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Hero. Legend. Good Bloke.
John Peel OBE, 1939 - 2004

Red Lick Records



 

 

Early Blues Interview
JoJo Burgess, singer/songwriter, Hokie Joint

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"Colchester five-piece Hokie Joint are exciting audiences everywhere with their own brand of raw blues-based music. The difficult task of writing blues with a catchy chorus is something that they revel in. Harking back to the club scene of the sixties but with a distinctively original modern approach, their sound is fresh, vibrant and appealing. On the one hand weíre talking part Waits, part Wolf vocals, fuzzing slide guitar, dirty harmonica, driving bass and train-like drumming. On the other hand itís gut-wrenchingly emotional vocals, melancholic guitar playing, sweeping harmonica, well-constructed, melodic bass and intricate, mesmerising drumming.

Their line-up consists of a startling combination of youth and experience. Charismatic young singer JoJo Burgess provides an expressive visual performance, along with a voice that compels you to listen to his devilish tones. Joel Fiskís enthralling guitar playing casts a spell that is impossible to resist. Stephen Cutmore, on drums, drives his rhythmic steam train through it all, pulling more faces than Frankie Howerd on acid! Fergie Fultonís perceptive bass lines let you know that this train isnít ever going to get derailed. And Giles King (surely Britainís best harp player), with his exquisite harmonica solos, makes this one journey you never want to stop".
-- 
Courtesy Maryport Blues Festival, 2010
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Hokie Joint were Ďthe Talk of the Trailí at the Maryport Blues Festival 2009. I caught up with JoJo Burgess before stunning the audience with their appearance on the main stage at the Maryport Blues Festival 2010. (Check out the photos here).

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   What are your first musical memories?

JoJo:   As a kid I used to listen to and watch Queen videos that my Dad had taken off the telly.  In terms of the blues though, when I was about 13 or 14 I started going through my Dadís CD collection and he had John Lee Hooker in there and that just blew me away.  It just turned me onto the blues and into black music in general.  When I was 15 or 16 I was into a lot of funk and James Brown, and obviously Red Hot Chilli Peppers and people like that, and as I got slightly older I started coming back to the blues again and thatís where I still am.

Alan:   Did you always want to become a musician?

JoJo:   Yes, I did.  From when I was a child I was always doing musical theatre, I was in the school choir and I always wanted to go on stage and perform.  When I was about 13, I started my first band and I was front man in that.  Tried playing a bit of guitar and realised I wasnít very good so I should stick to the singing.   So, yes, always wanted to be a musician and still trying!

Alan:   You do very well!  Did you have any encouragement to be a musician?

JoJo:   Yes, my Dad was a bass player in a band when he was younger and there was always a lot of music in the house when I was younger.  My mum used to play the spoons in a folk band.  So we are not a stereo-typical musical family but weíve always enjoyed listening to music and itís always been encouraged.  Iíve never been told I should become an accountant, and when I told my folks I wanted to go to university to study music they were perfectly happy and were delighted for me. Theyíve always supported me in everything Iíve done musically. 

Alan:   So what kind of material were you playing in the early days?

JoJo:   In my very first band, when I was 13 I can remember that we did Alright Now and Let It Be at a school concert.  When I was 15 or 16 I was in a funk band which was heavily influenced by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, I also played in a funk and soul band and we did  a lot of Motown and Commitments.  Then as I got to university I met Joel, found out that he had a love of the blues and we just started playing it continuously together and it hasnít stopped since really.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Whoís influence you the most in your music writing and playing?

JoJo:   In my music writing thereís been lots of different people.  About 5 years ago I went to Holland with a van and a mattress and we ended up in Rotterdam, went into a record shop and stumbled across this Tom Waits album, the Real Gone album, and once Iíd heard that that was where I wanted to take my music.  That was a real heavy influence on me. 

From Tom Waits I started getting more into the British blues scene in that I found Ian Siegal and also a guy called Son of Dave.  When we heard his first album that really made me realise that you can do interesting things with the blues.  Itís not just all these one man and a guitar, and we always wanted to do something that was a bit different and edgy because thereís so much of the same stuff out there.

Alan:   What does the blues mean to you? 

JoJo:   Itís a way of life, itís in your soul.  I think everybodyís got it to a certain extent; itís the everyday manís music.  Everyone can relate to something in the blues whether itís that your womanís just left you or you want to go out and party Ė thereís a blues song that relates to everything.  Itís a complete reflection on life.

Alan:   Are there any particular songs you play that have special meaning to you?

JoJo:   In terms of what we do as Hokie Joint they all have special meaning to me. Itís material that weíve written as a band and itís material that Iím proud of.  I wouldnít say we are prolific song writers but when we write stuff we want it to be the best we possibly can be.  I want the lyrics to be interesting and entice people to listen to them.  And the music as well Ė we donít do a song and stick a solo in it for the sake of having a solo, we want everything to be special and stand out.  So, everything we do is incredibly special and itís got us where we are now and hopefully will get us further.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Tell me about the band, how did you all get together?

JoJo:   Joel and I met at university, we lived together for about 4 or 5 years and we started a band called Jelly Roll.  That was very much a Led Zeppelin, Cream-influenced band Ė all long hair and high vocals.  We were just getting fed up with it, it wasnít really the kind of music we wanted to do.  I got into Tom Waits and we got into this rougher, dirtier kind of music and we thought that we wanted to do something that was more in keeping with this.  Itís more real and we can relate to it. So we split up Jelly Roll and decided we were going to form a new band.  We found Stephen on an internet-dating site for musicians and met up in this studio near Colchester and had a jam with him for a few hours.  We thought, this guy can seriously drum, heís got a unique style, heís interesting and when heís playing he looks like heís enjoying it and he pulls every face.  A week later we called him up and he said, ďDo you mind if I bring my mate Fergie along to play bass?Ē. Theyíd been playing together for 20-odd years in a band called Booze & Blues and they just mould into one another as a really tight rhythm section.  The following week, Fergie said, ďOh, we should get Giles along, he plays harmonicaĒ and we thought, ďYeah, thatíd workĒ.  Iíd heard of Giles but never met  him. I used to be a van driver for the YMCA in Ipswich and there were people there who knew Giles King and said, ďOh, heís a really good harmonica player.  You should get to meet him.  Heís played with Ian SiegelĒ.  In my book, that meant heís got to be alright!   He came along and he just blew us away.  It just completed the sound of the band and what we wanted.

Alan:   How did the band get its name?

JoJo:   I was reading a book on the blues whilst sat on the loo and I was reading a bit about Leadbelly and how he used to play in these hokie joints, which basically means a grotty, dirty bar, a juke-joint place that you wouldnít take your grandmother to.  There arenít many in England.

Alan:   I toured Mississippi a few years ago and they still exist!  

JoJo:   It just really suits the music we wanted to be playing and what we do could be played in hokie joints Ė itís rough, itís ready, people can dance to.  Thatís what people want to do when they go to a show, they want to be entertained and they want to enjoy themselves.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.Alan:   Tell me about the making of your album,
The Way It Goes Sometimes...Sometimes

JoJo:   The album was made in a studio in Bilham on Crouch where weíd done a radio session.  The studio had a good sound, we knew the people who ran it.  But when we went in to record it, there werenít many of the songs that we really knew.  We were still really in the writing process and we were learning the songs as we worked through them, but it worked out alright!  The next album we are going to do will be a lot tighter as we know all the stuff and it should be out by the end of 2010.

Alan:   Have you got a name for it?

JoJo:   A few working titles, but weíd better keep those to ourselves!

Alan:   Some music styles may be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do you think that is?

JoJo:   Itís real life music that everyday people can relate to. Thereís a blues song out there for everybody.  I think in terms of a blues scene, itís just starting to see it come through again now and I see it as in the 60s when blues was at itís peak.  It was interesting and unique with no other music like this.  Since then a lot of people have tried to copy it and do what theyíve done but now what youíre starting to see are bands come through like Marcus Bonfanti who are still blues but theyíre doing something different and keeping it real.  For a musical genre to continue it canít just be stuck in a rut.  Itís got to grow and go in a new direction which I think the scene is finally starting to do. Thereís a lot of bands out there that I enjoy listening to now, whereas before it was a lot of middle of the road guitarists who could play guitar brilliantly but they werenít that interesting, they couldnít write a song for shit and now thereís people out there who are doing something interesting and unique and itís getting attention.

Alan:   I like the quote about you, ďYour brand of blues and rock n' roll has been defined as taking blues to the massesĒ.  Long may you continue to do so.  Thank you very much.

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
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Their debut album ĎThe Way it Goes... Sometimesí was released in the UK in May 2009 and is distributed through all major outlets by Discovery Records. Itís also available via their website.

www.hokiejoint.co.uk

© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.

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Text (this page) © Copyright 2010 Alan White & JoJo Burgess. All Rights Reserved.
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