Reverend & The Makers
The Gospel According To Jon
Exposed Meets Reverend and the Makers. Words: Andy Hill. Pics: Marek Payne
Jon McClure, aka ‘Reverend’, is a man of some considerable stature. Towering a good 6'5" over the bar in The Forum where we're chatting with him and his ‘Makers’, he could probably pass for twice that. As much through sheer force of personality as anything, I guess, he gives the impression of height in the same way you imagine a tsunami to have height. Reach in the way that, say, bubonic plague had reach. Overwhelmingly, unavoidably infectious.
He’s tanned too, a side effect of a bit of time out spreading his wings and seeing a bit of the world over the last two years. ”I’ve been very political and done a lot of people’s heads in wi’ it - and done my own head in wi’ it! I wanted to give myself a rest from myself so I travelled, did some other types of music, made some films,” while keeping it Sheffield, natch. The Makers frontman has brought home some shiny new views along with the straw donkeys. "The problem with the record industry today is there’s no diversity," Jon suggests, lemonade shaking on the table in between us. “No foreign influence, barely any birds,” I manage a shake of the head, the closest I've come to a word in edgewise for some minutes now.
So, er, what's the solution? "Mutual support. Bands getting together in a network and if anyone has a bit of success, like, share the wealth. We're playing The Leadmill (May 11, sold out, alas), first proper Sheffield gig in ages, it's going to be packed - and after the show we're giving out a compilation CD of 15 unsigned bands. Think about it like this; The Leadmill fits 1000 people. If, say, 20% of people who get the CD like a track, and half of THEM come out to a show, that's a hundred people. Enough to fill The Bowery or summat. All it costs us is the labour in burning the CDs." He pauses for a drink, then with a flourish: "It's just like what the Chili Peppers are doing for us, in a way"
Ah yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers gig. In an astonishing coup, the band have managed to secure the main support slot for the Chili's supermassive Kenbworth and Stadium of Light gigs next month (June 23/24 respectively). And, naturally, McClure's titanic personality seems to have been the deciding factor. "I was in Ethiopia for a thing called Africa Express. Damon was there, a few other people, one of them was [Chili's bassist] Flea. Me and 'im hit it off straight away. Out there, you can't really imagine it, when you take a bus chances are you'll be riding on the roof. So there's me and Flea on the roof of this bus, chatting about this and that, and he asks me to send him some tunes. We stay in touch by email, then all of a sudden the offer comes through to support them. Not bad going really."
If they appear unfazed by such a high-profile show, consider that they previously supported Oasis on their ill-fated final tour, and have recently been warming up for Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. How does he think rock's newest elder statesman has adapted to getting on a bit? "Noel's fine, amazing. He's so much more chilled now. It's an interesting thing you see with him; as he's got older and matured the fans have too. If you go back to an early Oasis gig, the crowd were all lairy and pissed. The crowd at a High Flying Birds gig are more likely to be swaying with their arms around the missus. It's nice."
How do the Makers fare on the partying front these days then? "Not so much. Don't get us wrong, we had our heyday going mental on the, er, substances. To me, that's not a problem by the way - all that stuff, I reckon, is just an amplifier. So, if you're a dickhead, you'll become a bigger dickhead by doing it. If you're a happy person who wants to have fun, you'll be happier and have more fun. The thing is nowadays... maybe I'm just getting on a bit, but I suffer for days after a bender. We used to have, what's it called..?"
"Bouncebackability" interjects bassist Joe Carnall. "Ian Dowie, QPR manager coined that". A new signing to the band, Carnall will be familiar to Sheffield gig goers as frontman of legendary local band Milburn - and now The Book Club. "I study History. One day I'm in the library writing an essay on the Marshall plan, the phone rings and it's Jon, asking do I wanna come support Noel Gallagher on tour. So I'm like, alright."
Also new to the lineup is Ryan Jenkinson, slight and hipster-specced, and I'm surprised to discover, the drummer. A seasoned pro in his own right, in previous incarnation thisGIRL he supported no less than Biffy Clyro and Limp Bizkit. "Jon lucked out signing me and Joe. Only [Everton manager] David Moyes did better in the transfer window."
The football references are apposite, for McClure is an obsessive fan of the game. Aside from appearances on Sky's Soccer AM and dozens of online rants verbally eviscerating Didier Drogba (among others), he's a diehard Football Manager player. So, with the Euros looming, any suggestions for England? "Oxlade-Chamberlain upfront. He's like a young Michael Owen. No-one's really noticed him yet, but you watch." He's clearly delighted I asked, and can't help piping up: "Not to blow my own trumpet, but if Redknapp doesn't want the manager’s job I've half a mind to ring 'em up. And on the subject of footie here's something not a lot of people know; I'm one of only two people EVER to have both played Wembley, as in a (charity) football match, and Wembley, as in a gig" The other guy? "Rod Stewart. It's weird, when I meet other musicians, rock stars etc, I don't get nervous. When I meet footballers my knees just go."
Not the only one to get a bit starstruck, keyboardist Laura: "We were on Jonathan Ross, I was in the green room, and there was bloody Tom Hanks! Better than that, the guy from Lost [Matthew Fox] passed me in the corridor. I had such a crush on him, from his days in Party of Five... I tried to talk and just sort of babbled." This last remark gets a sharp look from Jon, who, would you believe, is her husband. "He knows I'm kidding" she offers, with a sweet glance in his direction. How does marriage work out, in the white heat of the music furnace? "It's mellowed everything out a lot actually. There used to be tons of drama, what with one thing and another. We used to call it 'Rev-enders' cos it was such a constant soap opera!"
Fellow founder member Ed Cosens is also out this evening. He seems to be the main musical mastermind behind the group, a man of few words whose main conversational input is to correct McClure on details of anecdotes and the band's equipment; for instance clarifying the frontman's "that synth sound at the start of Heavyweight... BRRRRRRRR" to "you mean the SH08". "That right there sums up mine and his relationship," says Jon, with a great deal of warmth. "I'm the BRRRRRRR and he's the brains."
As we round our chat up, Ryan Jenkinson inexplicably produces a pack of trivia questions from somewhere and starts reading them out. It must be said, McClure is whip sharp on his general knowledge - and, I discover, has a first class honours degree in History and Politics. Indeed, I recall, he's been very outspoken on political issues in previous interviews. What are his views today?
"I've decided to give all that a rest" he says, perhaps a little wistfully. "I still have opinions, but I've found you just don't get anywhere. People don't wanna know. I used to be so into it, it was making the band and me and everyone right mardy. Things are so much better now, musically and interpersonally. And all I had to do was lighten the f**k up for two minutes. How hard is that?"
Hopefully you had the prescience to nab yourself a ticket for the Reverend and the Makers show at The Leadmill on May 11. If not, be sure to head to their O2 Academy gig here in Sheffield on October 20. See www.iamreverend.com for more.
Holy Moly – It’s A Reverend and the Makers Online Takeover!
McClure’s already got Twitter under his thumb so it was only a matter of time before the mighty Exposed fell to the @Reverend_Makers!
We’ve got a mighty month of Makers glitter to sprinkle across our website, Twitter and Facebook this May – including 'McClure does Dimbleby' - a chat with Jon's choice of the city’s greatest music makers – featuring legendary Warp Records producer Rob Gordon - to discuss the past, present and future of music in Sheffield; a shake down of Makers’ Ryan Jenkinson with a tour of the enigmatic drummers’ pockets – including a stop off to ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’ at the contents of his phone – and a look at those mysterious question cards he carries round with him, plus loads more things we're currently frantically tying up. Just look out for the patented McClure takeover logo (above)! It's your guarantee of quality wrong-righting and tears before bedtime!