Music interview '“ Russell Hastings of From The Jam: '˜It was lovely to see Paul Weller and Bruce Foxton together'
Amid the glut of Jam-related anniversaries that Russell Hastings and Bruce Foxton have been commemorating this year, another, more personal one stands out.
It’s a full ten years since the pair began working together in a band that over the course of the last decade has developed from celebrating the work of one of Britain’s greatest Mod groups into a full-blown song writing partnership of their own.
Hastings, who sings and plays guitar, says the last decade has “flown by”.
The pair actually first shared a stage when an earlier incarnation of From The Jam, that included original Jam drummer Rick Buckler, were on the same bill with Foxton’s then group The Casbah Club. “Bruce jumped up on stage and played Tube Station and Smithers-Jones and then the rest is history. He loved it and we all got on really well so we decided to continue forwards.”
Now 52, Hastings grew up a devotee of The Jam, who were fronted by Paul Weller. He saw them a number of times in the late 70s and early 80s, including their final three shows, ending in Brighton in 1982. But the first time, at the Locarno in Portsmouth in late 1977 – “the black and white suit days” – was the one that felt like a life-changing event. “I was just starting to venture out going and seeing bands with my brother. He brought home a [Sex] Pistols album and then The Stranglers and he introduced me to [The Jam’s] In The City album. Then I was going to see live bands and it was more of a life-changing experience, and I think every time I saw them was a life-changing experience because it was just full of energy and it was very exciting. Also in those days there was no Facebook or modern multi-media so when you saw the band, and they came on for an hour and 15 minutes or something and then they went off and you didn’t see them again until they were on Top of the Pops, so there was much more mystique around it all.
“Modern media feeds the instant gratification because people see immediately who was at the show last night or where the band are today. Then it was very much a magical act – I think so anyway.”
Hastings says Foxton, now 62, is amused to think that the pair actually met “more than once” when he was following The Jam as a fan. “Also I spent the afternoon with Paul once in early 1982,” Hastings recalls. “The Gift album had just come out, [A Town Called] Malice was in the charts, and we ended up having lunch with Paul and went back to the hotel with him and he looked after us all afternoon. We ended up playing pool together, which seems bizarre now when you think about it. I was in a studio with Paul about two years ago and I reminded him of it and he could actually remember the day.”
For Hastings, finding himself in Weller’s Black Barn Studio with two of his teenage idols was highly memorable. “There were a couple of pinch moments when I looked back on it. At the time you’re just getting on with it but a couple of times I had the realisation ‘Oh God, that’s Paul there’. In this game you do end up meeting quite a lot of well-known people but for me it was lovely to see Paul and Bruce together. It’s very rare that you’ll ever see a photograph of them together these days but I’ve got a photographic one in my mind and we all had quite a good time in the studio over a period of a few weeks.
“Paul is very relaxed in his own studio and he’s been a very kind and very humble guy. He’s always got a lot of time for you, he’s just a genuinely nice guy.”
On their current tour From The Jam will celebrate the 35th anniversary of The Gift by playing “a selection of songs” from it. “Last night we played Happy Together, Ghosts, A Town Called Malice, The Gift and Carnation, they go down great,” says Hastings.
“We’ll be mixing it in with a lot of other stuff as well as some of the stuff off Smash The Clock and Back in the Room [which Hastings co-wrote with Foxton].”
It seems the fans have taken to the new songs as much as the older numbers. “It’s great so we unashamedly put a song or two in from each album. We play the singles off the albums which did really well for us, particularly the last album, Smash The Clock. It had a lot more money spent on the PR side of it and it was really well received and the fans always ask for it so we thought ‘Let’s just give it to them’. It mixes in really well.”
From The Jam’s show in Leeds coincides with the release of their new live album. Hastings says it was “pretty hard to choose” which numbers to include “because they are so many takes of so many good tracks”, but because they were limited to 12 tracks, he explains: “I think we went for the obvious in most cases but then threw a couple of surprises in.”
From The Jam Live! is out on Friday December 1, the same day as the band play at Leeds Beckett University. They also play at The Leadmill in Sheffield on December 2. www.brucefoxton.com