A Sheffield contemporary of Arctic Monkeys, Reverend & The Makers' leader Jon McClure is something of an acquired music taste. On one hand he has an ever-loyal army of supporters at his gigs; on the other – thanks in large part to a series of outspoken interviews – many music fans think he's a berk. Looking back at his career so far McClure says he can see their point, none too keen with the gobbie fella who keeps cropping up in his old press cuttings. Having found a spot on "indie's fringes" he's comfortable with – and with new album Mirrors set for release on 9 October – the singer has taken a long look at himself and The Reverend in candid and honest guest column.
How could I bullshit my way through the mire of trying to make “I’ve got another album and a tour coming up” sound remotely interesting a fifth time round? Spin a yarn perhaps. Paul is dead, coke up the arse through a straw, pact with the devil style, whopper. Anything to detract from the monochrome reality of “I just write songs and I play on me playstation and smoke bud”. But fabricating fairytales would be wank and my mum would do her nut frankly.
So the truth it is. I’m resolved to tell it to you.
Sheffield was great. A genuine sense of excitement the air. I had my thing and it was beginning to go well. It felt proper too. Lyrical. About something. We had a different sound to most of the guitar bands. A brilliant first record. John Cooper Clarke liked my stuff. I was top bollocks in our village.
Then bang we are in the charts. I’m on the telly! It’s a conveyor belt of free shit, gigs, Holly Willoughbys. My mates are in a band too. They become so famous that it dwarfs anything anyone’s done then or since. We had the same management, agent, press fella. Whenever I do an interview the first questions is about Arctic Monkeys.
So I spit my dummy out.
Thinking, I wanna talk about fuckin’ literature or summat mate. I’m an artist can’t you see? I begin to become guarded with journalists. A cock, at times, even. I take to saying outrageous things to divert them from the usual line of questioning. Comparing Johnny Borrell to Hitler! Claiming I’m the reincarnation of Bob Marley... and so on.
Stupidly, I’m wondering why people claim to find me “difficult”. I take umbrage when they don’t think my record is wonderful. I call the editor of the NME some awful things and get myself excommunicated from the publication that featured me the most. People I love begin telling me that the person they read in interviews isn’t me but some personality I put on for the occasion.
And yeah there was drugs. But who cares anyway? It was ganja mainly, which lacks the glamour of the other drugs, and makes you think of people with tie-dye clothes and daal and white rasta’s and such like. Weed also makes you speak a lot of shit. So in essence we’re meant for each other, the herb and I. The more I smoked, the more turd I talked. We made another good record. My favourite. But that was obscured by this point as I’d sabotaged the project. Interviews became a monologue of well intentioned political comments, expressed badly.
Think, Russell Brand crossed with John Shuttleworth.
Worst still we kept getting lumped in with the lad bands. Laura [McClure, keyboard player and John's wife] is both a girl and a southerner but it made little difference to protest. The dye had been cast and the mould I’d made for us stuck. I felt bad towards my band mates. I’d made it this way. Any discussion of our music was always secondary to my being a gob shite by this point.
I threatened to quit the music industry. Many wished I’d made good on my promise. We returned though with two more patchy records. In places its majestic. In others it sounds like we are trying to jump a bandwagon or two. The record reviews reflected this, though I’m at ease with the fact that I can’t be Bob Dylan everyday. Sometimes I’m great, sometimes I’m awful.
I cheered up though. Laura and I had a baby boy. I didn’t worry about the press as we weren’t getting much to worry about. Our live shows went from being a bit moody, to a full on party. Our festival sets were unbelievable. I toured round people's houses. We developed this cult thing: the “rev army”. More people started coming to our gigs as less radio stations played our records. I was glad to still be at it. Almost everyone we’d come through with had disbanded.
So happy am I existing in this twilight zone between moderate success and being an irrelevance to most people within the M25. We have enough fans for me to release book of poetry and lyrics. I’m content to be a small annotation in the margins of the rock'n'roll story. I began to see for perhaps the first time since the debut album that it was about the music we make. Nothing else mattered by this point.
Ed [Cosens, guitarist] and I became resolute to make a record that we loved. Why not?. Every album we make goes to about 13 in the charts anyway. Why not indulge the overwhelming urge to not play games anymore and set about making some art we are actually proud of rather than the release tour festivals repeat cycle we’d been on since forever.
And so we took the files we’d been diligently recording off to Jamaica and spruced them up a bit whilst making a film. The result is the best thing we’ve ever done in my opinion. The reaction when i play it to people is like nothing I’ve seen before, except maybe the first album. Sometimes i wish it were our debut album. But then we live in a world of bullshit don’t we? What use is me telling you it’s brilliant?. All i can ask is that you press play and listen to it, disregarding what has proceeded it and irrespective of who made it. Judge it on its own merit
Whether it’ll convince the people who’ve long since made up their mind about us, is neither here nor there. What matters is the music and the art we leave behind. Part of me wishes I’d seen that earlier but then I never did trust people who aren’t a bit of a nob during a large proportion of their 20s. Jon McClure @reverend_makers
For more head to Reverendmakers.com.