The gob and gospel of Reverend and the Makers
PUBLISHED: 11:31 28 February 2014 | UPDATED: 11:37 28 February 2014
'These are different days we're living in, man. The whole music industry is undergoing such a transformation and so many people haven't got their heads around the reality of the situation. It's worked to my benefit totally because I am that man who says what he thinks."
The famous mouth of Jon McClure is in full voice. Once the darling of the New Musical Express (NME), it has caused him all sorts of bother in recent times and no doubt contributed to his current pop purgatory. For, having initially risen to fame alongside friends and fellow indie rockers Arctic Monkeys, let’s make no bones about it – Reverend and the Makers are distinctly unfashionable.
It doesn’t matter, not least to McClure. The Sheffield songwriter has never cared particularly what people think of him – just what he thinks of people. And recently the Reverend has found a better way to preach to the converted.
“Look at it this way, right – you’ve got to put it in perspective. I’ve got 48,000 people on Twitter and 41,000 on Facebook. NME sell 8,000 copies a week.
“It’s perfect where we are – I’m not being a dick, but I don’t need anyone. Some people are like, hey, you’re not in the NME, so that must mean you’re on the decline, but our last album got us in the top 20 and its tour sold out. I’ve got this cult following who love us, who let me earn a living and … listen, would you rather be loved by 10,000 or liked by a million?”
The car park after-parties, the gigs in fans’ houses – the whole premise of Reverend and the Makers has always been built on a “common man” connection and you can see why McClure feels so liberated by social media. On Twitter, particularly, he’s become almost his own press officer, promoting upcoming shows such as the Electric Ballroom while simultaneously taking the time to reply to fan messages. In an industry saturated by middlemen, it looks almost cathartic.
McClure is now 32 – “that age where footballers stop playing to become pundits on telly”. He is pointedly unconcerned by the number and has even named the new Reverend and the Makers album after it. Ask him why, though, and the chip on his shoulder comes to the fore.
“People don’t face up to their age do they? Take (Nick) Grimshaw – he acts like a 20-year-old when he’s really nearer my age. Why would you pretend to not be what you are? The whole point of this album is that I’m 32 and happy to be. I’m having a laugh and it’s cool.”
Grimshaw. Of the many words uttered by McClure throughout our interview, he says the Radio 1 DJ’s name the most often and treats it like a dirty word. It’s almost impressive – talking on topics as diverse as music, politics and class, Grimshaw ties them all together as the Reverend’s chief heretic.
On new music: “Remember when there was nothing but pop in the Seventies and you’d have a young DJ talking non-stop about a group like Abba? There’d be a load of people tuning in and just thinking, ‘What the f*** are you on about?’
“That’s how I feel when I listen to Grimshaw talk about the new Klaxons record. Who the f***’s going to go and watch that on a Tuesday night in Middlesborough? No one.”
McClure hates the music industry. The bourgeois blanket that has engulfed pop particularly infuriates and he puts it down to the teams behind the band – be it the press or record companies. “I’ll give you an example. Someone wants to work for a music magazine in London, right, so you have to go and intern for a month. They’ll probably put you on minimum wage. Who the f*** do you know who could afford to go and live in London for a month without proper work?
“It’s the same for A&R, it’s a total old boys’ network. And then people wonder why bands like the Vaccines come up – it’s because they all went to school together. These editors aren’t even opening their eyes and looking round anymore. People know that – I know that – and it’s bulls**t.”
Staying in touch with the common man seems intrinsic to McClure’s vision of authenticity, though he’s forced to backtrack slightly when I mention Arctic Monkeys’ recent LA-fication. “It’d be hard for them to write about Sheffield now, they’re just in another stratosphere of fame,” he says, but insists their first album remains the people’s favourite (not least because its album art is a picture of his brother, Chris).
On the subject of McClure’s own music, 32 will continue the departure from Reverend and the Makers’ earlier political material. “I’ve said my political piece. If you keep making political records, you’re labouring the point. Another thing is that I’m happy, I’m enjoying my life and having a nice time. I don’t want to make music that moans all the time.”
Does he not lament the lack of politics in new music, though? “Absolutely. The economy’s more f***ed than ever, what the government is doing is more extreme than what Thatcher did, a global economic crisis happened and there were kids burning down city centres just a couple of years ago. Where is this reflected in culture? Where are the films about it, where’s the music?
“Remember when Thatcher died? Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead went to number two, but the BBC said the charts are no place for political music and banned it from the radio. Now if that happened in North Korea, we’d all go f***ing nuts. Anyone, anybody who says anything political in this country is ostracised. Look at Frankie Boyle, the best comedian in this country, he can’t even get on telly anymore.
“People nowadays want Michael McIntyre, not Frankie Boyle. They don’t want me, they want the 1975. People who’ll keep their mouth shut and pretend Nick Grimshaw’s great. I mean he really does know f*** all about music, I heard him talking about John Peel the other day – I thought, ‘John Peel would think you’re the spawn of Satan, mate’.”
And so it goes on. The problem, as it has always been with Reverend and the Makers, is that to many, their musical output has never felt as fresh and agreeable as the views of their notorious frontman. McClure talks a lot of sense, but the impression lingers that this is a man who’s not quite as happy with being a cult figure as he suggests.
For those who are fans of his music, however, it’s easy to see why they take his word as gospel.
“Some people hate me, they hate what I’m like and they’ll let me know. It’s like even having a strong opinion is passé now.
“It just reminds me of something I tweeted the other day – the biggest irony is that so many have an opinion about me having an opinion.”
At the very least, the man throws down one hell of a gauntlet. Over to you, Grimshaw.
Reverend and the Makers play the Electric Ballroom on March 13. Tickets start from £17.60. For more information, visit www.electricballroom.co.uk.