Having fought drug addiction, in band romantic troubles, bitter critics and Nazi death threats, Jon McClure is subject to as much torment as the main character of a Mel Gibson film.
Well, deciding that all of that wasn’t enough, his latest album, A French Kiss In The Chaos has seen the politically driven songwriter from Sheffield taking on social apathy, commercialised culture and sensationalist media while getting rave reviews at the same time.
“There are a few reasons for that,” he tells me in his scrappy accent, a twinkle in his eye. “Firstly, I’ve made a better record, which helps,” he laughs. “And the other thing is that the way the world’s going, the things I’ve been saying over the past few years match the sort of rhetoric of the times more than the first album did if you know what I mean. I feel like the guy who wears a sweater for ten years then all of a sudden it’s fashionable, like the world’s done all the work.”
McClure has long been an outspoken voice in the fight against the commercialisation of popular culture, and has quite specific views on where we went wrong as a society.
“Ever since The Strokes, who I really liked, there’s been like an era of vacuous fuckin haircuts. You know they travel halfway round the world to play in Australia and stand there like that, like they don’t even want to fuckin’ be there. Well fuck you man, what a shit way to be.”
“But the bands who ‘ave followed The Strokes are the real problem. They’re all beautiful looking, kind of, but the problem is that these people haven’t said anything about anything, they’ve stood for nothing.”
“One of the people I’m going to visit later in the year is Hugo Chavez, the President of Venuzuela, a fuckin genius man. He’s got a saying ‘it’s not merely enough to look like a revolutionary, you have to be one.’ So there’s a little bit of a sea change coming where people are like ‘you know what I don’t want to just stand there and look pretty, I want to stand for something, to mean something, to do something.”
And do something he has. Fed up with the bullshit of our celebrity obsessed society, McClure along with Tom Clarke (The Enemy), Carl Barat (Dirty Pretty Things), Drew McConnell (Babyshambles) and other friends offer fans the chance to host a gig in their own homes all in return for pinning celebrities, asking them tough questions and recording their stupid answers.
“They film it on their mobile and send it over on the laptop, we’re using the very tools of venture capitalists against ‘em, we’re fucking ‘em with their own dildos, beating them with their own stick you know what I mean man.”
Only too well when it comes to the former I’m afraid.
“There’s nothing they can do man,” he continues. “Like if some journalist writes some bullshit racist headline, he’s going to get a hundred people at his office going ‘what the fuck d’you think you’re doing man.”
And it’s having an effect as McClure and his ideas gain recognition outside of the music world, even amongst royalty and academics.
“Even Prince Charles fuckin’ asked me to this Nobel Prize symposium to give a speech,” he tells me with a tone of surprise and pride. “So there’s 20 odd Nobel Prize winners and me, (laugh) and every single one of them came out with the same conclusion, ‘how can we do anything unless there’s a large constituent of people who want a change?’ And I’m saying, ‘force the agenda, start making people act responsibly.’”
But it’s not just positive attention that’s been coming Jon’s way from the world of diplomacy, corporate back scratching and the liberal exchange of fellatio that is modern politics.
“In Britain and Europe the Nazi party has a lot of power you know, they have a bunch of seats and stuff and I’ve had a load of death threats from them cos of the album and the response it’s been getting. You know I’ve had people ringing me house and all kinds of gnarly shit.”
“So I wrote this song called Manifesto/People Shapers which is about them giving me death threats. I mean I go out the back at every gig with a guitar, there are thousands of people around me, I could get jumped at any moment right, so it was fuckin’ scary man.”
What caused such a stir in the end though was all possible due to Jon’s obsession with using social networking sites as social awareness tools.
“I’m on Twitter right,” he tells me lighting up again, “and all these people are following me so I thought I’d leak this track online against the wishes of the record label and people went fuckin barmy man, and all these prime time TV shows were ringing me up and wanting me to come on as a guest.”
Successfully ‘Instigating Debate’ in the UK, Jon’s turning his sites on Australia to stir up discussion.
“I don’t want to come here like Gordon Ramsey and lecture you. More what I’m about is just telling you that you have the power in your own hands to do shit and not just accept bullshit. You know, we can make music that will mean something.”
“The worlds changing man, and music should be a part of it man, and the musicians of this world are starting to step up to the job again after we’ve been shying away from it for the past 20 years.”
“People have been afraid to be those people, the John Lennon’s, the Neil Young’s, the and I don’t think it’s that they don’t want to preach, it’s just that they don’t want to compromise their financial earnings. I mean you start saying some things, I mean I’ve been out there for the past four years, people calling me some nutter, and suddenly now they think I’m talking sense. But you start saying some of the things that I’ve said…” he pauses for a quiet laugh. “Let’s just say the people who hate me hate me deeply, and I think that’s more about them not wanting to risk losing money than anything else.”
Aside from dealing with resentment from the corporate and conservative worlds Jon also had to deal with his own personal issues in the making of A French Kiss In the Chaos.
“I got a bit fucked up during the making of the album on a personal level, cos the girl in the band, I went out with her, split up with her,” he explains matter of factly but with a faint hint of regret in his voice. “I went out with her, split up with her, went back out with my ex, went out with her again, got the death threats, and we took a lot more fuckin drugs and we lost a few members. So you mix all that stuff up and it’s pretty heady brew man.”
Indeed. But however heady the brew, Jon has downed it and had a shot of Tequila on the way out of the pub with the album stirring up a whole mess of praise.
“The response has been great, people calling me and saying it’s a work of genius and what not. I’ve never had that you know, I guess sometimes you just put your sword in the dirt and do your own thing and the world turns and you just catch it in the right place, which is sort of what’s happening now.”
“It’s like a fire, and sorry to use that analogy cos I know you guys have had a bit of a problem with fire recently but that’s what it is man. There’s a little bit of a thing bubbling here and I’d like to just stick a torch in it and leave a fire burning. This is the fucking time to do it man, everything is percolating.”
In the end though what’s most important and central to Jon’s mission to use an overly dramatic term, is the idea of bringing people together with music and instigating debate.
“It’s about a dialogue man, talk to everyone. Instigate debate. And that’s what’s so good about music it brings people together. I mean I can take it as far left field as I want, make it as psychedelic and political as I want, but in the end I love pop music man. Just plain simple good tunes. It’s like a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in the end you need to write some boss tunes to make people pay attention. Without that, all the politics and ideals is sort of meaningless, you need the music to bring the people together.”
A French Kiss In The Chaos will be out on July 31st on Wall Of Sound through Mushroom. Check out the band at myspace.com/reverendmusic, but most importantly check out instigatedebate.com and get the word from The Reverend and the crew.