THIS is Jono. And as you can probably tell, he’s seeing red, writes John Quinn.
He was once an angry young man and although age has caught up with him – he’s now approaching mid 40s – the fury still remains.
Mind you, he has a lot to be angry about, having recently lost his long-standing employment in child protection to cuts. However, unlike many job-loss victims, Jono has an outlet for his anguish, the ability to make music to reflect his mood.
After singing with ’80s punk band Toxic Toys and then The Throbatrons at the start of the ’90s he was fairly well-known on the Sheffield scene – but after the split he “lay dormant for donkey’s years just making music for my own entertainment” until a chance meeting with producer Mikko Hill in 2007 led to him half-completing some tracks.
After a break and a trip to America he turned to another producer, Robin Downe, “from an old punk background like me” and the result is Suburban Chutney, released under Jono And The Vandals.
Behind the jokey band name and album title lies a collection of songs often verging on bleak – like the sleeve picture of Park Hill annexe – but also the sound of someone who has been through the mill while retaining a bit of hope in humanity.
“I think my bleak thoughts manifest when I look around and see how corrupt life is. Money makes people behave in strange ways. In reality, I try and live my life with a smile on my face. It’s important to laugh as much as you can on a daily basis.”
Inititally influenced by notorious anarcho-punks Crass, and US act Dead Kennedys, both of whom combined heavy politics with a light-hearted ability to wind up opponents, Jono – real name Michael Johnson – has a lot to say about all sorts of subjects ranging from the individual world of romance to big issues that affect us all, or as he puts it, his lyrics are “partly autobiographical and partly observational.”
Age certainly hasn’t dimmed his opinions or searching soul.
“As you get older you can still be educated by music, but you have to seek it out at times.
“It’s okay preaching to the converted, if in turn the converted are going to go out and preach to the unconverted. I don’t really preach to anyone though. I just hope people can take something from my lyrics and music that might be poignant to them.”
However, there is more than just sound and fury here, as music varies from standard punky thrash to something more subtle and often surprising. Jono wanted to make an album in which every track could be by a different artist and, although he doesn’t quite manage that, there is diversity.
Aside from the aforementioned punk acts, he is also a fan of The Specials and The The and you can see this if you know what you’re looking for.
The Vandals, meanwhile, are a rolling line-up comprising local musicians from different backgrounds. Considering that Jono had never met the majority of them before doing the recording, the album hangs together pretty well.
There are plans to play live, but with a stripped-down line-up. “Some of the tracks have so many layers that to play them out live – as live should be – I’d need 15 people on stage.
“As anybody who’s been in a band will know it would be a logistical nightmare. It’s sometimes hard enough trying to organise four people. I’m currently writing and recording songs for the second album and I think a live show will be an amalgamation of the two. I want to make sure a show is done to a really high standard and that will take a little time, once I’ve got the right personnel.”
The best way to get Suburban Chutney is from Jono via myspacemusic - email, but it is available on iTunes and Amazon music, although be careful not to buy the between-song links, which Jono assures us should not be on sale. For a preview go to myspace.com/jonoandthevandals.
But first, a warning: “If you like Take That and the X Factor, please don’t buy this album. It’s not for you. However, if you’d like to see Cowell’s head on a platter give it a go.”