Johnny Hates Jazz burst onto the scene with their massively profitable debut album, however an impatient frontman led to a parting of the methods. In 2018 they reunited and we met with vocalist and songwriter Clark Datchler… By David Burke
“I ought to have been extra affected person, however I simply wished to get on with the following factor,” is how an older, wiser Clark Datchler displays on the wrong-headedness of his choice to give up Johnny Hates Jazz in 1988.
The group had scored a UK No.1 album with their debut, Flip Again The Clock, and have been basking within the glory of singles success on each side of the Atlantic with Shattered Desires, when frontman Datchler dropped the bombshell on fellow founder members Mike Nocito and Calvin Hayes.
“It was a query of: ‘Okay, what subsequent?’ Flip Again The Clock was a pop album. And any musician that you just meet or discuss to will inform you that what they’re doing at that second is a very powerful factor to them. So, I used to be very very similar to that – ‘Yeah, Flip Again The Clock is implausible, however you’ve obtained to listen to this new tune. That is the place we’re going’.
“I feel if I had been just a little extra affected person – I used to be very impatient after I was youthful – I might have quietened myself and mentioned: ‘Whoa! This has been an extended highway and I’m privileged to have reached this level. Now the place do I take it?’”
Datchler had all the time seen himself as a solo artist, having signed to Bluebird Data in his teenagers and later decamping to Los Angeles as a songwriter for Warner Brothers Music, and was “very cut up about staying in a band”.
He remembers of Johnny Hates Jazz’s genesis: “I had come again from dwelling in LA as a younger lad, didn’t actually know what to do and answered an advert in Melody Maker to hitch a band, which was signed to a label, which turned out to be RAK Data. Calvin was in a band with Glen Matlock [Sex Pistols] and James Stevenson [Generation X]. They have been known as Sizzling Membership. I joined as a singer.
“Principally, the top of RAK, who was Mickie Most, Calvin’s father, accredited me as a singer, then signed me as a solo artist. He mentioned: ‘It is best to work with a younger engineer/producer at RAK, Mike Nocito, an American man’. So, it was Mickie who put the 2 of us collectively. Mike and Calvin have been doing a little stuff collectively. 4 years later, we realised we should always pool our assets and create one thing, which turned Johnny Hates Jazz.
“It felt like a very good match. All three of us have been very broad-minded musically, had different musical tastes. There was no narrowness there. In a manner, we have been fairly a mature bunch, despite the fact that I used to be fairly younger. Mature within the sense of our musical historical past, and it made us fairly lifelike about what we have been going through. You felt you have been round kindred spirits, positively.”
However even kindred spirits are usually not immune from the vagaries of fame and fortune, as Datchler explains: “Though all of us obtained on properly in sure methods, everybody has traits, and you discover within the strain cooker of that sort of success, it brings issues to the floor, so it was troublesome, in some methods. I feel that it’s very a lot right down to how completely different individuals react to consideration – and I imply fame.
“I feel that created a divergence and it wasn’t simply me, nevertheless it was me as properly. I take duty for that. You begin to really feel that completely different individuals need various things out of it.”
Don’t let it finish this fashion
Nocito and Hayes have been “devastated” by Datchler’s departure. “I used to be the singer, and that’s high quality, however so far as I’m involved, singers are 10-a-penny, particularly nowadays. However to lose your foremost songwriter and your entrance man is sort of a blow. And on a private degree, they have been gutted. However I’m positive there was part of them that thought they might go on with Johnny Hates Jazz with out me and do very properly, simply as I assumed I might by myself.”
Neither of the above situations panned out. Sure, Johnny Hates Jazz carried on, with Grammy Award-winning engineer and producer Phil Thornalley changing Datchler, however finally cut up in 1992, after a second album, Tall Tales. Datchler, in the meantime, moved to Amsterdam, the place he launched a few collections, Raindance and Fishing For Souls, earlier than returning to Blighty and basing himself at Peter Gabriel’s Actual World Studios close to Bathtub for many of the decade.
“Once I was in Johnny Hates Jazz, one of many cool issues was that you just have been selling everywhere in the world, and I turned very conscious of the environmental drawback worldwide. It’s the one problem all of us face as individuals, it doesn’t matter what our race, our language or our faith. I wished to maneuver in that course, musically, to start out articulating extra of that.
“As I modified as an individual, I turned extra spiritually oriented because of my environmental considerations. I began listening to music that mirrored that, possibly not lyrically, however definitely instrumentally. That led me to Actual World. I wished to be round a way more broad view of what music might be, and what it might stand for.”
At the start of the brand new millennium, eco-warrior Datchler moved to the States for a second time, making a solar-powered residence and studio and finding out the philosophy of indigenous individuals. Then, in 2009, his previous bandmates obtained in contact.
“We hadn’t talked for 21 years. Not a sausage. I used to be dwelling in Arizona. I used to be dedicated to recording a solo album with an environmental theme. Calvin known as me; the 2 of them had the chance to get again collectively on these retrospective excursions. It wasn’t my factor. I didn’t like the concept of being grouped collectively in this sort of nostalgia factor. I had a difficulty with the decade-isation of music as properly. So, I declined.
“Then I began writing a tune known as Magnetized and realised it seemed like a contemporary Johnny Hates Jazz document. I contacted them once more and mentioned I might do this reside facet of issues if we might make a brand new album. Then some conferences occurred, and I noticed each of them for the primary time in 21 years. Mike and I met in a restaurant in Cambridge.
“Though you possibly can’t say that it’s all water below the bridge – there’s all the time going to be a bit of luggage from the time that I’d left – it was beautiful, in that it felt like we’d solely seen one another every week or so in the past. We obtained to know one another once more, and I proposed the concept of a brand new document.”
That new document was the lengthy participant, Magnetized, recorded with out Hayes and issued in 2013 to a lot pleasure. Johnny Hates Jazz have been gaining traction once more when Datchler was recognized with a uncommon type of most cancers. By the point of his restoration the next yr, the momentum had been misplaced.
Since then, Johnny Hates Jazz – now fulcrumed solely by Datchler and Nocito – have maintained a reside presence in Britain, Central Europe and Asia. Earlier this yr, they unveiled a bumper thirtieth Anniversary Version of Flip Again The Clock, together with an acoustic model.
“It’s taking a tune identified in a single recorded type and virtually deconstructing it and presenting it in a way more trustworthy type, in some methods. There’s far fewer bells and whistles on it. A few of the gigs we’ve accomplished up to now have been acoustic, and so they’ve all the time been probably the most pleasant ones.
“There’s one thing about doing it in that type – it’s simply you, your instrument, your voice and the viewers. Having accomplished that just a few occasions, and actually having fun with it and liking the actual fact it’s simply presenting the songs as they’re – they stand or they fall in that atmosphere – seeing individuals reply to that positively made us suppose it might be a beautiful factor to do.”
Clock of ages
So, how does the unique Flip Again The Clock sound to Datchler at a take away of three a long time? “It’s attention-grabbing as a result of, understanding the album so properly, I needed to have fairly a little bit of distance from it. However I’ve been doing loads of performing just lately, so it’s been again in my face a bit! I feel it’s stood the check of time properly.
“It’s troublesome for me, as a result of I used to be the principle songwriter and I do are typically song-oriented, however I feel one of many causes it’s weathered so properly is the songs are of a sure customary.
“But in addition, in some methods, we weren’t too rooted within the Nineteen Eighties. Not that we weren’t influenced by the point during which we got here to being as a band – we definitely have been. However any musician who arose within the 80s have been kids of the 60s and 70s, in order that was actually our affect. In that sense, I grew up listening to the nice songwriters of the 60s and 70s, and so they have been conventional songwriters, by and huge. And in the event that they weren’t, they have been extremely creative.
“You then had this collision with the 80s, which was actually the ascent of know-how – the extra widespread use of synths and drum machines and sequencers – and but this old-school manner of writing songs. That’s why that exact decade was distinctive, it was that attention-grabbing mixture. That was in all probability why Flip Again The Clock sounds the best way it does. It’s obtained a foot in earlier a long time and a foot within the decade during which it was launched.”
Datchler admits that, in some methods, it’s harder for the Twenty first-Century incarnation of Johnny Hates Jazz than it was within the 80s.
“Though I assumed after I was youthful that I confronted a mountain attempting to get a document deal, it’s more durable now, since you’re struggling to be heard amongst a plethora of people who find themselves simply releasing something.
“The constructive factor is we now have an id as Johnny Hates Jazz, and it’s one thing I admire extra as an older particular person. At any time when we do have just a little little bit of success, or some sort of appreciation, I do admire it a terrific deal greater than up to now. In that sense, it’s extra pleasant. I feel we’ve obtained issues extra in measure. We’re studying, when issues go properly, to simply say: ‘That’s magical’.”