Jon Poole Interview 2009
© Photo by Trudi Knight
Jon Poole: “I like some incredibly embarrasing stuff from the 80’s”
Jon Poole joined Cardiacs in 1994 as second guitarist, replacing Christian ‘Bic’ Hayes. Meanwhile he continued his solo projects, such as his Frank Zappa tribute album Mothers Covers (later renamed What’s The Ugliest Part Of Your Body?) on which he performed a surprisingly accurate rendition of old Mothers of Invention songs using only voice, guitars, Yamaha DX7 synthesizer and primitive drum machine. He also played with the band Ablemesh, re-inventing many of their songs.
In parallel with his Cardiacs work, Jon began to work with Wildhearts leader Ginger in 2000, playing on the Black Leather Mojo album and as bass player in the lineup of the Silver Ginger 5 band. Poole joined The Wildhearts in 2002 to replace the ailing Danny McCormack on bass, and left Cardiacs altogether in 2004.
When The Wildhearts split up again in 2005, Poole created the band God Damn Whores around himself as lead vocalist and guitarist, although he continued to play as part of Ginger’s band Ginger & The Sonic Circus and on Ginger’s solo acoustic tours from time to time.
Can you tell me something about the Frank Zappa tribute cd you made ? When did you get the idea to make this album?
I have been a huge Zappa fan ever since I got introduced to the music by my ex brother-in law who told me I needed educating and showed me a concert from (I think) Halloween 1981. It was the line-up that Steve Vai, Tommy Mars, Ed Mann etc played in.
My first thought was “They sound like they’re making it up as they go along but how can they be when they’re doing it in unison?!”
I was instantly hooked and gradually went through the process of collecting his albums, some of which I instantly loved and some that I didn’t to start with but did later on.
Initialy I wasn’t really too keen on the early mothers stuff and it wasn’t until around 1991 that I suddenly “got it”.
Then I became obsessed with this era of Zappa just coz it really tested me. It’s not the best played stuff and it’s sometimes an excrutiatingly hard listen but I grew to love it’s charm. It’s ugly as fuck but that’s great as I find beautiful perfection repellent.
When Uncle Frank died in 1993 I lost it big time. I must’ve been like one of those embarrasing Elvis fanatics that couldn’t imagine a world with him not in it.
I do still feel that way at times but I digress.
Being only 23 years old when hit with this hammer I decided in a very obsessive manner that I simply MUST pay tribute to the man the only way I knew how.
I set out to stay as faithful as possible to the original arrangements but wanted the mix to sound more inviting to people who don’t like Zappa. According to comments I’ve received off what are now Zappa converts I seem to have acheived this. (Despite the fact that it was recorded on a Fostex 4-track cassette machine in my old bedroom at my Mum and Dad’s house!)
I have been known to listen to it from time to time and my only critisism of it in hindsight is the crap attempt at an American accent which at times sounds more West country than anything else but that’s probably the XTC fan in me but hey that’s another tribute album!
I can’t imagine that I’d do anything like that again but it did manage to drag in a few new convert so maybe re-writing the new testament wasn’t such a crazy idea after all!
How did you became the guitar player in Cardiacs ? Were you asked and did you do an audition ?
In 1991 I went to see Cardiacs last gig with Bic and Drakey (Tim Quy had already gone) which I think was the Oxford co-op hall and Bic told me he was leaving coz he got busy with Levitation. Bob Leith and myself had been obsessive fans following them up and down the UK and giving them tapes of our band “Ad Nauseam” who had more of a hint of Cardiacs in it but also had a slightly more proggy Genesis element and sometimes more embarrasingly an 80’s rock element.
We became friends with Dominic and gradually met the others one-by-one as they got into our stupid little tape. At the Oxford gig I bumped into Tim who said he was gonna make a trip to Milton Keynes to see Ad Nauseam’s first gig. (Dominic sat in on drums on one song at this gig.) I was very excited at the thought of my hero coming to see me play and blurted out something really stupid like “What?! You mean you’re gonna travel up in a car and everything?!”
He replied, “No, I’m gonna get dragged up the M1 by my fucking teeth, you stupid cunt.”
Ahem, yes of course,sir.
Anyway, the gig happened and unbeknownst to me Tim’s then girlfriend was nudging him throughout the gig saying “You’ve gotta nick him, You’ve gotta nick him!” Tim didn’t want to “nick me” coz he liked our band and didn’t want to upset anyone. I’d really hit it off with Tim and a few days later decided after a conversation with my oldest friend, Gerald that I should as he put it “strike while the iron is hot so to speak.” I rang Tim and asked if I could audition and he said “well actually I was thinking of asking you but I didn’t want to upset your band.” I was all “no, no that’s fine etc” and he said “well you wouldn’t have to audition as it goes without saying that you’re right for Cardiacs but I need to run it by the others first.”
A few agonising days passed when I got the call to say,”I’ve talked with the others and they’re not into it so it’s not gonna happen” “Oh that’s fine…I thought I’d ask anyway…No worries etc.”
Then Tim say’s “No, only joking, you’re in… can you come and meet me at The Spice Of Life on Tottenham Court road?” (DO look for it I believe it’s still there!)
The rest, as they say, is history.
What is interesting about this is how young we were back then. Tim was 29 and I was 21. I was in the band for 12 years! Where the fuck did that all go?!! I tried to keep Ad Nauseam going after this but internal arguments, power struggles and jealousy regarding girls and certain people joining their favourite bands tore the band apart.
I’d vowed that I’d come back for Bob and get him in the band somehow but then we didn’t talk for a year. We did however then kiss and make up and still love each other to this day and HEY FUCK…I GOT HIM IN THE BAND!!
Why did you leave the band ?
I didn’t leave. The Alphabet Business Concern made me join The Wildhearts and then they made Kavus join Cardiacs.
We have no control over Alphabet’s decided destiny.
I am still in the fold but am held at arms length which is healthier for all concerned.
What kind of music did you listen to when you were a kid ?
I was bought up on Jazz as this is what my parents and my older brothers and sisters were into. I am the youngest of 6 kids and we all play instruments.
My earliest musical memory is of being terrified of that “White Noise” compilation then watching Top of the pos and being equaly terrified of Sparks’ “This town ain’t big enough”.
The first single I bought was Chic “Good Times” then I got into Earth Wind and Fire, The Brothers Johnson, Michael Jackson (when he was still good).
Then I moved onto The Police. Then Adam And The Ants and Bow Wow Wow.
Then Early 80’s synth pop, Japan, Sakamoto, YMO, Numan, Tubeway Army ,Ultravox, John Foxx, Bowie (all eras), Human League.
Then 60’s: Barret’s Floyd, Beatles, Kinks, Who, Blossom toes etc.
Then it was a case of catching up with punk and new wave which I’d missed the first time around: Sex Pistols, Dead Kennedys, The Clash, The Damned, Wire, Devo, Scritti Politti, The Slits, Gang of Four, PIL, Teardrop Explodes, XTC, Talking Heads, The Stranglers, Bill Nelson’s Red Noise, Punishment of Luxury.
Then 2-tone: Madness (not really 2-tone but let’s not nit-pick) Specials, Selecter, Beat etc.
Also anything produced by Trevor Horn: Frankie, ABC, Grace Jones, Art of Noise.
Then in the mid to late 80’s came the more proggy phase: Zappa, Beefheart, Tom Waits, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, Cardiacs, It Bites (really!)…
These were the formitive years then in the 90’s/00’s it’s a case of me dipping in and out of stuff as I was too busy doing it to listen to it!
Amongst these: Nirvana, Blur, Supergrass, Elastica, Sonic Youth, Beck, Manic street preachers (Holy bible album only), Beastie Boys, Super furry animals, Futureheads, The Hives, The Strokes, Eminem, The Streets, Sugarbabes, Girls Aloud, Ms Dynamite, etc.
A handful of classical things like Stravinsky ,Eric Satie ,Vaughn Williams, Holsst etc.
Is there a type of music you listen to that would surprise your audience?
Yes! As you can probably tell I do not give a shit about listening to stuff that’s supposedly “cool”. Probably why I don’t feel to listen to The Velvet Underground or Nick Cave. I don’t like ’em. As simple as that. I don’t think other people should not listen to them so why is it that other people think I SHOULD.
I like some incredibly embarrasing stuff from the 80’s but I know no shame. As far as I can see I’ve broadened my own musical possibilities by listening to what is percieved as shit music.
So here goes: Level 42, Nik Kershaw, Kajagoogoo, Thompson Twins…the list is endless!
So there you go…Warts and all!!
Is there live outside music ?
Yes there’s relationships, marriage, Kids (I’m gonna be a Dad soon), mortgages, crap jobs, Knife crime, racism, sun sets, sea, pedos, Divorce, fighting, fucking, levitating… Have you not seen it? It’s all accompanied by a fucking great soundtrack!
Your new bass player…
he’s very random, isn’t he ?
Do you play Guitar Hero ?
I tried. I was rubbish. It’s a flawed concept. You have to play in time with flashing lights on the screen… not with the music. Actually being able to play guitar is a handicap! Fuck it off! I did…and now I’m a happy guy.
How many guitars do you own ?
My old Squier strat is fucked so I’ve started playing a Squier Tele and I love it. Why oh why didn’t I play a tele years ago? I have a couple od endorsement deals but they’re both for bass guitar.
Warwick is one. Moser is the other. Jon Poole also wears TUK shoes and Conrad Knight socks!
© Photo by Trudi Knight
The people on our forum have some questions for you !
Kinglaurie1: You’re credited with the arrangements on Sing To God alongside Tim. What was that like, and how did it work?
This was a joyous and creative time and easily the best time I had in the band which is strange as I was going through upheaval in my personal life and had to keep walking off into the fields to have a good old blub but maybe this added to it all!
We took the studio to Jim and Jane’s place in the countryyyy. When I arrived there Jim and Jane were adding snipping sounds with garden tools to “Wireless”.
To this day I think it’s one of Jane’s proudest moments and I love hearing her tell other people about how surreal it was.
Tim would have drums and rough keyboard chords on tape and would ask me to come up with guitar and bass riffs. I was literaly allowed to do pretty much anything I wanted. Tim would then do the production bit and get the best out of me.
I remember Tim had programmed the weird bit in the middle of Odd Even and left me to find a guitar line amoungst the chords so I was sat on my own dropping myself in. When he came back it was done and he was very happy… particularly with my choice of last note!
We would both make suggestions then Tim would edit the ideas into something that worked.
Tim would chip in with ideas for my songs too like the string arrangement on “Manhoo” which was lovely.
During this phase of recording Jim and Jane invited all our friends over every so often for parties that have now gone down in history as being nothing short of legendary. I still can’t listen to Mr Bungle or Mercury Rev without having disturbing flashbacks!
It was a wonderful time and something that I’m so lucky to have been a part of. Tim would no doubt echo that.
Steve Adams: How did you get the nickname Random?
In 2000 I got the job playing bass with Ginger from The Wildhearts in a project called Silver Ginger 5.
I was told we were to play our first gigs in Japan in two weeks time.
I was excited and concerned about getting a new band ready in such a short space of time.
I turned up at Backstreet rehearsal studios, Holloway Road (Don’t look for it…it’s not there anymore!) and the drummer didn’t show up but he called to say he couldn’t do it. Also Ginger wasn’t there.
The only people there were me and the guitarist, Conny Bloom (from Hanoi Rocks!) so we decided to meet Ginger’s manager in the pub over the road and work out what the hell we were gonna do.
We sat there getting drunk whilst Conny talked to a drummer he knew called Tom Broman about doing the gigs. He agreed to do it and at that moment I was filled with excitement of playing in Japan, the fact we had a drummer and the fact that The Who’s “5.15” had just started blaring out of the pub juke box.
In front of the guitarist and the manger, both of whom I’d never met before, I jumped up on the table, kicked over our pints and strutted up and down the table miming along with Roger Daltrey whilst doing the odd bit of “air brass”. The guitarist loved it but the manager looked slightly concerned.
The next day Ginger called the manager to see how our meeting went.
“Er ,Yeah, Ginger, em fine…. incidently, your new bass player: He’s very random isn’t he?”
Now bare in mind that the phrase “Random” wasn’t used in such a way in 2000 as it is now (and I’m fucking sure that’s coz of me but blah blah) and Ginger thought this was really funny and I think he’d had concerns over how to market a bald bloke in a mod suit to a bunch of rockers so decided that giving me a nickname may endear me to the metal crowd.
So “Random Jon Poole” was born.
You do a very good Bruce Forsyth impression http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf7XyyXSgKc
Will you be taking over from Bruce on strictly come dancing if Mr. Forsythe decides to retire ?
They’ve already approached me. I won’t wear the wig.
Damian: Could you ever get that Dr Brighton stuff released? (http://www.myspace.com/drbrighton) At least on iTunes or something. I’d pay for it without hesitation, it’s brilliant.
Thank you, Damian. There are quite a few albums of mine that have never seen the light of day. What I may do is to start up my own myspace page and feature songs from one album for a period of time then press a LTD amount of CDs of said album and sell via paypal and mail order. Just an idea for now.
I’m actually very busy at the moment learning how to play Lotus Eaters songs. They are a band from the 80’s who’s single “The First Picture Of You” had been a fave of mine.
I’ve joined them on bass and we’re playing the Liverpool Philharmonic 25th July this year.
Meenie: Was it a hard decision to quit Cardiacs ?
It was strange coz I never fell out with them. I just got busy with The Wildhearts which was paying my rent so had to go. We had only been doing a gig a year at The Astoria so it was quite a low point for the band so I had to go and do something else. I’d have loved to have come back at some point even if it was just one gig or one tour (maybe a Sing To God Tour complete with “big heads backdrop?!!!) but I’m not sure how that’d sit with Kavus.
I still love them all…they are my brothers!
do you feel like Kavus is/was now sleeping with your bird (in a sense)
No, not at all. Kavus was working as guitar tec with Cardiacs for 8 years before he became the guitarist. He’s always been a massive part of the set up since he first turned up and started “entertaining” us.
Sometimes me and Kavus really pissed off Tim and sometimes even David Murder with our tendency to give it fuck at any given moment.(at ALL given moments.)
We make up really irritating songs with harmonies and drag others in against their wish to respect our harmonies and to join in.
I’d even once suggested to Kavus that he should take my place if I couldn’t do it anymore. This dates back to ’95 when I turned up late for a soundcheck and saw Kavus filling in for me.
I think he’s fitted in perfectly and his playing’s great.
Schlep: I would like to hear the version of “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” that you and Bob Leith made to impress Tim – if we’re asking to open the suppressed Jon Poole archives.
Oh yeah, that was tagged on the end of that Ad Nauseam cassette that we gave to Dominic along with a cover of “To go Off” . I don’t think we’ll be letting either of those out of the vaults.
Sorry…it really is for the best!!
Pheeel: Do you consider “Silvery” a Cardiacs or Goddamn Whores song or neither?
I consider it a Jon Poole song. My original 1996 demo is exactly the same as the Cardiacs version.
The Whores did it in the Cardiacs support set to try and get a few Cardiacs fans on side!I re-demoed it as a guitar only version which we gave out free with the Whores first album.
I have re-recorded it for the 2nd Whores album complete with keyboards. It’s more like the Cardiacs version than the 2nd demo version I leaked out on that Cardiacs support tour.
In fact the Whores 2nd album has quite a few songs with keyboards including one song that sounds more like a Cardiacs song than anything I’ve ever written.
Damian: could any of the unreleased stuff get a download release? I say “download” because presumably the pitfall of pressing CDs is knowing how many to make. Even if only 50 people bought it, it’s a few quid and it’s “out there” although I’m sure a number of us would do what we could to make it a tad more
As I said earlier it’ll probably be a case of doing the mail order ltd edition thing. I’ll set up the myspace page first and see what the demand is. It’ll be based on feedback from fans I guess.
Armitage Cistern wants to know: Would Ad Nauseam ever consider playing together again ?
I’d really like to do it if only to get it right this time but I don’t know if it’ll ever happen. I don’t even know if it’d be the same line-up. Me and Bob would be there of course as it was always our band.
I had a brief thought of doing a set of Ad Nauseam songs with some more obscure Cardiacs songs chucked in such as “Bitter Pill” “Big noise in a Toy World” or “Stench of honey” but I’m not sure if that might just be naff.
Who knows? Not me,boy!
You already play most instruments better than anybody else but what do you like playing the most?
I must admit that I do enjoy playing bass as I like to come up with melodic bass lines a la McCartney or Colin Moulding and you get the added bonus of working with the drummer to get a tight heavy sound.
When I play guitar I can get away with getting more drunk so there is always that to be said for guitar over bass. Then again that would involve dropping “Stoneage Dinosaurs” from the set as that fucking tune is cursed.
Adam and the Ants or XTC?
Isn’t that a They Might Be Giants song? I absolutely refuse to make a choice between these two as they satisfy completely different sides of my head.
Sakamoto or Devo?
Devo because they made more good records but the good Sakamoto ones are beautiful.
Will God Damn Whores do more? Will unreleased material see the light of ? Any plans?
The Whores is just me and anyone else who happens to be available. I am ready to do the vocals on the 2nd album which is a very tribal/glam/psychadelic affair. It pisses over the first album which was just meant to be a bit of fun anyway. It will come out on Round records. I’d like it to come out Autumn this year but it may be next year now.
Say something nice about The Slits.
Go out and buy “Cut”. Women make completely different music to men and this is a great example of this.
It’s jagged wirey guitars are reminiscent of Beefhearts “Trout mask replica” and there is a heavy bass and drum dub reggae element that is in no way naff or cod. In fact the dub element is a bit like PIL.
There is no disguising the fact that Bjork got her singing style from Ari Up. The drums are played by a pre-Banshees “Budgie” and are just wonderful. Lyrically and musically it is so femenine in a f”uck off I’ve got PMT” way and has a lovely dark humour to it. It’s sparse and atmospheric and quite scary.
I could easily listen to this in the same sitting as “Dirk wears white Sox” by The Ants. It’s all very reminiscent of early “Crayola Lectern”(?)
Is there anything you’d like to leave the fans with? Parting words?
Just thanks for keeping Cardiacs alive. It’s more important than ever now what with the lack of live activity for the fans to keep the message alive and to continue to convert people. Cardiacs is like no other band and deserves to be treated accordingly.
Tim and Jim Smith are royalty…God bless them.