Jesus Stag Night Club explodes on the Internet after Christian fundamentalist sends Stephen and Depp straight to hell for the filth. “If they were true Jesus lovers, they wouldn’t own CD players and iPods,” Stephen says in an interview.
Vox, August 1996
Stephen Jones Interview
What’s your worst habit?
Buying the NME; it’s an old habit that I’ve got into again. I used to buy it a lot but now I’ve started buying it again to see if Baby Bird are in it.
Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
Not really. If I ever work on things, I just work very fast. As quick as possible. People have the impression that I’m locked away in a studio 24 hours a day, working on hundreds of songs. Well, that’s not true. When I get hold of something. if it’s something I wanna do, whether designing or music, I work on it extensively. But I’m not a workaholic I like a bit of fun
What’s the first record you ever bought?
Probably the Bay City Rollers. Did they do a song called “Barbara”? I can’t remember, but it was definitely the Bay City Rollers. I wasn’t really a huge fan; it was just this one song. I was brought up in New Zealand, so my first musical love was Mauri music, cos that’s what my parents played to me. Maori nursery rhymes, fables and stories. I’ve still got those records, actually little seven-inches on red vinyl. I didn’t buy them myself but they were the first records I ever listened to.
What would you do with £100?
Probably nothing, I’d need more. I wouldn’t even do a song for that now. I can charge more than that for a song. I’d do the Splash Club, I’d do some little gigs for people who have been good to us, and I’d probably be prepared to go to Skegness for the weekend.
Tell us a Joke
A duck goes into a chemist and asks for some ointment because he has sore tips. So the chemist brings him some ointment. The duck looks at it and says That’s fine”. The chemist then asks how is he going to pay for it – cash or check? And the duck says:” Oh just put it on my bill”.
What’s the closest You’ve been to death?
I’ve been in a car crash where the car was rolling over. This was in the middle of Manchester. I had concussion, a cut on my head, and I was covered in blood from where I’d been smashed in the face. A taxi went into the back of my car, and the only witness was some guy who was off his head on some drug or other. The case went to court and I did get some compensation, but I would of got a lot more if this idiot hadn’t been a drug addict.
What was the most humiliating teenage experience?
It was quite a serious one actually. I’m left handed and when I was living in New Zealand I was always told that writing with your left-hand was evil. So I use to pretend I was right-handed, and that carried on when I came back to England, until I was about 13. But now I’m quite proud, because apparently it means you are creative.
Do you have any fetishes?
No. People probably assume I’m perverted becauseI write four-track songs, but I’ve no rubber fetishes or anything saucy. I think peope are desperate to make me out to be some kind of weirdo, so even if I did have a fetish, I wouldn’t tell you what is was. I’m just a very straightforward person.
If your house was burning down what would you save?
Shoes. I collect shoes. Maybe that’s a fetish. I don’t sniff them though, I just like wearing them. I’ve got a pair of fake alligator-skin shoes, so I’d probably grab them. I wouldn’t grab things like cd’s, but it might be quite funny to be seen carrying a washing machine from a burning building. I’ve got about 20 pairs of shoes. I’m the Imelda Marcos of pop. I like to buy them and not wear them. I just like them as things. I like to look at shoes.
What is your proudest sporting achievement?
I used to play quite a lot of sport as a kid. I won a few cups for running the 100 metre race. I was primarily a sprinter, but I also used to do some long distance. I had these tiny little cups which were pathetic small things made out of rusty tin. My mum and dad have still got them. I used to run the 100 metres in about 11 seconds, which isn’t bad. I used to be very fast, but not any more, dodgy knees
Characteristically, which bird do you most resemble – the eagle, peacock or penguin?
I wouldn’t pick one of those, but I’ve been told I’m a bit of a peacock cos I strut around on stage. I like the colours of a peacock, but I wouldn’t be that big-headed to say I was like a peacock. I do like all of those; the eagle and the penguin. But the most obvious one for me is the baby bird – a real skinny one with no feathers on that you find dead, dropped out of a nest. I used to pick them up when I was a little kid. We used to find these little baby birds that we’d keep, look after and take bets on whether they would survive.
What was the first gig you ever went to?
I went to see Johnny Morris doing Peter and the Wolf; he was narrating with some orchestra, so that was the first thing I was taken to by my mum and dad. But the first proper gig was probably Bauhaus, before ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’, at the Ajanta cinema in Derby.
Have you ever been beaten up?
I have. I’ve got a scar under my chin. I was dancing in a hip hop club. I’d probably drunk a whole bottle of whiskey, and I was dancing around silly dancing, going a bit mad, and this tiny little black guy with all these corny gold rings on (who I found out later was a boxer) hit me twice in the nose, then under the chin. I was knocked out for a couple of seconds and a friend had to drag me out and take me to a hospital. I wasn’t taking the piss or anything, but it was a real heavy black club and they thought I was taking the piss. I don’t think it was a racist thing – I think it was just down to me being a twat.
Who would you do on Stars in their Eyes?
I’ve been told recently I look like Bryan Adams, so I’d probably have to do the Robin Hood song. Horribly.
What’s in a sausage?
Pigs’ nipples and ground – down trotters so I’m told. But I still eat them. I love pork sausages. I’m a very bad vegetarian, never toyed with the idea I’m not addicted to meat, but cows are to be eaten, aren’t they? Mad or not.
Have you ever gone in for an extravagant hairstyle?
I’ve had a black mohican. It wasn’t stuck up, it was just flat and black. That was probably my most extravagant hairstyle. That was when I was in my fantasy punk band.
What are you addicted to?
Coffee is my worst and biggest addiction. I drink up to 20 cups a day, which is not good. I hate it. It coats your teeth, and it’s a horrible feeling. It’s evil.
What record changed your life?
Joy Division were probably the most important, but just because of the simplicity of it. I couldn’t name a single that changed me, nothing like the Beatles or anything. I’ve never been influenced by those hands. I’m glad, because people in the ‘90’s’ are copying the Beatles, left, right and centre, but I’ve never had that. I think going to a zoo or traveling changes me more often than music. I’m a very keen zoo-goer and I’ve been to some fucking horrendous ones abroad, where the monkeys are begging for cigarettes. But normally, I like them. I get more excited by seeing a baby elephant than hearing a record.
When did you last made a fool of yourself?
It was probably the last time I stormed off at a gig. We played Eindhoven in Holland and it was a dreadful audience. All these people were talking and I was getting more and more aggressive. Somebody put this little note on my music stand which said “why are you so arrogant? Look in the mirror and you will see that you are an arrogant pig” and that flipped me. I just, went swearing mad. Fucking c*** this and Fucking c***that. Then I realised it wasn’t a very good thing to do. Its not very professional. So that was pretty foolish.
THE SURVIVAL ISSUE
The lone songwriter’s lot is a hard one: all that time spent on your tod in bedsits, operating as an autonomous mates-free zone, the struggle to be heard by a public who just don’t care, who probably aren’t good enough for your songs anyway. So it would seem if you’ve maintained a passing interest in the career of Stephen Jones, otherwise known as the man behind Baby Bird.
As the Bird, Stephen manages to make lo-fi, stream-of-consciousness love songs interesting to those of us who aren’t a) myopic or b) intent on saluting the magic of Sebadoh for the rest of their lives. We’ve had to invent Band Maths to describe his odd combination of Beck, AR Kane and the Go-Betweens, because such things can’t possibly hang together without a strong framework. “I’m not stood quivering behind a mic, writing songs in my room. I’m not exactly a shy, retiring person. Could you dispel that, please?
And I don’t eat fish fingers.” Fine. In reality, he’s a top chap, nobly battling the hecklers who come to his ‘on’t'nest’ residencies (“They’re the kind of witty folk who probably just think they’re trying to help,” he tuts). What they see when they ge there is robust readings from any one of his 400-strong catalogue of songs, delivered with glitz and aplomb. If the glitter, costume changes and Mr Showmanship turns suggest a certain theatricality, it’s because Stephen has recently escaped the stage, having mucked in with an anti-theatre group for a good few years before getting on his Baby Bird perch.
“I hate to describe it as ‘performance’ because my mum and dad think it sounds well pervy. We got lots of funding and 1 got to see every city in England so it was worth it, but Baby Bird came along at the right time for me.”
Stephen’s profligacy has resulted in a ridiculous bidding war, won by Echo late last autumn, as well as the hatching of five full CDs of Baby Bird, released in limited editions. “Think of them like demos. We’ll release the most popular songs from the five of them in the springtime as our fist major-label record, after I’ve had the chance to record them with the people in my band.” And with that, the busy Bird flies off. Robins feathering their nests have very little time to rest….
I Was Born A Man
Remarkable. Essentially what we have here is another over-prolific songwriter (5 LPs are in the can) tinkering away on a four track. / Was Born A Man is the resulting debut album, a collection so wonderful I would already suggest that BB could be as important a creative force as Bongwater or Beck. And when you realise how much I love Beck and Bongwater, that is no idle compliment.
This is one of the debuts of the year. BB succeeds because of his exceptional songs and imaginative use of limited equipment. He’s got a fine sense of humour too. Variety is the order of the day, from the opening druggy fuzz of Blow it to the Moon to the humourous yet tense exploration of transvestism Man’s Tight Vest (“wish I’d been christened Valerie instead of Stan”) and the light Casio dominated Lemonade Baby. That’s just the first ten minutes. It’s the melancholy stuff that gets me though, like the wonderful CFC or the overly sad Dead Bird Sings which comes across like a lo-fi Blue Nile. Just in case it gets too heavy the proceedings are broken up with the hilarious Hong Kong Blues (“pull your pants down and dance around completely naked”). Elsewhere, Baby Bird makes the everyday England seem something more than mundane with Cornershop and Farmer. Forget all this Britpop nonsense, along with Prolapse and Globo this is the best British debut of the last 12 months. Like I said earlier, this is remarkable.
Bad Shave LP
Second in an ongoing release of five CDs over eight months, the attitude as well as the music of Baby Bird is a huge removal from most artists in the current spotlight.
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Between My Ears There’s Nothing But Music
Chrysalis | 2006 | Album
Everyone who hasn’t followed Stephen Jones’s career (as Babybird, as himself, or as a combination of the two) has missed out on an intriguing, exceptional, and unquestionably strange series of albums.