The Plastic Ashtray Talk To JPL's Andrew About 'Backlash Cop'
The Plastic Ashtray hunts down Andrew Ferris (Vocals/Guitar) from Post-hardcore gone funkadelic rockers Jetplane Landing to find out what we can expect from their third full length lp, 'Backlash Cop' ending up with tips in shoplifting and major label harmony... Read on... Read on!
It’s been quite some time since 2003’s ‘Once Like A Spark’. What have you been up to besides writing & recording this years imminent third lp, Backlash Cop?
Hey Pete, thanks for this opportunity to talk to your readers. Yes, it has been a little while between records; we toured 'Once Like A Spark' eight times and after that we decided to have a bit of time off, which evolved into a year off. We were working on new ideas on our own for most of that time and then settled on the theme and concept for Backlash Cop. We did lots of groove and song structure research for the record and we had to learn how to play in an entirely new way to pull it off. We recorded the album in December 2006.
Backlash Cop seems a very different record to your first two lps. Makes me think you’ve been listening to a lot of funk. I like the looseness in the guitar work. What sort of music inspired this new lp?
Yes, we’ve dug into what originally inspired us as musicians and assimilated that with Jetplane Landing. James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, A Tribe Called Quest, Rufus Thomas, Chic, Parliament, Diana Ross, The Band, The Roots, NWA, Public Enemy, Marvin Gaye, Q And Not U, Black Flag, The Minutemen, Blues Explosion – 'Backlash Cop' is that strangest of animals, a soul/funk concept album played by four white blokes.
You mention Cahir’s guitar playing on the album – I’m pleased you pick up on that as I think this combined with Raife’s drumming really push this record into new territory for us. They completely immersed themselves in the idea and I think it’s their best work so far.
Do you think with the difference between the straight up angular rock of the last album and your new sound it will divide fans?
I think Jetplane Landing fans are very open-minded, inquisitive people and the reason that they ‘get us’ is because we share the same passion about music and musicians. It’s easy to draw a line between Funkadelic and Les Savy Fav in rock music genealogy, they’re both about participation. Similarly it’s easy to draw a line between "This Is Not Revolution Rock" and "White Music" or "Lungs Of Punk" on the new record. Lyrically, we’re still pointing out things that are unfair to us – and musically we’re still trying to make tense, fun, interesting arrangements that include people in our party.
To quote Jamie ‘if we lose people on this record so be it, so long as they’ve lost their receipts.’
How do you feel about your older work now the new album has come to fruition? Do you enjoy playing the newer material live?
Bands always think their new work is their best; and this album is no exception to that thoroughly boring rule! 'Backlash Cop' was built for live, we decided the track-listing in advance of the recording sessions and each song runs into each other in a suite. It’s a whole lot of fun rapping and shaking tambourines over these grooves because they’re a hell of a lot funkier than some of our older stuff.
All that said, history sorts out what songs are good and which don’t work – I’m proud of stuff like "Revolution Rock"; "Summer Ends"; "Calculate The Risk" and "I Opt Out" – all of those still do it for me and contain elements of what I think is best about JPL.
I hear the Smalltown America site crashed due to the high amount of people streaming ‘Backlash Cop’ over the last couple of weeks. Exciting times, seems people are waiting with anticipation for its release. With not having a huge advertising budget like the major labels, does it sometimes scare you some people might not know you are back?
We’ve built our mailing list over seven years of touring and speaking to people like yourselves online. We’re a very niche band and in marketing terms, we know how to reach our audience without giving NME £500 a pop for an advert that you don’t really notice. We find that if a record is good then people talk to each other about it and that’s the best advertisement there is. It’s up to you guys to decide whether or not you like the record and whether or not we deserve your eight quid.
That’s why we make our entire discography available to be streamed on the label website – it’s ‘Try Before You Buy’. Make no mistake, we need to sell records because otherwise the band can’t record another one – but I’m not going to force it down your throat or give our hard-earned to IPC. They’ve got The Fratellis and Damien Rice to line their pockets – they don’t need any help from us! Keep smashing that STA server – it’s back up and running now incidentally.
Did being on major labels (with previous bands in the past) help create your DIY attitude to playing and releasing music now?
I suppose it did, but I’ll be honest with you Pete – the whole ‘we got burned by a major so we set up on our own’ thing was never something that we actually said. It was an assumption that the media drew from the fact that we were on Geffen in one band and then made Jetplane completely DIY. Jamie and I honestly thought that there was a really limited audience for what we wanted to do, so we recorded the first album on our own and put it out the way we wanted to as cheaply as we could. We didn’t want anyone messing round with it.
Happily, we were completely wrong about the audience; which is why I now spend every moment of spare time I have working our releases on STA. It’s gone a bit nuts but I’m thrilled that our model works and proves that you don’t need anything other than hard work and good will to get your music out to all the magazines, stores TV and radio stations.
Would you actively tell bands to avoid major labels or do you think it is/was an important learning experience?
Not at all, if you want it – go for it. Read Albini’s ‘river of shit’ diatribe before you ink the deal and empower yourself with as much legal knowledge as you can (there is a great book by Donald Passman still in print). That way when they fuck you over at at least you’ve seen it coming. I signed a contract with Geffen when I was eighteen, and apart from a few moments I absolutely loved it. It was the only time in my life when I could say that I was a full-time musician.
Make use of the time wisely because unless you have hits it doesn’t last and only 1 out of 10 bands have hits. From what I read some people in UK have used their major connections wisely YCNI:M by building their own studio; Enter Shikari and Dance To The Radio by leveraging good distribution and marketing deals by having press heat on their acts. If you get dropped, then try and steal a fax machine or a laptop on the way out of the building. I hear The Futureheads nicked a photocopier – but that might be a lie.
Thanks! When people have been at the gigs (we’ve played to crowds of two on occasion) we’ve generally converted them or at the very least they’ve left thinking ‘they’re balls but at least they mean it.’ When we do gigs we generally don’t give up until everyone’s felt something. That’s stood us in good stead over the years – people like to be entertained.
Can we expect an extensive tour to follow with ‘Backlash Cop’?
Not straight away, we’re working on getting the album out to all the shops first and then we’ll think about live shows. Maybe early next year – we might do a single/video before then. We’ll see! I honestly don’t know.
As musicians & writers it seems the transition from ‘Zero For Conduct’ to now is huge. The guitar playing and rhythms are much more complex today. What pushes you to keep progressing when some bands settle for what they know?
We’re just inquisitive I suppose. Fundamentally, we want you to pick up one of our albums and think ‘these boys are fucking mental’ and for the music to work on lots of different levels: good for a party; good to go running with; good to play before you go out at night; good to be sad with.
It’s not a mission to become really good players or become more impressive technically. We just believe in punk rock as a force that can join up the dots in people’s lives – maybe it will give you some comfort to think that there is a band there that thinks the same as you do.
If we had made another album like ‘Once Like A Spark’ we might as well have just packed it in. If we were going to do that we should have made it in 2005 and put it out on a bigger label. To quote Chris Leo ‘we must move backwards to progress!’
Jetplane Landing have been together for around 8 years. It only seems yesterday I bought ‘Zero For Conduct’ . Today you seem have settled into a nice cycle of writing great albums, releasing music via your label and supporting underexposed music.
What direction do you see the band moving on in the near distant future?
That’s such a kind thing to say – the last eight years have gone quickly but it’s been very inspiring. Running Smalltown America constantly refreshes me to make music of my own – it’s very inspiring to hear others trying stuff out and doing it well. In terms of Jetplane Landing output, I think that it will be beat-driven again but perhaps utilise more instruments – that’s the next challenge for us; expand our sound without losing the directness of a three-piece arrangement.
Thanks for your time and good luck with the lp. I look forward to hearing it in full and giving it a review! I’ll catch you on tour im very very sure.
No trouble at all, thanks to everyone for reading and thanks to Plastic Ashtray for supporting the other acts on STA as well.
Quick plug if you don’t mind: ‘Who Invented Love?’ by The Young Playthings is out now; ‘Backlash Cop’ out June 18th; ‘Public Service Broadcast #9’ out in July; Clone Quartet ‘Well Oiled Machine’ out in August and Fighting With Wire ‘Man Vs Monster’ out in September to coincide with the Smalltown America Charity All Dayer on September 15th.
- Pete Stanley, The Plastic Ashtray
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