time? Is there any CD or tape for that matter that you've worn out?

Eek. I wore out New Boots and Panties (the album, not the clothes) by Ian Dury, learning to play the bass - Normn Watt Roy – great player.

MSJ:
Who is your all-time favorite band?
Lordy Momma. Favourite band changes every week, sometimes more often. For sheer consistency, I’d have to say Rush
MSJ:
Let's talk about some favorites that aren't necessarily related to music… What is your favorite movie?

 Pulp Fiction. Came in from rehearsal one day, made a cup of tea, sat down to drink it just as it was starting. Got lost in it.

MSJ:
What is your favorite TV show?

“The IT Crowd.” Catch it, great comedy

MSJ:
Do you have a favorite book?

Two. Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd and Weaveworld by Clive Barker. Neil Gaiman is also very good, in my humble opinion.

MSJ:
Are you a sports fan - in general - and if so, who are your favorite teams?
I like typical English sport, and consider you should support your local team; not the one you think is any good. My local soccer team, as you call it, is Birmingham City. Dreadful, awful team, but I’ll support them until they stick me in a box. Cricket – Warwickshire, not bad. Rugby – Moseley (who?)

I do like watching American Football on the telly. I like the technical aspect of it. But why do the call it “football?”

MSJ:
No idea. I like to ask this question, because it helps me to identify with the artist, but do you have any pets and if you don’t, please name something you’d like to have?
I do have pets - currently five cats and a dog. I’d like to have a nice meal…and a beer…and a new bass…
MSJ:
I can totally relate. Before we wrap up, is there anything you'd like to say to your fans at this time?
Yes. I’d say “fancy a beer?”
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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