Interview Adrian Jones (Nine Stones Close)
"I'm too much of a control freak as far as my music is concerned"
(May 2011, text by Pedro Bekkers, edited by Peter Willemsen)
The British band Nine Stones Close founded by guitarist Adrian Jones recently released a very impressive second album called Traces. Provided, that we consider their first CD St Lo (2008) as a band effort. Fortunately I got the opportunity to do an interview with Jones, the band's musical brain, and I asked him some questions about this splendid new album.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask some questions regarding Traces. Would you please tell me something about the content of the album?Adrian Jones: “It's really about loss, loss of loved ones, loss of innocence, empathy, health, friendship, love, you name it. It's an album about reflection, feelings and the human experience. Much of the music and the lyrical content have been written around the time my father died from cancer. Some of my thoughts and feelings from that time are also reflected in the lyrics.”
On the first album you did al the work yourself. On Traces, Nine Stones Close became a real band. How did this influence the way of writing for Traces?“Actually, it didn't change the way I normally write. I arranged everything the way I normally would do. I sent the basic tracks to the other guys for them to add their parts. I tend to write on an acoustic guitar then expand the ideas in the studio. I quite often write while I'm recording and adding guitar parts during the process. I don't have a set of formula for writing songs; the ideas can come from anywhere and at any time. The other guys added their personality into the music and the arrangements. I didn't tell them what they had to play, I left them to create their own parts and in Marc Atkinson's case the vocal melodies. They are great musicians after all and there was a real chemistry going on throughout the whole process. What did change for this album was the mixing process. This time we had to include Brendan Eyre' s lush keyboard layers, but that was more of a challenge to balance everything and create a clear but full sound.”
To what extent is Nine Stones Close a real band now or is it still an Adrian Jones Project?“I guess in some ways it still is an 'Adrian Jones Project', but that's not a very catchy name, is it? To be honest, it started to feel more like a real band during the recordings of Traces and Brendan, Marc and Neil will all be playing and contributing to the next album. In terms of song writing things will pretty much remain the same as I'm too much of a control freak as far as my music is concerned. These guys have added their contributions to the arrangements and in Brendan's case for the overall sound of Nine Stones Close and for that I'm forever grateful. They're all superb musicians and it's an honour to be able to work with them. I can't wait to get started on recording the next album with them.”
How did you get in contact with these marvellous musicians?“Maybe it was a strange alignment of the planets. Sometimes you know that fate has a hand in this stuff somewhere along the line. I was actually giving away copies of the St Lo CD at the Marillion Weekend in Port Zélande in 2009, trying to generate some interest in the album. I met Brendan one morning there and we struck up a hangover conversation about music and I gave him a copy of St Lo. Subsequently he gave me a copy of his Riversea demo-CD and we promised to keep in touch. A few months later Brendan contacted me and he asked me if I would play guitar on a Christmas prog song he was working on for a compilation-CD. I agreed and in return I asked Brendan if he would like to have a go at the keyboard parts on the track I'd just finished for the new album and he agreed. A few days later the track came back with his keyboard parts on it and I was blown away. I instantly knew we were on the same musical wavelength, but the results were fantastic. Then, without knowing it, Brendan sent the track to Marc and asked if he would like to have a go at a vocal for it. Brendan sent it to me late one night and I was a bit taken back that this singer I had never met or spoken, had written some lyrics and recorded the vocals for it. When I played it back I was stunned. Not only were the lyrics in line with the concept I had in mind, but the vocals were amazing. I immediately played it for my wife who was moved to tears by the end result, proclaiming that I had finally written a 'real song', hahaha! From that point on Marc and Brendan were in for the album project. Neil Quarrell joined later in the process. I met Neil through a mutual friend after I mentioned that a couple of my guitars needed some work on them. She said she knew someone who built and fixed guitars and put me in touch with Neil. He came over and fixed the guitars and later we had a couple of beers and a jam together. I asked him if he would like to have a stab at the bass for the track Traces and he agreed. We recorded it right there and then from that moment onwards Neil was on board too. He continued on to build me a handmade guitar last year, but that's another story.”
If you go on tour with Nine Stone Close, which I hope very much, do the musicians that play on the album also form part of the live band?“Definitely! If we manage to get out and do some live dates I can't see it happening without these guys involved. We're looking into options and possibilities to do this, but we have some serious logistical problems to overcome before it can happen. Take only the fact that we're spread over two countries and we're unable to get together to rehearse and gig without large sums of money being involved. We all have full- time jobs as well, families and mortgages, so it's not so easy to drop everything and go touring. But, like I said, we're looking into options and if it's all possible then we'll do it. We are itching to get out there and play the album live.”
When I reviewed the album I referred to your guitar playing as being influenced by David Gilmour, but I think he's not your primary influence. Could you tell me a bit about your musical background?“A few reviewers have made that comparison, and it's of course extremely flattering as Gilmour is one of my guitar heroes. However, you are correct. He's not my primary, nor my only influence. I actually didn't start playing guitar until I was sixteen years old, after seeing the film The Song Remains The Same, so Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) is the reason I picked up the guitar and he still is my musical idol. I listen to a lot of diverse styles of music and I have many guitar influences and heroes all of which have at some point influenced my style. I think I learned from them, but eventually developed my own style. I never learned to play whole songs by any other artists, just riffs and things picked up from listening to albums and trying to play along. I just used what I learned to write my own songs. As for major guitar influences there are many for different reasons. Jimmy Page and David Gilmour, obviously. Andy Latimer, Robin Trower, Ty Tabor, Jerry Cantrell, Steve Rothery, Tony Iommi, Alex Lifeson, Billy Gibbons, Neil Young, Mikael Akerfeldt, Kim Thayil, so many... I could go on.”
The artwork has been created by Ed Unitsky. Was it hard to get him designing the artwork? I guess his fame is growing with every new artwork he creates.“Yes, Ed has a growing following and his artwork is superb and stylistically unique. I don't know if it's hard to get him for doing the artwork in general, but for me it was pretty easy. I contacted Ed via Facebook and asked him if he would be interested in doing it. He then asked me to send him some pieces of music from the album, which I did, and he wrote back saying he would love to do it. I think the music is also a huge factor in Ed's decision to do the artwork. Once Ed agreed we did everything by e-mail: correspondence, talking about ideas, concepts and Ed sending drafts for feedback. I'm really pleased how the artwork turned out. I think it fits the album perfectly, and not just the cover, the art in the booklet is superb as well.”
I heard you left England to settle in The Netherlands. Would you please tell me why you moved to our country rather than living in your home country?“It's a long story. Back in 2002 my family were involved in a near fatal car crash in France. Amazingly we all survived but I had some serious injuries. Basically I was in recovery for about eighteen months, including having to learn how to walk again after the surgeon had pieced me back together. It was a very traumatic experience for everyone involved, as you can imagine, and it changed my outlook on many things including music. At the time of the accident I had barely picked up my guitar in five years after I became disillusioned with the bands I was involved with and never getting anywhere. I concentrated on family and work and lost sight of music. The accident was a wake-up call and it was in the hospital that I came to realize how much I'd missed playing and writing. I made a decision that once I got out of the hospital and being recovered I would start writing again. Eventually I bought my first home studio setup and started to write. The first thing I wrote was A Door Opens which was an idea that had come to me in the hospital. This song appeared on St Lo. Then around this time I was offered a job in The Netherlands, quite unexpectedly, and we decided that a change would be a positive move for us all, a new start so to speak, and we took the opportunity. We never looked back; we love living in your country and we have no intention to go anywhere else at the moment.”
Could you tell me the difference between the musical climate in The Netherlands and England?“It's very different. I think Dutch people are more open-minded to different types of music and that's great. I also think that the live music scene is much more vibrant. There are so many small venues putting on bands, promoting live music and it is well-supported by the public too. We constantly attend gigs here, whereas in England it was often difficult to even find any live music. If Nine Stones Close play live we would love to do it in The Netherlands first.”
If you want to add something for our readers, well this is your chance to share your thoughts...“I would just like to thank everyone who has supported us so far and special thanks to everyone who has bought the albums. I've just started writing the next album and I'm excited about the new material. I can't wait to get in the studio and start recording again.”
Thank you for your time to answer my questions.“It's my pleasure.”
So far this pleasant conversation with Adrian Jones, leader of a new and promising band in the progressive rock field. I hope we will get the chance to see Nine Stones Close on stage soon.
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