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
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
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Blues Interviews List
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