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Edgar Jones Interview – Liverpool, September 2019
First of all how are you today Edgar?
EJ I’m very well today thank you.
So let’s go back to the very early stages of The La’s. Do you have any memories of some of the bands linked to The La’s. Lee was in Neuklon?
EJ Yeah I remember these tapes they used to do it was “Cracking Up At The Pyramid”. A cassette of bands that played the same venue. I was aware of a Neuklon track on that like, He was playing bass wasn’t he.
There were The Cherry Boys too. Boo’s band?
EJ Oh right yeah. Of course Kardomah Cafe? I was kind of aware but I didn’t see those things forming The La’s. By the time I came to The La’s they were fully formed.
Do you remember Marshmallow Overcoat?
EJ Barry’s band yeah. I was aware of all these.
What is your first recollection of The La’s?
EJ I think it was at Alan Will’s house. This was long before Deltasonic. This was when we were potheads all hanging out. He was one of the older potheads I was one of the youngest (laughs). I think him and Paul Cavanagh had maybe been asked to have a go at making sense of Lee’s Leeisms. Cos everyone got a go. I got a go for a bit (laughs). He was just playing the Attic demos. I just thought they were great. I think I missed The World Downstairs gig. I saw them at Sevvy Park and then another World Downstairs gig. They blew me away. Id just started discovering the plethora of songwriters that have been my love and respect for the rest of my life. I’d discovered The Monkees, so I had become aware of the songwriter like Goffin and King, Leiber and Stoller. I just thought Lee had that good writing, but he was a member of a young band rather than a studio producer or something like that. I just fell immediately in love with them. As most people do.”
Were you aware of Lee or any other of the members before they came together?
EJ Not really. I just happened to be on the YTS scheme where they recorded.
The same one that John was on?
EJ Yeah yeah. A bit later on obviously. I was kind of brought in as one of the ones who was better at using the studio. One of the better young engineers when they came in to record the album. Which didn’t come off in the end. I kind of got to meet them during that period.
Did you get to many of their early gigs?
EJ Whenever I could. They were starting to grow then. I was a bit late in the game. They were starting to bring the records out just as I was getting to see them.
Any standout ones?
EJ They all stand out don’t they. That’s the trouble with The La’s (laughs).
They say about Sefton Park that The Stone Roses were there as goths, saw The La’s and saw them as ordinary lads on stage and thought they could go down that route as well.
EJ They weren’t completely goths. I definitely think there was a thing with that. More look wise than music wise. One of the things that I loved about Lee was that he was closed off. He was blinkered to what everyone else was doing and was “what do I wanna do?” Where The Stone Roses were completely contemporary and looking round themselves all the time. If anyone wants a difference between The La’s and The Stone Roses then that’s a big one (laughs). You know not even a good or a bad thing just a difference. One probably works better commercially (laughs).
In terms of yourself and The Stairs were you influenced or led on by what The La’s were doing?
EJ Oh definitely. They were helping to keep my song writing a little more grounded. Looking back at my stuff from that period that I prefer is the more grounded stuff. Or maybe the wilder stuff with more grounded riffs (laughs) Like “Back Of Your Mind”. It’s not grounded but the riff is (laughs).
I was listening to Mexican R & B on the way here. The recent extended version. I can hear some similarities. The bounciness of some of the tracks.
EJ Yeah, I was probably leaning towards The Kinks as well. Like “Out In The Country”. There was a silly thing where I was playing a lot of riffs where I bounced notes off the bottom string and erm……Lee was doing that as well (laughs)
So obviously The Stairs were on Go! Discs as well. The La’s relationship with Go! Is well documented and their strained relationships following scrapped album sessions……
EJ Yeah people see that as a bad thing. A bad relationship. People forget that it’s a good relationship for The La’s not to have something put out that you’re not happy with. Eventually that relationship will have been tainted when something did come out and it wasn’t wanted.
They were patient, weren’t they?
EJ Yeah, they were to a degree.
So the relationship with Go! Discs and The Stairs. Was that always good?
EJ It was on and off. We didn’t get a key man clause in our deal which stopped things rolling on a number of occasions. The fella that originally signed is was Chas from Madness. When Madness reformed our album was coming out, he went you see. It was very up and down we would get another man onside and then he’d leave. I think it was the second or third time that this happened that we thought we need to cut the umbilical cord on this one (laughs).
So we have touched on the album itself. It is massively debated in terms of how it sounds. The BBC Sessions has just come out on vinyl which is rawer and probably the sound Lee wanted……
EJ Are the Janice ones on there?
Yeah, they are.
EJ Excellent. There is some great stuff on there.
What is your take on the Go! Discs released album and how that sounds?
EJ I quite like it. Its obviously very Steve Lillywhite. I think when you listen to a lot of stuff from that year or the two or three years surrounding it its not a bad sounding record. It’s not a terrible sounding record. Maybe it doesn’t have some of the heirs and graces that I’d like it to have but you know I’m a clever imaginative chap and I can make that up for myself (laughs) while I’m listening (laughs). Shame everyone else can’t. A good angle though is it was nice to have all those songs together and you didn’t have to keep changing the tapes (laughs). You could play all Lee’s songs without having to change the tape.
The first time I heard the album I was blown away as I think most people are. My interest grew and I started to read articles and books on the band and you find out about Lee striving for perfectionism……
EJ So did you hear the demos later then? Cos that is a different angle isn’t it? Cos with me I heard the demos and then the album so there was sort of this “oh that’s different”. There wasn’t anything that made me go “ughr!” (laughs)
I suppose I haven’t thought about it like that. Different generations will see it in a completely different way. If you’re hearing the band coming up, you’re hearing the demos and the live takes then you hear the album but for me it was hearing the album then hearing all those demos and different versions has been great for me. I can see how people might want that rawer sound that Lee wanted but if you didn’t know the back story and heard it……I think it’s just a great album.
EJ Yeah yeah absolutely la.
So top three songs from it?
EJ (Pauses)… Definitely Looking Glass. I think everyone says that. Son Of A Gun has always gotta be in there. That was my initial…. the first song I ever heard both on tape and live cos they started with it live. Third…I’m gonna say Freedom Song cos again that was in the first four songs that I heard. I think Doledrum and Callin’ All were the others.”
So would Looking Glass be your number one?
EJ Yeah it is a great song of Lee’s. Musically and lyrically. It has got everything apart from you can’t really get a dance on with it (laughs).
They are one of those bands with amazing b sides too.
EJ Yeah, he is a brilliant song writer Lee.
So how do you come to be involved with Lee and The La’s?
EJ It was partly through the training thing really and we would say hello from that point onwards. Occasional conversations over the years at Stairs gigs and there was a couple of times we played with The La’s. A couple of London gigs.
How may times did you play with them?
EJ Not that often funnily enough. They had Joycer on board when we did play with them. John had gone off to form Cast. So Joycer was playing bass. It was the Joycer and Cami line up. Possibly Neil on the drums. Very different from the band that I fell in love with. They were cutting it live but they weren’t you know what I mean?
So what was your favourite line up?
EJ The one that was putting the records out really. Timmo, Paul, John and Lee. Nothing against any of the others when they did come along. I suppose it was my first take on it.
Were the gigs you did together Go! Discs nights?
EJ Yeah Go! Discs things. I think they were London but can’t remember. Stairs supporting The La’s. Through the years I would bump into them. I think it was as much instigated by Andy MacDonald that I did actually join them for a while. Word had got round that The Stairs had split up. I think Lee was interested. I think Andy liked to put someone not from Huyton in the band whenever he could (laughs). Or not get in the band and pretend they’re from Huyton like Barry Sutton did (laughs).
So is it around 95-96 when you come to be involved as a member?
EJ I think it was around that time. It was about a year. They were living in London at the time and it was the year that led towards the end, so it wasn’t the finest time for them. Cami had been estranged as the guitarist and a young guitarist had been brought in. Lee Garnett. He hardly ever got up to play so it was hard to rate what he was doing. He seemed to know what he was doing when he was sitting down playing.
Was it ever explained why Cami played bass because what I’ve read is that Cami is a really respected guitarist?
EJ Yeah, I think it was one of those things were Cami had a bit of resignation by that point. Lee had got to the point where he had got a little more metaphysical than ever before. He has kind of been left to it for a while. He was wanting to cause a oneness for humanity, but it had to go through him, or it wasn’t gonna happen you know (laughs). We all have a frustration with Lee. He was always driving towards this oneness for humanity, but he has got such a Nazi way of going about it. It’s already there. We are all one, but we just don’t realise it and a La’s album is not going to make that difference. We all get in so much shit that we’ve not got another way out is the only way (laughs). I think Lee thought that when there was a new member it was kind of like “this is it!” Over playing every hand with a hope of some magic happening.
I always wondered that as John had always been that constant for Lee in the band, when he went did Lee put Cami on to bass as that constant as Cami was a relatively long-term member?
EJ Ah right yeah yeah thinking about that I probably took Cami’s chair. I didn’t realise that.
Am I right in thinking that when you join the line up is you, Lee, Neil and Lee Garnett on guitar?
EJ Yeah as I saw they were very far down the line. Everything was complicated. Family was complicated. The band was complicated. Neil and Lee’s dynamic was complicated and Lee’s behaviour. He was still writing stuff, but it was a slow process. You were so thankful when something happened. There wasn’t enough playing. I fell into a lazy side of myself. I had to stop myself going mad. There was a big lack of urgency.
At that stage was it the same songs or album songs you were doing?
EJ We had started to work on new stuff. A few like “I Know” was played a lot and “Raindance” was played a lot.
Was Fishing Net played?
EJ Yeah that was an earlier tune that we picked up every now and again but when we were playing through them,they didn’t have a beginning and an end. A lot of them didn’t have a middle eight. So, you would just be playing around verses and choruses. Sometimes for over like half an hour. It was trying to get the feeling right. It was a strange way of working and new to me. I was just glad to be doing some playing whenever we did. I hadn’t played outside any Liverpool bands at that point, but I had been in professional situations. Playing to do a job. The ethic that I got from that just wasn’t applicable (laughs).
It must have been great for you though as a fan to joinand be part of it?
EJ It was yeah. It was hard though because it all felt a bit bourgeois at the same time (laughs). You know people going hungry and working all week while we were getting paid for doing fuck all (laughs).
What did you make of John’s bass parts?
EJ I thought they were a winner. I’m not sure if he wrote them all or if Lee wrote them most of the time. I think Doledrum is definitely a Lee bass line. The parts that I had to play that were already written were fine for me. The only one I ever messed around with was Come In Come Out. It was like a guitar strum, so I changed it into…I gave it a very Latin bassline that it deserved. I can’t remember what it is now.
Are any of these takes recorded anywhere?
EJ They are yeah but they were constantly recorded over. It was a lack of tape that we had at the time. It was mostly for instant listening back gratification.
So in 96 you go to London to start recording. Is it the album that Lee is looking to do?
EJ Yeah, we had an engineer and everything mic’d up at the studio. At first, we were at somewhere kind of on the road to Brighton. Eventually we move up to Kew Bridge. Rat Scabies’ place and living out of different studio accommodation like The Manor and one in Acton. They were all placed that I had stayed before with McCulloch which was a bit weird (laughs). Yeah, we moved into Rat Scabies’ gaff and we had the same situation with the control room always ready to record. Nothing was hardly ever going down because the arguments could go on for days sometimes and I was usually going home once a fortnight to see my daughter as well. It was a strange time.
Am I right in thinking that it ends with an issue at the studio? A damp issue or flooding I read?
EJ Ooh I don’t know! How I saw the end was people going home gradually one by one. The arguments between Lee and Neil came to such a head that Neil went home and said he wasn’t coming back. I think Lee Garnett being close to Neil shied away at that point and I remember there being a week or so with just me and Lee and the manager then saying “I think we need to call time on this we can’t really take this any further with just the two of you”. That to me was the end of the line. I wasn’t aware of anything going on with the studio. That might have been a factor as well.
Information on the internet suggests that there was a long period of time where you and Lee were recording together?
EJ No it kind of ended in London my last to dos with Lee were in London. Id have loved that though (laughs).
Are there any Jones/Mavers tracks out there?
EJ No. The nearest we got was a recording I did when Lee was out. It was hard to approach Lee with a song anyway. With the way he was going and the things we were doing if I’m writing a song in a band, I want it to be completely focused. I never got the chance to sit down and focus on it. There’s a version knocking about of I’m Bored. I think it’s on The Great Lemonade Machine In The Sky and the Cherry Red thing. It’s the first version that I basically did on Lee’s equipment while he was out at the shop (laughs) Hence why it’s so jumpy and the drums are all over the show. I had five minutes to do it you know (laughs).
It’s a shame because I always wonder what a combination of you two would have sounded like.
EJ Yeah had it had chance to settle down, but Lee wasn’t thinking that way. I would have loved to have done that, but I didn’t have the nerve to ask (laughs).
So the rumours on Lee’s recording techniques……did you ever see anything like that?
EJ Yeah tuning up could take a long time. There was a belief in a certain pitch setting you free. I was half on board and wanted to believe. I think a lot of them things have happened. It’s probably because we were only smoking weed when I was involved (laughs). Some of the wilder things didn’t manifest. They weren’t charged enough to manifest (laughs).
What did you make of Neil as a drummer?
EJ Ah I loved Neil as a drummer. Without getting all gay with it he is the best-looking drummer. I used to love watching him. Paul Maguire is the best drummer. Neil is the best to watch (laughs). Paul really likes Neil’s drumming. He is quite unique and really smooth. He is James Brown influenced but then he will just pull Keith Moon out within James Brown. Drumming wise those things are like almost polar opposites. Neil is one of the few people that can marry the funk and rock n’ roll. In a nice way. It’s kind of Chicagoey rather than fusiony, but he can’t hit them as hard as Paul Maguire (laughs).
There is another rumour that Lee made Neil play a certain way and left-handed.
These things have happened. It was a similar one with my nephew (Nick Miniski) where he got made to play standing up. I suppose I have just been lucky I’ve not seen Lee at his worst (laughs).
So that wasn’t his choice?
EJ Nah not really just a fad of Lee’s at the time. I think the logic to it was that he used to stand behind people and show them the parts and probably thought it sounds better when I’m doing that, so you stand up then (laughs).
Was Lee a fan of The Stairs?
EJ Err yeah, I think so there was this extreme Huytoness and a bit of tongue and cheek to liking us (laughs). Cos we were totally sixties. I think he liked it. I think one day he said “Yous are boss but it’s like a jester” (laughs).
Did you ever talk about shared influences?
EJ Err yeah. I mean I was a bit of a licking stick for the band being a bit different. I’d bring music. I was heavily into blue note at the time and some of it they’d completely take the piss, or they’d completely be in awe of it depending on the day. What level of joviality we were working on at the time (laughs) I didn’t mind that. You go in to a thick of thieves’ society from outside and it’s not gonna play out any other way.
Do you look back on that time fondly?
EJ Yeah. Frustrating but I remember it fondly.
When you came into the band was there a sense of insecurity because there had been so many line up changes?
EJ No not really. I was lucky til that point in my life and a few years beyond in that I was headhunted and asked to do things. So, when you are asked to do something rather than asking there is a certain confidence. I was just made up that I was getting a go. Secretly all of us La’s fans would like to play an instrument in the band.
So when your time comes to an end Lee goes on to work with the lads who later became The Crescent..
EJ Oh okie dokie. I would bump into him a couple of times a year and it would be like “How’s it going?” No real conversation. I think it happens with a lot of people that leave The La’s. It’s never an experience you wholeheartedly want to return to. You remember it fondly, but you don’t want to live through that again if you know what I mean. You kind of lose interest in what Lee’s up to next. You’ve been around him so long waiting that you kind of lose interest (laughs). But there is a beauty to the music that never sees the light of day.
La’s fans are always scratching around YouTube listening to bits and takes of new songs just hoping that one day we will hear them properly. Some of the “new” songs are amazing.
EJ The thing with Lee is that he records on cassette a lot of time and then listens back to them off the said cassette (laughs).
Are you in contact with Lee, John or any other members?
EJ I haven’t seen him for ages la. I’m still nervous around him. There’s still that sixteen-year-old hearing The La’s for the first time living inside of me. I get nervous when I see Lee (laughs).
How do you see The La’s legacy on the city and music generally?
EJ It’s a shame for the city that it never happened to the scale that a lot of us know the possibilities of it happening to a big large degree you know. I think the days of being Beatles and Stones were kind of over, but they could have made as much noise as The Roses easily if he had played the game right. I suppose in terms of musical legacy it has gritted our teeth a little bit. Although it is mostly down to Lee not playing the game right, we sort of look at it like we did something fucking you know collectively. We were cheeky for a minute and we owned The La’s. We did something marvellous there and the world wasn’t interested. It makes you grit your teeth a little bit…. but when you have a little bit of background knowledge (laughs) it changes that scene a little bit. There is a degree of that. It’s helped us grit our teeth and get on with it.
From the music that has come out of Liverpool where would you put The La’s?
EJ Below The Beatles but above Jimmy Campbell. Above The Bunnymen too. I mean The Bunnymen probably reached out to more people per se but that’s how you reach out you keep putting stuff out. It grows. There is a finite reception that you can get from one album bands. There’s a fair bit of it about. Imagine if Beefheart had made one album! (laughs) They’d have six fans instead of the twelve (laughs).
Were you a fan of Cast?
EJ Not so much. With Cast we got to hear the material very early on. Even before John had left The La’s he did a few gigs back home with like Sandstorm and stuff like that.
Any new bands I should know about?
EJ I’ve been a bit slack lately and in catching them. I’m always one to plug the lads that back me up. Peach Fuzz.
Ah yeah, I saw them support The Vryll Society
EJ Oh right yeah. When they do that stuff live it makes a lot more sense to me. It’s a great little gang of players. Definitely two writers in the band. Whether together or apart I see three of them really doing things with their lives whether its Peach Fuzz or whatever. I’m excited as much about this bunch of young lads doing some good stuff and being capable of more. I’ve had my head buried in the past five years trying to catch up on for want of a better word Northern Soul. Coming from Liverpool we never really had a strong dance floor. Being a bass player some of the best bass players are soul players. My entry into soul was through the bass players. About five years ago I started caring more about the records they were playing on in the Northern scene. Especially the early sixties big studio labels and sometimes the smaller studios cos it’s so fucking dirty and alive. Knowing as much about that as I possibly can is the big pain in the arse for me at times! (laughs).