Arts and Culture

Not your average Joe

Lloyd Gedye

Lloyd Gedye caught up with Joe Jackson on the phone to find out what to expect from his upcoming tour to South Africa.

The name Joe Jackson may seem like a blast from the past, associated with hits such as 1979’s Is She Really Going Out With Him? and 1984’s You Can’t Get What You Want (Till You Know What You Want), but fans will be glad to know that the man is still on the road after almost 30 years and is coming to South Africa.

Touring with his original rhythm section from the Joe Jackson band circa 1979 to 1980, Jackson has a new album, Rain, which sees a return to his power-pop roots with elements of his forays into jazz.

What led to the tour to South Africa?
I got a new agent. After years of saying ‘Why can’t we play some new places?” I got an agent who said ‘Yeah, let’s try it”. For years I was told there is no interest in South Africa, but apparently there is enough interest to play three shows there. We have already played in Israel, which was really great and very surprising because, like South Africa, I wasn’t sure if anyone would show up, but there was a great response.

You moved to Berlin recently and recorded your new album. Tell us about that?
The music scene is very interesting. There is a lot of electronic music and Eastern European music, Balkan music and Gypsy music, that kind of thing. I recorded the album in an old East German radio station. It’s a huge complex with loads of buildings that in the old communist days employed 20 000 people and now is partially derelict. Some of the buildings are being converted into studios and production companies.

Have you reunited with your old band?
No, that’s not strictly true. I did a one-off project with the original band, one album [Volume 4 - 2003] and a tour. The new album has the same bass player and drummer, but it is a different thing, it’s not meant to be retro the way that the album was. It’s a very different sound because there is no guitar and it features the piano heavily.

The new album is quite stripped back?
I think it sounds big, sometimes the more stuff you add, the smaller it gets. I was interested in using the absolute minimum of resources and seeing how big and varied it could be. I created a lot of space. You can’t really hear the piano without getting rid of the guitar—it’s like two divas; you can’t have two divas on the same stage.

What can South Africans expect from your upcoming shows?
Obviously we are going to do a mixture of old and new stuff. We also have a rotating list of cover versions, which are always quite different from the originals. We do have a big repertoire and tend to change the set list from night to night so the two shows in Johannesburg will be very different.

Joe Jackson appears at The Teatro at Montecasino in Johannesburg on June 4 and 5 and at Grandwest Arena in Cape Town on June 7. Tickets are priced from R100 to R400 (excluding service charge) and are available from Computicket


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