Interview with Mike Jones

From Latin Quarter Tourzine Winter 1986

When did you first start songwriting?
I first began writing songs when I was 15, but at that time the world of records seemed a million miles away. It was only after I had met Steve Skaith, and after he moved to London to write songs for a publisher, that I started to write again.

What, if anything, inspires you to write a song?
It's mainly the fact that the whole of life seems to be built around inequalities - some people have more power than others, some people have more wealth than others, and generally this causes the world to be a violent and often miserable place. I like to comment on this and perhaps move people to consider changing the situation.

How do you go about writing your songs?
Usually I'll make an observation to myself, often just a single sentence, about something which has happened to me, or that I've seen on TV or read in a book. If it's a strong line it will stay with me and I'll feel the need to develop the idea that it contains.

How important is songwriting to you?
Sometimes I think it's the most important thing I do - I love it, and one day it may pay the bills - but often I think that helping other people in however small a way is far more important.

Do you think that more people should be encouraged to write songs?
Yes of course, but we must always remember, as I found, it isn't easy to get them on records. Even so you shouldn't compromise and change your songs just to get them recorded.

How do you react to the observation that you write political songs? Well I believe political decisions tend to affect and influence all our lives, social, economic and so on. Therefore it's true to say our songs are political because we try to comment on real life situations, whether they be about a part of the world or an individual's experiences.

As a songwriter, who are your biggest influences?
My biggest influences are those who use music to comment on the way we live, or are forced to live our lives. Consequently I like Blues, Reggae and even some Country and Western. I also like singer/songwriters of the late 60's like Joni Mitchell and David Accles and late 70's New Wave acts like The Clash and Costello. Of the newer bands I like The Smiths and Prefab Sprout and especially Tom Waits.

Which would you say is the best Latin Quarter song you have had a part in writing?
This is a difficult one, I'll leave it to you!