I spoke with Jon Field by telephone on 15 June 1996. I explained that there'd been some discussion of Jade Warrior on USENET, and that after the release of Elements in the fall of 1995 I'd begun hosting an Internet mailing list devoted to Jade Warrior and had recently created a World Wide Web home page for the group.
JF: That seems like an awfully lot of work?
DP: Well, interesting hobbies are hard to come by. Following Jade Warrior's music has been one of mine for the last couple of decades.
JF: Well, I don't know what to say when people say things like that - I get embarrassed. (laughter). No, I do! Tony and I, we didn't set out with that in mind. We were just scratching an itch.
DP: Just doing what you wanted to do...
JF: That's right. We'd collect records, or lists of records, and go see Alexis Korner and things like this, but there was a whole area of music you couldn't go and see or hear, that was going on in our heads. So, basically, that's how we started. Not because we had any great vision that we thought anybody else would be interested in.
DP: Hmm, it was just doing something "from inside", then?
JF: Oh, yeah. It's odd, because it was very private. I think there were many reasons why Tony and I never made it big when we could have made it big, and I think one reason is that we excluded people. Not deliberately, but that's how we had to produce that sort of stuff. We couldn't take in other direct ideas, they had to filter through us. Of course, everything is derived from hearing something or seeing something, but even so if someone suggested something, almost as if because they voiced it, we couldn't use it. I don't know if that makes sense, but we almost couldn't do it because someone said "Why don't you do this?". It hadn't gone through the filter. I think we guarded, very very carefully, this little tiny plant, this little object, which could be knocked off course so easily. Tony and I could be knocked off-course just by being depressed about this or that, we wouldn't want to do music. It was always a music you'd do when you were up. The opposite of the blues, I think... (laughter)... which seems to be stuff you're supposed to do when you're down. This was stuff we did when we felt our head was in the right place...
DP: When the nurturing was right...
JF: When it was right, yes. It was odd. I find it odd, anyway. And therefore, I think why I was rambling on there was to to express my surprise when I found that other people found something in there. And obviously, delighted, we didn't not want people to like it, but we couldn't work from that point. We couldn't say "What are people going to like?", we couldn't start that way.
DP: You had to work for what was true for you.
JF: That's right. I imagine this is the same for everybody, but that was my experience anyway...
We spent a few minutes discussing letters we'd exchanged a few years ago. Jon told me that he's recently started learning his way around a PC, and has his loaded up to the brim with art and painting and music programs.
JF: I'm gradually, gradually getting to grips with it. It's really good. I'm doing it the same way I do the music. That is, not try and learn anything, but get a project and then find what I need to do the project. It's very wasteful, but it's the only way I can do it. I can't take in facts which aren't relevant to completing a project. I can only take in facts that are relevant to that project.
Clever people learn the whole thing first.
DP: It's a different style of going about it... I think as long as it gets you to where you need to go, one way doesn't necessarily have an advantage over the other.
JF: Well, it's the only way I can work anyway, I haven't got the luxury of a choice. I'm just getting to the stage where I can do pictures and paintings and so forth. I don't know... they're from another place, they're different. There's a magic in there, some magic, and you get it back off canvas.
Generally, what I find, when you're using canvas or a card, is that you like that one little bit, but there are other bits around that you can't use. So that little bit of gold, that God-given little piece of luck, you know...
I think all the good things we've ever done on record were given to us, and we just didn't mess 'em up. The ones that we messed up, are the ones nobody ever hears. I think that's what it is - I think the good bits, we didn't write. Tony and I didn't sit down to write any of the things I'm pleased with. They came about. You find, they happen - this coincided with this, and made something else, and you didn't make the something else, it just happened. It can come out of all sorts of things, unhappiness and angst and real happiness, you know, it can come from all sorts of different funny ways, these bits.
In the studio, it was a fairly fraught time. We would prepare, up to a point. But, we couldn't plan it. You've gotta be in the studio, doing it. We wanted to live in the studio. So, basically, we started again in the studio, having got the odd sketch here or there...
DP: Just sorta brought in the raw materials, and then let it happen...
JF: Yeah. And then, if God was there, that's all right, suddenly he'd give us a bit. And that would be enough to sustain all the rubbish up to the next good bit. But, all the good bits didn't come from us, they came from somewhere else.
DP: Maybe that's why, in a sense, people have reacted to your music in the way that they have... that people you hadn't expected to appreciate it, have done so... because there's something deep there that shines through, that shows.
JF: I hope so, I hope so. It's odd, because even now, when the music we were doing, you hear it around you all the time, but even so it's not quite there. There are bits, that you think "God, that's marvelous!", and if you could hear more of that you'd never want to write any more music. The same as painting... if you could see the images, every day, the image you've got in your head... if you found your next-door neighbor had painted it, there wouldn't be any need to paint it.
I don't do it because I like painting. I don't do it because I like blowing down a tube. I don't enjoy it. What I have is, it's the only way to get that image.
DP: To make it real, here and now.
JF: Yeah. If somebody else would do it, that's even better! That's why I love David (the bass player) and Colin, in a different sort of way. It's because they're the only other people... it's so weird, you know. Suddenly, two people come into your life, after Tony's death, who are compatible - and I've had a whole lifetime of people who aren't. It sounds so elitist, and I don't mean it in an elitist way. I mean, people that can work in this narrow, narrow little band of endeavor.
It's so easy to go wrong. I can prove it - on all of the albums, it's all gone wrong somewhere. It's so easy to do it wrong. But these two boys, they came in - and they didn't have this vision, they hadn't worked with Tony, but when they played they didn't mess it up. They knew which notes went with which chords, they knew how to not say the obvious thing, but to embellish by getting off of the route. It's very strange. I don't know how to explain it.
DP: It sounds like there's an interesting kind of personal chemistry that's required.
JF: It's very strange. It's very interesting. I feel really, really lucky. I've been so worried, since Tony's died, that the whole thing could easily be over-covered. If I just got lazy, and said "OK, let's do it, let's do one of yours, let's do this, let's do that", I could do that and be nice. And then, it would be just another band. It might even be a better band, but it wouldn't be the reason for doing it. It would be something else. And, I'm so paranoid about losing that.
And not once have those boys made a face about not doing what they want. They fight like tigers to get what they want. I'm really pleased that when I say "That's really lovely, but we're not using it", that's the end of it - there isn't a problem. I think they've got their stuff to do, as well, and I think that any idea not done somewhere can be done somewhere else, so it's not like this is their only outlet. It's still wonderful.
Tony and I could work like that. One of us had to give in. Tony had the same sort of image I did, but the details were different. It's like looking at a chandelier - what you see, depends on what little bit of the chandelier you're looking at, and where you're looking from. It's all the truth, but nobody sees all of the truth because nobody's everywhere at once. It was the same with Tony and myself. So, we would fight - we'd both be right, but we'd fight because we'd both want it. It was our only outlet. One of us would have to give way, in the end, and it would work out OK.
DP: It's a striking thing that the two of you managed to have that sort of working balance together for so many years.
JF: Well, this is it. I can't explain it. The times we got on the worst were in the studio. I mean, chairs were kicked over... (laughter)... disgraceful things would happen. But it was also the time I felt closest to him. The times I said "This will do! Now, I've done it. If I die now, and carry on with just much, it'll do. I'm contented." I've been that contented and happy, and so miserable. I mean, if I'd had a revolver, I'm sure I'd have pulled the trigger. We've hated one another, in the studio, fighting for these images.
It's like a marriage, or any other close relationship. You are vulnerable - you make yourself vulnerable - and it's so easy to see that you've been let down one way or another, because you've made yourself vulnerable to this other person. Tony knew all about me, I knew all about Tony, and it would be so easy for us to hurt one another. The only way we could get on, was through this sort of unsaid agreement that we wouldn't hurt one another.
I'm so sorry Tony's dead. It could have been really, really first-class. He would have loved to play with Colin and David. He really would.
I think what Tony did best of all, what moved me most of all, was his rhythm guitar - the quiet work he did, which I think not many people will appreciate. I don't know - they'll like his solos, and what he had to say in his solos, and I don't mean I didn't like that. But what I appreciated most of all, and where I think he was a genius, was in the way he approached the rhythm guitar. It sounds like a demeaning term, doesn't it... "rhythm guitar"... but it's actually the underlying atmosphere, the stage in which you can believe in the other characters. It's so vitally important, whatever is underlying it.
Colin is really, really good, but he's not Tony - no surprise there. But he is himself. He sometimes comes up with things, and I'm immediately transported to these other worlds, and these other images, that I could only ever do with Tony before. I just think that's weird.
I'm not somebody who necessarily believes in outer-space men, and coming down to Earth and making corn circles and things like this. But, I think it's odd for this to happen so close to Tony dying, with so long a time not meeting anyone else I could do that with.
Anyhow, I haven't answered... you haven't asked me any questions yet!
JF: (laughter) I'm afraid I do babble on!
DP: Well, I'm hearing good things from you. I really appreciate your willingness to talk about your experiences, and what this means to you.
JF: You must shut me up if I babble - I do tend to...
DP: People on the mailing list contributed a whole bunch of questions about a bunch of different things. I guess the standard question in mind, when people who know about Jade Warrior talk about it is, "Is there another album on the way?"
JF: And, there is, yes.
DP: Excellent. Can you tell us a bit about it?
JF: Well, it's another steep learning curve, using Cubase Audio, now. It's wonderful - but like all these things, when you get to my age, you suddenly find there's another mountain to climb, to a flute solo. And by the time you climb the mountain you're so out of breath you can't do it. So, you sleep, and you forget everything you've learned. It's like that. It's 54 steps forward and 340 backward. But, it won't be long.
So, what's happening is, it is happening, and I'm really up! Have you ever spoken to any musician who said "I'm working on a new album, and it's really cr*p?"
JF: But, believe me, it's so good! Two images running in our heads, and that's the story of Crazy Horse. Not the story of Crazy Horse, but images from the life of Crazy Horse, as if somebody had taken photographs throughout the course of his live. I think it's incredibly sad - and we've never done a sad thing, I don't think. We've done the buffalo hunt, and the camp of Red Cloud. I just love it - I love it to bits. It's up to other people to say whether it's any good or not, I suppose, but what I can say is that it really hits the spot. The other one is that whole business of the Pyramid and the Pharaohs and those two geezers who have worked out what the little holes are for, so that he can... oh, I'll send you the album. One side's Egypt and one side's Crazy Horse.
JF: So, yes, we're in the middle, and it's lovely.
DP: Well, hearing about a Jade Warrior album, and waiting for it to arrive, and finding out how much a treat it is has always been a fun experience. There's a similarity to them, and yet each has been unique and has had a different thing to say.
JF: Oh, wonderful. Well, it's burrowing through a mountain, David, that's what it is. You know that deep in this mountain there's a pot of gold. You set off from different sides of the mountain, trying to get through to the gold. You never make it, but you think "We were really close there, if we come in from another way...". And that's all it is - it's trying to make the same album. But, the day we make the same album, will be the last thing I'll make, anyway - I won't need to.
DP: Because you've been there.
JF: Yeah, that's right. I don't like making albums. They ruin aeromodelling time, and really important things. But, if the pot of gold is there, you have to find it before you die! I think that's so sad... that Tony never did... and I am determined, for both of us, to find what it was.
I can't help but sound arrogant. All I can do is hope that people can see it from my point of view, since it doesn't seem arrogant to me. You see, I know what Tony and I were after. I am the only living person who does - not even Tony's brother, nobody does. Tony and I sat, probably 36 hours together in different offices, trying to get these deals and stuff. We sat together night after night, before we played any instruments at all, talking about these things. A strange sort of relationship - nonsexual, but we've had to sleep in the same bed, we've been through a lot together over the years.
I'm the only person in the world who knows what it will be, when we get there. I'm a self-fulfilling prophet, some sceptics can say, but that isn't it. There is something there, I won't know what it is until I see it, and when I see it I'll know what it is. So, that's why I want to do it - for both of us. One day, there will be this album, and parts of it will do! and I won't ever need to do another album. And, that will be excellent! (laughter)
DP: It sounds like it's been a rough road, over the years, trying to get there.
JF: Yes, it has been a rough road, because of music business indifference. But, also, because Tony and I have not seen eye-to-eye every day, all the way down the line. It's just that we were stuck with one another, basically. Tony, at his worst, is a devil - just like me! Tony would describe me as the Devil. As I say, if you give in, if you give somebody your trust, and you feel it's been somehow misused, then you feel trebly misused - much more than if somebody you deemed might be your enemy did the same thing. We had to be so, so careful with one another. I've pulled Tony out of some very deep depressions, and he's pulled me out of some deep ones. It's that sort of thing. So, yes, it's been a rough road, but it hasn't all been the music industry. It's been us, too.
DP: Someone asked that since Brian Eno is known to be a fan of Jade Warrior, do you have any plans to collaborate with him on a future release?
JF: No, I don't think that would happen. He has said that he likes our music, but I don't think he'd want to record with us - so few people ever listen to us. And, he has his own direction, that I don't think would help us in digging into that mountain I was talking about.
Doesn't that sound arrogant? But, if Brian Eno phoned me up and said "Jon, I'd really like you to play something", I'd be so proud and pleased to do something on his albums. I'd love to hang out with Brian Eno for a bit, and see where his head is. You see what I mean?
I'm sure this sounds arrogant... it's just that this is such a small, precious little thing. It may all be cr*p, but whatever it is, it's all I've got.
DP: It's Tony's vision and your vision.
JF: Yes, it's our vision. In our heyday, Tony and I would have said "Brian wants to play with us? Great, because we'll sell more records."
DP: That's not something you're focused on now.
JF: It's not the reason for making this album. It's not to sell records. It's ridiculous, but there you are - it's true. I'm not doing this to make lots of money, because I know I won't.
DP: It's something that, for you, needs to be done.
JF: Oh, yeah. It needs to be done - we're not getting any younger. We've got to find it - we've got to find what we set out to do.
We never got there. It's all hints. They say you never see God - you see signposts, wherever you go. God's too big to see, but you get an idea from the signposts... "This way!" And then, you go a bit that way, and you see another signpost to the right or the left - it's always a wandering journey, and it's just lit by these signposts.
If Brian Eno suddenly said "I want to go down there", it would be perfectly valid for him. He's a tremendous musician, a hero of mine. I just think it wouldn't be appropriate for Jade Warrior.
Which gives you some idea of how lucky I feel that David and Colin can slot into this. I mean, there's an awful lot of filtering, but they slot in.
DP: I think you're a fortunate man to have found people who can share that vision, and that walking-along.
DP: To go back a bit earlier, on another subject - re-releases of some of your older material. Is it possible that Horizen, and perhaps At Peace, will be re-released on CD?
JF: I hope not. I think of both of them with a deep loathing. I don't know, because it's nothing to do with Red Hot Records. I'd rather not have them re-released. It's not in my hands. It's like Elements - I didn't know that was coming out, it just came out on its own, nobody asked me...
DP: I gather they didn't even know that Jade Warrior was still a going concern.
JF: Right - they knew nothing. And so, we didn't get the chance to remaster, like we did with the two that Island released. We had a chance to remaster those, and it doesn't half show. We could have gone down and chopped them out, and it would be what we were trying to get. We'd have been able to get back the dynamic range.
You see, although the masters will have a dynamic range, it would only be up to the standard of the technology then. But we could have had the dynamic range we wanted. Like at the beginning of Distant Echoes - we were able to get that voice so far back that most people don't know it's there - it sounds like silence. That's what we wanted. Enormous, enormous size.
But, we couldn't. We had to take account the stylus in the groove in the record, it would make a certain amount of noise and we had to be louder than that.
DP: And, if you went up too high, you'd pop the stylus out of the groove.
JF: (laughter) That's right. And, you couldn't go on too long because of the spiral - you'd get too near the center, and distortion would start to creep in if you went three minutes longer.
So, I just don't know about those other two. They're not my two favorite albums. They don't represent Jade Warrior as far as I'm concerned, either of them, because we weren't obeying the laws that we were obeying when we did Way of the Sun. We were definitely on the right track then, and that's where I wanted to start again when we got the chance to do another album. I wanted to start from there, because that's the last place we were on the right track, as far as I'm concerned. We were on the trail then, and we drifted off.
There were all sorts of things going, which caused this sort of thing - all sorts of awful things, such as Tony losing his house. It was terrible. There was a need for money, and there was this whole business of ambient recordings going on. We weren't doing Jade Warrior then - everybody saying "You were doing this sort of thing years before everybody else, why don't you make an ambient recording?". We needed money, so... I'm a bit more settled now. Money's nice, yes - but not at any cost.
So, I don't know. It might happen, if this new album does any business - the label might decide to do it.
I'm having a crisis of conscience about the other ones - the Vertigo ones. That's something that happened, it's gone, I was on there, and archivally it may be of interest to some people - but it's of no interest to me. And the unreleased album, Eclipse - we now have the masters again, and there's great talkings about having it released. I'll be making up my mind by Monday whether I'm prepared to have it released. I'm not the only player on this - I'll have to ask Glyn, if I can find him - he's on a sheep farm somewhere.
DP: That's another question - what happened to him? Where did he head off to?
JF: From those early days, he went with Kirstie somebody, who did a pop single (I can't remember), and played with her band for a while. Then, he left that band, and we didn't hear from him.
DP: I thought, when I first started up the mailing list, that I had a copy of everything you guys had ever put onto vinyl as a group. I found out quite rapidly that I was very out of date.
DP: It's been amazing. One of the guys on the list located a copy of the Suck It and See sampler and has Mwenga Sketch.
JF: Oh, you haven't got that one? Neither have I...
DP: That LP is unobtainable at this point, as far as I can tell - I haven't been able to find it.
JF: I'll have a word with a friend who claims to have everything we've ever done.
DP: A couple of folks on the list actually tracked down two of your movie soundtracks.
JF: Oh, no! Oh, no, please no! Oh no, not that! Game for Vultures...
DP: Game for Vultures, and Bad Man's River.
JF: ... and Bad Man's River. Oh, God. Murder. I can't bear it. I can't bear any of it! (laughter) But, you see what I mean - you see what happens when you get off the track, it all goes wrong, you do that sort of thing. Anyhow, never mind. Can't be helped. It was two other blokes called Smith. I must have been in hospital with a broken leg at the time... almost certainly.
DP: (laughter) Well, sometimes you do things because you have to, or because it seems like a good idea at the time.
JF: Yeah, it's organic. A lot of these things happen to you, as well, you know. It's like Paul Klee said, remember that the picture looks at you! Just because you're doing the music, don't say that the music isn't doing you as well, because it does!
If there was a button here labelled "Destroy everything you did before Island", I'd press it. Because, it has nothing to do with what I'm trying to do. It happened, and it seems to interest other people, and I'm flattered by their interest (puzzled but flattered), but I don't need it myself. I haven't got any of this stuff myself. My boys have got things I haven't heard for years and years, and if any of this stuff crops up I tend to give it to them. Having had a couple of divorces, your stuff get stuffed in tea-chests and garages, and it never all gets collected or sorted.
DP: It's bad enough just moving - I have stuff I haven't seen in 15 years. It's pretty grim.
JF: (Laughter) True enough.
DP: A trivia question on the covers. Back to the Vertigo era. The first album has a poem on the sail...
JF: Ah! I wonder what that says... did I ever know? Did anybody decipher it, do any clever people speak Chinese?
DP: Well, I spoke with a woman at work who speaks Chinese, and she gave me a literal translation of the words, and then tried to convey to me the sense of it. She said it's a poem, sort of a description of the scene shown on the cover. As I tried to render it into English based on the words she translated, it comes across sort of like this: "The moon in the evening sky flickers upon the heart of the small lake, casting intertwined shadows of broken branches. Through the opening between the rocks, the wind comes blowing, mixing up the leaves of the apple trees."
JF: How very wonderful - how very nice!
DP: Who wrote that - do you know?
JF: Oh, no. It was the artist who did that, and won an award for the cover. Being cynical, it could be that it was simply taken from a Japanese print, or "100 poems and their poets", or something like that. Or, they may have done it, I just don't know. But, I like it - it's really nice.
DP: It's rather pretty.
JF: Yes, it is. Could you jot that down and let me have it?
DP: I'll do that.
JF: Thank you. I'm pleased with it - it's all to do with The Traveller, the first song we did, Glyn, Tony, and myself. The first we did as a song. And, so, it was a sort of talisman - had an extra power, being the first step on the long journey. I'm pleased, it's nice, and doesn't say "Arsenal for the Cup" or something like that.
DP: (laughter). No, it's meaningful, and it's appropriate for what the image on the cover is trying to say.
JF: Yes, I like it.
DP: On the more recent albums, Gary Davis noticed that on both Breathing the Storm and Distant Echoes, thematically the songs all run together except that in each case there's a break between number 5 and number 6. Almost as if you'd been organizing it in the same way that it would have been done to go on a two-sided LP. He wondered if that was a conscious choice on your part.
JF: Yes, it was. Well, I just think in two sides. I need a breather. And, I hope that everybody would want a breather. I like the rest, and the quiet in between. Apart from anything else they did, it gives you two beginnings and two ends - it's very satisfying to have that. I wouldn't be against having four pieces, or three pieces. It'd be extremely nice, having three beginnings and three end. Anyway, yes - deliberate!
DP: You mentioned earlier, possibly doing Eclipse - would that be the whole album, or the three tracks which ended up on Reflections?
JF: It would be the album as recorded - the whole album. You see, I think there was enough for two albums - there was an unnamed one, and then there was this one. I need to go down and see him, and go through it. He read me the titles out to me, and they mean nothing to me at all - I swear they're not the right band. He said "There they are, they're on the box!", so I think there's an album and a half floating about. [I believe that the "he" Jon referred to is Brian Leafe at Red Hot Records - DP] I'll have to hear them - I can't say I don't like them, because I can't remember a thing about them. But, I know what they'll be like. But anyway, we'll see - there might be some nice things on there, you never know.
DP: There are still some things on those earlier albums that really speak to me...
JF: And me too, if the truth be told. But, to be honest, what it is I want to do is the new things I have to say. That's what I'd like to focus on - just for me.
DP: On Colin Henson and Dave Sturt - what's their background, musically? Where did they come from before?
JF: On Colin... well, Carol [Bellingham, Jon's girlfriend] knew Colin a long long time ago, when they were in school. After school, he was in a band, and there was a Melody Makers competition, and they won it, and great things were expected of them, and it never happened. And that was all he'd ever done, except fiddle in his front room - he's so laid-back! He'd fiddle around in a friend's studio, but with no end result. At one point, he came around here to do some fiddling he wanted to do - for no particular reason. I started doing some chords, fiddling with the flute, and everything worked perfectly. So, he'd come around here and fiddle for hours, but without any thought. And then it occured to me, "Tony would love to play with this, why don't we try that?". That was shortly before Tony died - Colin went down and met him one day, but Tony wasn't able to do any playing that day. And then, Tony died, so he never got to actually do it. So, that's where Colin comes from.
David has done some stuff with Gilmour [David Gilmour of Pink Floyd - DP], and bands I've never heard of who are famous. But then, I've never heard of anybody - I just don't know bands, I don't listen to them much. So, this very impressive list of bands that David has played with, I can't remember a single person. I'll send you the list - it's written down somewhere for me to refer to, if anybody asks.
It must sound as if I'm disinterested, but it's not that! It's just not the sort of thing... it's not relevant or appropriate, when we're together, to be in that world. We just dealing with "Oh, God, there's a hum on this", just climbing the mountain every time. No time to talk about other things...
DP: It'd take the focus away.
JF: That's right. So, actually, historically, I'm useless. You'd be better off talking with a friend of mine - he remembers everything. He transcribed a complete 3-hour radio show we did, where they played all of the albums. He transcribed every bit, including the er's and um's and laughter. And I swear, the ha-ha's go on for as long as we laughed! He wrote everything down - he knows everything. It's what he does.
DP: I'd love to read a copy of that transcription, if he's willing to share it.
JF: Well, he sent me one. Problem is, I probably drew on the back. He's probably got the original. I'll have a word with him.
DP: Well, that's most of the questions we had lined up, I think.
We arranged for me to send Jon the complete set of questions via snail-mail so that he can look up some of the information he didn't have at hand.
JF: Thank you very much for all of your kind attention!
DP: Well, as I said, interesting hobbies are worth cherishing. I've been enjoying your music for over twenty years now. I'm glad that you've had enough of a sense for what you wanted to do, to be willing to keep going on. I think a lot of people would have given up.
JF: Well, could be - but, we haven't got there yet. No luxury giving up until we've got there.
DP: I hope you find it - and I'm looking forward to the side effects of your search.
JF: Smashing. See you later, David.
DP: Take care!
The contents of this interview transcription is Copyright © 1996 by Dave Platt. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. This interview may not be reproduced for any commercial purpose without express written permission.
Go to the Jade Warrior home page