Keeping the Dialogue Going with Howard Jones

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If synthesizers are the engine for Howard Jones’ creative drive, then positivity is the fuel. It has been since Jones broke onto the international music scene with his 1983 hit single “New Song” and has continued to be the case with the current four-piece album concept he’s in the middle of recording and releasing that started with 2015’s Engage.

Howard Jones
(Photo by Mark Kent/CC BY-SA 2.0)

In 2019, Transform was followed by this year’s Dialogue and next year’s Global Citizen set to wrap up this overarching concept. It’s a rather straightforward approach the English musician has been working within over the past seven years.

Engage was about not just being a bystander—be involved in what’s going on around you and don’t think that you don’t have any effect on the world and your environment because you do,” Jones explained. “Transform was about if we want to change the world and change things for the better, we have to start with ourselves. We have to work on ourselves and our behavior towards other people and ourselves as well. And Dialogue is what I just described—the importance of communicating towards each other. The next one, which I will probably start next year is Global Citizen and that’s putting all those three concepts into action and believing that you can have an effect on the world as a global citizen.”

Not unlike the rest of the world, Jones found himself isolated by the pandemic lockdown as he was embarking on the recording of Dialogue. The dark mood of uncertainty that came with this global situation meant lyrics came later, but in the end, Jones was able to surmount the challenges presented with being a one-man band, particularly after contracting a post-vaccination case of COVID-19.

“I couldn’t really work with other people on this, so it was me, my growing synthesizer collection, software and studio,” he recalled. “In a way that makes it quite focused I think. I had plenty of time to experiment, try some new things and get some really great sounds together. I got to spend days on just one sound to make it really special. And having that amount of time was a blessing to really experiment. I suddenly remembered that I used to do a lot of harmony vocals—layered vocals and big multi-harmonized vocals and I got back into that idea. And I wanted my voice to sound different every time I used one of those harmonized vocals and I was experimenting.”

“There was one point that I got COVID-19—I was completely vaccinated and everything but when I got it, I sort of lost my full voice. I thought I was going to have to try and do something different, so I sang in a different way more quietly. I got a really different sound and I was really quite excited about that. If you’re doing all your own backing vocals yourself, you need to make yourself sound different to differentiate between the lead and backing vocal. It worked for me.”

And while Jones did all the creative-lifting, he did get a compositional assist from BT (aka Brian Transeau), the American musician/DJ/electronic music pioneer, who became a close friend of Jones after the latter came out to see him head up an ambitious orchestral project in Miami back in 2015. It’s a connection Jones has come to treasure.

“On the new album, we did two or three tracks and BT was great,” Jones said. “For those two tracks—‘Celebrated Together’ and ‘Be the Hero’—he’d sent me some seed ideas for tracks quite a long time ago. I used a bit of that in the writing of them and I’m really hoping that we may get a remix from him based on one of those songs. I know he was particularly excited about ‘Be the Hero.’ We probably will continue to work together maybe throughout the rest of my career because we get on very well. For him, it’s about trying to find time because he’s the busiest man in the universe.”

Brian Transeau (a.k.a. BT)
(Photo by Myriam Santos/CC BY-SA 3.0)

While this string of albums is heavily electronically driven, Jones will be mixing it up during his live shows with the help of touring Robin Boult and Nick Beggs, late of Kajagoogoo.

“It’s an electronic show and we’re going to be debuting a few tracks from the Dialogue album along with a couple of tracks from Transform and one from Engage as well,” he said. “The fans really follow everything I do and I really must look after that as well as playing the hits. That would be really mean not to do that. There is a section in the show where we go acoustic. It’s my guitarist Robin, me and Nick Beggs, who is tour on with me as well from Kajagoogoo fame, who has been a close friend of mine for many years, all take part in this acoustic section where I play things like ‘No One Is to Blame’ and ‘Life In One Day.’ We also do an acoustic version of ‘Too Shy,’ which the audience absolutely loves because Nick is there and he wrote it. He plays that amazing bass solo in it. It’s kind of nice to take it away from the banging electronic tunes and go acoustic and then go back to them. It seems to work as a great dynamic.”

An added bonus is longtime pal Midge Ure (Ultravox) serving as the opening act (“He’s an absolute total legend and a really good friend of mine. I feel very fortunate.”)

Looking to the remainder of this year and into 2023, Jones and his fan base have plenty to look forward to between Global Citizen completing his four-album musical concept along with a concert album (Live at Union Chapel) and a collection of non-synthesizer-based material that he’d been working on for a number of years (Piano Composed). And while he’s understandably excited about this burst of creativity that’s going to take him into the next year, Howard Jones has always clung to the philosophy of gratitude driving him forward and refusing to get caught up in the highs and lows of the music industry and life in general.

“I think it’s very important to be happy with your work and one of the best ways to be happy is to really appreciate the situation you find yourself in, even if it’s difficult or you’re having problems or whether you’re soaring because it’s going well,” he said. “Just really appreciate things because if it’s not going well, then you can learn a ton of stuff from that to make it better. If things are going really well, don’t get carried away, because that may stop you from doing great work in the future.”

 

Howard Jones will be appearing on July 17 at The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, 71 E. Main St., Patchogue. For more information, visit www.patchoguetheatre.com or call 631-207-1313.

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