Nearly 40 years on from his recording debut with one of Britain’s best loved bands, The Jam, Bruce Foxton sounds like a man whose appetite for music remains undiminished.
When not touring prolifically with From The Jam, a tribute band to the chart topping outfit he was in with Paul Weller and Rick Buckler from 1974 to 1982, the bass player, now 61, is also releasing records under his own name.
Smash The Clock, which came out earlier this year, was co-written with Russell Hastings, the singer and guitarist in From The Jam, and features guest appearances from his old friend Weller along with Wilko Johnson and Paul Jones, formerly of Manfred Mann.
Foxton says he and Hastings very much “work together as a partnership”. “I’m very happy,” he says, noting the critical acclaim that greeted Smash The Clock’s predecessor Back In The Room, from 2012. The only fly in the ointment was the “limited” airplay it received on radio.
“But Smash The Clock is a like a step forward again, I think, from Back In The Room,” he says. “We set out to try and write melodic songs and I think we’ve achieved that – and thankfully we’re getting some airplay this time, which is really important.”
Smash The Clock certainly has powerful echoes of latter period Jam albums such as Sound Affects and The Gift where the band was mixing some psychedelia in with their Mod, punk, soul and rhythm and blues roots.
“That’s just the sound we create,” says Foxton. “I’m not trying to make it Jam Mark II or whatever. It’s my style of bass playing, I suppose, that points it in that direction, and the way Russell plays and sings.
“For a little cottage industry, going out on Pledge Music [the same fan-funding site that helped with release of Back in the Room] etcetera it’s done really well for us. We’re very proud of the record.”
Such is the strength of Foxton’s renewed friendship with Paul Weller – after a 25-year gap following the break-up on The Jam – the Modfather can even be heard on the tracks Pictures & Diamonds and Louder. He also lent Foxton and Hastings use of his Surrey recording studio, Black Barn. Foxton says its “really relaxed atmosphere” is very conducive to recording and that he was “sad to leave” it at the end.
“Paul pops in there now and again to do his own business and I just asked him would he be up for playing on a track or two and he said ‘Yes, sure’ and he gave it 100 per cent,” Foxton says. “We were very happy with how those songs were shaping up anyway but when Paul came in and did what Paul does it just lifted it yet again. It was lovely to have him on the record – and Wilko Johnson and Paul Jones. I was honoured to have all three of them on the record.”
Foxton and Hastings have even started weaving some of the new songs into From The Jam’s set. “We’ve just got a new keyboard player in the band so that gives us a lot more options on what tracks we can and can’t do,” the bassist says. “There were quite a few keyboards on Smash The Clock and it’s good to have a full-time keyboard player now with us.”
The keen interest that remains in The Jam last year inspired an exhibition, called About The Young Idea, at Somerset House in London. It recently re-ran at the Cunard Building in Liverpool.
Foxton says going to see it in London was “lovely”. “It’s amazing it was deemed important to warrant a venue like Somerset House for a start, and it was really interesting. There was a lot of stuff there which I hadn’t seen or had forgotten about. It was a very proud period of my life.”
He only wishes that drummer Rick Buckler had chosen to join him and Paul Weller for a brief reunion at the premiere. “It would have been a lovely opportunity for all three of us to get together again and I don’t know why he didn’t come,” he says. “It was a real shame because the fans would have loved it, I would have loved it to have seen him there and had a few pics together and had a look round together, but he decided he was doing something else that night, so there you go.”
From The Jam’s autumn tour will be largely dedicated to the band’s A and B sides. “It’s going to be different for us and I think it will really appeal to the hardcore fans,” says Foxton. “We’re not going to do all the B sides because some are a bit obscure and a lot of the audience wouldn’t even have heard of them, but it’s going to be a mixture of singles and B sides.”
After nine years touring with Hastings, Foxton says there are still “quite a few songs” from his old band’s catalogue that he’s yet to revive. “There’s stuff like Dreamtime I was listening to, that would be a challenge.
“There’s a track called Tales From The Riverbank that we’ve started rehearsing for the As and Bs tour and there’s one called I Need You that was on the Modern World album, that wasn’t a B side but we’re just putting it in because we like it.
“I’m very lucky to have such a huge repertoire, so to speak, to pick and choose from. It’s hard to know what to leave out each time.”
From The Jam play at O2 Academy Sheffield on October 29, Brudenell Social Club, Leeds on November 12 and Holmfirth Picturedrome on December 9. www.fromthejamofficial.com