FUJI ROCK hits 15 with a B.A.D. blast
Stephen Taylor / Special to The Daily Yomiuri
Mick Jones and me backstage at the Royal Festival Hall,
London, on 23rd July 2011
After such a dramatic birth, the fact that Fuji Rock will be staged for the 15th time this month is an achievement in itself. Among the 30,000 that braved the wind and rain at Tenjinyama 14 years ago was former frontman of The Clash, Joe Strummer, so it's fitting that a onetime bandmate of his will be making his Fuji Rock debut this year.
"I'm expecting a totally different festival experience from what I'm used to--culturally different as well," Mick Jones, leader of Big Audio Dynamite--and former guitarist for The Clash--told The Daily Yomiuri recently over the phone.
There's little doubt that the British five-piece would have already played Fuji Rock by now, were it not for the fact that B.A.D. disbanded in 1997 and only reformed this year. Jones was inspired to get the band back together after helping out Damon Albarn's Gorillaz.
"I'd just got off the tour last year with the Gorillaz--I was playing in the band and I enjoyed myself immensely--and doing this now has some continuity to me. I thought, 'Follow the music,' and that's how I ended up doing this. It seemed right," the 56-year-old said.
Formed in 1984 by Jones, shortly after he left The Clash, B.A.D. combined the energy of his former band with the sounds Jones had heard from the emerging hip-hop scene in New York in the early 1980s.
The resulting album, This is Big Audio Dynamite, spawned the singles "E=MC2" and "Medicine Show," while its follow-up, No. 10, Upping St. (coproduced by Strummer and Jones), contained the dynamic single "V. Thirteen," a track that wouldn't have been out of place on one of The Clash's albums.
His association with one of punk's legendary bands could have been a millstone for Jones, yet he saw B.A.D. as a step forward.
"It was both a natural progression, and [I was] trying to get away from [The Clash] at the same time. After I left The Clash, I started hanging out with [B.A.D. sampler] Don [Letts] and [B.A.D. bassist] Leo [Williams] a lot more, and we started going to clubs. I was looking for a group and I wanted to try and express myself with the sounds that I was hearing in that environment, and that's kind of how it mentally developed," he explained.
Jones has found the experience of reforming B.A.D. invigorating, not that the members had ever drifted far apart.
"We haven't been estranged. We knew each other and we've seen each other during that period, we've just never got back together again," he said, adding that this lineup's first ever show in Japan will include a mix of old and new material.
"When you look at it, all our old stuff is new stuff," he said with a laugh. "We've got some stuff that we never put out and will be new. I think we were one of those groups that wasn't defined by the '80s, so we feel [there's] quite a lot we could do as we are now."
While B.A.D. may be able to escape being tied to the '80s, Jones will always be linked to The Clash. A few weeks before Strummer's untimely death in 2002 (less than four months after he had attended Fuji Rock), Jones shared a stage with him at a benefit gig in west London.
"We [The Clash] never managed [to reform] when he was alive, unfortunately. I think unfortunately, but then that [gig] will always be remembered fondly, in a way, so I was very glad to do that. I didn't know I was going to get up on stage or anything, I just went along to the show and felt compelled," he said.
Big Audio Dynamite will headline the White Stage at Fuji Rock Festival in Naeba, Niigata Prefecture, on July 29. Visit www.fujirockfestival.com for more details.
(Jul. 8, 2011)