When an artist who's been around awhile hits the road playing small clubs without a new commercial project to promote, it usually has a negative connotation. That's because it generally means the artist has been dropped from their label and is desperate for cash. But that's not the case with Howard Jones, who recently hit the Paradise with a one man show comprised mainly of his greatest hits. In Jone's case, it's just a case of taking a break from the mainstream music industry.
Jones has a new CD out, but it's only being sold at the live shows. "Working In The Backroom" is a self-released collection of tracks recorded in Jone's home studio that is probably more reminiscent of "Human's Lib" than anything he has done since. While much of Jones' later work has had a more polished, less synthetic sound, the music on "Working In The Backroom" once again lets the technology maintain its electronic sound.
While working on new songs and recording them directly to the hard drive of his Macintosh computer, Jones noticed that he had been coming up with a new song about every other week and the tracks were fitting together well to enough become an album. Since his recording contract had expired and he had not yet pursued a new deal, Jones decided to release the CD himself and go out on tour with a one man show again.
"I've been with a major record company right from the beginning, so that's really all I've known," he says. "When that came to a natural conclusion with a 'best of' album, rather that jumping into another big deal I thought it might be good step back a bit and rediscover the joys of doing things yourself."
Before Jones hit the Paradise stage, the tour manager introduced his mother, who came out and told the audience about the new CD. Howard's mom and dad even staffed the merchandise table at the shows. According the Jones, the biggest problem with staying on the same label for a decade is the high turnover rate. New staff members come in all the time, and they never seem to be as excited about those acts that have been around for a while. Starting their own label allows artist to prevent this.
The latest tour saw Jones going back to the format used on his first visit to America; the one man show. As he got bigger and began playing bigger venues, he succumbed to the belief that it meant there had to be more going happening on-stage.
"I sort of thought that was the way I should go, have more people on stage," Jones explains. "I wonder whether it was right, really, because I think actually I'm best doing things on my own."
Back in the early days, doing a one man electronic show wasn't nearly as easy as it is today, though Jones says that he has no complaints because he didn't know any different. All the patches had to be changed between songs, since sequencers didn't have large memories. The drums were supplyed by a Roland 808, which was playing a constant pattern that was mixed differently by the soundman to make it vary from song to song.
Now, Jones beings a Macinstosh on tour with him to play the sequences. Most everything is programmed, which allows Jones to just along with it on his main keyboard and concentrate on the vocals.
"I can play all that stuff, I put it in there," he says. "It's not like I feel like I'm fooling anyone, they know how it all works, so I just jam over the top and do specific solos."
Occasionally, the equipment will just break down, so Jones is always prepared to play on his material in the piano, as he was forced to do at one of this tour's British dates. Jones, who did an acoustic tour this past spring, is always looking for new and different situations to perform it, which is the main reason he want back to the one man format after almost a decade away from it. Sometime next year he hopes to do a few special shows consisting of a massive installation, with speakers spread around the venue floating sounds around three dimensional space with the help of computer control. For these shows, Jones is planning on working with Jed, the mime who appeared in the early videos and live shows.