With an album release show at London’s Omerea tomorrow night, MetalTalk’s Paul Monkhouse spoke with Laurence Jones about his early years, musical influences, and the moments that have shaped his impressive career as a guitarist and performer. Here in Part Two, they talk about the new album Bad Luck & The Blues and Glenn Hughes. You can read Part One here.
I bumped into Laurence Jones at the Black Country Communion gig at Hammersmith in 2018. Did Laurence know, at that point, seeing Glenn on stage, that he would be going out on tour with him?
“Yes,” he says. “I got to meet Glenn backstage that night in his dressing room. He was really nice and introduced us to his band and a few of the lads there. I got to open up for him, and it was a great experience. It really was.”
It’s possible touring with Glenn Hughes and Status Quo was a subliminal influence on his writing, we ask. “Definitely,” Laurence says, “And seeing the crowd’s reactions and the venues. Just the energy on stage and the way it made you feel that sort of music. The way it gets you going. There’s no other feeling. So I was like, well, I want a piece of that.
“Getting to watch them at the side of the stage is a bit of a different experience as well because, you know, I’m used to standing on the stage. So I could learn little tricks from them. I would often be quite cheeky and ask them what was that about.
“I guess a lot of it came from that, especially with Status Quo. They are underrated. They put on one hell of a live show. They’ve got a lot of interludes and different rifts that are not actually on the record. It’s a proper theatre show. It’s a proper big show.”
Laurence’s new album is really powerful. You have the heavy rocking blues of the title track. There is I’m Gone, which to me sounds like Hendrix jamming with Zeppelin, while there are other hints of Rory Gallagher and Aerosmith. Not overtly and not like he is ripping off, but just that sort of vibe to things on it.
“I’ve always been one that’s, I wouldn’t say, into loads and loads and loads of bands,” Laurence says, “but every band you just mentioned was a major influence for me growing up. Robin Tower, Clapton, anything like that, is what I love.”
We heard Laurence cite Robin Trower as a real influence on this particular album. “I’ve known about Robin Trower for years, but never really sat down and properly just sat there in a room and listened to his music and got my guitar out and jammed over the top of it.
“So what I did during Christmas, I came off tour from the Netherlands in November, and I just thought I’m gonna watch some videos on YouTube. I found this video. Robin Trower live at Bonn in Germany for the Rockpalast. I’ve actually played that venue about four times. I was just blown away by his guitar playing.
“I took a lot of inspiration from what he was doing. The main thing I realised was he was tuning his low E string down to a D, which is quite heavy in itself, quite a heavy rock Metal thing to do. But the way he was still playing soulfully, like that Hendrix thing, gave it its own unique sound. That was one thing I looked at and chose to do before sitting down to write the songs. Most of the songs on this album were gonna be in that drop tuning.”
I say that the joy of the power trio that bands like The Groundhogs or Hendrix display is that you can cut out the fat, and it’s just pure, pure playing. “That’s what I wanted to do on this record,” Laurence says. “I wanted to go in there, and everything had to be live. So we went in, and we only spent a week recording it in the studio. It was three or four days, and we had done all the songs. Then I did two days on the vocals, a day on percussion and tambourines and a tiny bit of backing vocals.
“Then, a couple of days for just tweaking the guitars and just making sure everything’s nice and tidied up for Chris Sheldon and the mixing engineer. It was all cool. It was a really easy process in the end because we learned a lot from the first record of how it was in there. So it felt like putting on some old slippers and just being right, we’ve done this once, we know what we’re doing now.”
Laurence is right. It does add an edge to it and brings life to the recordings, and it shows on the record, I suggest. “All the solos, I didn’t sit there and go, right, I’m gonna play this before going to the studio,” he says. “I’m not gonna learn anything. I’m just gonna go off and play whatever comes to me in that moment. I’m more capable now. I’ve learned enough over the years.
“I trusted myself a lot more on this record and even trusted the band. I wasn’t saying to them, you know, play this or play that. Obviously, I came in with a song, and I said these are the chords, this is the structure. That’s how I want the rhythm, etc. But having Jack and Ash involved on the record and that bit of experience behind it and confidence was definitely good because I knew what direction I wanted to go in.”
Having spoken with people like Chantel McGregor, Oli Brown and Kris Barras, amongst others, recently, it is interesting to see how their material has become heavier over the years. It’s interesting to see how they’ve developed, and they’ve felt their own freedom to do what they want, how they want it. With that kind of growing reputation, Laurence should feel he is in that sort of area now.
He agrees. “When I put my debut album out there in 2012, it wasn’t just straightforward blues. It was a blues crossover album. I feel like I’ve always shocked my fans. I’ve always tried to do something different. I’ve always tried to push the boundaries.
“But in terms of this being popular, it wasn’t for that reason. It was the fact that I love power trios. But I feel like there is quite a new wave of rock at the moment. I am playing the New Wave Of Classic Rock Festival at KK’s Steel Mill this month, which should be exciting.
“There is a real vibe about it, and Planet Rock obviously get behind a lot of bands, and they’re a great radio station. There’s a lot of fans out there. So I think the music lends to it that way, but it’s just fun to play. We’re all young people at the end of the day. You just love doing it, and it’s nice to do a mix of everything that you want to do, really.”
With a younger generation of blues guitarists and rock guitarists being accepted generally by the audience, does Laurence see quite a mix of ages in crowds he plays to?
“Yeah. When I first started, it was more of an older audience. I started in the pubs and the blues clubs and the labour clubs, like the old school days, and slowly built it up to ticketed events. Then I got my own fan base from seven people to 20 people, slowly moving up to the different C to B type venues and to some A type venues in the Netherlands.
“So it’s just, it’s just been a slow build. It doesn’t just happen, boom, overnight like some people think it does. So I think it’s great that all these youngsters are coming up. Obviously, Toby started when he was young, and I think I was one of the first people to get him up on stage.
“I’m a big fan of helping younger people because of Walter Trout. He helped me, gave me one of my first tours and said now you’ve got to return the favour to at least one person. I’ve done it and passed the torch down because he said that’s what BB King said to him.
“That mentality is good because it keeps it alive, and the more younger people that can get into the blues and rock is just great because there is a lot of crap music out there at the moment isn’t there. [laughs] So it’s always a positive.”
The rock crowd have dragged back some of the attention we suggested. Blues music fans are always there. They are loyal. But the pure nature of pop music, it’s very transient. Someone who’s in this week, three months down the line, where have they gone?
“You can have that fast career, or you can have a steady building-up career, which has always been my intention,” Laurence says. “I got offered a pop deal with Sony when I was 17, but I didn’t want to take it because I wanted to play blues music, and they didn’t understand. So they wanted me to play with a backing track and all that. So I didn’t want to do that.
“I think that people out there doing it now seem to be having a lot more independence. Starting up a band and going out themselves, which is fantastic. But I also think, at the same time, it’s very hard for musicians at that level to make money as well with royalties now and the way Spotify and streaming and everything works.
“Some people will get lucky, but my best advice is just go out there and and keep doing it. If you love the music, then it’s not about anything else. The success will come then.”
Album Launch Show. Laurence Jones plays London’s Omerea tomorrow night. Tickets are available from here.
You can read Part One of the Laurence Jones interview here.